25 September 2006

Secretary-General, in Address to Group of 77 Ministers, Suggests New Features to Help Economic, Social Council Begin to Fulfil Its Promise

NEW YORK, 22 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annnan's remarks to the thirtieth annual meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 during the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, as delivered in New York, today, 22 September:

Let me start by paying my respects to the distinguished Foreign Minister of South Africa, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, as well as to Ambassador Kumalo, for South Africa's leadership of the Group of 77.  In leading the Group, South Africa has made an important contribution to advancing progress on the outcomes of the 2005 World Summit.  Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate Pakistan on its designation as next year's President of the Group of 77.  We will look forward to working with you; I will not be here but my successor will.  I wish you well.

At the same time, you have drawn attention to the dangers of exclusion and marginalization of developing nations.  You have worked to strengthen South-South cooperation.  You have sought to give the developing world a greater voice in accelerating the outcomes of all major UN conferences and summits -- outcomes that are critical to the lives of the billions of people this Group represents.

The achievements resulting from the World Summit represent real milestones for change.  The Peacebuilding Commission, which the Group of 77 was instrumental in negotiating, provides a tool to better manage the crucial and difficult period of transition from war to peace.  The Central Emergency Response Fund will ensure that, in the critical realm of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations will do more, and do it sooner.  The Democracy Fund will help strengthen institutions and ensure that people can exercise their democratic rights.  In addition, Member States have adopted a comprehensive strategic framework to counter terrorism.  And, the Human Rights Council has just opened its second session, in which it will pursue its task of reforming and reinvigorating the United Nations human rights machinery.

Together, these measures promise a more proactive and engaged United Nations in the areas of peace and security, human rights, and humanitarian relief.  Our Organization can and should be proud of these achievements.

In the area of development, we have also made some progress.  But, much more remains to be done.

Friends, you do not need me to tell you the sobering statistics.  Every day, 30,000 children die of preventable diseases, and every minute a woman dies because of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.  In the 1990s, some 60 countries in various parts of the world actually grew poorer.  Today, nearly 3 billion people subsist on less than $2 a day, the same number as 10 years ago.  Clean drinking water remains out of reach for more than 1 billion people, and environmental degradation continues to render once-fertile soils incapable of supporting the most basic needs of families.

Nor do you need me to explain to you that this reality demands a strong response from the United Nations.

Governments recognized that in the Monterrey Consensus and at the World Summit.  At those milestone occasions, they affirmed and reaffirmed the commitment of all Governments to a global partnership for development.

They did so again in June, when the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the follow-up to the Summit Development Outcome.

The resolution was an important achievement, and one that I hope will generate new momentum.  Not least, I hope it will inject energy into the work for a better functioning Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

As the UN's principal body for coordinating and advancing development policy, ECOSOC needs an overarching mission to guide its work.  Fortunately, it now has one:  the Millennium Development Goals present an opportunity for ECOSOC to rally around a concrete set of clear, universally acclaimed and achievable goals.

Goal by goal, region by region, ECOSOC members should review progress, correct setbacks, hail advances, win new resources, and urge future reforms so as to help keep the world on track for 2015.

If they do, they have a chance to play a pivotal role in the daily lives of ordinary people everywhere.  And, if they successfully introduce features such as Annual Ministerial Reviews and a biennial Development Cooperation Forum, ECOSOC can begin to fulfil its promise.

But whatever institutional reforms we succeed in introducing, they will mean very little if we do not also succeed in making the United Nations itself a better functioning, better managed Organization.

The UN's legitimacy and efficacy depend on the integrity and effectiveness of the Secretariat.  The Summit Outcome provides a blueprint, and the go-ahead, for extensive management reform to make the Secretariat more effective, more efficient and more accountable. I look to you to help implement that Outcome, which your Heads of State and Government have signed on to.

And I look to you to act on your resolve, also expressed in the Summit Outcome, and I quote, to "strengthen and update the programme of work of the United Nations so that it responds to the contemporary requirements of Member States".

The mandates you and your predecessors have adopted over the past 60 years reflect the desire of all your countries to see this Organization play an effective part in helping to solve the world's problems.  Yet, no matter how universal its membership, no matter how hard its staff work, the Organization cannot do everything. Your Governments recognized that when they undertook to "review all mandates older than five years".

This is the last time I will address you as Secretary-General of the United Nations. When I prepared to take office almost 10 years ago, I pledged to work to ensure that the resources and facilities of the UN system are effectively channelled towards those who need them most. That means the people of your nations, who, we must never forget, represent the majority of the membership of our United Nations.

I leave the Organization with the task far from finished. And I am not sure it ever can be completed fully.  As I have said many times, reform is a process, not an event and reform will continue.  But, I am deeply convinced that during these 10 years, we have managed to make this indispensable instrument more effective, more accountable, better coordinated than ever before, in the interests of the people it exists to serve.

I am equally deeply convinced that 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 pray that you will keep building on that understanding -- not only for the sake of the United Nations, but for the sake of the people of your nations.

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