13 November 2003


NEW YORK, 12 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Congress of Peru, in Lima, on 11 November:

It is a great pleasure to be making my first visit to Peru.  I arrived only last night.  But already I have met Peruvians from many walks of life, felt the great dynamism of this country, and been made to feel very much at home.

I am looking forward to visiting Cuzco and Machu Picchu in the days ahead, and to meeting with representatives of Peru’s indigenous communities.  And of course, I have come here as part of a wider visit to some of your neighbours.  At this difficult time for your country and your continent, I bring from the international community a pledge of solidarity with your efforts to achieve lasting peace, democracy, and development.

You, the elected representatives of the Peruvian people, carry tremendous responsibilities.  You are the embodiment of Peruvian values.  Yet, like parliamentarians throughout the world, you serve as the institutional bridge between the State and the people.  That means giving voice to their struggles and aspirations.  It means ensuring that the concerns of all sectors of society are part of the national dialogue, helping to shape the country’s direction -- especially indigenous peoples, Afro-Peruvians, and others who, over time, have been marginalized or excluded.  And it means safeguarding democracy, providing effective public administration, setting an example of transparent, accountable governance, and making wise use of the country’s resources.

Today the role of Congress is more pivotal than ever.

In an era of globalization, States must do their utmost to integrate themselves into the global economy.  States may be under siege in some respects, but in many areas they remain essential actors, especially in addressing the limits of the market.  You can contribute by putting in place the legal and regulatory frameworks that will promote investment and liberate your people’s creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit.

And since most of today's major problems -- such as environmental degradation, drug trafficking and the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS -- transcend borders, countries must cooperate with each other even more so than in the past.  Indeed, contacts among lawmakers such as yourselves are increasing steadily, including through organizations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union.


If at one time parliamentarians were mainly the link between the local and the national, today you are also the meeting point where the local and the global come together.

I am pleased to note that Peru has been moving forward with determination on many of these fronts.  The recent political crisis has been resolved through constitutional means, with the active engagement of this Congress.  The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, looking back beyond the most recent turmoil, has been important in the fight against impunity and in bolstering the rule of law.

You have also been paying greater attention to the social sector, in particular health, education and the other Millennium Development Goals. You are striving to improve upon a long history of inequality and insecure land tenure.  You are recognizing the need to overcome entrenched patterns of discrimination against women and indigenous peoples, so that they can enjoy their rights and so that society can benefit from their full participation.  And you are pursuing regional integration efforts, forging common positions that will strengthen your voice in international arenas where key decisions on trade and finance are made.

Such efforts place you on a more caring and cohesive path of development.  And they merit a response from the international system.  I know there is considerable dismay that the sacrifices you have made under international financial strictures have not borne the fruit you anticipated; that some of your most competitive goods face unfair obstacles in the global marketplace; and that these and other problems have led to questions about the democratic paradigm itself -- whether it is capable of responding to your country’s particular situation.

Allow me to appeal to you to persevere, despite the imperfections and frustrations you encounter along the way.  Certainly you need deeper debt relief, more effective development aid and better trade opportunities. Certainly more could be done to increase your meaningful participation in the international decisions that affect your lives.  The United Nations wants to work with you on all of these issues -- here in Peru, through our wide-ranging development presence, and in New York and Washington, through the policy process.

Part of the problem, frankly, is that the international system itself is experiencing its own set of difficulties. There are deep cleavages on basic principles, as we saw with the war in Iraq and its implications for our system of collective security.  There are strong differences over basic priorities, as we saw at trade talks in Cancún, where States could not agree to take reasonable steps that would have helped poor countries rise out of poverty.  Some of our international institutions and mechanisms are showing their age or suffer from what might be called a “democratic deficit”.  There has been some progress -- for example, significant new pledges of aid at last year’s Monterrey conference on financing for development.  But the consensus reflected in the Millennium Declaration -- on the challenges we face and how to address them -- looks less solid now than when it was adopted three years ago by the world’s leaders.

It is with that in mind that I have called for a radical review of the international system, to see how it might need to be adapted to cope with the threats and challenges of the new century.  To assist in that process, I have just appointed a panel of eminent persons, to be chaired by former Prime Minister Anand of Thailand and whose membership includes two distinguished Latin Americans.  The Panel will focus primarily on threats to peace and security.  But it will also need to examine other global challenges, including those in the economic and social realms, insofar as these may influence or connect with those threats.  Then it will consider collective solutions or responses to those threats.  Only in the light of that analysis will it look at the international machinery, including the major organs of the United Nations, and consider what improvements might be necessary.  I have asked the Panel to report in time for me to make recommendations to the next session of the General Assembly.

The ultimate decisions -- decisions to modify the rules of the system, or the institutions that manage it -- can only be taken by the Member States. That means not only governments but also you, the parliamentarians. Even if the changes decided do not require formal parliamentary ratification, they should be the result of wide-ranging discussion within States as well as between them.  The peoples of the world, in whose name the United Nations was founded, must feel fully represented in the decision-making process.  So it is clear that national parliaments like this one have a vital role to play.

We should not put ourselves in a position of having to choose disarmament over literacy, or maternal health over effective action against terrorism.  Nor should we believe that there is a trade-off between civil liberties and human rights and the fight against terrorism.  Those who believe there is are wrong.  If we sacrifice our civil liberties, would we be more secure?

We must confront all these threats and challenges -- new and old, “hard” and “soft”.  In fact, these struggles are linked.  A world in which many millions of people continue to endure brutal oppression and extreme misery will never be fully secure, even for its most privileged inhabitants.  With your concerted action at home, and with your strong commitment to multilateralism, I have every hope that together we will succeed.

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