Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The US, John Bolton And The UN

The UN suffers from the disease of consortia - it's been captured by its secretariat. John Bolton, the US ambassador, proposes the classic cures:
a) change the staff,
b) get the members back in the driving seat,
c) put it under competitive pressure.

Since the US only has 1 vote out 191, options a) and b) won't happen. But c) can, and the president will probably ask Bolton to focus on building up alternatives to the UN.

Consortia fall under the control of their staffers because of focus - the consortium is the entire world to the staffers, but only a small part of the world of its members. So the staffers work 24*7 to build their empires, and the members invest whatever time and people they can spare.

Talking to the Washington Times:

U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton said repeatedly that the Bush administration requires nothing less than "a revolution of reform" at the world body, encompassing everything from U.N. Security Council engagement to management changes to a focus on administrative skills in choosing the next secretary-general.

The ambassador said he would like to see change within the "P5," the powerful conclave of five permanent U.N. Security Council nations. Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States must work more closely to craft powerful resolutions and make sure they are enforced, he said.

Mr. Bolton also wants to see the 15-member council to address the underlying causes that have spawned 17 active peacekeeping missions, including a half-dozen that are decades old. "The biggest change that we should try and make is to have the Security Council play a larger role in solving these problems, rather than turning them over to the Secretariat and special envoys," he said.
Mr. Bolton said...that the United States pays 22 percent of the regular U.N. budget, yet has only one vote out of 191 cast. "We have one-half of 1 percent of the total [votes], meaning we pay 44 times more than our voting power," he said. "My priority is to give the United States the kind of influence it should have. Everybody pursues their national interests. The only one who gets blamed for it is the United States."

Obviously, change has to start with replacing Annan. But he's pretending the Volcker report never happened, and since the US and UK are the only nations making waves, he's and his acolytes are likely to stay. Plus, the chance of the US engaging Russia, China and France is nil.

So that leaves competition. I suspect the president is setting this up so that he can admit defeat and ask Bolton to leave the UN and work on building up competitive agencies. Long term, that may actually force UN reform, and if it doesn't, so what?