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« Secretary Rice Goes To Asia: Part Three. | WILLisms.com | The Latest Trustees Report Is Out On Social Security. »

The Most Important UN Reform.


In response to escalating heat from the U.N. Oil-For-Food scandal, Kofi Annan announced earlier this week that he intends to reform the U.N. The Economist (via Pejmanesque) reports:

He is calling for an expansion of the Security Council, so that it better reflects the global realities of today—though he did not specify how the council’s membership and veto rules should be changed. The Commission on Human Rights would, he proposes, be replaced by a smaller human-rights council, on which it would be harder for tyrants to get seats. To avoid repeats of past stalemates, the UN would agree a definition of “terrorism”, which would be incorporated in a new anti-terror treaty. It would also adopt clearer principles on when military force is justified.

Color us unimpressed.

Watching Annan's press conference on the subject on C-SPAN, it is clear he is the wrong man to lead the U.N. When pressed by a reporter on the subject of unrepresentative governments having a legitimate voice at the U.N., and how that elevation of tyrants undermines global security, Annan told the man that his statement was "not entirely accurate." All the nations of the United Nations represent their people, Annan said.

No, they really don't, Kofi.

The most important reform the U.N. could undertake would be the immediate end to all moral equivalence between fear societies and free societies. Immediately stipulate that a Security Council veto (ahem, China and Russia) is contingent upon civil and political rights back home. No country with a rating of "Not Free" could stifle the will of the free world through its veto. Likewise, no collection of smaller tyrannies should ever stifle the will of the free world.

The U.N.'s most profound problem is that many of its members are not truly representing the free and democratic wills of their people, while the U.N. recognizes nearly all countries as relative equals. Elevating U.N. ambassadors of evil, corrupt regimes to the same level as those from countries where the citizens are free to choose their leaders only assists those illegitimate regimes remain in power.

Moral equivalence affords leaders of countries like North Korea, Cuba, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Rwanda an unfortunate legitimacy that arbitrarily boosts stature back home. The U.N. cannot pass meaningful resolutions urging the spread of freedom in the world, because there are too many fear societies obstructing such progress. Even when the U.N does pass important resolutions, there is no enforcement mechanism other than "unilateral" action by the United States. Lack of enforcement power is the second-most grave problem facing the U.N.; right now the U.N. is almost entirely carrot, without much stick. Developing a way to enforce U.N. sanctions is imperative to the U.N.'s credibility.

The U.N. at present has no moral compass; recall the U.N. Human Rights Commission booting the United States off in 2001, while serial human rights abusers Libya, Syria, and Sudan were all allowed on the Commission. Atrocities and genocide continue to happen in places like Darfur, because the U.N. member nations cannot agree on whether or not systematic mass murder really is "genocide."

Claudia Rosett has more in today's OpinionJournal.com, part of The Wall Street Journal:

There he goes again.

"This hall has heard enough high-sounding declarations to last us for some decades to come," Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the U.N. General Assembly Monday. "What is needed now is not more declarations and promises."

For announcing a U.N. reform program, it was a good start. Had Mr. Annan then apologized for the gross failure of his previous reforms, launched in 1997, and left the stage, there might be a lot more reason to hope the U.N. will shape up.

Instead, Mr. Annan went right on to deliver his latest plan for U.N. reform, by way of a 63-page report stuffed with high-sounding declarations wrapped around dozens of proposals to take most of what the U.N. does wrong, and do lots more of it, with lots more taxpayer money. Mr. Annan took the title for his report from a phrase in the U.N. charter, "In Larger Freedom." Truth in labeling would more accurately read: "In Deep Trouble."

Rosett believes that part of the U.N.'s perpetual ineptitude stems from its central-planning mindset. She writes:

Mr. Annan's plan takes little practical account of a modern world in which competition, private enterprise and individual freedom are the principles of progress. He has his own agenda, which he would like the rest of us to follow and fund.

This is an important point. Mr. Annan and many of the other U.N. administrators do not believe in the values that have made the free world great, including the value of a free enterprise market economy.

Rosett adds:

Someone needs to remind Mr. Annan that every dollar taxed away from the citizens of the rich nations of the world is a dollar less that's available for these same private citizens to buy goods for which there is genuine market-driven demand--that being the real engine of development.

Kofi Annan could never admit such a thing. To do so would undermine his own view of the United Nations as the world's only legitimate voice. Part of Kofi's plan is to provide massive amounts (more than a trillion dollars over the next decade) of aid for poverty relief. Gobs of money doled out by a corrupt bureaucracy (the U.N.) to other corrupt institutions is not the answer. Marxist redistribution of wealth will not solve the problem of world poverty. In fact, large amounts of foreign aid may contribute significantly to long-term poverty because the aid distorts the market and makes people dependent on regular aid flows rather than initiative and true development.

One solution is a Democracy Caucus within the United Nations (a free-society-based solution might very well work without the U.N.). A coalition of truly free societies, with each member nation guaranteeing basic political and civil rights to its citizens, with free and fair elections and free markets, just might give international cooperation a purpose. These countries must also express a commitment to holding human rights abusers accountable; even some democracies such as India, Mali, and South Africa tend to align themselves with non-democratic regimes based on regional interests. Thus, even a coalition of democratic countries is not the panacea for what ails the U.N.

A coalition of true democracies might allow the U.N. to serve its original mission, but not by itself. The selection of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations is promising as the United Nations begins looking at reforms, but it will require a herculean effort to fix the U.N's chronic dysfunction, so our optimism on Kofi Annan's reforms is tempered.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 March 2005 10:23 AM