American ambassador seeks to scupper UN's global strategy with 750 amendments after just three weeks in the job
By David Usborne in New York
Published: 26 August 2005, The Independent (UK)

America's controversial new ambassador to the United Nations is seeking to shred an agreement on strengthening the world body and fighting poverty intended to be the highlight of a 60th anniversary summit next month. In the extraordinary intervention, John Bolton has sought to roll back proposed UN commitments on aid to developing countries, combating global warming and nuclear disarmament.

Mr Bolton has demanded no fewer than 750 amendments to the blueprint restating the ideals of the international body, which was originally drafted by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

The amendments are spelt out in a 32-page US version, first reported by the Washington Post and acquired yesterday by The Independent. The document is littered with deletions and exclusions. Most strikingly, the changes eliminate all specific reference to the so-called Millennium Development Goals, accepted by all countries at the last major UN summit in 2000, including the United States.

The Americans are also seeking virtually to remove all references to the Kyoto treaty and the battle against global warming. They are striking out mention of the disputed International Criminal Court and drawing a red line through any suggestion that the nuclear powers should dismantle their arsenals. Instead, the US is seeking to add emphasis to passages on fighting terrorism and spreading democracy.

Very quickly, Mr Bolton has given the answer to anyone still wondering whether his long and difficult journey to New York - President George Bush confirmed him to the post after the US Senate was unable to - would render him coy or cautious. Far from that, he seems intent on taking the UN by the collar and plainly saying to its face what America expects - and does not expect - from it.

To the dismay of many other delegations, the US has even scored out pledges that would have asked nations to "achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product for official development assistance by no later than 2015". All references to the date or the percentage level are gone in the Bolton version.

Passages that look forward to a larger role for the General Assembly are gone. Rejected also is a promise to create a standing military capacity for UN peacekeeping.

This show of contempt from Washington and its new envoy comes at a time when Mr Annan has been severely weakened by allegations of widespread corruption, fraud and nepotism. The White House is aware, for example, that Mr Annan himself could be further undermined when investigators into corruption in the oil-for-food programme in Iraq issue their final report, probably just days before the summit itself, due to be held from 14 to 16 September.

The move by MrBolton has thrown preparations for the summit into turmoil, prompting some to question whether there will be anything for the leaders to put their pens to in New York. "We can't be entirely sure there will be an agreement," one senior United Nations aide admitted last night. Failure to reach an agreement could embarrass Tony Blair, who is believed to have given broad backing to Mr Annan's original draft.

"It is not great news," said one Western diplomat of the American paper, which had been distributed only to a select group of UN ambassadors by yesterday. "What they are proposing is quite radical. If we start negotiating now the way the Americans want, it is going to make for a very difficult process."

Some UN insiders concede that at 29 pages the proposed text was probably far too long for many of the world's presidents and prime ministers to accept. They all also see that in its present form it would ask the US to promise to uphold treaties and conventions it has already rejected, including the Kyoto pact.

The president of the General Assembly, Jean Ping of Gambia, must now try to save the summit from disaster. He will bring together a core group of 20 to 30 countries in the days ahead, with Britain and the US included, to see what, if anything, can be found to overcome so many American objections. There is no doubt in the corridors of New York that something must be stitched together before the summit, even if it ends up being very short.

"The purpose of the summit," said Shashi Tharoor, a senior aide to Mr Annan, "is to rekindle the idealism with which the UN was created 60 years ago and to use the birthday to renew the organisation for the purposes of the 21st century. The rest is process and details."

The problem is that the summit is less than three weeks away. "Time is short," Mr Bolton warned in a letter to other UN envoys earlier this week. "In order to maximise our chances of success, I suggest we begin the negotiations immediately."
Guide to the differences in approach

Millennium goals

What the UN wants

Specific references to the UN Millennium Development Goals which set targets to be achieved by 2015 on issues such as poverty, education, disease, trade and aid

What the US wants

References to the Millennium Development Goals systematically removed and replaced by vague references to the reduction of poverty, and a promise to reinforce the trend

The likely outcome

Unlikely to reach agreement. Developing countries will fight hard to keep references to Millennium Development Goals which were agreed by all UN members in 2000

Foreign aid

What the UN wants

To re-state development goals calling for wealthy countries, including the US, to contribute 0.7 per cent of their gross national product to aid

What the US wants

Deletion of all references to 0.7 per cent figure. Wants to link further increases to good housekeeping - and further liberalisation of markets

The likely outcome

Hard to see how there can be a compromise

Climate change

What the UN wants

Concerted global action to address climate change. Further negotiations to look beyond 2012 by broadening Kyoto agreement to include greater participation by developing and developed nations

What the US wants

Stresses energy efficiency and development of new technologies, and rejects global action plan. Rejects assertion that climate change is a long-term challenge that could potentially affect every part of the world

The likely outcome

Could be compromise, as US is prepared to recommit to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Nuclear disarmament

What the UN wants

An appeal to the five nuclear powers - Britain, US, France, China and Russia - to take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament

What the US wants

To shift focus to halting the spread of the world's deadliest weapons. Will not specifically recommit to working towards nuclear disarmament, although will recommit to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The likely outcome

Difficult to envisage agreement after negotiations on a five-year review of the NPT broke up in May without a result

International Criminal Court

What the UN wants

Commitment to end impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law, including genocide, by co-operating with the International Criminal Court

What the US wants

No reference to International Criminal Court, whose statutes the Bush administration controversially withdrew from in 2002

The likely outcome

No agreement. America is out in the cold on this one, although the commitment of a number of other states to the court has been wavering under US pressure


What the UN wants

Help for developing countries to join the World Trade Organisation

What the US wants

Insistence that countries seeking to join the WTO must be willing and able to undertake WTO commitments. Baulks at "facilitating" entry of developing countries

The likely outcome
Big fight, with developing countries clamouring for access to markets. Probably no agreement

© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.