24 September 2003

Kofi Annan's address to the UN

In short, Excellencies, I believe the time is ripe for a hard look at fundamental policy issues, and at the structural changes that may be needed in order to strengthen them.

History is a harsh judge: it will not forgive us if we let this moment pass.

For my part, I intend to establish a High-Level Panel of eminent personalities, to which I will assign four tasks:

First, to examine the current challenges to peace and security;

Second, to consider the contribution which collective action can make in addressing these challenges;

Third, to review the functioning of the major organs of the United Nations and the relationship between them; and

Fourth, to recommend ways of strengthening the United Nations, through reform of its institutions and processes.

The Panel will focus primarily on threats to peace and security. But it will also need to examine other global challenges, in so far as these may influence or connect with those threats.

I will ask the Panel to report back to me before the beginning of the next session of this General Assembly, so that I can make recommendations to you at that session. But only you can take the firm and clear decisions that will be needed.

Those decisions might include far-reaching institutional reforms. Indeed, I hope they will.

But institutional reforms alone will not suffice. Even the most perfect instrument will fail, unless people put it to good use.

The United Nations is by no means a perfect instrument, but it is a precious one. I urge you to seek agreement on ways of improving it, but above all of using it as its founders intended to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, to reestablish the basic conditions for justice and the rule of law, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

The world may have changed, Excellencies, but those aims are as valid and urgent as ever. We must keep them firmly in our sights.

Okay, in a perfect world the EU would get a single European seat to replace the British and French seats. Latin America, Africa and the Muslim world would get a seat. Brazil, India, Japan and Indonesia have reasonable claims in their own right.

There is just not going to be agreement on the veto staying as it is or on the Big Five keeping an absolute veto while new members get nothing. Let's think about

  • restricting the absolute veto to the existing permanent members on Chapter VII matters only
  • requiring two permanent members for a veto on anything else
    • making any use of the veto conditional on ratifying and observing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    • contributing to UN peacekeeping operations
    • complying with the Security Council's resolutions

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