Global Policy Forum

Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan in Washington


"Red Carpet But No Greenbacks"

Press Summary by US Information Agency
(Foreign Media Reaction Daily Digest)
Survey based on 28 reports from 16 countries, January 4-27
Editor: Gail Hamer Burke

Kofi Annan's first days in office as UN secretary general and his visit to Washington last week drew high marks for effectiveness in creating some degree of understanding with members of the Clinton administration and the U.S. congressional leadership on the issue of UN reform. Nevertheless, most commentators noted that, while the new secretary general had received a warm official welcome in Washington, he did not obtain assurances of an immediate payment of American arrears in UN dues. Observers from Germany to China were dismayed by indications that the U.S. intends to direct the course of UN reform and called on Washington to pay its debt to the organization.

Pundits judged that Mr. Annan "has put his reputation on the line" by promising to propose a comprehensive package of reforms by this summer. There were a few references to the secretary general's many friends and contacts in the U.S. political establishment, with some saying that his success in meeting Capitol Hill's demands for reform would depend in part on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's "clout." Berlin's right-of-center Die Welt opined that U.S. indebtedness to the UN "was not so much the result of frustrations about Boutros Ghali, but the result of a growing and alarming disinterest of Congress towards foreign policy problems. It documented this not only with the growing U.S. debt towards the UN but also with the radical cuts to the budget of the State Department, which has almost been paralyzed in its work and influence." Finally, writers deemed that in all the talk of reform, "the critical element is time." New Delhi's centrist Hindu suggested that if progress is not made early on in Mr. Annan's administration, "there is every danger of the issue again falling victim to American domestic politics."

Many Third World writers acknowledged the need for budgetary and administrative streamlining at the UN, but also emphasized that reform must include putting greater priority on the economic needs of developing countries and "democratizing" the world body by delegating more authority to the General Assembly.

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who serves on the secretary general's advisory committee on UN reform, stressed in Oslo's conservative Aftenposten that all member states should pay their dues, coordinate their national policies in the different UN organizations, and give the secretary general more authority. She wrote, "It is only through clear goals, an efficient organizational structure, dependable financing and a stronger secretary general that the UN can begin to meet the expectations of all its members."


Nigeria: "Help Annan To Succeed"

State-owned and government-controlled regional Daily Sketch opined (1/8) that "Mr. Annan says he intends to succeed.... The secretary general cannot perform if he is not supported by the member nations of the organization, especially those that hold permanent membership of the Security Council. Many people believe that the secretariat of the UN has staffers it does not need. Dr. Boutros Ghali was told to cut jobs to make more money available for programs like food aid. He apparently could not get round to doing this.... So the United States refused to honor its financial commitment to the UN. That is the Americans' story, but almost everyone knows that they were economical with the truth. The Americans did not begin to fail to fully pay up their dues when Dr. Boutros Ghali became secretary general. The Americans have always been somewhat deliquent in the payment of their dues. Mr. Annan has been promised that all that will now change.... Member nations should resolve to make the organization even more relevant by giving its administrative head a free hand and by promptly meeting their obligation."


Britain: "New UN Man In The Middle?"

Several papers reported that new Secretary General Kofi Annan had received a warm official welcome in Washington-- but no immediate payment of American arrears. "Red carpet, but no greenbacks," said one headline. The centrist Independent noted (1/27): "For Kofi Annan, the visit to Washington last week was a giddy round of receptions, audiences and intense media attention.... To an extent, the visit must be judged a success. Mr. Annan has put his reputation on the line, promising to propose a comprehensive package of reforms by the summer. He has also fully engaged Washington on its responsibility to deliver the other side of the bargain: to pay its back dues and thus relieve the organization's financial crisis.

"That this is going to be a hard trick to pull off is evident. But as Mr. Annan flew back to New York last Friday, he must have pondered that something worse than failure might happen--that the demands coming from Capitol Hill may ignite months of dangerous argument between the United States on the one hand and the rest of the UN on the other, with him, all reasonableness, in the middle."

Germany: "Leadership Has Its Price"

Fritz Wirth opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (1/25), "The U.S. debtor is the director of this restructuring process. For the UN secretary general, this reveals the greatest problem of his term: He will be busy....not to appear as Washington's puppet. Apart from that, it is necessary to remember the real reasons behind the U.S. debts. It was not so much the result of frustrations about Boutros Ghali, but the result of a growing and alarming disinterest of Congress towards foreign policy problems. It documented this not only with a growing U.S. debt towards the UN but also with the radical cuts to the budget of the State Department, which has almost been paralyzed in its work and influence. This is why it will the first and most urgent message of the new secretary of President Clinton and Congress to say that being the world leader in this complicated world has its price."

