6 July 2005

September Summit a Once-in-a-Generation Chance to Take Action on Grave Global Threats, Secretary-General Tells African Leaders

Announcing Creation of United Nations Democracy Fund, He Lauds Gains in Quest to Make African Union Effective Tool for Progress

NEW YORK, 5 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Summit of the African Union, held at Sirte, Libya, yesterday, Monday 4 July:

This Summit takes place at a time when the African Union continues to make gains in its quest to become an effective instrument of common progress for the African people.

The Union’s new architecture now includes the pan-African parliament.

The African Peer Review Mechanism is taking hold.

Your responses to challenges to the constitutional order have been principled and quick.

The AU peacekeeping operation and mediation efforts in Darfur are improving prospects for peace, even though there is much more that the rest of the international community can and must do to support your efforts to end the suffering there.

Meanwhile, economic growth in some African countries is relatively strong and sustained.

And implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is moving ahead, focusing on key areas such as infrastructure, regional integration and boosting business activity.

Yet our continent continues to struggle with deadly conflicts. We lag behind the rest of the developing world in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

International support remains crucial.  In recent weeks, donors have made important financial commitments for greater debt relief and aid.  And we look forward to progress on the trade front.  I also want to commend the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor (Gordon) Brown.  Political commitment is also gathering steam, thanks in part to the reports of the Millennium Project, Commission for Africa and my own Advisory Panel on international support for NEPAD.

The focus on Africa at this week’s pivotal G-8 Summit is very welcome.  But it is the World Summit in two months’ time that holds the greatest promise.

That Summit is expected to be the largest gathering of world leaders in history.  It is in my judgement a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the world to come together and take action on grave global threats that require bold global solutions.  It is also a chance to revitalize the United Nations itself.  It is, in short, an opportunity for all humankind.

But it is in Africa that many of the problems the Summit will address are most acute.  Our continent, more than any other, suffers from the fact that the multilateral system is not living up to its potential.  My report, “In Larger Freedom”, contains wide-ranging proposals for change.  Let me take this opportunity to mention some that I believe are of particular importance for Africa.

First are those that involve development.  My report gave pride of place to development, both as an end in itself and as the very foundation of security.  In recent years, we have seen an unprecedented global convergence around the Millennium Development Goals.  We have also seen growing recognition that developing countries must be empowered to pursue national strategies ambitious enough to reach the Goals.  What we need in September are true breakthroughs on aid, debt and trade.  We also need strong support for “quick wins” in vital areas such as malaria control and education.  Africa can achieve the Goals by 2015, if the long-promised global partnership is truly mobilized.  No new promises are needed to make this happen -- just a follow-through on existing ones.

The second area of concern for Africa must be security.  About half the world’s armed conflicts, and almost 80 per cent of UN peacekeepers, are in Africa.  I commend the African Union for its leadership in tackling African security challenges.  I will continue to advocate greater international support for the AU’s emerging role in this area, including through the 10-year capacity-building plan.  The September Summit must strengthen the UN’s own peacekeeping capacity.  And it must address the peacebuilding gap, in which too many countries emerging from conflict are left to lapse back into violence, for lack of international support for disarmament and other steps toward recovery and reconstruction.  I am pleased that my proposal for a new Peacebuilding Commission has elicited support from many of you, and I hope you will do your part in bringing this new machinery into being without delay.

One cannot speak about security and conflict in Africa without focusing on the general question of the responsibility to protect.  I have called on Member States to affirm this principle in September.  Some countries are concerned that the concept could be used as a fig-leaf for unwarranted interventions.  Yet we would all agree that inaction in the face of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity is unacceptable.  Indeed, the AU's own Constitutive Act provides for intervention by the Union in such grave circumstances.  Surely, our world body should apply no less a standard.  Human beings threatened with such terrible crimes are entitled to look for protection not only to their regional neighbours, but also to the international community as a whole.  We must not repeat the inadequate responses of the past.

Thirdly, too many people around the world, including Africans, still do not enjoy their full human rights.  And the main United Nations body responsible for this area, the Commission on Human Rights, is suffering from declining credibility.  This undercuts its mission and the reputation of the organization in general.  This status quo is unacceptable.  So I have proposed transforming the Commission into a Human Rights Council.  The new Council would not exclude any regional or other group of States.  Rather, it would promote respect for all human rights in all countries, North and South.  Its purpose would be to ensure universal scrutiny and universal accountability.  It would maintain the Commission’s strengths while opening the door for much needed changes.  Here, too, I have been pleased and encouraged with the support expressed by Member States.  I particularly hope that Africans will come together behind this proposal, and join also in strengthening the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Your support can restore human rights to the prominence accorded them by the Universal Declaration and the legally binding instruments which almost all States have committed themselves to observe.

The surest safeguards of human rights, and indeed, of development, are political institutions which allow the people of each country the decisive role in freely choosing their own leaders -- in one word, democracy.  Here, Africa has much to be proud of.  More African States have democratically elected governments today than ever before.  The number of military coups has declined significantly, thanks in part to the strong stand against them taken by the Union.  Throughout the continent, ordinary people are organizing themselves and making their voices heard.  Almost all of you have made clear your commitment to the democratic process, and your willingness to be guided by the will of your people, as expressed in regular and fair elections, and through open, participatory governance.

We all know that this is not an easy process, and that it involves far more than one or even two elections.  There have to be assurances that the majority will not trample on the rights of minorities, and that minorities will accept the legitimate decisions of the majority.  We know, too, that maintaining democratic institutions can put strains on a poor country’s resources.  So, I am pleased to announce the creation of the United Nations Democracy Fund, which will provide assistance to countries seeking to establish or strengthen their democracy.  A number of Member States have already indicated their intention to contribute.  I hope more will follow that example.

Finally, let me stress that Africa must be able to have confidence in the United Nations itself.  That means making the Secretariat management more accountable, and strengthening our country teams.  And it means streamlining the work of the intergovernmental organs.  I have also suggested two options for reforming the Security Council.  I know you are discussing this issue at this Summit.  I urge you to seize this precious opportunity.

The core argument in my report is that the world will not enjoy development without security, nor security without development, and will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.  That idea is also at the heart of the draft political outcome for the Summit that has now been put forward by the President of the General Assembly, Jean Ping, a world leader of whom Africans can be very proud.

 His hard work, and yours, has brought agreement within reach on most of the major questions.  But there is still much to resolve.  And time is short.

As the World Summit nears, I urge you to engage fully.  I hope a spirit of compromise will prevail.  And I hope you will all recognize that the better the United Nations works, the more all people will benefit, within and beyond Africa.

African leaders, I look forward to seeing you in New York in September, ready to act, ready to take bold decisions.

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