Return to: Index of "Bureau of International Organizations Press Releases and Statements"
Index of "Intl. Organizations and Conferences" || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
95/02/10 ADDRESS:  GEORGE WARD ON US AND THE UNITED NATIONS
BUREAU FOR INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION AFFAIRS

 
 
 
                 THE UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED NATIONS 
                    An Address by George F. Ward, Jr.
         Assistant Secretary for International Organizations 
                  Chapman University -- February 10, 1995 
                       Orange County, California 
 
INTRODUCTION 
 
Good morning.  It is an honor to be here at Chapman University to 
participate in this conference on the future of the United Nations.  I applaud your initiative, and the cooperation among the universities, the Orange County World Affairs Council and a range of other local institutions.  Many groups will focus on the United Nations as it turns fifty this year.  This is fitting.  The agenda that governments and peoples set for the UN this year will become the basis for the world organization's program in its second half century.  So we need to give this subject our best thoughts and best efforts. 
 
For my part, in the very interesting program you have put together, I would like to survey the relationship between the United States and the United Nations.  I'll begin with a look at the past.  Then I'll take inventory of the present, with special emphasis on our efforts to work with the Secretariat and other member states to build a UN adequate to the challenges of the 21st century.  Finally, I'll try to project America's hopes for the UN a bit into the future. 
 
THE LEGACY OF THE FOUNDERS 
 
Fifty years ago this June, the UN Charter was signed just 400 miles or so north of here, in San Francisco.  The deliberations leading up to the Charter's signing took place under the shadow of war.  The allies had triumphed in Europe and were moving toward victory in the Pacific.  The temptation was to focus on destroying the aggressors and ensuring they would never again emerge as a threat.  But the participants sought reconstruction, not revenge.  They combined a condemnation of the illegal acts of aggression that prompted the war with an outline of the broad principles upon which a foundation of peace and international cooperation could be built. 
 
Only a short time passed, unfortunately, before the durability and 
flexibility of the Charter and of the United Nations began to be 
severely tested.  During the Cold War, the Soviet Union turned every 
forum of the United Nations into a potential battleground in the East-West struggle.  Often, the quest for ideological advantage washed out hopes for multilateral action.  Just as muscles atrophy if not used, neglected elements of the UN began to wither.  Too often, member states expected too little of the UN system.  And too often, the system delivered less than it should have. 
 
There were achievements even in these difficult decades.  The UN played a key role in containing the conflict in the Middle East.  North Korean aggression was thwarted.  In some areas, the UN fostered the decolonization process.  In the specialized and technical agencies, unheralded and under-recognized heroes registered major achievements. Under the leadership of the WHO, smallpox was eradicated.  UNICEF made major contributions to the welfare of the world's children.  The alphabet soup of agencies -- WMO, ITU, ICAO, etc.-- gave us accurate weather reports, world-wide telecommunications and safe air travel. 
 
But these were too often side shows.  The main arena was the contest 
between East and West.  Then, around five years ago, everything began to change.  The Soviet empire began to disintegrate and the wave of democracy that had gained momentum elsewhere engulfed Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. 
 
A CHANGING RELATIONSHIP IN A CHANGING WORLD 
 
The end of the Cold War was a seismic event.  The aftershocks are still being felt throughout the world.  On the whole, we are safer and more secure.  Russian nuclear weapons no longer target American homes. Europe is no longer divided.   
 
In South Africa, the shame of apartheid has given way to the pride of multiracial democracy.  And in the Middle East, great strides toward a comprehensive and lasting peace have been made. 
 
But while some parts of our world are coming together, others are 
falling apart.  In Rwanda and Bosnia, we have seen human savagery on a scale matched only rarely in this century.  Factional violence threatens to engulf whole regions of Africa and the former Soviet Union.  There are more refugees now than at any time in history.  Some suggest that we simply turn our backs and hope these problems go away.  Given the tough problems we face at home, it is tempting to accept that prescription. 
 
But although the world has changed, American principles have not.  
Successive American administrations have understood that U.S. 
participation in the United Nations serves to advance America's 
interests and to promote the cause of world peace.  The policies of this Administration in these respects reflect strongly held and deeply rooted beliefs among our people.  In fact, the American people's commitment to the UN remains stronger than some of our political discourse might imply.  The New York Times reported a poll last year in which "Americans...said, by a margin of 77 to 21, that the organization has contributed to world peace.  Eighty-nine percent said it was important to cooperate with other countries by working through the United Nations. Americans said, by a 59 to 31 margin, that the United States 'has a responsibility to contribute military troops to enforce peace plans in trouble spots around the world when it is asked by the United Nations.'" 
 
Obviously, we cannot respond ourselves to every flood, famine and fight, nor should we try.  Others must do their part.  In this optic, international organizations, especially the UN, become indispensable. That is why the U.S. Government is working with the UN Secretary General, his Secretariat, the UN's agencies and other member states to enable and empower the United Nations to meet today's problems and the challenges of tomorrow.  Let me give you a status report. 
 
