United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan presented a sweeping plan to reform the UN this week. It includes expanding the 15 member Security Council, restructuring the Human Rights Commission and setting new rules for authorizing the use of military force. Mr. Annan says the cause of worldwide freedom can only be advanced if countries work together to reform the United Nations. Amy Katz reports on some Washington reaction to the reform plan.
U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos of California, a Democrat, thinks many of the recommendations in the U.N. reform plan are excellent. At a Voice of America Newsmaker news conference on Tuesday he cited fiscal accountability and changing the Human Rights Commission as two of the most important. Another important recommendation, Mr. Lantos says, is getting the U.N.'s 191 member nations to agree on the definition of "terrorism."
"It's high time the United Nations, as an international body, spoke on the subject of terrorism. Terrorism, for whatever reason is unacceptable to the civilized world community, and I applaud my friend Kofi Annan for demanding that at long last the United Nations speak out, without equivocation, denouncing terrorism," says Tom Lantos.
Brent Scowcroft, a former U.S. National Security Advisor to two Republican presidents, was the only American member of the panel that drafted the U.N. reform recommendations. He says the panel was a group with diverse interests and agendas, and getting agreement on proposals was not easy.
"I'm encouraged by the fact that the panel engaged in these activities and produced, with a tiny, tiny exception, a consensus report, which I consider quite remarkable, given the multiplicity of interests involved. So, I think we're going to test the skills of the Secretary General and the members this year, but I think it would be a definite step forward," says Brent Scowcroft.
Congressman Lantos said while some of the recommendations may be seen as controversial, Kofi Annan deserves praise for trying to tackle many of the U.N.'s problems.
"Many of the difficulties and problems and shortcomings and deficiencies of the United Nations are derivative in nature. The United Nations reflects a deeply divided and profoundly flawed globe," says Tom Lantos.
But, he says he thinks the organization can be reformed and improved. The Bush administration agrees. In an interview with the Washington Post newspaper, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said the Bush administration strongly believes the U.N. needs to be reformed. And, he said, the nomination of John Bolton, a known critic of the U.N., to be the new ambassador to the international organization, signals White House commitment to ending corruption and changing the culture at the United Nations.