Diplomats at the United Nations finally reached agreement last night on a watered-down document to reform the organisation and tackle poverty just hours before leaders arrived for the start of a world summit.
This final draft, to be presented to the leaders for publication on Friday, fell far short of ambitious proposals for an overhaul of the UN which was set out earlier this year by Kofi Annan, the secretary general.
Campaigners and diplomats who favoured a bold approach put much of the blame for the failure on John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, who introduced hundreds of late changes to the original document.
Oxfam described the development section of the final draft as a "recycling of old pledges". Save the Children said the chance of a historic breakthrough on poverty "had all but slipped through the fingers of world leaders".
In case you haven't been keeping up, John Bolton is the new temporary ambassador to the U.N., appointed in a recess appointment by President W because the Senate Republicans couldn't stop a Democratic filibuster on his nomination.
The "watered-down document" mentioned in the Guardian article is a pretty comprehensive draft of U.N. goals in the 21st century. It talks about things like poverty, nuclear proliferation, pollution, and AIDS. Bolton, who's been on the job for a couple of months now, has been working hard to declaw it for some time. In August, he wrote a lengthy list of revisions he wanted:
"In short, the [list] does the following:
~ knocks out entirely the Millennium Development Goals
~ continues to undermine collective efforts against climate change
~ knocks out targets and timetables for all goals and objectives
~ guts any efforts toward further disarmament objectives and focuses exclusively on non-proliferation, while both had always been important objectives in the past
~ strikes the section that states that countries will use force only as last resort
~ and oddly, strikes out the need to establish a legal definition of terrorism, which the Bush administration has previously stated is a requirement before proceeding towards a U.N. Convention on Terorrism." (from TPM)
Now, it should be obvious enough that Bolton introduced such a lengthy collection of revisions for one purpose, and one purpose only: to neuter the reform process by bogging down the assembly in negotiations that can't possibly be resolved on time, thus forcing the chairman to throw out all the contentious issues (which, coincidentally, are pretty much all the issues actual substantive goals).
Similarly, I don't think I need to say much more regarding whether hamstringing an attempt by the world community to set substantive goals toward the ending of things like hunger and AIDS and nuclear proliferation is a good idea or not. Or maybe I'm just a hopeless idealist.
Yet another opportunity for W to "take responsibility."