United Nations reform easier said than done

What others say

Posted: Thursday, December 02, 2004

If adopted, a reform panel's proposals could go a long way toward restoring credibility to the United Nations.

The 16-member panel, appointed a year ago by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, isn't expected to release its report until Thursday, but many of the details already have been leaked to The Associated Press and other media outlets.

It says, for example, that terrorism violent acts aimed intentionally at civilians to force policy changes "is never an acceptable tactic, even for the most defensible of causes." Also, the panel wants to make armed intervention easier and empower the Security Council to authorize pre-emptive attacks for legitimate defensive purposes.

Those would be dramatic changes from the status quo.

In the past, some U.N. members have blocked such a clear definition of terrorism, insisting there should be exceptions when people are under occupation usually a reference to the Palestinians.

Also, the United Nations has been loathe to act against even the most egregious acts of genocide such as in Rwanda and the Sudan.

The problem is that proposing isn't the same as adopting.

The organization's shortcomings really aren't structural; rather, they are in the misguided priorities of its members, many of whom seem to view the General Assembly as a forum to articulate their narrow interests rather than to solve the world's problems.

Until member states reform themselves, any changes at the United Nations probably will be only cosmetic.

The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 1

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