R. Nicholas Burns: On United Nations Reform
On United Nations Reform
R. Nicholas Burns, Under
Secretary for Political Affairs
Testimony As Prepared Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
July 21, 2005
Chairman Lugar, Senator Biden, distinguished Members of the Committee, I appreciate the invitation to appear before you to discuss United Nations reform. UN Reform is one of the most important issues facing the United States. It is an essential tool for the successful management and implementation of United States foreign policy. It is fundamental to the future effectiveness of the UN itself. UN reform is one of our most pressing priorities. In that regard, we welcome the leadership of former Speaker Gingrich and former Majority Leader Mitchell in calling for the UN to adopt far-reaching reforms in the months ahead. 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. The United Nations is important in each of these countries as a peacekeeper, a mediator, a unified voice of the global community 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 the great transnational issues that are at the forefront of today's challenges, such as HIV/AIDS, tsunami relief, illiteracy, democracy promotion, human rights, trafficking in persons, freedom of the media, civil aviation, trade, economic development, and the protection of refugees, to name but a few. Another good example of the UN's long-term work is First Lady Laura Bush serving as Honorary Ambassador for the UN Decade on Literacy, as UNESCO is developing a literacy initiative focused on combating illiteracy through mother-child education.
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 together we can enhance the prospects for success. And, in working multilaterally, we share the burden financially and in terms of human resources. Our work in the United Nations reaffirms our unity of purpose with our allies and friends around the world.
U.S. Leadership at the United Nations
As the founding country, host country and most influential member, the United States is essential to the success of the United Nations. While the UN is an indispensable partner to the U.S. in a complex world, it is also true that the UN cannot function effectively without an interested, focused and committed United States. It is therefore vital that the U.S. lead a the United Nations, that we have faith in the UN, pay our dues, promote reform and contribute to strengthen the UN for all the many challenges ahead.
We must help shape the UN's priorities and guide the direction of its activities; we must resist initiatives that are against our policies; and we must strive to achieve our goals at lower cost to the American taxpayer.
American leadership is essential to promote fundamental American and UN principles and values:
• Through the United Nations, the U.S. seeks 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 point to the following results:
• The Security Council has acted 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 UN Democracy Fund has garnered wide political support, and the Secretary General announced its launch on July 4;
• The General Assembly passed a declaration calling for a ban on all forms of human cloning;
• A Democracy Caucus has been established in Geneva and New York;
• Several key Commission on Human Rights resolutions important to the U.S. were adopted, while Cuba's Guantánamo resolution was defeated;
• We have addressed human trafficking through resolutions in the General Assembly and Commission on the Status of Women, and through a special trafficking protocol to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime;
• Americans were elected or appointed to a number of key leadership positions at the UN.
Americans can be assured that, in many important areas, the UN is working well to help bring development, security and peace to the world. The United Nations, however, is far from perfect. In many ways, it is an ailing institution badly in need of fundamental and bold reforms. The recent Oil-for-Food scandal, the outrageous abuses by some UN peacekeeping troops in the Congo and management woes at UN Headquarters are but three examples of problems that must be corrected this year. The United States must also lead in this effort.
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to begin discussing the U.S. agenda for UN reform by first offering a few thoughts on the important work done by the Gingrich-Mitchell Commission on UN reform. Though I won't go into a comprehensive analysis of their report in this forum, I will say that we support most of the Report's Recommendations. They are consistent with the Administration's views on UN Reform. The Report rightly emphasizes U.S. leadership as a pre-condition for attaining significant reform of the United Nations. We also appreciate the Report's emphasis on the importance of all states playing a role in the reform process; America cannot do this alone.
We agree that the UN needs to give more emphasis to good national governance, trade and to economic growth as the means to reducing poverty. As the Report recommends, this means applying new approaches, such as those pioneered by the Millennium Challenge Account, the Monterrey Consensus, and the UN Commission on the Private Sector and Development.
