… the UN must undergo the most sweeping overhaul of its 60-year history. World leaders must recapture the spirit of San Francisco and forge a new compact to advance the cause of larger freedom. Kofi Annan (2005)
The subject of the reform of the United Nations, the embattled target of neoconservative wrath that has been given a new intensity by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s criticism of the Iraq war, is bound to be a site of struggle in the current period. On the one side are these efforts, led by the Americans and given a sharp edge by the designation of John Bolton, a leading critic of the UN, as the US representative, to marginalise the United Nations generally, but especially in relation to peace and security and the work of the specialised agencies dealing with poverty, health, and children. On the other side are the great majority of UN members, led by moderate governments, receptive to the outlook of Kofi Annan, who seek to bring the UN into the twenty-first century in a manner that is consistent with humanitarian values, development and democratization priorities, and security concerns, exhibiting sensitivity to the problems and interests of weak and strong members alike. Representatives of global civil society have much at stake in this debate over the future of the United Nations. Although it has been assumed that civil society actors have been generally perceived as supporters of a strong UN, and could be expected to stand shoulder to shoulder with Annan and his governmental allies, it is also true that influential NGOs in the United States, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and, less visibly, Move America Forward, have long had the UN in their sights, and regard the Bush presidency and the UN oil-for-food scandal as an opportune moment to promote vigorously their anti-UN agenda.