United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sent a letter to the leaders of the G8 industrialized countries to rise to the challenge at their summit meeting next month and provide leadership on a full raft of issues, from improving the lot of Africa’s poor to combating terrorism and countering global warming.
“All that is needed now is the leadership to make it happen,” Mr. Annan said of the goals in all these areas, which he laid out in his report on UN reform and global governance – In Larger Freedom – earlier this year ahead of a world summit at UN Headquarters in New York in September.
“Your countries are clearly among those that the world expects to provide such leadership,” he wrote to the leaders of Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, who will gather in Gleneagles, Scotland from 6 to 8 July. “I earnestly entreat you to rise to that challenge.”
Mr. Annan referred to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN Millennium Summit five years ago of slashing a series of social and economic ills by 2015, detailing them one by one.
“With the political will, we have the possibility to halve extreme poverty and hunger in the world, as well as the proportion of people without safe drinking water; to achieve universal primary education; to eliminate gender disparity in education at all levels; to cut child mortality by two thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters; to turn the tide against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; and to halt the depletion of our environmental resources,” he wrote.
“We know what is required from each developing country – a national strategy, which must include stronger governance, implacable war against corruption, and policies to stimulate the private sector, generate employment and maximize domestic resources.
“And we know what is required from donor countries such as your own – increased development aid, wider and deeper debt relief, and a commitment to conclude the Doha Round (trade negotiations) with an agreement giving developing countries a real chance to compete on a level global playing field,” he added.
He commended the G8 decision to focus on the special needs of Africa and to make climate change a priority issue, and stressed that a global strategy to defeat terrorism and contain the spread of weapons of mass destruction as well as a shared understanding of the rules governing the use of force by states were needed more than ever.
But, he warned, “neither prosperity nor security will be meaningful – or, in the long run, sustainable – unless they are enjoyed by individual human beings everywhere.
“Human dignity and freedom must be protected, both against arbitrary violence and oppression and against the constraints of extreme poverty, which deny people any real choice in their lives and make a mockery of civil and political rights,” he stressed.
“No security agenda, and no drive for development, will be successful unless they are based on respect for human dignity,” he added, warning against the temptation to curtail human rights in the interest of either security or development as self-defeating.
“The protection of civilian populations against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is one of the most sacred obligations of every sovereign state.
“And when states are unable or unwilling to perform this duty, the international community, represented by the United Nations, has a shared responsibility to take action,” he wrote, stressing the urgency of strengthening and equipping the world body to effectively perform its multiple mandates.