Press Releases

    21 January 2005

    There Is Still Time to Achieve Millennium Goals, Secretary-General Says at Dinner for Global Colloquium of University Presidents

    He Underscores Need for Decisive Steps to Initiate Breakthrough this Year

    NEW YORK, 20 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan remarks at a dinner for the Global Colloquium of University Presidents in New York, on 18 January:

    It is a great pleasure to join you for this dinner and this first global colloquium of university presidents.  Thank you for making the effort to participate, especially those who have travelled long distances to be here.

    One of the first speeches I gave on taking office as Secretary-General was to a distinguished group of university presidents from around the world. From the outset, I was convinced that universities would be tremendously important partners of the United Nations. And so it has been.  As educators, as repositories and creators of knowledge, as people deeply involved in helping the world address the issues of our times, your role has been vital.  This colloquium is yet another example of the productive ties we have developed over the years, and I hope it will become a tradition.

    We gather at the start of a year that has the potential to bring fundamental change not only to the United Nations, but also to the way the world handles the challenges and threats we face.

    Member States have decided to hold a summit in September to review the progress we have made in implementing the Millennium Declaration -- which, as you know, was adopted five years ago at the Millennium Summit.  It is my hope that leaders will use the months between now and then for serious discussions, and arrive in September ready for bold decisions about our common future.

    To help them in that process, they now have two major reports in their hands.

    The first was issued last month by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.  It is called “A More Secure World:  Our Shared Responsibility”, and sets out a new and compelling vision of collective security for the new century.

    One of its main messages is that, because of globalization, we live in a world of interconnected threats and mutual vulnerability between rich and poor, 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.

    The report puts forward proposals for strengthening the United Nations, including its peace-building functions and human rights machinery, and for better protecting civilians in armed conflict.  It makes recommendations for reforming the membership of the Security Council so that it reflects the world of the twenty-first century, not that of 1945.

    The report also recognizes something I have long advocated:  that State sovereignty cannot be a shield behind which governments can commit genocide or other gross violations of human rights.  When governments are unable or unwilling to protect their citizens, the Security Council must assume its responsibility to do so.

    The Panel also calls on the United Nations to make better use of its assets in the fight against terrorism.  Towards that end it has proposed a definition of terrorism, something that up to now has eluded the international community. The Panel’s definition makes it crystal clear that no cause, however righteous in itself, can justify the targeting of civilians and non-combatants.

    The Panel also stresses the inextricable links between security and development.  That brings me to the second report:  the report of the Millennium Project, which was issued yesterday by Columbia’s own Jeff Sachs and his team of experts.

    This is an important and impressive document, and reflects the expertise of more than 250 of the world’s leading development policy makers, practitioners and experts.  Most importantly, it offers a large number of concrete, practical proposals for reaching the Millennium Development Goals by the agreed target year of 2015.

    The Goals are not utopian.  They are eminently achievable.  Many countries, including some of the poorest and least developed, are making real progress in achieving them. But many others, particularly in Africa, are not moving fast enough.  The recommendations in this report offer ideas and strategies to help those who have fallen behind, as well as those who are looking to build on their gains.  There is still enough time to achieve the Goals, if the world takes the decisive steps needed to initiate a breakthrough this year.

    Tonight I particularly want to thank this great university, Columbia, for the outstanding contributions it has made to the Millennium Project. Jeff Sachs has been able to draw upon the remarkable intellectual resources of the Earth Institute and the rest of the University, with generous support from President Bollinger.  I should also thank Michael Doyle, who as part of my team in 2001 led the UN inter-agency group that formulated the targets and indicators for the MDGs.

    Let me add that Member States will also be given a third report -- my own, which I shall issue in March.  In preparing it I will draw on both the High-Level Panel Report and that of the Millennium Project, and on other consultations.  My intention is to set an ambitious yet practical agenda for the September Summit.

    There is ample scope in the year ahead for university leaders such as you to contribute to this process.  I hope you will do what you do best:  challenge your students, your faculty, and the wider communities in which you operate, to engage and work together for the greater good of humankind.

    And now I very much look forward to your comments.

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