Philo L. Dibble: UN Reform

Monday, 27 June 2005, 10:13 am

Press Release: US State Department

UN Reform

Philo L. Dibble, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs

Statement before the House Appropriations Subcommittee

Washington, DC

June 22, 2005


Chairman Wolf, Congressman Mollohan, distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the invitation to appear before you to discuss United Nations reform.

The United Nations was created 60 years ago this week on June 26, 1945 when representatives of 50 nations came together in San Francisco. Their motivation was clear: "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind."

The Charter they signed that day, born of a tragic past, was nonetheless focused on the future. It articulates a vision for mankind based on freedom, justice, human dignity and harmonious relations between nations, principles and values strikingly similar to our own. The founders of the United Nations were determined to "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small "

Why We Believe in the United Nations

Since 1945, but especially since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations has become an important foreign policy tool for the United States in our efforts to advance throughout the world the values we believe in. We often forget -- or underrate -- just how critical the UN has been in helping us to achieve our foreign policy goals and objectives. A quick glance at the headlines proves this point: Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Haiti, Lebanon, Syria, Western Sahara, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia. These are countries where we are working with the UN on very difficult issues.

But the United Nations does not deal just with countries in crisis. The UN also plays a vital role in addressing transnational issues such as HIV/AIDS, tsunami relief, illiteracy, democracy, human rights, freedom of the media, civil aviation, trade, economic development, and the protection of refugees, to name but a few.

The United States and other countries have freely chosen to take these very complicated matters before the United Nations. We have done so because we know that by working we can enhance the prospects for success. And, in working multilaterally, we share the burden financially and in terms of human resources.

U.S. Leadership at the United Nations

Before discussing specific reforms, I would like to address the critical role the United States plays vis-a -vis the United Nations. For even if all the reforms we support were adopted, the UN will not achieve better results unless we exercise capable and responsible leadership. We must help shape the UN's priorities and guide the direction of its activities; we must resist initiatives that are against our values and interests; and we must strive to achieve our goals at lower cost to the American taxpayer.

The priorities our leadership promotes are based on fundamental American principles and values which are reflected in the UN Charter:

* First, we seek to make the world a safer place, by ensuring non-proliferation; by preventing or deterring terrorism; and by addressing other threats to peace and security, especially regional stability. * Second, we seek to make the world a better place, by promoting human rights and democracy; by advancing economic freedom, good governance, food security, literacy, and development; by improving the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance; and by reducing the number and severity of international health threats.

To those who say that the United Nations is a failed organization and that we obtain little in return for our contributions to that body, I would reply simply that the facts show otherwise.

In recent months alone, thanks in large part to U.S. leadership in the UN, we have achieved the following results:

* The Security Council acted decisively to reduce violence in Sudan, Haiti, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, and other countries; * In Iraq, UN officials played a key role in elections earlier this year and are assisting in the drafting of the new constitution to take effect in January 2006. * Joint U.S.-French efforts have resulted in Security Council resolutions to force Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon; * Libya signed the Additional Protocol and cooperated in the evacuation of nuclear equipment and materials; The General Assembly adopted the Nuclear Terrorism Convention; * The Security Council declared terrorist acts unjustifiable and is monitoring the sale of WMD to non-state entities such as terrorist groups; * The President's proposal for a Democracy Fund has garnered wide political support, with the prospect of being launched soon; * A Democracy Caucus has been established in Geneva and New York; * Virtually all key Commission on Human Rights resolutions important to the U.S. were adopted, while Cuba's Guantánamo resolution against us was defeated decisively; * Americans were elected or appointed to a number of key positions.

UN Reform: What is Needed

Over the years the United Nations has been a valuable diplomatic tool for advancing U.S. interests. Like any tool, however, maintenance and repairs are required to ensure maximum effectiveness.

As President Bush has said, "the success of multilateralism is measured not merely by following a process, but by achieving results." For that reason, the U.S. has long advocated reforms to make the UN more efficient and effective. In recent years we have spearheaded efforts to achieve greater transparency in the budgetary process and to increase oversight of UN operations to prevent fraud, waste, mismanagement and misconduct. We are proud of a number of important advances in these areas, including a resolution last December that requires that reports by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) be made available to any member state upon request, and the granting of new authority to the Secretary-General to move positions between UN programs to higher-priority areas.

Clearly, however, UN management is still woefully lacking, as media reports on the Oil For Food and on Sexual Exploitation by Peacekeepers scandals have highlighted.

The momentum for reform has grown in recent months and is now in an intense phase. In December 2004, Secretary General Kofi Annan's High-Level Panel on "Threats, Challenges, and Change" issued its report with 101 recommendations to modernize the United Nations. In March this year the Secretary General issued his own report entitled "In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All," which puts forward more than 200 reform recommendations.

The United States will support a number of recommendations put forward by the Secretary General and his High Level Panel, and we are also actively pursuing our own reform agenda. We have contacted UN officials and representatives of other nations to discuss our views and we will step up efforts for reform in preparation for the High Level Event in New York in September and at the 60th General Assembly this fall. We will work with like-minded countries to seek wide support for the reforms we believe are necessary for the United Nations if it is to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Our Reform Agenda: U.S. Priorities

We have outlined six priorities for UN reform and we will devote considerable time and energy over coming months to win support for our proposals. I will refer briefly to each of them.

Reform Priority No. 1: Economic Development

Building on the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, our approach emphasizes national responsibility, rule of law, governments accountable to the people, and sound economic policies. Such an enabling framework for development is essential if countries are to make effective use of all available resources, public and private, foreign and domestic.

The United States has an excellent story to tell on development. The U.S. led the push for the ambitious "Doha round" of trade liberalization. At Monterrey, the U.S. also joined other countries in agreeing to provide more aid to support developing countries that are improving their institutions and policies. We have increased official development assistance by 90% since 2000, nearly tripled aid to Africa during the same period, established the Millennium Challenge Account, and led donor funding in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We cannot and should not endorse aid targets, but need not object to commitments made by others to such targets.

We will also underscore the importance the President attaches to ending poverty by promoting political and economic freedom, and emphasize our leadership on key issues (the MCA, HIV/AIDS, women's issues) where aid can be effectively applied. We should also use the U.S./U.K. and G-8 initiatives emerging from Gleneagles to help shape the development agenda.

Reform Priority No. 2: Effective Human Rights Mechanism

We must reorganize the way the United Nations works to protect Human Rights throughout the world. The United States supports the creation of a UN mechanism such as the Human Rights Council proposed by the Secretary General to addresses more effectively the most serious human rights situations. The existing Commission on Human Rights has been discredited due to the presence of so many gross violators, and a fresh start is needed.

We also believe that the Council's mandate should be to take effective action to address the most egregious human rights violations such as systematic torture or wide-scale deprivation of freedom of expression and assembly. We support a standing, action-oriented Council that avoids repetitive thematic resolutions. We also believe the Council should be a General Assembly subsidiary, not a stand-alone Charter body, because it would be easier and faster to implement. The membership should be limited -- 20 would be ideal -- and exclude human rights abusing nations. Seats would be filled through elections to two-year terms with regional allocations.

Members of the Council should have a solid human rights record and states would have to secure a two-thirds vote to be elected. Countries subject to Security Council sanctions or an UNSC-authored Commission of Inquiry would be ineligible. Elected Council members should affirm they will live up to the standards of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Reform Priority No. 3: Creation of a Peacebuilding Commission

A Peace Building Commission should be set up to work in an advisory capacity to the Security Council on specific conflict situations as requested by the Council. The Commission's tasks would include planning for peacekeeping missions and reconstruction and stabilization efforts, and serving as a focal point for donor coordination. We believe participation in the core Commission should be limited to 15-20 members and should include representatives of three Security Council members, five major donor nations, five major troop contributors, the World Bank and IMF, and a UN system representative of the Secretary General. The Commission would provide advice to the Security Council on a consensus basis, while allowing for presentation of minority views in case of dissenting opinions.

