Candidate to Head UN Gen. Assembly to Push for Security Council Expansion

Jan Eliasson, Swedish Ambassador to the United States and the only candidate running for president of the United Nations General Assembly, says the U.N. is in need of serious reform. He urged the international community to push forward with widespread reform of the global body.

The past year the United Nations has suffered through a series of scandals over corruption in the U.N.-run oil-for-food program in Iraq and sex abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere. Now, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has vowed to make the world body more efficient and transparent.

Swedish Ambassador Jan Eliasson says if he is elected president of the U.N. General Assembly, UNGA, he will work closely with Mr. Annan to ensure the world body takes steps toward long overdue reform.

One reform Mr. Eliasson strongly supports is the effort to enlarge and expand the U.N. Security Council. "It is legitimate to have an enlargement of the Security Council. It was constituted in its present form a long time ago. The membership has now almost tripled since then and we need to have a security council which represents some actors which have played and are playing a very important role - not only on the world scene but also for the United Nations," he said.

Mr. Eliasson spoke Saturday at the annual meeting of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area in Washington. He said the difficulty in expanding the Security Council is that everybody involved realizes that an enlargement could influence the efficiency and effectiveness of the Security Council.

Additionally, he said expansion is an extremely sensitive matter because there is much debate about which countries will be given representation on the enlarged body. Brazil, Germany, India and Japan are just some of the countries lobbying for an additional permanent seat on the Security Council.

China, a veto member of the U.N. Security Council has indicated that it would not support the idea. It's Ambassador to the United Nations Wang Guangya was quoted recently as saying the measure would divide the U.N. membership and ruin any chance for adoption of a broader reform program.

Mr. Eliasson addressed the United Nations Association one day after the man he is to replace -- current U-N-G-A President Jean Ping of Gabon - issued a draft version of a reform package intended to strengthen the United Nations.

In March, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan issued his own series of recommendations for reforming the world body. The proposed reforms will be considered for adoption at a U.N. summit set for September.

Other areas of reform include the reform of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which has long faced criticism for allowing the worst offending countries, such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Cuba, to use their membership to protect each other from condemnation.

Mr. Eliasson also spoke of the need to streamline the U.N. bureaucracy and the importance of conflict prevention.

He said the major challenge to U.N. reform is whether the political will to enact serious change exists. "Certainly we have, I think, the awareness that there is a need to do something and I think there is also an acceptance that there is a unique opportunity," he said. "Whatever you think about the reform proposals they are taken seriously by practically all member states and also different political parts of the spectrum. So that is fine, but I'm still not sure whether we have enough of that political will to make sure we can take these courageous and important steps ahead."

Ambassador Eliasson urged the United Nations supporters gathered in Washington to speak honestly about the world body's flaws, while touting its successes.

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