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U.N. reform: The road to global governance

By Henry Lamb
web posted April 4, 2005

Kofi Annan's long-awaited reform report, "In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all," is a laundry list of changes designed to strengthen the United Nations' grasp on global governance. Virtually every recommendation in Annan's report is a regurgitation of recommendations first advanced a decade ago by the U.N.-Funded Commission on Global Governance.

When the Commission on Global Governance's final report, Our Global Neighborhood, was released in 1995, it went almost unnoticed outside the U.N. activist community. The dramatic changes the report recommends, however, have been bubbling up through the U.N. ever since.

The U.N.'s non-binding Millennium Declaration captured the goals of the Commission on Global Governance, and expressed them in language acceptable to more than 150 heads of state at the Millennium Summit in 2000.

Now comes the official request by Kofi Annan to incorporate many of those recommendations into structural changes that will be legally binding on member nations.

The Commission on Global Governance recommended that the U.N. Security Council be expanded to 23, and that the veto power, and permanent member status be removed from the five current permanent members.

Annan is not going quite that far - at this time. He is recommending expanding the Security Council to 24 members, in one of two possible scenarios, but he knows he has no chance of getting the veto power removed from the existing permanent members - at this time.

Regardless of the method chosen, expansion of the Security Council can do nothing but place more obstacles on the road to negotiating resolutions. It is difficult enough now, and sometimes impossible, to get agreement on U.N. action. The addition of nine more self-interested nations on this Council will stall, if not kill, any meaningful action in the future.

The Commission on Global Governance recommended that the U.N. Trusteeship Council be transformed and given "trusteeship" over the "global commons," with representation of "civil society" through partnership with non-government organizations.

Annan is recommending that the Trusteeship Council be eliminated, and replaced by a new Council on Human Rights, replacing the corrupt Commission on Human Rights. Details are sketchy about the responsibility and authority of this proposed new council, but Annan is calling for a permanent arrangement for NGO participation, and greater "coherence" among all agencies to achieve environmental and sustainable development goals.

The Commission on Human Rights should be eliminated. A new Council, wearing the "Human Rights" label, offers no promise of change in attitude or function. The promise of expanding NGO representation, however, is cause for alarm. In autocratic nations, where citizens have no voice at all, NGO participation may be helpful. But in America, NGO participation in U.N. policy development provides a mechanism to by-pass duly elected officials at the state and local levels. This practice is already widespread in the use of "visioning councils," "stakeholder councils," and "regional councils" of various sorts.

Annan's report calls for all nations to reaffirm their commitment to provide .07 percent of their gross national income to "Official Development Assistance." This amounts to a global welfare program, administered by the U.N. Having seen the efficiency with which the U.N. administered the oil-for-food program in Iraq, there should be little appetite for any nation to help provide the U.N. with hundreds of billions of dollars annually, to be used by U.N. agencies which have neither oversight by, nor accountability to, any responsible party.

The world's poverty can never be eliminated by increasing welfare dollars. Were the people in the developing world allowed to own private property, which could be used as collateral for loans to invest in business opportunities, the people could begin to build their own prosperity. Where poverty is most severe, government owns the land and the resources.

Were the people in the developing world allowed to develop abundant and affordable energy from domestic coal and petroleum, both prosperity and health would improve dramatically. The sustainable development agenda advanced by the U.N., and its NGO partners, are the real obstacles to the elimination of world poverty and poor health.

The recommendations in Kofi Annan's report will do nothing to enlarge freedom in the world; they will only enlarge the power of the U.N. to continue its quest for global governance. The United States should reject Annan's requirement that the report be adopted in full. Instead, the United States should develop its own set of recommendations for the U.N., stripping it of its "global governance" aspirations, and returning it to nothing more than a forum for discussions among its sovereign members.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.


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