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UN Reform Agenda Crucial to Future Generations

UN Reform Agenda Crucial to Future Generations, Annan Tells Graduating Students

New York, May 16 2005 2:00PM

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the graduating class at the University of Pennsylvania today that he is committed to ensuring that the United Nations evolves so that it can tackle global challenges for generations to come.

The UN – more than “just a building” – embodies the conviction and hope that “democracy, peace and a decent standard of living should be the birthright of every person,” said Mr. Annan delivering the commencement address at the University, where he is also receiving an honorary Doctorate.

“[It] must live up to the highest standards of integrity and accountability – and I am committed to ensuring that it does,” he said. Towards this end, he has given UN Member States an overhaul blueprint, in the form of a report entitled “In Larger Freedom.”

His address spelled out the meaning of “larger freedom” – democracy, security and human rights taken together – and how people who work for the UN are in the front lines of the effort to advance this cause, whether through elections in Iraq, peace initiatives in Haiti and Sudan, or efforts to take care of those suffering from AIDS.

Drawing a parallel between the growth of the UN and that of the United States, Mr. Annan says that just as America has had to struggle throughout its history to move closer to the ideals declared by its founders in the Declaration of independence, so to the UN is a work in progress.

“If we are to keep alive the idea that gave birth to the Organization, and pass it on strong and healthy to your generation, we must make sure the UN moves with the times,” he told the graduates, laying out his reform agenda, which includes setting a clear stand against terrorism, a tighter regime to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, more support for democracies, and greater assistance from rich countries to boost their development aid to cut world poverty in half by 2015.

And while the changers would not solve all thee word’s problems – or make the UN perfect – when political leaders gather this coming September to take action on the agenda, if they can work together, “they will help bequeath to your generation a United Nations that can carry forward the ideals for which your grandparents sacrificed so much six decades ago,” Mr. Annan said.

Attending an impromptu dinner for University honorees on Sunday evening, the Secretary-General commented on the graduates. “The students have been here for four years and longer, but suddenly they're going to be released, and they have to go beyond the walls of their university into a world that is complex, exciting, difficult, confusing, and these days, even brutal,” he said, voicing hope that the learning experience would help them navigate that environment.

“I hope the young ones who have gone through the education have learned and will be able to do that, and of course we, the older ones, will have to guide them,” he said, adding, “I'm really very happy to be here at this commencement, to share their gains and be their classmate.”


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