U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Presents Reform Plans for World Body
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RAY SUAREZ: As U.N. diplomats come and go from the Security Council, they pass an iconic piece of 20th century art — a reproduction tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica depicting the horror and inhumanity of war.
In and out of the U.N.’s New York headquarters, a war of words has been going on for months over how to reform and bring the U.N. into the 21st century and overcome a slew of recent scandals that have rocked the 60-year-old body to its core.
KOFI ANNAN: I have called the report….
RAY SUAREZ: At the helm the last eight years Secretary-general Kofi Annan, himself a man under fire fighting to save his job. Today he unveiled to the general assembly the most extensive overhaul of the world body since its founding in 1945.
KOFI ANNAN: What I am proposing amounts to a comprehensive strategy. It gives equal weight and attention to the three great purposes of the organization: Development, security, and human rights. All of which must be underpinned by the rule of law.
RAY SUAREZ: The reform package calls for a total realignment of the United Nations. Annan’s new chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown:
MARK MALLOCH BROWN: An effort to align the U.N. behind what we see as the three big drivers now: Security, development, and justice or human rights and the need to show the people of the world, including Americans, what the U.N. is delivering across those three areas.
Sort of daily indispensability of the U.N., the fact that global crisis– be it be political, public health or whatever– that the U.N. is there. In most cases if we were an electricity company or the local train company, our indispensability would be recognized because every day we’re kind of making a difference in safety and stability around the world.
DUMISANI KUMALO: The fact that Africa doesn’t have a permanent member in the Security Council. Because look at it. Permanent members of the Security Council set the agenda.
RAY SUAREZ: The restructuring proposal also sets out ways to make the world body more efficient, open and accountable. And it calls for a new human rights council as well as a larger Security Council.
Many of the U.N.’s 191 member-nations have complained about the Security Council’s make-up. It has 15 members but just five permanent members with veto power over resolutions. South Africa’s ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, wants an African on the council.
Now if you went and interviewed the permanent members whether it’s the U.S. or Russia or China or, you know, or the United Kingdom, they will all argue that 67 to 70 percent of their work is about Africa. But it’s something else to talk about Africa and it’s something else to set the agenda for Africa.
RAY SUAREZ: The Annan proposal includes an expanded council and probably a permanent seat for Africa.
These reform measures come at the end of what Annan has termed an “annus horribilis,” a year of horror, grabbing headlines, the oil-for-food program intended to help ordinary Iraqis suffering from international sanction, but found to be riddled with fraud.
Among those implicated, Annan’s own son Kojo. Another scandal: The Democratic Republic of the Congo where U.N. peacekeepers have been accused of rape and sexual abuse.
All this has made for rocky U.S.-U.N. relations including calls from Capitol Hill for Annan to step down. Republican Sen. Norm Coleman led that charge and chairs the subcommittee that controls American contributions to the U.N., almost a quarter of the organization’s budget.
SEN. NORM COLEMAN: The sad reality was oil-for-food was mismanaged. And there was lack of oversight. There was lack of accountability. Again the question is: is the U.N. were they moving quickly to make change or was change forced upon them?
If the U.N. is to have the continued support of the United States, which provides over 22 percent of its operating budget, if the… that organization is to have that support, clearly change and reform have to take place.
RAY SUAREZ: Some U.N. diplomats fear relations with the U.S. will get worse now that president bush has named John Bolton, a blunt and fierce critic of the organization, as U.N. Ambassador. Today Secretary Annan warned that any member-states’ efforts to with hold dues would hurt reform efforts.
KOFI ANNAN: As to withholding dues or contributions until the reforms are implemented, if that were to happen I think it would be very unfortunate. We’ve been there before. We’ve been down that road.
It took many, many years to get it undone and in the process created lots of difficulties for this organization and not only difficulties for this organization but it also complicated relations amongst member-states.
RAY SUAREZ: The future of the reform proposals belongs to world leaders who will convene in New York in September.
