5 December 2003


NEW YORK, 4 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the twenty-second General Assembly of the conference of non-governmental organizations in consultative relationship with the United Nations, delivered today in Geneva by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva:

You meet at a moment of great consequence for the international community.  The events of the past year have shaken the foundations of collective security, and undermined confidence in the possibility of collective responses to our common problems and challenges.  Deep divergences of opinion have come to the fore on the range and nature of the challenges we face, and are likely to face in the future.  While a strong consensus on development was forged, three years ago, in the Millennium Declaration -- most notably in the form of the Millennium Development Goals -- the consensus on peace and security expressed or implied in the Declaration looks less solid than it did then.

It is with that in mind that I have called for a comprehensive 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 High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, to be chaired by former Prime Minister Anand of Thailand.  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, in so far as these may influence or connect with those threats.  Indeed, those connections are often of central importance.  The Panel will then consider the contribution that collective action could make in responding to those threats.  Only in the light of that analysis will it look at the international machinery, including but not limited to the principal organs of the United Nations.

There is also important stocktaking under way concerning the relationship between the United Nations and members of civil society such as yourselves.  That relationship has greatly intensified in the past 15 years, and for the most part has been very rewarding for governments and civil society alike.  At the same time, I think we all sense that some real challenges have come to the fore –- such as the sheer numbers of foundations and other groups seeking to participate and the quality of that participation.  Here, too, a panel of eminent persons is studying the issues.  Chaired by former President Cardoso of Brazil, it is expected to report early in the new year.

In the end, governments will decide on these matters.  But each of you has an important role to play in this path of change, and I hope you will make your voices heard.  In that spirit of partnership, please accept my best wishes for a memorable meeting.

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