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21 March 2005

Secretary-General Advocates Major Changes at United Nations

Annan presents report for 60th Anniversary Summit

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Unveiling his recommendations for major changes in the world organization, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on world leaders to "be ambitious," take action "as urgent as the need," and accept his comprehensive strategy for making the United Nations more responsive to the challenges of the 21st century.

In a speech to the General Assembly March 21, the secretary-general said that his proposals, set forth in a report entitled "In Larger Freedom," give equal weight and attention to the three purposes of the United Nations -- development, security and human rights -- all of which must be underpinned by the rule of law.

He asked that the leaders of the 191 U.N. member nations discuss his proposals and come to the 60th Anniversary Summit in mid-September prepared to make decisions.

Annan said he has been working on this program for two years to ensure that the commitments made to fight poverty are carried out in a way that brings results, that the wounds in the international community left by the Iraq war are healed, and that the credibility of the United Nations is restored.

Five years ago, the General Assembly asked for a five-year progress review of the Millennium Declaration, Annan said, "but frankly, I don't think a mere review would have done justice to the present world situation.  I feel strongly that there are decisions which urgently need taking in the areas of development, security and human rights, and changes that need to be made in the structure of the U.N. itself, if we are to make the most of our opportunities in the next 10 years, and save many millions of people from death and disaster."

"If governments take the decisions I'm suggesting in this report, I believe we have a much better chance of turning the tide against HIV/AIDS and malaria in the next ten years; a much better chance of containing the spread of any new infectious diseases, whether natural or man-made; a much better chance of averting an attack by terrorists using nuclear or radiological weapons; a much better chance of preventing countries like Haiti, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone from sliding back into chaos or crisis; a much better chance of reaching a common understanding on how to deal with recalcitrant regimes like that of Saddam Hussein; and have a United Nations that is much better able to take effective action -- through a strengthened Security Council and a new, authoritative Human Rights Council, both working closely with regional organizations -- to put a stop to major crimes against innocent people, such as those we are witnessing in Darfur," the secretary general said at a press conference after his General Assembly speech.

His recommendations include creating a Human Rights Council on equal footing with the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, asking developed countries to increase the amount they spend on development and debt relief, setting up a $1 billion voluntary fund to bring quick relief to victims of sudden disasters, establishing a worldwide early warning system for all natural hazards, asking nations to make a decision on increasing the size of the Security Council, and requesting the authority to reform the U.N. secretariat.

Emphasizing that a change in the Security Council's composition "is needed to make it more broadly representative of the international community as a whole, as well as of the geopolitical realities of today, and thereby more legitimate in the eyes of the world," the secretary-general urged the General Assembly to finally take a decision -- either by consensus or by vote -- on enlarging the council, a debate that has been ongoing for at least a decade.  Those who contribute most to the United Nations "financially, militarily and diplomatically, specifically in terms of contributions to United nations assessed budgets, participation in mandated peace operations, contributions to voluntary activities of the United Nations" should have increased involvement in decision-making, he said.

Annan said that members should consider the two options proposed by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.  Both would increase the number of members from the current level of 15 to 24 and would allocate the additional seats by region.   One plan would increase the number of permanent seats from 5 to 11, with 13 two-year nonrenewable seats.  The other proposal would create eight new four-year renewable seats and 11 two-year nonrenewable seats.  Under both plans only the current five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) would have veto power.   The current council has 10 two-year nonrenewable seats allocated by region in addition to the five permanent members.

He urged members to adopt the proposals "as a package" and not treat the list "as an a la carte menu" to pick what they favor.

DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

"Among other measures, I also ask all states to ratify, and implement all treaties relating to the protection of civilians; and to agree to, and within their means contribute to, a Democracy Fund at the United Nations which would provide funding and technical assistance to countries seeking to establish or strengthen their democracy," the secretary-general said.

Annan said that his recommendations in the fourth part of the report reflect his long-held view that "in order to do its job, the United Nations must be brought fully into line with today's realities.  It can and must be a representative and efficient world organization, open and accountable to the public as well as to governments."

One of Annan's major proposals involves the creation of a new, small standing "Human Rights Council" that would be elected by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly to replace the present Commission on Human Rights "whose capacity to perform its tasks has been undermined by its declining credibility and professionalism." Over the years, he noted, states have sought membership on the commission "not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others."

Creating the council, Annan said, "would accord human rights a more authoritative position, corresponding to the primacy of human rights in the Charter of the United Nations."

DEVELOPMENT ISSUES

The first section of the report outlines decisions for implementing the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, including increasing development assistance to $100 billion by 2010.  Developing countries that have not already done so should establish timetables to achieve the 0.7 percent target of gross national income for official development assistance by no later than 2015, starting with significant increases no later than 2006, Annan said.

Annan also called on developed countries to do whatever they can to level the playing field for world trade and to complete the Doha round of trade negotiations no later than 2006.

He specifically asked developing countries "to improve their governance, uphold the rule of law, combat corruption and adopt an inclusive approach to development, making space for civil society and the private sector to play their full role."

The secretary-general also said that in sub-Saharan Africa environmentally sustainable farming practices and other scientific and technological improvements must be brought together to launch a 21st century "Africa green revolution" beginning in 2005.

SECURITY INITIATIVES

In the second part of the report, Annan asked nations to agree on a new security consensus by committing to treat any threat to one as a threat to all, and work to prevent catastrophic terrorism, stop the proliferation of deadly weapons, end civil wars, and build lasting peace in war-torn countries.

He asked all states to complete, sign and implement the comprehensive convention on terrorism based on a clear and agreed definition of terrorism, the convention on nuclear terrorism, and the fissile material cut-off treaty and establish an intergovernmental "peace building commission" as well as a peace-building support office in the U.N. secretariat to help countries make the transition from war to lasting peace.

"Our strategy against terrorism must be comprehensive and should be based on five pillars: it must aim at dissuading people from resorting to terrorism or supporting it; it must deny terrorists access to funds and materials; it must deter states from sponsoring terrorism; it must develop state capacity to defeat terrorism; and it must defend human rights," he said.

Agreement on when and how force can be used to defend international peace and security has deeply divided the Security Council in recent years, especially in the months before the Iraq war.  In his report, Annan challenged the Security Council to adopt a resolution setting out the principles for endorsing or authorizing the use of military force when the threats are not imminent or when genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other such crimes against humanity are occurring.

In the report, Annan also asked nations to embrace the principle of "responsibility to protect" as a basis for collective action against genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.



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