21 September 2001


NEW YORK, 20 September (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations is an embodiment of the will of humankind to defeat violence with the power of reason and to achieve some betterment of the human condition, Secretary-General Kofi Annan states in his annual report to the General Assembly on the work of the Organization (document A/56/1). Its Member States work together to make principle and justice prevail in world affairs, he says, and, with the active support of Member States and the peoples of the world, the Organization will fulfil its promise as an indispensable institution for international cooperation.

Today, universal ideas -– the sovereignty of the people, accountability of leaders, individual rights, and the rule of law -– are spreading around the world. Yet, the Secretary-General observes, there is no guarantee that these values will not be reversed, and that some nations will not once again succumb to tyranny and oppression.

The report covers such areas as achieving peace and security; meeting humanitarian commitments; cooperating for development; the international legal order and human rights; management of the Organization; and partnerships.

Achieving Peace and Security

On the topic of peace and security, the Secretary-General notes that today’s conflicts involve a preponderance of civilian rather than combatant victims, many of whom are women and children, refugees and internally displaced persons. The Secretary-General has reinforced his efforts to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. In many respects, the structures designed to provide this service are insufficient; the Panel on Peace Operations has therefore begun to work towards the creation of secure and adequate foundations for an effective structure to support United Nations peace operations. The Secretary-General has also charged his staff with the preparation of a draft plan of action on peace-building.

The Secretary-General underlines that development and humanitarian agencies have a vital role to play in creating a peaceful environment, as well as addressing the root causes of conflicts at the early stages of prevention. He intends to continue dispatching United Nations interdisciplinary fact-finding and confidence-building missions to volatile regions; to start submitting periodic regional and subregional reports to the Security Council on disputes that may potentially threaten international peace and security; to develop regional prevention strategies with regional partners and with United Nations agencies; to establish an informal network of eminent persons for conflict prevention; and to provide the capacity and resources for preventive action in the Secretariat.

Concerning peacekeeping and peace-building, the Secretary-General states that key factors for successful peacekeeping remain the will of parties on the ground, realistic mandates based on a well-understood and common overall strategy, and readiness to support those mandates politically and through the provision of appropriate human and material resources. The Secretary-General recommends the enhancing of the Secretariat on a strategic, policy and operational level; the development of a more effective relationship between Headquarters and the field; ensuring greater interdepartmental cooperation; the enhancement of logistical support for operations; and the improvement of safety and security of peacekeepers in the field.

With regard to electoral assistance, the Secretary-General says that the several elections that have been held during the past year suggest important progress towards democratization. These elections also suggest that public awareness of democratic rights is rising and that citizens are beginning to hold their leaders accountable.

Concerning disarmament, the Secretary-General highlights the uncertainties of the strategic relationship between the leading nuclear-weapon Powers, such as continuing divergence of views among States on priorities and perspectives, which both inform the debate and block further movement on global security. He is concerned that plans to deploy national missile defences threaten not only current bilateral and multilateral arms control agreements but also ongoing and future disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. He encourages multilateral negotiations towards legally binding, irreversible and verifiable disarmament agreements.

The Secretary-General also expresses concern at the risk of adverse effects of sanctions on innocent populations and third parties. He welcomes the continued development of targeted sanctions, where the Security Council seeks focused pressure on those responsible for behaviour that contravenes international peace and security, while minimizing the impact of its action on civilian populations and affected third States.

Meeting Humanitarian Commitments

Sadly, the Secretary-General notes, the turn of the millennium has not been accompanied by a reduction in the suffering caused by natural disasters and complex emergencies throughout the world. Coordination within the humanitarian community and between humanitarian initiatives and peace and security efforts has continued to improve during the year. The Secretary-General notes, however, that little progress has been made in implementing his 40 recommendations in reports to the Security Council concerning the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and urges the Council to shift the focus from reporting on this issue to implementing agreed recommendations.

During the year under review, humanitarian assistance from the United Nations reached a number of vulnerable populations across the world. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is playing an increasingly important emergency role in over 35 countries. About 50 per cent of World Food Programme (WFP) food assistance in 2000 was targeted to vulnerable populations and groups affected by civil strife or conflicts in one of the many protracted emergencies plaguing Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans and Latin America. The Global Information and Early Warning System of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) continued to alert the international community to imminent crop failures and food crises.

Also addressing the activities of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Iraq "oil-for-food programme", and the United Nations Mine Action Service, the Secretary-General warns that underfunding, access restrictions and staff security issues have seriously constrained the emergency response capacity of United Nations agencies during the year. The 2001 Consolidated Appeals sought $2.8 billion to reach an estimated 44 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in countries affected by conflict. As of June 2001, less than a third of the requirements listed in those appeals had been met, even lower in percentage terms than the pledges made to the 2000 Consolidated Appeals at the same time last year.

The year 2000 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The global population of concern to the UNHCR decreased from 22.3 million at the start of 2000 to 21.1 million at the start of 2001. Access to safety and continued protection in host countries remain vital for the world’s refugees. The quality of asylum has, however, deteriorated in a number of countries as a result of the economic and social difficulties in hosting large refugee populations, national security considerations and concerns about the use of asylum procedures by illegal immigrants and the trafficking of persons. Underfunding has seriously affected UNHCR operations and, in some cases, led to a scaling-down of assistance.

