Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, co-chairman of a task force to examine United Nations reform, said Wednesday he will seek out practical ways of dealing with the "scandalous" behavior of U.N.-affiliated institutions and operations in recent years.
The Republican, Gingrich, joined with fellow co-chair George Mitchell, a Maine Democrat and former Senate Majority leader, to outline for a group of reporters their thoughts as they embark on the U.N. project, which was mandated by Congress.
Neither wanted to prejudge what recommendations the task force would make but Gingrich said the need for reform is underscored by sexual misbehavior of U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo and the Balkans and by financial irregularities in the U.N.'s Oil for Food program in Iraq.
"They are all scandals, they are all behaviors that have led the U.S. Congress to ask for a task force," Gingrich said.
The task force, organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace, plans to complete its report by June with the expectation that the Congress and the administration could act on its recommendations before the fall U.N. General Assembly.
The 60th anniversary of the signing of U.N. charter will occur on June 26.
Mitchell noted that there have been a number of reports on U.N. reform over the years that have been largely ignored.
He expressed hope that the task force report could have an impact because it is mandated by the Congress, a power center that he said has the ability to have a strong say over U.N. operations. The United States is the leading contributor to the United Nations.
Gingrich also took aim at the workings of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. He noted that Sudan was granted a seat on the commission last year even as it was under investigation for engaging in genocide in the Darfur region in western Sudan.
"I regard the Human Rights Commission as one of the more egregious scandals that we will be looking at without bringing judgment today on how we ought to respond to it," Gingrich said.
Gingrich and Mitchell, in an opinion piece in Wednesday's editions of the Washington Times, said the task force "will focus on the United Nations from the perspective of American interests and American responsibilities, not on the basis of an abstract notion of international community or of the concerns of other countries."
The goal of the task force, they said, is to produce a "realistic, actionable plan for U.S. actions to help strengthen the United Nations."