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'Decision time' has come for overhauling UN, Annan argues

'Decision time' has come for overhauling UN, Annan argues

The United Nations must undertake the most sweeping overhaul in its 60-year history to strengthen collective security, lay down a truly global strategy for development, promote human rights and democracy, and ensure that all of these commitments are translated into action, Secretary-General Kofi Annan argues in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Annan's commentary restates the case he made in his recent ground-breaking report, "In Larger Freedom," which outlines a series of proposals for adapting the world body to meet current and emerging challenges. His article cites cross-border threats in pressing world leaders to adopt the recommendations when they meet for a summit in September at the UN.

"We cannot just muddle along and make do with incremental responses in an era when organized crime syndicates seek to smuggle both sex slaves and nuclear materials across borders; when whole societies are being laid waste by AIDS; when rapid advances in biotechnology make it all too feasible to create 'designer bugs' immune to current vaccines; and when terrorists, whose ambitions are very plain, find ready recruits among young men in societies with little hope, even less justice, and narrowly sectarian schools," Mr. Annan says.

Specifically, he calls for measures to ensure that catastrophic terrorism never becomes a reality, protect civilians against human rights abuses, eradicate poverty and foster a strong UN capable of these important tasks.

In perhaps the most closely watched of all reforms, the Secretary-General proposes expanding the Security Council to 24 members from 15, providing two formulas for doing so. Neither changes the current status of the veto power enjoyed by the five permanent members. "Member States should make up their minds and reach a decision before the September summit," he declares.

The Secretary-General says States must adopt a comprehensive convention against terrorism, establish a UN peacebuilding commission and strengthen the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Annan also advocates replacing the "discredited" UN Commission on Human Rights with a Human Rights Council whose members would be elected by directly by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly and pledge to abide by the highest human rights standards.

He also backs a call first made by United States President George W. Bush for the establishment of a special fund to support countries in establishing or strengthening democracy.

The Secretary-General says the world "desperately needs a practical strategy to implement the Millennium Declaration" adopted at a UN summit in 2000. He calls for urgent action to achieve the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set on that occasion, based on a global partnership between rich and poor countries. Donor countries, he says, must draw up a strategy to meet the target of allocating 0.7 per cent of their national income to official development assistance (ODA).

Looking ahead to 2012 when the landmark Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases will expire, Mr. Annan calls for a new international framework that will bring all countries together to fight global warming.

On reforming the UN's own management procedures, he says he is committed to improving on this front, but adds that "the Secretary-General, as chief administrative officer of the organization, must be empowered to manage it with autonomy and flexibility, so that he or she can drive through the necessary changes."

If this autonomy is granted, he says, Member States "will have both the right and the responsibility to demand even greater transparency and accountability."

The UN summit in September is the "chance for all of us to set out on that path" towards achieving better standards of life in larger freedom, he states.