Press Releases

    9 December 2004

    UN “Needs Change – Perhaps Radical Change” to Meet 21st Century Threats of Aids, Genocide, Terrorism, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

    NEW YORK, 8 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s statement to the General Assembly in New York, 8 December:

    You received last week the report of the High-Level Panel, entitled “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility”. 

    I think it is an excellent report. It provides a new and comprehensive vision of collective security for the 21st century. 

    One of its key messages is this: because of globalization we live in a world of interconnected threats and mutual vulnerability between rich and poor and weak and strong. No country can afford to deal with today’s threats alone, and no threat can be dealt with effectively unless other threats are addressed at the same time. 

    To do this, we need global policies, and global institutions, which are efficient and effective. The United Nations has done a good job in many instances, and is often undervalued.  But it needs change -- perhaps radical change -- if it is to meet the challenges to come.

    It is hardly possible to overstate what is at stake, not only for this Organization but for all the peoples of this world, for whose safety this Organization was created. If we do not act resolutely, and together, the threats described in the report can overwhelm us. 

    Do we want the human costs of HIV/AIDS to accumulate to the point where societies and states collapse? 

    Do we want to face a future cascade of nuclear proliferation?

    Next time we are faced with genocide, will we again resign ourselves to watching passively until it is too late?

    Do we want to raise our children in a world where small groups of terrorists can murder hundreds of thousands at any moment? 

    Excellencies, the answer to all these questions must surely be a resounding No! And that means getting serious about prevention -- across the full range of threats that we face.

    Either we turn our backs on the very notion of collective security, or we must work hard to make sure that collective security really means something -- and that we are able, in a practical and decisive manner, to lay out a new agenda and act on it in the years to come. 

    We cannot fool ourselves that this will be easy. I challenged the members of the Panel to take up the toughest issues that divide us, and to give me recommendations that are far-sighted but possible. They have risen to that challenge -- and now the burden falls on you. It is up to you, the Member States, to act on their recommendations, and to make 2005 the year of change for the United Nations.

    As you know, the Panel has made a variety of recommendations. Some are within my purview to implement and I will move ahead quickly to do so. In particular, I intend to take the lead, as the Panel has asked me to do, in promoting a new comprehensive, principled strategy against terrorism. I will present the outlines of this strategy for your consideration in the new year.

    Other recommendations, such as those related to the reform of the Secretariat, have budgetary implications. On these, I stand ready to provide you with more detailed comments and, based on your guidance, a plan for implementation. 

    Mr. President, forgive me if at this point I pause to give special emphasis to one of the Panel’s recommendations -- the one in which they urge Member States to support and fully fund the proposed Directorate of Security, and to accord high priority to assisting me in implementing a new staff security system in 2005. Recent events have taught us, in the most painful way imaginable, how necessary that is -- and rigorous investigation has shown that the losses we have suffered are in large part due to defects in our security system.

    Those defects must be remedied.  Let me remind you, once again, that UN staff serve in dangerous environments not for my satisfaction, nor yet for their own, but because you, the Member States, have decided that their work is needed there. Unhappily we cannot, in this increasingly volatile and dangerous world, carry out the mandates that you give us without adequate security arrangements. I therefore appeal to you once again to back those mandates with the decisions on security that they clearly entail.

    Some of the Panel’s recommendations are addressed to different parts of the UN system -- to various principal organs or to the specialized agencies. I trust that each will take them up and consider them with due urgency, and I will discuss this with the heads of agencies and programmes.

    And some, finally, are broad policy recommendations, such as those on the linkage between security and development.

    It is important now that all Member States have the opportunity to make their voices heard, in this General Assembly, and to deliberate among themselves on all aspects of the report. I know that you are considering discussions around clusters of issues, and I commend this approach.

    In March, I will submit to you my review of the implementation of the Millennium Declaration. In it, I will draw heavily on the ideas in the Panel’s report. But I will also draw on your discussions over the coming months. It is my hope that the summit next September will be comprehensive in scope, and will be able to reach decisions on the most important policy issues.

    But, as I stressed in my note transmitting the report to you last week, there are many recommendations that do not need to wait until September. Where we can reach agreement and act sooner, we should not hesitate to do so.

    I said that 2005 is important. It is, indeed, critical. We must make progress, and come to agreement on the changes we need in this Organization. 

    It is not simply a matter of making the Organization better. It is a matter of confronting, in the only way possible, the real and present dangers that lie in wait for us. 

    This task will last well beyond 2005. I look forward to working with all of you, not only to make this coming year a success, but to embark on processes of dialogue and reform, which will need to continue in the years ahead. 

    Finally, Mr. President, let me express once more my gratitude to the Chair and members of the Panel, and the research team, for the excellent work they have done. From the circumstances when use of force is legitimate to the definition of terrorism, they were able to find a common position, despite the wide differences in their backgrounds, on issues which for years have divided and paralysed the international community. I find that very encouraging. It gives me hope that the nations of the world, acting through you, their representatives, can make a similar effort to overcome their differences, and thus give new meaning and validity to the name “United Nations”.

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