Resolutions on U.N. Reform


World Federalist Association of New England: Managing Co-sponsor
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Executive Summary of Resolutions

Approved by the Public at the Conference on
Re-forming the United Nations:
Toward a Humane Global Society

John F. Kennedy Library
Boston, Massachusetts
11 November 1995


The purpose of the conference was to demonstrate to Congress, the President, his Administration, the American people, and the U.N. community that there exists a political constituency in the United States in favor of a return to vigorous and far-seeing American leadership at the United Nations.  “We call upon American leaders to realize that in a world of interdependent nations, the prosperity and security of the United States is best served by promoting the prosperity and security of the world community as a whole.”

            Resolutions were drafted by eight task forces of concerned citizens, reviewed and amended in workshops by some 300 attendees, and approved unanimously by vote in the final plenary session.  The resolutions are conceived in eight thematic sets, with special attention to a ninth, on action and implementation:

1.  Civil society                       5.  Protection of the environment

2.  Common security            6.  International business

3.  Human rights                   7.  International law

4.  Social and economic        8.  U.N. structural reform

     development                      9.  Action and implementation

            References below in parentheses are to task force set and resolution number, e.g., (1.1).  Readers who wish to see a set (3-15 pp. each) or the complete booklet of all eight sets (81 pp.) may order it from the Coalition office above for $5.


Civil Society

          The perspective of this conference began with the values of “our global neighborhood” and with the popular interests of civil society (citizens’ associations, non-governmental organizations, and the non-profit sector generally).  Resolutions on this theme call for long-term efforts in education and promotion of such civic values as respect for life, liberty, and justice.  With respect to the United Nations, we call for Creation of a Civil Society Forum (1.1), broadly representative of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) now accredited to the U.N. and of other civil society organizations that monitor certain global functions.  (One proposal is to create a telecommunications network based on citizens’ initiatives.)  The Civil Society Forum would advise the General Assembly.  We call for Gradual establishment of a People’s Assembly or “second chamber” of the General Assembly, representative of the people of the world, initially appointed by national parliaments and eventually directly elected by world citizens, as in the development of the European Parliament (1.2).  We urge all people in civil society to Work for reforms in the mass media that, in the words of Václav Havel, “disseminate the spirit of understanding, human solidarity, and spirituality” (1.7).  

            We support such economic reforms as Replacing GNP with indicators that more adequately measure human well-being, such as the U.N. Development Programme’s Human Development Index or Herman Daly’s Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (1.19).  We recommend that Corporations, industry, and labor develop more participatory workplaces that enhance the meaningfulness of work and of off-hours leisure time (1.23). 

            Civil society has much to contribute to peace and disarmament.  We urge that All states and people work for complete nuclear disarmament (1.26) and End the massive trade in conventional arms (1.26).  We propose A Universal Declaration on the Renunciation of War that would dramatically renew the pledges in Articles 2(3) and 2(4) of the U.N. Charter (1.28).  And we call upon all member states of the United Nations, in their conduct of military operations in conformity with decisions of the Security Council, To abide by rules of engagement that minimize dangers to civilians and that hasten a negotiated settlement (1.30).   Moreover, we seek More transparent decision making processes in the Security Council in cases of humanitarian intervention or enforcement (1.31).


Common Security

          Common security was understood at the conference in the spirit of Olaf Palme:  “The principle of common security . . . asserts that countries can find security in cooperation and not at each other’s expense.  This principle applies to economic as well as military security.”  Participants aimed to systematically develop this fundamental concept for the post-Cold War world.  In the field of strategic weapons, we call upon all states to Complete negotiations on a truly comprehensive test ban treaty by 1996 (2.1).  Other resolutions to implement Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which the nuclear weapons states pledge to pursue negotiations toward a “treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control,” are included.  We are particularly concerned To preserve outer space for non-military activities in accordance with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (2.4), and To negotiate a complete abolition of nuclear weapons by 2000 (2.6).

            In the field of the conventional arms trade, we call for Negotiation of a code of conduct, denying the trade to countries that do not respect democratic processes and civilian control of the military (2.8)

            The conference recommends that the U.N. General Assembly request member states to Reduce their annual military budgets by five percent per year for the next ten years and allocate a certain percentage of the resultant savings to conversion of military production to civilian (2.14).

            Specific recommendations deal with vesting greater enforcement powers in the Security Council, such as Designating trained, standby military units from national armed forces for international duty pursuant to Article 43 (2.15), and Establishing an effective, quick-reaction U.N. peacekeeping force (2.16).

            Complementing the above, we recommend a range of improvements for peaceful settlement of disputes, particularly Creating an international mediation and conciliation (facilitation) service within the Secretariat (2.20), and Recognizing the right of petition from individuals and non-state actors to the Security Council (2.23).


