Ahead of September World Summit, Annan stresses importance of MDGs

Kofi Annan

31 August 2005 – Secretary-General Kofi Annan today gave a ringing endorsement for advancing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at next month’s United Nations World Summit, saying the targets that seek to cure of a host of global socio-economic ills by 2015 form the basis of a mutual pact between developing and developed countries.

His reaffirmation came amid reports that the United States was basically seeking to eliminate any mention of the MDGs in the development section of the summit’s outcome document, including the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product in official development aid by developed countries to developing nations.

“One of the great achievements of the Millennium Declaration was its success in focusing the world's attention on precise targets which, if achieved by 2015, would mark a real turn of the tide in our struggle against life-destroying poverty,” Mr. Annan told a General Assembly Core Group drawing up a draft outcome document for the 14-16 September summit, after breaking off his holiday yesterday to fly back to New York.

“Since codified and widely endorsed by Member States as the 'Millennium Development Goals,' these targets form the basis of the great pact of mutual accountability between developed and developing countries, which was sealed at Monterey (meeting in which the US took part) two years ago,” he said of the targets that seek to halve extreme poverty and hunger, slash maternal and infant mortality, and increase access to health care, education, water and sanitation, all by 2015.

“We are not yet on track to achieve them, but they have proved to be an unprecedented catalyst for global action. The challenge now is to put the bargain into effect. I believe the commitments outlined in your draft document would be a big step towards doing so,” he added.

Asked by reporters after the meeting about the US position, Mr. Annan said: “I don't think anyone can remove it from the general public's perception of how we are moving ahead with development. And I'm not sure that the US is going to insist on that. I think they've made their point, but I'm not sure the other Member States would want to see the Millennium Development Goals dropped or, the worse, expunged from the document.”

Mr. Annan, who spoke by invitation of General Assembly President Jean Ping to a session of the core negotiating group devoted to development and Secretariat and management reform, reminded delegates how important it was for the world that the summit have a successful outcome.

“Failure would be a lost opportunity for all. The stakes are high. Very high,” he said of the summit, formally known as the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly.

“I have been following your negotiations on the draft outcome document, and I am glad to hear that, in some areas at least, you are now making good progress. I also hear that in other areas you are still divided, and in those I can only urge you to redouble your efforts,” he added.

Mr. Annan devoted much of his speech to management reform, “an area where, by virtue of my office, I have a special interest,” he said, adding that he has been striving to reform UN management, with General Assembly help, ever since he became Secretary-General in 1997.

He stressed that much had been achieved but recent revelations on Oil-for-Food mismanagement and the “disgraceful” misconduct in peacekeeping missions showed that more is needed.

He mentioned reforms he is already carrying out where he has discretion, such as creation of an Ethics Office to oversee compliance with new financial disclosure requirements for senior staff, ensure whistleblower protection, develop mandatory ethics training for all staff and advise staff on ethical issues such as receiving gifts.

“Yet I am convinced, Excellencies, that more far-reaching reforms are needed, which require the authority of the General Assembly,” he declared, referring to a review of rules on budgetary and human resources; an overview of all mandates older than five years; change in the UN's oversight structure, independent of the Secretary-General; and granting the Secretary-General authority and flexibility to redeploy posts and resources.

“Let me be very clear that, while I would indeed welcome these provisions, I do not see them as offering me any kind of carte blanche to run the Organization on my own,” he said.

“I would never ask you for that, and if I did you would be quite right to refuse. In fact, all I am asking for is authority to manage the Organization similar to that which my colleagues have in the Specialized Agencies,” he added. “I want the leeway to do my job properly, but the obligation always to come back to you when strategic decisions are needed.”

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