Secretary-General Kofi Annan has issued a challenge to world leaders to approve a massive overhaul of the United Nations this year. Mr. Annan presented member states with a reform package that would sharply increase the world body's authority.
The secretary-general Monday outlined the most comprehensive overhaul of the United Nations since it was founded in 1945. The planned changes would update what he called the three great purposes of the United Nations: development, security and human rights.
Mr. Annan unveiled the proposal, titled "In Larger Freedom," in an address to the General Assembly: "The cause of larger freedom can only be advanced, if nations work together, and the United Nations can only help, if it is remolded as an effective instrument of their common purpose."
The 63-page document Mr. Annan presented to the assembly includes several controversial proposals. But none has drawn as much attention as his plan to expand the Security Council from its present 15 members to 24.
Mr. Annan offered two possible alternatives, one that would add six new permanent members, and another creating a new class of semi-permanent members.
Those most frequently mentioned as candidates for the permanent slots are Japan, India, Brazil, Germany, Egypt, and either Nigeria or South Africa. But unlike the five current permanent members, the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France, they would most likely not have veto power.
Speaking to reporters after his presentation, Mr. Annan said the expansion proposal is designed to give greater representation on the Council to developing countries: "The whole package, as it now stands, is intended to address a certain imbalance in the Council. If the membership were to agree to six new permanent members without the veto, where are these new members coming from? Two are from Africa, two from Asia, and one from Latin America. Five out of the six coming from regions we believe are underrepresented."
The reforms also include replacement of the Human Rights Commission with a smaller Human Rights Council. The United States and human rights groups have ridiculed the current commission for admitting countries accused of poor human rights records, such as Libya, Cuba and Sudan, as members.
Secretary-General Annan said the new council would be composed only of governments that adhere to the highest human rights standards: "It's no secret that the Human Rights Commission can be more effective. It's no secret that governments get onto the commission, either to protect themselves, or to ensure that others are brought to the dock, as it were. And it has become so contentious, and groups form to ensure who is to be castigated and who is not. In the process, the rights of the individual and human rights that they are there to protect often get lost."
Reporters suggested that many provisions in the proposal are likely to raise objections from the United States. U.S. opposition could jeopardize the entire reform package at a time when anti-U.N. voices in the U.S. Congress are becoming increasingly vocal.
Mr. Annan said he plans to work closely with the Bush administration and lawmakers to assure them that the proposal is in their best interest.
"We live in an interconnected world, where we face many challenges, many threats that no one country, however powerful, can face alone, and that we need to work together to contain these threats. … And so, I think the collective effort of all of us working together is in the national interest of individual member states, and an effective and functioning U.N. is in the interest of the United States and its people, as it is in the interest of other nations and their peoples."
Mr. Annan told the General Assembly Monday he wants the entire reform proposal taken up as a package when world leaders gather in New York in September to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN's creation.
The secretary-general has in the past said he wants to use his remaining 21-months in office to institute reforms that would prevent the mismanagement and corruption that existed in the Iraq oil-for-food program. Irregularities in the 65-billion-dollar humanitarian program have damaged the world body's reputation.
A panel Mr. Annan appointed to investigate the oil-for-food scandal is due to issue its second report next week. The report is expected to focus on the involvement of his son, Kojo Annan, who at one time worked for an oil-for-food contractor. Kojo Annan has admitted receiving monthly payments from the company until early last year.