Reform Priority No. 4: Budget and Management Reforms

As I said before, the United States has consistently pressed the United Nations to undertake meaningful management, administrative, and budgetary reforms to make it more efficient, effective, and responsive. Budgetary discipline, accountability, and program relevancy are critical to these goals. We believe that the Secretary-General devoted too little time to these issues in his proposals for the High Level Event. In particular, for accountability, we want to boost the resources and independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, and an expanding role for this Office in peacekeeping and small agencies. For effectiveness, we seek consolidation of UN Information Centers, outsourcing translation, and rationalization of conferences. To boost relevance, the Secretary General's authority to re-deploy positions should be used and expanded, and, whenever appropriate, UN programs should be "sunsetted" and reviewed before extension, much like peacekeeping operations.

Reform Priority No. 5: Democracy Fund

At last year's General Assembly, President Bush called for the establishment of a UN Democracy Fund and we have worked diligently with the UN Secretariat and other interested member states to make this initiative a reality. The Democracy Fund will provide grants and in-kind assistance for democracy promotion efforts. Several other nations, including India, Hungary and South Korea have expressed support for the Fund. Secretary General Annan highlighted the idea in his report "In Larger Freedom" and has issued proposed Terms of Reference for its establishment. We have requested $10 million for the Democracy Fund in the FY 06 budget, and we are seeking FY 05 monies to reprogram for the Fund.

Reform Priority No. 6: Counter-Terrorism

We are in broad agreement with the counter-terrorism strategy proposed by the Secretary General, but do not agree with all its elements. Regarding a definition of terrorism, the U.S. welcomes the position, contained in the Secretary General's report, that the right to resist occupation does not justify the targeting and killing of civilians. We do not, however, want the effort to come to agreement on a definition of terrorism to distract from the more important task of moving forward on completion of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Security Council Reform

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a few words about Security Council reform.

Many nations have expressed the view that the Security Council, the UN's most powerful body, should be enlarged from its current composition of 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent members to become more representative of today's world. We have stated consistently that while we are open to considering expansion proposals, the primary purpose of Security Council reform should be to make the Council more effective.

The Secretary General's Panel of Eminent Persons did not endorse a specific plan on this highly-charged issue but proposed instead two options: (1) increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent members; or (2) enlarging the Council with new non-permanent members only, albeit with a new category of non-permanent membership that has a longer term than the current two year term and which allows members to run for re-election.

Japan, Germany, Brazil, and India, known as the Group of Four or G-4, have put forward an enlargement proposal based on the first option that would give them, together with two African nations, permanent seats. The G4 has indicated that they would like to table a General Assembly resolution with their proposal to expand the Council in June.

This G4 proposal would need to receive a yes vote of two-thirds of UN members if it is to move to the next phases, the selection of the new permanent members, and the adoption of a resolution for amending the UN Charter, with ratification of those changes by two-thirds of UN membership. In order for the amendments to take effect, all permanent Security Council members then would need to ratify them. For the United States, this would require Senate ratification. The G-4 proposal is strongly opposed by a number of countries.

We are now engaged in a dialogue with the G-4 and with the other permanent members of the Security Council. I plan to meet personally, within the next two weeks, with my counterparts from both groups. Our immediate goal is to get the G-4 to hold off in calling for a vote on their resolution because it is so divisive that a vote, regardless of the outcome, could do serious, long-term damage to the UN as an institution. Clearly, a resolution that enjoys a broader base of support would stand a better chance of General Assembly adoption. We also want our friends to understand that while Security Council reform is an important issue, we cannot let discussion on expansion divert our attention from, and delay action on, other important, more urgently-needed UN reforms.


In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to underscore that United Nations reform is a very high priority for the President. The UN has been, and continues to be, a critical element of U.S. foreign policy. We should not, however, change the UN for the sake of change alone. We want reforms that will make the United Nations more effective and, in the end, take that organization closer to the vision that almost 60 years ago, to this very day, its founders presented to a war-weary, yet still hopeful, world. Thank you.

Released on June 23, 2005


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