Press Releases

    9 September 2005

    Addressing Parliamentarians, Secretary-General Annan Says World Summit Is Chance

    To Implement Shared Vision for Development, Security, Human Rights, Reform

    NEW YORK, 8 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is today's address by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Second World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, meeting at United Nations Headquarters:

    It is a great pleasure to welcome you to United Nations Headquarters for this Second World Conference of Speakers of Parliament.

    Some of you were here five years ago for the first Conference, just days before vital decisions were made at the Millennium Summit.

    Being here again may give you a sense of déjà vu, as once again we look to the World Summit for important decisions on the full range of issues before the United Nations.

    Does this mean we have come nowhere in the last five years?  Absolutely not.

    We've seen important progress in development, including unprecedented global support for the Millennium Development Goals.  The United Nations is keeping the peace in more places than ever before, and it is at work all over the world helping war-torn communities to build lasting peace and sustainable democratic institutions.  The Organization is also in the lead in coordinating and providing humanitarian aid to people in many countries.

    But these important contributions must not blind us to the full extent of the challenges facing the international community.

    Well over a billion people still live in extreme poverty, and 20,000 die from preventable causes every day.  Terrorism affects all parts of the world, from the richest to the poorest, and is made even more dangerous by failure to check the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Large parts of humanity are affected by civil war.  And human rights and democratic values continue to be trampled underfoot in too many countries.

    Whatever progress we have made, I believe our collective responses to many of these challenges are inadequate.  However, I believe equally firmly that we have it in our power to change that.

    Economic growth and technological advance have given us the resources to tackle the problems we face.  And advances in knowledge and understanding, combined with intensive exchange of ideas among governments, academic experts and civil society, have brought us a shared vision of many of the strategies and priorities required.

    The World Summit is an opportunity to put that vision to work, with significant advances in development, security, human rights, and institutional reform.

    In the negotiations on the draft outcome, under the leadership of the President of the General Assembly, the Member States are dealing with a wide range of issues.  While it has been hard going, Member States have underlined their desire for a strong outcome.

    I very much hope that they will be able to finalize a document that includes a clear and agreed strategy to halve poverty in the next 10 years; new action to combat terrorism, build sustainable peace, protect human rights, and prevent genocide; and important institutional reforms of the United Nations in its sixtieth anniversary year.

    Those changes must include further management reforms of the Secretariat, to help restore the morale of our dedicated staff, and the confidence of the public in this Organization's integrity and effectiveness.

    Whatever is achieved at the Summit, let us not imagine that these next few days represent the end of the process.  Rather, this is only a beginning.  We will need to turn immediately to the task of implementing what is decided.  After all, the ultimate value of this process will be measured by its impact on the peoples of the United Nations.  It is in the daily lives of your constituents, in their safety and security, in their prosperity and sense of opportunity, that our progress will be most visible, and our setbacks felt most keenly.

    That is why your engagement with this process is so valuable and vital -- to focus political attention on the reform agenda, to encourage your governments to engage with good will and follow through on commitments, to bring your citizens in close contact with the process, and, of course, to ensure that their concerns are heard.

    As parliamentarians, you are the embodiment of democracy, a value reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to which this Organization is making a growing contribution, year by year.  By your engagement with this Organization, you make it more democratic, too.

    You also often control the purse strings.  So your decisions can help determine whether your States make available the resources that this Organization needs to be effective.

    To give one important example:  one of the reforms being discussed is designed to ensure that UN agencies have guaranteed funds within three or four days of a sudden humanitarian emergency, without having to wait for donor responses to flash appeals.  I often say that firemen have the equipment, they have their firehouses, they have their trucks, and when a fire breaks out, they move quickly with their trucks and equipment to deal with it.  The way we handle humanitarian assistance is to approach governments for money when the crisis has broken, when, in fact, we should be acting immediately.  So when I compared us with the firemen, it's like telling us, "Mr. Secretary-General, United Nations, we know you need resources, we know you need to put out that fire, but we will give you a firehouse and the equipment when the fire breaks out."  But that's no help.  So I hope that we will be able to set up a fund that will help us deal with this quickly.  From last year's tsunami in South-East Asia to last week's hurricane in the Gulf Coast of the United States, we have seen time and again how important it is to be able to move quickly when a crisis strikes.  I appeal to you to support and contribute to a revised Central Emergency Revolving Fund, which would help ensure that we can reach those in need more reliably, and in time to save more lives.

    Above all, I thank you for your broad outlook, your awareness of the interconnected nature of today's problems, and your belief in multilateral solutions.  Let us make sure that, should you come together again in another five years, we have made measurable progress in modernizing our institutions, and in building a world that is freer, fairer and safer for all its inhabitants.

    Thank you very much. 

    * *** *