UN Summit a failure

Politicians are noted for sugarcoating the bitter pill of failure. The UN Summit brought together world leaders to accomplish what? Very little. In the story below Prime Ministers Blair and Martin attempt to put a veneer of success on a Summit that failed to come close to achieving meaningful change.

Martin, Blair claim small victories at UN summitBy BRUCE CHEADLE

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 Updated at 8:47 PM EDT

Canadian Press

United Nations — Paul Martin and Tony Blair each had something to crow about Wednesday but there was no papering over the dispiriting start to the United Nations' 60th anniversary general assembly.

"Let us be frank with each other, and the peoples of the United Nations," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the largest gathering of world leaders in history.

"We have not yet achieved the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required."

Officials who had earlier denounced the UN's penchant for "lowest common denominator" agreements spent much of the opening day putting the best face on a negotiated document that fell far short of announced ambitions.

Reforming UN management, curbing nuclear weapons, fixing the UN's dysfunctional human rights commission, a clear mandate for peace-building after conflicts and firm targets for development aid all fell by the wayside in last-minute horse-trading.

What survived pleased the prime ministers of Canada and Britain.

An initiative highlighting the UN's responsibility to protect threatened people and prevent genocides — "a Canadian idea — now belongs to the world," Mr. Martin told reporters.

The doctrine "essentially says that if Rwanda occurred today that the United Nations would act," he said, referring to the genocide that took an estimated 800,000 lives in the African country in the mid-1990s.

The UN can no longer accept "averting its gaze, nor will it find itself in lengthy discussions about legalisms. The fact is that when human tragedy occurs, the United Nations will act."

Senior Canadian officials later explained there is nothing specifically in the provision that would compel an "automatic reaction" in a situation like Rwanda, where the world body had the mandate — but not the political will — to intervene. But the doctrine, said another Canadian official, marks a "fundamental shift" away from the UN's strict non-interventionist doctrine.

Officials also revealed that Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, is about to make good on a long delayed visit to Ottawa.

Mr. Blair, meanwhile, won unanimous endorsement from the 15-member UN Security Council on Wednesday to adopt national laws against incitement of terrorism.

The British prime minister has been promoting the idea since the July 11 bombings in London, and is now joined by leaders from U.S. President George W. Bush to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Terrorism won't be defeated until our determination is as complete as theirs, our defence of freedom is as absolute as their fanaticism, our passion for democracy as great as their passion for tyranny," Mr. Blair told the council in prepared remarks.

"They play on our divisions, exploit our hesitations. This is our weakness and they know it."

Negotiations among the wider 191-member assembly had highlighted other weaknesses at the international level.

As Mr. Annan told the opening assembly: "No matter how frustrating things are, no matter how difficult agreement is, there is no escaping the fact that the challenges of our time must be met by action and today, more than ever, action must be collective if it is to be effective."

But that sense of collectivity had been absent in the run-up to the assembly as the United States and some nonaligned, mainly developing countries traded barbs about who was sabotaging negotiations.

Talks on peace-building were rejected for sovereignty reasons by some developing countries, who also objected to management reforms they said would reduce their influence at the UN. An effective human rights council was rejected by autocratic countries. Washington, among others, objected to a clear objective of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid by the year 2015.

Mr. Martin, heading a Canadian delegation that includes Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew and UN Ambassador Alan Rock, expressed his own reservations about the breakdown.

"I'm disappointed that in terms of the negotiations on UN reform that there was not more progress in a number of key areas," he said. "Frankly, this group should have done better, and Canada will keep pushing."

Asked about Canada's own failure to commit to the 0.7 by 2015 aid pledge, Mr. Martin repeated his stock answer.

The prime minister said he'll announce Canada's date for hitting the GDP target "when we're in a position to demonstrate clearly how we're going to achieve it."

Mr. Annan's development adviser Jeffery Sachs, had called the 60th assembly "a make-or-break session in a lot of ways for global poverty," and the poverty lobby was calling it a break Wednesday.

"Leaders have dashed hopes and squandered opportunities," said Kumi Naidoo of the Global Call to Action against Poverty.

"Instead of taking an historic opportunity to take clear steps in the fight against poverty and insecurity, for the large part, leaders have instead simply reiterated promises already made."

No comments: