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UN Reform
February 16, 2021

The United Nations is engaged in one of the most important debates in its history: how to reform itself, strengthen itself as an institution, and ensure that it addresses effectively the threats and challenges of the 21st century. The United States is prepared to help lead the effort to strengthen and reform the UN. The following are the outlines of proposals the United States has put forth for improving the effectiveness of the UN.

  • Budget, Management, and Administrative Reform:  We must ensure the highest standards of integrity and promote efficiency within the UN system, so that member states receive the greatest benefit from resources invested in the institution. Meaningful institutional reform must include measures to improve internal oversight and accountability, to identify cost savings, and to allocate resources to high priority programs and offices.
  • Peace Building Commission: We strongly support the Secretary-General’s idea of a Peace Building Commission that would allow the UN to be more effective in galvanizing the work of the international community to help countries after the fighting has stopped. Such a Commission would play an important role in helping countries in post-conflict situations. It could provide reconstruction and humanitarian support and set the stage for long-term development.
  • Human Rights Council: We support the Secretary-General’s initiative to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a smaller, action-oriented Human Rights Council, whose membership should not include states with a record of abuse. The problems with the current Commission, where human-rights abusers sit in judgment of democratic countries, are well known. The Council’s mandate would be to address the most egregious human rights abuses, provide technical assistance, and promote human rights as a global priority.
  • Democracy Initiatives and the UN Democracy Fund:  President Bush in his September 2004 UN General Assembly speech put this proposal on the table, as democracy promotion is one of our core aims. The Secretary-General has endorsed it and we hope all countries will contribute to the Fund. The goal is to create a mechanism for supporting new and emerging democracies, providing assistance that would help develop civil society and democratic institutions.
  • Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism: We strongly support the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism (CCIT), a subject of longstanding debate. This would be an important symbolic achievement in the UN’s global effort to counter terrorism. It is time to put this forward and come to agreement in the General Assembly.
  • Development: The United States plays a leading, active, and positive role in development. We share a commitment to building healthy institutions and strong economies, through trade, foreign investment, and aid. As agreed in the Monterrey Consensus, the focus should be on supporting good governance and sound economic policies. We look forward to the High-Level Event in September as an opportunity to renew our collective commitment to eradicating poverty and promoting sustained economic development.
  • Security Council:  The United States is open to UN Security Council reform and expansion, as one element of an overall agenda for UN reform.  We advocate a criteria-based approach under which potential members must be supremely well qualified, based on factors such as: economic size, population, military capacity, commitment to democracy and human rights, financial contributions to the UN, contributions to UN peacekeeping, and record on counterterrorism and nonproliferation. We have to look, of course, at the overall geographic balance of the Council, but effectiveness remains the benchmark for any reform.