First, we are working to reform the management of the organization.  I have already referred to the negative culture that had evolved in some parts of the UN.  Some of the organization's structures actively resist modernization and reform.  We, together with partners in the UN and among member states, have begun to address these problems. 
 
At the beginning of the Clinton Administration, the U.S. proposed 
establishment of an inspector general for the United Nations.  We made clear that the inspector general would need the independence and the resources necessary to go after waste, fraud and corruption.  This was not a special indictment of the UN.  Indeed, we designed our proposals along the lines of the legislation establishing inspectors general to evaluate and review our own government. 
 
We also realized that an inspector general would not be effective if 
seen as a mechanism forced upon the UN by the U.S.  So we sought to 
build international and institutional support.  We found a heartening degree of consensus for our proposal.  Over a period of months of give and take, we and others took the lead in designing a capable oversight organization.  On July 29 of last year, the General Assembly adopted a resolution creating the Office of Internal Oversight Services.  The head of that office, with the rank of Under Secretary General, has the independence and resources to perform effectively as an inspector general.  The guidelines promulgated for the Office of Internal Oversight Services also promise effective action. 
 
The Secretary General's efforts to implement the resolution have been outstanding. He appointed Karl Theodor Paschke, a German diplomat with first-class management credentials, to the Under Secretary General post effective November 15.  Since Mr. Paschke took office, a number of important steps have been taken to enhance the operational capacity of his office and get it off to a running start.  In December, the General Assembly unanimously agreed to provide additional resources for the inspector general function.  Mr. Paschke himself has actively sought the secondment of qualified personnel from member governments and has been in contact with two long-established UN oversight bodies -- the Joint Inspection Unit and Board of Auditors -- to coordinate work plans and avoid overlap.  And the U.S. is working hard to ensure that the promises inherent in the creation of the OIOS and the appointment of Mr. Paschke are fulfilled. 
 
Equally encouraging, the UN new Under Secretary General for 
Administration and Management, Joseph Connor, has in his initial months in office established a broad agenda for reform.  Mr. Connor is working to establish a UN personnel system that rewards merit and penalizes poor performance as well as to streamline internal administrative procedures and to eliminate duplication and unneeded staff.  He has also submitted the outline of a budget for the coming biennium that is a model of transparency.  It provides for less than zero real growth, so there is room for reprogramming resources from lesser toward greater priorities. Equally important, the budget outline was submitted on time, giving member states ample time for analysis and debate.  We are proud that Mr. Connor, an American with a distinguished background in public accounting, is making these contributions. 
 
A great deal of public attention has been focused on the UN's 
performance in the crucial area of peacekeeping.  Since the new Congress took office, this has been even more the case than before.  Let me be clear.  This Administration -- like its predecessors -- views UN peace operations, with direct U.S. participation or without, as one of the range of foreign policy instruments available to us to advance and protect U.S. interests around the world.  We do not seek the role of the world's policeman, and we are conscious that neither we nor the UN can force an end to the internal conflicts that plague the post Cold War world.  But experience indicates that well-planned UN operations are a useful and cost-effective option for addressing some conflicts and humanitarian crises.  Peacekeeping has a demonstrated capacity, under appropriate circumstances, to separate adversaries, maintain ceasefires, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief, enable refugees and 
displaced persons to return home and demobilize combatants. 
 
To do those things and to do them well, both we and the UN have made 
changes in the way we approach decision-making on proposed peacekeeping operations.  Following the President's signature in May of last year of Presidential Decision Directive 25 on peacekeeping policy, we have worked with the UN and our fellow members of the Security Council to bring a new discipline and new realism to UN peacekeeping.  Thus, the hard questions concerning the cost, risk, scope and duration of proposed missions are being asked before, not after the Council acts to approve them.  We have learned the importance of defining a mission clearly, setting realistic goals and planning not only how an operation might begin, but also how it can be brought to a close within a reasonable period of time and at acceptable cost. 
 
That is one reason that the past year marked at least a pause, and 
perhaps an end, to the recent rapid expansion of UN peacekeeping.  
Although the UN force in Rwanda was expanded to deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there in mid-year, the only wholly new UN operations approved in 1994 were a small military observer mission in Tajikistan and a mission in Chad that was completed successfully in six weeks.  The Security Council voted to bring the successful missions in Mozambique and El Salvador to a close and to terminate the operation in Somalia by the end of March 1995.  As a result, the total number of UN peacekeepers at year's end -- 63,138 -- was the lowest in almost two years. 
 
Coupled with this greater rigor in decision-making has been substantial improvement in the UN's capacity to plan for and manage its expanded peacekeeping responsibilities.  The UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations has been expanded and reorganized.  A 24-hour Situation Center was set up, with growing communications and information processing capabilities.  The U.S. has loaned American military personnel to help staff this expanded and professionalized department. We have also joined some 30 other member states in providing the Secretary General with a list of those specific military capabilities we may be prepared to make available to the UN for approved peacekeeping operations.  And with our support, the UN has acted improve coordination between its peacekeeping and humanitarian response activities. 
 
LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE 
 
Looking toward the future, how should we define our priorities with 
regard to the UN?  First, we need to move forward on the initiatives 
that we have already begun.  We must ensure that the Office of Internal Oversight Services produces results.  Building on the success in establishing this oversight function, the UN needs to improve accountability mechanisms throughout the system.  The U.S. and other members must do better in remaining current on their financial assessments to the UN.  Our initiatives to improve peacekeeping capabilities must be continued, and the Security Council must be selective in creating and renewing peacekeeping mandates. 
 
In addition, two other issues demand urgent action.  First, membership of the Security Council should be enlarged to reflect today's political and economic realities.  Second, we must achieve consensus on sharing the financial burden of peacekeeping more fairly. 
 
As the UN prepares for its second half-century, the issue of enlargement of the Security Council is becoming more pressing.  The current Council membership of 15 has remained constant since 1965.  The five Permanent Members have enjoyed their status since the organization's inception. The Council can never become a representative body in the sense that the General Assembly is.  Its membership should, however, be updated to reflect global realities more closely and to include as permanent members Germany and Japan because of their special capabilities to contribute to peace and security. 
 
For over 20 years, the United States has supported Japan's candidacy for a permanent Council seat.  The Clinton Administration extended equal support to Germany.  In addition, we are open to proposals for further modest expansion of the Council up to a total of 20 members.  Such an expansion would increase representation without jeopardizing the Council's ability to do business or affecting the rights of current permanent members. 
 
In the coming months, we will continue to work with Japan, Germany and other member states toward a formula for Council expansion that will attract the necessary two-thirds majority.  We will set no deadlines, but we believe the Council should not proceed too far into its second half-century without updating its membership. 
 
In reforming the Security Council, we must also take into account of 
demands of non-Council members for more information and a greater voice in peace operations.  We support regular briefings by the Security Council and Secretariat for troop-contributing countries and other non-Council members.  Our permanent representative, Ambassador Madeleine Albright, has pioneered initiatives in this area. 
 
The United States also believes that the current system of sharing the expenses of peacekeeping is inequitable, and we seek reduction of our share to 25 percent.  Currently, the UN assesses us almost 32 percent, and, under some proposals, that figure could increase.  The current assessment formula is extremely complex.  It allows certain newly prosperous and energy-rich states to pay negligible amounts for peacekeeping.  Our share is around two and a half times higher than the next largest contributor, Japan.  It is no wonder that Congressional support for UN peacekeeping is at risk. 
 
Two successive Administrations have proposed to no avail that our 
assessments be lowered.  Last year, Congress legislated a 25 percent 
limitation on our peacekeeping contribution beginning October 1, 1995. We are pursuing this goal vigorously. 
 
In doing so, we are reminding our partners in the UN of the large, 
unreimbursed military costs that we continue to bear in support of 
international peace and security.  In 1992-3, we spent almost $1 billion on the coalition effort, authorized by the Security Council, to save lives in Somalia.  In Haiti, we are leading a multinational force authorized by UN Security Council Resolution 940 that has restored the legitimate government and created a secure and stable environment. Before the end of March, we will hand the Haiti effort over to a UN force.  Until that happens, however, we will continue to bear all of the costs of our own forces and of subsidizing the deployments of others. 
 
There are also the indirect costs of maintaining the sort of defense 
establishment and strategic airlift capability that can respond to a UN-declared emergency on short notice.  The United States is quite 
literally the only country on Earth with this capacity.  To be sure, we maintain it for our own security.  Often, however, we employ it for purposes explicitly endorsed by the UN. 
 
We have and will continue to insist that our partners in the UN take 
account of these facts.  But those in the U.S. who would have us in 
effect cut off any other contributions to UN peacekeeping--and thus 
jeopardize the UN's ability to mobilize the resources needed to mount such operations--should remember that the UN offers us options between inaction and unilateral intervention when humanitarian disasters or armed conflicts arise.  It allows us to share with other nations the risks--and costs--of responding to crises where we deem it necessary to act.  The UN's critics appear sometimes to forget that our permanent membership on the Security Council carries with it the power to veto actions we judge ill-conceived or contrary to our interests. 
 
CONCLUSION 
 
We have reviewed this morning a complex relationship.  At its birth on our soil, Americans viewed the United Nations as the hope for a more peaceful future.  Later, it became for some Americans a symbol of much that was wrong in a troubled world.  It often reflected the gridlock produced by East-West tensions. 
 
Today, most Americans are prepared to acknowledge that we need the UN to help solve many of the daunting global problems we face.  At the same time, they are troubled by the organization's shortcomings.  This Administration is determined that the U.S. will continue to play the role of a responsible world citizen.  We are working closely with the United Nations to solve the organization's management problems, and we are helping it plan and implement peace and humanitarian operations more effectively. 
 
In our efforts, we are seeking to build a world driven by the hopes we cherish;  a world in which conflict is effectively contained;  a world in which the sway of freedom is enlarged;  and a world in which the law-abiding are progressively more secure.  These are our goals as we enter a new era.  Together, they form our vision of a future that we could bequeath with pride to our children. 
 
Thank you. 
To the top of this page