RAY SUAREZ: For more we’re joined by two former U.N. Officials. John Ruggie was assistant secretary-general from 1997 to 2001. He’s now a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Richard Williamson was a senior member of the U.S. mission to the U.N. in George W. Bush’s first term, and served as assistant secretary of state for international organizations under Ronald Reagan. He now practices law in Chicago.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Ruggie, let’s start with you. You’ve had a chance to take a look at Kofi Annan’s proposals. Is this package what the organization needs to preserve what the secretary-general has called the U.N.’s relevance?
JOHN RUGGIE: Well, Ray, I think in some ways this is vintage Kofi Annan. He is back to where he started and what made him successful in his first term. He’s pushing the envelope but not so much that people can easily reject the recommendations that he’s making.
It’s a fairly comprehensive package. It looks at the general assembly. The Security Council proposes a new human rights council, proposes a definition of terrorism, the first-ever in the history of the U.N. and also proposes an international convention to combat terrorism.
So this leaves few stones unturned but it does it in a way that makes it politically possible to make progress rather than simply grandstanding.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Williamson, do you agree? And do you see this package as answering some of what the critics have had to say about the U.N. recently?
RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Well, obviously there have been some serious problems. You reviewed those in your opening piece. I think from the U.S. point of view, they’ve said they want a more efficient, effective U.N. that’s in the U.S. interest.
This addresses a number of issues, which the U.S. Government should like: For example, Kofi Annan’s proposal on a definition of terrorism, which is terribly important; also endorsing the proliferation security initiative and finally the U.N. Democracy Fund, which President Bush has supported so it has a lot of components that are very constructive.
This is the second stage of the process. You had a high-level panel report. Now you have the secretary-general. The next five or six months the member-states are going to have to look at it leading up to the summit in September.
So I think there are things to work with. It’s going to take a while to digest all the pieces. I applaud the secretary-general for forming the high level panel to look at reform and then following up with his own comprehensive proposals. These are good steps and we’ll see what the member-states do over their coming months.
RAY SUAREZ: Today in his speech to the members, the secretary- general said don’t just pull this apart and support the parts you like. Pass it as a package. Is there any shot, ambassador, at this being passed in that way?
RICHARD WILLIAMSON: No. It doesn’t work that way. John knows that too. The members are going to look at this. The members are going to look at those which they feel advance their interest and strengthen the U.N.
Large parts of this may eventually be adopted. I understand the secretary-general’s desire to keep it as a whole package, but that’s not how it’s going to be looked at and ultimately that’s not how it’s going to be disposed of.
Hopefully some of the constructive parts will be adopted because the U.N. needs help and the member-states have to step up and take more responsibility themselves. And this proposal provides a roadmap with some very constructive things.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Ruggie, what do you think? Does it have a shot of being implemented as written?
JOHN RUGGIE: No, I don’t think anyone believes that. Certainly the secretary-general said that he hopes that it will be considered as a package. But I think the idea behind putting together a fairly comprehensive package of diverse recommendations, all of which are intended to make the place function better.
The idea behind it is to avoid extreme cherry-picking, so that you can’t come along and say, “I’m only going to look at this one thing or these two things and that’s all I’m going to adopt or support” because for the next several months you’re going to see a fairly complicated set of negotiations taking place.
And, in the end, I think Rich Williamson is right, not everything will be adopted but it — certainly tradeoffs are going to have to be made including by the United States.
So it will be very interesting if John Bolton is confirmed to see him at work in the corridors the way Rich Williamson has done in the past and negotiating with the other 190 member-states.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Ruggie, you heard Ambassador Williamson talking about some of the pieces that the United States will probably like.
Let me hear your list. Are there some parts that you think the U.S. will go for definitely and others that they’re going to reject?
JOHN RUGGIE: I think the United States will be very enthusiastic about the U.N.’s endorsement of what essentially was a proposal from the Bush administration initially for a proliferation security initiative.
I think the U.S. will be very supportive of the creation of a U.N. human rights council to replace a very discredited human rights commission. I think the U.S. will look very favorably on the definition of terrorism and the idea of a terrorist convention.
