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Not Realistic To Reach Consensus On So Many UN Reforms, Says Analyst

  • William Eagle

Leaders at the UN summit are expected to sign a 35-page document setting out the goals and reforms the international body hopes to achieve.

Critics complain the document does not go far enough.

Among the ideas not included in the document were a proposal on disarmament and non-proliferation, language defining terrorism, and details of a plan to replace the discredited UN Human Rights Commission. Critics say the document also fails to include details of plans for restructuring UN management practices. It does mention the desire by "many developed countries" to spend 0.7 percent of their gross national product on development – but does not make that goal mandatory.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the deletion of a section on disarmament “a disgrace.” A spokesman for the group OXFAM said that instead of being a bold agenda for tackling poverty, the document is a brochure showcasing past commitments. And Amnesty International’s UN representative said, “If world leaders do nothing more than adopt a broad, vague test that defers all substantive decisions to the General Assembly, they will have squandered a historic opportunity.” An editorial in the New York Times called the failure for more sweeping reforms “a tragic loss” of an opportunity to help one billion people around the world who live on less than one dollar a day.

For a closer look at the summit – and the document – we spoke with Brett Schaefer of the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. He’s a fellow in international regulatory affairs at the foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics.

English to Africa reporter William Eagle asked him what he thinks of critics of the UN summit, some of whom blame the United States and other countries for watering down the a global commitment to development aid and UN reforms that would strengthen the participation of developing countries in the international body.

Mr. Schaefer told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that it was not realistic to expect the United Nations to achieve a consensus on so many initiatives at once – from UN reform to development and human rights. He says this results in “horse trading” or watering down resolutions by nations that have different stakes in changing the enforcement of human rights law and other issues. The Heritage Foundation analyst says the range of UN topics in the summit document should be handled separately.

Brett Schaefer says the idea that poverty is going to be addressed through UN documents or the provision of aid is a myth. The key to addressing poverty, he says, is the political will of poor nations to create policies that invite investment, cut corruption that wastes aid, enhance good governance and bolster the rule of law.

Some say this summit was another chance to boost multilateralism. But Mr. Schaefer says there are other multilateral groupings that have more effective and nimble processes for reaching results, such as the Africa Union and the G8.

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