- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2005

NEW YORK — A new report on U.N. reform calls for greater attention to development assistance and nation-building, but offers few conclusions on thorny issues such as Security Council expansion and fighting terrorism.

The document, which still requires the close inspection of member governments, could form the basis of a political declaration to be issued at a global summit on U.N. reform to be held here in September.

General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon, who presented his 19-page report to the assembly late Friday, said his proposals have the broad general support of the member governments.

But the draft says almost nothing about how to expand the powerful but badly outdated Security Council, a divisive issue that some diplomats fear could swamp the debate over other issues.

“I have the feeling that everyone wants reform, although maybe not the same type of reform,” Mr. Ping told reporters, noting that Americans are concerned about corruption, the Japanese want Security Council reform, and poorer nations want a decision to combat poverty.

The assembly is to take up U.N. reform again on June 21. That could coincide with a separate vote on Security Council reform, pushed forward by India, Germany, Japan and Brazil, which have joined forces to seek new permanent seats on the council.

Mr. Ping’s report is the third refinement in a debate over how to restore the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations in the face of developments that have changed the world in the 60 years since it was founded.

World leaders will meet in New York from Sept. 14 to 16 to celebrate the organization’s 60th anniversary and to commit to reshaping it.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan last year commissioned an international panel to draft suggestions to refocus the world body. He issued his own proposal in March, emphasizing that all nations will have to negotiate and compromise if anything is to be resolved.

For wealthy nations, that means giving more generously to development programs that will fight poverty, illiteracy and hunger. For poorer nations, it means accepting more stringent practices against transnational crime and terrorism. And for all nations, it means a new emphasis on collective security, human rights and the rule of law.

The latest report calls for industrialized nations to make good by 2015 on pledges to contribute 0.7 percent of their gross domestic products to official development assistance. It also demands that nations reach 0.5 percent by 2009.

The Ping report supports two previous calls for the creation of a “peace-building commission” that would provide technical assistance to nations struggling to make the transition from war to stability.

It also seconds Mr. Annan’s proposal that the badly discredited Human Rights Commission be replaced with a body elected by a two-thirds majority in the U.N. General Assembly.

However, the draft makes the new group a subsidiary of the General Assembly, rather than independent, and proposes no rules to prevent egregious rights violators from becoming members. Human rights groups immediately rejected the proposal as weak.

States also have been unable to agree on a definition of terrorism, which has hampered efforts to write an international convention to fight it. The draft condemns the targeting of civilians for political purposes, but Mr. Ping told reporters on Friday that he was not offering a definition.

“That condemnation is not a definition, but components of a definition,” he said, adding that he believed a counterterrorism convention could be drafted without one.

Many Arab and Islamic states are demanding a condemnation of “state-sponsored terrorism” or an absolution for acts committed against an occupation, both referring to Israel.

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