Human Rights

          The competence of international institutions to protect and promote human rights has been universally recognized since the end of the Second World War.  Our conference aimed to extend and implement the initiatives taken in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and in now some ninety-five treaties and international instruments.  We put in the first place the moral authority of the U.N.:  Only a stronger and more democratic United Nations can possess the moral authority and the operational capacity required for the universal enforcement of human rights and the protection of fundamental freedoms (3.1).  The ultimate value of human rights is that they help to restore the moral unity of humanity based on human dignity.

            In order to secure human rights on a universal basis, we call for Establishment of a World Court of Human Rights, analogous to the European and Inter-American Courts (3.2).  To make such a World Court effective, we further call for Creation of an office of  U.N. Attorney General for Human Rights (3.3), and Strengthening the existing role of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (3.4).  We also support Recognition of the right of petition (3.6).

            A range of resolutions would improve monitoring and enforcement, particularly Support for U.N. peacekeeping operations that aim to guard human rights (3.8).  Maintaining the U.N. presence in a country after intervention to protect human rights is essential for the long-term success of international organization.  U.S. compliance with the international human rights regime is urged, as is ratification of important treaties now languishing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (3.11).


Social and Economic Development

          Eighty percent of the U.N. system budget is spent on social and economic development, yet this amount ($3.6 billion) is less than five percent of national official development aid, according to the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Development.  We sought to face facts and make thoroughgoing recommendations to improve international cooperation for development.  Recommendations were skillfully addressed to three audiences:  the international community of states in the U.N., the United States, and civil society and the business sector.  Particular attention was addressed to revising the assumptive framework (political philosophy) of those usually concerned with development.  Hence, The purpose of international cooperation for economic development and social progress is to promote the common good at the universal level and for present and future generations (4.2).

            Currently, the United Nations operates as a forum for airing of views, as a setting for negotiations, and as a channel for technical and financial assistance.  What is needed for real progress are three steps:  new agreements on principles, coordination of the system (including the Bretton Woods organizations), and reassessment of methods of work.  Hence, we propose Convening a global conference on development within the competence of the United Nations before the year 2000 (4.21).

            The United States, as a nation whose economy is about one-fifth of the world economy, has very great influence on the future of development.  Hence, we urge The U.S. to enter more fully into development activities at the U.N., since development is respect for the rights of individuals, their freedom and security, which promotes democracy everywhere (4.29).  We urge The U.S. to consider how to transform the Economic and Social Council into an economically more effective body, yet one still representative of the diversity of developing countries and of civil society (4.36).

            Lastly, civil society and business have much to contribute, particularly in following up the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development, (4.44), in inviting Educational institutions and the media to give fairer coverage of the issues of development (4.45), or in establishing a future Civil Society Forum (4.46).


Protection of the Environment

          The U.N. Charter does not mention the environment, but it is a striking proof of the adaptability of the Charter to new conditions that, by liberal construction, the Charter provides the legal foundations for now very powerful popular and national concerns about preserving the health and resources of the natural environment of planet Earth.  Hence, we support Implementation of the principles of Agenda 21, as adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (5.1).  We urge The United States Senate to consent to ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity (5.2), and we further urge The U.S. Government to support reductions by all states of greenhouse gases in accordance with the Convention on Climate Change (5.3).

            Other recommendations deal with Replenishment of the Global Environmental Facility (5.4), Enactment of the proposed International Convention on Environment and Development (5.5), and Invigoration of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development (5.7).  People in civil society are shown An environmental action plan that would help build a more humane global society (5.12).


International Business

          Since in 1994 we had held a public conference wholly on international regulation of transnational corporations and multinational business enterprises, and since we were persuaded that the time was not yet ripe to establish an orderly legal environment for the emerging global marketplace, our approach in this conference a year later was to explore the surprisingly advanced state of self-regulation of competitive businesses.  Our model was less the U.S. Federal regulatory agencies than the lesser known industrial and labor associations that regulate themselves.  The consequence would be a lessening of intervention by government or international organization in profit-making business.  In principle, self-regulation strengthens civil society.

            There are four sophisticated and well documented resolutions.  One calls on The U.S. Congress and federal agencies to strengthen private systems of social accountability,  which will develop civil society (6.1).  Another calls upon The U.N. General Assembly to approve the self-governing model for global business (6.2).  A third calls for A new Bretton Woods conference before the 21st century to integrate the international financial institutions (6.3).  The last makes concrete recommendations on the U.N. budget, in accordance with recommendations of the Global Commission to Fund the U.N. (6.4).


