22 April 2005

Effective UN Important for All – But Perhaps Most Important for Developing World, Says Secretary-General in Jakarta Remarks

NEW YORK, 21 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following are UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s opening remarks at a panel on reform in Jakarta, 21 April:

It is a pleasure to see you all here today. As the Chairman said, in March, I presented to the Member States of the United Nations my report, “In Larger freedom”. I am delighted that we have the opportunity today to discuss the agenda of the reform that is contained in that report.

With me here today is Ali Alatas, whom you all know, who has kindly agreed to serve as one of my special envoys on United Nations reform. And also here today are two senior United Nations officials, Professor Jeff Sachs and Dr. Steve Stedman, who played leading roles respectively in producing the reports of the Millennium Project and the High-Level Panel.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about particular recommendations in the report. And I want to leave as much time as possible for discussion. So let me address three questions before we open the floor. First, why did I make these proposals? Second, what are key features of the proposals? And third, where do we go from here?

First, why did I make these proposals? The answer is simple: because the multilateral system is not delivering for its Member States the results that it should. I think that this is particularly true for the developing world. A number of you, the leaders of Asia and Africa, have expressed your concerns about this to me.

The world is not paying enough attention to the challenges of development. Every day, people are dying from poverty, hunger and disease, but we aren’t seeing enough action to meet key commitments to boost resources for development, even though we have in place an agreed development framework.

At the same time, we seem to have lost consensus on basic principles about what constitutes a threat to peace and security, about when the use of force is legitimate and advisable, and about who should authorize it. These are vitally important issues for everyone. So are the major strains on the UN’s humanitarian, peacekeeping and peacebuilding machinery -- and your countries pay a bitter prices for these shortcomings.

I also think the developing world must be alarmed at the fact that your peoples still suffer disproportionately from violations of their fundamental human rights -- economic, social and cultural rights as well as political ones. The contribution of the United Nations to the cause of human rights is very important. But it is uneven, it is often politicized, and it does not focus on all human rights in all countries.

Finally, I know you all feel that more voices are needed to be heard, and listened to, in the United Nations, which needs to reflect the world of 2005, not 1945. I agree, indeed, I think the time has come for a major overhaul of institutions, and for new commitments across a broad range of challenges.

That brings me to my second question, what is the basic thrust of the reform package? I can answer that with one sentence: we cannot have security without development; we cannot have development without security; and we cannot have either without respect for human rights. The challenges we face are truly interconnected. Action on each of these fronts reinforces progress on the others. Inaction on any one of them threatens progress on the others. That is why I have proposed reforms on all these issues, along with key institutional changes.

I have also taken this approach for a more practical reason. Just about everyone agrees that the United Nations needs reform -- but each country tends to approach the issue through the prism of its own most acute concerns. Some say the UN needs to be more effective in fighting terrorism. Others say it has to start taking human rights more seriously. Still others, including many of you, think that the first order of business should be real progress on development.

Frankly, I believe that all these points of view have some validity. And the most practical way to achieve progress is to advance on all of them together. That is why I have put forward a set of proposal across all issues. Everyone must see that their important concerns are addressed, but they must also be prepared to address the concerns of others. And all must keep in mind that our world is so interconnected that we all benefit from effective action on the whole range of threats and challenges facing us today.

Having said all this, let me point out that the first priority outlined in the report is development -- and in particular, action to implement the Monterrey consensus. Some people have suggested that the report does not focus sufficiently on development. But nothing could be further from the truth. I have underscored the special needs of Africa and the least developed countries, and I have challenged the developed world to step up to the plate on implementing the Monterrey consensus this year.

I have called for concrete commitments to meet the 0.7 per cent of gross domestic income (GDI) target for ODA by 2015, as well as on debt relief. I have called for completion of the Doha round as a true development round, with duty-free and quota-free market access for all exports from the less developed countries as an urgent first step. I‘ve also called for a big boost in resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is an issue of deep importance not only for Africa but for many parts of Asia and, indeed, for the whole world. This is a development-heavy agenda, as it should be. I hope you will see it as a chance to secure progress for your peoples on all these points.

But this is not to say that other aspects of the proposals are not important for the developing world. On the contrary, a new security consensus is vital for developing countries. After all, when force is used without international consensus, some of the biggest repercussions are in your part of the world. Likewise, when there is inaction in the face of horrendous human rights crimes, as we saw in Rwanda, the weak and the poor suffer the most. In addition, the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission would help war-torn countries implement peace agreement successfully.

I also believe that the recommendations on terrorism and on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are in the clear interest of developing countries.

On human rights, I have proposed the creation of a Human Rights Council. This would replace the Commission on Human Rights, whose declining credibility harms the United Nations. Its purpose would not be to single out or victimize particular countries. We see too much of that now. My vision is that the Human Rights Council would promote respect for all human rights in all countries. This would give us a chance to restore human rights to their prominence accorded by the United Nations Charter.

Finally, I have put forward recommendations that would help revitalize the institutions of the United Nations itself. We must make the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly more effective. As for the Security Council, I believe 2005 represents an opportunity to end the marginalization of the developing world in this body, and make it more representative of the realities of power in today’s world. While I agree it would be preferable for Member States to take this vital decision by consensus, I do not believe this can be an excuse for postponing action. It is my hope that Member States will be able to overcome their differences to secure agreement before September on this vital issue.

This brings me to the third question: where do we go from here? I hope world leaders will come to New York in September ready to take decisions on the main issues covered in the report. You have a major reform agenda before you. I have no doubt that with strong political leadership and serious and determined negotiations we will have a successful summit and revitalized United Nations.

Remember, a functioning, effective United Nations is important for everyone -- but perhaps it is most important for the developing world. I believe that, if you instruct your representatives to be constructive in the negotiations over the coming months, we can have a package of reforms ready for world leaders to endorse in September. And if we have that, I think the developing world will gain enormously. So I look forward to working with you to advance this agenda over the coming months.

I will stop there, and I am looking forward to your questions and comments.

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