Can the U.S. find a substitute for the U.N.? (Betsy Pisik, 11/15/05, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
America’s representative at the United Nations said yesterday that the organization must become better at solving problems and more responsive to U.S. concerns or Washington will seek other venues for international action. […]
He added: “In the United States, there is a broadly shared view that the U.N. is one of many potential instruments to advance U.S. issues, and we have to decide whether a particular issue is best done through the U.N. or best done through some other mechanism. …
“The U.N. is one of many competitors in a marketplace of global problem solving,” Mr. Bolton said. That realization “should be an incentive for the organization to reform.”
One alternative, he said, is for regional organizations to play a larger role. He praised the Organization of American States for its work in Haiti and said he would like the African Union to take on greater responsibilities in Africa.
In one of the essays included in our forthcoming book, Jonathan Rauch discusses how some of the spadework has already been done on forming a democratic caucus within the UN, Voting Bloc: In Geneva, the U.N.’s successor may be testing its wings (Jonathan Rauch, 3/22/04, Reason). Max Kampelman has likewise written about the idea, A Caucus of Democracies: How to reform the U.N. (MAX M. KAMPELMAN, January 6, 2004, Opinion Journal)
The U.N. today remains far short of realizing its potential or its stated aspirations. Its direction and control have been hijacked by authoritarian regimes, the relics of yesterday. We must work diligently toward realizing its original goals: freedom, democracy and human rights for all the peoples of the world. Until then, with our national values and security at stake, we must not permit our interests to be diverted and undermined by the unprincipled.
At a minimum, it is essential that the U.S. take the lead in establishing and strengthening a Caucus of Democratic States committed to advancing the U.N.’s assigned role for world peace, human dignity and democracy. The recently established Community of Democracies (CD) has called for this move, a recommendation jointly supported in a recent report by the Council on Foreign Relations and Freedom House.
In June 2000, the U.S., under the leadership of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and in cooperation with Poland, Chile, Mali and other democratic states, convened the first meeting of the CD to “collaborate on democratic-related issues in existing international and regional institutions . . . aimed at the promotion of democratic government.” More than 100 countries participated. It was necessary for the CD to withhold full membership from some countries that sought to be included but did not adequately meet democratic standards. A second such meeting took place in Seoul in November 2002, where participants reaffirmed the need to create a U.N. Caucus of Democratic States. Secretary of State Colin Powell called it “a new tool in the U.S. policy tool bag.” A third meeting of the CD is scheduled for Chile in 2005. The CD could be effective in refocusing the efforts of the U.N. to more closely follow its founding principles. At the same time, the CD is uniquely capable of filling the gaps left by the U.N.’s inadequacies, both internally and externally. But the CD’s existence seems to be a great secret in the press. How often have you read about it?
The Community of Democracies is not alone in recognizing the need for more ardent advocacy of democratic principles in the U.N. The European Parliament early last year called for the creation of a working democratic caucus at the Human Rights Commission. Recently, Sen. Joseph Biden introduced a resolution in the Senate in support of the establishment of a U.N Democratic Caucus as “an idea whose time has come.” It would be enormously valuable for the president of the United States to address the American people and enunciate a strong overall policy on the U.N., its opportunities and its limitations. He should make clear that broad promises about human rights must be replaced by specific implementation of human rights standards.
In order to advance the principles of the U.N. Charter, a strong Democratic Caucus must emphasize human dignity as an essential ingredient for peace and stability. It must challenge and limit the influence of the regional blocs that, for example, decide on the rotating membership of the Security Council and the various U.N. missions and commissions. Decisions and resolutions of the heavily politicized General Assembly–including the selection of states for commissions and other U.N. activities–should be formally approved by the Security Council before being considered decisions of the U.N. This would provide a safeguard for the U.N. Charter’s foundational principles and objectives. More difficult is the need to reorganize the composition of the Security Council itself to reflect today’s realities and not those of 50 years ago.
A strong case may be made for the need for an international body to which all of the world’s states, democratic and authoritarian, belong. Discussion and constructive exchange may flow from it. But let us not bestow on it the appearance of being a forum of principle or wisdom qualified to judge the dimension of our national welfare and value. The changes necessary in the U.N. will be difficult to achieve, and some may not be achieved at all. But the impetus for such change must be a commitment to human rights and democracy. We should put Kofi Annan’s statement to the test: “When the U.N. can truly call itself a Community of Democracies, the Charter’s noble ideas of protecting human rights . . . will have been brought much closer.”