- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday challenged governments to accept his package of reforms for the United Nations meant to improve human rights, development and security around the world.

In a speech to the 191-nation General Assembly, Mr. Annan said his proposals were designed to streamline and improve response to terrorism and other threats, even as the United Nations finds itself under attack for mismanagement of its own operations.

Among the reforms: expanding membership in the Security Council; creating a new human rights monitoring mechanism; and drafting a long-delayed international convention against terrorism.

Mr. Annan also called on developing nations to set new goals to cut global poverty, and challenged wealthier nations to boost development aid and debt relief.

U.S. officials raised sharp questions over one of Mr. Annan’s most contentious recommendations — that the Security Council should endorse collective action to protect civilians from war crimes or ethnic cleansing if their own governments cannot or will not act.

The secretary-general urged governments to accept the reforms as a package when world leaders meet here in mid-September.

“The temptation is to treat the list as an a la carte menu, and select only those that you especially fancy,” Mr. Annan told diplomats. “In this case, that approach will not work.”

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli welcomed the report in general terms, and noted that Washington had long supported U.N. reform.

But Mr. Ereli said the United States does not see the need for the Security Council to pass a resolution enshrining the international community’s responsibility to intervene in humanitarian crises.

“Frankly, we’re skeptical that any kind of resolution on the use of force would be helpful …,” Mr. Ereli said. “The secretary-general’s report makes it clear that states don’t need to wait until they’re actually attacked in order to use force in self-defense.”

U.N. officials have rejected suggestions that Mr. Annan’s reform package is intended to deflect criticisms of the world body and its leader, on issues ranging from corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program to sexual misconduct and other abuses by U.N. troops in several peacekeeping missions.

Human rights advocates were enthusiastic about overhauling the Human Rights Commission, a target of widespread criticism.

“It could be a positive way to increase the effectiveness of human rights by making them more manageable and decreasing the possibility of notorious violators being elected to [the panel],” said Chris Sidoti, professor and director of International Service for Human Rights, an advocacy group.

U.N. member-states will have nearly six months to pore over the reform package.

“You may call what is happening now our perestroika and glasnost,” Mr. Annan told reporters. “We’re trying to bring the organization into line with the realities of the 21st century.”

John Zarocostas contributed to this report from Geneva.

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