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United Nations

5.39 p.m.

Lord Judd rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in the reform of the United Nations system.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have to declare an interest in view of my voluntary and professional work, past and present, with organisations such as Oxfam, Saferworld and International Alert.

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It has become almost a truism to say that we live in a highly interdependent world, but we do. It is difficult to think of a major issue confronting us which can be dealt with satisfactorily within a national context alone. Regional arrangements, the EU and NATO, have a vital part to play but migration, terrorism, crime, drugs and security, including nuclear security, provide examples of challenges that can be effectively answered only on a global scale. The question is how to deal with them.

Some favour a top down G8-based management approach, but that implies coercion for the great majority of humanity which it would be impossible to reconcile with our commitment to human rights, fairness and stakeholding. Anyway, it would be impossible to apply it successfully across the world as a whole whatever the sanctions or military resources engaged. It is therefore essential to seek a co-operative approach which is built upon the good will and positive participation of a growing cross-section of global society. To those who would settle in essence for a unipolar pax Americana, with the UN as sub-contractor, the question must be put: what lesson is this giving to China, for example? What happens if China aspires to be the superpower? The US, like the rest of us, has a deep interest in establishing the principle of co-operative global government before it is too late.

The UN system is there. It is the most comprehensive global facility that we have. The challenge is to re-invigorate it, to render it task-oriented, rather than introspectively, bureaucratically and institutionally oriented, and to gear it to deliver effectively.

Dr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General, has made a brave start. He has established a sense of direction. He has been criticised for having succumbed too much to committee emasculation of what he would really like to do or of settling for co-ordination rather than radical restructuring. There may be some truth in this, but he has stuck his neck out and made a start. What is necessary now is to build on what he has initiated.

Let us consider some--there are many--of his priorities: a new leadership and management structure, with a new post of Deputy Secretary-General; the establishment of a senior management group; the decentralisation of decision-making to the country level and consolidation of the United Nations presence under one flag, with, where possible, all the different elements operating from the same premises; the establishment of a strategic planning unit; assuring financial solvency through the establishment of a revolving credit fund; the elimination of at least 1,000 staff posts and the reduction of administrative costs by one third; the grouping of United Nations funds and programmes with development operations into a United Nations development group; the introduction of a development dividend to shift resources from administration and bureaucracy to development activities; improving the organisation's ability to deploy peacekeeping and other field operations more rapidly; strengthening the United Nations' capacity for post-conflict peace building with the designation of the Department of Political Affairs as a focal point for this purpose; bolstering international efforts to combat crime, drugs and terrorism by

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consolidating UN programmes and activities in Vienna under an office for drug control and crime prevention; extending human rights activities through reorganisation and restructuring of the human rights secretariat and integration of human rights into all principal UN activities and programmes; enhancing response to humanitarian needs through the setting up of a new emergency relief co-ordination office to replace the Department of Humanitarian Affairs and focusing its capacities to deal more effectively with complex emergencies.

Because of the UK's vital role in taking all this forward, it is perhaps appropriate to ask my noble friend the Minister--whom it is always good to see at the Dispatch Box--to indicate in her reply the Government's approach to key issues which are central to success. Do the Government accept that there is a need to redefine the concept of security to bring strategic, economic, social and environmental policy more closely together to ensure that the work of the UN, the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO becomes more effectively harmonised? Is this not essential if we are to build consistently for peace and security? Do the Secretary-General's proposals go far enough in this respect? For example, what do they envisage for the future management of the global commons--a potential source of future conflict if we do not get it right? At the same time, how are the Government bringing together their own work on the foreign policy-led defence review and the White Paper on international development to reinforce the global process?

We all know that the Economic and Social Council has been a dismal failure, but is the opportunity being seized to put in place convincing arrangements to meet the century ahead? Where do the Government stand on the reform of the Security Council? What do they favour to make it credible and effective? It is patently unacceptable to leave it as it is, fashioned and formed in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War more than 50 years ago. And where do the Government stand on the Secretary-General's proposals for the revitalisation of the General Assembly?

The Secretary-General has emphasised the importance of improving the UN's ability to deploy peacekeeping and other field operations more rapidly. What do HMG believe should be done in this respect? What more will they be willing to make available in the form of specially trained standby forces? Here, our admiration for what the British services have already contributed must be underlined. They have set outstanding standards in which we should all take great pride. But what more needs to be done? Do we envisage there ever being a UN volunteer and directly recruited standing force. Meanwhile, what has been learned from the sad saga of Bosnia? Could--should--more have been done to keep the NATO operation accountable to the UN Security Council?

As to disarmament, what do the Government see as the future contribution of the UN? As to conventional weapons, is the arms register enough? Now that the Government favour a European code of conduct for the arms trade and Congress has voted in favour of a US code of conduct, what of a UN global code as advocated

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by former president and nobel laureate, Dr. Oscar Arias? At the same time, is there a case for a demilitarisation fund and building on recent UN experiences, for example, in Mali, by co-ordinating development, the gathering in and destruction of small arms and the strengthening of controls over the arms trade?

As to pre-emptive diplomacy and conflict resolution, how much more authority are the Government prepared to advocate for the Secretary-General, enabling him to act, perhaps informally on his own initiative, to defuse potential crises within states and between them before they escalate at appalling economic and human cost? How can the UN be enabled to meet the needs of internally displaced people as well as refugees? Should the United Nations High Commission for Refugees be given powers in this respect?

The enhancement of the rule of law is surely indispensable for the future survival of humanity. Too often, by contrast, it is the law of force which prevails. What do the Government believe should be done to strengthen the rule of law? Where do the Government stand on the principle of compulsory jurisdiction by the world court? What do they propose to ensure essential consistency in the operation of any international criminal court?

If the humanitarian reform proposals by the Secretary-General are to work, surely it will be essential to strengthen the role of the new UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator by giving him power to arbitrate bindingly when there are disagreements between UN agencies. The co-ordinator should also have direct access to the Security Council and the power to appoint humanitarian co-ordinators in the field and set priorities for UN consolidated appeals.

Finally, where do the Government stand on adequate funding of the UN system? Are the methods put forward by the Secretary-General right? If not, what are the alternatives? What will the Government do to create the highest calibre UN international civil service, with appointment and promotion based primarily on merit? For example, if there is to be a deputy secretary general, will there be an agreed job description and criteria by which the selection is made?

The Secretary-General's proposals will be debated in New York before Parliament reassembles in October. In view of our special standing as one of only five permanent members of the Security Council, I hope that the Government will be able to ensure that far more time is made available for Parliament to scrutinise and contribute to these developments than has been the case for the past 18 years. I believe that that will be altogether in keeping with their welcome commitment to the UN's future strength.

5.50 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for promoting the debate. I hope that the new Secretary General, Kofi Annan, will bring to the UN the same combination of practical wisdom, integrity and energy which distinguished his fellow Ghanaian, Robert Gardiner, who is the only man who has ever made any sense of

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the UN operations in the Congo. But what is still wrong is the perception of the UN in the countries where its work is most needed. It needs to be, and is being, drastically cut and rationalised. It should not be seen, as it often is, as a fat cat. It has played a valuable part in stabilising situations, as in Cyprus, but it is only as good as its parts.

