The 2005 World Summit, the largest gathering ever of international leaders, opened at United Nations Headquarters in New York today with a warning from Secretary-General Kofi Annan that “millions of lives and the hopes of billions” rest on fulfilling the pledges contained in the meeting’s outcome document.
Listing the proposals, ranging from a condemnation of terrorism in all its forms to the responsibility to protect populations from genocide to figting poverty, hunger and disease, to the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission and a strengthened Human Rights Commission, Mr. Annan also regretted the omission of clauses dealing with nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and Security Council reform.
“We must keep working with determination on the tough issues on which progress is urgent but has not yet been achieved,” he told 153 Heads of State and Government assembled in the General Assembly Hall.
“Because one thing has emerged clearly from the process on which we embarked two years ago: whatever our differences, in our interdependent world, we stand or fall together.”
Mr. Annan pointed to agreements reached in the outcome document after the drafting committee spent two weeks in marathon negotiations thrashing out proposals locking in progress to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the targets set by the 2000 Summit to slash a host of socio-economic ills, such as extreme poverty, hunger, infant and maternal mortality and lack of access to education, all by 2015.
“Millions of lives, and the hopes of billions, rest on the implementation of these and other pledges to fight poverty, disease, illiteracy and inequality, and on development remaining at the centre of trade negotiations in the year ahead,” he declared.
“Your adoption of the outcome document will achieve vital breakthroughs in other areas as well,” he said.
“For the first time, you will accept, clearly and unambiguously, that you have a collective responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity… Excellencies, you will be pledged to act if another Rwanda looms,” he added, referring to the 1994 genocide in which extremist Hutus massacred an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
He noted that the outcome document amounted to a far-reaching package of changes. “But let us be frank with each other, and the peoples of the United Nations,” he cautioned. “We have not yet achieved the sweeping and fundamental reform that I and many others believe is required. Sharp differences, some of them substantive and legitimate, have played their part in preventing that.”
He called on the leaders to “pick up the pieces” to renew negotiations on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. “Weapons of mass destruction pose a grave danger to us all, particularly in a world threatened by terrorists with global ambitions and no inhibitions,” he warned.
But the package so far agreed on is a good start, he said, “and the coming years will test our resolve to halve extreme poverty by 2015, to act if genocide looms again, and to improve our success rate in building peace in war-torn countries.”
He stressed again and again the need to work together on the issues on which progress had not yet been achieved. “Whatever our differences, in our interdependent world, we stand or fall together,” he said.
Mr. Annan warned that ignoring the basic principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law for the sake of expediency undermines confidence in collective institutions. “That is why a healthy, effective United Nations is so vital,” he declared.
“If properly utilized, it can be a unique marriage of power and principle, in the service of all the world’s peoples,” he added, stressing the importance of reforming the world body to restore confidence in its “integrity, impartiality and ability to deliver.”
Citing President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for courage to fulfil one’s responsibilities in an imperfect world, the Secretary-General concluded: “I am not sure we have done that yet. But I believe all; of us now understand that we need to do it.
“Precisely because our world is so imperfect, we need the United Nations.”
Taking the podium later, President George Bush urged world leaders to strengthen the world body so that it can live up to the ideals on which it was founded – a call that was echoed by the leaders of Sweden and Gabon who are jointly chairing the event.
For details see: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=15792&Cr=World&Cr1=Summit