21 September 1998

Press Release


19980921 The United Nations is more responsive, more efficient and more accountable than it was only a few short years ago, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his annual report to the General Assembly on the work of the Organization. The Secretary-General observes that the creation of the post of Deputy Secretary-General, currently occupied by Louise Fr├ęchette, has demonstrated conclusively how critical it is in augmenting the leadership and management capacity of the Secretariat.

The report (document A/53/1) has seven chapters, covering, among other things: peace and security questions; development cooperation; humanitarian issues, including assistance to refugees; globalization; strengthening the international legal order; and creation of a culture of communication to enable the Organization to more coherently and forcefully communicate with its global audience.

Action on the Secretary-General's recommendations on institutional practices, which Member States were to undertake, were deferred by the General Assembly, he says. The proposals included adoption of specific time limits for all new mandates and a results-based budget system. He stresses the importance of the initiative because "no single measure would do more to increase accountability and efficiency in the work of the Organization".

The Secretary-General asserts that recent experience has shown that the quest for international peace and security requires complementary action on security and economic and social fronts. "Human security and equitable and sustainable development turn out to be two sides of the same coin", he says.

He discusses the challenges posed by the emerging socio-economic forces and forms of globalization and how they should be met to serve the needs of the international community. Multilateral institutions such as the United Nations have a critical role to play in bridging the gap between the beneficial effects of market forces and their negative consequences. The task ahead is to harness the positive potential of globalization, while managing its adverse effects. Strengthening multilateral institutions can help to accomplish that task, he says.

Being on the periphery of the global economy -- as is Africa -- is problematic, he says. Vicious circles of unsound policies, predatory politics, natural disasters, violent conflict and neglect on the part of the developed countries has isolated large parts of the continent from the mainstream of global development. "All of Africa's leaders must honour their mandates and serve their people, and the international community must do its part, so that Africa can, at long last, succeed in the quest for peace and greater prosperity", he says.

Noting the many challenges that still remain unmet, the Secretary- General states that the Millennium Assembly, scheduled for September 2000, will afford a unique opportunity for the world's leaders to consider what kind of United Nations they can envision and would support in the new century. To facilitate the Assembly's deliberations, he plans to submit proposals on how the United Nations can meet forthcoming challenges. He intends, for that purpose, to draw upon recommendations to emanate from global town meetings, which he proposes to convene.

The Secretary-General notes his efforts to establish a mutually beneficial dialogue with the international business community, and the long- standing and increasingly close working relationships the United Nations has with non-governmental organizations. He describes as "an incipient sense of global citizenship and responsibility" the gift of $1 billion, which Ted Turner, Co-Chairman of Time Warner Inc., gave in support of United Nations programmes.

While there have been some important successes for the international community, peace in many parts of the world remains precarious, the Secretary- General states. Of particular concern are: the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process; the turmoil in Afghanistan; the escalation of violence in Kosovo; the ongoing civil war in the Sudan; the continuing instability and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rest of the Great Lakes region; and the return of civil war in Angola. Rising tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir was also a major cause of concern, as was the stalemated peace process in Cyprus.

The Secretary-General observes that the intimate relationship between social justice, material well-being and peace must be taken into account in any action to prevent local conflicts from escalating and spilling over into the international arena. United Nations efforts to reduce poverty and promote development and democratization -- including electoral assistance and civic education -- have gradually become more comprehensive and more integrated. All of those efforts might be described as "preventive peace-building", since they attack the root causes of many conflicts.

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The Secretary-General asks whether the role of the Security Council should not also be broadened, if the determinants of human security include the economic, social and humanitarian prerequisites of human well-being and security. He refers to a dormant provision of the Charter (Article 56) by which the Economic and Social Council might furnish information and assistance to the Security Council upon a request from the latter. As the Security Council is increasingly required to address economic, social and humanitarian crises that threaten global security, the Secretary-General suggests that it might wish to consider invoking that mechanism.

Since causes of conflict are usually regional or local, the Secretary- General says he believes that regional organizations are particularly well suited to play an important role in early warning and preventive diplomacy. He is, therefore, seeking, in the spirit of Chapter VIII of the Charter, to create a real partnership, with a more rational and cost-effective division of labour, between those organizations and the United Nations.

The Secretary-General's vision of the Organization places disarmament near the centre of its mission of peace and development. The essential role of the United Nations in that area is one of norm-setting and of strengthening and consolidating multilateral principles for disarmament. He urges universal acceptance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty and the objectives agreed to at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Secretary-General calls for curbs in the flow of small arms in subregions where State structures are fragile. One approach to the problem, he suggests, could be the building of a global consensus on monitoring and controlling illicit arms transfers and their links with trafficking in other contraband goods.

On the subject of peacekeeping, the Secretary-General observes that United Nations experience offers certain unique advantages not found elsewhere, including the universality of its mandate and the breadth of its experience. The actual number of United Nations peacekeeping operations has risen from 15 to 17 in the past year, involving the deployment of some 14,500 military and police personnel. There are six missions in Europe, four in the Middle East, four in Africa, two in Asia, and one in the Americas. A human rights and judicial reform mission is maintained in Guatemala.

He welcomes the fact that the concept of "smart-sanctions", which seeks to pressure regimes rather than peoples, thus reducing humanitarian costs, is gaining support among Member States. Resolutions covering mandatory measures should also address humanitarian exemptions and third-State issues, he says.

