UNITED NATIONS – Faced with two high-profile scandals that have shaken confidence in the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) is proposing a set of sweeping changes — including the expansion of the Security Council.
Annan on Monday will lay out his plans in a speech to the 191-member General Assembly (search) and then will take reporter's questions. The proposal was released on Sunday. Read it by clicking here (pdf).
"If any report has Kofi Annan's own name all over it, it's this one," Mark Malloch Brown, Annan's chief of staff, told reporters Sunday. "It is something whose planning has been long in the works."
Annan proposes restructuring a U.N. human rights panel and suggests ways to keep the United Nations (search) as the primary setting for global security decisions and the key player in international development issues.
Another proposal being placed on the table is to enlarge the 15-member council to better reflect current realities and involve more countries that contribute financially, militarily and diplomatically to the United Nations. Without taking a stand on which way to go, Annan offers two proposals that both increase the membership from 15 to 24 but differ on the number of permanent and elected members.
The reforms require not only the blessing of the General Assembly, but also the agreement of world leaders who are coming to a U.N. summit in September.
How the United States and the Bush White House will respond is unclear. Bush officials have been the strongest critics of both the United Nations as an institution and Annan as its leader because of the Oil-for-Food scandal, reports of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and the United Nation's opposition to the U.S. military campaign against Iraq.
Malloch Brown said that the United States and all other nations should keep open minds as they assess Annan's proposal and should think about the collective good.
"We'll have to work hard in Washington as we will everywhere to really sell and push the positive for each set of capitals," Brown said.
Annan became secretary-general eight years ago with firm U.S. backing to reform the organization. But the recent scandals have provided a focal point for conservative critics, who have long held the U.N. in contempt and considered it a hindrance to U.S. interests.
If Annan is able to complete the two years remaining in his term, the new blueprint may represent his last chance to achieve a legacy of reform.
In an attempt to put the United Nations at the center of security policy, the report calls for a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention by September 2006, new measures to stem nuclear proliferation and an agreement on rules for the use of force and preemptive action.
To bolster peace and development, the report urges the creation of a peace-building body to help societies recover from war and asks developed countries to set aside 0.7 percent of their gross national income (search) for development aid.
Only six countries now provide that amount; the U.S. plans to contribute about $22 billion, or 0.18 percent of its gross national income, in aid next year.
The report describes ways for the world body to become more accountable and to hew more closely to its ideals.
Most notably, it suggests that nations that violate human rights should not have a place on the U.N. panel that monitors such actions.
In the shadow of Oil-for-Food failures, Annan suggests better oversight of U.N. contracts and sanctions. He also requests funding for a one-time staff buyout to help younger, energetic employees rise in the organization.
The report declares a policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers or other personnel and strongly encourages all countries who contribute troops to the U.N. to prosecute any wrongdoing because the U.N. has no power to punish them.
In a key innovation, Annan proposes that the much-criticized 53-nation Human Rights Commission (search) be changed to a smaller "human rights council" directly elected by the General Assembly.
But rather than establish criteria to exclude violator nations from the council, he gently suggests that they have no place on it. "Those elected to the council should undertake to abide by the highest human rights standards," the report says.
The current process of selecting members from regional groups has given seats on the 53-member commission to countries with questionable human rights records, such as Sudan, Libya and Cuba, making it a lightning rod for criticism, even from supporters of the United Nations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.