AFTER A YEAR AND A HALF of studies and negotiations, the United Nations recently came up with a draft proposal calling for extensive internal reforms and world action against injustice, poverty and environmental catastrophe. Last week, soon after being appointed U.N. ambassador by President Bush, John Bolton may have sabotaged the entire effort.
Now that’s getting things done.
Bolton has introduced hundreds of amendments to the 62-page draft, which is supposed to be signed by the leaders of 175 nations during the U.N.'s 60th anniversary summit starting Sept. 14. Other nations, notably Russia, also have objections to the draft proposal and have submitted their own amendments, but they haven’t caused the same turmoil.
Bolton’s amendments have been received like a wasp’s nest at a picnic. Throughout the drafting process, a fragile consensus had been built; now everything may end up back on the table, and time is extremely short. A core group of 32 nations is scrambling to finalize a document by Friday, to be submitted to member states on Tuesday. U.N. diplomats fear that the only way to reach consensus will be to water down the draft until it is all but meaningless.
The original proposal spelled out internal U.N. reforms, such as creation of a new human rights panel that would exclude rights violators, as well as pledges of increased foreign aid, measures to combat climate change and calls for nuclear disarmament. Bolton’s amendments focus on cutting references to international efforts the U.S. has opposed, such as the International Criminal Court, while strengthening sections on spreading democracy, freeing markets and fighting terrorism.
His most odious change was to delete all references to the Millennium Development Goals, which commit industrialized nations to cutting world poverty in half by 2015. Part of the deal was that rich countries would eventually contribute 0.7% of their gross national product to foreign aid. The goals were a world-changing burst of optimism from international leaders in 2000, a recognition that all people have the right to be free from misery, starvation and preventable disease and that those able to pay have some responsibility to alleviate needless suffering.
Most of Europe is moving closer to the 0.7% goal, but the United States has long lagged; last year it contributed 0.16% of national income to foreign aid. Bolton’s amendments make it clear that the Bush administration would like to pretend the millennium agreement never happened. This is a slap in the face for the aid organizations and international donors that have been working for years toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals. But it’s far worse than that for the Third World, where their abandonment would be a death sentence for millions.