U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown is warning that essential United Nations reforms are being held hostage to political divisions among the members. He says the reforms are needed to make the organization more relevant to a changing world.
Malloch Brown says the U.N. members are more alienated from one another and divided over political issues than they have been for years. He attributes much of this to what he calls a general malaise in the aftermath of the Iraq war. He says the public views the United Nations as an ineffective organization and this image has to be corrected.
"The organization was badly in need of a makeover, if you like, to reconnect it to what people care about and expect the U.N. to do in their lives. For the secretary-general that was a kind of global undertaking. It was not a matter of addressing American concerns. It was a matter of addressing global concerns, of refashioning a U.N. which mattered as much to somebody in China or Burundi or Bolivia as to somebody in Palestine or the United States or the U.K.," he said.
Malloch Brown says the reforms the secretary-general is proposing would strengthen the U.N.'s humanitarian work and give greater force to its human rights commitments. Another proposed reform would shift the U.N.'s focus from security concerns over inter-state wars to civil conflicts and the new threats issuing from terrorism, failing states and criminal violence related to international trade.
Developing countries are unhappy over the proposed reforms, saying they reflect the wishes of the United States and other wealthy countries. They also fear the reforms will erode their rights. They say management changes will force the General Assembly to give up much of its decision-making powers to the Security Council, where major donor countries have the final say.
Malloch Brown says he hopes the membership can find a way to come together and approve the management reforms. He says this will go a long way toward making the United Nations a leaner, more efficient, more focused place.