Annan to Offer Plans for Change in U.N. Structure
By WARREN HOGE, from the NYTimes on the Web. March 20, 2005
UNITED NATIONS, March 20 -- Secretary General Kofi Annan will propose sweeping changes to the United Nations on Monday that would expand the Security Council to reflect modern realities of global power, restructure the discredited Human Rights Commission to keep rights violators from becoming members and redefine terrorism to end any justifications of its use for national resistance.
Mr. Annan will make the recommendations in a speech to the General Assembly aimed at restoring confidence in the United Nations that lapsed after bitter divisions over the war in Iraq, charges of mismanagement and corruption in the oil-for-food program, and revelations of sexual misconduct by blue-helmeted peacekeepers.
His proposals, drawn from conclusions of an independent panel in November, will be the subject of a gathering of heads of government in September that hopes to reinvigorate the United Nations at a time when its value is being widely questioned.
The speech, while making the case for the relevance of a revised United Nations, will also be seen as a bid by Mr. Annan to shore up his stewardship.
While he has maintained much of his once-vaunted reputation abroad, he has come under pointed criticism in Washington, where some members of Congress have called on him to resign before completing his term in office at the end of 2006.
"If any report has Kofi Annan's name all over it, it is this one," said Mark Malloch Brown, Mr. Annan's outspoken new chief of staff.
The measures were outlined in a 63-page report from Mr. Annan titled "In Larger Freedom:
Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All." The report was released Sunday after details from drafts emerged in The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.
Mr. Annan said the Human Rights Commission had been undermined by allowing participation by countries whose purpose was "not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others."
In recent years, the commission's members have included Cuba, Libya and Sudan.
"As a result," he said, "a credibility deficit has developed, which casts a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole."
He recommended replacing the 53-nation Human Rights Commission with a smaller council, whose members would be chosen by a two-thirds vote of the 191-nation General Assembly, rather than by regional groups.
"Those elected," he said, "should undertake to abide by the highest human rights standards."
Mr. Annan called for a definition of terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants" aimed at intimidating governments, populations or international organizations.
"We must convince all those who may be tempted to support terrorism that it is neither an acceptable nor an effective way to advance their cause," he said.
Regarding the Security Council, Mr. Annan left it up to the General Assembly to decide between basic ideas proposed in November, but he urged the body to reach a decision before the September meeting.
The council now has 5 veto-bearing members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States
-- and 10 members elected to two-year terms. One alternative would add 6 permanent members
-- likely candidates are Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Egypt and either Nigeria or South Africa
-- as well as 3 two-year term members. The other would create a new tier of 8 semipermanent members chosen for renewable four-year terms and one additional two-year seat to the existing 10.
Veto power is coveted by nations seeking permanent status; they are likely to continue to press for it even though both recommendations, as now written, limit the veto to the five original permanent members.
The report also reinforces a policy of "zero tolerance" for sexual exploitation by peacekeepers.
Mr. Annan urged countries furnishing troops to prosecute wrongdoers in the absence of United Nations authority to do so.
In what appeared to be a reference to the Bush administration's bent for taking aggressive action to project and protect American interests, Mr. Annan said, "In today's world, no state, however powerful, can protect itself on its own."
The spokesman for the United States mission, Richard A. Grenell, said that it was too early to give a full reaction but that "we have been eager to receive the secretary general's reform ideas and are now giving his new report every consideration."
Mr. Malloch Brown said he thought Washington would welcome Mr. Annan's human rights proposal
-- which he described as "more ambitious than anyone had contemplated or expected"
-- and his endorsement of a nonproliferation system that Robert C. Orr, the assistant secretary general for policy coordination and strategic planning, noted had been championed by the nominee to be the new United States ambassador, John R. Bolton.
But Mr. Malloch Brown said Washington would probably not be happy with Mr. Annan's insistence that developed nations set aside 0.7 percent of their gross national incomes for aid to developing countries -- the United Nations estimates the United States' level at 0.15 percent
-- or with his reliance on the Security Council to codify rules on using military force and pre-emptive action.
On the dispute between the United States and the United Nations over the use of force, Mr. Orr said:
"Certainly Washington has expressed concerns about this, but in fact the discussion has been very constructive.
There is not universal agreement on this, but like many parts of the package, we are not starting with agreement; we hope to end with agreement.
What you can say is that the U.S. has engaged very sincerely on these discussions, and that's very encouraging."