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Opinion: Diluted, But Still Effective

Klaus Dahmann (jp)
September 14, 2005

A far cry from the original plan put forward by Secretary General Kofi Annan, the UN's reform blueprint has been diluted beyond recognition -- according to its critics. DW's Klaus Dahmann wonders if they have a point.

The UN hasn't quite gone where Annan wanted to goImage: AP

It definitely isn't the milestone many were hoping for. But even though Kofi Annan's original ambitions have been considerably scaled down in the course of negotiations, the basic outline of his sweeping reform plan is still intact.

The proposed peacebuilding commission is in there, and so is the permanent human rights council intended to replace the ineffective human rights commission. The UN's Millennium Development Goals strategy is also addressed, even if specific quotas on increasing development aid are so far absent.

US Resistance

Admittedly, these are smaller steps than Annan wanted to see taken -- but they're still steps in the right direction. Given the draconian reform proposals the US was pressing for, as well as the broad front of resistance from various states, it's a perfectly acceptable result.

The inevitable disappointment aside -- which is partially due to the frustratingly long build-up -- one should bear in mind that it's still the supporters of a strengthened United Nations who have retained the upper hand. As we've come to expect from the organization, progress is slow -- but sure.

Falling short of expectations

In other words, the lesson everyone has learned is that national interests lead nowhere. Washington would have preferred to see the final draft watered down to a three-page summary of US foreign policy, with top priority going to the war on terror.

John R. Bolton
John R. BoltonImage: AP

US ambassador to the UN John Bolton fought for his corner tooth and nail, but ultimately, he didn't get his way.

Other parties, such as Germany, were nursing high hopes for a permanent seat on the Security Council. But now the negotiations that dominated attention earlier this year on expansion of the Security Council have been put off until December, and a decision seems unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Glaring ommissions

And obviously, there are many omissions. The questions of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are conspicuously absent -- as is any mention of the International Criminal Court, which is, after all, a body the UN deserves to be proud of.

But when all is said and done, the formulations fleshed out by the politicians and diplomats in New York are less important than what actually happens.

Offentlicher Wasserhahn in Tansania
Image: AP

The Millennium Development Goals are a case in point. Increased development aid quotas aren't enough -- the main thing is that the funds go where they're needed. That's where developing nations have to do their bit, and guarantee that governments are carefully scrutinized for any underhand syphoning off of aid.

Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

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