Annan swan song: U.N. must reach beyond governments
By Evelyn Leopold
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Secretary-General Kofi Annan
told world business leaders on Wednesday the United Nations had
initiated a “new mindset” on human rights, law, the nature of
war and the role of corporations.
In his swan song to the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Annan said his legacy after 10 years in office was reaching out
beyond governments to businesses, celebrities and non-profit
groups to promote the United Nations’ work.
Annan, who leaves office in December, opened a panel that
included three possible contenders for his job: South Korean
Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, Sri Lankan presidential adviser
Jayanthan Dhanapala and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
“And my successor — since I understand several members of
this panel may be interested in the position — need not
worry,” he said. “Changing the mindset of the United Nations,
so that it can both reflect and influence the temper of the
times, is a never-ending challenge.”
Looking to the future, Annan said the United Nations would
be involved “whether it is a looming crisis over Iran and its
compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,
continuing atrocities in Darfur, or the threat of an avian flu
He said people looked to the United Nations for “making
peace, protecting civilians, improving livelihoods, promoting
human rights and upholding international law.”
He recalled that when he first spoke in Davos in 1999 he
urged a “global compact” between the United Nations and the
private sector. Many colleagues “would hardly have been more
shocked if I had proposed a compact with the devil.”
“My objective has been to persuade both the (U.N.) member
states and my colleagues in the secretariat that the United
Nations needs to engage not only with governments but with
people,” he said.
The Global Compact is a voluntary grouping of companies and
pressure groups that promotes social responsibility by pressing
companies to produce public reports on their social impact.
Some 2,400 firms in nearly 90 nations are involved.
Noting the 16 peacekeeping ventures the United Nations was
asked to undertake when no one else would, Annan said one had
to consider causes of war and how to make peace afterwards.
“The U.N. has become, in effect, the indispensable
mechanism for bringing international help to countries
recovering from conflict,” he said,
“This new mindset must also extend to the domain of
international peace and security — so that we think of
security not only in conventional terms, focusing on prevention
of war between states, but also as including the protection of
the world’s peoples, against threats which, to many of them
today, seem more immediate and more real,” he said.
Annan recalled innovations in international law, which have
burgeoned over the last decade, from war crimes tribunals to
the International Criminal Court.
But he did not refer to the oil-for-food program in Iraq
which ended with investigations blaming him for not spotting
corruption in the $64 billion venture.