UNITED NATIONS – The General Assembly president issued a blueprint to strengthen the United Nations, calling for governments to pay more attention to poverty and human rights but avoiding the contentious issues of Security Council expansion, defining terrorism and guidelines for using force.
The document was a first draft for world leaders to consider for adoption at a U.N. summit set for September, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called to overhaul the world body. U.N. officials said 174 leaders have accepted his invitation.
General Assembly President Jean Ping presented the document Friday to member states and later told a news conference he will give governments a few weeks to study his draft.
“We are reaffirming unequivocally that all of the member states wish to strengthen the United Nations and make it an effective tool, one that will enable us to collectively meet the many challenges and threats that our world is confronting right now,” he said.
In March, Annan issued a report with his own recommendations, calling on world leaders to approve the most sweeping changes to the United Nations since it was founded 60 years ago, so it can tackle conflicts, terrorism, poverty and human rights abuses. He urged world leaders to “act boldly.”
After a year of scandals over corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq and sex abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in Congo and elsewhere, Annan also set out plans to make the world body more efficient, open, and accountable – including strengthening the independence of the U.N.’s internal watchdog.
The secretary-general called Ping’s draft “an important step toward decisive action for halving poverty by 2015, reducing the threat of war, terrorism, and proliferation, and promoting human dignity in every corner of the world.”
“Much is at stake, and I am confident that when world leaders meet in New York … they will agree on the most far-ranging and ambitious reforms of the United Nations in its 60-year history,” he said in a statement.
The proposal issued Friday would reaffirm the commitment of U.N. members “to eradicate poverty and promote development and global prosperity for all.” It “invites” rich nations to set timetables to increase their spending on development assistance to 0.7 percent of gross national product by 2015 – softer language than in Annan’s report which called on world leaders “to ensure” that developed countries reach the target. The United States, which has one of the lowest levels – around 0.17 percent – opposes a timetable.
Ping included a key proposal by Annan to give greater priority to human rights at the United Nations – by creating a new standing Human Rights Council, initially under the General Assembly. The council would replace the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights, which has long faced criticism for allowing the worst-offending countries to use their membership to protect each other from condemnation.
On issues of peace and security, Ping said there is wide support for Annan’s proposal to create a Peacebuilding Commission to ensure that countries emerging from conflict don’t start fighting again. Member states are also prepared to take collective measures to protect civilians from genocide and war crimes – using military means if necessary, he said.