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U.S. Says U.N. Has Taken First Step in Reform

U.S. Envoy Says United Nations Has Taken First Step in Reform

Summit agreement was an ambitious effort, John Bolton says

By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The recent 2005 U.N. World Summit agreement was an important first step in what will be a long process of reform of the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton says.

"Broadly speaking, we got much of what we wanted in the document," Bolton told the House International Relations Committee September 28, but "more importantly, succeeded in keeping out elements that directly conflicted with key U.S. policies and jeopardized our long-term interests."

At the conclusion of the three-day world summit on September 16, representatives of 191 U.N. member countries approved an "outcome document" that set out a series of issues to be resolved by the General Assembly over the course of its 60th session, which began after the summit concluded. However, it was a consensus document that represented months of often contentious negotiations, and lacked many of the specific reform measures proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United States.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in her first speech before the U.N. General Assembly September 17, called on members to try harder. "The time to reform the United Nations is now. And we must seize this opportunity together," she said.

The House International Relations Committee, with oversight responsibility for the United Nations, conducted its third hearing on U.N. reform to determine what was accomplished by the United States during the world summit and the opening of the 60th session. The committee was also considering enactment of the Henry J. Hyde United Nations Reform Act of 2005.

Congressman Hyde, chairman of the International Relations Committee, said the agreement's "lack of detail and definitive statements on critical areas such as oversight, accountability, management and budgeting do not inspire confidence."

The Hyde Act would establish a timetable for 46 specific reforms of U.N. management and accountability and mandate withholding of U.S. annual dues payments as leverage for change. The House of Representatives passed the bill in June, but no companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.

The Bush administration has not supported using withholding of dues as leverage to achieve sought-after reforms.

When asked by Representative Tom Lantos, the senior Democrat on the committee, whether he preferred discretionary withholding of dues as leverage rather than mandatory withholding, Bolton replied that he preferred allowing the secretary of state to use discretionary withholding if necessary. Lantos favors discretionary withholding of dues.

Bolton said the summit agreement represented an ambitious effort on the part of the General Assembly to discuss a wide range of issues, which includes terrorism, human rights, peace-building, management reforms, the spread of democracy and alleviating poverty, hunger and disease.

"It was not the alpha and the omega, but we never thought it would be the alpha and the omega,'' Bolton said of the summit agreement.

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