- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2005

One of the surest ways to induce better management in government is to reduce funding — or at a bare minimum, make credible threats to do so. This is the goal of Rep. Henry Hyde’s United Nations Reform Act, which is scheduled to be voted on today by the House.

Unfortunately, critics are reacting as if Mr. Hyde has suggested dismantling the United Nations altogether. Quite the contrary, the bill proposes specific, results-oriented reforms that if implemented would make the United Nations a more functional institution. The usual suspects are complaining over a provision in the bill that would allow the United States to withhold up to 50 percent of its contribution to the United Nations unless the international body adopts at least 32 of the proposed 39 reforms. It’s the kind of tough-love legislation that only the United States, which contributes 22 percent of the U.N. budget, can provide.

Mr. Hyde’s reform package is sweeping. It addresses long-simmering problems inside the U.N. bureaucracy, which include the need to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency. To guard against the corruption seen in the ongoing oil-for-food scandal, the bill would create an Independent Oversight Board to strengthen the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight. It would replace the Commission on Human Rights — which has been chaired by such human-rights success stories as Libya, Zimbabwe and Cuba — with a new Human Rights Council that would bar flagrant human-rights violators.

The bill also institutes weighted voting on budgetary matters. Countries like the United States, Japan and Germany, whose contributions make up more than half of the U.N. budget, would have more leverage to ensure that their money is being well spent.

The United Nations needs to embrace many of these reforms. There’s a disturbing tendency in Washington, however, to treat the world’s largest international body with kid gloves. While Senate Democrats worry that John Bolton might hurt a U.N. bureaucrat’s feelings, The Washington Post argues that Mr. Hyde’s bill is tantamount “to using a sledgehammer to drive a nail into an antique table.” The metaphor is a poor one. We’re not talking about an antique table; this is the institution that was created to ward off future world wars. It should be able to take the heat.

Lacking endorsement from the White House, and with no companion bill in the Senate, Mr. Hyde’s measure is unlikely to pass during this Congress. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the sort of power Washington can wield if it doesn’t see serious reform. Passage in the House might also give more leverage to the Bush administration to push for change through diplomatic channels. It also would serve as a reminder from conservatives to Mr. Bush to keep the pressure on Turtle Bay.

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