Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bolton Stresses Urgent Need for UN Reform

Washington's UN envoy has warned that the world body must get better at problem-solving or risk irrelevance. Ambassador John Bolton expressed frustration at the slow pace of U.N. reform, calling this a "moment of crisis" for the organization.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ambassador Bolton repeatedly pointed to the need for what he called a "revolution of reform" at the United Nations. It is a theme first sounded by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her speech to the General Assembly in September.

Ambassador Bolton suggested that if the world body fails to enact U.S.-backed reforms to improve management and overhaul of the human rights monitoring operation, Washington might seek other ways of global problem-solving.

"Americans are a practical people," he said. "They don't view the U.N. through theological lenses, they look at it as a competitor in the marketplace for global problem-solving. And if it's successful at solving problems, they'll be inclined to use it, if it's not successful at solving problems, they'll say, 'Are there other mechanisms, other institutions, other frameworks?'"

Mr. Bolton angered many U.N. diplomats and bureaucrats by suggesting that the biennial budget be approved in three-month increments until reform measures are adopted. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the proposal this week, saying it could create a financial crisis, because the budget determines how much each member state contributes in each two-year period.

"You need a budget for us to be able to plan and carry out our work, and if you do not do that, you really have no basis for even asking the member states to contribute and you may create a serious financial crisis for the organization," Mr. Annan said.

The United Nations estimates the budget for the next two years at $3.6 billion, plus another five billion dollars for peacekeeping operations. The United States pays roughly one-quarter of the total.

Ambassador Bolton signaled that Washington would use financial incentives to focus attention on reforms agreed to at the summit of world leaders in September.

"Look this is a moment of crisis for the United Nations. If we don't get serious reform, it's going to put us in a very difficult position, It's now two months since the end of the September summit and we have essentially not made progress since that point. We've got a lot of work to do and there's not a lot of time to do it," Mr. Bolton said.

Mr. Bolton said earlier that the United States is stepping up lobbying efforts, both at U.N. headquarters and in world capitals, in an attempt to speed up the pace of reform. He cautioned that ending what he called "business as usual" at the world body would require working day in and day out, over a long period of time.

Looking a questioning reporter straight in the eye, Mr. Bolton said "reform is not a one night stand, reform is forever".