Regarding natural disaster response, the Secretary-General states that the United Nations disaster assessment and coordination system has been building expertise in disaster-prone regions. Events in 2001 once again confirmed the need to plan effective disaster reduction measures in order to strike a better balance between funds spent on intervention and relief and resources which could be devoted to enhance prevention capacities. Building and strengthening effective early warning systems, and providing adequate education and training, as well as appropriate technology, are a few major areas in which the Secretary-General calls for decisive action.

Cooperating for Development

The Secretary-General reports that the effort to render globalization inclusive and equitable will pose a daunting challenge in the years ahead. In that regard, the United Nations Strategy for Halving Extreme Poverty of 2000 recognizes the multidimensional nature of poverty. It incorporates a rights-based approach embodying principles of equity, non-discrimination, accountability and participation in development and poverty reduction efforts. United Nations entities have cooperated in the formulation of national poverty reduction strategies in 60 countries and the writing of comprehensive poverty reduction strategy papers in others.

He adds that the FAO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have joined the United Nations Development Group. Referring to the report of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Secretary-General states that poverty decreases faster when the poor participate actively in poverty reduction. In 2000, IFAD approved 27 new rural development projects expected to benefit an estimated 13.6 million people.

Education, and especially education of girls, will contribute significantly to poverty reduction and achievement of the millennium development goals, the Secretary-General says. At his request, UNICEF is leading an inter-agency task force to develop and implement the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative, and United Nations staff in 50 countries are involved in collaborative activities related to girls' education. Ensuring gender equality and women's empowerment are equally critical to the reduction of poverty. The UNFPA had worked closely with partner agencies, the World Bank, civil society and private sector partners to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015 through the Safe Motherhood Initiative.

The Secretary-General also states that the aim of the special high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, held on 1 May 2001, was to promote coherence and cooperation in international development and, in particular, in poverty reduction. The meeting stressed the crucial need to ensure sustained economic growth, but noted that economic growth would not advance sustainable development in the absence of social justice.

On the topic of HIV/AIDS, the Secretary-General said he proposed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund in order to mobilize the $7 to $10 billion necessary to appropriately address the AIDS epidemic.

Stressing the importance of access to information and communication technologies in social development, the Secretary-General states that he intends to launch the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force. Created for an initial period of three years, its principal mission is to harness the power of information and communication technologies for advancing the millennium development goals, in particular the eradication of poverty.

On the topic of sustainable development and Africa, the Secretary-General says that while international support remains essential, it is encouraging to see the renewed determination of Africans to overcome the pressing challenges facing the continent. The Compact for African Recovery, presented to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) last May, is an important component of the ECA response to the implementation of the Millennium Declaration.

United Nations entities remain deeply involved in a wide range of African development issues. In 2000, the WFP assisted almost 35 million people with food deliveries, 51 per cent of them women, in sub-Saharan Africa. Its operations in that area now include 76 development projects, 20 long-term relief and recovery operations and 47 emergency operations.

International Legal Order and Human Rights

The Secretary-General reports that bridging the gap between human rights norms and their implementation continues to be a challenge. The fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Human Rights was attended by its 53 States members and by nearly all United Nations Member States as observers. The Commission adopted 82 resolutions, 19 decisions and three statements by the Chairperson, addressing situations in over 20 countries on issues ranging from summary executions to violence against women and the right to development.

Also covered in the area of human rights are the activities of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her capacity as Secretary-General of the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held at Durban, South Africa, in September. Also, notable progress is reported with regard to implementing the Millennium Declaration, advancing technical cooperation activities and disseminating human rights information.

In addition, the Secretary-General reports that 139 States had signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by 31 December 2000, and 37 States had ratified it by September of the present year. He says adoption of the Statute represents a comprehensive regime regardless of all that remains to be done to make if effective. Also, the two international tribunals had made significant progress. A key development for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was the apprehension and handing over to the Tribunal of Slobodan Milosevic, a former head of State. The tribunal for Rwanda had benefited from a more vigorous approach to its caseload.

The report lists numerous other developments in enhancing the rule of law through the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs and the International Law Commission. As examples, an agreement had been concluded between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone to establish an independent special court for that country. Also, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings had entered into force.

Enhancing Management

Regarding management reform, the Secretary-General reports on activities in three priority areas, the first in human resources, the second in capitalizing on information technology, the third in instituting the capital master plan submitted during the Assembly’s last session. He says future challenges for the Organization centre on reform initiatives such as introducing results-based budgeting, refining the performance evaluation system and convincing Member States to pay dues on time, in full and without conditions. Reviewed in a section on accountability and oversight are activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services. Those focus on the streamlining of audit management and consulting activities, investigations, central monitoring, inspection and central evaluation.


In his report, the Secretary-General reviews the partnerships the Organization is forming in the context of communications, the Fund for International Partnerships, project services and civil society. In this regard, he stresses that the global partnerships the United Nations is forging were nearly impossible to conceive a decade ago. The strength of those partnerships, he adds, derives from the Organization’s communications and information strategy, which is based on achieving goals by informing the public about them.

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