18 September 2006

Secretary-General Says Non-Aligned Movement's Mission more Relevant than ever; in Light of Growing Gulf between Rich and Poor Countries

NEW YORK, 15 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the Non-Aligned Movement's Conference in Havana, Cuba, 15 September:

I am honoured to address you today.  Let me begin by thanking our host, President Fidel Castro, and the Government and people of Cuba, for their warm welcome and kind hospitality.

Let me pay my respects to the outgoing Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, my good friend Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, for his dynamic and visionary leadership during such critical and challenging years in the history of your Movement.

Equally, I take this opportunity to pay special tribute to President Fidel Castro for his enormous contributions and the leadership role he has played through the many stages of the growth of the Movement.

You have just heard President Chavez.  I also met with Fidel Castro last night for about an hour.  I can assure you that he is mending well -- a firm handshake and an active and ever curious mind.

I stand before you a proud son of one of our founding nations.  Half a century ago, when Kwame Nkrumah and his peers built the foundations of this Movement, they could not have imagined the upheavals and advances that were to shape our world -- and the crucial role our countries were to play in it.

And, when Cuba hosted the Sixth Non-Aligned Summit at the end of the 1970's, you and your fellow leaders surely could not have predicted the times we live in today.

Where once the Non-Aligned Movement sought to counter the confrontations of the cold war, today our countries are building strategies to reach the Millennium Development Goals and struggling to close the inequality gap.

Where once most of the world's economic productivity was concentrated in a few countries, the economic participation of the South is redistributing global output, and I think that is a great achievement.

Where once more than a quarter of the world's population lived in the industrialized world, today more than 80 per cent live in developing countries, making you a symbol of a new and powerful South.  A bridge among countries, cultures and continents.  A movement of the rapidly developing world.

The collective mission of this Movement is more relevant than ever.

Today, there is a growing and disturbing gulf in income between the world's poorest and richest countries.  This needs to be addressed decisively -- through new forms of international governance that will decrease disparities, and help lift developing countries out of poverty.

At the same time, in all aspects of international relations, the roles of developed and developing nations have changed beyond recognition.  The world needs to act on that, and global institutions need to be adapted accordingly.

Nowhere has the transformation been more dramatic than in trade and investment.

Since the Non-Aligned Movement last held its summit in Havana more than a quarter century ago, South-South trade has grown twice as fast as world trade.

Over the past five years, foreign direct investment from developing countries has grown faster than from developed ones.  Such investment accounted for more than one tenth of total global volume last year.

Yet, as much as economic progress is to be applauded, the challenge of transforming global governance is even more important.  And, the interdependence between the two is inescapable.

This has been the main thrust of the proposed reforms of the United Nations, in particular the Economic and Social Council, that is still pending and which I know you are discussing here.

Or, look at the Security Council.  As you know, the Security Council must reform -- for the sake of the developing world, and for the sake of the United Nations itself.  The perception of a narrow power-base hanging on five countries is difficult to sustain and it risks leading to an erosion of the United Nations authority and legitimacy -- even, some would argue, its neutrality and independence.  I have, in the past, described this as a democracy deficit.  It must be corrected.

In many developing countries, we have seen a vibrant civil society emerge, participation in public life flourish, and a free and active press spring forth.  The circulation of daily newspapers has more than doubled in the past three decades; satellites beam television images from developing country to developing country; and new forms of media are proliferating.

In many States, widespread consultations on constitutional reforms are taking place.  Democratic institutions are being built and strengthened.  The number of countries going regularly to the polls is higher than ever before.

And many of our nations are making progress on human rights.  The number of developing countries who have ratified the six main human rights conventions and covenants has grown by 50 per cent since 1990.

Such progress would not have been possible or meaningful without the empowerment of women.  Five of your member States now have women elected to the highest office in the land -- including the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeria and the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who took the reins only in the past year.  In more than 50 developing countries, the share of women parliamentarians is higher than the world's average.  And, more than 100 developing countries are on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating the disparity between girls and boys in primary education by 2015 -- or have already achieved it.

Friends, our countries have made strides, which should impress the world.  We should be proud.

And, our progress should be matched by a growing presence in all parts of the international arena.

