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U.N. Summit: World Leaders Fail to Endorse Proposed Institutional Reforms

The three-day summit of more than 150 world leaders, which marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, fell short of its ambitious goals. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had hoped the member states would endorse far-ranging U.N. reforms. But the 35-page outcome document adopted Friday is viewed as a watered-down declaration of the provision originally sought by the Secretary-General and by the United States.

U.N. specialist Ann Florini of The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based research and policy group, said the summit was intended to achieve a “grand bargain” leading to global action on a host of issues, such as terrorism, non-proliferation, U.N. management reform, development aid, and trade. But instead, it managed to protect “narrow national interests.”

Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Press Conference USA, Ms. Florini said that, in an effort to reach out to other member states, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton had become more conciliatory and less “confrontational” in the past couple of weeks than he was initially. But she noted that a “handful of other states” were still resisting major reform of the United Nations, such as expansion of the Security Council and management reform. According to Ms. Florini, President Bush’s conciliatory remarks at the opening session on Wednesday were well received and his proposal that the United States would remove agricultural subsidies, if other wealthy nations would do likewise, could be significant. But she noted it represents a serious challenge to the Europeans who do not want to eliminate agricultural subsidies.

Regarding the U.N. effort to combat poverty, Ann Florini said, although the Bush administration does endorse the Millennium Development Goals, it does not endorse the commitment that all rich countries should give 0.7 percent of their GDP in aid. On the other hand, Ms. Florini said giving away money is not the best way to bring about development unless that money is given “strategically” where it can be well spent without fueling corruption and inflation. But, she added, the United States would do well to be less strident and more diplomatic in its approach, if other countries are to cooperate with U.S. goals, such as U.N. management reform and revamping the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission.

It was agreed at the summit to replace the U.N. Human Rights Commission with a “human rights council,” but the terms for membership on the council have yet to be determined. However, Ms. Florini believes there is a real chance for making progress on the human rights council, and for the first time there is recognition of what is called a “responsibility to protect” those citizens whose governments abuse them. But she says, if the U.S. Congress decides to withhold payment of half of America’s assessed dues if the United Nations does not adopt all the reforms within a year or two, it would be unfortunate.

Ann Florini said President Bush’s address to the U.N. General Assembly indicated that he now recognizes there is a link between terrorism and the “broader condition of the world,” specifically that half the world’s population is living in poverty. And she warned that inequity, injustice, and anger fuel terrorism.

For full audio of the program Press Conference USA click here.