Press Releases

1 December 2004

Panel to Release Plan to Address 21st Century Threats, Make the World More Secure and Strengthen the United Nations

Over 100 Recommendations for Change Cover Terrorism, Poverty and Infectious Diseases, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Civil Violence, UN Reform, and More

(Re-issued as received.)

NEW YORK, 30 November:  A panel appointed last year by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to propose ways of strengthening international security will officially announce its recommendations on 2 December, urging the adoption of new, far-reaching ground rules to help the world face new and evolving threats in the 21st century, and to strengthen the United Nations.

In the words of the panel chair, former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun of Thailand, the 95-page report, entitled A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, “puts forward a new vision of collective security, one that addresses all of the major threats to international peace and security felt around the world”. The panel of 16 former heads of State, foreign ministers and security, military, diplomatic and development officials reaffirms the right of States to defend themselves, including pre-emptively when an attack is imminent, and says that in the case of “nightmare scenarios” -- for instance those combining terrorists and weapons of mass destruction -- the UN Security Council may have to act earlier, more proactively and more decisively than in the past.

The changes recommended address some of the most controversial global issues, such as when the use of force is justified, as well as many of the most complex, including efforts to combat poverty and disease. The report argues that today -- in the age of global commerce, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction -- a threat to any nation or people is a threat to all, and that nations must work together to maintain their security. While emphasizing the need for collective security, the panel says that sovereign States “are still the frontline responders to today’s threats”, but many of them need to be better equipped “to exercise their sovereignty responsibly”.

A year ago, when he set up the panel, the Secretary-General said that the UN had reached a fork in the road: it could rise to the challenge of meeting new threats, or risk erosion in the face of mounting discord between states and unilateral action by them. Mr. Annan plans to take the panel’s recommendations into account in his own report in March. This will help set the agenda for a special UN summit scheduled for world leaders next September.

Use of Force

Besides reaffirming the right of self-defence and warning that “nightmare scenarios” may call for more proactive and decisive measures by the Security Council, the report endorses the idea of a collective responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing and other comparable atrocities. This responsibility, it says, belongs first and foremost to sovereign states but, when they are unable or unwilling to fulfil it, the wider international community should intervene - acting preventively where possible, responding to violence if need be, and working to rebuild shattered societies after the event. The primary focus should be on halting violence through diplomacy and protecting people through actions such as sending humanitarian, human rights and police missions. “Force, if it needs to be used, should be deployed as a last resort”, and should be authorized by the Security Council. The panel proposes five criteria to guide the Council in deciding whether to authorize use of force: seriousness of threat, proper purpose, last resort, proportional means, and balance of consequences (i.e., whether military action is likely to have better or worse results than inaction).


The report also addresses issues that arise during and after violent conflict, including the capacities needed for peace enforcement, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and the protection of civilians. It finds the global supply of available peacekeepers dangerously low, and calls on countries to be much readier to provide and support military deployments. Developed States especially, it says, should do more to have suitable contingents ready for peace operations, and provide the financial and logistical resources to mobilize them when and where they are needed. And it urges the creation of a new UN body, the Peacebuilding Commission, which would identify countries at risk of violent conflict, organize prevention efforts, and “marshal and sustain the efforts of the international community in post-conflict peacebuilding”. 


The report contains many proposals to prevent conflict and other global threats, with development as the first line of response. Development, it says, “serves multiple functions. It helps combat the poverty, disease and environmental degradation that kill millions and threaten human security. It is vital in helping states prevent or reverse the erosion of State capacity, key to meeting almost every class of threat. And it is part of a long-term strategy for preventing civil war, and for addressing the environments in which both terrorism and organized crime flourish.”

The panel criticizes the “shockingly late and shamefully ill-resourced” global response to HIV/AIDS, and calls on the international community to rebuild global public health capacity, disease monitoring and response -- as a defence both against naturally occurring epidemics and against terrorists using biological weapons. It also draws attention to “the gap between the promise of the Kyoto Protocol and its performance”, and urges new negotiations on a long-term strategy for reducing global warming beyond 2012, when the obligations in the protocol expire.

The report also includes detailed proposals for strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime, as well as additional steps to prevent the spread of biological and chemical weapons. It lays out the main elements of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, in which it calls on the Secretary-General to take the lead. And the panel was able to reach consensus on a definition of terrorism -- the lack of which, it says, has until now prevented the UN from “exerting its moral authority and sending an unequivocal message that terrorism is never an acceptable tactic”.

Reform of the UN

The panel found that the UN “has been much more effective in addressing the major threats to peace and security than it is given credit for, but that nonetheless major changes are needed” if it is to be “effective, efficient and equitable in providing collective security for all” in the 21st Century.  Among the most significant changes recommended is the expansion of the Security Council from 15 to 24 members.  The panel suggests two options: one involving six new permanent members with no veto, the other based on new four-year, renewable seats that would be regionally distributed.

In addition, the report recommends changes in the General Assembly, ECOSOC and the Commission on Human Rights, and in the UN’s relations with regional organizations. It also proposes strengthening the Secretary-General’s critical role in peace and security. To be more effective, it says, the Secretary-General should be given substantially more latitude to manage the Secretariat, and should be held accountable.  It also recommends the addition of a second Deputy Secretary-General, who would focus on peace and security, and prepare early warning reports and strategy options for decision by the Secretary-General -- thus complementing the achievements of the present Deputy (whose post was created in 1996) in “bringing far greater coherence to the work of the UN in the social, economic and development fields”.

The report contains 101 recommendations overall.  Besides the chair, the other members of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change are: Robert Badinter (France), Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway), Mary Chinery-Hesse (Ghana), Gareth Evans (Australia), David Hannay (Britain), Enrique Iglesias (Uruguay), Amr Moussa (Egypt), Satish Nambiar (India), Sadako Ogata (Japan), Yevgeny M. Primakov (Russia), Qian Qichen (China), Nafis Sadiq (Pakistan), Salim Ahmed Salim (Tanzania), Brent Scowcroft (United States) and Joao Baena Soares (Brazil). Stanford University professor Stephen Stedman guided their research and compiled the report.


For more information, contact Tim Wall of the UN Department of Public Information, at 1-212-963-5851, mobile 1-646-479-4593, e-mail; Bruce Jones of the High-level Panel’s research staff, 1-212-457-1843,; or
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