28 June 1999
ADDIS ABABA, 25 June (ECA) -- In order to be adequately equipped to meet the regional and global challenges of the twenty-first century, the United Nations should be reformed, strengthened and refocused, participants at the African Regional Hearing on the Millennium Assembly have concluded.
Challenges cited included globalization and its negative effects, and a review of the norms of global governance -- including of the United Nations itself.
The call for a revitalized world body brought to a close two days of intensive discussions, brokered by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Office of the Coordinator of the Millennium Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The two-day hearing was convened as an open forum to share views and elaborate proposals on the United Nations that Africans want to see in the next millennium. It was the second in a series of five regional hearings being organized as part of the consultative process leading to a Millennium Summit of Heads of State and Government, to take place in New York in September 2000.
In the concluding segment of the hearing, the need for a more democratic Organization was reiterated by participants, who included African Member States, academia, the private sector, the media, and non-governmental organizations.
Key recommendations that emerged in the final session included:
-- The need to reform the Security Council to reflect as wide a geographical distribution as possible;
-- The need for the United Nations to address the problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
-- The need to develop a system for financing global programmes through corporate taxation which would empower the United Nations and at the same time ensure its impartiality;
-- The need for human rights issues, political as well as economic and social, to constitute the global agenda in the next millennium;
-- The need to strengthen the ECA, Organization of African Unity (OAU) and African Development Bank (ADB) so as to enhance their ability to represent African interests in international forums; and
-- The need for the United Nations to rise to the challenge of governance and to support a culture of tolerance and diversity.
Earlier panels had focused on: Cooperation for Economic and Social Development in Africa; Approaching Humanitarian and Human Rights issues within a Global Context; and Addressing the Challenges of Development, Peace and Security in Africa.
In his closing remarks, Assistant Secretary General Miles Stoby, who is Coordinator of the Millennium Assembly process, stressed that Africa has enjoyed a long relationship with the United Nations, which had for the most part been very positive. The United Nations had helped decolonize Africa, end apartheid and bring about peaceful transitions such as in Namibia and the Western Sahara.
Echoing a constant theme throughout the hearing, Mr. Stoby said: "A marginalized United Nations means a marginalized Africa". Conversely, a marginalized Africa could only contribute to the ultimate marginalization of the United Nations. It was therefore in the interest of both Africa and the United Nations to see the world body strengthened.
In reflecting on the debate, Mr. Stoby said that while there had been a tremendous appreciation of the technical aspect of the United Nations work in Africa, the areas of concern had clearly been in peace and security, as well as in the Organization's ability to address issues of global concern.
The Assistant Secretary-General stressed that, contrary to a view expressed from the floor that the United Nations reforms had been undertaken to "placate the West", the process had been designed to bring about a trimmer, fitter and more effective Organization that could better serve the needs of its Member States, particularly the smaller States. Mr. Stoby served as Deputy Coordinator of the Secretary-General's reform team.
On the United Nations perceived role in the Rwanda genocide, Mr. Stoby said Secretary General Kofi Annan was very much aware of the concerns raised, and had recently established a Panel to look into the matter, chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Karlsson.
In terms of follow up, Mr. Stoby urged governmental participants to take some of the issues raised in Addis Ababa to the forthcoming Summit of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, to take place early next month in Algiers. He also encouraged civil society participants to sustain their interest in the Millennium Assembly process and to look towards the NGO-organized Millennium Forum scheduled to take place in New York in May 2000.
Concluding the proceedings, Under-Secretary-General and ECA Executive Secretary K.Y. Amoako thanked participants and noted that the high level of attendance was a validation of the importance that Member States and other constituencies placed on the Commission's convening power and its role as a forum for sharing ideas. Some 130 participants officially registered for the hearing. An estimated 350 attended the opening ceremony on Thursday, including members of the Addis Ababa diplomatic corps.
On the role of the major regional institutions in addressing Africa's challenges, Mr. Amoako stressed: "The times may be different and the styles may be different, but rest assured that we are taking on the challenge, day and night."
Unattributed views from the hearings will contribute towards a report to be prepared by the Secretary-General outlining a vision for the United Nations in the next millennium. These proposals will be presented to the Millennium Summit, which is expected to feature the largest number of world leaders ever assembled at a global conference.
The first regional hearing was held by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Beirut on 23-24 May. The dates of the other hearings are as follows: Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Geneva, 7-8 July; Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Bangkok, 19-20 August; and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Santiago, 1-2 September.
For further information, contact Peter K.A. da Costa, Senior Communication Adviser, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), United Nations, P.O. Box 3001 (official) or 3005 (personal), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tel: +251-1-51 58 26, Fax: +251-1-51 03 65, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; Web: http://www.un.org/depts/eca