Annan Has a Plan to Revitalize U.N.

Times Staff Writer

Secretary-General Kofi Annan will propose restructuring a U.N. human rights panel, ask for a swift decision to expand the Security Council and request sweeping changes designed to prevent new scandals in a report Monday to the General Assembly on reforming the beleaguered United Nations.

The blueprint for reform, according to a draft copy obtained by The Times, also proposes ways to keep the U.N. the primary setting for global security decisions and the key player in international development issues.

Annan has framed the plan as providing a historic opportunity to reinvent the U.N. to better meet the challenges of a changing world. But the plan is also seen here as a last-gasp bid to restore the organization’s relevance at a time when both he and it are under heavy fire.

Yet the blueprint is not as bold as Annan may have liked. The reforms depend on the endorsement of the 191-member General Assembly and the agreement of world leaders who are coming to a U.N. summit in September.

Many of the ideas in the document have been floated in recent months by special panels on U.N. reform and global development that Annan commissioned. But fierce reactions from some governments led Annan to temper a proposed definition of terrorism, stop short of requiring criteria for membership on the human rights panel and caused him to refrain from choosing between two options to expand the Security Council, U.N. officials said.


Diplomats say they are prepared for six months of intense negotiations to further refine the proposals into a form that the majority of the Assembly will back. And U.S. opposition or new revelations in a series of scandals could weaken Annan’s position to the point that he may not win enough support for the package.

With the U.N. still bruised by the U.S. decision to lead an invasion of Iraq without the Security Council’s blessing, Annan has searched for ways to keep the Bush administration engaged in the world body and address the United States’ post-Sept. 11 sense of vulnerability.

In an attempt to put the U.N. at the center of security policy, the report calls for a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention by September 2006, new measures to stem nuclear proliferation and an agreement on rules for the use of force and preemptive action.

To bolster peace and development, the report urges the creation of a peace-building body to help societies recover from war and asks developed countries to set aside 0.7% of their gross national income for development aid.

Only six countries now provide that amount; the U.S. plans to contribute about $22 billion, or 0.18% of its gross national income, in aid next year.

As the U.N. reels from scandals, the report describes ways for the U.N. to become more accountable and to hew more closely to its ideals.

Most notably, it suggests that nations that violate human rights should not have a place on the U.N. panel that monitors such actions.

In the shadow of the failures of the U.N.'s “oil-for-food” program for Iraq, Annan suggests better oversight of U.N. contracts and sanctions. He also requests funding for a one-time staff buyout to help younger, energetic employees rise in the organization.

The report declares a policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers or other personnel and strongly encourages all countries who contribute troops to the U.N. to prosecute any wrongdoing because the U.N. has no power to punish them.

“There is a yearning in many quarters for a new consensus on which to base collective action,” the report says. “And a desire exists to make the most far-reaching reforms in the history of the United Nations, so as to equip and resource it to help advance this 21st century agenda.”

Annan adds: “If we act boldly -- and if we act together -- we can make people everywhere more secure, more prosperous, and better able to enjoy their fundamental human rights.”

The blueprint is also seen here as an attempt by Annan to establish himself as the person who can best lead the U.N.'s renewal despite the scandals and internal conflicts that sparked calls for his resignation late last year by some members of Congress.

Investigations of the oil-for-food program, revelations of widespread sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and officials and internal charges of old-boy favoritism have threatened to overwhelm the institution’s successes and undermine its credibility.

The proposal is also in part an appeal to the United States not to forsake the U.N. but rather to help guide the reform. “In today’s world, no state, however powerful, can protect itself on its own,” it says.

Annan became secretary-general eight years ago with firm U.S. backing to reform the organization. But the recent scandals have provided a focal point for conservative critics, who have long held the U.N. in contempt and considered it a hindrance to U.S. interests.

Although calls for Annan’s resignation have diminished, his preliminary attempts to refresh his Cabinet and shake up entrenched bureaucratic habits in the institution have sparked a backlash.

