Proposed deal for better world by Annan is 'bold and achievable' – UN officials

20 March 2005

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's new report is a “bold and achievable” deal for realigning the United Nations so that it can better tackle the world's major scourges, senior UN officials said today.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's new report is a “bold and achievable” deal for realigning the United Nations so that it can better tackle the world's major scourges, senior UN officials said today.

Mark Malloch Brown, the Secretary-General's Chief of Staff, said national leaders should aim to adopt the comprehensive recommendations when they gather for the world body's sixtieth anniversary summit in September.

He refuted press accounts suggesting that the report is “a panicked response to the current crisis affecting the UN.” To the contrary, he said the timing “is highly propitious because it allows us to lay out an ambitious agenda for the future.”

Briefing reporters in New York, the Chief of Staff characterized the report – “In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all” – as balanced. “Like any deal, we hope it's got something in it for everybody, but also in the nature of such deals, it's got some things in it that everybody will also be mad about,” he said. “The great virtue of a well-stitched together deal at the UN is it's not the same people in each case.”

Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning Robert Orr said the report constitutes a “bold but achievable” package of policy commitments and institutional reforms.

The report contains key recommendations on poverty, security and human rights, including increasing official development assistance, tackling climate change, elaborating a comprehensive anti-terrorism treaty, creating a UN peacebuilding commission and a UN human rights council, establishing a democracy fund, expanding the Security Council and streamlining the UN Secretariat.

While the Secretary-General could not present his proposals as a take-it-or-leave-it deal, the report was not an “a la carte package” to be selected from at will, Mr. Malloch Brown said. “We feel that the whole thing has to be held together.”

“This is a deal that the Secretary-General is offering the world; it is a very carefully crafted deal,” he added, pointing out that it was developed following extensive discussions on two major reports commissioned by Mr. Annan, one by a high-level panel on threats, challenges and change, and the other on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000.

Mr. Malloch Brown said that in some cases the new report went further than those two predecessors, citing its call for a new Human Rights Council comprised of members elected by the General Assembly. “In other ways,” he added, “it is boldly the same,” preserving the recommendations of the high-level panel report, including its definition of terrorism – a controversial subject because of the prevailing divergent views.

Touching another lightning rod, the Secretary-General has also “stuck to the proposal” that developed countries should allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to development assistance, Mr. Malloch Brown said.

Contrary to some press accounts, he said the report was decidedly not “a concession to the Americans.” At the same time, he predicted that the report's ambitious proposals on terrorism and human rights would be welcomed in Washington, adding that developing countries should also understand that it directly confronts their concerns as well. “This is not just about security for rich countries, but security for the poor as well.”

He voiced hope that Member States would approach the report constructively. “This is a document that everybody can be very excited about.”

Mr. Malloch Brown offered a realistic but upbeat appraisal of the challenge ahead. “We don't expect that every single sentence could possibly survive six months of work by the missions here – it would put them out of business if this document went without a single word of change to the summit of leaders, but what we're trying to argue is that the basic planks of this package must hold together,” he said.

The report calls for a nine-member increase in the membership of the Security Council through the adoption of one of two models involving either an increase in the non-permanent membership or the addition of several permanent seats. Asked whether it would be possible to forge agreement on such a contentious issue, Mr. Malloch Brown said the timing was right. The issue, he said, “had to be brought to a head.”

He added: “This September deadline with the intense discussion that has gone into it is that moment, and if it doesn't come to a head by that, the fear is that it just drifts into another period without a deadline.”

Mr. Orr echoed the report's statement that the decision on this matter need not be taken by consensus. “If you go through any kind of major debate in this Organization, consensus often means 191,” he said, referring to the number of UN members. “If you wait for all 191 to agree to something, you can be waiting an awfully long time.”

“We're not starting with agreement – we hope to end with agreement,” Mr. Orr said.


Video of press briefing [54mins]


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