US to spearhead UN reform
New York - The United States said on Friday it would spearhead a campaign to promote competitive elections for the UN Human Rights Council to keep rights violators like Cuba from winning seats as part of a new effort to reform the United Nations.
Joseph Torsella, the US ambassador for UN management and reform, said members of the organisation's top human rights body should be held to the same standard it promotes around the world.
"Abusers of international law or norms should not be the public face of the UN" he said.
The proposed reforms come as the US presidential campaign heats up.
Many of the UN's operations, its resolutions criticising Israel, and the membership of the Human Rights Council have come under attack from some Republicans, especially Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Relations Commission.
Currently, elections to the Human Rights Council and many other UN bodies are controlled by regional groups that often put forward uncontested slates.
In 2010, seven countries accused of human rights violations, including Libya, Angola and Malaysia, won seats on the Human Rights Council in uncontested elections. In 2011, Syria was a candidate for an uncontested Asian seat, but it withdrew after the U.S. and the European Union lobbied UN members against voting "yes" for a country that was cracking down on civilian protesters.
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, sent to UN correspondents, Torsella said the US also plans to take action against countries that violate international law elsewhere in the UN system.
"If a member state is under Security Council sanction for weapons proliferation or massive human rights abuses, it should be barred, plain and simple, from leadership roles like chairmanships in UN bodies," he said.
Torsella said the size and scope of the UN has grown dramatically since the world body was established in 1945, but that the UN "is still, in too many ways, stuck around 1950".
While the UN's regular two-year operating budget for 2010-2011 ended at $5.41bn, he said, when all the agencies in UN system are included it is now a $36bn enterprise - larger than the individual GDPs of half its 193 member states.