Further, a U.N.-commissioned report due at the end of the month on whether Annan’s son exploited his father’s position to win a contract for his company from the oil-for-food program could put Annan in the most vulnerable position yet.

If Annan is able to complete the two years remaining in his term, the new blueprint may represent his last chance to achieve a legacy of reform.

The 63-page report, titled “In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All,” draws heavily on recommendations from a high-level panel of international experts that Annan commissioned last year to help modernize the 60-year-old world body. It also incorporates a plan to achieve ambitious development goals by 2015.

Although he concedes that confidence in the U.N. has declined, Annan argues that bringing countries together to change the world is something only the U.N. can do.

“As the world’s only universal body with a mandate to address security, development and human rights issues, the United Nations bears a special burden,” the report says. “We must reshape the organization in ways not previously imagined, and with a boldness and speed not previously shown.”

In a key innovation, Annan proposes that the much-criticized Human Rights Commission be changed to a smaller “human rights council” directly elected by the General Assembly.

But rather than establish criteria to exclude violator nations from the council, he gently suggests that they have no place on it. “Those elected to the council should undertake to abide by the highest human rights standards,” the report says.

The current process of selecting members from regional groups has given seats on the 53-member commission to countries with questionable human rights records, such as Sudan, Libya and Cuba, making it a lightning rod for criticism, even from supporters of the U.N.

This week, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Jeanne Kirkpatrick told a congressional committee, “I think we either need to reform it or destroy it.”

On another attention-getting topic, Annan says expansion of the Security Council must occur but he takes no stand on two competing proposals.

Annan wants to enlarge the 15-member council to better reflect current realities and involve more countries who contribute financially, militarily and diplomatically to the United Nations. Both proposals would increase the membership from 15 to 24 but differ on the number of permanent and elected members.

The U.S., leans toward adding six permanent, non-veto-holding members, including Japan, but does not actively support any expansion because of concern that it would dilute its power on the council and make negotiations more difficult, U.S. officials say.

Congress and the Bush administration have launched several studies on how the U.N. could become more effective, more transparent and more worthy of U.S. engagement. Some conservative legislators advocate that the U.S. just walk away from the organization and use NATO as an alternate forum for security issues. But others disagree.

Former U.N. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, who held the post in the Clinton administration, told a House hearing on U.N. reform Tuesday that when the U.N. works, it can be very effective in helping the U.S. achieve its foreign policy goals.

“Without us, the U.N. will fail,” he said. “And if it fails, we will be among the many losers.”



Global activism

As part of his reform program, Secretary-General Kofi Annan provided an ambitious, eight-page checklist for action by developed countries before they come to the U.N. for a summit in September.

Freedom from want

* Establish a timetable for providing 0.7% of gross national income for development aid by 2015.

* Provide immediate duty-free and quota-free market access for the least-developed nations’ exports.

Freedom from fear

* Pledge full compliance with treaties on nuclear non- proliferation and biological and chemical weapons conventions.

* Agree on a definition of terrorism, so that an anti-terrorism convention can be concluded by September 2006.

* Request that Security Council adopt a resolution that defines principles for when force and preemptive action can be used.

* Agree to create a commission for peace building to help stabilize, develop post-conflict societies.

Freedom to live in dignity

* Embrace the “responsibility to protect” as a basis for intervention in cases of genocide and crimes against humanity when a government cannot or will not protect its citizens.

* Create a democracy fund to help countries seeking to bolster their democracy.

Strengthen the U.N.

* Reach consensus on how to expand the Security Council to make it more broadly representative of the international community.

* Create a human rights council whose members abide by the highest standards.

* Strengthen internal oversight and endorse management reforms to make the Secretariat more accountable, transparent and efficient.

* Adopt a plan to revitalize the General Assembly by streamlining its agenda, committee structure and debate procedures.