Annan puts forward sweeping reform plans for United Nations

United Nations, March 21 | Updated: Mar 22 2005, 05:30am hrs
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan awaited government reactions on Monday for sweeping reform proposals aimed at reconciling security concerns of rich states with poor nations' battle against poverty and disease.

Proposing the most wide-ranging overhaul of the world body since its creation in 1945, Annan recommended the expansion of the UN Security Council, a radical programme to combat poverty, a new human rights body, a condemnation of all forms of terrorism and a series of management and watchdog reforms.

He was to formally present the 63-page report to the 191-member General Assembly on Monday in an effort to restore confidence in the world body, shaken by the debate over the US invasion of Iraq, corruption in the oil-for-food programme and revelations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers.

This is a very doable deal, Mark Malloch Brown, Annan's chief of staff, said on Sunday when the report was released. This is a package. Don't go for a la carte shopping on it, he said of the proposals drawn from independent panels on security and poverty. Final proposals are to be approved by world leaders at a summit in September.

Annan sought to balance US and European concerns on terrorism and arms proliferation and poor countries' focus on development. He stressed that freedom must include freedom from want and the right to live in dignity.

Even if he can vote to choose his rulers, a young man with AIDS who cannot read or write and lives on the brink of starvation, is not truly free, Annan wrote. Equally, even if she earns enough to live, a woman who lives in the shadow of daily violence and has no say in how her country is run is not truly free, he said.

For the US, Malloch Brown predicted Washington would object to a timetable for donating 0.7% of national income to make poverty history. The United States currently spends 0.1% for development.

On the use of force, the report seeks a Security Council resolution making clear on when force is necessary. The Bush administration has insisted on the right to act unilaterally,

In today's world, no state, however powerful, can protect itself on its own, Annan said.

The proposals also face objections from Arab nations because of a call for a treaty that would define terrorism as any act intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians. A treaty has been bogged down on arguments about resistance fighters, code for Palestinian suicide bombers.

A key innovation calls for creation of a smaller Human Rights Council to replace the 53-nation Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights, many of whose members are rights abusers seeking to protect other abusers. The new group would be elected by a two-thirds General Assembly vote.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were quick to embrace this proposal. But both cautioned that any overhaul should retain independent investigators and the ability for witnesses and victims to testify.