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[afro-nets] How does the following article reflect on U.N.?
- From: Kris Dev <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 15:56:51 +0530
How does the following article reflect on U.N.?
Challenges 2005-2006: U.N.'s Authority Tested by Perils Ahead
By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service
United Nations, 28 December, (IPS): After prolonged discussions
and seemingly endless debates, the United Nations ended an un-
eventful year with no firm decisions on several politically sen-
sitive issues, including the reform of the Security Council, the
creation of a new Human Rights Council and the revitalization of
the Secretariat's management structure.
"If there's one thing I would like to hand over to my successor
when I leave office next year, is that it should be a United Na-
tions that is fit for the many varied tasks and challenges we
are asked to take on today," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
told reporters during his traditional year-end press conference
But will a lame-duck Annan succeed in restructuring the world
body before he steps down in December 2006, and more impor-
tantly, can he help transform the United Nations into a politi-
cally effective body outside the U.S. orbit?
According to Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Washington-
based Institute for Policy Studies, "2006 will be a crucial year
in determining whether the United Nations can reclaim its role
as an independent actor on the world scene, or whether the viru-
lent U.S. choice of either sidelining or undermining the global
organization will prevail."
She pointed out that while the United Nations has "great poten-
tial", it also faces "huge dangers".
"The U.N.'s unprecedented whistle-blower protection, set in mo-
tion in the last weeks of 2005, represents a vital instrument
for insuring U.N. accountability to its own Charter," Bennis
But there is also the danger that the new regulations -- orches-
trated by a former U.S. State Department heavyweight and now a
high-ranking U.N. official -- could be used to encourage
staffers with an anti-U.N. bias to turn on the United Nations,
said Bennis, author of "Challenging Empire: How People, Govern-
ments and the U.N. Defy U.S. Power".
As the year came to a close, a sharply divided world body could
boast only two significant political victories in 2005: the
creation of a U.N. Peacebuilding Commission and the establish-
ment of a new and improved Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF).
The Peacebuilding Commission is expected to assist countries
emerging from conflict to achieve sustainable peace, while the
CERF is aimed at rushing urgently needed resources to countries
hit by humanitarian and natural disasters.
Taking a peek at 2006, Annan says he is hoping that member
states will in the new year agree not only on an "effective and
impartial" Human Rights Council (HRC), but also on a package of
management reforms which will be ready in February next year.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based
non-governmental organization (NGO) that keeps track of politi-
cal developments in the world body, says negotiations on the
proposed HRC "are being held hostage by repressive regimes that
want to impede real reform".
"They are afraid that their longstanding run of the place, their
ability to sit on the Commission and thereby shield their own
records of abuse from review, is about to end," Neuer told IPS.
Although he did not identify any countries by name, Neuer said
"their idea of reform would be a change in name only or, worse,
the creation of an even less effective body".
But he said that the majority of U.N. member states need to find
the political will to defy these spoilers and create a credible,
effective Council made up only of states with solid records of
commitment to the highest human rights standards. The U.N. Char-
ter requires nothing less, he added.
Perhaps the biggest single disappointment was the failure of
member states to agree on a proposed expansion of the 15-member
Security Council -- a proposal that has been kicked around for
more than a decade but gathered momentum in 2005.
Bennis says that Security Council reform, "long assumed to mean
expansion of Council membership and perhaps constraints on the
veto powers of the Permanent Five, is off the agenda".
The strongest opposition to any change in the veto powers came
from the Big Five holding the veto, namely the United States,
Britain, France, Russia and China.
"That was foreseen by many of us 10 years ago when the issue
popped up, and again in 2004-2005 when the question returned to
the top of the U.N.'sagenda," Bennis added.
"I never believed the Permanent Five, especially the U.S., had
any intention of limiting their own power either by adding more
permanent representation from the disenfranchised South to the
council, or by agreeing to limit in any way their use -- and
abuse -- of the veto," she said.
A more realistic potential for this issue in the foreseeable fu-
ture, she said, will come with the re-empowerment of the 191-
member General Assembly, the highest policy-making body at the
"With greater political will, more creativity, and not a little
courage, the Assembly can use 2006 to reclaim its central role
as the most democratic agency of U.N. power," she noted.
Neuer was equally skeptical about the various proposals to ex-
pand Security Council membership.
The World Summit in mid-September supported unspecified early
reform of the Security Council and promised continuing efforts
to achieve a decision to this end, he pointed out.
"But no particular proposal has any traction at the moment. So
it seems unlikely that we will see movement on this anytime
soon," Neuer said.
"Of course, the great powers are not keen to relinquish their
privileges. But what has been interesting to see is that the
middle powers are equally adamant about denying their neighbours
any new powers, either," he added.
On management reform, Neuer said, the U.N. Secretariat has for
too long lacked transparency and accountability. Ironically,
these are two values of good governance the United Nations is
supposed to be in the business of promoting.
He said the now-defunct, Iraqi oil-for-food programme "is a
prime example, but not the only one, of the terrible results
that have flowed from this".
The U.N.'s culture of secrecy and non-answerability must change,
he added. The new whistleblower protection policy is a step in
the right direction, and the secretary-general has asked member
states to approve further important changes, in particular the
creation of an independent ethics office and an independent
Additional reform proposals and the results of the review, re-
quested by the World Summit, of all U.N. programmes that are
over five years old to identify outdated and unnecessary ones
are expected in February.
"Let's hope that the organization has learned the painful les-
sons of oil-for-food and that progress on this issue continues,"