A panel of former United Nations ambassadors from the United States discussed U.N. reforms in the ICC Auditorium yesterday.

The six panelists have collectively served as United States representatives to the UN in every administration since President Dwight Eisenhower’s.

The representatives discussed the report presented by the U.N. Secretary-General’s high-level panel on threats, challenges and change in Nov. 2003. The report represents a collaborative attempt to modernize the U.N. current structure for the security challenges that the world faces today and in the years to come.

Bruce Jones, deputy director of research for the high-level panel, introduced the panel and briefly outlined the report.

“Unless we can do things to address threats, then we risk unilateral maneuvers by dominant powers,” Jones said. “We have to generate a coalition for action. This report puts threats at the heart of the security agenda.”

The report aims to increase the United Nations’ facility to respond to international crises. “We take security threats to the U.S. seriously, but also threats in other places,” Jones said.

The report also highlights the need for collective action in the face of nuclear proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, genocide and terrorism.

“No state can deal with these threats without international cooperation,” Jones said.

James Cunningham, who served as acting U.S. representative to the United Nations in 2001, said that when drafting the report, there was a “clear tension between the desire and need to be comprehensive, but also the need to identify the things that were really pressing.”

Among the most urgent issues outlined in the report is the HIV/AIDS epidemic, followed by the threat of nuclear weapons, genocide, and the proliferation of small terrorist organizations.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, ambassador to the United Nations under the Reagan administration and emeritus professor of government, emphasized the need for humanitarian intervention in Darfur. She pointed to the major failings of the United Nations to act in the conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda.

“These humanitarian disasters are events that something could be dealt with if only there was some mechanism to mobilize assistance,” she said. “The report is potentially very useful; it is our responsibility to prevent social and humanitarian tragedies.”

At the moment, however, it remains a “messy, slow, inefficient and regretful process to make amendments to deal with intrastate conflicts,” Donald McHenry said.

“The problem facing the U.N. is how to take an organization built on a charter from 1945 and adapting it to the modern period,” he said.

The current U.N. charter has no mechanism to handle intrastate conflicts such as those in Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda, the panelists said.

Relating to the internal structure of the U.N., the report proposed an enlargement of the Security Council, the implementation of a vote system where one could place a negative vote without strictly vetoing a proposal and an increase in the authority of the secretary-general over matters of personnel and management.

“The report is a platform on which these reforms can be built,” Edward Perkins, who served as U.S. representative to the United Nations from 1992-93, said, emphasizing the importance of the cooperation of the United States with the United Nations.

“It is important for the U.S. to see the U.N. as a tool of foreign policy,” he said. “In the current situation, if we did not have the U.N. we would have to invent it.”

Kirkpatrick maintained that the U.S. has been supportive of many U.N. humanitarian initiatives. “The U.S. is not only willing to support U.N. initiatives, but it is doing so. For example, the AIDS commitment is being met and will continue to be met,” Kirkpatrick said.

Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said that the United Nations must change the structure of its appointment system to reduce corruption within the U.N. bureaucracy.

“The next Secretary-General should be elected from the world at large by a nominating council of former heads of state,” he said, indicating the increasingly globally minded position of the U.N. promoted by the report.

This would rapidly create “a meritocracy at the top,” he said. This would also potentially decrease levels of corruption within the U.N. structure.

Panelist Peter Burleigh commented that currently “no serious evaluation of performance occurs, promotions are arbitrary and capricious and the secretary-general cannot make new positions.”

“Most good reports have taken five to ten years to actually appear in the organizational structure of the United Nations,” Pickering said.

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