Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date October 2002
Task Force Report No. 39
U.S. influence at the United Nations is low but can be improved, concludes this report of a bipartisan Task Force led by two highly regarded foreign policy experts, Republican Representative David Dreier and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton. It calls for a new strategy—building a democratic coalition of UN members—to better advance American interests and values with three key goals in mind: supporting democracy and democratic principles throughout the world; advancing human rights; and fighting terrorism.
In its report, the independent Task Force finds the United States is often outmaneuvered at the United Nations by a small but skillful group of repressive regimes. The Task Force commends a good deal of the UN’s essential work on refugee, health, and poverty issues but finds that a number of UN bodies, such as the General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission, have produced decidedly mixed or even negative results.
To be more effective, the United States should engage in more outreach at the United Nations to create a coalition of like-minded democratic states (which now make up more than 60 percent of the UN membership) and establish multiparty democracy as a basic human right. The task force calls for the reform of the UN Human Rights Commission to ensure it focuses on the world's most egregious violations, many of which now regularly escape investigation and censure. Rather than debating definitions of terrorism, the report urges the United States to focus on acts that are already accepted in twelve different treaties as terrorist activities. The report recommends that the United States should not tolerate any definition that excludes or exculpates such obvious terrorist acts as suicide bombings that target civilians.