Thursday, August 25, 2005

[Global Poverty] US works to derail world pact on poverty

August 26, 2005
The Washington Post

New York:

Less than a month before world leaders arrive in New York for a summit on poverty and United Nations reform, the Bush Administration has thrown the proceedings into turmoil with a call for drastic renegotiation of a draft agreement to be signed by presidents and prime ministers attending the event.

The US has only recently introduced more than 750 amendments that would eliminate new pledges of foreign aid to impoverished nations, scrap provisions that call for action to halt climate change and urge nuclear powers to make greater progress in dismantling their nuclear arms. At the same time, the Administration is urging UN members to strengthen language in the 29-page document that calls for tougher action to combat terrorism, promote human rights and democracy and halt the spread of the world's deadliest weapons.

The summit, an unusual meeting at the UN of heads of state from around the globe, was called by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, to reinvigorate efforts to fight poverty and take stronger steps in the battles against terrorism and genocide. The leaders of 175 nations are expected to attend and sign the agreement, which has been under negotiation for six months.

But Mr Annan's effort to press for changes has been hampered by investigations into fraud in the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq and revelations of sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers around the world.The proposed US amendments, submitted by the UN ambassador, John Bolton, have been presented this week to select envoys.

The US proposals face strong resistance from poorer countries, which want the UN to focus on alleviating poverty, criticising US and Israeli policies in the Middle East and scaling back UN intervention in small countries that abuse human rights.

"We are looking at very, very difficult negotiations in the days ahead," said Pakistan's UN envoy, Munir Akram. The US has "strong positions and many of us do have very strongly held positions. That's the nature of the game. My only regret is we didn't get into the negotiations early enough."