Press Releases

    SG/SM/9161
    19 February 2004

    Secretary-General, in New York Remarks, Urges World Leaders to Rebuild Momentum on Anti-Poverty Goals

    NEW YORK, 18 February (UN Headquarters) --        Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks to the International Association of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York, 18 February:

    It’s a pleasure to join you today. I very much welcome this opportunity to meet with you under relaxed circumstances and exchange views and ideas, and I thank Ambassador Arias of Spain for helping to bring us together.

    I’m sure I speak for all of us in saying that the past year has been an extraordinarily difficult one, marked above all by the war in Iraq and the events related to it.

    Those events have raised a number of wider questions about the nature of the challenges we face, and about the ability of the multilateral system to deal with them.

    They have underlined the pressing need to make the United Nations the most effective instrument it can be in meeting threats to global security in the twenty-first century. Whether in combating international terrorism, alleviating poverty and hunger, stopping the spread of infectious diseases, preventing genocide, or rebuilding States after war, we urgently need to find practical ways to move forward.

    This means re-evaluating our existing capacities, as well as building new capacities to meet the threats and challenges ahead.

    And that is why, in November, I appointed a High-Level Panel to examine the threats we face, evaluate our existing policies, processes and institutions, and make bold recommendations for change.

    Some people have described this as a panel on UN reform.  And its recommendations may indeed include proposals for changes in the rules and mechanisms of the United Nations. But if they do, those changes will be a means to an end, not the end itself. The object of the exercise is to find a credible and convincing collective answer to the challenges of our time.

    The Charter of the United Nations is very clear.  States have the right to defend themselves -- and each other -- if attacked.  But the first purpose of the United Nations itself, laid down in Article 1, is “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”.

    We must show that the United Nations is capable of fulfilling that purpose, not just for the most privileged members of the Organization, who are currently -- and understandably -- preoccupied with counter-terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    The United Nations must also protect millions of our fellow men and women from the more familiar threats of poverty, hunger and deadly disease.  We must understand that a threat to some is a threat to all, and needs to be addressed accordingly.

    For most of the world’s people, the most immediate and real issues are those that directly affect what they hope to achieve for themselves and their families.  Issues that relate to building a decent life, with access to education and health care, enough food and clean drinking water, in a healthy environment.  Issues that are identified in the Millennium Development Goals.

    The events of 2003 distracted the world’s leaders from dealing with those issues.  This year, we must rebuild the momentum needed to translate the Millennium Development Goals into reality.

    All partners must work together to achieve significant progress on the MDGs by 2005.  If we are not on track by the end of next year, all hope of reaching the goals by 2015 will soon vanish.

    So the agenda for the year ahead promises to be full indeed.  I hope I can count on the support and commitment of your governments across the full range of work before us.

    With that, I will now try to answer your questions -- and I’m sure you will question my answers.

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