Press Releases

    SG/SM/9946
         22 June 2005

    In Address to Councillors of Strategic and International Studies, Secretary-General Outlines Main Issues Before September Summit

    Says ‘UN Needs the US and the US Needs the UN’

    NEW YORK, 21 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the address, as delivered, by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the International Councillors of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in New York on 20 June:

    Thank you very much, Dr. Kissinger, for that very warm introduction. It was wonderful to hear those words from you. It is indeed a privilege, as well as a pleasure, for me to join, and to have the opportunity of addressing such a distinguished group of international business leaders. In fact, only last week, I was in Paris, where I also met a group of business leaders who were part of the Global Compact. President Chirac, Prime Minister Blair and myself addressed them and encouraged them to become active in development issues, and shared with them our views that the private sector has an important role to play and that they could make a difference in some of these countries, by not only investing but also advising some of the countries and governments on how you develop small- and medium-sized businesses. And of course, tonight I have the chance to talk to another group, but about a different subject.

    As you heard earlier, I am sorry that I will not be able to stay long. I am leaving for Brussels tonight to attend an international conference on Iraq, where 80 countries and institutions will come together to see how we can help stabilize Iraq. Sessions are being co-chaired by, among others, the UN, the European Union and the US Government.

    Henry, it’s at times of scheduling conflicts like these that I wish I had the confidence to say what you once said. You said, “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” [laughter]

    But I particularly value the time I have to talk to you at this moment which at a time when the UN is going through a very crucial period, and it is a crucial period also for the indispensable relationship between the United Nations and the United States.

    In the past two or three years, that relationship has been through some rough waters. But I know this audience appreciates not only that US engagement and leadership is vital for the effective work of the UN, but also how much an effective UN is in the interest of the US. Simply put, the UN needs the US and the US needs the UN.

    This year represents a defining moment for the United Nations. It is not only a year that marks our 60th anniversary. It is also a year in which we are thinking ahead, and engaging in a constructive debate about the future: how to defeat poverty and reach the Millennium Development Goals; how to build a collective security system able to meet our common threats in this century; and how to increase respect for human rights in every land.

    It is a time when we are determined to reform the United Nations so that it can more deftly tackle the world issues that confront us -- including some which have frustrated us for years.

    The 2005 Summit, that you’ve heard about earlier, where, as of today, 175 Heads of State and Government have indicated they will be coming, will be held in New York in mid-September, and will be the largest gathering of world leaders in history. It also represents the importance they attach to the topics we will be discussing in September. I think we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the Organization, and if we miss it this time, I don’t know when they are going to get the opportunity again. Stakes have never been higher, and those leaders are now under increasing pressure to reach agreement on critical issues. Negotiations are moving ahead. But time is short, and a great deal remains to be worked out.

    Three months ago, in a report entitled “In Larger Freedom”, I offered a series of concrete proposals for the summit to take historic decisions which would strengthen our collective security, reinvigorate our efforts to defeat poverty, and advance the cause of human rights and democracy worldwide. My report also proposed the most sweeping overhaul of the UN’s architecture in all its 60 years.

    First, let me mention some of the most pressing issues for decision in the field of peace and security:

    We badly need to build a united front against terrorism in all its forms. The UN must speak loudly and clearly in denouncing terrorism, and serve as an effective international forum for combating it. This will require a new comprehensive strategy along the lines that I have articulated. It will also require that Member States unite behind a common definition of terrorism. It may surprise some of you that, up to now, we don’t have a common definition of terrorism, because each time you raise the issue, you are told that, quote, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” And you need to be able to allow for freedom fighters to carry on their fight. But the simple definition we are asking the Member States to embrace is that, regardless of your cause, you cannot kill or maim innocent civilians and non-combatants. That is terrorism, pure and simple. And that moral clarity has to be accepted by everyone. We hope that this September, that will be endorsed by the Member States.

    We must act collectively and decisively to prevent the proliferation of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons -- particularly to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. I was deeply troubled by the failure of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty last month to face up to the challenges before us. I am especially concerned that confidence in that nuclear non-proliferation regime could begin to erode, and if Heads of State and Government do not act boldly to mend it in September, we may not be able to control the situation.

    And we must respond more effectively to the crucial challenge of post-conflict reconstruction. I think the US population has now become quite familiar with post-conflict peacebuilding, whether it is in Afghanistan or Iraq. And we at the UN are today engaged in peacebuilding in many locations. I am heartened by the wide consensus on my proposal to fill our current gap with a Peacebuilding Commission -- a new body to monitor and address the needs of post-conflict societies. This would help us avert tragic failures like those we saw in Afghanistan before 2001, and more recently in Haiti, as well as a number of African countries. The Commission will bring together a group of stakeholders from the donor community, international financial organizations, the UN system and the country in distress to work out a plan and see to its implementation over the medium to the longer term, rather than going to hold elections and say, “We are done.” Elections are only a stage in the process.

    Second, there are equally pressing issues in the realm of development. For the first time in history, we have the power and the means to end extreme poverty -- and all nations have committed themselves to get half-way there –- that is, reduce poverty by 50 per cent –- by meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

    Happily, there is now a broad consensus, based on commitments made by both developed and developing countries at the Monterrey Conference three years ago, on what is required from each side of the partnership.

