A New U.N.
Description: Former foreign ministers, including Secretary Madeleine Albright and the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy met at the Liu Institute in May 2005 to discuss UN Reform, Tsunami Relief and Nuclear Non-Proliferation. As a result of this meeting the
Date: 07 July 2005
Author: Madeleine Albright, Robin Cook, Lamberto Dini, Lloyd Axworthy, Ana Palacio and Surin Pitsuwan
Source: The Wall Street Journal
At its General Assembly meeting this fall, the United Nations will have a historic opportunity to institute long-needed reforms. Secretary General Kofi Annan has described this as a moment no less decisive than the U.N.'s founding. We recommend that at a minimum the G-8 rally the General Assembly behind a right-sized group of reforms in four key areas.
We are former foreign ministers from Europe, Canada, Asia and the U.S. who are very concerned about the current state of relations among nations and their inability to come together successfully to address global challenges. Central to strengthening our ability to solve common problems is reform of the U.N., so as to replace the global psychology of competition and strain with a spirit of cooperation.
To meet its potential as a tool for cooperation, the U.N. needs dramatic and immediate improvements. Recent revelations of Oil-for-Food program abuses are a case in point. The U.N. must demonstrate a commitment to better self-governance by addressing at the highest levels concerns in such areas as organizational inconsistencies and administrative inefficiencies.
Building on reformed U.N. governance, we propose a first-phase package divided into four core areas: human rights, security, democracy, and development. We recommend that the General Assembly adopt these proposals in September as a first step in strengthening the U.N. and a precedent for further reforms. A campaign of support from the G-8 countries is essential to the passage of our proposed package.
-- On human rights, we support the concept of the "Duty to Prevent" through establishment of a U.N. Human Rights Council to replace the existing Human Rights Commission, whose current membership discredits its existence. With six of its 53 members identified by Freedom House as the world's most repressive societies, the Commission's image has been irreversibly tarnished. The new Council would require members to meet certain standards: for starters, no country under sanctions could be a member.
-- Concerning security, certainly the most politically charged area, our recommendation is to concentrate on the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission and fund which would focus on the nexus between security and long-term development and address the needs of countries emerging from conflict. Furthermore, U.N. member states should seize this opportunity to define terrorism by accepting the U.N. secretary general's definition. The failure to develop such an agreed definition in the past has complicated international diplomacy and slowed global counterterrorism efforts. U.N. member states should also seek further insurance against nuclear proliferation by adopting the IAEA's additional protocol. Nurturing this concept to its full acceptance as an operating principle and standard of international diplomacy will be a most noble contribution at this decisive moment in our quest for a common peaceful destiny.
-- Somewhat more controversial but vitally important is the proposal to recognize the emerging norm of the "Responsibility to Protect." There is a growing consensus that sovereignty cannot be allowed to shield mass atrocities (as in Sudan) and that the international community, through the U.N., has a responsibility to protect people who are in grave danger because their government lacks the ability or will to protect them. Obviously, implementing such a "Responsibility to Protect" will involve practical challenges that are not yet resolved. Acknowledging the obligation would at least provide a legal framework in which debates may be conducted.
-- On democracy, we should empower the Community of Democracies (CD) by establishing a permanent secretariat for a formal U.N. Democracy Caucus. Since the CD's first meeting in 2000, the need for a counterweight to the traditional caucuses, some of which regularly block resolutions in favor of democracy and human rights, has been reaffirmed.
-- In the area of development, we urge all developed countries to commit to allocating a long advocated 0.7% of their Gross National Income for aid to the developing world by 2015. We welcome the proposal to launch an international finance facility to support immediate front-loading of that assistance.
At this historic moment, we agree with Mr. Annan's package approach, but within that we believe that these four areas are the place to start. G-8 support in the coming weeks is critical to passage of a first-phase package. The G-8 must leverage its leadership to avoid a stalemate, which would be harmful to the U.N. and the international community. Although even this more limited approach will require extraordinary political leadership and consensus-building both in and outside of national governments, we trust that it is a challenge the G-8 can embrace.
The authors are the former secretary of state, the former foreign secretary of the U.K., and the former foreign ministers of Italy, Canada, Spain and Thailand.