Press Releases

    23 September 2005

    World Must Be Able to Look to United Nations with Hope, Trust, Secretary-General Says in Remarks to Group of 77 Foreign Ministers

    NEW YORK, 22 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of today's remarks by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the twenty-ninth annual ministerial meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the "Group of 77" developing countries:

    I am delighted to join you for this annual ministerial meeting of G-77 foreign ministers, in the aftermath of the agreements reached at the World Summit.

    Let me first congratulate the G-77 on the very important role it played in promoting the interests of developing countries in the negotiations on the outcome document.  We all know that the Summit did not achieve everything that we had hoped for.  But it did achieve important progress, across a broad front, not least on development.  Our task now is to implement what was agreed, and I look forward to the G-77 playing an active and constructive role in that process, too.

    If all Member States actually do everything they have promised, we will reduce poverty and disease, make our world safer from a range of threats, advance human rights around the world, and make the United Nations more effective.  We will also build a platform from which to tackle other important issues that still divide the membership.

    On no issue is implementation more important than development.  The Summit outcome document reaffirms, and pushes forward, the development framework built up over the last decade.  And it emphasizes that progress depends on mutual accountability and responsibility, in a true global partnership for development.  Both sides must keep their side of the bargain.

    Every developing country has committed itself to adopt by next year, and begin to implement, a national strategy bold enough to achieve the internationally agreed development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  Developing countries have also pledged to promote good governance, fight corruption, pursue sound macroeconomic policies, and make transparent and effective use of public funds.

    These are very important commitments.  But equally important are the commitments made by developed nations.  The Summit process has clearly created stronger support for the 0.7 per cent target, and garnered commitments to add tens of billions of dollars to the fight for development.  Innovative sources of financing should also begin to come on stream by next year, as well.  And we now have clear support for quick impact initiatives, such as the free distribution of malaria bed nets, the expansion of school meal programmes, and the elimination of user fees for primary schooling and health services.  On all these promises, the key is early and effective delivery.

    It has taken a long time -- too long, I believe -- for the importance of debt relief to be fully appreciated.  But after the G-8 Summit, I think that is changing.  Now is the time to press for greater action on debt relief, including cancellation of 100 per cent of the official multilateral and bilateral debt of all Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, and significant debt relief for other countries with an unsustainable debt burden.

    Another vital area on which we have not made enough progress is trade.  We all know that the good work of national strategies, aid, and debt relief is often undone by trade-distorting subsidies, quotas and tariffs.  This, of course, is the province of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  World leaders at the Summit did promise to work expeditiously to implement the development dimensions of the Doha work programme.  These must not remain mere words.  You will have my full support in pressing for progress on the Doha trade round at the WTO meeting in Hong Kong, and beyond.

     For my part, I look forward to working with you as we seek to achieve major management improvements at the United Nations.  I know that some of you think that reform of the intergovernmental institutions is what is most urgent, so that the voice of the vast majority of the membership is fully heard.  As you know, I agree that such changes are vital to strengthen the United Nations.  That is why I believe Security Council reform is essential, and why we must continue our efforts to make the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council -- and, indeed, the Bretton Woods institutions -- more effective and active parts of the UN system, fully reflecting the views and interests of the developing world.

    But I also believe that the UN's legitimacy rests on the integrity and effectiveness of the Secretariat.  And we must address the management failings that have come to light -- for the sake of our dedicated staff, and for the sake of the most vulnerable people in our world, who will suffer most if the Organization is weakened or cannot deliver.  That is why I am very pleased that, in the outcome document, world leaders gave the go-ahead for extensive management reforms to make the Secretariat more efficient, more effective, and more accountable.  I ask for the G-77's full engagement and support on that agenda.

    The "to-do" list of such reforms for the year ahead is long:  reviewing ongoing mandates that are more than five years old; adapting budget and human resources rules; a one-time staff buy-out to ensure we have the personnel best suited to the priorities of Member States; measures to strengthen independent oversight of audits; and an ethics office to protect whistleblowers and ensure more extensive financial disclosure.

    I want to work with all Member States on these changes, as well as to realign the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the membership, so that the former is able to administer the Secretariat effectively, and the latter can hold him clearly to account.  If Member States follow through on all these items, it will help restore the confidence of people everywhere in the Organization's good name, and its ability to turn good intentions into good deeds.  That will be in the interest of all who believe in a strong United Nations.

    I have focused today on development and management reform, but as I said last Saturday to the General Assembly, we must advance on many fronts in the year ahead.  We need to get the Peacebuilding Commission up and running this year.  We must see the negotiations on the Human Rights Council through to a successful conclusion.  We need to work together to agree on a comprehensive convention on terrorism and flesh out the details of a global anti-terrorism strategy.  And, of course, now that we have agreed that we indeed have a collective responsibility to protect civilian populations from genocide and other heinous crimes, we must ensure that we meet that responsibility when it is put to the test.

    I have made clear my disappointment at the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology.  This is both a security and a development issue.  I believe we should support the Norwegian-led efforts to find a way forward.

    And we must work for progress in other areas, too:  meeting the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States, and Africa; global climate change; migration; mediation; peacekeeping, humanitarian response; and democratization. The Summit addressed all these issues -- some more effectively than others.  They must all be high priorities as we move forward.

    We have a very big job ahead to make the Summit outcome meaningful in the lives of the peoples of the world.  That is where it counts.  I look forward to working with you to translate our commitments into results, particularly for the weak and the poor -- most of them citizens of your countries, who, we must never forget, represent the majority of the United Nations' membership.  They must be able to look to the United Nations with hope and trust.  Let's make sure they can.

    * *** *