NEW YORK — The U.N. World Summit opens today with a hard-fought but watered-down declaration that fails to include many reforms sought by the United States, including a replacement for the discredited Human Rights Commission.
The General Assembly yesterday approved the declaration for adoption today by the summit.
“It would be wrong to claim more than is realistic and accurate about what these reforms are,” U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said of the 35-page declaration that is to be endorsed by 150 world leaders at the conclusion of the three-day event
“They represent steps forward, but this is not the alpha and the omega, and we never thought it would be,” Mr. Bolton told reporters several hours before the final document was completed.
The document calls for the creation of a peacebuilding commission and a democracy fund, financed by voluntary contributions, to help conflict-riven countries make the transition to stability and good governance.
The text also commits nations to provide free primary education to all children, including girls, and for their leaders to take responsibility for their nations’ development by pursuing sound economic policies.
Mr. Bolton, who has worked on little else since arriving here in early August, acknowledged, “I would have liked to have seen a broader discussion much earlier about fundamental changes in management and governance.”
Some nations and private organizations were bitterly disappointed with the outcome, saying that it fell far short of ideals on human rights, nuclear weapons, women’s rights and other issues.
Development specialists praised the outcome of the final declaration, noting that the passages were mostly strong and encouraging.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan had sought a declaration that would show that development and security are two sides of the same coin.
“The big item missing is nonproliferation and disarmament. This a real disgrace,” Mr. Annan told a press conference, urging the leaders to take up the issue this week.
While acknowledging its shortcomings, he insisted the document was “an important step forward.” The final document went through a tortuous negotiation process.
At first, U.N.-appointed regional representatives compiled a text based on input from governments.
In late August, Washington demanded that nations develop the document themselves, in direct negotiations.
That opened the process to line-by-line discussion, in which governments were free to advocate for their pet issues.
For nearly two weeks, the document grew longer instead of shorter, as more provisions were added and then countered.
With the process deadlocked at 1 a.m. yesterday, outgoing General Assembly President Jean Ping made a number of executive decisions on the text, including tossing out all language related to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
When delegations yesterday evening formally closed the 59th session of the General Assembly one day late, they gave Mr. Ping an almost unheard-of standing ovation for his work.
Jan Eliasson, Sweden’s former ambassador to Washington and the president of the General Assembly for the upcoming year, praised the declaration and said it should be assessed compared with historic reform measures, not to recent reform proposals.
“We will get a new political energy from the leaders gathering here,” he said.
Discussions to strengthen the United Nations and make it more responsive and credible have been under way for nearly two years, when Mr. Annan commissioned a panel to come up with suggestions to restore luster to the world body, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.