Global Policy Forum

Boutros-Ghali "Dreams" of UN Reforms to


By Diala Shuhaiber

Daily Star - Lebanon
July 29, 2005

Former secretary-general of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali addressed the need for change within the UN, highlighting the organization's dependency on the United States as an obstacle standing in the way of reform. Speaking at Beirut's Lebanese American University, Boutros-Ghali said: "The UN is facing a crisis, where it is being highly criticized as ineffective and not corresponding to the requirements of today's age."

According to Boutros-Ghali, the UN is facing many serious obstacles to reform such as the split between rich and poor nations, as well as a split between the United States as the world's sole superpower and the international community as a whole. Boutros-Ghali said: "The Rich North and Poor South controversy is reflected in the principal item of reform." Another major difficulty is the United States' perception that the UN should serve as an extension of its foreign policy objectives. "By the end of the cold war, the United States had emerged as the only superpower in the world and as a result the United Nations is becoming a mere extension of [its] policy." Boutros-Ghali explained the UN headquarters are strategically based in the U.S. because "without the participation of the U.S., the UN cannot function."

Kofi Annan, the present UN secretary-general wrote in an article on UN reform: "If the UN is to be a vehicle through which states can meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, it needs major reform to strengthen its relevance, effectiveness, and accountability." Both Annan and Boutros-Ghali said the current structure of the United Nations reflects the world of 1945, and not the 21st Century.

During Thursday's conference, many ideas were touched upon, most notably the need for democratization in the UN, the reform of the Security Council and peacekeeping operations, and reforms related to economic and social cooperation. "The crisis has not been brought about by September 11 or by the Iraq war. The crisis is related to the end of the cold war and the difficulties the world has faced in managing post-cold-war events." Another problem faced by the UN is the reform of social and economic cooperation. The UN's role in economic and social development is made more complicated by the split between rich and poor nations. "One of our major problems is that many member states are not interested in international affairs."

As developing countries continue to press for the extension of UN economic and social programs, Boutros-Ghali says rich countries prefer to "back the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, or even bilateral assistance or assistance through the Commonwealth or through the European Union." Developing countries and a group of sympathetic European countries are pressing for democratization in the United Nations as well as demanding greater assistance in development.

Addressing UN pessimists, Boutros-Ghali said: "There is little evidence the United States will accept any reform which may decrease their power within the United Nations system. Ever since the events of September 11, there has been a tendency to reinforce unilateralism at the expense of multilateralism. "I belong to the optimist camp. Reform leaders and activists should maintain pressure toward reaching the final objective of building an international democracy. We believe it is possible to create the political will necessary to achieve a real reform of the UN, to achieve global democratic governments within the UN system," said Boutros-Ghali. "They dream, and I dream, about a possibility that the coalition of developing countries, along with progressive nations of the developed world, might arise to counter the unilateralism of the United States.

"The basic reforms proposed, are what a new United Nations will require. A new reformed international organization would help the world cope with the problems caused by globalization and the technical revolution of the post-cold-war era."

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