The United Nations' 60th anniversary summit of more than 170 heads of Government in September offers a "once-in-a generation" opportunity to make the world body more efficient at tackling global problems by adopting the reforms he has proposed, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a US research group on security issues.
"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," he told the International Councillors of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) yesterday.
The International Councillors, chaired by former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, are international business leaders. They meet twice a year to discuss the implications of changing economic and strategic environments.
Mr. Annan noted that the US Institute for Peace Task Force on the UN, in a sincere and constructive report issued last week, had taken a balanced look at the world body and made recommendations for reform that were similar to his own.
"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," he said.
He quoted John W. Gardner, former US cabinet member and founder of the non-partisan citizen lobbying organization, Common Cause, as saying institutions could get "caught in a savage cross-fire between uncritical lovers and unloving critics" and he said he counted on his audience for support in the crucial time ahead.
In September the issues before world leaders would include how to defeat poverty and reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets designed to halve or eradicate listed socio-economic ills by 2015; how to build a collective security system able to meet the century's common threats and how to increase respect for human rights everywhere.
His report, entitled "In Larger Freedom," offered concrete proposals on those issues. "My report also proposed the most sweeping overhaul of the UN's architecture in all its 60 years," he said.
A revitalized General Assembly, whose members now number 191, up from 50 at the UN's founding, would focus on major substantive issues, while a rejuvenated Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) would play a more strategic role in helping to formulate and implement coherent UN policies for development, Mr. Annan said.
An effective Security Council must continue to include Member States which contribute the most financially, militarily and diplomatically, but also must include a more representative membership, making the Council itself more democratic, he said.
The UN should be willing and able to abolish the 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," he said.
Meanwhile, in a closed meeting today, the General Assembly was discussing the draft of the document being prepared for the September summit. General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon has coordinated negotiations on Mr. Annan's proposals and released the recommended outcomes to the membership earlier this month.
On Thursday and Friday Mr. Ping is scheduled to moderate informal interactive hearings with civil society representatives on the outcome document. Some 200 civil society organizations have registered to take part.