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Eight steps to UN reform Our plan can work if world leaders act for the common good, say international experts GARETH EVANS, JOHN ENGLISH, GORDON SMITH and FRASER CAMERON

Our plan can work if world leaders act for the common good, say international experts GARETH EVANS, JOHN ENGLISH, GORDON SMITH and FRASER CAMERON

When world leaders meet at the United Nations in September for the five-year follow-up to the Millennium Summit, they will have a rare political opportunity, one that comes once in a generation. On the table will be Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All. The UN and the conduct of international relations would be truly transformed if the report's package of reforms were adopted.

Perhaps inevitably, UN members are divided on the report's recommendations. Some are apprehensive that change will constrain their power and dilute their influence. Others feel the status quo is unsustainable. Some worry about undermining the principle of national sovereignty and lowering the normative barriers to unwarranted interference in internal affairs. Others fear there will be too little intervention and the wretched will be left to suffer what they must. None of these problems are simple, and addressing them will not be business as usual. Leaders will be sitting down in New York with the moral obligation to rise above narrow interests and act for the common good. That's what leaders are for.

Only they have the crosscutting authority to resolve inter-institutional and interdisciplinary issues beyond the mandates of existing international organs and portfolios of individual ministers. Frank dialogue and problem-solving by the leaders can bring impetus and coherence to the reform imperative.

We believe that, with the requisite statesmanship, many of the Secretary-General's recommendations can be adopted. The way forward is a package approach, in recognition that generating agreement entails give and take.

We recommend that leaders agree to:

1. A timetable for reaching the 0.7-per-cent official development assistance/GNP target, preferably by 2015. With respect to the Millennium Development Goals, we endorse the "quick wins" actions identified by the independent UN Millennium Project (free bednets as protection against malaria mosquitoes; an end to primary-school user fees; the three-million-patients target for AIDS anti-retroviral treatment; expansion of school-meals programs, soil-nutrient replenishment, and national campaigns to reduce violence against women). But the bednet shortage in Africa alone is vast, and a lot more community resolve (including the Group of Eight) will be required for this to be a "quick win."

2. An international finance facility, enabling front-loading of official development assistance, necessary for infrastructure investments. This innovative action would facilitate the provision of the requisite finance for development.

3. Guidelines on the use of force. The Security Council should come to a common view on guidelines (not criteria) for intervention -- that is, "the seriousness of the threat, the proper purpose of the proposed military action, whether means short of the use of force might plausibly succeed in stopping the threat, whether the military option is proportional to the threat at hand, and whether there is a reasonable chance of success." It is now increasingly accepted, including in Africa, that development and security are interdependent, and that both repose on human rights.

4. Endorse the emerging norm of the "responsibility to protect" as part of a continuum from prevention of conflict to reaction to severe abuses to rebuilding.

5. Accept the definition of terrorism by the UN High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change that "in addition to any actions already proscribed by existing conventions, any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."

6. Action with respect to civilian nuclear fuel-cycle technology, especially guarantees of supply of the fissile material necessary for peaceful nuclear uses in return for making the Optional Protocol mandatory, as part of a package including "negative security assurances," the fissile material cutoff treaty, and extension of the moratorium on test explosions. Such a package should provide both a fair and balanced outcome and enhance everyone's security.

7. The establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Democracy Fund and the Human Rights Council, as recommended by the Secretary-General.

8. Action on regulating the marketing of arms and negotiation of an instrument on illicit brokering. Combined with effective export controls on small arms, the harmonization of national regulation of arms brokers and a mechanism to "name and shame" those involved in illicit exploitation of natural resources, these steps will prevent or diminish the carnage caused by future conflicts.

We believe that concerted action in these eight areas to be in the national interests of all member states and in the common, global interest at the same time. Only leaders can make it happen. In New York, they will be bolstered by the aspirations of humanity.

Gareth Evans, a former Australian foreign minister, is president of the International Crisis Group. John English, a senior professor of history and political science at the University of Waterloo, is executive director of the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Gordon Smith, a former deputy minister of foreign affairs, is executive director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria. Fraser Cameron is director of studies at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre.

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