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Can the U.S. find a substitute for the U.N.?
Question of the Day
America’s representative at the United Nations said yesterday that the organization must become better at solving problems and more responsive to U.S. concerns or Washington will seek other venues for international action.
During a luncheon with reporters and editors at The Washington Times, U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton said repeatedly that the Bush administration requires nothing less than “a revolution of reform” at the world body, encompassing everything from U.N. Security Council engagement to management changes to a focus on administrative skills in choosing the next secretary-general.
The United Nations, he said, “has got to be a place to solve problems that need solving, rather than a place where problems go, never to emerge.”
He added: “In the United States, there is a broadly shared view that the U.N. is one of many potential instruments to advance U.S. issues, and we have to decide whether a particular issue is best done through the U.N. or best done through some other mechanism. …
“The U.N. is one of many competitors in a marketplace of global problem solving,” Mr. Bolton said. That realization “should be an incentive for the organization to reform.”
One alternative, he said, is for regional organizations to play a larger role. He praised the Organization of American States for its work in Haiti and said he would like the African Union to take on greater responsibilities in Africa.
Mr. Bolton, who has been directly or indirectly involved in U.N. affairs since the Reagan administration, said he has found little surprising in his 3 months in Turtle Bay.
“It’s exactly what I expected,” he said. “It does move in many ways that lead you to think it’s caught in a time warp, with discussions they could have had in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s.”
Referring to obsolete mandates and bodies, he said: “Even though the Cold War is over and many of these issues are over, frankly, the mind-set in the U.N. complex hasn’t changed much. I don’t think that it’s a philosophical point of view. … There is a culture of inaction.”
The ambassador said he would like to see change within the “P5,” the powerful conclave of five permanent U.N. Security Council nations. Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States must work more closely to craft powerful resolutions and make sure they are enforced, he said.
Mr. Bolton also wants to see the 15-member council address the underlying causes that have spawned 17 active peacekeeping missions, including a half-dozen that are decades old.
“The biggest change that we should try and make is to have the Security Council play a larger role in solving these problems, rather than turning them over to the Secretariat and special envoys,” he said.
Where Washington and its P5 counterparts find their national interests in opposition, he said, Washington “may need to find another organization to accomplish our objectives.”
The ambassador, who previously handled the disarmament portfolio at the State Department, accused Iran of concealing significant nuclear-weapons programs and said that the International Atomic Energy Agency will remain a key player in its disarmament, with or without a referral to the Security Council.
The Bush administration has been a principal advocate of management reform at the United Nations — supported by a mandate from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the passion of new management and budget czar Christopher Burnham, and crisply worded criticism from oil-for-food investigator Paul Volcker.
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