Ambassadors’ panel calls for UN reform

A panel of European and American ambassadors discussed the U.N. Security Council’s shortcomings Friday night at the Elliott School of International Affairs building.

Former U.S. Ambassador George Moose headed a panel of five ambassadors, three Europeans and two Americans, in a discussion of the future challenges facing the UN. Among such challenges, the U.N. Security Council was the biggest concern of the panel.

“We need a Security Council that represents 2005,” said American panelist and GW professor Karl Inderfurth. Inderfurth, a former ambassador, said there are countries such as Japan and India that should hold permanent membership in the council.

The five victors of World War II make up the permanent membership of the Security Council, the U.N.’s highest decision-making body. An additional 10 members sit on the council on a rotating basis.

Austrian Ambassador Eva Nowotny complained that her country does not hold permanent membership in the Security Council and compared this status to “second-class citizenship.” Nowotny added that the council should have a more active approach to global issues.

“We feel that the Security Council should respond when we are having problems,” she said.

Ambassador Jan Eliasson of Sweden said the Security Council can “work in a more productive manner.”

The panel discussion came in response to a U.N. report entitled, “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility,” which represents the findings of the institution’s High-level Panel of Threats, Challenges and Change.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote in a letter that he commissioned the panel to “assess current threats to international peace and security; to evaluate how our existing policies and institutions have done in addressing those threats; and to make recommendations on strengthening the United Nations so that it can provide collective security for all in the twenty-first century.”

The ambassadors at Friday’s discussion called for unity among U.N. member-states.

“We need to try to speak about these matters not being mad and thoughtless,” Czech Ambassador Martin Palous said. “Europe is not perfect and the United States neither, but we can cooperate and send the right signals if we are able to work together.”

Edward W. Gnehm, a GW professor and former ambassador, said that when dealing with terrorism, the U.N. “really does need to reach a consensus on how we approach our full share of responsibilities for others’ unity.”

Several members of the audience, a diverse mix of professors, students and professionals, said they were pleased with the panel discussion.

Freshman Kiki Landau, who opposes the U.S. veto power on the Security Council, said that “just because a country is smaller doesn’t mean they should have less power.”

D.C. resident Joanne Kim said she came out to fuel her newfound interest in politics.

She said, “I thought it was a excellent forum just to see what is in the mind of these people.”

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