SECRETARY-GENERAL UNDERSCORES URGENCY OF IMPLEMENTING REFORM AS HE INTRODUCES HIGH-LEVEL PANEL’S REPORT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY

8 December 2004
GA/10314

SECRETARY-GENERAL UNDERSCORES URGENCY OF IMPLEMENTING REFORM AS HE INTRODUCES HIGH-LEVEL PANEL’S REPORT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY

8/12/2004
Press ReleaseGA/10314

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

Plenary

68th Meeting (AM)

Secretary-General underscores urgency of implementing reform as he

introduces high-level panel’s report to General Assembly

 

Dealing Effectively With Global Challenges Means

Getting Serious About Preventing Modern-Day Threats, He Says

Dealing effectively with global challenges meant getting serious about prevention across the full range of modern-day threats -- from HIV/AIDS to nuclear proliferation, genocide and terrorism -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly today, stressing the urgency of implementing the necessary reforms to make 2005 the year of change for the United Nations.

“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, formally introducing the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats Challenges and Change to the world body’s 191-member governing Assembly.  “If we do not act resolutely, and together, the threats described in the report can overwhelm us”, he added.

“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, kicking off informal consultations on the findings of the 16-member blue ribbon Panel he appointed last year to look into how the global community could address new security threats, as well as the need for United Nations reform.

The Panel came out with 101 proposals for dealing with the six areas identified as being the greatest security threats in the twenty-first century:  continued poverty and environmental degradation; terrorism; civil war; conflict between States; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and organized crime.

Praising the report, entitled “A More Secure World:  Our Shared Responsibility”, the Secretary-General noted that while the United Nations had done a good job in many instances and was often undervalued, it needed possibly radical changes.

“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?”

He said, “[The High-Level Panel] has risen to the challenge –- and now the burden falls on you.  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”.

In March, the Secretary-General said, he would submit to the Assembly his review on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, a pledge that world leaders made in 2000 to significantly reduce the world’s ills.  He would draw heavily, not only on the Panel’s report, but also on Member States’ discussions of it in the coming months.

“I said that 2005 is important”, he concluded, adding, “it is, indeed, critical.  We must make progress and come to agreement on the changes we need to make in this Organization.  It is not simply a matter of making 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”.

Following the Secretary-General’s presentation, which was met with a standing ovation and lengthy applause, Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) said delegates had given Mr. Annan a “rare and valuable homage” -– a resounding acknowledgement of his actions on behalf of the entire international community and an expression of its confidence in his work at the head of the United Nations.  Such confidence was well placed, particularly in a world that was often held hostage by doubt and confusion.

On the work of the High-Level Panel, the President noted the leading role it had given the Assembly in many of its recommendations and welcomed the report’s affirmation of that role as the forum for dialogue within the United Nations, charged with debating and reaching consensus on vital matters of global concern.  The Assembly was ready to begin tackling the Panel’s proposals, he said, as delegations moved immediately into informal consultations.

The General Assembly will meet again formally today at 3 p.m. to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and to take action on a number of reports of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).

Background

In his address to the 2003 General Assembly, the Secretary-General argued that the world body faced a decisive moment -- particularly for the aspiration set out in the Charter to provide collective security for all -- and drew attention to deep divisions among Members States on the nature of threats and the appropriateness of the use of force to address them.

Convinced that the Organization was standing at a crossroads, and must decide whether to commit itself to radical change to deal with such global threats as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation, he announced plans to create a panel of eminent personalities -– the “High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change” -- to focus primarily on threats to peace and security, but also to examine other global challenges, to contribute to the revitalization debate, and offer a plan to redress growing concerns about the make-up of the Security Council.

Chaired by Anand Panyarachun (Thailand), the Panel also included:  Robert Badinter (France); João Clemente Baena Soares (Brazil); Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway); David Hannay (United Kingdom); Mary Chinery-Hesse (Ghana); Gareth Evans (Australia); Enrique Iglesias (Uruguay); Amre Moussa (Egypt); Satish Nambiar (India); Sadako Ogata (Japan); Yevgeny Primakov (Russian Federation); Qian Qichen (China); Nafis Sadik (Pakistan); Salim Ahmed Salim (United Republic of Tanzania), and Brent Scowcroft (United States).

The report, “A More Secure World:  Our Shared Responsibility”, transmitted to the Assembly in a note by the Secretary-General (document A/59/565, and Corr.1), details the 16-member Panel’s recommendations on far-reaching changes to boost the ability of the United Nations to deal effectively with new and future threats caused by poverty and environmental degradation, terrorism, civil war, conflict between States, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and organized crime.  It also includes two proposals for expanding the membership of the Security Council.

Its 101 recommendations also include proposals to strengthen development efforts, public health capacity and the current nuclear non-proliferation regime, which the Panel says is not as effective a constraint as it was previously because of the lack of compliance, threats to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a changing security environment and the diffusion of technology.  It also recommends adopting a definition of terrorism, something the General Assembly's Sixth Committee (legal) has been unable to do after years of discussion

Among other things, the report affirms the right of States to defend themselves, including pre-emptively, when an attack is truly imminent, and says that, in cases involving terrorists and WMD, the Security Council may have to act earlier, more pro-actively and more decisively than in the past.

