Press Releases

    2 May 2005

    Secretary-General, in New Delhi Lecture, Says UN Reform Aims to Enhance Freedom through Pursuit of Development, Security, Human Rights Goals

    NEW YORK, 28 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s public lecture at the India International Centre, entitled “In Larger Freedom -- the changing role of the United Nations”, in New Delhi, 28 April:

    Thank you, Mr. Sorabjee, [President of the IIC and Former Attorney-General of India] for those very warm and kind remarks and introduction.  I wish I can take you with me to New York to explain the importance of the report, and the reform we are trying to push, to some of my friends there.

    It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be back in India.  I’ve had very useful discussions and very friendly discussions with the President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and I saw the party leaders, Mr. [L.K.] Advani, Mrs. [Sonia] Gandhi.  And I’ve also had a chance to see and meet some of your vibrant civil society members.  I think this is one of the remarkable developments in India -- the vibrancy of your society and of the civil society.

    Over the decades, India has made an enormous contribution to the United Nations, through the efforts of its Government, and the work of Indian scholars, soldiers and international civil servants, several of them are in this room -- Virendra Dayal and Chinmaya Gharekhan.  India’s has been one of the most eloquent voices helping the United Nations to shape its agenda on behalf of the developing world.  And the experience and professionalism of your armed forces has proved invaluable, time and again, in UN peacekeeping operations -- in which over a hundred Indian soldiers have given their lives.

    So it was natural, when 18 months ago I asked a group of international experts to make recommendations for strengthening our system of collective security and adapting it to the threats and challenges of the twenty-first century, that I asked one of your citizens, the former commander of one of those peacekeeping operations, to play a part in the panel -- your very distinguished general, Satish Nambiar, whom I turned to to assist us.  And I see he is in the room here with us this morning.

    The panel reported to me last December, and some of its recommendations did concern the reform of the Security Council.  The panel members wanted the countries that contribute most to the United Nations -- financially, militarily and diplomatically -- to be more involved in decision-making.  They also wanted the Council to be more representative of the broader United Nations membership, especially the developing world, without becoming less effective.

    The issue has been discussed for many years, and every Member State has had ample time to make up its mind.  And almost every Member State agrees that the Security Council is in need of reform.  Where they disagree is on the minor issue of details.  But on the objective, everybody agrees.  I suggested, therefore, that Member States should agree to take a decision one way or the other before the summit meeting in New York this September, on the proposals before them, including making the Security Council more broadly representative of the international community as a whole and of the geopolitical realities of today.  It would be far preferable for Member States to take this vital decision by consensus.  But if they are unable to reach consensus this should not become an excuse for postponing action.

    The composition of the Security Council is -- obviously -- a very important issue.  But it is by no means the only thing that needs changing if we are to rise to the challenges of today and make this world freer, fairer and safer for all its inhabitants.

    Our agenda of change is much broader.  A strengthened Security Council should be one element in a major adjustment of all our policies and institutions, aimed at ensuring that people everywhere are protected against the gravest threats to their well-being, their security, and their fundamental rights.

    That’s why I called my report “In Larger Freedom” -- a phrase taken from the preamble to the United Nations Charter.  Our founders, speaking in the name of “the peoples of the United Nations”, expressed their determination “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”.  That makes it clear that they not only included development among the objectives of the Organization, but also considered development to be closely related to freedom.

    You might almost say they anticipated the thought of the great Indian economist and my good friend, Amartya Sen.  He has taught us that freedom is only meaningful when people’s economic circumstances allow them to make real choices in life, but also that development is only meaningful when it actually enables people to make choices.  It cannot be captured by purely quantitative measures such as gross domestic product per capita.  It has to be experienced by individual human beings, as an increase in their autonomy and dignity, and a stronger assurance of respect for their fundamental rights.

    Thus, both development and human rights are components, or aspects, of freedom.  But so is security.  You are not meaningfully free if you are exposed to arbitrary violence, whether inflicted by the security forces of other States, or of your own State, or by what we euphemistically call “non-State actors”, meaning terrorists, criminals or armed factions.

    Security is essential for development, and for the enjoyment of individual rights.  But we have also seen that widespread human rights violations often lead to conflict, and that conflicts are often harder to resolve peacefully in poor or underdeveloped countries.

    That is why I see “larger freedom” as an overarching concept, which includes all three of these goals:  development, security and human rights.  You cannot really enjoy any one of the three without the other two; and all three need to be underpinned by the rule of law.

    Indians, I believe, have understood, better and sooner than many other peoples, that these three goals are not alternatives.  On the contrary, they reinforce each other.

    Of course, progress has been uneven.  Of course, there is still a long way to go before all Indians can confidently say that they enjoy all three.  But there has been progress on all three fronts, and Indians have, on the whole, resisted the temptation to believe that progress on any one of them can be secured or accelerated by sacrificing either of the others.  They have been single-minded in pursuing larger freedom through pluralistic democracy -- always returning to that path even when they seemed to be veering away from it.