It’s, I’m sure, going to be less enthusiastic about the suggestion that there should be a debate and perhaps a Security Council resolution on some basic rules of the road with regard to the use of force.
I think the U.S. will be reluctant to engage in that kind of a discussion. But there will be give-and-take. That’s what this is all about.
RAY SUAREZ: And when you say some reluctance to talk about the rules for the use of force, is that because the United States wants to preserve its own freedom of movement in that arena?
JOHN RUGGIE: Yes, I think, you know, every country wants to maximize the degrees of freedom in making decisions. The report that the secretary- general put out today points out that the charter itself of the United Nations strongly endorses the right of self-defense.
No one questions that. It endorses preemption in the right… in the face of an imminent threat, and no one questions that. The issue is how far can a threat be in the future? How potential can it be and still justify the definition of imminence?
Those kinds of things, the secretary-general is urging the member-states to have a look at because, as Henry Kissinger said before the Iraq War, you don’t want every country in the world adopting the principle that it can attack anybody else at will simply by presumption that a threat exists out there somewhere in the future.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Williamson, one of the other proposals that the secretary-general laid out was to increase the size of the U.N. Security Council.
Now, as a member of a delegation from a permanent five member, a veto-holding member, do you think that’s going to be met with much favor by the current members of the Security Council?
RICHARD WILLIAMSON: I think you’ll get different reactions. The US has said it’s open to consider expansion. It’s also said it supports Japan becoming a permanent member. But remember the goal is not to expand or not expand the Security Council.
It’s what can make it more effective and efficient. And look at the situation right now. The world’s worst humanitarian crisis is in Darfur, Sudan; 200,000 people killed in ethnic cleansing, genocide, over 1.5 million driven from their homes, internally displaced persons and refugees.
Yet the Security Council has not been able to act to pass sanctions because three of the members, two of whom are permanent members, are reluctant. Let’s remember, a lot of this has to do with member-states stepping up and assuming their proper responsibility. And that unfortunately is an uneven record.
And that has to color consideration of the best ways to reform the Security Council. So I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion. There’s going to be serious looks at it. But the goal is not to expand or not expand the Security Council; it’s to make it more effective.
RAY SUAREZ: Another proposal is to ask the richer countries of the world to give about three quarters of 1 percent of their Gross Domestic Product to help address poverty in the developing world.
And also ask developing countries to do a part — play a part as well. Do you think the United States is going to look favorably on a levy like that?
RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Well, I don’t think you can see the United States embrace an arbitrary number 0.7 percent by the secretary-general recommendation today. Again, the goal is to have effective foreign aid that has results.
And President Bush has proposed and has doubled United States foreign assistance to developing countries, but he’s also put it as part of the millennium challenge account to try to encourage states to do the kind of reforms like market economies, transparency, et cetera, that will develop sustainable assistance and sustainable growth for those countries.
So, yeah, there’s a philosophical disagreement; arbitrary contribution and results. I think you’ll see the U.S. continue to advocate what makes sense to me, which is a program that has results. And the results have to be based on reforms in addition to financial assistance.
President Bush again has doubled the amount of foreign assistance the U.S. is doing, but he’s also trying to have that foreign assistance go to encourage the reforms for sustainable growth in the developing world.
RAY SUAREZ: Quickly before we go, Professor Ruggie, today the secretary-general said that this is an organization of 191 members and it’s tough to move anything along, but he called on the members to be bold. Is the U.N. in that kind of mood, to do something as comprehensive as this?
JOHN RUGGIE: Ray, it isn’t only the secretary-general who has had a bad year. The U.N. has had a bad couple of years and in fact the international community as a whole has had a bad couple of years over the divisions regarding the war in Iraq and other things.
And the secretary-general is saying, look, “we all live on a small planet together. We have got to make this work together.”
This may be our last chance to put in place a comprehensive set of measures that provide for adequate collective responses to the challenges that we all face and that we can’t run away from because at the end of the day there’s no place else to go.”
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Ruggie, Ambassador Williamson, gentlemen, thank you both.