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Unveiling "Millennium Report", "We The Peoples"

Unveiling "Millennium Report", Annan outlines UN's agenda for 21st century
3 April -- Calling for concerted efforts to make globalization work for all nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today unveiled a forward-looking report that outlines the main challenges facing the United Nations in the twenty-first century and sketches out an action plan for addressing them.

Entitled "We the Peoples: the Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century", the report was prepared in advance of the Millennium Summit of the UN next September, which is expected to be the largest-ever gathering of world leaders.

"Let us not forget that our Organization was founded on the theme of "We, the Peoples" - the words I have chosen as the title of my Report," the Secretary-General said this morning as he presented his "Millennium Report" at a plenary meeting of the General Assembly. "We are at the service of the world's people, and we must listen to them. They are telling us that our past achievements are not enough. They are telling us we must do more, and do it better."

It was in an effort to bring closer a practical realization of those goals, Mr. Annan said, that he decided to present a set of proposals that the world leaders could then decide on when they assemble in New York next September.

"Their peoples would be gravely disappointed if they simply came here, made a few speeches, and went away again. They need to agree on the most urgent tasks we face together, and to adopt a strategy for carrying them out," he said.

Calling the report "resolutely forward-looking," the Secretary-General told a news conference at UN Headquarters today that it contained "some pretty alarming facts," particularly on the environment, and also "some pretty shaming ones," particularly in the section on poverty.

"It shows that the world has been far too tolerant of gross injustice and human misery, and it argues that we have to change that," the Secretary-General said of the report, in which he groups key global issues under three main headings: freedom from want, freedom from fear, and the freedom of future generations to sustain their lives on this planet. The threat to the latter freedom is especially troubling, Mr. Annan said, as he urged diplomats and political leaders to pay special attention to the part of his report that describes "plundering our children's heritage to pay for our present unsustainable practices."

At the same time, Mr. Annan stressed that the report was by no means "all gloom and doom," pointing to the "amazing progress" the world had made in the last half-century on many fronts, especially in the field of new technology.

On a practical plane, the report urges nations to commit themselves to an ambitious 21st century agenda, which includes, among others, such clearly defined goals as cutting in half by 2015 the proportion of people living in extreme poverty; ensuring that by 2015 all children complete primary education; reducing HIV infection rates for persons 15-24 years old by 25 per cent within 10 years; and cancelling all official debts of the heavily indebted countries in return for those countries making demonstrable commitments to poverty reduction.

In the report, the Secretary-General also announced four new initiatives, including a consortium of high-tech volunteer groups from industrialized countries, called the UN Information Technology Service, to train groups in developing nations in the uses and opportunities of the Internet and information technology. In his statement to the Assembly, Mr. Annan said such initiatives underscored the crucial role of the private sector and the vital need to form partnerships to make the most of new technology.

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