There is a radical problem in the UN, which is probably politically insoluble. It may be the price we have to pay for a world organisation where all can meet, but it is disturbing. The problem is--and it is perceived with grief and anger by those who most need humanitarian aid--that the doctrine of territorial integrity too often effectively prevents the UN's humanitarian mandate from being carried out.

In the Sudan, for instance, governments will work only through the UN's Operational Lifeline Sudan to take aid to the deeply oppressed people of the south. However, the OLS has to accept and respect the Khartoum Government's designation of key airstrips as no-go areas, so no aid can be got through to those who need it.

The UN Working Group on Slavery has described the regime's revival of chattel slavery in Sudan as a crime against humanity. But the UN is powerless even to mount a UNICEF-sponsored child slave tracing programme there. What is the point of the Security Council passing resolutions on sanctions against the Sudan if it cannot implement the most basic humanitarian aid there? Equally, in Nagorno-Karabakh, recognition of the sovereign integrity of Azerbaijan means that, although the UN gives extensive humanitarian aid to the Azeri refugees, it can do nothing for the at least equally deserving and suffering Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh without Azeri permission, which is usually not forthcoming.

No UN agency has set foot there, and, as in the Sudan, where the UN does not go, the ICRC does not go either. Thus in Azerbaijan and the Sudan, and, incidentally in Burma--and in the past in Cambodia--nothing can be done. Yet the EU was able to recognise the break up of Yugoslavia, and recognised, as did the UN, Croatia and Slovenia as independent states. So the rules can be varied. Of course the principle of territorial integrity is vital if we are to have a stable world, but, as a result, a few countries which are members of the UN and claim all the advantages attaching to that, are free to enslave, persecute and oppress ethnic or religious groups within their borders (the Kurds are another example) while the UN is powerless to bring in aid to the sick, the wounded, and the children. Where the UN does not go, nor will the ICRC or governments.

The trouble is the Security Council and the veto, and that is indisputable. But should we consider giving more of our humanitarian aid bilaterally through the NGOs which are free, as the UN organisations at present are not, to get the aid through to the persecuted and the needy? Perhaps with the advent of Mary Robinson at the UNHCR that issue may be forced onto the table and examined in the UN.

By all means let us celebrate the fact that the UN remains a place where all can meet, although there are now rather too many other organisations which have

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proliferated--the OSCE, the EU, and even NATO in its political mode--and which are replicating the same pattern of talk with only a very low level of useful action. Let us make it a more efficient business, as some UN organisations and operations already are. We must pay a tribute to many of them. Could we perhaps consider whether we could not drive through a new principle--an obligation on UN members not to obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid (medicines, food, special help for children and the old at the very least) to groups within those countries which need their help?

I do not suggest political intervention by the UN. That is of course out of the question. The UN is, in any case, a totally inept organisation as a decision-making body. We should face the fact that its humanitarian organisations are often seriously inadequate. That is one of the aspects of the UN which to me, and to many people, is the most important.

5.55 p.m.

Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, we all owe the noble Lord, Lord Judd, a debt of gratitude for having raised the question of reform of the United Nations. I said "the question", but in his brief intervention he raised so many questions that the Minister would need 10 times the 12 minutes allotted to respond to them. Perhaps over time we will have answers to some, or indeed all, of them.

I shall add just one thought. Reform of the UN has rightly been a main theme of international debate since the end of the Cold War. The situation in which we found ourselves then made the UN both more necessary and less adequate as an instrument. If one looks back over the reports which have since been written, one discovers quite early on the right theme, although perhaps not, since then, the right answer. I shall quote from the first of the reports under the name of the long-term Under-Secretary-General, Sir Brian Urquhart, in 1990 in which he says, and I fully identify myself with the statement:

    "The UN system, for all its shortcomings, is unique and cannot be duplicated or reinvented. It is the only available universal system. It now has to live up not only to the demands of governments but also to the increasing expectations of the peoples of the world. It therefore has to adapt itself to this changing world or run the risk of becoming irrelevant in important fields of human activity. Effective leadership will be crucial to this transition".
I hope that we have such effective leadership. I am afraid that the conclusion has to be that the leaders of the great countries of the world have been preoccupied as much by their national, and in some cases regional, concerns as with the wider concerns of the world and that of the UN.

Of those Secretaries-General who followed Mr. Perez de Cuellar, I hope that it will not be said one day that one of them had the vision but not the ability to put it into practice and the other had a great sense of administration and organisation but not enough of the vision of where the organisation should go. Mr. Boutros Boutros Ghali's Agenda for Peace was an important and good document. Unfortunately, it is not possible to

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conclude that that document became the vision for the UN. He was less able than many of us would have wished to put into practice what he wanted.

Dr. Kofi Annan's proposals are good for an effective organisation of the UN. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, cited many of them and they deserve our support. He said also in a recent interview, to my dismay, that he thought that member states and the Security Council had been too ambitious when they discussed the Agenda for Peace of his predecessor and that more modest goals were necessary. He also said that he wanted to move economic and social affairs back to the centre. That is a pity because it seems to me that peacekeeping, perhaps more than peace-making, and also peace-building are two of the central functions of the United Nations and should be seen as such. I do not mean only peacekeeping and peace-building where there are old-fashioned wars but also where nations are violently torn apart and where there is terrorism. In that connection, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Park, in her comments on new kinds of conflict. I refer to peace and human rights, including the care of those who suffer from infringements of their rights, not least the many refugees in this world.

I should prefer a United Nations which defined that as its objective and then went about it in an effective and limited but mission-oriented manner; a manner also in which its legitimacy is established by the transparency of its actions, its appointments and its decision-making processes. I believe that the Government and the United Kingdom should support the reforms of the Secretary-General but should strongly encourage him to remember that there is more than administration--or even effective administration--to the United Nations and perhaps take a lead in defining some further-reaching objectives.

6.1 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for this exceedingly timely debate. The Christian Churches, both through the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, have been fully supportive of the UN from its inception. The Anglican communion is privileged and glad to be able to have a permanent observer there, Bishop James Otley. I warmly welcome the proposed reforms to make it a more effective instrument of human and Christian aspiration.

I wish to restrict my remarks to three elements of the international system, which I believe are interconnected. The first is the issue of armed intervention. The late 1980s were a period of considerable optimism with respect to UN peacekeeping. In retrospect, the euphoria of the end of the Cold War generated unrealistic expectations of what UN peacekeeping could do. But that role is still crucial.

When we consider the question of intervention, I believe that the ancient just war framework provides a robust and challenging set of criteria through which to address the issues. For example, the first criterion is that the use of armed force must always be declared by the supreme authority. Increasingly in the modern world,

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that is understood as requiring the approval of the United Nations and therefore usually a resolution from the UN Security Council. It is therefore essential that the UN Security Council is seen as being a more widely representative body in which Third World countries also find their views reflected.

Secondly, the functional definition of "just cause" must be linked essentially to the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights before armed force is contemplated. Thirdly, war must be a last resort. This means that the diplomatic efforts of the United Nations and its member states, as well as the early warning systems locating trouble on the horizon, are vital requirements. I am glad that the need for that is stressed in the proposed reforms.

Those three and the other criteria of the just war tradition provide a clear intellectual framework for assessing whether the international community can and should use armed force. But they do not tell us whether the political will to carry out such tasks will be forthcoming. They do not tell us anything about the readiness of nations to contribute troops and thereby risk their lives. They do not tell us anything about the readiness of UN member states to pay for peacekeeping or to train their armed forces for effective participation. A relatively small number of nations have had a distinguished record in UN peacekeeping operations, Britain included. We should continue in this distinguished tradition and make it clear that deployment of personnel from our Armed Services in the context of UN peacekeeping is an honourable and necessary part of our international obligations.

