June 16, 2005


U.S. Puts U.N. Reform First, Official Says: Annan hopes the question of expanding the Security Council is resolved by September, but the White House focuses on five changes. (Maggie Farley, June 16, 2005, LA Times)

An official overseeing reform efforts, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns, said the administration embraces the majority of ideas put forth Wednesday by a bipartisan congressional task force on U.N. reform. The panel was led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, and former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, a Democrat, and included staunch critics and supporters of the U.N. [...]

Officials say the administration wants to focus on five specific reforms:

• Disband the Human Rights Commission, whose board members often include the very countries it is trying to condemn. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has proposed creating a smaller human rights council with a revamped selection system that would keep more violator countries out.

• Support a democracy fund and democracy initiatives.

• Change budgetary, management and administrative processes to make the Secretariat, which runs the U.N. bureaucracy, more accountable and transparent. The White House is particularly interested in changing the budget system to allow the U.S., the top contributor, to have more influence over how the U.N.'s money is spent. The administration also supports more extensive independent oversight to stem corruption and mismanagement.

• Create a peace-building commission. One of the most popular of Annan's proposals, such an agency would help post-conflict countries such as Iraq recover and build civil institutions.

• Adopt a comprehensive convention on terrorism that defines such actions as harming innocent civilians. A global treaty on terrorism has been stalled by disagreement over whether the definition should include actions taken by states as well as violent struggles against occupation.

The White House also said Wednesday that it opposed a bill by Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) scheduled for a House vote today that would withhold half of the U.S. dues until the U.N. implements 39 specific changes.

"We are the founder, host country and leading contributor to the U.N. We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we are withholding 50% of American contributions to the U.N. system," Burns said. "We believe that it's possible to make progress and reform the U.N. without withdrawing financial support."

The White House stance appears likely to hinder Annan's goal for U.N. member states to decide how to reform the Security Council before a September summit that will help mark the world body's 60th anniversary.

When you can make John Bolton the good cop you've almost broken the suspect already.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2005 6:19 AM
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