Date: Fri, 22 Dec 1995 02:34:17 GMT
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Subject: UN-Instrument Of US Foreign Policy
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The U.N. as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy

By Phyllis Bennis, Third World Network Features, 19 December 1995

That the US views the UN as an adjunct to, or an instrument of its own foreign policy, is revealed by several slips-of-the-tongue made by those in the administration. (Second of a two part article)

In examining the North-South contention within the United Nations, the pre-eminent influence of the US role becomes unavoidable. Even before the coterie of presidents and kings arrived in New York for the celebrations, there were a few even more revealing Freudian slips that threatened to reveal the hidden agenda of US intentions regarding the United Nations.

When Secretary of State Warren Christopher appeared before the General Assembly on 25 September, his written speech included the line `the United Nations must emerge from the reform process better able to meet its fundamental goals.’ But instead, he announced from the Assembly podium that ‘the United States must emerge from the [UN] reform process better able to meet its fundamental goals.’

A few days later, at a gala UN reception, the head of the United Nations Association of the US, John C Whitehead, introduced Boutros Boutros-Ghali as the `secretary-general of the United States'.

Both were presumably just accidents. But the slips-of-the- tongue reflect the profoundly troubling (though hardly sur prising and certainly not new) reality of Washington's ap proach to the world organisation. Instead of urging reforms that would defend the UN's role as a truly global voice, the US views the UN increasingly openly as an adjunct to, or instrument of, its own foreign policy.

Christopher spoke in the General Assembly as part of a long line of foreign ministers addressing the question of UN reform. Most of his counterparts, like the heads of state who followed a few weeks later, asserted that UN reform must be rooted in the expansion of UN democracy. Unacknowledged in the bland language of the speeches, however, was the fact that many countries are concerned, albeit quietly, about how the US has come to dominate the world organisation without challenge since the end of the Cold War.

Most believe that Security Council reform, for example, should aim to create a gathering of states far more demo cratic than that currently operating under Washington's relentless thumb. Most believe the Council should be com posed of a far more representative group of nations than the

current 10 rotating participants, whose views are often ignored and can ultimately be overruled, by the power of the permanent members, the Big Five with the veto.

But Washington's approach to reforming the Council is not designed to increase and open up UN democracy. The US inter pretation of UN reform aims instead to maximise Washington's own power. The administration's proposal for how to reform the Security Council is simple: Germany and Japan must be made permanent members, in recognition of their economic prowess (and with the hope that Tokyo and Bonn would take over some of Washington's long unpaid dues to the organisa tion).

In fact Clinton's own speech ignored the necessity of chang ing the Security Council altogether. UN reform, he said, means simply `ending bureaucratic inefficiencies and outdated priorities'. Given the inexorable US pressure that has already resulted in the UN scrapping the Centre on Transnational Corporations, and Washington's continuing efforts to undermine the UN's South-oriented research agencies UNCTAD (UN Conference on Trade and Development) and UNIDO (UN Industrial Development Organisation), Clinton's definition of ‘outdated priorities' is clear.

Christopher spoke of UNCTAD, too, urging that the UN ensure that its functions ‘do not duplicate the new World Trade Organisation’. Unlike UNCTAD, the WTO, the newest incarnation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and one of Washington's latest favourites among multilateral organisations, was consciously created to be answerable only to the world's wealthiest economic powers. Despite flow- charts to the contrary, it remains outside any relationship of accountability to the far more democratic United Nations General Assembly. For Christopher to call essentially for the collapsing of UNCTAD into the WTO bodes ill for the already-faltering future of UN democracy.

As to broader UN reform, financing is the name of the game. Christopher and Clinton both might have been imposing a US- style corporate downsizing campaign: cut UN staff, tighten UN budgets, obey the US-selected administrative overseer, and keep the UN's eyes on the bottom line. Clinton claimed he is `determined’ to keep the UN financial commitment of Washington, by far the UN's biggest scofflaw, but he didn’t explain how or when he would win Congressional approval to pay up its $1.3 billion in unpaid dues.

UN financial reform has been, by Washington's fiat, delinked from US responsibility to pay its dues. The real issue, Christopher claimed, is not the near-bankruptcy of the UN, forcing massive cuts in vital programmes because of US delinquency.

The real issue, according to Christopher, is how ‘money is

wasted in New York, Geneva or Vienna’, and how `time is lost to bureaucratic inertia’. He called for cutting the UN staff ignoring the fact that the UN's worldwide total of 52,000 employees (including every position from drivers and security guards to directors and general secretaries) already comprises a smaller contingent than the civil servants in the state of Wyoming (population 450,000).

(In fact, the very day after Christopher's speech, the US opposed the secretary-general's suggestion, driven by the threat of UN bankruptcy, that perhaps the UN should be al lowed to borrow funds from the World Bank to cover its mounting debts.)

It was in the last line of his speech that Secretary of State Christopher gave it all away. Not to worry, Christopher reassured everyone, including the right-wing Republican wing of Congress. Washington's version of UN reform would not lead to more democracy for the UN. In fact, it needn’t have much to do with strengthening the world organisation at all, and US power would win out over internationalism and democracy. `We must renew and reform the United Nations,’ Christopher concluded his speech, `not for its sake, but for our own.’ This time it was no Freudian slip—the secretary of state meant just what he said.

It was in answer to that announced seizure of the UN to serve the interests of Washington, that Fidel Castro asserted the rights of the `legions of the dispossessed’.

`We lay claim to a world without hegemonism, without nuclear weapons, without interventionism, without racism, without national or religious hatred…’ the Cuban president said. `We lay claim to a world without ruthless blockades that cause the death of men, women and children, youths and elders, like noiseless atom bombs. We lay claim to a world of peace, justice and dignity where everyone, without exception, has the right to well-being and life.’

Is it any wonder they cheered?