International Law

            The task force on international law concentrated on immediately realizable proposals with very long range benefits.  We urge All governments to accept without reservation the World Court’s compulsory jurisdiction of legal disputes, in accordance with Article 36(2) of the Court’s Statute (7.1).  Furthermore, with respect to the United States, we call upon The United States to renew its acceptance of the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, without reservation (7.2).  (The U.S. withdrew from its acceptance, much qualified by the Connally reservation, in 1986.)  Lastly, we support Establishment of an International Criminal Court (7.3), and we urge the U.S. to fund the two ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

            These resolutions were guided by the Report on Improving the Effectiveness of the United Nations in Advancing the Rule of Law in the World, prepared by the American Bar Association’s Working Group on Improving the Effectiveness of the U.N.  [See International Lawyer, 29 (Summer 1995): 293-334.]


U.N. Structural Reform

          As Alexander Hamilton argued in The Federalist, No. 23, merely setting out the ends of government (defense, regulation of commerce, public peace) without willing the means (a constitution) is very shallow political philosophy.  Hence, in our deliberations on serious U.N. reform, we were particularly attentive to the changes in U.N. structure that will be necessary for the permanent achievement of those of our goals that look beyond short-term national policy.  The resolutions on U.N. structural reform recapitulated most of the points made by the other task forces and serve as a kind of summary of the whole set of resolutions.

            The resolutions assume the continued existence of the state system for the foreseeable future and hence make rather modest proposals for U.N. reform that may be acceptable to responsible statesmen and women and other policy makers (see Whereas clause 11).  Nevertheless, we felt that structural reform could not realistically be discussed without plainly stating what amendments to the Charter will be necessary.  Our objective was to make those modest changes, like improving the representation of the General Assembly, that might in time lead to truly great reforms, like increasing the powers of the Assembly.  Everything is designed to improve the rule of law at the world level.

            Each organ of the United Nations is discussed.  We call for Enlarging the Security Council by admission of Germany and Japan as “standing” members (permanent but without veto), if their constitutions will permit them to exercise their international military responsibilities (8.10).  We would also Admit four other standing members from each of the larger developing parts of the world (8.11).  Along the lines of the Commission on Global Governance, we advocate Gradual phasing out of the veto, by a voluntary concordat by 1998, then by amendment of Article 27 by 2005 (8.13).  Such a reform should lead, we believe, to a new covenant between states and peoples to maintain world peace and security.  Safeguards for decisions to undertake humanitarian interventions in domestic or ethnic disputes affecting human rights are suggested (8.17).

            The General Assembly cannot be entrusted with greater legislative powers to solve global problems like world poverty or environmental degradation as long as the principle of sovereign equality is not limited.  Hence, we would Amend the one-nation, one-vote rule by providing for voting on the basis of states, population, and economic power, as in the Binding Triad proposal (8.18 and 8.19).  We also support Establishment of a Forum of Civil Society (8.20).  Business (8.21) and labor (8.22) should have access to the U.N. through channels in which they have confidence.

            As for the Economic and Social Council, we express caution about abandoning it for an Economic Security Council (8.23), unless its fewer members would consistently act as representatives of all the states members of the U.N.  We do support a new Bretton Woods (8.24) and other measures to rationalize the economic functions of the system.

            The Trusteeship Council, whose work of decolonization is done, has established a tradition of concern for people which ought not be lightly abandoned.  We support Transformation of the Trusteeship Council into either or both a Council for the Global Commons (environment) or a Council for Diversity, Representation, and Governance (human rights) (8.25).

            In the field of international law, we urge Creation of a new World Court of Human Rights, with its Attorney General (8.26); we call for U.S. acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (8.27); and we support Establishment of an International Criminal Court (8.28).

            Lastly, in order to enact the changes contemplated, we call for A U.N. Charter review conference, in accordance with Article 109, no later than 2005, and if possible even by 2000 (8.34).  “We, the peoples, are ready.”


Action and Implementation

          Action steps have been proposed within each set of resolutions.  Each task force is continuing to meet with interested members of the public, in order to use the resolutions to influence public opinion and hence the U.S. Government and eventually the United Nations.

            Some of the actions contemplated include:

Build public opinion by conversations, conferences, writing articles and books, and approaches to the media.

Join a citizens’ organization concerned about foreign policy.

Cooperate with others in coalitions like ours.

Form a small group to select five newspapers to visit in order to support an editorial policy to increase coverage of U.N. efforts other than peacekeeping.

Raise the issue in public meetings during electoral campaigns.

Introduce a plank into the platforms of the main political parties.

Seek political office ourselves at city, state, and federal levels.

Write elected Congresspersons and the President and Vice-President.

Introduce classes on the United nations in school or offer courses on international organization and U.N. reform at a college or university.

Contribute directly to a U.N. account in order to demonstrate directly the will of the people to ensure a revenue to the organization pledged to end the scourge of war on earth.