Press Releases

    SG/SM/10425
    25 April 2006

    Secretary-General Says Global Outlook "Heart and Soul" of Macalester College at Global Citizenship Institute Inauguration in Saint Paul

    NEW YORK, 24 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following are UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks at the Macalester College convocation to inaugurate the Institute for Global Citizenship in Saint Paul, 22 April:

    Thank you, President Rosenberg, for those kind words.

    And good morning, Macalester!  It is wonderful to be back.  For me, coming to Macalester is always a bit like coming home.

    I am especially moved to help you inaugurate the Institute for Global Citizenship.  The mission of the Institute -- to advance Macalester's commitment to internationalism, multiculturalism and understanding -- is more important than ever in today's world.  Let me congratulate all of you who have brought this initiative to fruition.  I will follow the development of this new body, with a great deal of interest and alumnal pride, as it begins its work in earnest this fall.

    The Institute is the latest expression of the global outlook that has always been part of Macalester's very heart and soul.  Today, I had the honour of attending the raising of the United Nations flag on the main lawn.  It reminded me that, when I arrived at Macalester in the fall of 1959, the UN flag had already been flying here for nine years!

    So, the Macalester Institute for Global Citizenship is built on very solid foundations, and its programmes have very fertile ground in which to grow.

    Its launch could hardly come at a more crucial time in the life of the international community in general, and the United Nations in particular.  More than ever before, the human race faces global problems -- from poverty and inequality to nuclear proliferation, from climate change to bird flu, from terrorism to HIV/AIDS, from ethnic cleansing and genocide to trafficking in the lives and bodies of human beings.  We need to come together and work out global solutions.

    World leaders understood this when they gathered last September, in the sixtieth anniversary year of the United Nations, for the 2005 World Summit -- which I believe will be seen by future generations as a seminal event in the history of the Organization.  It did not achieve everything we might have hoped for, but our leaders did agree on important changes across a broad front.

    They recognized that development, security and human rights are not only important in themselves, but also reinforce, and indeed, depend on each other.  The three freedoms which all human beings crave -- freedom from want, freedom from war or large-scale violence, and freedom from arbitrary or degrading treatment -- are closely interconnected.  There is no long-term security without development.  There is no development without security.  And no society can long remain secure, or prosperous, without respect for human rights and the rule of law.

    The Summit also reaffirmed an unambiguous resolve to achieve the Millennium Development Goals -- agreed by all the world's Governments as a blueprint for building a better world in the twenty-first century.  These eight commitments range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education -- all by the target date of 2015.  They represent a set of simple, but powerful, objectives that every man and woman in the street, from Minnesota to Malaysia, can easily support and understand.

    And on one crucial issue -- the responsibility to protect -- the Summit achieved a breakthrough; all Member States accepted that, individually and collectively, they have a responsibility to protect populations threatened with genocide, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity.

    Important steps have been taken since the Summit.  Member States have created a new Peacebuilding Commission to better manage the difficult transition from war to peace.  They have established a Central Emergency Response Fund to help the victims of humanitarian disasters.  A Democracy Fund has been launched to strengthen institutions and ensure that people can exercise their democratic rights.  Most recently, the General Assembly created a new Human Rights Council, a historic step that will enable us to restore the UN credibility as the champion of the oppressed.

    The General Assembly is also undertaking a review of all the mandates still in force, which were given to the Organization by Member States between 1946 and 2001.  You can imagine the challenge.  This should make it possible to avoid much duplication and waste, and ensure that our work reflects the current priorities of Member States, rather than those of yesteryear.

    For my part, I have placed before the membership a new set of proposals for an overhaul of the Organization's management.  Building on previous rounds of reform, I aim to make the United Nations a more transparent, accountable and effective instrument of service to humankind.

    But, at the Summit, there were also areas where world leaders failed to reach any agreement at all.  The biggest disappointment, for me, was their failure to chart a way forward on disarmament and non-proliferation.  Can there be any threat more alarming, in today's world, than that of a nuclear or biological weapon falling into the hands of terrorists, or being used by a State as a result of some terrible misunderstanding or miscalculation?

    The more States have such weapons, the greater the risk.  And, the more those States that already have them increase their arsenals, or insist that such weapons are essential to their national security, the more other States feel that they too must have them, for their security.

    For 35 years the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime has been remarkably successful in protecting mankind from this danger.  But now, it faces a very serious challenge.

    Today's headlines concern Iran -- rightly so, for basic treaty obligations and commitments are at stake.  For signatories of the NPT, the right to develop nuclear energy is conditional on the solemn obligation not to build or acquire nuclear weapons, and to comply with standards set and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    But, when we step back from the headlines, it should be clear that we cannot continue to lurch from crisis to crisis, until the regime is buried beneath a cascade of nuclear proliferation.

    Twice last year -- at the 2005 NPT Review Conference and at the World Summit -- Governments had the chance to strengthen the foundations of the NPT regime, by agreeing on measures, such as more robust IAEA inspections; incentives and guarantees for countries to forgo the enrichment and reprocessing of fissile materials; and energetic steps to meet disarmament commitments.  Both times, they failed.  We cannot afford any more such squandered chances.

    The Summit's other great failure, of course, was that it did not agree on enlargement of the Security Council.  The current composition of the Council creates a perception that it has a very narrow power-base, with just five countries calling the shots.  Besides, its composition does not reflect the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century.  I have in the past described this as a democracy deficit.  The base must be broadened.  Sooner or later, the Security Council will have to be enlarged.

    As you can tell, our agenda is ambitious.  Our success in advancing it will depend not only on Government representatives and international officials.  It will rest on voters, consumers, civil society groups and concerned men and women of all ages, in rich and poor countries alike, thinking and acting as global citizens -- understanding the need for all peoples to seize common opportunities and defend against shared threats.  That, after all, is the essence of effective multilateralism.

    And that is why this new Institute for Global Citizenship is so important.  We all have the power to make choices.  We can choose to be silent and turn away.  Or we can step forward and take action.  Here at Macalester, you have chosen to make a difference, and there is so much you can do.

    You can take a role in research, leadership and advocacy.  You can help hold Governments to their commitments.  You can work to ensure they look beyond the short term.  You can strengthen and develop new ways of pursuing dialogue among countries, cultures and communities.

    However you choose to carry out your mission as global citizens, I know you will keep demonstrating the fallacy of a certain perception of America -- the perception of an insular America with no interest in or understanding of the world beyond these shores.

    As you do, I hope you will always look to the United Nations as a forum in which Americans, along with all the world's other peoples, can work together for freedom, prosperity and peace.  I am grateful to every one of you for your commitment, and wish you every success on your journey.

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