The coming year is critical for the United Nations to make the necessary reforms to deal effectively with a new globalization of threats, from HIV/AIDS, nuclear proliferation and genocide to terrorism capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly today.
“No country can afford to deal with today’s threats alone, and no threat can be dealt with effectively unless other threats are addressed at the same time,” he said at the start of informal consultations on the findings of the panel he appointed to look into how the global community could address new security threats, including UN reform.
Praising the report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Mr. Annan noted that the UN had “done a good job in many instances and is often undervalued,” but it needed possibly radical changes.
“It is hardly possible to over-state what is at stake, not only for this Organization but for all the peoples of this world, for whose safety this Organization was created,” he said. “If we do not act resolutely, and together, the threats described in the report can overwhelm us.
“Do we want the human cost of HIV/AIDS to accumulate to the point where societies and states collapse? Do we want to face a future cascade of nuclear proliferation?” he asked.
“Next time we are faced with genocide, will we again resign ourselves to watching passively until it is too late? Do we want to raise our children in a world where small groups of terrorists can murder hundreds of thousand at any moment?”
Mr. Annan appointed the 16-member panel of prominent politicians, diplomats and development experts a year ago to assess the current threats facing the world and recommend policy and institutional changes to deal with them.
They came out with 101 proposals for dealing with the six areas identified as being the greatest threats to worldwide security in the 21st century: continued poverty and environmental degradation, terrorism, civil war, conflict between states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and organized crime.
“They have risen to the challenge – and now the burden falls on you,” Mr. Annan said. “It is up to you, the Member States, to act on their recommendations and to make 2005 the year of change at the United Nations.”
He said some of the proposals were in his purview and he intended to take the lead in promoting “a new comprehensive, principled strategy” against terrorism.
He stressed the recommendation urging Member States to support and fully fund a Directorate of Security for implementing a new staff security system in 2005.
“Recent events have taught us, in the most painful way imaginable, how necessary that is – and rigorous investigation has shown that the losses we have suffered are in large part due to defects in our system,” he said in a veiled reference to last year’s terrorist bombing of Baghdad’s UN headquarters that killed 22 people including Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello.
“Those defects must be remedied. Let me remind you, once again, that UN staff serve in dangerous environments not for my satisfaction, nor yet for their own, but because you, the Member States, have decided that their work is needed there.”
In March Mr. Annan is due to submit to the Assembly his review on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, a pledge world leaders made in 2000 to significantly reduce the world’s ills, and he said he would draw heavily not only on the Panel’s report but also on members’ discussions of it in the coming months.
“I said that 2005 is important,” he concluded. “It is, indeed, critical. We must make progress, and come to agreement on the changes we need to in this Organization. It is not simply a matter of make the Organization better. It is a matter of confronting, in the only way possible, the real and present dangers that lie in wait for us.”