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Bush: US will join others to lead UN reform effort

President Bush tells World Summit US will join others to lead UN reform effort

United States President George Bush urged world leaders gathered for the 2005 Summit at the United Nations to strengthen the world body so that it can live up to the ideals on which it was founded – a call that was echoed by the leaders of Sweden and Gabon who are jointly chairing the event.

“The United Nations has taken the first steps toward reform,” said President Bush, pledging that the US would “join with others to lead that effort” as the process continues.

“The United Nations was created to spread the hope of liberty, to fight poverty and disease, and to help secure human rights and human dignity for all the world’s people,” he said. “To help make these promises real, the United Nations must be strong and efficient, free of corruption, and accountable to the people it serves.”

Meaningful institutional reforms, he said, “must include measures to improve internal oversight, identify cost savings and ensure that precious resources are used for their intended purpose.”

During a speech that ranged across global ills facing mankind, President Bush praised the UN for supporting the transition to democracy in Iraq, and urged that this be sustained. “The United Nations and its Member States must continue to stand by the Iraqi people as they complete the journey to a fully constitutional government.”

He said the UN has a “vital role to play” in nurturing freedom’s progress through the new UN Democracy Fund. On the issue of development, he said the US was establishing a “Millennium Challenge Account” which would increase aid to countries that “govern justly, invest in their people, and promote economic freedom.” He also called for a successful conclusion to the Doha trade talks as a first step in “tear[ing] down the walls that separate the developed and developing world.”

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President Bush called for giving countries access to the means to fight infectious diseases, and pledged that the US would “continue to lead the world in providing the resources to defeat the plague of HIV/AIDS.” He also pledged to increase funding for malaria treatment and prevention by more than $1.2 billion by 2010. In addition, he announced the formation of a new partnership aimed at preventing a pandemic of avian influenza, or “bird flu,” which includes a central role for the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

Sweden’s Prime Minister, Goran Persson, said the Summit provides an opportunity to take decisions that may shape international cooperation for years to come. “We cannot afford to fail,” he said.

Collective solutions, he stressed, would only be possible with “a stronger United Nations.”

“Today we must rise above short-term interests, and invest in the future for generations to come,” he said. “It is a matter of solidarity – not just between peoples, nations and continents – but with our children and grandchildren.”

Gabon’s President, Omar Bongo, echoed the call from Sweden’s Prime Minister, calling on the Summit to “act together to give our future generations a better world.”

At the same time, he warned that the international community is far from reaching its collective goals. “We are seeing an increase in acts of violence throughout the world,” he noted, adding that disease and poverty still ravage developing countries.

In today’s interdependent world, he stressed, the UN “has to be made an effective tool to build a multilateral system which will benefit everybody.”

The reform process must be carried through, he said, referring to negotiations under way to finalize a text to be adopted by the summit. The draft “outcome document” as it is known contains numerous proposals for improving the UN, from replacing the outmoded Human Rights Commission with a Human Rights Council to establishing a Peacebuilding Commission, to strengthening oversight and accountability within the Organization itself.

President Bongo said the text’s adoption should open a fresh chapter in international cooperation. “We need to embark on a new departure with this draft declaration.”

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