Note to Correspondents



8 September 2003 11:00 a.m. New York time / 17:00 hrs Vienna time


Note No. 250
5 September 2003




Security Council Must “Regain the Confidence
Of States and of World Public Opinion”

NEW YORK, 8 September (UN Headquarters) -- In a report published today, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan calls on the nations of the world to re-forge their unity after the divisions of the Iraq war, agree among themselves on what are the main threats facing humanity, and not flinch from radical reform of the UN itself, as well as other international bodies, if this is necessary to make them more effective.

The report appears two weeks ahead of the annual “General Debate” in the UN General Assembly, in which many world leaders are expected to take part. Mr. Annan has written to all world leaders urging them to attend this year, and to come armed with ideas on ways to make the international system work better.

Today’s Report on the Implementation of the Millennium Declaration is clearly intended to set the scene for that Debate. It begins with a reference to the “major disaster” which befell the United Nations on 19 August, when its Headquarters in Baghdad suffered a bomb attack and 22 people lost their lives including the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Mr. Annan describes that attack as “a direct challenge to the vision of global security, rooted in the United Nations Charter”, which inspired the Millennium Declaration adopted by all world leaders at the Millennium Summit exactly three years ago. He sees it, he says, as the latest in a series of events which make the consensus they then expressed on world peace and security look “less solid than it did three years ago”.

On the development front, the report is more positive. The Development Goals in the Millennium Declaration can still be reached by the 2015 deadline, it says, if during the remaining twelve years “we maintain and increase the momentum that has been generated”. But, the Secretary-General warns, “there remain grave doubts whether Member States are sufficiently determined to act” on the consensus they have reached.

And in the area of human rights and democracy, he says “there is a danger that we may retreat from some of the important gains” made during the 1990s, as human rights come under pressure both from terrorism and from the methods used by States to fight it.

In the chapter on peace and security -- the longest in the report -- the Secretary-General warns that “the international security architecture … must be able to adapt to the needs of our time”, but notes a worrying lack of consensus about what those needs are. While some States focus primarily on terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, “for many around the globe, poverty, deprivation and civil war remain the highest priority”.

He says it is “vitally important that the international community not allow the differences of the past months to persist, and that it find unity of purpose around a common security agenda” -- which, he adds, “can only be achieved if States, in pursuing their national interests, show understanding and respect for global realities, and for the needs of others”.

The common security agenda, he continues, “should reflect a global consensus on the major threats to peace and security, be they old or new, and on our common response”, and “should not shy away from the need to improve and, where necessary, change the structure and functions of the United Nations and other international institutions”.

In particular, the Secretary-General says, the Security Council needs to “regain the confidence of States and of world public opinion”, and will be better able to do so “if it is perceived to be broadly representative of the international community as a whole and of the geo-political realities of the contemporary world”. He hopes, therefore, that Member States will redouble their efforts to reach agreement on enlarging the Council’s membership.

In the chapter on development, Mr. Annan places particular emphasis on the need for developed countries to meet their commitments to the developing world in the areas of trade, debt relief and aid. He says that the success or failure of all the Millennium Development Goals hinges on this, and that the developed countries should agree on time-bound deadlines for fulfilling their pledges, comparable to the 2015 target for outcomes such as the halving of extreme poverty and hunger.

In the chapter on human rights, democracy and good governance, he warns that “tolerance is too often the first casualty of a ‘war on terror’, which is widely perceived, especially by Muslims, as a war against Islam”. And he adds that “greater respect for human rights, along with democracy and social justice, will in the long term be the most effective prophylactic against terror”.

This chapter also covers women’s rights in some detail. “The best one can say,” Mr. Annan says, “is that there is increased global awareness of issues affecting women’s rights. But at the country level there is little progress and in many cases even the rights that have been achieved are under threat.”

The report concludes with a chapter on “reinforcing multilateral institutions”, in which the Secretary-General calls for “a hard look” at the existing architecture of international institutions and, in particular, a review of the principal organs of the UN itself -- not only the Security Council but also the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and perhaps even the Trusteeship Council (a body which has had nothing to do since the UN Trust Territories -- mainly former colonies of the World War Two Axis powers -- achieved independence, but which, Mr. Annan suggests, “might be reviewed in the light of new kinds of responsibility given to the United Nations by its Member States in recent years”).

Note: The full text of the report, document symbol A/58/323, will be available as of 8 September at

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