UN celebrates 60th birthday in San Francisco with eye on future reform
As the United Nations celebrates its 60th birthday this week-end, the focus is not so much on looking back to that distant day in San Francisco when 51 countries founded the new forum out of the ashes the World War II as on looking forward to September, when 191 states gather in New York to discuss revitalizing the world body.
Celebrations in San Francisco on Saturday and Sunday, the actual anniversary day, range from seminars to a World Celebration with music and choirs, but the spotlight will fall on the wide-ranging reform package, In Larger Freedom, presented earlier this year by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
“Sixty years ago the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco’s most famous landmark) was only eight years old. Many things have changed since then,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor, who will deliver a message from Mr. Annan tomorrow, wrote in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.
“At the 2005 World Summit, to be held in New York in September, world leaders will meet to address the Secretary-General's proposals. They will have an opportunity to make history again. Let us hope that they will have the boldness of vision, wisdom, and courage to prove worthy of what their predecessors accomplished in San Francisco sixty years ago.”
Mr. Tharoor said Mr. Annan's proposals tackled all key challenges: the need for a new deal on development, debt reduction and fair trade opportunities for poor countries; a reiteration of the principle of the international community’s responsibility to protect the weak when their own States are unwilling or unable to do so; an affirmation of the need to agree on a comprehensive legal convention on terrorism, ending the political debates over its definition; and a call for wide-ranging institutional reform to create more credible UN human rights mechanisms.
“But the Secretary-General can only recommend,” he cautioned. “As in San Francisco sixty years ago, it is up to the governments of the world to take the decisions that can transform the Organization.”
While stressing the need for future reform, Mr. Tharoor paid tribute to past successes - more than 170 UN-assisted peace settlements ending regional conflicts, more than 300 international treaties negotiated at the UN reducing the prospect for conflict among sovereign States, and UN electoral helped to bring or sustain democracy to peoples around the globe, most recently in Iraq, Palestine and Burundi.
“The UN’s existence created the framework within which human progress was possible during the Cold War and beyond. UN peacekeeping, for instance, prevented local conflicts from igniting a superpower conflagration, and so helped ensure that the Cold war did not turn hot,” he wrote. “Indeed, with the UN’s help, more civil wars have ended through mediation since the UN’s birth than in the previous two centuries combined.”
On Monday, Mr. Annan and the General Assembly president, Jean Ping of Gabon, will speak at a commemoration ceremony in the General Assembly Hall.