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To ensure that the complex challenges of post-conflict peace-building are effectively addressed by the United Nations system and its partners, the Secretary-General has designated the Department of Political Affairs, as convener of the Executive Committee on Peace and Security, to act as the United Nations' focal point for the activity. There is no standard post- conflict peace-building model, he notes, and United Nations actions must be tailored to specific situations.

In a chapter entitled "Cooperating for Development", the Secretary- General says that the total development assistance made available by the United Nations is $5.5 billion per year. The Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs has initiated a long-term project to streamline development indicators produced and used by the United Nations, as well as by non-United Nations bodies worldwide.

Guided by the outcomes of its major world conferences of the 1990s, especially the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, the United Nations had made poverty eradication a central cross-cutting goal of its activities. During the past year, 100 countries were helped with the preparation, formulation or implementation of national anti-poverty programmes. A substantial share of the resources of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) -- some 26 per cent of the total -- is now devoted directly to poverty reduction. Major steps have been taken to include respect for human rights and dignity as a core element in anti-poverty strategies and to ensure participation by the poorest in their communities' decision-making processes.

Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development, the Secretary-General states, adding that support for it has become an increasingly important element in the development-related work of the United Nations.

During the past year, tangible results have been recorded in the humanitarian field despite serious funding constraints, he continues. In July 1998, for the first time, the Economic and Social Council included a special humanitarian segment in its regular session, in which it reaffirmed the importance of respect for international humanitarian law and principles, endorsed the work of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and set out specific goals for future priority areas.

In a section of the report on assistance to refugees, the Secretary- General states that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that their total number, including displaced and other war-affected persons, fell by some 300,000 during 1997, to reach 22.3 million at the end of the year. That figure included 12 million refugees, 950,000 asylum-seekers, 3.5 million repatriated refugees and 5.9 million internally displaced persons and others, mostly from war-affected communities.

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Discussing the strengthening of the international legal order, the Secretary-General stresses that the promotion of human rights must not be treated as something separate from the Organization's other activities. Rather, it is the common thread running through all of them -- from conflict prevention to post-conflict peace-building and beyond. The year had seen the United Nations begin to implement the rights-based approach to development, intended to help States and international agencies redirect their thinking on development. The UNDP had designated the right to development as a fundamental objective, and promotion of respect for human rights as central to development assistance.

The two ad hoc international tribunals, the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague and the International Tribunal for Rwanda, have demonstrated that the institutions of international justice can have teeth, the Secretary-General says. The Tribunal for Rwanda is the first international court to deal specifically with the crime of genocide. Its judgement in the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu and the sentencing of former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, who had pleaded guilty, marked the first time ever that such decisions had been rendered for the crime of genocide by an international court. Without that Tribunal and the international cooperation it had been able to command, those and other individuals still awaiting trial -- who all fled Rwanda -- would almost certainly have escaped justice.

On 17 July, after more than 50 years, and following five weeks of deliberation among representatives from 159 States, the Rome Statute was adopted by the United Nations Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, the Secretary-General observes. The Statute, which aims to put an end to the global culture of impunity, provides that States parties to the Statute accept the jurisdiction of the Court with respect to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The challenge now is to encourage States to ratify and implement the Statute, which will stay open for signature until 31 December 2000.

Placing communications at the heart of the strategic management of the Organization is central to the ongoing revitalization of the United Nations, says the Secretary-General. If the goals of the revitalization are to be understood, a culture of communication must pervade the entire Organization. To that end, a strategic communications planning group has been created within the Department of Public Information (DPI) to assist the Under-Secretary- General in setting goals and strategies, and in reaching out to the media, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, the business community and youth.

The Secretary-General notes that the Internet has become a vital tool in strengthening United Nations partnerships around the world, given the primacy of speed in all media-related activity, and given also the access the Internet

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provides to vast, new audiences. He further noted that a study is under way on the possible establishment of an international radio broadcasting service which would put cost-effective information delivery at the disposal of the 1entire United Nations system, particularly in support of peacekeeping and humanitarian emergency operations.

On the question of administration and management, the Secretary-General reports that the Department of Management continues to focus on creating a mission-driven and results-oriented Organization. The administrative bureaucracy is being critically reviewed to simplify and streamline procedures. Close to 1,000 posts were eliminated in the 1998-1999 programme budget. Three departments were consolidated into one, while one department was re-established as an independent entity. Recommendations of the human resources task force set up by the Secretary-General will improve the Organization's ability to evaluate its human resources needs more effectively and ensure that staff skills respond to changing demands.

The Office of Legal Affairs continues to provide a unified central legal service to the United Nations, the Secretary-General continues. In the year ahead, it intends to take advantage of the substantial recent increase in efforts to reform and modernize commercial law, by helping guide those activities in the direction of coordination, harmonization and unification of the laws of international trade.

In its fourth year of existence, the Office of Internal Oversight Services had significantly contributed to the Secretary-General's reform programme. It has played a valuable role in helping to bring to justice a number of cases of fraud perpetrated against the Organization.

In the countdown to the new century, the Secretary-General states, his reform programme must be carried forward, and Member States must engage those reforms that lie within their purview with greater determination and vigour. Reforming the United Nations institutional machinery is but a first step towards refashioning its role for the new era. "We all need a vital and effective United Nations -- this indispensable instrument for achieving our common goals, this unique expression of our common humanity", he asserts.

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For information media. Not an official record.