Friday, September 02, 2005

Lest you think I overreact to the Wash Post attack on John Bolton ...

Lest you think I overreact in my last post to the Washington Post editorial attacking John Bolton, today, Friday, September 2, 2005, at A28, here, well, look at it yourself:

(Update, September 3, 2005, I'm sticking in here several news articles that are also relevant - scroll down for them.)

JUST ABOUT EVERY head of state will be in New York for a U.N. summit two weeks from now, but the preparatory diplomacy has been anything but statesmanlike. John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has demanded a long list of changes to the summit document that, though sometimes defensible in substance, has been presented in such a way as to deepen mistrust and resentment of the United States.

Neither U.N. officials nor Mr. Bolton's office have handled this dispute gracefully. Speaking in his capacity as a special U.N. adviser, Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia University professor, has excoriated the Bush administration for backing away from a commitment to devote 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to foreign aid, but that was never a firm pledge. Meanwhile, Richard Grenell, Mr. Bolton's spokesman, reacted to a request for an interview with the ambassador by enunciating the principle that journalists need to support Mr. Bolton in order to have access to him. As to the diplomacy on the summit document, Mr. Grenell pooh-poohed its significance and predicted that it would fail anyway.

With luck, failure can be avoided. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently told her emissary to engage constructively, and she needs to make those instructions stick. Over the next few days, Mr. Bolton ought to nail down elements in the emerging U.N. deal that advance U.S. interests. He should resist the temptation to pick ideological battles over language in the summit document that may be vaguely annoying but that other countries hold dear. It may be true, as Mr. Bolton contends, that there's no need for the text to "encourage" the U.N. secretary general to carry out his duties; this is mere waffle. But it's not worth alienating U.S. negotiating partners to score points over wordsmithing.

The potential gains for the United States from this summit, as outlined in a contrastingly sane briefing by Assistant Secretary of State Kristen Silverberg on Wednesday, include the launch of a democracy-promotion fund that President Bush called for last year and that U.N. officials have now all but created. Another is the replacement of the U.N.'s Commission on Human Rights -- which mocks its own mission by allowing in countries such as Sudan -- with a more credible body. The summit also offers an opportunity to produce an internationally recognized definition of terrorism that would make it harder for Arab governments to pretend that people who blow up civilians may be viewed as freedom fighters. Finally, the effort to improve management efficiency and accountability at the United Nations, long pushed by U.S. administrations of both parties, could be advanced at this summit if the United States plays its cards adeptly.

Set against those potential wins, Mr. Bolton's complaints about the emerging U.N. deal are insubstantial. He wants, for example, to remove all reference to the Millennium Development Goals from the summit document. It's true that these targets -- to enroll all primary-school-age kids in class and cut child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, and so on -- generate much empty rhetoric, and that they are likely to backfire: Most will not be met, so aid agencies are setting themselves up for failure. But it's not worth going to the mat on this issue, and it's not true, despite what administration officials contend, that endorsing the goals would mean endorsing the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The millennium goals appeal to donor governments as a way to mobilize political support for aid, and they appeal to leaders in developing countries. Why pick a fight over them?

And here is Colum Lynch's rather good newsreporting on the issue, the same day, Friday, September 2, 2005, WP, A6, here:

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 1 -- The Bush administration has accused senior U.N. officials of "manipulating the truth" by suggesting that the United States is backsliding on commitments made over the past five years to increase foreign assistance to the world's poor.

Ric Grenell, the spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, wrote in an e-mail to the world body's top spokesmen that a recent U.N. press statement indicating that President Bush had endorsed a list of aid targets, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), reflected a "bias" against the United States that he said was a "deep cause for concern."

The remarks came one week after John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told U.N. delegates for the first time in writing that the Bush administration never agreed to support the goals, which call for increased funding to drastically reduce poverty, halt the spread of HIV/AIDS and eradicate a host of deadly diseases by 2015.

But Bolton and other administration officials have expressed support for the 2000 Millennium Declaration, a document that included the specific goals. And the United States objects to an annex to the goals -- known as indicators -- that calls on countries to set aside 0.7 percent of their gross national product to finance the efforts.

The Bush administration's position has fed a worsening dispute over the obligation of rich states to increase development aid, a disagreement that threatens to dominate the Sept. 14 summit of world leaders on poverty and U.N. reform. It also has hardened opposition by poor countries, represented by the Group of 77 developing nations, to U.S.-backed proposals to establish independent oversight of U.N. spending, restrict the spread of the world's deadliest weapons and create a new human rights council that excludes membership by human rights abusers.
The administration says it has doubled U.S. aid to Africa, to $3.2 billion last year, and remains committed to increasing foreign assistance to poor countries that have demonstrated a capacity to spend it wisely. But it insists that it has always opposed funding to meet abstract numerical targets.

Bush unveiled the centerpiece of his development policy, the Millennium Challenge Account, at a U.N. summit on development in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002. The administration pledged to spend $1.7 billion in 2004, $3.3 billion in 2005 and $5 billion per year thereafter to help select countries. But the program has been plagued by delays, and the United States has reached agreements with only three countries. The largest deal is to spend $215 million in Honduras over five years.

The United Nations, meanwhile, has said that Bush and other leaders of industrial powers endorsed the Millennium Development Goals at the Group of 8 summit in Evian, France, in 2003. It also noted that Bush endorsed the Monterrey Consensus, an agreement that urged wealthy countries to "make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 percent of gross national product" in foreign assistance.

A senior administration official said that U.S. negotiators made it clear at the time that the administration opposed the idea of committing to a numerical target but did not want to block language supported by many of its allies.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist who is advising U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on development, charged Wednesday that Bolton's assertion that the United States never backed the Millennium Development Goals was "without ground." He said the goals are drawn "straight from the Millennium Declaration" and that the administration is simply trying to "wriggle out" of its commitments.

