Addressing leaders of the African continent meeting today in Libya, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the launch of a new initiative to financially support States undergoing the democratization process.
Mr. Annan told the African Union (AU) Summit in Sirte that the new UN Democracy Fund will provide assistance to countries seeking to establish or strengthen their democracy. “A number of Member States have already indicated their intention to contribute,” he said, voicing hope that others would follow their example.
“Almost all of you have made clear your commitment to the democratic process, and your willingness to be guided by the will of your people, as expressed in regular and fair elections, and through open, participatory governance,” he told the assembled participants. The Fund, he said, would help alleviate the strain that maintaining democratic institutions can place on poor countries' resources.
The creation of such a fund is one of the proposals that the Secretary-General made in his report “In Larger Freedom,” which forms the basis for negotiations on decisions to be taken by national leaders attending the World Summit at UN Headquarters in September.
The Secretary-General said with record number of national leaders expected to attend, the Summit would offer “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the world to come together and take action on grave global threats that require bold global solutions.”
Because Africa's problems are so acute, that continent stands the most to gain, he said, explaining how the proposals are of particular importance for Africa. These include recommendations for tackling the debt problem, promoting fair access to global trade, controlling the spread of malaria and fostering education for all.
On security, he pointed out that almost 80 percent of all UN peacekeepers are deployed in Africa. “The September Summit must strengthen the UN's own peacekeeping capacity,” he declared. “And it must address the peacebuilding gap, in which too many countries emerging from conflict are left to lapse back into violence, for lack of international support for disarmament and other steps toward recovery and reconstruction.”
Mr. Annan said his proposal for a new Peacebuilding Commission has elicited support from many African countries and urged them to help bring it into being.
Another central proposal in the report relates to the responsibility to protect civilians caught in conflict. The Secretary-General acknowledged that some countries “are concerned that the concept could be used as a fig-leaf for unwarranted interventions,” but emphasized that inaction in the face of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity is unacceptable.
To promote human rights generally, the report advocates transforming the current Commission on Human Rights into a Human Rights Council. “The new Council would not exclude any regional or other group of States,” he said. “Rather, it would promote respect for all human rights in all countries, north and south.”
Reform of the Security Council is also of paramount importance to Africa, and the Secretary-General noted that he has suggested two options for reforming that body. Both involve an increase in the membership from 15 to 24, though with different configurations. “I know you are discussing this issue at this Summit. I urge you to seize this precious opportunity,” he said.
“As the World Summit nears, I urge you to engage fully. I hope a spirit of compromise will prevail,” he said. “And I hope you will all recognize that the better the United Nations works, the more all people will benefit, within and beyond Africa.”