In Washington DC, Annan says UN is best placed to tackle global ills

16 December 2004

Delivering a speech in Washington, DC today, Secretary-General Kofi Annan sought the support of the United States in adapting the United Nations to better respond to emerging global threats, while emphasizing the world body's central role in this endeavour.

"The only universal instrument that can bring States together in such a global effort is the United Nations," he declared in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations.

"I am the first to acknowledge that the United Nations is not perfect. At times, it shows its age," he added. "But our world will not easily find a better instrument for forging a sustained global response to today's threats."

Mr. Annan noted that the US and UN are "working hand in hand around the world" on several issues - peacekeeping, conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, human rights, good governance and development.

"And today, America, no less than any other State, needs global cooperation to be secure," he said.

Recalling the report released earlier this month by a blue-ribbon panel he commissioned to look at future global threats and ways to deal with them, the Secretary-General said that it contained a powerful vision of collective security.

"Whether the threat is terrorism or AIDS, a threat to one is a threat to all," he said. "Our defences are only as strong as their weakest link. We will be safest if we work together."

The report by the 16-member High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, "A more secure world: our shared responsibility," contained 101 recommendations for dealing with the six areas identified as being the greatest threats to worldwide security in the 21st century.

Mr. Annan said a reformed United Nations will unite countries in preventing terrorism, provide a more "muscular framework" to prevent a cascade of nuclear proliferation, and be an organization through which all States get much more serious about promoting development.

It will also help build capable nations that can deal with threats in their own borders before they harm their own citizens and others, and give guidance on the use of force in which all countries should have confidence, he added.

The Secretary-General reminded the audience of the UN's past contributions to global security through rebuilding war-torn countries - including its most recent efforts in Afghanistan as well as its commitment to building a free and democratic Iraq - but said its work must be more strategic and better resourced.

"Tomorrow's United Nations must have the capacity to move fast, and see every job through," he stressed.

Looking ahead to a proposed high-level summit in September 2005, just prior to the next session of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Annan said he will move quickly to put in place the panel's recommendations that fall within his responsibility.

He also pledged to work with Member States to help them "to decide and to act," and voiced his hope that the United States will play a "vigorous role" in the process of renewal and change.


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