The intensive debate of recent years suggests that more is required of the UN and its member states than traditional peacekeeping between the conflict parties, with the agreement to the belligerents. What is less clear, despite recent cases such as former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia and Rwanda, is whether a clear doctrine of peace enforcement and the readiness of member states to implement it has emerged. In short, military protection of humanitarian convoys delivering aid is one thing, as the noble Baroness properly emphasised; but what about the possibility of peace enforcement against the wishes of at least one side in the conflict? That is another matter altogether. That needs to be addressed at the level of doctrine, UN institutions and military planning in member states. Britain is well placed to make a significant contribution to that debate.

The second area to which I wish to draw attention is the need for effective judicial remedies. One of the points which Sydney Bailey, the distinguished Quaker thinker on the role of the United Nations, emphasised early on was the need for an international criminal court. It is good that in the proposed reforms that need is asserted without equivocation.

The third and final area to which I wish to draw attention is the responsibility of the international community, and therefore the United Nations, for post-conflict peace-building. The term may at first sight seem vague, but that is precisely the challenge--how to make a precise and containable package of measures that the international community can help to provide, in

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conjunction with societies which are emerging from the trauma of often protracted warfare. In that context, I wish to draw attention to the role of the United Nations and the success it has had in supervising and monitoring elections. That aspect of UN work is easily overlooked, but it is vital in the role of peacekeeping.

The new Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is to be congratulated on moving so quickly to present a realistic and challenging set of proposals. Our own Government have indicated their positive inclination in responding to those proposals. One should not under-estimate the difficulties of the task at hand, but it is surely in the interests of the common good, in the widest possible sense, that the United Nations is both effective and cost-effective in seeking to make the term "international community" a reality as well as an aspiration.

6.7 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Judd, introduced this vast subject, he must have realised that it would be complicated. However, I wish to introduce a new aspect into the debate; I wish to speak about the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which is an organisation of parliaments as opposed to an organisation of governments. I take as my reference point paragraph 216 of the Secretary-General's report on reform. It reads:

    "There are other constituencies of growing importance to the United Nations that warrant special consideration. Parliamentarians are a primary case in point. The agreement of 24 July 1996 between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (see General Assembly resolutions 50/15 and 51/7) provides a promising base for extending the UN consultative relations with this important group".

As we speak, a UN conference is taking place in New York which has a specific parliamentary dimension. David Marshall, a Member of another place, recently elected chairman of the British group, is leading a small all-party delegation. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, who might otherwise have spoken in the debate, is one of the keynote speakers on the subject of challenges facing representative governments. That is a very important subject.

What does the IPU do which is of value to the United Nations? There are many values, but I wish to mention three. First, it promotes the cause of parliamentary democracy worldwide. It is the great forum for doing that. Secondly, it enables MPs worldwide to exchange views and benefit from each other's experiences, particularly bilateral group visits in either direction and in conferences which take place internationally every six months. Thirdly, it is a worldwide repository of comprehensive information on parliaments and parliamentary practice.

Obviously having mentioned those three--and there are many others--there is a clear need to co-operate closely with the United Nations. If the United Nations is to change, so must the IPU in order to be better prepared for the 21st century. The IPU started with two members and now has 138 member countries. In effect, it is the united nations of parliaments. But as presently structured it does not appear to succeed adequately in influencing governments. I wish to give one specific example.

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The United States of America does not attend IPU meetings very regularly. The US is a great promoter of democracy and frequently lays down democratic principles and practices as a condition for having relationships with other countries. Therefore, it is surprising that it does not participate in the most international democratic forum which exists anywhere in the world.

At the recent IPU conference I mentioned that matter and I urged our Government to do something about it. In fact, I reported that matter when I wrote to the Foreign Secretary subsequently. I am not sure whether anything has happened about that at all. If the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, is not able to comment this evening because she has already been asked dozens of questions, perhaps she will write to me about that. It is a serious matter.

The IPU is in the process of change. The British group was one of the two founders of that organisation in 1889 and has always played a leading role. Obviously, the British group will continue to do so, especially as the organisation in Geneva needs to adapt to the enlarged membership and changing circumstances. Therefore, I very much hope that the Government will continue to support this very worthwhile activity.

6.12 p.m.

Lord Bridges: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has certainly done us a great service this evening by raising this important issue. I notice that all earlier speakers in the debate have made it more complicated for the Minister who is to reply by following completely different lines. That is exactly what I intend to do. I have a particular interest to declare at the outset. I am chairman of the national committee of this country of UNICEF. That is one of the organisations which will be affected directly by the negotiations for reform now taking place, and I shall explain why.

In my view, the heart of the negotiation in New York is a deal. The purpose is to enable the United States to rejoin the United Nations as a financial contributor and to wipe out the arrears of American contributions. The price which the United States requires is a reform of the secretariat in New York. To the American perception, and particularly in Congress, the UN secretariat is over-large, over-bureaucratic, over-privileged and, above all, wasteful. If the secretariat can be down-sized to his satisfaction, Uncle Sam will rejoin; if not, not. That is the essential change which the United States seeks and many Americans believe that the previous Secretary-General, Boutros Ghali, lacked the determination to carry it out. Dr. Boutros Ghali's own view of his priorities, I observed, was rather different: he thought that he was trying to keep the world's peace as best he could. But certainly his successor, Mr. Annan, knows the problems intimately from the inside and to his great credit he has grasped the nettle. He has been conducting some intensive studies and soundings for a solution through Mr. Maurice Strong of Canada, an experienced wheeler-dealer in the realm of UN politics.

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I first heard of those goings-on two months ago after a report--a world exclusive, I think--appeared in The Times. From that it seemed that a new superagency would be created in New York which would in effect merge the UNDP, the development programme, the World Food Programme, the UN Fund for Population Activities and UNICEF into a body called the Development Operations Group--DOG. It was not clear to me who was to wag its tail or whether the animal itself would be able to do that.

We discussed that subject very fully at the annual meeting of national committees of UNICEF in Morocco in May and made representations to our executive director, Carol Bellamy. Our anxieties were, first, that UNICEF must retain its separate identity and specific mission on behalf of the world's children. Our overriding concern must be the best interests of children everywhere. Our field representatives must have the freedom to approach local governments direct about their programmes as the need arises, often in emergencies, and should not be subordinate in that respect to the prior permission of the local UN co-ordinator.

Even more important, the national committees need to be able to show their supporters that we still have our own financial system separate from the United Nations budget. That is the situation at present. UNICEF is unique in the UN family in that it is not part of the UN budget and raises its own annual budget of 1 billion dollars entirely from voluntary contributions. Of that, the national committees furnish 300 million dollars annually; that is, one-third.

Next, we do not want our funds, which are raised to help children, to be diverted to fund the new agency. Finally, we need to maintain UNICEF's own board, in control of its own activities, since the national committees and NGOs provide through the board a degree of public participation unmatched elsewhere in the United Nations.

I am glad to say that the Secretary-General has acknowledged the unique role of UNICEF and has taken full account of our comments in his proposals to the General Assembly. In the light of that, our executive director has given her support to them.

