An Open Letter To Mr. Boutros-Ghali
AS you take the reins as United Nations secretary-general, both congratulations and sympathies are in order. You face an awesome mix of opportunities and problems, none made easier by those who expect you to be a miracle worker.
Your predecessor, Javier Perez de Cuellar, took office when the UN was at a low point and gradually rebuilt its stature. Now with the UN on an unprecedented winning streak, you carry the burden of high expectations. With the end of the cold war and the collapse of the old bipolar system, people are looking to the UN to insure a peaceful transition to a more humane world order.
Your first 100 days will set a tone and direction for your five-year tenure. You will have few military, economic, or financial resources at your disposal. But you will have the power to propose, to preach, and to persuade - powerful tools when combined with integrity, independence, and intellect. But first you must decide to be a leader as well as a mediator, to be both a Dag Hammarskjold and a Javier Perez de Cuellar.
A good place to start would be to deliver a "state of the world" speech at the time of the unprecedented Jan. 30 Security Council meeting at the summit level. Present to the world's leaders a vision of a world in which global norms take precedence over nationalism and protectionism, based on the realities of interdependence. Challenge notions of sovereignty as inadequate to a world in which national leaders can no longer guarantee the welfare, rights, or security of their citizens, nor protect the enviro nment, without the cooperation of other countries. Assert the centrality of the UN peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts to national security in an era when no one wants to play world policeman and everyone wants others to share the burden. Ask for the resources to get the job done. Explain why in a global economy neither regional trade blocs nor a growing gap between rich and poor are in our long-term interests. Speak to the peoples of the world, not just to nations and governments, which may be as much a p art of the problem as of the solution. Use the UN as your rostrum and the worldwide media as your partner.
UNTIL the UN gets its house in order, mere words will ring hollow. You have spoken of the need to restructure the organization and key member states have called for reforms, but the momentum could be lost if you do not act quickly and decisively. There are lots of sensible proposals, but the key elements should be to (1) appoint a top manager to whom you can delegate administrative, personnel, and financial matters, (2) centralize authority and dramatically reduce the number of officials reporting to you , (3) appoint the best professionals to key posts regardless of the patronage demands of member states, and (4) shift people and resources from less important to more important tasks. Member states should consider amending the Charter to shake up the UN's ineffective economic and social structure and to broaden Security Council membership.
Along with reform, you should not shy from pressing those countries - about two-thirds of the UN's members - that are chronically negligent in paying their dues. The US, which owes about as much as everyone else combined, should be first on your list. Charging interest on late payments should get the point across. It is ironic that the UN should be on the verge of bankruptcy, with no reserves for peacekeeping or humanitarian emergencies, at the height of its effectiveness.
Your toughest job may be deciding when to say no. The UN's resources are already spread too thin. Regional organizations should be asked to carry more of the burden.
Never before has a secretary-general had so many choices. As you enunciate your priorities and vision, you can build a global constituency that cuts across national boundaries. People everywhere are ready for a far-sighted, coherent message about the changes under way in the world. You can be the messenger, pointing the way to a better world order.