On human rights issues, we are in strong agreement that the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) should be abolished. Serial human rights violators such as Cuba, Zimbabwe, and Sudan are all firmly ensconced Commission on Human Rights members, lecturing the membership on how to promote and protect human rights when they do not protect the rights of their own people. Bloc politics continue to dominate voting at the UNCHR, ensuring that any substantive discourse on human rights devolves into a political battle. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to be woefully under-funded.
As such, we strongly agree with the Report's finding that the Commission on Human Rights should be eliminated and replaced with new UN Human Rights Council. We believe that the Council should have an action-oriented mandate, and that its membership should be elected by a two-thirds majority and exclude states under UN Security Council sanctions. We continue to endorse the UN Democracy Caucus as a tool to help like-minded states from different regions share ideas and initiatives on the Commission's reform and the Council's future.
In keeping with the Report's references to reform of peacekeeping operations, the United States strongly welcomed the report of Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, the Secretary-General's special adviser, to strengthen the UN's ability to investigate and react firmly to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse. The United States also supports the UN Secretariat's request to fund additional positions in peacekeeping missions to enforce the
zero tolerance policy.
We agree with the Report's support for the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission. Where the United Nations as an institution is concerned, the work on security must be coordinated with all the other efforts being undertaken in connection with a particular society; and all the other efforts must be coordinated with each other. Better coordination among UN family entities and with donors, international financial institutions and regional partners, as well as taking aboard the lessons from the complex UN peacekeeping and peace support missions of the last fifteen years, can help us all do a better job of conflict prevention. In the event conflict cannot be avoided, such coordination and application of lessons learned can improve our collective efforts to assist States to recover from conflict. These activities are central to successful discharge of the Security Council's primary responsibility for peace and security, and a Peacebuilding Commission would be essential in managing these processes.
Regarding the Report's recommended two-year budget cycle for peacekeeping operations, we believe most peacekeeping missions benefit from annual review of their budget. Two-year budgets for peacekeeping missions may not be practical since evolving conditions on the ground and lessons over the course of the year can lead to revised mandates and budgets.
The Report makes important recommendations on management, budget and administrative reform in the UN, notably in the Secretariat's work. This is a key area of current UN weakness. We are pleased by the appointment of an American, former Acting Under Secretary of State for Management Chris Burnham, as UN Under Secretary General for Management. We support the idea of an Oversight Board. The Report also offers very constructive proposals for altering the culture of the UN's troubled human resource system.
Mr. Chairman, we share the strong sentiment in Congress for reform of the UN. We look forward to working with you and other leaders of the Senate to that end. However, we believe that withholding UN dues is not a constructive way to achieve sweeping UN reform, and withholding is not a prescription suggested in the Gingrich/Mitchell report. We believe withholding dues in order to achieve a wide array of specific conditions would diminish our effectiveness, and would detract from and undermine our efforts to play the leading role in reforming the United Nations. It would represent a tremendous setback in the reliability and credibility of the UN in the world.
The Administration objects to the House bill's certification requirements which could result in a 50-percent reduction in the United States-assessed contribution to the UN. The Administration also opposes provisions of the bill that purport to require the President to direct the Ambassador to the UN to take particular actions in the Ambassador's dealings with the UN. Other provisions purport to establish policies for the United States with respect to its relations with the United Nations. These provisions impermissibly infringe on the President's authority under the Constitution to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs. The Administration also has a number of other objections to the bill. However, we do support many of the provisions in the Coleman-Lugar bill. This bill articulates a comprehensive set of reforms that are difficult but attainable, and gives the Administration the necessary flexibility needed to pursue reform.
UN Reform: what is needed
Mr. Chairman, I think we can agree that the UN has been a useful diplomatic tool over the years. 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 of 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, but we are also actively pursuing our own reform agenda. We have contacted UN officials and representatives of other nations to discuss our views and have stepped up our efforts for reform in preparation for the Summit in New York in September and at the 60th General Assembly this fall. We are working assiduously 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 are devoting considerable time and energy over coming months to win support for our proposals. I would like to outline briefly each of them.
Reform Priority No. 1: Budget and Management reforms
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. A number of Member States agree with us that it needs to be more broadly addressed in the Outcome Document for the September Summit. 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, and rationalization of conferences. To boost relevance, the Secretary General's authority to re-deploy positions should be used and expanded, and all ongoing UN programs should be reviewed for continued relevancy and effectiveness.
