by Haider Rizvi
(IPS) UNITED NATIONS -- A U.S. bid to introduce massive changes in the draft document to be signed by world leaders at a major United Nations summit this month is frustrating many who hoped the event would solidify international efforts for peace and development.
From the world's leading human rights groups to environmental and women's organizations who closely work with the United Nations, the last-minute U.S. push for amendments in the text is seen as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the summit agenda.
The three-day gathering Sept. 14-16 is expected to draw 180 presidents and prime ministers at the invitation of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who wants them to reaffirm past commitments on development, especially poverty reduction, in addition to endorsing the reshaping of the world body.
Diplomats and observers say that until the end of last month, the United States was getting along well with other nations in the preparation of the draft. But that suddenly changed after the appointment of John Bolton as Washington's new ambassador to the UN.
Bolton, who is perceived as an ultra-conservative nationalist, assumed his responsibilities as the U.S. envoy in August. His nomination was strongly opposed by Democratic lawmakers, as well as some senators from the ruling Republican Party.
Critics say the U.S. amendments to the draft -- more than 750 in a 40-page document -- are aimed at deleting key provisions of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a central issue on the summit's agenda. In this context, Annan has repeatedly asserted that the world cannot be safer without development and eradicating poverty.
The United States prefers to emphasize peace and security issues, such as a new international treaty on terrorism. In all, there are seven key issues outlined by the General Assembly President Jean Ping, including the creation of a new Human Rights Council, a Peace-building Commission, protecting civilians in armed conflict, nonproliferation, disarmament, terrorism and the MDGs.
The MDGs include a 50 percent reduction in poverty and hunger; universal primary education; reduction of child mortality by two-thirds; cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters; the promotion of gender equality; and the reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases -- all by 2015.
Washington is now trying to renegotiate each and every paragraph of the outcome document, say sources closely watching the negotiations.
"The U.S. has moved to a projectionist point of view," says William Pace, director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, who spent years campaigning for the establishment of the Hague-based International Criminal Court.
But Bolton dismisses this view of U.S. diplomacy.
"There's progress on the negotiation front and we are very pleased with it," he told IPS Tuesday. "Here's a phenomenon of agreement and disagreement."
"It takes at least two parties to disagree." he added. "We haven't said anything substantially new or different in this process."
Bolton said the U.S. proposals were based on a well-thought-out "interagency process."
"That's crap," Pace responded, noting that there were 400 to 700 deletions in the 40-page document. "It was a rushed evisceration process."
Other civil society leaders who have taken part in the world body's initiatives on peace and development are equally wary of the U.S. intentions.
"We cannot allow the U.S. to hold the world hostage in this stalemate," June Zeitlin, executive director of Women's Environment and Development Organization, a U.S.-based global network of women's groups, told a news conference Thursday.
Angry at the U.S. delegation's suggestion that there is no need to reaffirm the 1995 World Summit on Women's Rights in the outcome document, Zeitlin accused Washington of trying to bury the gender dimension of the document's references to poverty and debt.
"They want to micromanage the process," she said of the U.S. diplomats involved in negotiations. "They want to keep the economic issues behind closed doors to the international financial institutions."
An official of the world largest charity, Oxfam International, told reporters that before Bolton's intervention, there was a "broad agreement" on development issues.
"The changes the U.S. wants is a more extensive set of changes than sought by other member states," said Oxfam's Nicola Reindorp.
The proposed U.S. amendments also exclude references to actions on climate change under the Kyoto Protocol, disarmament, official development assistance to developing countries and the International Criminal Court.
General Assembly President Ping wants to hold a comprehensive review of the text on Sept. 2 and plans to submit a new draft Sept. 6.
Bolton said he believed the summit would be a success. "We are working as hard as we can for a strong outcome document," he told IPS.
Annan, who cut short his vacation and returned to New York this week, told reporters Wednesday he was still optimistic about the outcome of the meeting. "I think everyone realizes that this is a great opportunity," he said.
Asked about the U.S. position on the MDGs, he said, "I am not sure that the U.S. is going to insist on that. I think they have made their point, but I am not sure other member states would want to see the MDGs dropped, or expunged from the document."
Next week, Annan must also face the findings of the Independent Inquiry Committee on corruption in the Iraqi Oil for Food program. The Committee, which has not exonerated Annan from wrongdoing yet, will release its final report Sept. 7.
Meanwhile, reflecting on the outcome of the negotiations, Pace cautioned that both Annan and Ping "may end up being scapegoats for all of the failure."
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