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Secretary-General urges world's parliaments to power his agenda for UN reform

Secretary-General urges world's parliaments to power his agenda for UN reform

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on the world's parliaments to throw their weight behind his ambitious agenda of United Nations reform so that global leaders will be "ready, willing and able" to take the necessary decisions when they convene in a summit in September at UN Headquarters in New York.

"I am appealing to all states to treat the proposals as a package, which strikes a careful balance between the needs and interests of the various countries and regions," he told the annual gathering of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in a message yesterday in Manila, Philippines, outlining a reform that ranges from greater investment in developing countries to steps to fight catastrophic terrorism and collective action against genocide and ethnic cleansing.

"I appeal to the IPU and to parliamentarians to help advance this agenda, by supporting your nation governments in approaching the summit with vision and willingness to compromise, by building bridges of cooperation among parliamentarians in support of the summit agenda, and by bringing to the attention of your constituents the important issues that are at stake," he said in the message, delivered by Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning Robert Orr.

The world's peoples believe strongly in effective multilateral institutions and expect their governments to agree to reforms that make these institutions work better, Mr. Annan added, citing a recent global public opinion poll.

"We must listen to them. And we must not let them down. The United Nations must help to advance all the world's peoples towards better standards of life in larger freedom. September's summit is the chance to take decisive steps toward that goal. And if that summit is to be a success, parliamentarians must make their presence felt and their voices heard," he declared.

"When world leaders come to New York, I hope they will be ready, willing and able to take decisions that can set our world on course to halve global poverty in the next 10 years, reduce the threat of war, terrorism and deadly weapons, advance human dignity in every land, and reform the United Nations with a speed and boldness not seen in its 60-year history."

Addressing the session today, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy challenged legislators from around the world to do more to protect the health and well-being of youngsters by providing immunization, basic health and nutrition when they are infants while protecting them from exploitation, abuse and trafficking as they grow older.

"Parliamentarians have a choice," she said. "They can make decisions that ensure the protection of children, or they can make decisions that leave children vulnerable to being exploited and abused.

"The first choice virtually guarantees strong national development; the second choice virtually guarantees the continuation of poverty," she added, noting that millions of children are trafficked every year as part of a lucrative human trafficking industry that is beginning to rival the illegal drugs and arms trade, with an estimated revenue of up to $10 billion a year.

Lawmakers are uniquely placed to have a positive effect by enforcing legislation to protect children, allocating adequate resources from national budgets, and using the power of parliamentary inquiry to hold governments, industries, and civil society accountable.

She urged them to implement anti-trafficking measures during humanitarian crises, when children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.