We were able to support that proposal because it meets our broad concerns. Our executive director will be a member of the executive committee of the new development group. We can agree that our field offices should be located in the offices of other organisations at country level and use the common services available. That is a sensible economy, under the broad supervision of the resident co-ordinator. We shall still maintain our own executive board which may meet together with or immediately after the other boards of the development group. That will in no way dilute or compromise the distinctive character and identity of UNICEF, which will retain its full accountability for the funds raised from its supporters. That said, as a national committee we shall have to keep a close eye on the way in which the arrangements work.

I believe that there are more objectionable practices in the UN which do not occur in the agencies mentioned in the reorganisation. UNICEF has just undergone a

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major review and I believe that we have a lean and effective organisation. But the situation is often different in some of the free-standing specialised agencies such as the FAO, UNESCO and the WHO. Their chief executives are not appointed by the Secretary-General but by their own members. To my knowledge, there have been regrettable cases in which the chief executives concerned have done private deals with governments to promote their own personal interests rather than the objectives of the agency in question. In my opinion, that is where reform is most needed.

6.18 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, Mr. Annan described the 95-page document which outlined his plans for the reform of the United Nations as a quiet revolution. The reforms that he proposes are intended to focus on the fundamentals: alleviating poverty and enhancing the prospects of developing countries. However, his plans have been criticised by some as being too quiet; they say that he is doing little more than moving the boxes around. I believe that that is unfair because most of the proposals which he put forward are quite fundamental in relation to giving a new direction for the UN.

I have picked out a few of the proposals which I believe are most important. The first is the creation of the development fund, which would be financed by staff and administration cuts which would raise about 200 million dollars by the year 2000. Although that is not a large amount of money, it means that the UN is giving a lead to the major donors, which are cutting their aid contributions at the moment. The UN is leading the way.

It is proposed also to cut the amount of bureaucracy and to consolidate it by reducing the number of staff from about 10,000 to about 8,800 in New York. Indeed, it intends to cut the 3.98 million pounds of paper used, which would go some way to meeting its Rio commitments.

It proposes also to put the six aid agencies into two co-ordinated groups under the title of Humanitarian Affairs and Development. I know that that caused a degree of concern to UNICEF because it was worried about the loss of its independent voice, but I believe that those worries have been answered adequately.

Another proposal made, not before time, is to put sustainable development as a central priority of all UN action. It is proposed to devolve the responsibilities for human rights to a newly appointed High Commissioner. I believe that that would have been very useful in the conflict which took place in Zaire. It is also proposed to create a new disarmament department. After the conference in Ottawa on anti-personnel mines, I very much hope that the UN will take a lead role in the fight against such mines. There are also calls for a rapid reaction capacity. I believe that there are many problems attached to it, but if the finances could be found, as well as countries willing to supply the men, it would be a valuable contribution to peace-keeping.

However, the question must be asked as to why such reforms were necessary. I believe that the UN fundamentally needed reform, but the budgetary cuts are

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prompting the organisation at present. Although Mr. Annan talked about a "quiet revolution", I do not believe that he could have done it any other way bearing in mind the political minefield in which he finds himself.

One of the major problems faced by the UN at present is its budgetary crisis brought about by the United States. I very much hope that the new Secretary-General will be far more diplomatic in his dealings with America in persuading the biggest donor actually to start paying its contributions. I found it an interesting fact that 60 per cent. of the House of Representatives do not actually have a current passport.

I believe that the UN at present finds itself very much on the back foot. One of the proposals that I found most worrying was that the current zero growth in the UN budget should be superseded by a "results budget", whereby funds will be apportioned on the basis of the actual financial needs of specific programmes. I find that quite worrying because it actually goes to the heart of questioning the nature of the United Nations. Of course, the UN was set up after the Second World War by people who had a vision of a world body which could foster peace. It raises the proposition that, if the UN did not exist, I do not believe that we would actually set it up today.

In conclusion, I have some questions for the Minister about UNESCO. Although I welcome the Government's rejoining of that organisation, I believe that the £11 million annual contribution to UNESCO is being met this year out of the contingency fund and not out of the DFID budget. Can the Minister confirm that next year that £11 million will have to be met out of the DFID budget? Moreover, will new resources be made available to meet the UNESCO contribution?

6.22 p.m.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, only those who can remember the hopes with which the United Nations was created at its inception can measure the dismay that they now feel when the very mention of the UN is a cause for cynicism and laughter. I say that because, after all, it has, alas, been a failure in its primary purpose; namely, to improve the life chances, if you like, of the inhabitants of this globe.

Therefore, like the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, we turn to read the document in the hope that there is a new beginning. I must say that I found the document deeply depressing. All the suggestions that are made for improving the internal arrangements in New York are no doubt desirable in themselves, but the document does not confront the reality. Indeed, at the beginning it shows that the new Secretary General, who may have admirable characteristics, is removed from that reality. For example, he says that we must look at the great achievements of the United Nations, but the only one he quotes is decolonisation. I should have thought that decolonisation has been the major catastrophe that this globe has faced in the past half century. My noble friend Lady Park referred to sub-Saharan Africa relapsing into tribal warfare, genocide, and kleptocracy, with the ability to use for these purposes modern weapons and modern bank accounts. That is not very promising.

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Again, we all have our memories. Indeed, I remember Paris in the 1950s and the enormous consensus of opinion among young opinion-formers about the necessity for France to withdraw from North Africa. If those young people had been told, "What you will witness in 1997 are families--men, women and children--in rural villages having their throats cut in the name of religion", they might have felt a little less acutely favourable to Algerian nationalism.

However, even in the great challenges to peace, the United Nations apparently has no instruments. Let us take the most obvious example. Many noble Lords will have mentioned the visits to London of the admirable Swedish head of the arms investigation mission in Iraq, Dr. Ekeus. I have heard him say that even when he finds or suspects that Iraq is in fact preparing weapons of mass destruction, which may threaten all of us in the end, he cannot get enough drive from the Security Council (which is his master) to get any action taken to enable his investigations to be pursued or followed up.

Therefore, we have the extraordinary situation of a country like Iraq, governed by a small group of obvious criminals. All we can do, which is not much, to prevent them continuing their threat is to impose sanctions--a favourite word in the United Nations--which means that we starve the people in order to get rid of their rulers, and achieve the former without achieving the latter.

Until we get some consciousness in the countries which make the policy of the United Nations, and upon which the UN depends, we will get nowhere. Here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the shift in American opinion away from an interest in the external world is the most threatening element in our current situation. I do not expect the Minister to tell us how that can be improved; but, until it is, the United Nations and all of us face a very bleak future.

6.28 p.m.

Lord Carver: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for having raised this question. I warmly welcome the proposals by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the reorganisation, which I believe will bring about a better and more efficient structure. However, I wish that he had perhaps gone a little further and followed the recommendations which Brian Urquhart made in 1991 towards a more effective United Nations. At that time he suggested five Deputy Secretary-Generals, each with a broad area of responsibility, which would take much of the load off the Secretary-General himself.

My interest in the matter, somewhat naturally, is on the peacekeeping side. That is partly because I established and largely ran a peacekeeping force 34 years ago in Cyprus and also because, as Chief of the General Staff and Chief of the Defence Staff, I was responsible for providing contributions to UN forces and ensuring that those forces were properly trained and did their job properly.

