Press Releases

         19 April 2005

    Unique Opportunity to Make World Freer, Fairer, Safer ‘Must Not Be Missed’, Says Secretary-General in Remarks to Finance Officials in Washington

    NEW YORK, 18 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at a dinner with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Committees, in Washington, D.C., on Saturday 16 April:

    Let me say first how much I value this chance to have a discussion with you. I have always thought of the Bank and the Fund as part of the United Nations family. And I hope you will all agree with me.

    Ever since I became Secretary-General, I have worked closely with Jim Wolfensohn and his staff on many issues -- as I have with Rodrigo de Rato and his predecessors.

    Of course, I look forward to working with Paul Wolfowitz, who is here with us tonight, too, in the near future. But I cannot let this occasion pass without a special word of thanks to Jim, who over the last 10 years has made the World Bank a true campaigner against world poverty, and an ever closer partner of the United Nations. I am so glad he has now accepted a new mission to work on economic and social issues in the Middle East as we will have the chance of working together. We certainly need his leadership, flair and vision there, and I am sure that the people from the region will gain from this, and it will give me the chance to keep on working with him.

    We are all working on the same issues -- aid, debt, trade, development -- and today, thanks to the United Nations conferences of the 1990s, we also have a shared vision of development priorities. In the last three years especially -- since the Monterrey Conference -- our approaches have coalesced around the Millennium Development Goals.

    If you want evidence of that, just look at the Millennium Project report, which we published in January, and compare it with the report issued by your two organizations this week. We are really on the same page -- and that's not surprising. After all, the 250 experts who worked on the Millennium Project included many Bank and Fund staff, as well as national officials from many of the countries represented here tonight.

    Now, we need to work even more closely together to support the people and government in each the developing countries. After all, that is where development actually happens.

    But I am preaching to the converted and I should not be doing that. The very fact that you have invited me tonight shows the importance you attach to your links with the United Nations. You are right to do so -- and those links are going to be even more important than ever this year.

    The coming months offer us a unique opportunity to make real changes in the international system -- changes that can make the world freer, fairer and safer for all its inhabitants.

    The meetings that concern you most directly are your own spring and fall meetings, of course, plus the Group of 8 summit in July, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial in December -- and, I trust, your annual meeting with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on Monday, and in June the General Assembly's high-level meeting on financing for development, as well as the high-level segment of ECOSOC.

    But I hope you see those meetings in the broader context of the agenda to be discussed at the United Nations summit in September. That summit is the occasion when a whole range of vital commitments can be brought together and stamped with the highest political authority.

    On the development side, we know what those commitments must be.

    All developing countries must commit themselves to sound, transparent and accountable national strategies, which they themselves devise and of which they take full ownership, for mobilizing all their resources in the fight against poverty.

    And all countries which do adopt such strategies must receive enough aid, quickly enough and of sufficient quality, to enable them to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

    That means that all donor countries must commit themselves to achieve the timetables set for reaching the 0.7 per cent official development assistance (ODA) target. And I am pleased that more countries are setting timetables for attaining that target. I hope that by September most members of the European Union will have produced timetables for achieving it.

    And this increase in aid must be front-loaded, through an international finance facility or other mechanism, so that there is a real cash-flow jump in time to make the difference.

    Also, to make the increase sustainable, we need a commitment to find new sources of finance for the longer term, as well as new ways to ensure that the debt burden borne by developing countries is genuinely sustainable.

    No less important, we need a commitment to complete the Doha Round next year, with its promised focus on development, and with duty-free and quota-free market access for all exports from the least developed countries as a crucial first step.

    We also need more specific commitments to address the special needs of Africa, drawing on the admirable prescriptions in the Blair Commission's report.

    We need, urgently, a commitment to provide the resources for an expanded and comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS, as identified by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and its partners, with full funding for the Global Fund.

    And -- last, but not least -- we need a commitment to explore all possible ways, both political and technical, of mitigating climate change and its effects in the decades to come.

    That sounds like a really ambitious agenda, and it is. But paradoxically I believe its chances of success are greater if it is placed in the even broader context of the September summit.

    As I wrote in my recent report, “In Larger Freedom”, we will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights and the rule of law.

    That is why I have proposed a comprehensive strategy, giving equal weight and attention to these three great purposes of the United Nations, all of which must be underpinned by the rule of law.

    The central theme is that the threats which we face today -- from poverty and climate change to genocide and nuclear terrorism -- are of equal concern to all. The cause of larger freedom can only be advanced if nations work together; and the United Nations can only help if it is remoulded as an effective instrument of their common purpose.

    It goes without saying that this agenda has to be agreed through negotiations among States. But those negotiations must be conducted in a spirit of give and take. If you need the help of other States to achieve your objectives, you must also be willing to help them achieve their objectives.

    And that is why I think the development objectives are most likely to be achieved in the context of a broader global deal.

    Some governments will be more willing to make an effort for development, because reform of the United Nations offers them the chance to play a bigger role in international peace and security. Others, perhaps, because they are anxious to see the United Nations become more effective in promoting human rights, in preventing terrorism and nuclear proliferation, or in building lasting peace in war-torn countries -- another area where cooperation between us and you is essential.

    By the same token, developing countries are more likely to support those vital security and human rights objectives if they see that donor countries are willing to make a greater effort for development, and to give them a stronger voice in global economic governance.

    So there is a compelling logic that should make these negotiations succeed. But, as all experienced negotiators know, logic is not enough. You also need a sense of urgency, and a deadline.

     The urgency of taking steps to deal with poverty, as well as terrorism and the spread of deadly weapons, and indeed deadly disease, should be self-evident. But I am hoping that people will also be galvanized by the sense that this year we have a unique opportunity which must not be missed.

    Certainly on the development side we need a step change this year -- otherwise it will be too late for many countries to have any real hope of reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

    But on the security and institutional side, too, there is now a widespread sense of “if not now, when”? Nine/eleven, and the war in Iraq, have made almost everyone aware that the international security system must be fixed soon, so that we have a joint response to new threats -- rather than an anarchic one, which might make the world more dangerous instead of safer.

    That was why I set up the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which reported in December. Its report contains clear proposals even on such long-deadlocked issues as Security Council reform and the definition of terrorism, and this has roused wide expectation that the time for momentous decisions has at last arrived.

    The September summit to review progress since the Millennium Declaration adopted in 2000 will be the ideal moment to take those decisions. The Declaration, after all, was endorsed at the highest level by all nations; and it laid out shared objectives across the whole spectrum of common concerns. So the summit provides the perfect deadline -- the perfect opportunity for the world leaders to bring together the work their representatives are doing in different fora, and enshrine it in a form that is clearly stamped with their unique authority.

    Of course, specific steps can and must be taken both before and after the summit. Already this week the General Assembly adopted a convention against nuclear terrorism -- the first specific recommendation in my report to be acted upon. And I know some key decisions in the Doha Round will have to await next year. But the main points of the global deal must be agreed in September.

    At least, that's how I see it. I hope you agree, and I hope you will plan your own discussions and negotiations to fit in with that timetable. The stakes could scarcely be higher, but I think we can do it.

    But I would very much like to hear your comments, and I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.

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