"Cautious Rapprochement To An Enemy"

Washington correspondent Stefan Kornelius commented in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/23): "In foreign policy, Bill Clinton begins his second term with one of the more embarrassing problems from his first term. While UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali waited in vain for an invitation from Washington, the new U.S. administration is now seizing the opportunity and tackling the difficult affair right away.... However, it would be wrong to celebrate an end to the hostilities between the United States and the United Nations. After years of blockade and mutual accusations and deliberate misunderstandings, the U.S. government and the UN are only now finding their way back to each other. The organization and its biggest financier are now sitting at the same table and are planning to discuss their rows of the past years. In the case itself, however, nothing has been agreed upon....

"Annan has already laid down his strategy after the first weeks in office. In an address before mostly enthusiastic staff members, he promised reforms but no personnel cuts.... The Washington government, however, is now forced to show at least a minimum gesture of confidence: Annan was the U.S. candidate for the office of the secretary- general, and he was the explicit alternative of the new secretary of state for Boutros Ghali. If the president now refuses to offer assistance, then he will compromise his most important staff member right on her first day in office."

"A Chance For Annan"

Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (1/10) published this editorial by Robert von Marschall: "Will America withdraw from global politics? This is by no means the case, and the reason is not only that Madeleine Albright spent her last four years as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She is right when she says that the UN would remain the most important instrument to save the poorest (countries) and prevent their ecological problems from turning into international threats. She is also right when she states that treaties are holy.' The United States must pay its $2 billion to the UN....

"But the United States is in a dilemma: It does not want to touch its own sovereignty, but, at the same time, it wants to make clear its leadership role in the UN. This means that the United States will continue to exert pressure and continue to play a poker game. It will give money to the UN only in return for radical reforms.... This means that the mutual accusations will continue and that the United States will not win a popularity prize within the UN. It is now up to Kofi Annan to make the next move. The United States is now offering him a chance--no more."

France: "The UN And The American Debt"

According to left-of-center Le Monde (1/10), "The moment of truth has arrived. It is time for promises to be kept. The new Congress started its session on Tuesday, January 7. Members of the Security Council have the right to expect that the United States will fulfill its commitment. The message is simple: It is time to pay up. Boutros Ghali is no longer there to play the part of easy scapegoat, to absorb all the anti-UN demagogy one finds among the very reactionary Republican majority.... It is simple: The United States has a political and financial contractual debt with the UN. If it is not paid, if delays and haggling were to take place, it would be an insult to the international community. In that case, America's moralizing speeches would be left without substance."

Italy: "U.S. Blackmailing On Debt To UN"

A dispatch by Chicago correspondent Massimo Cavallini in PDS (former Communist Party) organ L'Unita (1/25), "Kofi Annan has concluded his visit to Washington. And despite the many good words pronounced by President Clinton, he left with a certainty: If he wants to obtain from the United States the payment of back dues, he will have to personally 'sell' the administrative reform of the United Nations to Jesse Helms, the super-reactionary senator (and ultra-enemy of the United Nations)."

"United States Ready To Pay Its Debt To The United Nations"

New York correspondent Marco Valsania commented in leading financial daily Il Sole-24 Ore (1/24): "Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan have broken the ice in the 'cold' relationship between the United States and the United Nations, exchanging promises of collaboration.... The president assured that he will seek Congressional support in ending the U.S. debt to the United Nations."

Norway: "New Challenges And Opportunities For The UN"

Norway's former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland argued (1/25) in conservative Aftenposten that immediate and extensive reforms are crucial for the UN's survival: "One of the UN's main problems was that it was organized to solve problems between nations, while most conflicts today take place within a single country's territory.... One of our goals must be to avoid professional overlapping and competition, and to make sure that the UN different agencies and organizations coordinate their strategies to reach the UN's overriding goals. To accomplish this we must make the member countries more aware that they have a duty to coordinate their national policies in the different UN organizations. At the same time, the secretary general must be given greater authority and support to sort out the cooperation problems between the organizations when there is a need for this.... The member countries owe the UN almost $3 billion, half of which is owed by the United States. The administration seems to be willing to pay its dues, and is working to get the Congress to approve this. To my view, the outcome of this process will be decisive for the success of any UN reforms.... It is only through clear goals, an efficient organizational structure, dependable financing and a stronger secretary general that the UN can begin to meet the expectations of all its members."