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. 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.
In regard to structure, we support a standing, action-oriented Council that downplays thematic resolutions. We also believe the Council should be a General Assembly subsidiary, pending a decision whether to create a stand-alone Charter body, because it would be easier and faster to implement. The membership should be limited 20 is ideal and exclude nations under Security Council sanctions. 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
We need a Peacebuilding Commission to provide recommendations on post-conflict situations and on bridging between peacekeeping missions, reconstruction and stabilization efforts. 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 also include serving as a focal point for donor coordination. We believe participation in the core Commission should be limited to about 20 members and should include the five permanent Security Council members, five major donor nations, three major troop contributors, five representatives of ECOSOC, the World Bank and IMF; and a UN system representative selected by the Secretary General. The Commission would provide advice to the Security Council on a consensus basis.
Reform Priority No. 4: 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 provides the essential context necessary for countries 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 percent 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 are underscoring the importance the President attaches to ending poverty by promoting political and economic freedom, and emphasizing our leadership on key issues (the MCA, HIV/AIDS, women's issues) where aid can be effectively applied.
Most recently, at the G-8 Summit in Gleneagles we made an historic commitment to Africa and African nations, agreeing among other things to debt relief for
qualifying heavily indebted poor countries, scaling up the fight against malaria, increasing our funding of the African Education Initiative and our support for women. We will again double assistance to Africa between 2004 and 2010. In addition, consistent with the President's policy, the G-8 agreed that development requires not just aid, but better governance, stability and peace in order for the private sector to grow and create jobs.
The UN can make its greatest contribution to development by helping its members make and implement the right choices about how to build democratic states with market economies.
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 to expand the reach of freedom around the world. Several other nations, including India, Hungary and South Korea have expressed support for the Fund. Allies such as the United Kingdom and France have signed on and intend to contribute. Secretary General Annan highlighted the idea in his report "In Larger Freedom," issued proposed Terms of Reference, and on July 4th at the African Union Summit announced 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 have a vote by the General Assembly on the resolution in the coming weeks.
This G-4 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 the amendment by two-thirds of UN membership, including ratification by all permanent Security Council members. For the United States, this would require Senate advice and consent. The G-4 proposal is opposed by a number of countries, including the U.S. We do not think it is timely to support any proposal until broader consensus is reached. Recently, other proposals for Security Council reform have been put forward, including one by the African Union.
We have engaged in a dialogue with the G-4 and with the other permanent members of the Security Council. I met personally with my counterparts from both groups. We continue our strong support for a permanent seat for Japan, have expressed our openness to Security Council expansion, and proposed our own criteria-based approach as a constructive way to measure a country's readiness for a permanent seat. Such criteria could include: GDP, population, military capacity, contributions to peacekeeping, commitment to democracy and human rights, financial contributions to the UN, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism record, and geographic balance. We have said that we can support adding two or so new permanent members based on those criteria. In addition, we would endorse the addition of two or three additional non-permanent seats, based on geographic selection, to expand the Council to 19 or 20.
We feel that the G-4 resolution is highly divisive. Obtaining wide support for Security Council reform is critical if the reform is to succeed in revitalizing the United Nations. Clearly, as well, a resolution that enjoys a broad base of support stands 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. It is our conviction that no single area of reform should be addressed to the exclusion of others. The Secretary has communicated this to UNSYG Annan and to her counterparts.
As such, we do not think any proposal to expand the Security Council including one based on our own ideas -- should be voted upon at this stage. If the G-4 puts its resolution for a vote, we will vote against it and are urging others to do the same.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to underscore that United Nations reform is a very high priority for Secretary Rice and for this Administration. The UN has been, and continues to be, a critical element of U.S. foreign policy. We cannot, however, change the UN for the sake of change alone. We want reforms that will make the United Nations more effective and bring it closer to the vision it created for itself almost 60 years ago, while simultaneously preparing it and its member countries for the new challenges of the 21st century.