    So I should not be keeping faith with you, or with myself, if I singled out any one of the three as deserving higher priority than the others.  But I do wish to rebut, very strongly, the suggestion made in some quarters that development, or the concerns of the developing world, have received short shrift in my report.

    On the contrary, development is the subject of the first and longest chapter in the report, entitled “Freedom from want”, which maps out a detailed and practical strategy for reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

    Disease, poverty, and hunger are the greatest killers of our time.  The fight against them must be at the heart of our agenda.

    Solemn commitments have already been made -- most recently at the Monterrey conference on Financing for Development in 2002.  Now it is time to act on those commitments, with concrete, measurable steps, leading to a quantum leap in resources for development.  Every developing country should have a comprehensive national strategy for reaching the Goals -- including investments in gender equality, better resource management, rural and urban development, essential health services, education, science and technology -- and must see its effort supported by developed countries, through increased development assistance, a more development-oriented trade system, and wider and deeper debt relief.

    I have made important proposals on trade and debt relief.  And I have called on every developed country that has not already done so to commit itself to a timetable for reaching, by 2015, the agreed target for official development aid, namely 70 cents out of every $100 of gross national income.

    In particular, I am urging the international community to provide the resources needed for an expanded and comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS.  And I am urging all Governments to tackle this deadly scourge and its stigma publicly.  It is good to see the Indian Government is doing this -- and good, also, to see India helping other developing countries, notably in Africa, by producing essential medicines.  I hope India will continue to assist other countries, particularly in the South, assist them with their development by exporting the knowledge and technology it has acquired through its own success.

    But, of course, it is not only my proposals on development that should be of interest to developing countries.

    All States have a vital interest in a functioning collective security system, based on a consensus about what constitutes a threat to international peace and security, when force should be used, and who should decide.  I believe the Security Council should adopt a resolution setting out the principles to be applied when the use of force is, for any reason, on the table.  And we have provided guidelines for the use of force, which is not acceptable to every State, but I think it should be considered.  And I stress that this approach should guide decisions across the array of threats -- including the threat of genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The responsibility to protect citizens falls, first and foremost, on sovereign Governments.  But, as we learned in Rwanda over a decade ago, it cannot be right for the Security Council to stand idle if Governments are not willing or able to protect their citizens from appalling crimes.

    We need more than a new consensus.  We also need more effective instruments to strengthen our security and protect basic human rights.  No part of humanity feels this need more acutely than the citizens of the developing world.

    After all, it is they who pay the highest price when the UN’s peacekeeping, peacebuilding and human rights machinery is overstretched.

    It is they who will benefit most from the new United Nations Democracy Fund, which I am delighted to say that India is supporting.

    It is people in poor countries who, more than any others, suffer from the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and the scourge of landmines.

    People in developing countries are all too often the victims of terrorism -- as Indians know better than most.  So it is very much in their interest that the world should adopt the comprehensive strategy against terrorism that I have proposed, starting with a clear definition of terrorism that covers all deliberate attacks on civilians for political ends.

    And finally, people in developing countries are all too likely to be the first victims of nuclear weapons, if we do not soon make progress both in disarmament and in halting proliferation. 

    I am sure you all share my delight that one proposal in my report -- the convention on nuclear terrorism – has already been adopted by the General Assembly.  I hope India will set an example by rapidly adhering to that convention, and will also soon sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, as well as giving active support to the negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. 

    My proposals are designed to strengthen multilateral action in all these areas, as well as bringing the institutions of the United Nations into line with the realities of the twenty-first century.  I suggest that this should be done not only by enlarging the Security Council but also by creating two new inter-governmental bodies -- a Peacebuilding Commission, which would bring together the various actors involved in helping countries move from war to lasting peace, and a Human Rights Council, in which States from all regions would participate.

    Of course, it is not only the people of developing countries who face dangers to their safety and well-being today.  In recent years the peoples of the  industrialised world, too, have realised more and more that their security is only relative, and their good fortune highly precarious. 

    It is precisely this sense of a shared predicament, and a shared destiny, that gives us the opportunity to strike a global deal -- a deal in which all peoples must see their concerns addressed, and for the sake of which everyone must be prepared to make compromises.

    In short, this is a time for all peoples, and especially their leaders, to be creative and bold.  I know I can rely on India’s leaders, urged on and encouraged by the Indian people, to help summon both the vision and the pragmatism to bring about far-reaching change.  This is the nation whose first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, pledged all Indians, on the historic occasion of India’s freedom at midnight on August 15, 1947, to the service not just of India, but of “the still larger cause of humanity”.  In that spirit, let us work together to make 2005 a true turning point in world history.

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