"The United States And The UN's Reform"

Conservative Aftenposten opined (1/27), "We welcome the fact that the leaders of the UN and the United States are trying to cooperate. The world is not served by having a powerful United States which totally ignores the UN.... A number of countries owe the UN close to $3 billion, at least half of which is owed by the United States. The Americans have let the Norwegian taxpayers foot parts of this bill.... We prefer a United States which uses the UN for its own purposes, where other countries are allowed to present their points of view, to a U.S. which singlehandedly and indiscriminately exercises its power as a superpower.... Norway, too, has presented a reform proposal to the UN. But the most important thing now is for the United States to put aside its animosity against the most important organization for international cooperation."

"The UN's Trust"

Conservative Aftenposten applauded Kofi Annan's first effort to reform the UN through appointing an advisory committee of several internationally known politicians, including the former Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland and said (1/13), "Kofi Annan is right in saying that the UN's financial crisis springs from a breakdown of trust between the organization and its members. The UN members' trust that the monetary contributions they give to the organization are actually being put in to good use must be restored. A reorganization of the UN is necessary to achieve this. We think gathering advise from politicians experienced in international politics is a very smart thing to do."

Russia: "Ignoring Annan's Plea Ruinous To U.S."

Nikolai Zimin filed from Washington for reformist Segodnya (1/25): "The Clinton administration, primarily the new Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will most certainly work harder to have Congress make sure that America honors her commitments. Her influence in the United Nations has suffered since the clumsy operation to chase out Boutros Ghali. Denying her protege in the chair of the UN secretary general real support would be ruinous to America's image."

Sweden: "What Does Clinton Have In Mind In Foreign Policy?"

An editorial in liberal Dagens Nyheter (1/27) remarked, "Madeleine Albright, liked by Republicans and Democrats alike, will have the most important task, and she mentioned this herself at her confirmation hearing: The United States must begin to pay its UN debts."

Switzerland: "Kofi Annan's 'Spring Cleaning' Gets Under Way At UN"

Emmanuelle Marendaz said in center-right Journal de Gen ve (1/7), "The new secretary general has obtained resignations from 23 top officials. Kofi Annan isn't wasting any time. The UN's new secretary general--portrayed ever since his December election as a man of reforms--didn't wait for his official start date of January 1st to put his New Year's resolutions into action. Already in late December he had requested in writing the resignation of 23 adjunct secretaries-general and undersecretaries-general--with the goal of putting together his own team without delay in January.

"According to Fred Eckhard, Annan's ad-interim spokesman in New York, all 23 have complied with the request and, come January 31st, will be free of all responsibilities. Or perhaps rehired? In any case, says Eckhard, some posts will simply be eliminated.... The reshuffling, however, affects only those functions directly under Annan's authority--and thus spares the directors of all the UN's specialized agencies, who have been named by their respective executive councils. Annan has been careful not to request the immediate resignation of top officials engaged in peacekeeping operations or conflict-mediation efforts."

East Asia and Pacific

China: "Annan's Pleasant And Troubled Visit"

Xinhua correspondent Yuan Bingzhong wrote in official, Communist Party People's Daily Overseas Edition (Renmin Ribao Hai Wai Ban) and official, municipal Beijing Daily (Beijing Ribao, 1/27), "Now that Annan's Washington trip is over, it can be summarized as both pleasant and troubled.... Annan was warmly received. He managed to reach some understandings with members of the Clinton administration and the congressional leadership. The United States, however, still insists that its conditions be met before it will agree to pay its debt to the United Nations. Diplomats in Washington were saying that this behavior shows that the United States wants to continue to control the United Nations by (holding out the promise of debt repayment in return for something), and furthermore, is bent on pursuing a foreign policy full of power politics and hegemony."

"Annan's Test"

According to UN correspondent Zhou Dewu, writing in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao) (1/24), "To put it bluntly, linking the payment of UN membership dues with UN reform will allow the United States to determine to what extent UN reform will coincide with the interests and demands of the United States."

"States Ask For Changes In UN's Structure"

On the opinion page of the official, English-language China Daily an article stated (1/14), "In an era in which a new international political order is emerging...,the United Nations should enhance its own transparency... and become more democratic in decision-making....

