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Deep Divides Remain over UN Reforms

A big question mark lies over the reform of the UN.


When state leaders put their heads together in a week's time, they may not have a reform document to examine.


The negotiators from the core group remain deeply divided on all issues regarding the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reform package.


Among the areas of concern in the package tackling poverty, reforming the world body and addressing the global security, no single key issue has been settled so far.


Pakistani UN Ambassador Munir Akram's description of the ongoing negotiations -- "We are in a crisis situation at the moment," -- tells us the real picture.


What will UN leaders do if the consensus on Annan's reform package is not reached?


The world summit on September 14-16 would become a grand party arranged only to observe the 60th anniversary of the organization.


The stakes are high. The time for producing a strong and effective document is running out.


Hopes are pinned on a sweeping reform proposal at the upcoming world summit, which is expected to be the largest-ever gathering of world leaders in history.


Seven issues are snagging talks: poverty reduction and development, anti-terrorism, collective action to prevent genocide, disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, a new Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, a new Peace Building Commission to help countries in conflict, and the overhaul of UN management.


Given the width of these issues and depth of disagreement about them, creating a plan that will solve all problems in such a short time may prove impossible.


Therefore, the impasse that the negotiations seem to only have reached does not come as a surprise.


Several diplomats criticized the US for submitting its demands.


The US has presented hundreds of detailed amendments to the draft document being fine-tuned by Jean Ping, president of the General Assembly, for submission to world leaders at the summit.


The diplomats said the US amendments were too much and too late, and they were forcefully trying to shape the negotiating process.


The amendments call for striking any mention of the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in which UN members set goals over the next 15 years to reduce poverty, preventable diseases and other scourges of the world's poor. They also seek deletion of references to small arms controls.


Instead, Washington wants to highlight the significance of the 2002 Monterey (Mexico) Consensus that focused on free-market reforms and required governments to improve accountability in exchange for aid and debt relief.


"One of the great achievements of the Millennium Declaration was its success in focusing the world's attention on precise targets which, if achieved by 2015, would mark a real turn of the tide in our struggle against life-destroying poverty," Annan told the core group a couple days ago.


Many hope the sweeping changes to the UN administration will make the world body more effective in dealing with the challenges ahead.


The UN must be reshaped with a boldness and speed with each country's interests addressed effectively. The differences found in the negotiations need not to be insurmountable.


Still, the upcoming summit should not necessarily be taken as the last opportunity to reach a successful outcome for the UN reform.


It will take time to put the bargain into effect and to revitalize the world body.


(China Daily September 6, 2005)


Negotiations Hold Key to UN Reform
UN Reform Requires Patience and Wisdom
Road to UN Reform to Be Winding
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