An ambassador advocates reform for an effective UN

For the last 60 years, the United Nations has been an indispensable instrument for a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. Since the signing of the UN Charter in October 1945, the organization has played a major role in keeping the world safe from universal conflict. It is the acknowledged peacekeeper and mediator for international crises. The UN champions democracy and human rights, and combats poverty and disease. But if the UN is to address the challenges of a changing world, reform is necessary. During the UN General Assembly, which is to take place tomorrow through Friday, leaders from 191 countries – including PM Karamanlis and President Bush – will engage in one of the most important debates in the organization’s history: how the UN can renew and reform itself. For our part, the US believes in a strong, effective UN and is ready to work with other member states to reform this important institution. For the past year, we have been active participants in discussions regarding reform with the president of the General Assembly, the UN secretariat, and UN members, including Greece. Our proposals focus on UN goals and programs in the areas of economic development, effective protection of human rights, and promotion of democracy. We fully support the Development Goals of the Millennium Declaration aiming to eradicate poverty and expand prosperity for people throughout the world. However, our approach to development aid is not based on arbitrary percentage targets. We believe in development that emphasizes national responsibility, good governance, and sound economic policies for the countries that receive aid. A significant reform long promoted by the US, which the UN secretary-general also supports, is the creation of a Human Rights Council that will replace the current Commission on Human Rights. A smaller, more agile and action-oriented group will be, we believe, more effective in reacting to serious human rights situations. In setting up this new body, we will work with our democratic allies to ensure that governments that abuse the human rights of their citizens do not become members of the Human Rights Council. The UN is already engaged in efforts to promote human rights and democracy throughout the world. In 2004, President Bush proposed the creation of a UN Democracy Fund that would augment current efforts and contribute to a more focused approach. We are pleased that the secretary-general endorsed President Bush’s proposal and we hope all countries will support and contribute to this initiative. In fact, Greece, as the birthplace of democracy, would be naturally suited to play a major role in this important initiative. The Fund would be a mechanism to help new and emerging democracies develop a civil society and democratic institutions, such as a free press, independent courts, and political parties. Other US proposals emphasize the need for budget and management reform in order to improve the UN’s internal oversight and accountability. We support UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s idea for a Peace-Building Commission that will aid countries in post-conflict situations. We also agree with the secretary-general that it is time for the UN to complete the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism, in order to outlaw acts of international terrorism. Many of these issues have been challenges for some time. They concern the US, Greece, and the wider community of nations. They must be faced by all of us together. In the same way, the reform negotiations are a collaborative effort, as is the work of the UN on the international stage. The aims of the UN are rooted in the ideals of its founders. Its structure and activities are now changing to address the needs of the present and the challenges of the future. What remains, and should remain, unchanged is the world’s commitment to work together in the pursuit of peace, social progress and freedom. As President Bush noted in his address at last year’s UNGA: «Each of us alone can only do so much. Together, we can accomplish so much more.» (1) US Ambassador Charles Ries contributed this exclusive for the English Edition of Kathimerini.