Ambassador Bolton Fails First Test at UN World Summit
The United States can be counted among the handful of "spoiler states" that undermined the ambitious agenda of the UN World Summit held in New York September 14-16, 2005 .

September 18, 2005

The United States can be counted among the handful of “spoiler states” that undermined the ambitious agenda of the UN World Summit held in New York September 14-16, 2005 . Over 150 heads of state attended this historic gathering that offered a unique opportunity for world leaders to commit to strengthen and update the United Nations in its 60th year. Unfortunately, the U.S. delegation, headed by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, engaged in bullish negotiating tactics that derailed progress.

OSPC has played an active role in Washington-based efforts to monitor Ambassador Bolton and the U.S. delegation’s engagement in World Summit negotiations. Ambassador Bolton received a recess appointment by President Bush August 1, after a bi-partisan group of Senators refused to confirm him in light of his outspoken opposition to the United Nations and reputation for derailing multilateral negotiations.

Ambassador Bolton confirmed Senate concerns when he suggested over 750 edits to the draft “Outcomes Document,” a text intended to outline Member States’ commitments to reform the United Nations and advance the institution’s ability to promote development, human rights, democracy, peace and security. These changes were disclosed by Ambassador Bolton in Mid-August just weeks after his recess appointment and a mere month before the Summit .

UN Member States had participated in months-long negotiations and reportedly reached consensus on much of the Document’s content by late July, isolating a handful of states attempting to undermine consensus-building. Ambassador Bolton’s untimely edits indicated the United States was backing away from numerous international commitments and angered Member States. More damaging, the line-by-line edits opened Pandora’s Box by allowing states such as Algeria , Cuba , Egypt , India , Iran , Pakistan and Venezuela to assert their prerogatives. The clumsy U.S. diplomacy incited a flurry of failed last-minute negotiations and resulted in glaring omissions in the final “Outcomes Document.”

The most notable change was the deletion of a nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation section. According to the American Prospect’s Mark Goldberg and Global Security Newswire’s Jim Wurst, Ambassador Bolton’s efforts to delete references to disarmament opened the door for delegates from India , Israel and Pakistan to remove references to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty leading to the entire section’s exclusion from the final document.

Similarly, the United States lost ground on its preferred UN management reforms, including efforts to replace the Human Rights Commission with a Human Rights Council. Summit participants did agree to establish this Council, but the United States negotiations undermined consensus on criteria. Decisions about the Council’s size, membership, mandate and other details were deferred to the General Assembly. Further, the Outcomes Document failed to establish when the existing Human Rights Commission — whose current mandate and membership criteria allows for human rights abusers such as Sudan to sit and even chair the body – would be abolished.

Ambassador Bolton’s 750 edits also intended to remove mention of the Millennium Development Goals and States’ commitments to 0.7% of overseas development aid. This was a particularly disturbing position as this was the first opportunity for Member States to review their progress on the Millennium Declaration and eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Bowing to civil society and international pressure, the United States did eventually yield on their position and allow affirmations of the MDG’s. Member States also pledged collectively an additional $50 billion by 2010 to fight poverty. Nevertheless, development advocates feel the pledges fall far-short of what is needed to realize the MDG’s by 2015.

Despite last-minute wrangling and a very ambitious agenda, World Summit participants did make progress on a number of issues including welcoming the establishment of a Democracy Fund, establishing a Peacebuilding Commission and standing UN police force, agreement to strengthen human rights machinery and agreement to strengthen the UN’s internal oversight ability. The most significant achievement was the participant’s agreement that each nation has a responsibility to protect their citizens by preventing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Moreover, the international community agreed they are “prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council,” if states fail in their responsibility to protect.

OSPC will continue to monitor commitments made in the Outcomes Document and promote the advancement of deferred reform decisions.

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