    We know that it requires from each of us, from each developing country, a national strategy, which must include stronger governance, unrelenting war against corruption, and policies to stimulate the private sector, generate employment and maximize domestic resources.

    And we know what is required from the donor countries such as the United States -- increased development aid, wider and deeper debt relief, and a commitment to conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations. I am particularly encouraged by the recent decision of the European Union to increase substantially its official development assistance, and by the Group of Eight agreement on debt cancellation.

    We have clear priorities in a number of areas. For instance, building health systems in the developing world is in the interest of all nations -- not only to curb the destructive course of pandemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, but also to protect peoples all over the world from deadly outbreaks of infectious disease, whether natural or deliberate. SARS was a harbinger. Today, avian flu is quickly multiplying the chorus of experts and leaders -- including some of your own politicians, Senators Frist, Lugar and Obama -- warning that we are woefully ill-prepared. And we should remember, the last time an epidemic hit, millions were killed.

    Third, we must elevate the prominence of human rights and the rule of law in our conduct of international affairs. The international machinery in place today is not sufficient to ensure that human rights are upheld in practice. The problems of the Commission on Human Rights have become so notorious that they call into question the credibility of the entire United Nations system. I believe the time has come to replace the Commission with a new, standing Human Rights Council, preferably with a smaller composition, certainly with a higher bar for membership. Equally, the time has come to act on our collective responsibility to protect, protect individuals, and do away with any notion that sovereignty can be an excuse for genocide. We argue here that it is the responsibility of a government to protect its citizens from gross and systematic abuse of human rights. But where the government concerned is unwilling or unable to do it, who should be responsible? Here we argue that the Security Council should take action, ranging from diplomatic sanctions, or, in the extreme, authorizing the use of force.

    Fourth, I have made concrete proposals for renewing the United Nations architecture. A revitalized General Assembly would focus on the major substantive issues of the day. A rejuvenated Economic and Social Council would play a more strategic role in helping to formulate, and implement, coherent United Nations policies in development. And while we do need to create some new institutions, we should also be willing and able to abolish those institutions that are no longer needed, such as the Trusteeship Council. I tried in 1997 to get it abolished and did not succeed; but we will try to succeed this time.

    What about the Security Council? Of course, its present make-up reflects the world of 1945, not that of the twenty-first century. To maintain the Council’s effectiveness well into that century, it needs to be reformed so as to include Member States which contribute the most financially, militarily and diplomatically, and also to allow a broader membership, a more representative membership, thus making the Council itself more democratic. When the Council was established, almost three quarters of the members were not independent and were not yet Member States. It was around 50, and now we are 191. The governance issue should also keep apace. This important issue has been before the Member States for over a decade and we have discussed it ad infinitum, and we know the issues and I hope we will be able to take a decision this time around.

    Finally, the entire UN family must be made fully transparent and accountable, not just to Member States, but to the public. We are acutely aware of the reform issues raised by events of recent months -- by the troubling revelations on oil-for-food, the related findings of the Volcker panel, by the US Congressional probes, and other reports of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers in the field.

    We know that while we have made enormous strides over the past few years in many operational areas, there are still challenges that we urgently need to get right in audit oversight, management accountability, financial disclosure and general performance.

    The reforms we are already undertaking include measures to improve the performance of senior management; enhance oversight and accountability; ensure ethical conduct; and increase transparency, including more rigorous financial disclosures by senior officials.

    I was encouraged that our work to tackle internal management reforms was recognized last week with the release of the final report of the United States Institute for Peace Task Force on the United Nations.

    The Task Force in its report, which I consider sincere and constructive, took a balanced look at the United Nations, and I agree with many of its recommendations. Overall, I was greatly heartened to see how it reflects a wider understanding of the importance of the UN to the United States. It looks at ways to make the UN more effective -- not only in serving the interests of the American people, but in our increasingly interdependent world, the interest of all the world’s people.

    It also supports and endorses many of my own key initiatives and proposals for combating terrorism, countering proliferation, advancing human rights and introducing wider institutional reform. And it points out the crisis in Darfur is a crucial test for both the Member States and the United Nations.

    Ladies and gentlemen, that same report tells us [and I quote]: “If we are to see the United Nations recover from its present difficulties, American leadership will be indispensable in effecting change. The time has come for the United Nations to embrace change and reconfirm its place in today’s transformed international environment.” [end quote]

    We agree on that. I do hope the United States will hold the UN to it, and do so not in isolation, but in partnership with other Member States who share the same ideals, and who are equally interested in having an Organization that truly serves the peoples of the world. As the Report also says -- and I quote again: “To be successful, American diplomacy must build a strong coalition, including key Member States from various regions and groups ... many of whom share America’s strong desire to reform the United Nations into an organization that works.”

    If I may borrow the words of a distinguished American, John W. Gardner, institutions have a way of getting “caught in a savage crossfire between uncritical lovers and unloving critics”. I know you here tonight do not belong in either group. [laughter]

    Rather, you are discerning supporters of this indispensable instrument called the United Nations. I am grateful to every one of you for your engagement, and count on your support in the crucial time ahead.

    [applause]

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