Reaffirming his determination to enhance the relationship between the United Nations and civil society, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today announced that he would be establishing a broad panel of eminent persons to address the parliamentary dimensions of the Organization's relationship with local organizations.
"The currents and crosscurrents of civil society and governance in the international community have presented some real challenges. It is time to take stock of what works and what doesn't," the Secretary-General said in a message to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), read on his behalf by Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, to mark IPU Day and the granting of UN observer status to the association.
Mr. Annan assured that the insights of the IPU would be sought by the panel of eminent persons as it embarks on its work, and invited the contribution of the lawmakers. "Indeed, you occupy a unique position: as individuals, you represent real constituencies with real needs; as members of parliaments, you are at the heart of government," he said.
Parliamentarians were already making an immense contribution to the work of the UN through IPU's support at conferences, summits, special sessions and other events on key global issues and through its work in familiarizing lawmakers with the UN and how the Organization relates to the needs of their constituencies, the Secretary-General noted.
In opening remarks, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, said the Assembly's fifty-seventh session marked a new milestone in the cooperation between the UN and the IPU. "The world is still far from the goal of lasting peace, which was the main objective of the IPU founders more than a hundred years ago and which inspired also the founders of the United Nations," he said.
Mr. Kavan said the contributions of parliamentarians were needed to tackle many of the world's challenges, including poverty, underdevelopment, diseases, environmental degradation, unequal distribution of resources and human rights abuses.
For his part, the President of the IPU Council, Chilean Senator Sergio Páez, said the granting of observer status to the association was a milestone between national parliaments and the UN. He stressed that the IPU was founded on the principle that problems confronting States should be solved through dialogue and communication, not through arms or the threat of war.