- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

The United Nations, in a yearly report on human development, calls for political action by U.N.-supported nongovernment organizations against member states and corporations perpetuating world poverty and "social injustice."

"The advances in the 21st century will be won by confronting entrenched economic and political interests… . Holding governments accountable is a bottom-line requirement for good-governance," said the report issued this month by the United Nations Development Program.

The UNDP report, which last year called for global taxes as a way for the United Nations to raise added revenue to fight global poverty, said all people have a human right under international law not to be poor.

The latest report continued the 1999 report's theme that the world body should push initiatives to end half the world's poverty by 2015.

It said the U.N. Charter guarantees that people should be able to work without being exploited, and to have political and legal remedies at a global level to fight injustice against corporations and national governments who ignore their needs.

"A decent standard of living, adequate nutrition, health care, and other social and economic achievements are not just development goals," the report said. "They are human rights inherent in human freedom and dignity."

In an essay contributed to the report, Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan says the United Nations sits above all countries of the world to uphold people's rights, regardless of their nationality.

"Even though we are an organization of member states, the rights and ideals of the United Nations exists to protect are those of peoples," he wrote in the report.

"No government has the right to hide behind national sovereignty in order to violate the human rights or fundamental freedoms of its peoples… . Intervention, however, is not just a matter for states."

Last year's UNDP report included a series of controversial proposals to increase the United Nations' power as a global protector and enforcer for "the world's weak, those marginalized by globalization." Among them:

• A world central bank to be lender of last resort.

• A world investment trust with redistributive functions.

• A world anti-monopoly authority to implement and monitor competition rules for the global market.

• A world environment agency.

• An international criminal court.

• Changed composition of the General Assembly to include a second political chamber "for civil society representation" in addition to state-appointed diplomatic representatives in the current assembly.

The call for global taxes on patents and information technology transfer caused an uproar in Congress. Mr. Annan dismissed the proposal at the time, saying it had no support among U.N. members and was not under serious consideration.

However, Congress included a provision in legislation authorizing payment of U.S. assessments to the United Nations that requires the United States to cut off support to the world body if it ever enacts such taxes.

The U.N. world court is already under way. On release of the latest UNDP report this month in France, the government of Italy gave $15 million toward the U.N. world investment trust.

UNDP proposals in the 1999 and 2000 reports were discussed and advocated by U.N. officials and nongovernmental organization leaders last month in New York, during a special General Assembly session on the fifth anniversary of the Beijing women's conference, and at another special General Assembly session in Geneva to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the U.N. Second World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen.

In Geneva, conference delegates specifically urged the United Nations to "continue work on a wide range of reforms to create a strengthened and more stable international financial system [for] the new challenges of development."

Global tax measures also are still on the mind of delegates. A further five-year agenda adopted in Geneva asked the United Nations to "promote through international action the mobilization of new and additional resources for social development by developing appropriate means of international cooperation on tax matters."

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown put his stamp of approval on the latest human development report, saying, "It is intended to help promote practical action that puts a human rights-based approach to human development and poverty eradication firmly on the global agenda. I believe it has done so admirably."

Richard Jolly, the report's principal author, said it was designed to allow grass-roots activists, governments and the United Nations "to identify important actors and hold them accountable for their actions."

"But indicators need to be better used to set specific and realistic goals for progress, not unassessible declarations of grand intentions," he said. "The real issue is stopping the [human rights] violations through political, legal, and social reforms, as well as building capacities."

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