September 16, 2005
UN summit winds down with modest reform
By Paul Taylor
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - World leaders prepared to adopt
modest reforms of the United Nations on Friday after a
three-day summit that made little progress on fighting poverty
and terrorism, boosting security or protecting human rights.
With many leaders including President George W. Bush having
left New York, those remaining voiced a mixture of hope that
the biggest summit in U.N. history would give new momentum to
development goals and disappointment at the meager outcome.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed an unprecedented
agreement on the international responsibility to intervene to
protect civilians from genocide and ethnic cleansing to prevent
a repeat of massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Other achievements he cited included the establishment of a
peace-building commission to help nations emerging from
conflict, and member states' reaffirmation of goals set by a
U.N. Millennium summit in 2000 to halve poverty by 2015.
But Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyno listed a
series of reforms he would have liked to have seen.
They included a more representative Security Council,
stripped of the paralyzing veto right for five major powers,
and bolder moves to rid the world of weapons of mass
"We need a reformed Security Council with a membership that
is reflective of global realities," Yudhoyno said, pointing to
one of the most glaring failures of months of negotiations.
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin voiced "profound
disappointment" that the summit had failed to give teeth to a
planned new Human Rights Council, which European External
Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner called a mere
name-change for the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Anti-poverty campaigners were unimpressed by the outcome.
Rock star Bob Geldof, who organized global concerts and
protests in July to press the Group of Eight industrial powers
to "make poverty history," gave the U.N. summit a withering "4
out of 10" grade. He said leaders had even stepped backwards on
scrapping tariffs and trade barriers for African countries.
Nicola Reindorp of the British-based relief agency Oxfam
said in a statement: "This has been a tale of two summits. The
historic agreement to stop future genocides stands in stark
contrast with the lack of progress on ending poverty."
A final declaration drafted after months of wrangling
between Western and developing nations, and at times between
the United States and its European allies, was to be formally
adopted late on Friday night against angry rearguard protests
from Cuba and Venezuela, who branded it illegal.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez provided a rare moment of
drama at the tightly choreographed summit with a tirade against
the United States from the podium. He refused to keep to his
allotted five minutes, saying Bush had been allowed 15.
Opposition from Washington and China, as well as discord
among scores of aspirants, thwarted the most serious attempt
for decades to broaden the Security Council to include
countries such as Japan, Germany, India and Brazil as well as
two African nations.
Islamic countries sympathetic to the Palestinians blocked
Western-backed efforts to adopt a new definition of terrorism
branding all attacks on civilians as unacceptable.
Developing countries loath to see the 191-member General
Assembly lose more power to the 15-nation Security Council
resisted far-reaching management reforms of a U.N. bureaucracy
whose shortcomings were exposed by the oil-for-food scandal.
U.S. objections to any mention of the duty of nuclear
powers to disarm prevented any agreement on a common approach
to the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- one of the key
security threats of the 21st century.
Modest steps forward included the creation of a Democracy
Fund and some new pledges, notably by the European Union, to
increase development aid, although Bush made no such commitment
for the United States.
The world's richest nation gives the largest amount of
foreign aid in absolute terms but among the lowest proportions
of its national wealth per capita.
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson told reporters that at
Annan's request he would lead a working group of government
leaders who would keep up the momentum of U.N. reform efforts.
Persson's spokeswoman said the group would be made up of 10
to 15 leaders, who had yet to be selected.
(additional reporting by Irwin Arieff and Marie-Louise