6 November 2003


NEW YORK, 5 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the Secretary-General’s message to the annual dinner of the Aspen Institute on receiving the Global Leadership award, delivered by Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, on 4 November:

You have honoured me deeply with this award, and I regret that I could not be with you in person tonight.  I am all the more grateful because this honour comes at a crucial time in the life of the United Nations.

Three years ago, in the Millennium Declaration, world leaders committed themselves to address common threats to peace and security, to meet agreed development goals, and to advance human rights and democracy.  But while that vision remains valid, events of the past year -- from the war in Iraq to the setback in trade talks at Cancún -- have upset the consensus behind it.

Many people see the dominant threats to peace and security as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, transnational criminal networks and the ways in which all these things may be coming together to reinforce one another. But if one were to do a poll in each of the world’s regions, other threats might register even higher: civil wars and other armed conflicts, poverty, environmental degradation, AIDS and other diseases. For many and, perhaps, even most people, these are the everyday issues which really destabilize their lives.

Our central challenge is to ensure we have the rules, instruments and institutions to deal with all these threats.  After all, they form a linked set of global, cross-border challenges that affect, and should concern, all people.  A world that is not advancing towards the Millennium Development Goals will not be a world at peace.  And a world awash in violence and conflict will have little chance of achieving the goals.

The United Nations has done a great deal in recent years to change with the times.  But today the Organization has come to something of a fork in the road -- with one path leading towards true effectiveness, and the other towards an unacceptable status quo.  For that reason, I am appointing a high-level panel to examine current challenges to peace and security, and to recommend ways of strengthening the United Nations.  Based on its analysis, I expect to recommend that Member States undertake a number of bold changes.

Whatever those changes are, they should be the result of wide-ranging discussion within States, as well as between them.  As members of the Aspen Institute and leading thinkers of our time, you all have a vital role to play in fostering understanding and building constituencies that can help make our indispensable institution as effective and responsive as it needs to be in serving the peoples of the world.  I thank every one of you for your engagement, and wish you all a splendid evening.

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