In his first official act as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton has already fulfilled his critics’ worst fears by delivering what many say may be a fatal blow to the United Nations World Summit. The summit, scheduled to take place here in late September, will be the largest gathering of world leaders in history. It is intended to produce a plan for the UN’s work over the next decade. After several months of work, representatives of the UN’s member states adopted an “outcome document” Aug. 5 that reflects their consensus on many global issues. The document was intended to facilitate the summit’s adoption of a final declaration. Bolton, however, threw a wrench into this process by unilaterally offering his own version of the document, making it radically different from the original. Without warning, he introduced hundreds of proposed changes to the joint document on Aug. 25. The consequences of his actions could be disastrous, critics said. “Bolton’s attempt to radically redirect the UN could result in failure by the General Assembly to reach an agreement,” said Anita Pulier of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s UN office. Emblematic of the changes made was Bolton’s deletion of the phrase “respect for nature” from the statement’s enumeration of core values and principles like human dignity and equality. Bolton also systematically deleted every reference to the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals that were agreed to by the entire world in 2000 with the aim of reducing poverty, curbing child and maternal mortality, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and better protecting the environment — all by the year 2015. These goals, in the U.S. version, are replaced by vague statements about reducing the severity of such problems. Related to the Millennium Goals is the issue of rich countries providing aid to poor ones. Decades ago, most of the world’s developing nations, the U.S. included, agreed to eventually set aside 0.7 percent of their national income for aid to developing nations. Some countries have fulfilled their pledge, as the original document points out. Bolton deleted references to any specific figures along these lines.
Also dropped from the U.S. version are commitments to uphold the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as any talk of nuclear disarmament by the world’s five nuclear powers. Bolton’s document eliminates the use of the word “disarmament” and all references to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which would ban any nation from testing nuclear weapons. Bolton’s changes drew outrage from the international community — especially from developing nations, but also from many key U.S. allies, notably Britain — as well as peace, democracy and environmental advocates at home. Chris Cooper, a spokesperson for Abolition Now, told the World that Bolton’s statements reflect “a certain amount of contempt for the United Nations” and an unwillingness by the United States to honor its past commitments, particularly in the area of eliminating nuclear weapons. At the same time, Cooper said, “if it becomes increasingly clear that the U.S. is thwarting meaningful discussion through these forms that require absolute consensus, then perhaps there will be popular movement toward moving the discussion to more democratic forums like the General Assembly.” He said that such a move would, in turn, focus more attention on the Bush administration as a “lone wolf” and bring greater public pressure to bear upon it. In the wake of Bolton’s proposals, UN General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon has called together a 30-state committee to work on putting together a final consensus document. WILPF’s Pulier expressed concern about the Bush administration’s motives. “It remains to be seen if the U.S. makes any promising proposals at the forthcoming UN summit to rid the world of poverty, or whether its underlying intention is to rid the world of the UN,” she said.