"The existing, irrational international economic order has become a barrier to economic growth of developing countries. While developed countries...have expanded their market share in developing countries, the latter have often found growing difficulties in penetrating the markets of developed nations. The United Nations has a historic mission in promoting the establishment of a new international economic order.

"UN member-states have proposed reforming the following areas: ...strengthening the function and authority of the General Assembly; enhancing representation on the Security Council; and properly restructuring the Secretariat and ECOSOC.

"The UN has carried out a number of institutional reforms and has achieved remarkable progress.... However, a small number of Western countries, in the name of reform, have put too much emphasis on peacekeeping, human rights, and control of drug abuse at the expense of industrial development, trade and assistance."

"Superpower's Household Is In Arrears"

Qin Dianjie held (1/7) in official, Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao), "The superpower that calls itself the leader of the world has money to make arms, to build prisons and to spend huge amounts running for election.... Why, then, doesn't it pay its UN dues? The new UN secretary- general, Kofi urging the United States to make good on its debt. It is uncertain, however, how Americans in power will react to this demand."

Philippines: "Man On A Tightrope"

Former Ambassador Armando Manalo of the government- controlled Philippine Journal wrote in his column (1/10): "The new secretary-general of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, is a man on a tightrope. He is Uncle Sam's boy and perhaps that is the problem. The other great powers (permanent members of the Security Council) will probably give Mr. Annan the benefit of the doubt in most cases but are likely to put him under a microscope if he makes the mistake of appearing to toe the U.S. line too closely. But Mr. Annan's true problem may really be the United States. He has White House support, it is true. But does he have the support of the Republican Congress? In short, he will always be under threat of sanctions, especially since the U.S. Congress appeared to have increased its demands. It is beginning to question, not merely the defects of the UN system, but of the system itself."

Middle East

Tunisia: "The UN's Future"

Senior editor Noureddine Achour held (1/25) in independent, Arabic-language As-Sabah: "Finally, the U.S. position on paying its UN dues is smoother.... Kofi Annan's intended program of reforms should not affect the organization's activities on all the levels because the UN is the only place where governments try to solve the problems of stability and peace in the world.... It is obvious that the UN in the 20th century won't be a 'world government' as many have thought.... It is much more logical and realistic to consider it a forum for discussion and negotiations."

South Asia

INDIA: "Unclogging U.S. Pipeline"

The nationalist Hindustan Times' Washington correspondent N.C. Menon wrote (1/27): "Now that the United States has out-muscled allies and adversaries alike to get its own candidate to head the United Nations, one would naturally assume that the new secretary general, Kofi Annan would receive complete political and financial support from Washington. That is the least the United States should do after antagonizing practically the entire world by its resolute and successful bid to bounce Boutros Boutros- Ghali.... But Washington is a strange place, schizophrenic to an extent because of the often conflicting perspectives of its two major power centers--the administration and the U.S. Congress. Due to that dichotomy, it is not given that Kofi Annan will automatically have smooth sailing.... There is no question that the world body needs reform. But how can it reform itself when it is crippled by the decision of the founding host nation and most powerful member to withhold its dues?.... Annan visited Washington last week and made it clear that he came as a 'creditor, not a beggar,' asking Congress to pay America's dues and debts in exchange for UN reforms.... Despite...optimism, Annan is also a realist and has a cautious estimates of how long it will take him to bring Congress around.... When the new secretary general comes calling, the U.S. Congress and administration could do themselves and the cause of reform a great deal of good by pledging substantial financial support, and soon. After all, they owe it to him."

"Onus On Kofi Annan To Convince U.S."

An analysis in the centrist Hindu (1/14) by Washington correspondent Sridhar Krishnaswami said, "Few politicians would want to admit that the objections to Ghali continuing for a second term got caught up in the rhetoric of the American presidential election.... The administration and Congress are at loggerheads on what exactly the new chief of the world body must do. For the record, the Clinton administration is taking the line that Annan's view of reforms is broadbased in that it cuts across functioning, costs and personnel. But, at the same time the administration will be in a bind when the UN chief makes the point that the reforms that are being sought by the United States must be in line with what the other members want.... Congress, on the other hand, is taking the line that the United Nations has to be run like a private business and that Annan would have to move away from what his predecessors had attempted. In a nutshell, the legislators are saying that it was time for a drastic overhaul to make the world body more effective.... Both the Clinton administration and the UN Secretary General must be aware that in all the talk of reform or cuts, the critical element is time. If progress is not made in two years, there is every danger of the issue again falling victim to American domestic politics."