I am at a bit of a disadvantage in speaking on the subject because I have not seen the full report; indeed, I am wholly dependent on executive summaries and on the

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account of a press conference. However, I am confident that Dr. Kofi Annan is fully alive to the organisational need for better performance in New York in the establishment and control of United Nations forces because when he was an assistant secretary-general he was responsible for this area. He chaired an important meeting in 1993 of ex-commanders who all had the advantage of the knowledge gained from an important study carried out for the United Nations by General Sir David Ramsbotham before he took another job.

The essence of what was recommended then was that there should be military advice given to the Security Council in the form of a senior officer appointed for five years--who preferably had experience of command of a United Nations force--as a military adviser to the Secretary-General and the Security Council. In his previous job Dr. Annan appointed an experienced three star officer as assistant secretary-general in the appropriate department. However, the Secretary-General himself and the Security Council do not have expert military advice when they discuss whether they will set up a force.

The other important recommendation which I hope will be implemented is that a force commander should be selected early and when a force is set up there should be a military committee, under the adviser to the Secretary-General, consisting of representatives of those countries which contribute to the force. I am glad to say that in the press conference that Dr. Annan gave he rejected a proposal which Sir Brian Urquhart made, and I think Boutros Boutros Ghali made, and which we often hear--we have heard it in this House--namely, that there should be a permanent United Nations force available to the Security Council. I am wholly opposed to that. Kofi Annan gave some good reasons as to why that is not a good thing. I am not even in favour of earmarking specific stand-by forces. I do not believe that is a satisfactory answer. It is far better that a country should say, "I am willing to do what I can when the time comes, depending on the time. I have forces which can be viewed any day which will be fully capable of doing their job because I shall train them to do so".

I support the point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford that the organisation and the procedures which are appropriate for peacekeeping are not perhaps appropriate for peace enforcement. The most extreme form of peace enforcement took place in Korea and the Gulf. If one must have a peace enforcement force--I am not in favour of that unless it is the only answer--the most satisfactory procedure is for a member of the Security Council to be nominated and agree to provide the overall command of that force. That is the only efficient way of doing it. I do not think that the situation in Bosnia with NATO is satisfactory and I do not think that the United Nations has any control over it at all.

The whole question of what the United Nations force does needs to be approached with a great deal of caution. If one goes too far along the road mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Dahrendorf and Lord Redesdale, one works towards what one imagines is a world

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government, but what one produces--that is almost being produced now--is a form of world imperialism run from New York. We do not want that.

6.34 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, not for the first time my noble friend Lord Judd has afforded us an opportunity to discuss an initiative relating to the United Nations before the options are foreclosed. It is a pity that constraints of time have compelled us to produce such succinct contributions. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, will forgive me if I do not follow him this evening.

The first lesson which emerges from the Secretary-General's report is that the balance between national sovereignty and global vision, between fragmentation and integration, has moved, and is moving, in the direction of national sovereignty and fragmentation. The Secretary-General and the secretariat were seen by the founding fathers as representing concerted action but that was balanced by a General Assembly monopolised by nation states. The report indicates that the demarcation line between them has been progressively invaded by the General Assembly, and the power of the secretariat to take decisive action has been both fragmented and reduced, not to mention starved of resources. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, will forgive me if I say that what is remarkable is how much has been achieved by the United Nations. The first need is to redefine the powers of the Secretary-General to carry out his leadership role.

The second clear lesson is that there is little co-ordination within the organisation, or between the organisation and the specialised agencies. That is partly deliberate. The fathers sought to protect the agencies from too great a political interference by the General Assembly. I fully understand the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, but to all things there is a season, a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together. C.S. Lewis said that the strategy of the devil is to have everyone running around with fire extinguishers when there is a flood. The need now is for greater co-ordination, both centrally and in such local situations where the United Nations operates. Whatever the merits of the debate, the spectacle of UNICEF on 28th October last year having publicly to criticise the operation of the Security Council's boycott against Iraq emphasised the need for an organisation which embodies one world to behave as though it were one organisation.

I make one further point. If the United Nations is to respond to demands which are wholly disproportionate to its resources, it must involve in its work not only governments but the people of the world, however their voices and their contributions are channelled, and often that is best done through the non-governmental organisations. After all, the NGOs are usually on the same side as the United Nations, as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, said. I agree with her and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, that it is sensible to enrol them in the team. At a recent meeting of NGOs and ambassadors, the representative of Oxfam, which works with the United Nations in numerous emergencies, was

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driven to say that he learns of the thinking and the activities of the Security Council from radio and television.

There is a more pleasing recent example. In 1999 we shall see the centenary of the first international peace conference at The Hague. The General Assembly has decided that that should be marked by a further peace conference. Happily, it is involving the NGOs and they are working together on a number of agenda items. When my noble friend replies to the debate I hope she can tell us whether Her Majesty's Government plan to consult the United Kingdom NGOs on that matter. I have to declare a double interest as president of One World Trust and of the world disarmament campaign. I hope that my noble friend will not hold that against me. I did not have an opportunity to warn her that I was going to ask that question. If she prefers to write to me, I shall understand.

A more effective United Nations does not amount to a monolithic takeover of freedom of action from national governments, only a recognition that national governments are not the only places where discussions should take place. Mr. Paul Streeter has said that the state is too big for the small things and too small for the large things. There is a whole hierarchy of discussions which in the contemporary world need to take place. Decisions which affect only a parish should be taken by the parish council. But decisions affecting war and peace, the ecology of the rainforests, the pollution of the oceans, human rights and the ending of world poverty, can sensibly be taken only at global level. If they are not taken effectively, we shall all be the losers.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, the problems of the United Nations in the West and among the richer nations of the world generally arise largely from the relative indifference of the mega economic, financial and military power of the United States of America. That attitude in America seems to have grown steadily and has led to the United Nations facing its own problems of not having a secure financial base. That is due to the perception by the public of the United States, rightly or wrongly, of the ineffectiveness of the United Nations and the impression created of it being excessively bureaucratic and too cosy by half. I have no doubt that the United Nations needs new leadership and new vision, which preferably should come from within the United States.

Having said that, I wish to confine my speech to asking a few questions which arise from the "highlights" of the Secretary-General's report issued by the United Nations. I wish to deal, first, with the question of the revolving credit fund. It is proposed to set up a billion dollar lending facility--in other words, an overdraft. Who will back it? When the Minister replies, perhaps she will tell us the Government's perception of who is to back the fund? The fund must have backers, otherwise it will not exist. If it is only to be a temporary matter, have the United States Government given an indication of whether or not they will back it?

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Secondly, with regard to the changed management culture and the elimination of 1,000 staff posts, is that real saving or cosmetic? I ask that because, regrettably, the highlights of the report are in highly bureaucratic language. That creates a bad impression for anyone used to having a report on perhaps a business enterprise. Will money be saved or will the work simply be transferred to consultants and advisers, which will mean an administrative saving but an expense elsewhere?

Thirdly, I refer to the overwhelming human resources policies and practices to ensure staff have the,

    "necessary skills and enjoy requisite conditions for effective service".
That is bureaucratic-speak, as I have always understood it, for better pay and conditions, and an increased bill. If that is the impression being created in the United States, I am not hopeful for a better response in the United Nations.

