|The United Nations has convened for a three-day summit intended to reinvigorate the organization 60 years after its creation. There is a document outlining reforms, but negotiators say that, due to irreconcilable differences, it is a watered-down version of the ambitious overhaul the UN set out to achieve. |
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says many of the proposed reforms, under discussion for months, were thrown out in order to reach an agreement. "Let us be frank with one another and with the peoples of the United Nations, we have not yet achieved the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required. Sharp differences, some legitimate, have played their part in preventing that."
Mr. Annan says there are a number of achievements, such as a the creation of a human rights council and a peace building commission, but no agreement on a definition of terrorism or nonproliferation and disarmament because, he said, posturing had gotten in the way of results.
Joshua Muravchik wrote a book about the future of the United Nations. He says he would be surprised if the UN had made any significant progress. "This is an institution that has been a failure for 60 years. The chance of fixing it, or very substantially improving it, the chance is small, and if we could do that within a year, that would be amazing."
There were also last minute demands for changes in the document's wording, many of them from United States Ambassador John Bolton.
Of those changes Mr. Muravchik says, "It struck me that the changes he was demanding were really necessary and really sensible, and it was rather shocking that the document had gotten this far without those changes."
Ambassador Bolton's changes reflect a fundamental disagreement among countries over how the UN is structured and how it should operate.
Georgetown Professor Michael Hawes who studies U.S.-UN relations, says he thinks Ambassador Bolton is seeking genuine reform.
"There is no question that Ambassador Bolton's appointment to be the U.S. ambassador to U.N. was unpopular with much of the diplomatic community, but I think what he has done so far demonstrates that his attitude is one of seeking to make positive changes within the organization, which I think is a good thing, the US couldn't have just taken a hands-off approach and let the UN become obsolete.
Instead, Mr. Bolton is going in there and seeking to make positive changes within the culture, which I think will make the UN relevant again," continued Professor Hawes.
Analysts say that everyone, from John Bolton to Kofi Annan, wants a reformed UN. But the lack of agreement means that proposed reforms, including an expanded Security Council, will not be implemented.