Global perspective Human stories

Building broad coalitions is key to tackling global ills, Annan says in Chicago

Building broad coalitions is key to tackling global ills, Annan says in Chicago

On a visit to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in Chicago, Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed the need for bringing together governments, the private sectors and organizations such as Rainbow/PUSH in order to succeed in the struggle for human dignity, equality of opportunity and economic progress.

"We live in a world marked by great progress in some areas, and great suffering in others," the Secretary-General told an audience of some 800 people gathered for the Coalition's weekly Saturday Morning Freedom Meeting. "Inequality within and between countries persists to a shameful degree, and if we are to create a safer, more stable world, we must close the gap between the rich and the poor."

Noting that this challenge was at the core of the United Nations work in fighting poverty, protecting children, promoting human rights, and advancing justice, Mr. Annan said that in this effort the UN was guided by the unprecedented unity of purpose expressed by the leaders of the world in the Millennium Declaration issued at the Millennium Summit two years ago.

"In that Declaration, the leaders made clear that if we want peace and stability, we must also promote sustainable development and apply our efforts to reducing the hunger, disease, illiteracy and poverty that are debilitating millions" of people worldwide, he said, adding that at the heart of that document were eight Millennium Development Goals, which included combating HIV/AIDS, achieving universal primary education and promoting gender equality.

"I have drawn your attention to these priorities of the United Nations because I believe they concern us all - Africans, African-Americans, citizens of the world," he said. "We cannot stand by idly and witness the destruction caused by the scourges of poverty, AIDS, conflict or intolerance. We are united by this bond - men and women, black and white, citizens' groups and the United Nations - and I am confident that the world can be the better for it."

The Secretary-General, who was awarded the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition for Global Unity Award during his visit to the organization's headquarters, spoke earlier in the day to a number of local business and community leaders, as well as the representatives of Chicago's consular corps.

Introducing the Secretary-General, Rev. Jackson recalled that back in 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other American civil rights leaders had attended the ceremonies marking the independence of Ghana, the home country of Mr. Annan, who was only a teenager at that time. History had come full circle, Rev. Jackson said, welcoming the Secretary-General.

For his part, the Secretary-General said that Ghana's independence movement had a strong impact on him. "You grow up believing that change is possible, peaceful change is possible," he said, "and one should dare to make a difference and change. That's a message I try to give young people: keep hope alive, be courageous, dare to change."