Annan calls on world parliamentarians to help promote UN reform

1 October 2003

Secretary-General Kofi Annan renewed his appeal today for fundamental reform of the United Nations to meet multiple new challenges, such as terrorism, poverty, disease and climate change, calling on the world’s legislatures to press their governments to advance the interests of the entire planet.

"The time has long since arrived to look hard at the institutions of the United Nations - and, if necessary, to make radical reforms," Mr. Annan told the 109th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva in a message delivered by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office there. "A central challenge is to enhance their authority by making them both open to more voices and more effective in taking action."

He noted that some people feel uniquely endangered by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction while others see civil wars and other armed conflicts in which conventional weapons and small arms cause terrible destruction as the main threat. Yet others confront so-called "soft threats" such as extreme poverty, infectious disease, climate change and environmental degradation and are worried their concerns do not receive sufficient priority, that their voices are not adequately heard.

"All these threats - new and old, 'hard' and 'soft' - are real and must be addressed. And they are, of course, inter-related," he said, adding that the UN was not always as effective as it could be in meeting all these challenges.

"This is hardly surprising, given that the principal organs of the United Nations have not altered in their fundamentals since 1945, while the world they are intended to manage has changed almost beyond recognition," he declared.

Stressing that the decisions for change rest with Member States, Mr. Annan pledged to do everything possible to help them make the UN a better instrument in the service of the peoples of the world. "I hope you will too. Indeed, I appeal for your help. If the reform agenda is to succeed, it will require states to promote their national interest by advancing the global interest," he said.

"You as parliamentarians can do much to mobilize public opinion and encourage governments to do just that. The IPU itself, recently granted observer status in the General Assembly, can also make vital contributions to deliberations on these issues in the United Nations," he declared.


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