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U.S. Interests Best Served by a Global System of Institutions, Treaties and Laws, Albright Says

3/19/2004 --

Former Secretary of State recommends the U.S. take lead role in debate about the costs and benefits of globalization.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Although international institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are showing their age, they still play an integral role as arbiter of what is right and wrong around the globe and should be embraced by the United States and other countries, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright told a standing-room-only crowd at Hale Auditorium in March.

Albright, the distinguished scholar of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan Business School, said it is often a lack of leadership that negatively affects these institutions more than anything else. For various reasons, Albright said, the U.S., Europe, China, Russia and many developing countries have not taken leadership roles. "The result has been a surplus of finger pointing and a deficit in progress toward goals that should unite most of the globe," Albright added

The Bush administration was wrong for not working with the UN to find a peaceful solution in Iraq, she said. The president was correct in demanding that UN weapons inspectors be let into Iraq and for insisting they stay there indefinitely, but when he declared war before the UN process had run its course, Albright said, it damaged the credibility and prestige of the institution.

The lack of weapons of mass destruction proved the UN sanctions did work, and the U.S. decision to turn to the agency for assistance in forming a coalition government shows we need help from others, Albright said.

She faced a similar challenge as secretary of state when the U.S. wanted the UN to help stop the ethnic cleansing by Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo. When Russia wouldn't approve the use of force, the U.S. went to and received unanimous approval from NATO.

"As soon as the conflict was over, we turned to the UN for help in repatriating refugees and managing a transition to democratic rule," Albright told the crowd. "The result is that we achieved everything we set out to do militarily while otherwise doing everything possible to maintain the viability of the international system. And because we did, NATO emerged stronger than ever; and the vast majority of peacekeepers and reconstruction money for Kosovo has come from someone else."

The U.S. should never cede its foreign policy to the UN or allow it to block the country¿s right to use force legally, Albright emphasized, but the U.S. should try to improve relations with the UN for the good of the world by displaying good leadership.

Albright also said the U.S. should take a leading role in the debate about the costs and benefits of globalization.

"Our explicit goal should be to ensure the benefits of trade, investment and the movement of capital are more widely shared," Albright said. Also, the International Monetary Fund should consider the social impacts of its recommendations, and the WTO should be more open about its methods and meetings.

To move ahead while coming together, we must respond to both sides of the globalization equation," Albright said. "We must expand trade while helping dislocated workers learn new skills, foster growth while insisting on good corporate practices, improve technology while investing more in education and health, and enrich ties among the advanced nations while reaching out and pulling in the rest."

Critics of the UN and other international institutions ask why we should worry about their agendas of global climate change, trying war criminals or building peace in Africa because, "after all, we are America," Albright said.

"My reply is that we should care precisely because we are America," she said. "We have a right to do what is necessary to defend our citizens, territory and interests. But we should recognize that our interests are generally well served by a global system of institutions, treaties and laws that - although flawed - provide a broadly accepted standard for separating right from wrong in world affairs."



For more information, contact:
Dan Shine
Phone: (734) 615-4563
E-mail: danshine@umich.edu