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Former Foreign Ministers Suggest Ways For How U.N. Can Improve


And happy birthday to the United Nations. It turns 70 this year, and it is time for an upgrade. At least that's the view of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She joined other former foreign ministers to make some recommendations. Here's NPR'S Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The current U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, calls this a time of daunting global challenges, with Russian troops backing separatists in Eastern Ukraine and a, quote, "monstrous terrorist group" emerging from Syria's grinding civil war.


SAMANTHA POWER: These are the kinds of threats that the United Nations exists to prevent and address. Yet, it is precisely at the moment when we need the U.N. most that we see the flaws in the international system.

KELEMEN: As Power spoke at a House hearing, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and a former Nigerian foreign minister, Ibrahim Gambari, were at The Hague releasing their roadmap to improve the way the U.N. works. Albright tells NPR they want a peace-building council and a cadre of experienced mediators to do more to prevent conflicts. And, she says, there should be more women.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: There never were enough women within the United Nations system in terms of the number of envoys. That's one part. But the other part is that in a lot of the conflicts, women are the major victims.

KELEMEN: And peacekeeping operations need to be more sensitive to that, she says. The report also calls for changes in the way the Security Council works, though Albright says that's a bit like solving a Rubik's cube, especially when it comes to the veto power of the permanent five members.

ALBRIGHT: One of the ideas that I also think is useful is looking at how to state a no in order to make clear our political position on something without blocking something. But there's no question that the U.S. is very protective of our veto power.

KELEMEN: As are the other permanent members, including Russia, which is why the council hasn't taken any action on Ukraine and has done little to resolve the conflict in Syria. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.