The US weighs in on UN Reform

The Washington Post today published a report on happenings at the UN less than a month before a massive summit is planned. (Cheers JaneM)

the Bush administration has thrown the proceedings in turmoil with a call for drastic renegotiation of a draft agreement to be signed by presidents and prime ministers attending the event.

This hardly surprises me… but the devil is in the details.

The United States has only recently introduced more than 750 amendments that would eliminate new pledges of foreign aid to impoverished nations, scrap provisions that call for action to halt climate change and urge nuclear powers to make greater progress in dismantling their nuclear arms.

BUT

He has also objected to language that urges nations to observe a moratorium on nuclear testing and to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Bush administration opposes.

Say Yes to Poverty and Pollution!… but only we’re allowed to say who’s allowed to have Nukes, we don’t need no stinkin’ NPT.

the administration is urging members of the United Nations to strengthen language in the 29-page document that would underscore the importance of taking tougher action against terrorism, promoting human rights and democracy, and halting the spread of the world’s deadliest weapons.

BUT

They underscore U.S. efforts … to eliminate any reference to the International Criminal Court. The administration also opposes language that urges the five permanent members of the Security Council not to cast vetoes to block action to halt genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing. [correction now in Post], “The administration opposes language that would urge those council members not to use their vetoes to block intervention in states where such crimes are being perpetrated. ” [Isn’t that the same thing? Certainly doesn’t sound any better.]

Influence and power, my friends… trumps democracy, the rule of law, and human rights every time.

But hey.. at least they’re calling for “Greater Oversight” of UN procedures and “Free Market reforms” in impoverished countries before they will deliver aid to those countries.

I would like to hear the full reaction from Canadas’ UN Ambassador (and former Justice Minister) Allan Rock because frankly, the one quoted is pretty lame (not that I’m that surprised).

“I think he just wants to be very cautious,” said Canada’s U.N. ambassador, Allan Rock. “He’s coming into a situation where there’s a [29]-page document on the table, and I think he’s looking at it very closely and he’s concerned that great care be taken before his country’s name is put to it, and that’s quite natural.”

How diplomatic, I wonder what he’s really thinking.

6 thoughts on “The US weighs in on UN Reform”

  1. I knew you would be interested, Chris as I am too but I haven’t had time to really give it a good read. Thanks for your comments snarky and snide as they may be. 🙂 I would expect no less from my favorite Canadian member of the Left. 🙂

    ” The administration also opposes language that urges the five permanent members of the Security Council not to cast vetoes to block action to halt genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing. [correction now in Post], “The administration opposes language that would urge those council members not to use their vetoes to block intervention in states where such crimes are being perpetrated. ” [Isn’t that the same thing? Certainly doesn’t sound any better.]

    So, the US proposes that permanent members of the SC continue to be allowed by veto action or intervention to stop genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing? Am I reading that correctly. I think this statement is less than clear but I’m muddling through, I guess.

    Well. If my reading is correct, then I’m agin it. I’d like to see more action to curb these crimes and would favor taking away any such veto power by permanent SC members. You’ll be surprised, perhaps, to know that I don’t blindly support any old thing the US wants to do or actually does. However, I do require a little more reasonable argument than most of the silly knee-jerk anti-American anti-Bush posturing that passes for left wing
    political discussion. But I digress.

    I can’t imagine what advantage the US might have if the rules remain as they are. The main raison d’etre for the UN, IMO, is to stop governments killing their own citizens by the thousands. It would be heartening if I saw these diplomatics act like they give a rat’s behind when white, black, yellow, tan and pink people are being slaughtered and made homeless by senseless violence by their own government and actually made a successful effort to put a stop to it by force if necessary. Economic sanctions are worthless… political lip service.

  2. “So, the US proposes that permanent members of the SC continue to be allowed by veto action or intervention to stop genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing? Am I reading that correctly. I think this statement is less than clear but I’m muddling through, I guess.”

    No, my interpretation was that the US is opposed to limiting the use of Veto power… it opposes language, in the proposed agreements that are going to a vote at this special summit, that urges it NOT to cast vetoes that could block interventions in states commiting those crimes.

    In other words… the proposed agreements (before the US submitted this list of changes) would urge veto wielding members to effectively give up their veto when said veto might hinder intervention.

    In other words… the US supports the status quo of a continually deadlocked UN… at the same time as it derides it as being ineffective and outdated. Hypocrisy.

