WASHINGTON – The United Nations needs to be reformed so it can carry out its mission,the co-chairmen of the Task Force on the United Nations said at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich,R-Ga.,and George Mitchell,former Senate majority leader,D-Maine,chaired the bipartisan task force that released a report about the U.N. on July 15.
Congress told the United States Institute of Peace to create the task force in 2004 to help the United Nations better carry out the objectives of its 1945 charter. The task force report calls for the United Nations to change its internal management,affirm its responsibility to protect human rights and replace its Human Rights Commission with a Human Rights Council.
Change “can't just be an American-only project,” Gingrich cautioned.
Operational reform is needed to improve the U.N.'s capability to stop genocide,mass killing and human rights violations – including immediate action on Darfur in Sudan,Mitchell said.
The United Nations has been plagued with recent scandals. Administrators of the Oil-for-Food program are being investigated for embezzlement. U.N. soldiers in Burundi have been accused of sexual abuses.
Gingrich said the scandals raise questions about the U.N.'s human rights enforcement abilities.
The task force recommends abolishing the 53-member U.N. Human Rights Commission,whose membership selection allows countries such as Sudan,with questionable human rights records,to be seated.
Council members would be elected by a two-thirds majority,and states under U.N. Security Council sanctions would be excluded.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have introduced reform acts that call for the United States to withhold 50 percent of its U.N. dues if reforms are not made.
The Senate bill would require the president to submit an annual report to Congress on U.N. reform. The House passed the U.N. Reform Act on Thursday. It calls for withholding support from new peacekeeping missions unless changes are made.
R. Nicholas Burns,undersecretary of state for political affairs,said the Bush administration is committed to U.N. reform. The administration supports the Senate bill “98 to 99 percent,” he said.
Burns said that because the United States is the most influential member of the United Nations it should remain a member.
“If we walk away,we're convinced the U.N. would be less successful,” he said.
The United States contributes a quarter of the U.N. budget,approximately $438 million this year,and a quarter of peacekeeping expenses,about $1 billion.
Burns said the Bush administration does not support withholding dues from the United Nations.
Burns said changes to the United Nations need to be made by September,when a U.N. Special Session will be held. The administration is negotiating proposed reforms with officials at U.N. headquarters in New York in preparation for the session.