The Panel also endorses the idea of a collective responsibility to protect civilians from genocide, ethnic cleansing and comparable atrocities, saying that the wider international community should intervene -- acting preventively where possible - when countries are unwilling or unable to fulfil their responsibility to their citizens.

However, the Panel says that if force is needed, it should be used as a last resort and be authorized by the Security Council.  They identify five criteria to guide the Council in its decisions in such matters:  the seriousness of the threat, proper purpose, whether it is a last resort, whether proportional means are used, and whether military action is likely to have better or worse results than inaction.  It also urges the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission under the Council to identify countries at risk of violent conflicts, organize prevention efforts and sustain international peace-building efforts.

The report notes that major changes are needed in United Nations bodies to make them more effective, efficient and equitable, including universal membership for the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights.  Such a move would underscore the commitment of all members to the promotion of human rights, and might help focus attention back on the substantive issues rather than the politicking currently engulfing the Commission.

Both formulas for an enlarged Security Council increase the membership to 24, from the current 15, but differ on allowing more permanent seats.  The first provides for six new permanent seats without veto power in addition to the five that currently hold it, and three more two-year rotating seats divided among regional groupings.  The second plan envisages no new permanent seats but creates a new category of eight four-year renewable-term seats and one new two-year non-permanent, non-renewable seat, all without veto power.

Statement by the Secretary-General

KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, said the report of the High-Level Panel entitled “A More Secure World:  Our Shared Responsibility” provided a new and comprehensive vision of collective security for the twenty-first century.  One of its messages was that globalization had resulted in a world of interconnected threats and mutual vulnerability between rich, poor weak and strong.  No country could afford to deal with today’s threats alone, and no threat could be dealt with effectively unless other menaces were addressed at the same time.  Doing that required both global policies and institutions that were efficient and effective.  The United Nations had done a good job in many instances and was often undervalued.  But it needed change –- perhaps radical change –- if it was to meet the challenges to come.

The Secretary-General said he had challenged the Panel to take up the toughest issues dividing the international community and to give him recommendations that were as far sighted as possible.  “They have risen to that challenge and now the burden falls on you.  It is up to you, Member States, to act on their recommendations, and to make 2005 the year of change at the United Nations.”  The Panel had made a variety of recommendations and some were within his purview to implement.  In particular, he intended to take the lead, as requested by the Panel, in promoting a new comprehensive, principled strategy against terrorism, the outline of which he would present for consideration in the New Year.  Other recommendations, such as those related to the reform of the Secretariat had budgetary implications.  “On these, I stand ready to provide you with more detailed comments and, based on your guidance, a plan for implementation”, he said.

Another of the Panel’s recommendations to which he gave special emphasis was one urging Member States to support and fully fund the proposed Directorate of Security, and to give high priority to assisting in the implementation of 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 parts due to defects in our security system”, he said, stressing that those defects must be remedied.  United Nations staff served in dangerous environments, not for the Secretary-General’s satisfaction nor their own, but because Member States had decided that their work was needed there.  “Unhappily we cannot, in this increasingly volatile and dangerous world, carry out the mandates that you give us without adequate security arrangements”, he said.  In that light, he appealed to Member States once again to back those mandates with the decisions on security that they clearly warranted.

He went on to say that he would submit in March his review of the implementation of the Millennium Declaration.  In that, he intended to draw heavily on the ideas in the Panel’s report.  He would however, also draw on discussions among Member States in the coming months.  Hopefully, the Millennium Review Summit next September would be comprehensive in its scope and it would be possible to reach decisions on the most important policy issues.  But as he had stressed last week, many recommendations did not need to wait until then.  “Where we can reach agreement and act sooner, we should not hesitate to do so”, he urged.

Statement by General Assembly President

JEAN PING (Gabon), President of the fifty-ninth General Assembly, said that the standing ovation and lengthy round of applause that had greeted the Secretary-General’s presentation of the Panel’s report had been a “rare and valuable homage”.  The 191-member Assembly had acknowledged his actions on behalf of the entire international community and expressed its confidence in his work at the head of the United Nations.  Such confidence was well placed, particularly in a world that was often held hostage by doubt and confusion.  The Secretary-General and his works on behalf of the Organization had been touchstones for the peoples of the world.

On the work of the High-Level Panel, he said the report clearly illustrated the Secretary-General’s resolve to contribute to the adaptation of a world undergoing deep and profound changes, and to ensuring that the United Nations would be better able to face new and future challenges.  The Secretary-General and the distinguished panellists were to be congratulated for their bold recommendations and clear vision, and for pointing the way towards constructing a safer world that ensured greater security, peace and freedom for all.  Noting the leading role the Panel had given the Assembly in many of its recommendations, he welcomed the report’s affirmation of that role as the forum for dialogue within the United Nations, charged with debating and reaching consensus on vital matters of global concern.  The Assembly was ready to begin tackling the Panel’s proposals.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.