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October 10, 2002—U.S. influence at the UN is low but can be improved, concludes a bipartisan task force led by two highly regarded foreign policy voices, Republican Congressman David Dreier and former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton. They call 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 task force, co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and Freedom House, finds the United States is often outmaneuvered at the UN by a small but skillful group of repressive regimes. The task force included former senior officials from Democratic and Republican administrations, leading scholars, and non-governmental leaders, and has been endorsed by Madeleine K. Albright, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, and Thomas R. Pickering. The group commends a good deal of the UN’s essential work on refugee, health, and poverty issues, but finds that a number of UN bodies, like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission, have produced decidedly mixed to negative results.
To be more effective, the U.S. should engage the UN in more outreach to create a coalition of like-minded democratic states, now more than 60 percent of the UN, and establish multi-party 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 and massive rights violations, many of which now regularly escape investigation and censure.
Rather than debating about definitions of terrorism, the report urges the U.S. to focus on acts that are already accepted in 12 different treaties as terrorist activities. The report recommends that the U.S. should not tolerate any definition that excludes or exculpates such obvious terrorist acts as suicide bombings that target civilians.
The task force chairmen applaud President Bush for his historic speech seeking UN backing to enforce Iraqi disarmament, and his recent decision to rejoin UNESCO after a long absence. They conclude, however, that for many years the United States hasn’t been as effective as it can or should be at the UN. This includes the U.S.’s frequent resort to withholding or threatening to withhold dues; long-term gaps in the confirmation of a permanent U.S. representative to the UN, and weak public diplomacy efforts to explain U.S. reluctance to support some international agreements.
David Dreier (R-CA) is Chairman of the House Rules Committee. Lee Hamilton is Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The task force is co-directed by Lee Feinstein, a former senior State Department official and Director for Strategic Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Adrian Karatnycky, the President of Freedom House and editor of Freedom in the World, the organization’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties.
The Council on Foreign Relations is a nonpartisan foreign policy organization dedicated to increasing America’s understanding of the world and contributing ideas to U.S. foreign policy. Freedom House is a nonpartisan organization that monitors democracy and human rights and works to promote democratic change around the world.
Click here for the full text and an Executive Summary
Enhancing U.S. Leadership at the UN
It is also available at
Panel Says Mixed Signals Have Eroded U.S. Status in the U.N.
New York Times, by Julia Preston
Enhancing U.S. Leadership at the United Nations
Report of an Independent Task Force
Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and Freedom House
TASK FORCE MEMBERS
RICHARD V. ALLEN, Senior Counselor, Apco Worldwide; National Security Advisor to President Reagan.
J. BRIAN ATWOOD, Dean, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; administrator of USAID in the Clinton Administration.
THOMAS CAROTHERS, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
FELICE D. GAER, Director, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.
SCOTT HORTON, Partner, Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.
MAX M. KAMPELMAN, Chairman Emeritus, Freedom House, former Ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
PENN KEMBLE, Senior Scholar, Freedom House; former head of the U.S. Information Agency.
JEFFREY LAURENTI, Executive Director of Policy Studies, United Nations Association of the USA.
JOHN NORTON MOORE, Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law.
JOSHUA MURAVCHIK, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute.
JEREMY RABKIN, Professor, Department of Government, Cornell University.
RICHARD SCHIFTER, Chair, International Affairs Commission of the American Jewish Committee; former U.S. Deputy Representative in the UN Security Council.
SARAH SEWALL, Program Director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance.
NINA SHEA, Director, Center for Religious Freedom, Freedom House.
NANCY E. SODERBERG, Vice President for Multilateral Affairs, International Crisis Group; former Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
JOANNA WESCHLER, Human Rights Watch Representative at the United Nations; former activist in Poland’s “Solidarity” movement.
KENNETH WOLLACK, President, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
OBSERVERS OF THE TASK FORCE
JENNIFER WINDSOR, Executive Director, Freedom House.
MARK P. LAGON, Department of State.
MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State, 1997-2001; U.S. Permanent Representative to
the UN, 1993-1997.
JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN during the Reagan administration.
THOMAS R. PICKERING, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, 1997-2001; U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, 1989-1992.