Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on officials gathered in Germany at a leading forum on security to support efforts to strengthen the United Nations so that its system of collective security can better respond to changing conditions in the world.
“I have come here today to call on Europe and America to think ahead, and to help plant the seeds of long-term global collective security,” the Secretary-General told the forty-first Munich Conference on Security Policy.
He previewed a report that will be presented to UN members in March outlining “the most far-reaching reform of the international security system since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945.”
That report will draw heavily on the recommendations of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which cover a wide spectrum of global issues.
Mr. Annan offered several vivid examples of the interdependence of today's world, including the global economic impact of a terrorist attack in a major city and the potentially rapid spread of a new deadly disease.
“In strengthening the security of others, we protect the security of our own,” he declared.
The Secretary-General urged preventive action against major threats, stressing the need to galvanize countries in the fight against terrorism. Toward that end, he pledged to outline next month in Madrid – the city struck last March by a devastating terrorist attack – a strategy to fight the scourge.
At the same time, Mr. Annan acknowledged that prevention may fail, and in such cases “we may have to consider the use of force.” He cited the imperative of Security Council action to protect citizens from genocide or other mass atrocities.
He also addressed the case of Darfur, Sudan. Last month, a UN Commission of Inquiry found that the civilian population there had been brutalized by war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. The Security Council is now considering how to ensure that those responsible are held to account for their crimes, while a badly under-resourced African Union has been taking the lead in deploying peacekeepers.
“Additional measures are urgently required,” the Secretary-General said. “Those organizations with real capacity – and NATO as well as the European Union are well represented in this room – must give serious consideration to what, in practical terms, they can do to help end this tragedy.”
He conceded that peace-building efforts succeed only one time out of two. “Half of the civil wars that appear to have been resolved by peace agreements tragically slide back into conflict within five years,” he observed.
The UN is stretched thin, with more than 75,000 personnel deployed in 18 peace operations on four continents, while a 19th operation is planned for Sudan. “For the foreseeable future, the global demand will outstrip the capacity of the UN to respond – particularly when only one in five of our uniformed personnel comes from developed countries,” he warned.
Ultimately, collective security will flourish in a world of peaceful and capable States, able to exercise their sovereignty responsibly, and to deal with internal stresses before they erupt in conflict, harming their own citizens and threatening others, he said.
“We cannot build a safer world unless we take democratization, development and human rights seriously,” he said. “The United Nations advances these causes every day.”