Yet, the voice of the global South is not always heard as it should.

That is painfully true of our voice in trade negotiations, where developing nations have been so instrumental in setting the agenda.  Lamentable setbacks in the Doha trade talks have led some to contemplate settling for something less than a true development round -- or for no round at all.  That must not happen.

Middle-income countries must be given genuine market access for both goods and services.  The duty-free and quota-free access promised to the least developed countries must become a full reality.  And, it is high time to eliminate all subsidies that cause poor countries to face unfair competition from richer ones. Our countries, and our people, need and deserve no less, in order to lift themselves out of poverty.

And, they need and deserve to be justly represented in all global institutions, from the financial to the political.

Consider the International Monetary Fund.  The Fund is a global institution, and its legitimacy demands that all of the membership have fair representation.  The existing relative quotas do not achieve that.

The Fund has recognized that the emergence of new economic powers, and the settlement of debt by key developing countries, make it all the more important to advance and embrace reform.  I am heartened that [IMF] Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato has taken the lead in rebalancing quotas to reflect these changed economic realities -- all while seeking to protect the voice and representation of low-income countries.  Now that the IMF Executive Board has agreed on concrete proposals, I hope they will soon win support from the full membership of the Fund.

Consider also the need for the South to be heard on an issue which is crying out for global discussion -- international migration.  More countries are now involved in, and affected by, this phenomenon than at any time in history.  Its impact on developing nations is profound.  I am delighted that so many of you have embraced my proposal for a Global Forum on Migration and Development, and asked me to help set it up.  Such a Forum can foster practical, evidence-based cooperation among Governments.  It can give you a chance to frame the issues in a way that allows you to move forward together.

The sheer size of this Movement does not equal success.  A larger voice brings with it greater responsibility, both internationally and at home.

A responsibility to work decisively and constructively to build a multilateral system -- and a United Nations -- capable of responding effectively to today's challenges.

A responsibility to explore ways of working better together, to forge cohesive and flexible positions that will make the South a more effective player in the international community.

A responsibility to implement the principle all Governments have signed on to -- that States, both individually and collectively, have a duty to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

That includes a duty to protect populations from carnage by allowing the international community to make a positive contribution for change.  The norms for this were accepted by all Member States in the Summit Outcome Document adopted last year.  Such action worked in one of your member States, which gained independence only five years ago:  Timor-Leste.  It worked in Liberia, in Sierra Leone, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It must be made to work again, if we are to avert a major crisis in Darfur.

We also have a duty to work for real progress in the greater Middle East.  The daily violence we are witnessing in Iraq and Afghanistan provides a powerful reminder that, without judicious intervention on the political front, the slide to anarchy and civil war becomes inexorable.  The war in Lebanon has been a wake-up call for many Governments around the world.  They are becoming more and more convinced of the need to deal with the root causes of the problem.

We need to solve the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We need to work on the Syrian track and we need to work with renewed energy for comprehensive peace in the region, based on United Nations resolutions and the concept of "land for peace".  We need to turn resolution 1701 into a historic opportunity.

And, of course, we need Governments to fulfil their obligations to their people at home.  Fighting extreme poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS, while taking action against the scourge of youth unemployment; ending suppression of opposition groups and the media; taking serious and sincere measures against corruption; protecting the environment; and, ensuring that the exploitation of our precious natural resources benefit all our daughters and sons, not just a privileged few.

I believe that to keep building on the progress we have achieved so far, we need to build our future on a comprehensive approach -- one which gives equal weight and attention to the three fundamental pillars of development, security and human rights.

One which recognizes that these three pillars are not only ends in themselves -- they are the prerequisites for our collective well-being.

As we all have learned over these years, they reinforce each other; they depend on each other.

I believe our forefathers understood that fundamental truth when they created this Movement based on solidarity and South-South cooperation.  We can see 

that understanding enshrined in the founding principles of this Organization.  And, I believe you will act on it with wisdom and judgement in the years to come.

I thank every one of you for the outstanding partnership we have enjoyed during the 10 years that I have served as Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I could not have done it without your support.  What little I have achieved is with the support I have received individually or collectively.  I wish you continued success on your journey.

Thank you very much.

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