Press Releases

    SG/SM/9137
    2 February 2004

    Secretary-General Calls for Rebalanced International Agenda in 2004, with Concrete Progress in Development, as He Accepts Honorary Degree in Brussels

    NEW YORK, 30 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks upon receiving a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Ghent in Brussels, 30 January:

    Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Rector, for those very warm words.

    It is a pleasure indeed to join you today.  As you know, I had hoped to be able to accept this honorary degree last year, but events with which we are all familiar kept that from happening.  So I am glad to accept this award at last, in person, as part of a very timely official visit to Belgium and to the European institutions located here.

    Of course, I know it is not just me you are honouring -- you are also paying tribute to the Organization and its global mission of peace, development and human rights.

    For the United Nations, the past year has been one of the most difficult in its history.  We saw a deep rift among Member States about the situation in Iraq, with implications not only for peace in that country and region, but also for the wider pursuit of international peace and security, the conduct of international relations and the role of the United Nations. We also saw attention drift dangerously away from what had been an increasingly intense focus on the Millennium Development Goals -- our blueprint for the battle against poverty, hunger, AIDS, environmental degradation and other global ills.

    In 2004, we will have to do our utmost to ensure a peaceful transition to a democratic Iraq to which full sovereignty has been restored, and in which all Iraqis have a voice in the political life of the country.  But one of our main challenges this year must also be to rebalance the international agenda -- and that means making sure that development is given the attention it deserves.  I don’t mean rhetorically, or by making more promises and pledges.  I mean with real, concrete progress.  And I can think of no better way of achieving just that than through successful trade negotiations that give opportunities to poor people to compete fairly in global markets -- opportunities the system denies them at the moment.

    Rebalancing the agenda also means not losing sight of Afghanistan, which is at a crucial stage in its own transition from conflict to peace.  It means providing international support to several African countries that are making good progress in ending conflict.  And it means helping the many Latin American countries that are experiencing economic distress, growing pains of the democratic transition, or both. 

    In short, there is a world of other challenges that need our attention, from peacekeeping operations to humanitarian emergencies, to the day-to-day work for development, human rights and human dignity.

    While the United Nations is an organization of Member States, and it is they who make the key decisions, we are all stakeholders.  Regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union, based here in Brussels, have important roles to play.  Private sector businesses, such as those I have just met with at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, must also be part of the picture -- as must the civil society organizations that just held their separate, World Social Forum in Bombay. And, of course, without the insights and analysis provided by you in the academic community, we should all be less informed and less enlightened.  Indeed, high-quality research is essential for policy-making and capacity-building. I know that universities such as yours, like the United Nations University, through its own European presence in Finland and the Netherlands, will do their part.

    In that spirit, I look forward to working with you this year and beyond to achieve the eighth Millennium Development Goal: a global partnership for development. Thank you again for this recognition. 

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