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U.N. Works Against Time to Finalize Reform Plan

BY Admin  September 12, 2005 at 3:30 PM EDT

Member states have been negotiating a 39-page document that outlines how the world body will reform itself as it celebrates its 60th birthday. Among the changes on the table are proposals to overhaul the Commission on Human Rights, create a peace-building commission to help countries emerging from conflict, develop guidelines for member state contributions to foreign aid, and define terrorism.

But with time running out before world leaders convene at U.N. headquarters in New York Wednesday, some U.N. delegations said they worried the organization would be forced to approve a watered-down action plan.

“My fear is that we may end up with something a lot less than what the U.N. deserves,” said Chile’s U.N. ambassador Heraldo Munoz Sunday, according to Reuters. “The devil is in the details.”

Chile is one of 30 countries selected last month to negotiate a compromise to the document after significant differences over the plan arose among member states. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton added to the shakeup in August by submitting several hundred revisions to the document.

The most contentious elements of the plan involve disarmament and nonproliferation, the proposed Human Rights Council and the definition of terrorism, according to Chile’s Munoz, the AP reported.

U.N. General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon who selected the 30 countries and is overseeing the document’s preparation, told ambassadors Sunday he wanted to see another draft by Monday, the last day of the 59th General Assembly, according to the Associated Press.

Action on one part of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s reform proposal — expanding the U.N. Security Council from 15 to 24 permanent seats — has already been postponed until a December meeting.

To complicate matters, the United Nations requires consensus in its negotiating process, meaning a minority can block the wants of a majority.

“At bottom, the purpose of summit is to rekindle the ideals that animated the founding of the United Nations 60 years ago in San Francisco,” said Shashi Tharoor, the U.N. public information undersecretary-general, Reuters reported. “That means international cooperation to resolve problems without passports, that no one country or one group of countries can solve on their own — human rights, terrorism, climate change.”