Fourthly, I refer to the proposal for the Office of Development Financing with a new deputy secretary-general taking the lead in initiating an innovative means of mobilising new financial resources for development. That sounds alright, but how is it to be co-ordinated, with for example, the work of the World Bank? Is it to be a new initiative? Will it cross swords, or cross tracks, with the operations of the World Bank and other organisations?

Fifthly, what role will the United Kingdom take at the ministerial level commission when it is suggested that it should examine the need for fundamental change through review of the UN Charter? What do the Government think are the essential and fundamental changes required in the Charter to bring about a more effective organisation?

Sixthly, and lastly, on the proposal for the "Millennium Assembly", what will be the Government's own objective for that assembly? It seems to me that it is a vitally important suggestion. If we are to have a change of direction, a change of heart, in particular in the United States, that would be the right time to bring it about. But what will be the Government's objectives with regard to that assembly?

I share the view that the United Nations needs new leadership. I am absolutely convinced that the United Nations has also performed marvellous work despite all the criticisms of it. Without it we would be in a dreadful state. It is time that the United States realised that we look to it for leadership which behoves a country with its enormous financial and other resources.

6.45 p.m.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, there is no denying the need for greater accountability of United Nations spending, with a clear management responsibility for performance of the system, including measures to improve secretariat practices. I am comparatively optimistic about the managerial initiatives and longer-term Track 2 proposals, but I see two sides of the coin. On the up-side, the redefinition of four strategic sectors with human rights as the common denominator and the appointment of a senior

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management group, together with the proposal to create a Deputy Secretary-General, are imaginative. The test will be in the quality of those appointments, but Mr. Annan has excelled already with Mrs. Robinson.

Rejection of a slash and burn approach, and deciding to equate reform with reductions in expenditure and staff, while reducing some activities but increasing others, should achieve much of the desired effect. Yet it must not be forgotten that the United Nations is already hopelessly under-resourced for the many tasks that are expected of it.

Significantly, therefore, increased emphasis and resources towards programmes on human rights, drugs and crime, development and disarmament and proposals not to recommend abolishing any major existing programmes, as many had expected, are welcome.

Mr. Annan has successfully juggled a central element of US congressional proposals in demanding a no-growth budget in nominal terms in a dollar for dollar trade-off. His proposals to reduce administrative overhead expenditure substantially over a number of years, and that rather than passing those savings on to member states through reduced budgets he recommends passing them to economic and social programmes in poorer countries, is excellent news and will come as a relief to many.

So what of the reverse side of that coin? There is a clear case for more emphasis on co-ordinating agency duplication and overlap. The Secretary-General was vague about possible mergers, but why are there three system programmes in Rome, for example, dealing with food? Will the Government consider supporting a proposal that member states review the mandate and governing bodies of all specialised agencies?

However, what is of real concern to me is that the United States is seeking to reduce its percentage of the regular budget from 25 to 20 per cent. How can it be right that 184 members be assessed according to an agreed formula and that one should decide, essentially unilaterally, how much it wishes to pay? In addition, the creation of a proposed "centralised arrears account" for payments which member states refuse to make is widely viewed in Washington as a thinly veiled attempt to write off up to 500 million dollars of arrears by the United States. That is not on. Debt relief must be reserved only for those too poor to pay. Will the Minister please give an assurance that under no circumstance will she contemplate agreeing to such a measure?

The United States believes that Mr. Annan's proposals do not meet its goals. But I believe that it is important to understand that the American agenda is not simply about efficiency but rather the role of the United States in world affairs. Senator Helms believes that the reform agenda is a conspiracy to diminish American sovereignty. It must be explained to the senator that being the world's single superpower does not give it the right to dictate to other members, and that it would save itself a lot of heartache if it was seen to be a team player.

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But I wish to conclude on a positive note. Regionalism on a global scale is the only way forward. I was particularly pleased, therefore, that the new American Ambassador to the United Nations stressed recently:

    "True reform will depend in large part on the United Nations' ability to come to grips with, and adapt to, the vast transitions already under way in the international system and in particular the move towards regional integration and co-operation".
Who knows, maybe there is hope for us yet.

6.50 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, this has been an astonishingly rich debate. It is not possible for me to comment on all the speeches that have been made, but perhaps I may mention in particular the detailed study of the proposals for reform put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, to whom we are extremely grateful for introducing this debate, and also the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, in respect of these proposals. I hope that I may mention other speakers in the course of my remarks because this has been a very constructive debate.

Perhaps I may first address the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. He set out clearly before the House what seems to me one of the most important aspects of the United Nations, for all its weaknesses and failings, and that is that it is attempting to make a set of global norms, a set of global moral imperatives by which we may begin to live.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, pointed out that the United Nations has suffered from the fragmenting and weakening of the authority of the Secretary-General. That is absolutely right; it is the nature of the crisis. But the nature of the aim is one we should not forget.

I believe that the four recent world conferences conducted by the United Nations at Rio, Cairo, Copenhagen and Beijing were all attempts to establish new concepts--if you like, new road maps for the future. Perhaps I may mention one or two: the concept of the sustainable environment which came out of Rio; the concept of mutual respect between the genders which came out of Beijing; the concept of responsible attitude toward social justice which came out of Copenhagen; and the concept of approaching the issues of world population which came out of Cairo. Those concepts have made a huge contribution to the nature of international discussion and debate and, I believe, have changed the terms of that debate in ways we should not forget when we rightly criticise some of the detailed aspects of inefficiencies or problems at the United Nations.

I was somewhat saddened by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, but I agree with him strongly in one respect. I believe that he pointed to a real problem in arguing that the sanctions against Iraq, which are now having momentous consequences for children, minorities and others in Iraq, have had almost no impact on their tyrannical government. I believe we all have an obligation to think of other ways in which we can reach

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not the peoples but the leaders of these rogue states. It may be that our Government will think seriously about ways in which that might be done. Let me mention just two possibilities: the sequestering of personal funds and the attempt to embargo flights and travel by the leaders of such states. In the same context I might mention the great problems we had in Nigeria, where again we have failed to reach the leadership to show the disgust and concern of the whole world.

I should like next to mention my own interest in this matter, in the way that other noble Lords have done. I was a member of United Nations advisory council to Mr. Boutros Ghali, then the Secretary-General, for the Fourth World Women's Conference at Beijing. It is important to say that we often underestimate the anticipatory consequences of United Nations conferences. I know for certain that countries like Malaysia, India, the Philippines and others introduced legislation concerning domestic violence and the role of women in economic development precisely because that conference was going to take place. I cannot easily forget when we went back to see the Secretary-General to ask for resources to follow up the agenda set out at Beijing how he almost broke down in tears when he explained that he had no resources to carry out these highly desirable purposes.

I should like to say a word about peace-making and peacekeeping, on which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, made such a distinguished contribution. Here I again declare an interest as a member of the international crisis group. Will the Government consider how we might shore up the civic dimension of these peacekeeping operations? So often, as in Bosnia, the peacekeeping operation is mounted and is militarily successful but the civic dimension is neglected and therefore one sees what Mr. Wolfensohn, in his introduction to the recent development report of the World Bank, described as "collapsed states" which simply do not have the capacity to establish a rule of law. It is a difficult issue, to which we could perhaps ask the Minister to respond--if not now, at some later date.

With regard to the excellent agencies which are doing remarkable work, we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, about UNICEF. I put in the same context the astonishing work on human development of the United Nations Development Programme, which I believe is finding a clear mission for itself.

