Secretary-General Kofi Annan is dispatching four prominent envoys to world capitals to promote a wide-ranging U.N. reform package. Selling the proposals to skeptical world leaders is expected to be an uphill battle.
When Mr. Annan unveiled his reform package last month, he acknowledged that it contains proposals that many countries object to. He urged world leaders to be prepared to make deep compromises when they gather for a summit next September in New York. "You may or may not find my argument convincing. But please remember, in any event, that if you need the help of other states to achieve your objectives, you must also be willing to help them achieve their objectives," he said.
Proposals that have sparked the most heated debate involve expanding the Security Council from 15 to 24 members, defining terrorism and mandating sharp increases in foreign aid spending by wealthy countries.
China's U.N. ambassador this week essentially ruled out Chinese acceptance of any Security Council expansion. He said any change in the Council membership should be done only by consensus of all 191-member states.
Other permanent Council members, including the United States, have also been cool to parts of the proposal.
Anticipating the depth of opposition, Secretary-General Annan has enlisted four well-known figures to act as lobbyists for the plan. Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, former Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas, former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, and former Mozambican president Joaquin Chissano will spend the next few months traveling to world capitals to establish a dialogue with heads of state and government.
U.N. Chief of Staff Mark Malloch Brown is directing the lobbying effort. He says the current scandals that have tarnished the world body's reputation may serve a useful purpose by spurring the demand for reform. "I think scandal does create its own opportunity and moment of change. I've observed to you before that my own modest experience in the public sector is that it was crisis that allowed us to make change that had been gridlocked between governments for a very long time," he said.
Mr. Malloch Brown acknowledged that the reform proposal has received a cool reception in Washington. He said Secretary-General Annan is leading an all-out campaign to win the backing of the Bush administration. "The lead seller to the U.S. is the secretary-general himself. He's spoken to President Bush about the report. He called him the morning it came out. But it's a relay race because a lot of others are weighing in, so a lot of people are raising it at all different levels in the U.S. administration and with the U.S. Congress, because obviously, getting U.S. buyin for this is very important," he said.
Supporters of the reform package hope to win U.S. backing by including several proposals Washington favors. Among them is a plan to abolish the 53-member U.N. Human Rights Commission in favor of a smaller Human Rights Council.
The commission has fallen into disrepute in recent years. Its current membership includes Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.