Democrats & Liberals Archives

UN Reformation

John Kerry has vowed to lead the United Nations in the global battle against Islamic fundamentalism. That sounds pretty good, but conservatives are making some legitimate points about the integrity and structure of the UN. So how will John Kerry address those problems?

Let's see what the Book of John has to say on the matter. After the requisite France bashing, "France is flirting with a revival of Charles de Gaulle's fantasy of making Europe an independent counterweight to US power, led, of course, from Paris," and some harsh words about German "neopacifism", Kerry states,

"If there wasn't a UN, we'd have to invent a comparable institution as an instrument for conferring the legitimacy of the world community on a wide variety of military, economic, and humanitarian endeavors. ...To put it another way the United States has poured generations of talent and treasure into these institutions, and rather than abandoning or downgrading them, we should refashion and strengthen them for a new generation of service to the world."

So clearly, John Kerry is unsatisfied with the current state of the United Nations and is determined to restructure it. What, exactly, is wrong with the United Nations, and how can it be fixed?

I recently ran across a Foreign Affairs article titled, "Smart Power", by Suzanne Nossel who was Deputy to the Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the US mission to the UN from 1999 to 2001. Her case for liberal internationalism evoked a, "duh," from me quite a few times (conservatives may have a slightly different reaction), but she has a unique perspective on how the UN needs to be tweaked.

"Progressive policymakers should launch an aggressive reform campaign, working with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has vowed to devote his remaining term to revitalizing the UN. By doing so, they can erase the perception of their blind faith in multilateralism while fashioning a world body that is up to its tasks."

Nossel puts forth five areas for reform:

  • The stultified UN bureaucracy must be transformed into a dynamic professional organization, "This will mean standing up to the organization's staff union, so that top performers can be rewarded and poor ones weeded out."
  • The UN, as pointed out in the Brahimi Report on UN Peacekeeping Operations, needs rapidly deployable forces, "The United States should support rapid deployment and contribute units for tasks such as logistics and transport that it is uniquely positioned to provide."
  • Anti-Western voting blocs should be disbanded, diffused, or countered, "The Group of 77 and the Nonaligned Movement--Cold War relics--retain outsized importance at the UN, leading to such travesties as Libya's leadership of the human rights committee, Cuba's domination of budget debates, and constant scapegoating of Israel. Breaking this dynamic is essential to restoring the UN'S credibility."
  • UN processes must be streamlined, "Structural reforms should begin by eliminating outmoded and redundant committees, reports, meetings, and bureaus. Examples include the multiple "housekeeping" committees, on topics such as conferences and contributions, that have neither decision-making nor implementation responsibilities."
  • And finally, US leaders should get better at diplomacy, "Being aloof and dismissive squanders U.S. influence by letting others develop firm positions before U.S. delegates even make their case. By taking the initiative early on key issues and working behind the scenes to build support before formal debate begins, the United States can get its way most of the time without forcing other governments to capitulate publicly to its demands."

The Clinton administration addressed these issues through punitive tactics like withholding dues, and had a few diplomatic victories like keeping Sudan off the Security Council. The Bush administration has not addressed the issue at all. It will be interesting to see how Kerry will "refashion and strengthen" the UN. And according to a recent CBS interview, it looks like Kerry and Edwards already have a handle on the last issue. Kerry has a plan to approach other world leaders about Iraq, "and I'm not negotiating it publicly."

Posted by American Pundit at August 3, 2004 9:56 AM