Annan’s swan song to UN forum attracts Jolie, Pitt
By Evelyn Leopold
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Secretary-General Kofi Annan
told world business leaders Wednesday the United Nations during
his tenure 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, which ends in
December, was reaching out beyond governments to businesses,
celebrities and non-profit groups to promote the United
And he had surprise guests — Oscar winner Angelina Jolie,
who is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency and
actor Brad Pitt, whose child she is carrying. The two chatted
with Annan after his speech but stayed on for a panel on the
Ironically, the panel 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,” Annan 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.”
Annan has warned since 1999 that genocide and other mass
crimes could never be treated as a purely domestic affair.
“Being rightly called crimes against humanity, they demand
a collective response from humanity, which should be organized
and legitimized by the United Nations,” he told the forum.
Annan 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.