Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The future of the United Nations under Ban Ki Moon

During a full committee hearing Tuesday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs addressed the future of the United Nations under Ban Ki Moon. Witnesses included President of the United Nations Foundation, Timothy E. Wirth, Former United States Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, and Former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, John Bolton.

While supportive of the U.N.’s founding principals, many committee members were critical of the organization’s past. The recent Oil-For-Food scandal and peace-keeping missions gone awry were the beginning of a lengthy list indicating widespread internal problems. Chairman Tom Lantos said, “Reality hasn’t matched the ideals.” However, the witnesses as well as the members went on to indicate that the U.N. can effectively serve U.S. foreign policy. The meeting covered issues of internal reform, the status of peace-keeping operations, budget, Darfur, and the newly formed Human Rights Council.

Internal reform, which became a key issue for Former Secretary General Kofi Annan in the wake of scandal, continues to plague the organization. Members affirmed the need for accountability, transparency, and greater effectiveness from the United Nations. However, it was voiced that while the U.S. can remain critical of its policies, the UN remains a body composed of sovereign states – it is the responsibility of those states to work together to make the UN a more efficient assembly. Bolton, in particular, affirmed recent UN progress to be minimal.

Mitchell, one of the nation’s leading experts on UN reform, said he considers the United Nations to be an important institution looking to the future interest of United States foreign policy. He said he embraced the prospect of making fundamental institutional reforms within the United Nations, even though this could be controversial and cause vigorous debates. There is an immediate need for accountability, credibility, transparency and flexibility due to the failed or critical operations of the last few years. These have undermined both authority and legitimacy. He is in support of the United Nations continuously making efforts to put an end to deadly crises in the world community, and he believes this requires strong U.S. commitment and leadership.

Bolton discussed the importance of an effective and efficient United Nations. He demanded to see results in an organization with “a culture of inaction.” What the UN truly needs, Bolton said, is to “convert words into a program of action.” As of now, the pace of U.N. reform is simply too excruciatingly slow. Bolton advocated a radical overhaul and strategic refit of the United Nations in changing the culture of funding from assessment to voluntary funding.

Wirth gave the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon ten points to measure success when looking back in five years from now. First he mentioned the need for a general strengthening of multilateral relationships; the importance of reforms in the areas of cooperation in peacekeeping and peacemaking; finding a solid economic foundation in the budget; he mentioned the significance of coming to terms with the situation in the Middle East; a strengthening of the non-proliferate regime; a resolution to the horrific humanitarian situation in the Darfur region in Sudan; a redefining of the role of energy to engage on a path to sustainable development; the U.S. joining or reengaging in the United Nations Human Rights Council; the position of Israel and finally the United States and other members upholding their promises to the budget, paying on time and sufficiently. Based on these points Wirth envisioned a revitalized United Nations


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