Secretary-General Kofi Annan is planning a full-court lobbying campaign, including plenty of personal telephone diplomacy, in a race against time to secure a large measure of support for his package of United Nations reforms by the time world leaders meet at the UN's New York Headquarters for a September summit.
"It is going to take lots of work," he told a news briefing after laying before the General Assembly his proposals, ranging from greater investment in developing countries to steps to fight catastrophic terrorism and collective action against genocide and ethnic cleansing – elements he wants approved as a package and not by picking and choosing "a la carte."
The recommendations were contained in a 62-page report entitled, "In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all."
"Lots of work here in this building, with the Permanent Representatives; lots of work with capitals, with the Heads of State and government; lots of work by certain envoys that I hope to send out; lots of work by some members of the Panel that I would also want to use; and I will be on the phone also, quite a lot," he said, referring to the high-level panel of experts he appointed in 2003 who came up with some of the reforms.
Mr. Annan had been asked about the difficulties he faced in getting 191 countries to basically put aside their national interests and say that it is far more important to sign on to the package, even if they vehemently dislike certain provisions.
"I believe that, as difficult as it is, the Member States – the majority of the Member States – will come to conclude that what is on the table, what is proposed, is in their long-term interest and go along with it," he added, noting at one point that this included the United States.
The Secretary-General began the briefing with a statement stressing the urgency of taking action in the three-fold area of development, security and human rights, as well changing the structure of the UN itself "if we are to make the most of our opportunities in the next 10 years, and save many millions of people from death and disaster.
"For instance, if governments take the decisions I'm suggesting in this report, I believe we have a much better chance of turning the tide against HIV/AIDS and malaria in the next 10 years; a much better chance of containing the spread of any new infectious diseases, whether natural or man-made; a much better chance of averting an attack by terrorists using nuclear or radiological weapons," he declared.
"A much better chance of preventing countries like Haiti, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone from sliding back into chaos or crisis; a much better chance of reaching a common understanding on how to deal with recalcitrant regimes like that of Saddam Hussein; and a United Nations that is much better able to take effective action – through a strengthened Security Council and a new, authoritative Human Rights Council, both working closely with regional organizations – to put a stop to major crimes against innocent people, such as those we are witnessing in Darfur," he added, referring to several world hot spots.
Mr. Annan was asked what he would say to the people in the United States to try to convince them to get behind the reform package when they had been disappointed with the UN over the past couple of years.
"I think that the argument that comes through the report is very clear: that we live in an interconnected world, in a world where we face many challenges, many threats – threats that no one country, however powerful, can face alone – and that we need to work together to contain these threats, whether it is terrorism, non-proliferation or environmental degradation and poverty that leads to failed States," he replied.
"So I think the collective effort of all of us working together is in the national interest of individual Member States. I think that an effective and functioning United Nations is in the interests of the United States and its people, as it is in the interest of other nations and their peoples."
Video of press conference [55mins]