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WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following statement on the House floor today in opposition to the Republican U.N. Reform Bill and in favor of the Democratic substitute:
“Mr. Speaker, the question before this House today is not whether the United Nations should be reformed, but how that institution must be reformed.
Virtually every Member of this House agrees with this proposition: If the U.N. is going to retain its credibility, it must implement meaningful reform in areas such as budgeting, oversight and accountability, peacekeeping and human rights.
We, of course, are not alone in this assessment. The Administration agrees.
The Congressionally established Task Force on the United Nations – which just issued its report on reform this week – agrees.
Even top U.N. officials agree that reform is needed, and Secretary General Kofi Annan has issued a broad reform agenda.
It is well-established that the U.N. suffers under poor management, low staff morale, and a lack of accountability and professional ethics.
Even worse, the organization has been wracked by scandal – for example, revelations of corruption in the food-for-oil program in Iraq, and evidence that U.N. peacekeepers sexually abused women and children that they were sent to protect.
However, administrative incompetence and even corruption pale in comparison to the United Nations failure to act to prevent genocide – most recently in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo, and today in Darfur, Sudan.
Let no one be mistaken: I believe the United States’ national security interests are served and strengthened by our active participation in international organizations, including the U.N.
But we must not flinch from asking: Can an organization established to promote tolerance, human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes long survive when its members cannot summon the will to stop the slaughter of innocent men, women and children?
Or, to enforce resolutions adopted overwhelmingly to achieve international stability and security?
The answer is self-evident.
Specifically, I believe the U.N. ideal is undermined when members refuse to act against an international outlaw – such as Saddam Hussein – who flagrantly flouts his obligations under countless Security Council resolutions.
As I have stated before, the member-states of the United Nations must respond to such defiance with more than mere words. They must respond with action.
Now, I appreciate the motivation of Chairman Hyde’s bill.
However, I disagree with its method – an enforcement mechanism that would mandate a 50 percent cut in the United States’ contribution to the U.N. should the legislation’s 39 proposed reforms not be implemented.
As Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, told the Washington Post: “This [approach] would undermine American credibility at the United Nations, it would undermine our effectiveness.”
In contrast, the Democratic substitute is far superior. It maintains the link between achieving U.N. reforms and withholding a portion of the United States’ assessed dues. However, it gives the Secretary discretion to make such cuts, rather than mandating them.
As an aside, let me say that I believe as long as we are a member of the U.N., we have an obligation to pay our fair share.
Importantly, as well, the substitute provides the secretary with a waiver to the requirement to veto all new peacekeeping missions or to expand existing missions.
The republican bill provides no waiver. In effect, it would block the United States from supporting any new peacekeeping mission – including involvement in a crisis like the one in Darfur – until peacekeeping reforms are completed.
Finally, this substitute directs the secretary of state to withhold 10 percent of our contribution to the U.N.’s peacekeeping budget when the U.N. fails to suspend the membership and act against a member which is engaged in or acquiescing in genocide.
Again, none of us questions the necessity of U.N. reform. Reform is imperative.
The underlying bill, however, is an unproductive and harmful response to real problems. The Democratic substitute gives us our best opportunity to strengthen and revitalize the U.N. I urge my colleagues to support it.”