Let me now turn to the proposals. First, I take it that the Government fully support memberships of the council for Germany and Japan. I should like to ask them to give due consideration to the case for India, the second largest country in the world and the largest democracy. It seems to many of us that the Permanent Council of the United Nations is now no longer representative of the peoples of the world and we must go some way to bring about change.

Secondly, do the Government support--as I take it they do--the redistribution of contributions among the member states of the United Nations along the lines of the European Union initiative?

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Finally, perhaps because of my own association with that country, I plead with the Government that as regards the position of the United States, so movingly outlined by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, they should take note of the fact that the position taken by the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, Senator Jesse Helms, is not representative of the whole of Congress, and not even of the whole of the Republican Party, as the recent remarks of Congressman Leach so clearly show. Will the Government consider bringing pressure to bear, not on the Government of the United States--who are favourable to the reforms, though not sufficiently strongly so--but on Congress itself? There is a special relationship. This is the moment when that special relationship should be used to make clear, on the basis of legislature to legislature and government to legislature, how vital it is that members of Congress stand up to be counted on the issue of the appalling arrears which the United States owes to the United Nations and on the issue of membership of that world body.

6.57 p.m.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for his initiative in leading this debate and to echo many of the words of the noble Baroness who preceded me.

Throughout the world the United Nations is a byword for peace and security, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and economic and social progress. I believe its role in development policy is a major contributor towards the wider goal of peace and security and thus, less publicly but no less importantly, the United Nations should be praised for providing food and shelter for millions of refugees, for combating disease and malnutrition and channelling aid to the poorest and most deprived.

In that context, we give the Government our full and unqualified support in continuing Britain's commitment to be present at the birth of an invigorated and updated United Nations, referred to by many noble Lords this evening, which will be equipped to face the new global challenges of the 21st century. Those challenges, in my view, include a lasting, meaningful and enduring partnership for sustainable development, including solutions to climate change and the pressure we are increasingly placing on our environment and natural resources.

But, before we can determine the UN's new agenda, I believe there is an even more compelling reason for radical reform. The UN in the 21st century must not be a byword for waste, inefficiency and excessive bureaucracy, otherwise it will simply not survive. We need to find root-and-branch solutions to reform its unwieldy structure, its secretariat and its financial problems before the huge spread of demand on UN resources can be effectively prioritised.

On that note, I welcome Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Track 1 and Track 2 programmes designed to set the UN on the road to reform. His commitment to a

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confident and efficient organisation ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century deserves international resonance and approval.

Equally, I welcome the Government's statement that they intend to be heavily involved in that process and assure the Minister of the Opposition's support for their continued, wholehearted commitment to a strong and effective UN, both bilaterally and through the European Union and the G8.

However, I wish to concentrate my remarks on the severe financial crisis which continues to dog the United Nations--a point alluded to by other noble Lords. That is because without reform of the UN finances, the organisation will simply be unable to carry out its work, although improvements to peacekeeping, enlargement of the Security Council and the future of the UN's agencies are all important and indeed contentious topics, which merit more discussion than we have been able to give them this evening.

The UN currently runs at an operating loss equal to almost 10 per cent. of turnover. It has no capital or reserves left and is not allowed to borrow. It funds itself by the simple expedient of not paying its bills. Its main asset is the unpaid contributions from member states. As at 15th December last, outstanding assessed contributions to the UN totalled 2.26 billion dollars. Of that sum, 1.71 billion dollars was for peacekeeping operations.

The UN is not a business but it should be an efficient organisation. Likewise, short-term, questionable accounting practices, such as borrowing from peacekeeping accounts in order to replenish its sinking regular budget and meet day-to-day expenses, should have no place at the UN.

Thus, we shall, of course, lend our full support to government action taken to ensure that contributions are paid promptly and in full and that arrears are cleared, since failure to do so severely damages the ability of the UN to carry out the policies that we all wish it to carry out and which have been voted by member states. I hope that the Minister will agree with me that the European Union's proposals are the best basis for an agreed solution to the UN's financial difficulties. I hope that the Government will continue to press hard for a solution based on negotiated settlement.

In the last minute remaining to me I should like to follow the lead of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and ask the Minister a few questions. What priority do the Government place on a fundamental review of the specialised agencies in terms of function, value and contribution to development, in order to reduce overlaps and inefficiencies and to wind down obsolete bodies? How far do the Government believe that such a review has been achieved? What assessment have the Government made of the impact of UK withdrawal from UNIDO membership on developing countries? Have the Government carried out any comparative studies on the benefits of channelling the same resources elsewhere in terms of value and efficiency?

I am cautious about references to the reform of the Security Council. I should hope that we long retain our seat on the UN Security Council. There is an important

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link between that seat and the continuing effective role that we contribute to UN peacekeeping operations. That was pointed out in a different context by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver.

Both as a member of the Security Council and in peacekeeping operations, we exercise our powers wisely and are respected globally. I hope that the Government have no intention of changing our status and influence in either of those roles. We have played our full part in UN peacekeeping operations and the outstanding performance of our Blue Berets, who have served from Angola to Georgia, stand testament to that.

We have a moral and practical interest in supporting a stronger, more effective United Nations, a United Nations whose focus in the next century will, in my view, shift to preventive action, to nurturing the fragile roots of democracy when necessary, and to encouraging stability by bridging the gap between humanitarian aid and development.

Ultimately, the UN is only as good as its members. Some may cavil at the perceived failure of the UN to achieve the nirvana of permanent peace. But the true litmus test of a successful United Nations equipped to meet the millennium will be a United Nations which remains a beacon of hope for people across the world in search of peace, stability and prosperity.

7.4 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Judd for giving the House the first opportunity under this Government to debate the renewal of the United Nations.

This Government are firmly committed to the United Nations and our commitment is based on a straightforward assessment of British interests and British objectives. We are the world's fifth largest aid donor, resolved to halve poverty by the year 2015. We are the third largest provider of capital to the developing world. We are firmly pledged to open and fair trade. We are a leading contributor to peacekeeping operations worldwide, committed to work for the just settlement of disputes, from Cyprus to Bosnia. And we have put human rights, the environment and the fight against drugs and organised crime at the heart of our foreign policy.

A safe, decent, open world is, then, manifestly in our interests. The UN Charter, which we helped to frame, is dedicated to just that: peace, human rights, international law and social progress. For this Government, reform is about re-equipping the United Nations to meet those tasks in the coming century. It is not about cost cutting. In a world more complex, more fragile, yet more promising than the United Nations' founders could have imagined, its legitimacy, universality and neutrality count for more than ever before.

Let me start with reform of the structure of the UN. I shall then try briefly to outline our policy on finance and the Security Council before trying to address many of the specific points raised by your Lordships in the course of our interesting debate.

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Our objective for structural reform is that we want the UN to do better what it does best, to focus on those activities where its unique status give it comparative advantage and to do them as efficiently as possible. That is the aim of the Secretary-General's proposals too. They mark a real advance--not just tinkering at the edges, as some critics, particularly in the United States, would have it; and they build on reforms which are already under way in individual UN bodies, from the regional commissions to the funds and programmes.

