UN summit could well be a fiasco

A continued sharp division of opinion among the 191 member states — on issues such as terrorism, war crimes, development aid, climate change and human rights — is threatening to make a mockery of the upcoming UN summit of world leaders in New York scheduled from September 14-16. Several non-governmental organisations have expressed concern about the ongoing deadlock over a proposed landmark plan of action, called the “outcome document”, which was to spell out concrete commitments on alleviating poverty, eradicating extreme hunger, ensuring universal primary education, and endorsing a complete restructuring of the United Nations.

“Negotiations are teetering on the brink of failure because governments are not reaching agreement on key poverty reduction measures, arms controls and their ‘responsibility to protect’ civilians,” Caroline Green of Oxfam International, said. The summit was expected to adopt the outcome document, described as a global plan of action for the betterment of the international community in the 21st century. But progress has been painfully slow on the document. In a joint statement this week, three international NGOs, namely Human Rights Watch, Oxfam International and Amnesty International, called on a small number of “spoiler” countries to stop holding the summit hostage over crucial measures on human rights, security, genocide and poverty reductions.

The leading “spoilers” vary on different issues, the statement said, but together their activities are seriously weakening draft agreements on the creation of a Human Rights Council, on poverty reduction and on preventing genocide — “despite support from the majority of governments for these measures.” There were reports that US Ambassador John Bolton had backed down under pressure on three of his controversial demands for changes in the draft final report. At closed door meetings, Bolton is said to have withdrawn revisions that would have excised all 35 references in the document to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Charlotte Bunch of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership said “we need to see a lot more than these ‘concessions’ from the United States if they are serious about wanting to ensure the success of the summit”. Asked if the significance of the summit would be undermined if member states are forced to agree on a watered down document, Green of Oxfam International said: “The summit must include vital measures to stop future genocides — by governments agreeing on their responsibility to protect all people facing mass killing.” If this is not agreed world leaders at the summit will have signaled they do not have the political will to stop another Rwandan genocide. “Similarly, if the summit outcome doesn’t include the need to control small arms, which are the real weapons of destruction, and does not include the need for all developed nations to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income in overseas aid, this historic chance for reform will result in failure,” Green warned. The US must work harder to meet other countries half way, and similarly the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement must agree on the responsibility to protect civilians. — IPS