Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

A Caucus of Democracies

A good article from today's Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal (registration required) written by former ambassador Max Kampelman, discussing his thoughts for reforming and revitalizing the United Nations so that it more closely acts in accordance with its charter.

Amb. Kampelman (by the way, the boss of one of the folks up in the blogroll above) notes that totalitarian regimes have abused the structure of the organization for years, sometimes with the tacit approval of supposedly democratic states--the most egregious example being the recent gutting of the UN Human Rights Commission:
[...] The U.N. Human Rights Commission has become a travesty. Two years ago, the U.S.--which has worked diligently to make the commission an effective instrument--was replaced by Syria, a corrupt, totalitarian supporter of terrorism. This year, in spite of American efforts, Libya was elected to chair the commission, an egregious challenge to the commission's integrity considering Libya's rule by a militant tyrant responsible for the 1988 bombing of a U.S. civilian jet in Lockerbie in which 270 people were murdered. U.S. opposition to Libya was supported only by Canada and Guatemala; 33 countries voted for Libya, while our European "friends" conspicuously abstained from voting at all. In electing such states as Syria, Libya, Vietnam, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Zimbabwe to serve on the commission, the ostensible guardian of human rights, the U.N. has forfeited its commitment to those values. [...]
Kampelman's solution to this and other abuses is for a more vigorous engagment by representative, democratic nations:
[...] At a minimum, it is essential that the U.S. take the lead in establishing and strengthening a Caucus of Democratic States committed to advancing the U.N.'s assigned role for world peace, human dignity and democracy. The recently established Community of Democracies (CD) has called for this move, a recommendation jointly supported in a recent report by the Council on Foreign Relations and Freedom House.

In June 2000, the U.S., under the leadership of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and in cooperation with Poland, Chile, Mali and other democratic states, convened the first meeting of the CD to "collaborate on democratic-related issues in existing international and regional institutions . . . aimed at the promotion of democratic government." More than 100 countries participated. It was necessary for the CD to withhold full membership from some countries that sought to be included but did not adequately meet democratic standards. A second such meeting took place in Seoul in November 2002, where participants reaffirmed the need to create a U.N. Caucus of Democratic States. Secretary of State Colin Powell called it "a new tool in the U.S. policy tool bag." A third meeting of the CD is scheduled for Chile in 2005. The CD could be effective in refocusing the efforts of the U.N. to more closely follow its founding principles. At the same time, the CD is uniquely capable of filling the gaps left by the U.N.'s inadequacies, both internally and externally. But the CD's existence seems to be a great secret in the press. How often have you read about it? [...]
Well, never. But then, other nations cooperating with the United States on anything is not news--opposition to the U.S. is the hot thing, you know, which is another in a long line of reasons why the U.N. has ceased to be effective at anything other than holding meetings and deforesting vast swaths of pulpwood trees to write reports. As long as the structure and framework of the U.N. rewards nations such as Cuba and Zimbabwe by giving absolute dictators equivalent status to truly democratic states, the U.N. will never be much use and will never fulfill the promise of its ideals.

Calls for reform are welcome and needed, but not nearly so much as ACTUAL reform--and this effort, although well-intentioned, doesn't seem to have the necessary firepower behind it to lead to any sort of major institutional change. As reform goes, it ain't exactly Martin Luther getting out his box of tacks and a hammer.

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