June 15, 2005

TO:
  Members of the U.S. Congress
RE:
  UN Reform Act of 2005, H.R. 2745

The undersigned organizations wish to express our opposition to the provisions of H.R. 2745, the United Nations Reform Act of 2005, introduced by Representative Henry Hyde on June 7th and narrowly passed by the House International Relations Committee on June 8th. We understand that the bill will be debated by the House of Representatives later this week.

While many of the reforms contained in the legislation may appear to make sense, the method by which they would be imposed on the United Nations—including mandatory unilateral withholding of U.S. assessed contributions—will ultimately make them impossible to achieve. The unrealistic nature of the peacekeeping provisions, for example, could essentially shut down UN peace operations. Passage of the Hyde bill risks discouraging the ongoing UN reform process and, in turn, harming U.S. national interests. Ultimately, the United Nations Reform Act is unlikely to result in reform; rather, it could lead to stalemate on reform of the United Nations.

We do not take issue with the need for UN reform. The tasks assigned to the UN by its member states since the end of the Cold War have grown and evolved in ways that the UN’s founders could not have envisioned. Reform is an urgent priority. Indeed, UN member states are engaged in discussions that could lead to a transformation of the world body on the basis of proposals such as those advanced in Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s landmark report, “In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All.” Both the upcoming Group of Eight Summit and the mid-September summit of heads of state at UN headquarters will provide important forums where the United States can work with others to press for fundamental change in the way the UN works.

This illustrates the importance of substitute legislation offered by Representative Tom Lantos, which would ensure that the United States has the ability to play a leading role in support of UN reform. The substitute measure represents a more effective way of realizing the kinds of UN reform that we all agree are necessary. Rather than automatically constraining the Bush administration in negotiating with other countries, the legislation offered by Representative Lantos will ensure that that the U.S. has the flexibility and the tools with which to ensure that effective UN reform takes place.

During the past year, the United States has worked through the United Nations to resolve some of the world’s most pressing problems. The world organization and related agencies have played indispensable roles in ensuring free and fair elections in Iraq and Afghanistan; conducting peacekeeping in Africa and in our own region (Haiti, for example); coordinating the tsunami relief effort in south Asia; addressing the grave situation in Darfur; working to promote a cleaner environment throughout the world; and reducing the threats posed by arms proliferation. The Lantos proposal, we believe, will make it possible for the United Nations to continue to assist the efforts of the African Union in Darfur; contain the violence in Haiti; promote a cleaner environment; and assist victims of natural and manmade disasters, among other missions. The UN Reform Act sponsored by Rep. Hyde places in jeopardy the ability of the United States to work collectively toward solving global threats and challenges, and we urge you to vote against it.

Sincerely,

20/20
Air Serv International
The American Humanist Association
American Progress Action Fund
Amnesty International USA
Arms Control Association
Better World Campaign
CARE
Catholics for Free Choice
Center for Human Rights
Centro de Investigación para la Paz (CIP-FUHEM)
Citizens for Global Solutions
Council for a Livable World
Democracy Coalition Project
General Federation of Women’s Clubs
International Rescue Committee
International Women's Health Coalition
International Women's Rights Action Watch
League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Mercy Corps
Open Society Policy Center
Oxfam America
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Population Action International
Refugees International
United Nations Association of the USA
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
World Policy Institute at the New School University