- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 28, 2005

U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton told Congress yesterday that momentum to reform the United Nations will stall unless the world body moves ahead quickly with plans not addressed at a recent summit.

Mr. Bolton told a House International Relations Committee hearing that the summit fell far short of American hopes in several areas, from internal management reforms and a clear stand against all forms of terrorism to revamping the widely discredited U.N. human rights watchdog.

U.N. reform “is not a one-night stand. Reform is forever,” Mr. Bolton said.

Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, said the modest results of the U.N. summit strengthened his view that a threat to cut U.S. dues to the world body was the only way to force real change.

The House this summer passed Mr. Hyde’s bill calling for a mandatory 50 percent cut in U.S. dues payments — equal to about 22 percent of the U.N. operating budget — if more than three dozen management and administrative reforms are not adopted in the next few years.

“I am more convinced than ever our congressional efforts are on the right track,” Mr. Hyde said.

The Bush administration opposes the proposal to withhold dues as outlined in the bill, now before the Senate. Mr. Bolton, a caustic critic of the United Nations in his writings before joining the administration, told Mr. Hyde he “emphatically” opposed the bill as well.

“There’s something sticking in my back,” Mr. Hyde joked in reply.

Mr. Bush and more than 150 other world leaders agreed earlier this month to a string of changes for U.N. operations, including an independent oversight and ethics office; greater authority for Secretary-General Kofi Annan to manage the U.N. bureaucracy; a new Human Rights Council with a still-undefined mandate; and new money for development and democracy promotion around the world.

Mr. Bolton said a speedy follow-up was needed as the United Nations was preparing its next two-year spending plan and the United States hoped to incorporate many of the changes in that budget.

The summit leaders failed to agree on the standards for membership in the new Human Rights Council. The old U.N. Human Rights Commission was widely criticized for allowing human rights abusers such as Cuba, Sudan and Libya to serve as members.

Mark Malloch Brown, Mr. Annan’s chief of staff, told the committee that leading powers in the United Nations faced an effective deadline of the end of the year to reform the human rights agency if it is to be up and running for a planned spring meeting in Geneva.

Mr. Bolton said the devastating findings of U.N. mismanagement and corruption in the oil-for-food program in Iraq were a “tangible representation” of the need for reform, but that the scandal was not a reason to eliminate the world body altogether.

“There may be an occasion [in the future] where we want the United Nations to undertake a program like oil-for-food, but we want it run effectively and honestly,” Mr. Bolton said. “I don’t see why that’s so hard to ask.”