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Annan's UN Reform Deadline Premature

Two and a half months are left before the member states of the UN decide what they will do with the reform package. 

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pressed world leaders to adopt his sweeping reform agenda at the 60th anniversary of the creation of the world body on Sunday.


He urged member states not to pass up the opportunity to adopt his reform package at a summit of world leaders slated for September.


Annan said new threats and challenges require advances in development.


But reforming the UN is a Herculean task. The issues are so complex and politically sensitive that agreement in a short period of time is impossible.


Member nations have hotly debated Annan's plan, dubbed "In Larger Freedom," since he unveiled it in March. It includes proposals to create a more powerful Human Rights Council, overhaul the Security Council and increase funding for development.


There is a consensus in the international community that the 60-year-old world body needs to go under the knife to make it a more effective instrument to combat the problems of the 21st century.


The UN as it is today is no longer reflective of the current global situation.


The question now is whether UN member states can agree on the reforms before the September summit.


Yawning divisions exist on issues such as Security Council expansion, defining terrorism and setting guidelines for the use of force.


The UN cannot remain relevant if its members fail to agree on issues that are of the greatest concern to its members' publics.


Reaching a consensus needs a practical approach. And this leaves time and room for continued discussions on areas of divergence.


Annan's self-imposed deadline of September 2005 is too optimistic and does not meet every member state's desire for reform.


Whatever form the reform takes, it needs to reflect the will of the international community.


The UN is recognized by all as the only true global multilateral institution we have. It belongs to every country, and, in each country, to every citizen. As such, all concerns must be addressed.


When he presented the report to the General Assembly on March 21, Annan said all his proposals should be taken as a comprehensive package, and for member states to resist treating the list as an a la carte menu.


Were they to be accepted, the recommendations would deliver to Annan a resounding success in his reform efforts.


However, no one in the world organization is entitled to set a deadline for reform given the complexity of such issues as restructuring the Security Council.


Annan's wish to see the reform completed before his term expires in 2006 is understandable. However, September 2005 should not be seen as a make-or-break for UN reform.


The reform of the world organization should be considered a continuous process of adapting to a dynamic world, now and in the future.


A range of questions legal, moral, political and operational need to have answers found before heads of governments gather in New York in September to decide on the changes.


The forthcoming September summit may be a wonderful opportunity for the international community to ponder what the reform means, in substance and structure.


The secretary-general has set the agenda for reform. UN members must carry it forward. Either they reinvigorate the UN for the 21st century, or become yesterday's men.


But his reform package has many issues that cannot be resolved overnight.


Consensus should be reached in the international community based on the deliberation and exchanging of ideas to the full.


After all, reform will help build the UN into a better, if not perfect, organization.


(China Daily June 29, 2005)

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