    And I must add that I am sure the US is not alone among the veto weilding nations to share this view. In fact, I’d put money down that every single Veto nation supports the US on this one. Why wouldn’t they after all?

    “I can’t imagine what advantage the US might have if the rules remain as they are.”

    Power and Influence… I bet they see it as a slippery slope… if they agree to withhold their veto power during a “crisis” then what defines a crisis? What if the definition becomes more loose. What if people start clamouring for them to NEVER use their veto, what then? Then they’re just another country in the Security Council and MORE IMPORTANTLY they’d actually have to build consensus and live with the consequences if others disagree and vote against them…

    Damn… it’d be.. like.. a DEMOCRACY or something.

    That’s what the Big 5 fear most… fairness. Nothing threatens them more at the UN than a larger Security Council table AND less effective or non-existant veto power.

    “The main raison d’etre for the UN, IMO, is to stop governments killing their own citizens by the thousands.”

    This is only one of many but I agree, in crisis, only the UN can and should draw for all the resources the world has. The UN itself can do this.. it is the current situation at the UNSC that is preventing it from doing the job it’s supposed to do.

    “It would be heartening if I saw these diplomatics act like they give a rat’s behind when white, black, yellow, tan and pink people are being slaughtered and made homeless by senseless violence by their own government and actually made a successful effort to put a stop to it by force if necessary.”

    Rats Ass I believe you wanted to say… you’re in Canada on this blog Jane, remember, land of the CBC, where they’re not afraid to show skin and say what’s really on their mind. 😉

    You’re absolutely right… and I think on an individual level every diplomat in New York really would like to help the world.. but they are victims, willing or not, of a corrupt system. That system of corruption did not start at the UN by any means, for the UN is truly only a gathering place… they learned to be corrupt far before they got to the UN.

    It comes back to the local level… only the people of free and democratic nations have the opportunity to demand better.

    Sometimes, I feel like there just needs to be a popular revolution. People are so darn apathetic about politics because they’re tired of it. If they weren’t so tired of it, and could be reinvigorated, then I think we’d see people expressing their frustration. They’d be asking for better, from the right and left.

    If a politician was HONEST and TRUE then I would vote for him, left or right. I know of no powerful politician who fits that description. There was one in Canada, his name was Chuck Cadman… but he unfortunately died of Cancer in the spring. He sat as an Independant. He was in Parliament, not because he was Left or Right, but because he was an honest man with goals and ideals.

    Politics is becoming too nasty these days. It’s angry. Bitter. Mean spirited.

    It has turned into an “Us vs. Them” situation, and that’s just not healthy in a democracy. Democracy is, after all, about compromise and negotiation. We have lost sight of that.

  3. “In other words… the proposed agreements (before the US submitted this list of changes) would urge veto wielding members to effectively give up their veto when said veto might hinder intervention.”

    The operative word is “urge” and not compel. The language actually does nothing to prevent any permanent member from exercising its veto. I would be in favor of vetoing this kind of toothless resolution if it led to US support for something in its place that has more substance. Unfortunately, America is signaling that it wants things to remain unchanged.

    I wonder it wouldn’t be more sensible for nations so inclined to sign an anti-genocide convention that empowers the signatories to take action without UN approval if UN approval is not forthcoming.

  4. “It comes back to the local level… only the people of free and democratic nations have the opportunity to demand better.”

    Agreed. As a Canadian, I would be interested to know what you think of the Commonwealth as a way to build democracy and civil societies around the world. Do you think the Commonwealth will always be limited in what it can do or do you think it could play a greater role at the local level?

  5. Indeed… urging is far less than compelling… but it’s far more than what we’ve seen in the past and it’s clear that the US (and I assume other veto nations) are opposed to even this toothless resolution.

    As for the Commonwealth being a tool for the local population to spread democracy and civil societies.. I’m really not sure, I’d have to ponder it awhile. I’ve said before that I think the Commonwealth, and other loose groupings of nations need to be strengthened and used as tools to promote democracy and human rights… much more than the lip service that they pay now…

  6. Chris

    I always try to be a lady whether speaking to Canadians or anyone else 🙂 It takes a lot to cause me use really strong language. When I do, I’m probably packin’ heat. :P.

    I have to thank you for piquing my interest in the going ons at the UN…even though my interpretation is seldom in agreement with yours, thanks anyway!

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