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Kofi Annan Seeks A Better Future For Us All

The Secretary General of the United Nations wants leaders and ordinary people to help shape a new role for the UN in the 21st century. A September UN Millennium Summit will be the largest single gathering of heads of state - ever. John Howard reports.

Three years ago UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, proposed using the year 2000 to examine the challenges faced by the 55-year-old world body and to decide whether it needs to change its priorities of overhaul its methods of operations.

Mr Annan envisioned a millennium summit of world leaders, a peoples millennium assembly and several regional, national and local hearings to gather ideas from those who couldn't come to New York.

The UN has not only moved ahead with those plans - but has gone beyond Mr Annan's proposals in an effort to increase participation and to look more broadly at the challenges facing the world.

"It looks likely that it will be the largest single gathering of heads of state and government ever held, said Assistant Secretary-General Miles Stoby, who is coordinating preparations in Kofi Annan's office. Leaders from all 188 UN member states have been invited.

The total programme is a world first and, through the Government's of member-states, it will also be the largest single public consultation process ever held. The New Zealand Government has not yet said how or when it will consult with the public.

Kofi Annan's peoples' assembly has now become the Millennium Forum which will bring 1,400 representatives from grassroots organisations worldwide to the UN from May 22-26. An annual UN meeting for grassroots organisations will be held the week before the summit, with about 1,000 participants.

South Africa's UN Ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, said most member states applaud the idea, saying that the vision for the 21st Century should not be left to government's alone.

The September leaders summit themes, which will be covered in "The UN in the 21st Century," will include peace, security, disarmament, development and poverty eradication. Other themes are likely to be how the UN is funded, the power of veto in the Security Council, and the establishment of a world environment court.

Future UN funding is likely to come through either global carbon taxes, aviation fuel taxes or currency exchange fees. The UN continues to have difficulty funding its programmes because some government's are slow payers or hold their UN fees due to internal political pressures.

The peoples' millennium forum has similar themes to the leaders summit but will also include human rights and achieving equity, justice and diversity in the world.

Mr Annan is almost certain to again call for the Security Council to protect civilians from ethnically based terror and other human rights abuses - overriding national sovereignty if necessary. The are currently an intolerable 56 conflicts or wars going on around the world.

Mr Annan will undoubtedly make broad proposals about UN reform and is likely to renew his concern about the impact of the global economy on poorer nations.

The summit and forum discussions, along with worldwide public consultation, will set the UN on a new path towards a more peaceful, just and prosperous world. However, the UN General Assembly has yet to decide whether the summit will produce a declaration, a plan of action or some other document.

This year 2000 will be a golden opportunity for you personally to have your say on the future direction of your world. Like the earlier nationwide anti-nuclear campaign, New Zealand's vision will likely be a world leader.


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