Under the proposals, key activities will be strengthened. For example, the main development agencies will now work together more closely, while keeping their own identities; anti-drugs, crime and terrorism operations will be centred on Vienna, with greater efficiency and greater coherence; the UN's rapid reaction capability will be improved and post-conflict peace-building enhanced; and the profile of human rights will be raised across the United Nations' work.

There should be other benefits too. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, said, co-ordination throughout the system will be improved. The expertise of NGOs and business will be better tapped. Staff will be better managed. Budgeting will focus on results instead of on inputs. Crucially, reviews of specialised agency mandates and the role of the United Nations are at last in prospect.

Meanwhile, tighter management, coupled with self-restraint by governments, should cut administrative overheads by one-third over the next five years. At Denver, we and our G8 partners called for savings to be directed into programmes for the poorest countries. Kofi Annan has taken that up. By the year 2002, he estimates that over 200 million dollars should be freed up for development, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, pointed out.

Those are the most ambitious reform proposals in the history of the United Nations. We shall lead in working for clear endorsement of the reform process by the General Assembly in the autumn and, during our presidencies of the European Union and G8 next year, for early implementation of change.

However, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, reminded us, reform cannot succeed without proper funding. The UN is now owed 2.4 billion dollars in unpaid assessments. Britain meets its obligations promptly and in full. We look to others, particularly our friends in the United States, to do the same. More generally, we need to put the United Nations finances on a modern, fair and transparent basis. Britain helped to pioneer a new approach, based on capacity to pay. That is now a common European Union proposal, as several noble Lords pointed out. Of course, we support it. Under it, most member states would pay less than they do now. The bulk of increases would fall to developed countries. It is just, straightforward and workable. We shall work hard to have it adopted.

I come to the Security Council enlargement, to which my noble friend Lord Judd drew our attention. Our position is plain. We want the council to be more representative, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop

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of Oxford said, while remaining effective. We hope that a framework decision on enlargement can be drawn up by the end of the year.

In answer to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, the Government support permanent membership for Germany and Japan. We also support increased representation from the developing world either through new named permanent members or rotating permanent seats. That is for the developing countries themselves to decide. We would not, however, support an increase only in non-permanent membership. It would prove a temporary solution at best. Aspiring permanent members would not be satisfied and before long the debate would be re-opened.

Whatever is agreed, the Council must remain effective. That is in the interests of all UN members. The present council of 15 can react quickly and clearly to crises. Its mandate to maintain international peace and security demands that. In our view an extension beyond 20 or 21 risks becoming too cumbersome to act decisively. I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that we have no intention of changing our own status on the Security Council.

Many noble Lords raised the peacekeeping and peacebuilding functions of the United Nations. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, gave us a rather gloomy view of the effects of some of our peacekeeping efforts and the prospects for justice with peace. The Government are strongly committed to improving the UN's ability to deploy peacekeeping troops as quickly as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford said we should. We have seconded officers to the UN secretariat; we are training potential troops, particularly in Africa. We welcome the Secretary-General's recommendation to enhance the UN's rapid reaction capability further.

We have learnt lessons from Bosnia, not least the important role that organisations like NATO can play in peacekeeping. My noble friend Lord Judd and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, referred to our policy on stand-by forces. We provide information to the UN on troops and equipment which may be made available for peacekeeping operations. We are looking at other options as part of our strategic defence review.

The Secretary-General also proposes to enhance the UN's role in post-conflict peacebuilding--an important part of the UN's role, as the right reverend Prelate reminded us. We have backed moves to develop a coherent international approach. The recent OECD guidelines draw substantially upon the United Kingdom's input.

Many noble Lords were exercised too on issues concerning human rights. The United Nations has a pivotal part to play on human rights. It is the most important international forum to advance human rights. We want it to be as effective as possible. We welcome the Secretary-General's plans to strengthen its human rights programme by raising its profile across the system and strengthening the secretariat in Geneva. It will build on the work already carried out on management efficiency in the Centre of Human Rights, with advice

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from British-funded consultants. As the noble Baroness, Lady Park, suggested, Mary Robinson, the new High Commissioner, will have a crucial role in pressing forward with the reforms. She has been tasked to review the United Nations human rights machinery in its entirety. We have every faith in her abilities and stand ready to help further.

I turn to the international criminal court. The Secretary-General strongly supports that establishment; so do we. There is a clear need for an international legal mechanism to bring to justice those who commit the worst violations of international law--genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. We support the holding of a diplomatic conference next year. In the meantime our delegation will play an active part in discussions at the preparatory committee which resumes next week.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, questions the UN's efficacy on some humanitarian issues. The Secretary-General plans to improve co-ordination on assistance and raise the profile of humanitarian issues within the UN system, and we welcome that. My noble friend Lord Judd raised the important matter of responsibility on internally displaced persons. We welcome the work being done by the UN rapporteur, Francis Deng. The UN will need to find a way of ensuring that the needs of displaced persons are properly addressed; giving the UNHCR responsibility should be one option.

The emergency relief co-ordinator needs to have the authority to do his job effectively. He will need the active support of the Secretary-General. He already has substantial access to the Security Council. The co-ordinator should have the power to appoint UN humanitarian co-ordinators in the field and to set priorities for consolidated appeals. We hope that he will do that in consultation with the humanitarian agencies concerned.

The noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, referred to the important work done by parliamentarians. Last year's co-operation agreement with the Inter-Parliamentary Union was a useful step. We look forward to the report and the General Assembly in the autumn.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, for drawing our attention to UNICEF's work. As chairman of the UK national committee, the noble Lord has helped to make it an example for other national committees to follow. The Government are a firm supporter of UNICEF. I know how pleased my honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development was to participate in the launch of the Annual Progress of Nations' report in London last week. I understand that she had useful discussions with Carol Bellamy, UNICEF's executive director. We hope that UNICEF will take a lead at headquarters and in the field in making the new development group work while preserving UNICEF's special character.

The question of the funding of UNESCO was raised, I believe by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. Our subscription for UNESCO will be met from the DFID

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reserve this year. For next year it will come from development funds, subject to forthcoming resource rounds this summer.

In the time left to me, perhaps I may touch upon one or two points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. I will write to him in detail on those if I may. Our wish is to see fewer but better trained staff. We believe that the Secretary-General reductions are a real step in that direction. We look forward to further details of the revolving credit fund. Your Lordships will understand that without this the Government cannot decide whether or not they will contribute at this stage.

The question for us now is whether the Secretary-General's package amounts to a real advance. We believe that it does, as my noble friend Lord Judd acknowledged in his opening speech. Our EU partners, the Americans and Canadians, have also welcomed it. The proposals meet key objectives from the G8 Summit in Denver--the review of specialised agencies; the channelling of efficiency savings into development programmes; better co-ordination and improved conflict resolution.

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As the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said, we want to see a confident, efficient United Nations with a renewed sense of purpose. We want that clear endorsement from your Lordships. Thanks to the Secretary-General's resolve, member states now have an unparalleled opportunity to press ahead. Britain's UN credentials are strong. Our scope for influencing the debate, particularly under our European Union and G8 presidency, is significant. Fifty years ago we played a leading role in shaping the United Nations for the future. We intend to do the same today. In the first General Assembly in London Ernest Bevin said, "We will try to make the best contribution we can and use to the full every instrument which is created under the UN's auspices". The Government stand by that pledge today.

Kings College London Bill [H.L.]

Returned from the Commons agreed to.

        House adjourned at eighteen minutes past seven o'clock.

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