"Treading Cautiously"

An editorial in the centrist Statesman expressed this view (1/13), "Although the style of the new UN Secretary- General, Kofi Annan, is said to be very different from that of his predecessor, it does not give him more leverage in tackling the problems that confront the United Nations. For instance, on the issue of staff reduction, Annan has already made it clear that it would be very difficult to meet U.S. demands without jeopardizing the efficiency of the organization.... The that Annan has a better rapport with Secretary of State-designate Madeleine Albright and the new U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson....

"On one point, though, Annan will have pleased the Americans. He has ruled out the possibility of raising an independent military force under direct UN command, which means that participation of American troops under American command will continue in future interventions in conflict areas.... Annan probably figures that it would be unwise to take on the United States in a direct confrontation at this juncture.... His immediate task will be to play down conflicts of interest between member-states and between the United States as the sole superpower and the organization as the only representative international body with limited jurisdiction."

Nepal: "Cooperation Needed From U.S., Perm Five"

Independent Aaja Ko Samacharpatra editorialized (1/5), "Annan has promised to get American dues paid back, but one can only guess how the United States will cooperate him in this endeavor.... One cannot be certain that the U.S. will take the secretary general's stand as an easy and simple case.... Many have begun to hope that Annan, with his profound and long-earned experiences in the UN, will focus his attention on less-developed countries.... Whether his efforts for reforms will get cooperation from all the five permanent members or be shattered by the sheer whim of a single member, will be known in due course of time."

"Kofi Annan's Daunting Task"

The independent Kathmandu Post held (1/4), "Ghana's Kofi Annan does indeed have a daunting task to perform. That is, bringing about changes in the world organization acceptable to the West. On the very first day at work, he rightly pledged he would introduce reforms that would usher the world body into the 21st century and make the United Nations more relevant. For this he will have to muster the support of all member states. This should not be too difficult for a seasoned diplomat of his stature."

"Where And When The UN Should Intervene"

Pro-left Everest Herald opined (1/4), "Kofi Annan takes the helm of the United Nations as secretary general. His appointment indicates a politicization of the world body.... With Kofi at the helm, the efficiency of the United Nations in dealing with peacekeeping operations, the largest budgetary item, is likely to be emphasized. For this the UN needs to take a fresh approach and the process of decision-making should be depoliticized. At present the UN peacekeeping operations are largely dependent on what the former Norwegian Prime Minister Brundtland considers 'an emotional national support base.' This is particularly relevant when it concerns the most powerful decision-making body, the U.S. Congress. The decision of where the UN should intervene and how is a question that has to be considered apart from the emotional support it may have in countries shaping the action of the United Nations. Boutros Ghali, despite pressures, went a long way in trying to treat humans everywhere equally, and send its peacekeeping operations to places where it was needed, whether powerful countries considered it to be their interest or not. The new Secretary General Kofi Annan would do well to follow the path of Ghali in this matter. He should also go along with the necessary reforms needed in the UN bureaucracy."

Pakistan: "Reform In The UN"

The centrist News held (1/5), "Concern has been expressed over the possibility of Kofi Annan being seen as too much of America's man, which will grievously harm his position as a neutral chief executive of an international organization. The United States did a disservice to the UN wherein it played an overly partisan role in selecting the future secretary general on the basis of what turned out to be personal likes and dislikes of American officials."

Sri Lanka: "Kofi Annan Facing Challenges Of Reforms"

The independent English-language weekly Sunday Times ran a commentary (1/5) that said, "If the United States and its one time co-superpower pay their debts in full and immediately, Kofi Annan could make a good start in leading the world organization to an adequate financial base. Kofi Annan has many friends in the United States including in the political establishment, not the least of them the new secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who tried to get the United States to pay its debts during her stint as U.S. ambassador at the UN. She may have more clout now.

"UN reform has stalled for the most part because of an unwillingness on the part of the Western powers to realize that the world has changed unrecognizably since the end of World War II. Any restructuring of the Security Council must recognize that fact. In re-vitalizing the General Assembly to make it more than an unwieldy debating society, the five permanent members of the Security Council must be willing to allow the Assembly to assume at least the powers conferred on it by the Charter. They must recognize the primacy of the General Assembly as the only body with a universal membership among the principal organs of the organization."

More Information on UN Reform
More Information on Secretary General Kofi Annan's Reform Agenda

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.