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Bush To Address Opening Session of U.N. Summit

Bush To Address Opening Session of U.N. Summit

60th Anniversary presents opportunity to renew, improve organization

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- President Bush will join U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening of a three-day summit September 14 that marks the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly’s 60th session.

As the organization turns 60, the management and members of the venerable middle-aged institution are making plans to celebrate its work and enact a series of reforms to ensure it remains relevant for another 60 years.

More than 170 heads of state and government are expected to participate in the plenary session in the vast General Assembly hall and in roundtable discussions, treaty-signings, and other meetings taking place in connection with the event.

On September 17, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will lead off the opening debate as the General Assembly begins its 60th session.

During his visit, Bush will sign the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which opens for signatures on September 14. It will be the first terrorism convention signed since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

The convention, which will strengthen the growing global legal counterterrorism framework, requires the prosecution and extradition of those dealing with nuclear materials for the purpose of carrying out terrorist acts, helps international cooperation, and includes safeguards for dealing with nuclear materials.

The nuclear terrorism treaty will be the centerpiece of a three-day "Focus 2005: Responding to Global Challenges" treaty event organized by the United Nations to encourage increased participation in and implementation of treaties deposited with the U.N. secretary-general.

More than 63 nations have indicated that they will sign the nuclear terrorism convention. A total of 32 treaties dealing with human rights, refugees, penal matters, terrorism, and organized crime and corruption will be signed or receive ratifications during the event.

DEMOCRACY, TRADE, DEVELOPMENT LINKED, PRESIDENT WILL STRESS

Besides meeting with Annan and 60th General Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden on September 14, Bush will participate in a Security Council Summit that will also focus on terrorism.

"During the course of the day, the president will stress the United States' commitment to a broad international agenda that recognizes the connection between freedom, democracy, trade and development, and security," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said September 8.

Bush will also meet with leaders from democratic states supporting the recently established U.N. Democracy Fund at a reception hosted by the Netherlands. In his speech to the General Assembly in 2004, the president proposed establishing the Democracy Fund within the United Nations to help countries lay the foundations of democracy. The United States pledged an initial contribution of $10 million.

The fund, created by Annan on July 4, will provide grants to nongovernmental organizations, states, and international organizations to carry out democratization projects.

Through the adoption of a final declaration, the heads of state and government attending the summit will give political backing and impetus to a variety of major changes for the organization. It will be up to members to flesh out, finalize and officially enact those changes throughout the General Assembly's major work session from September 17 to the end of December.

As negotiators worked to complete the final text in the days leading up to the summit, the draft focused on how to achieve the development goals stated in the Millennium Declaration, support for human rights, the empowerment of women, strengthening international cooperation against terrorism, and U.N. management reform.

The draft also calls for a Peace Building Commission focusing on reconstruction and institution-building for long-term development that marshals international resources to help countries recover after conflict.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Kristen Silverberg said that the United States is "very much looking forward to this high-level event as a good opportunity to show some concrete programs, to get agreement" on development, security, democracy and human rights issues as well as U.N. reform.

Discussing development issues at an August 31 press conference, Silverberg said, "the outcome at the G8 [summit at Gleneagles, Scotland] was a big success ... because that document strongly reaffirmed that development is to be done in partnership with developing states." (See G8 Summit 2005, Gleneagles, Scotland.)

At the U.N. summit, she said, U.S. efforts will be focused on reaffirming that commitment.

Nevertheless, the issue of compelling interest is management reform of the United Nations and restructuring the organization so it can effectively carry out peacekeeping, human rights, humanitarian and development programs in the coming years.

OIL-FOR-FOOD INQUIRY HIGHLIGHTS ADMINISTRATIVE WEAKNESSES

The release of a report by the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program September 8 pointedly cited the politicization of decision-making, managerial weaknesses, and ethical lapses as systemic problems in U.N. administration.

Presenting a four-volume report on the management aspect of the program to the Security Council, Committee Chairman Paul Volcker, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, said that the committee's findings underscored the vital importance of management reforms, many of which are being negotiated by the General Assembly as part of the summit document.

Volcker listed a litany of internal problems that were exposed during the seven years the United Nations ran the $64 billion program designed to sell Iraqi oil under U.N. auspices and use the money to provide humanitarian goods for Iraqi civilians. He said that the organization lacked effective auditing and administrative controls and had weak planning processes, inadequate funding, and too few professional staff.

Volcker said that "the inescapable conclusion from the committee's work is that the United Nations organization needs thoroughgoing reform -- and it needs it urgently. What is important -- what has been recognized by one investigation after another -- is that real change must take place and change over a wide area."

Reform is imperative if the United Nations is to regain and retain the measure of respect among the international community that its work requires. The summit, he said, will give world leaders "a golden opportunity to enact such reform."

The 60th General Assembly must insist that key reforms be put in place no later than September 2006, Volcker said. "To settle for less, to permit delay and dilution, would be to invite failure. It would, in reality, further erode public support, undercut effectiveness, and dishonor the ideals upon which the United Nations is built," he said.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said that the United States is reviewing the Independent Inquiry report with one principal purpose in mind: to see how the findings and recommendations can be used to reform and improve the United Nations.

The Independent Inquiry Committee made major recommendations that are likely to be center stage in the reform debate over the next several months. They include creating the new position of chief operating officer with authority over all administrative aspects; establishing an independent oversight board with responsibility for all independent audits, investigations and evaluations; improving coordination among U.N. agencies; and strengthening the quality of U.N. management.

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