For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/SG/2529
Release Date:  30 March 2000
 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Offers 21st Century Action Plan,
Urges Nations to Make Globalization Work for People

Cut Poverty, Improve Education, Increase Security, Reduce HIV/AIDS, Protect the Environment

NEW YORK, 3 April (UN Headquarters) -- Urging world leaders to make globalization work for peopin every nation, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today offered his 21st Century action plan, a detailed report that sets the agenda for the United Nations Millennium Summit. The plan calls on all Member States to commit themselves to ending poverty and inequality, improving education, increasing security, reducing HIV/AIDS, and protecting the environment. 

“We must put people at the centre of everything we do,” said Mr. Annan. “No calling is more noble, and no responsibility greater, than that of enabling men, women and children, in cities and villages around the world, to make their lives better. Only when that begins to happen will we know that globalization is indeed becoming inclusive, allowing everyone to share its opportunities.”

The Secretary-General’s report will be considered by a special Millennium Summit on 6-8 September 2000, a rare meeting of Heads of State and Government from around the world, scheduled on the eve of the first UN General Assembly of the new millennium. The report, “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century,” is the most comprehensive presentation of the UN’s mission in its fifty-five year history, containing  numerous specific goals and programme initiatives Mr. Annan will ask world leaders to consider.

Central to Mr. Annan’s proposals is the view that globalization is an extraordinarily powerful force offering both unique opportunities and challenges for nations and people. “The benefits of globalization are plain to see: faster economic growth, higher living standards, accelerated innovation and diffusion of technology and management skills, new economic opportunities for individuals and countries alike," Mr. Annan writes in his report. But these benefits "remain highly concentrated among a relatively small number of countries and are spread unevenly within them". And while there are now "strong and well enforced rules facilitating the expansion of global markets", efforts to secure "equally valid social objectives", such as labour standards, the environment, human rights or poverty reduction, have "lagged behind". 

As a result, globalization has “begun to generate a backlash”. The challenge, Mr. Annan concludes, "is clear: if we are to capture the promises of globalization while managing its adverse effects, we must learn to govern better, and we must learn how better to govern together".

There are still billions of people whose lives are not free of fear or want, despite the enormous progress made in the past fifty years, Mr. Annan contends. The report observes that globalization has eluded Africa, where many of the world’s poor live, including up to 40 million children who will be orphans by 2010, largely because of HIV/AIDS. In addition, growth is anemic, trade and investment are low, and national debts are crushing.

The report also notes that less than 10 per cent of all health research is spent on the health concerns of 90 per cent of the world’s people, leaving millions vulnerable to chronic illness or death from easily preventable sicknesses like pneumonia, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria and others. 

On issues of conflict and peacekeeping, Mr. Annan observes that nations must address both old and new threats. He explains that there are still too many nuclear weapons, as well as a growing proliferation of small arms that serve to prolong and deepen already vicious conflicts. He adds that peace operations must be strengthened, while sanctions should be better targeted, to make them “less harsh on innocent populations, and more effective in penalizing delinquent rulers”.

But perhaps the most alarming chapter of the report deals with the environment. In addition to freedom from want and from fear, Mr. Annan writes, the world now faces an urgent need to realize a third freedom, which the UN's founders could not have anticipated: "the freedom of future generations to sustain their lives on this planet". "We are failing to provide that freedom," he says. After detailing the multiple threats of climate change, water shortages, soil erosion and the destruction of forests, fisheries and biodiversity, he concludes by calling for a "new ethic of stewardship" and a system of "green accounting" - to ensure that environmental costs and benefits are integrated into economic policies.

The report urges nations to commit themselves to an ambitious 21st Century agenda including:

- Cutting in half by 2015 the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, and the proportion lacking safe and affordable water; 
- Ensuring that by 2015 all children complete primary education, and eliminating the gender gap at all levels of education;
- Reducing HIV infection rates for persons 15-24 years old by 25 per cent within 10 years;
- Upgrading slums, through support of the "Cities without Slums" action plan, which aims to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020;
- Granting free access to the markets of the industrialized countries for goods produced in poor countries and, as a first step, adopting a policy of duty-free and quota-free access for essentially all exports from the least developed countries by March next year;
- Implementing the expansion of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries programme agreed last year, and cancelling all official debts of the heavily indebted poor countries in return for those countries making demonstrable commitments to poverty reduction;
- Doing more to ensure the security of people and communities, as well as nations, through firmer enforcement of international humanitarian and human rights law;
- Creating greater transparency in arms transfers, supporting regional disarmament measures, and extending to other areas the “weapons for goods” programmes that have been successful in Mozambique, Panama, El Salvador and Albania; and
- Implementing the Kyoto Protocol to lower greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the dangerous warming of the planet.

In the report, Mr. Annan also strongly embraces new information technology and sees a major role for it in fighting poverty and promoting human development, as well as in improving United Nations operations. In this vein, Mr. Annan announces several new initiatives. First, he proposes development of a network of 10,000 online sites to provide tailored medical information and resources to hospitals and other health care facilities throughout the developing world. This initiative will be led by the WebMD Foundation, in cooperation with other foundations and corporate partners. Second, he announces development of a United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS), a consortium of high tech volunteer corps, including Net Corps Canada and Net Corps America, which will train groups in developing countries in the uses and opportunities of information technology. And thirdly he announces a disaster response initiative, “First on the Ground”, led by L.M. Ericsson, which will provide uninterrupted communications access to areas affected by natural disasters and emergencies.

Mr. Annan also proposes an ambitious series of changes for the United Nations itself. Building on a number of reform measures that have already made the world body a leaner and more effective organization, he says it is time to reform the Security Council and adopt sunset provisions for certain initiatives. He also argues that the United Nations must find ways to expand its relationship with civil society, and suggests the establishment of global policy networks to engage all stakeholders as one way of achieving this.

Mr. Annan plans to use the Millennium Summit as an opportunity for Member States to renew and rededicate themselves to the mission of the United Nations. He invites them to recommit themselves to what he sees as core values of the United Nations: freedom, tolerance, equity, non-violence, respect for nature, and shared responsibility.

But Mr. Annan believes we should not be content with merely repeating the progress of the past fifty years. His report declares: “The world’s people are telling us that our past achievements are not enough, given the scale of the challenges we face. We must do more, and we must do it better.”

NOTE: The report and additonal information is available on the Web at:

For requests for interviews with the Secretary-General and his advisers who worked on the Millennium Report, contact:
Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General,
telephone: (212) 963-7161 or 7162.
For other information contact: Public Affairs Division, 
United Nations Department of Public Information, 
Telephone: (212) 963-6870 or 1453, Fax: (212) 963-0536.

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information
DPI/2106 – March 2000

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