Annan said he was still hopeful that the administration would drop its opposition to the goals, which U.N. officials assert have galvanized international support for the fight against poverty.
"I'm not sure that the U.S. is going to insist on that," Annan told reporters Wednesday. "I think they've made their point, but I'm not sure the other member states would want to see the Millennium Development Goals dropped or, the worse, expunged from the document."


Washington Post, 25 August 2005, news article by Colum Lynch first noting that Bolton had circulated a confidential 36 page memo to various governments detailing changes the US wanted to see made in Kofi Annan's 40 page draft UN reform proposals, here:

(Correction to This Article [by the Wash Post]:)

An Aug. 25 article incorrectly said the Bush administration opposes language in a draft U.N. agreement that urges the five permanent members of the Security Council not to cast vetoes to halt genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing. The administration opposes language that would urge those council members not to use their vetoes to block intervention in states where such crimes are being perpetrated. The article also misidentified the nationality of Jean Ping, the president of the UN General Assembly. He is from Gabon.

U.S. Wants Changes In U.N. Agreement

By Colum LynchWashington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 25, 2005; A01

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 24 -- Less than a month before world leaders arrive in New York for a world summit on poverty and U.N. reform, the Bush administration has thrown the proceedings in turmoil with a call for drastic renegotiation of a draft agreement to be signed by presidents and prime ministers attending the event.

The United States has only recently introduced more than 750 amendments that would eliminate new pledges of foreign aid to impoverished nations, scrap provisions that call for action to halt climate change and urge nuclear powers to make greater progress in dismantling their nuclear arms. At the same time, the administration is urging members of the United Nations to strengthen language in the 29-page document that would underscore the importance of taking tougher action against terrorism, promoting human rights and democracy, and halting the spread of the world's deadliest weapons.

Next month's summit, an unusual meeting at the United Nations of heads of state, was called by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to reinvigorate efforts to fight poverty and to take stronger steps in the battles against terrorism and genocide. The leaders of 175 nations are expected to attend and sign the agreement, which has been under negotiation for six months.

But Annan's effort to press for changes has been hampered by investigations into fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program and revelations of sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers.
The United Nations originally scheduled the Sept. 14 summit as a follow-up to the 2000 Millennium Summit, which produced commitments by U.N. members to meet deadlines over the next 15 years aimed at reducing poverty, preventable diseases and other scourges of the world's poor. But the Bush administration is seeking to focus attention on the need to streamline U.N. bureaucracy, establish a democracy fund, strengthen the U.N. human rights office and support a U.S. initiative to halt the trade in weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. amendments call for striking any mention of the Millennium Development Goals, and the administration has publicly complained that the document's section on poverty is too long. Instead, the United States has sought to underscore the importance of the Monterrey Consensus, a 2002 summit in Mexico that focused on free-market reforms, and required governments to improve accountability in exchange for aid and debt relief.

The proposed U.S. amendments, contained in a confidential 36-page document obtained by The Washington Post, have been presented this week to select envoys. The U.N. General Assembly's president, Jean Ping of Gabon, is organizing a core group of 20 to 30 countries, including the United States and other major powers, to engage in an intensive final round of negotiations in an attempt to strike a deal.

"Now it is maybe time to go on some key issues where we still have controversies and negotiate on these key issues," he said Tuesday.

The proposed changes, submitted by U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, touch on virtually every aspect of U.N. affairs and provide a detailed look at U.S. concerns about the world body's future. They underscore U.S. efforts to impose greater oversight of U.N. spending and to eliminate any reference to the International Criminal Court. The administration also opposes language that urges the five permanent members of the Security Council not to cast vetoes to block action to halt genocide, war crimes or ethnic cleansing.

Russia, Pakistan and several other developing countries have also introduced plans for changes in the power of some U.N. bodies.

Bolton and a spokesman did not respond to requests to comment Wednesday.

Some delegates were sympathetic with the approach taken by Bolton, who took over as ambassador this month. "I think he just wants to be very cautious," said Canada's U.N. ambassador, Allan Rock. "He's coming into a situation where there's a [29]-page document on the table, and I think he's looking at it very closely and he's concerned that great care be taken before his country's name is put to it, and that's quite natural."

But the proposals face strong resistance from poorer countries, which want the United Nations to focus more on alleviating poverty, criticizing U.S. and Israeli military policies in the Middle East, and scaling back its propensity to intervene in small countries that abuse human rights.
"We are looking at very, very difficult negotiations in the days ahead," said Munir Akram, Pakistan's U.N. ambassador. The United States has "strong positions, and many of us do have very strongly held positions. That's the nature of the game. My only regret is we didn't get into the negotiations early enough."

U.S. and U.N. diplomats say that Bolton has indicated in face-to-face meetings with foreign delegates that he is prepared to pursue other negotiating options if the current process proves cumbersome.

For example, he has suggested that the entire document could be scrapped and replaced with a brief statement. He also has indicated that the document could be split up by themes, and that nations could choose the ones to support, the diplomats said.

In meetings with foreign delegates, Bolton has expressed concern about a provision of the agreement that urges wealthy countries, including the United States, to contribute 0.7 percent of their gross national product in assistance to poor countries. He has also objected to language that urges nations to observe a moratorium on nuclear testing and to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Bush administration opposes.

"There seems to be general agreement that we must now undertake the more difficult process of open and transparent negotiations to reach agreement on those issues," Bolton wrote Wednesday in a confidential letter to U.N. envoys. "Time is short. In order to maximize our chances of success, I suggest we begin the negotiations immediately, this week if possible."

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