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UN News: Millennium Summit News Roundup

- Millennium Summit adopts Declaration charting UN's future course
- Annan tells world leaders that he will work for Summit goals, and they must too
- Summit co-chairs praise leaders for "frank and constructive" dialogue
- Calls for "Globalization for All" still top debates at Millennium Summit
- Special needs of Africa given high priority by Summit speakers
- Fourth Summit round table debates debt relief, terrorism, UN reform
- Rule of international law makes leap forward at UN Millennium Summit

Millennium Summit adopts Declaration charting UN's future course

8 September -- Calling globalization "the central challenge we face today," world leaders attending the United Nations Millennium Summit this evening adopted a visionary Declaration on the future role of the United Nations.

"We solemnly reaffirm, on this historic occasion, that the United Nations is the indispensable common house of the entire human family, through which we will seek to realize our universal aspirations for peace, cooperation and development," the Declaration states.

The Millennium Summit Declaration was adopted by acclamation following three days of unprecedented meetings which brought together the largest gathering of world leaders in history. One hundred Heads of State, 47 Heads of Government, three crown princes, five Vice-Presidents and three Deputy Prime Ministers took part in the event, which drew some 8,000 delegates and 5,500 journalists.

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The Declaration spells out values and principles, as well as goals in the key priority areas of peace, development, the environment, human rights, protecting the vulnerable, the special needs of Africa, and strengthening the UN. In addition, leaders called for specific follow-up, requesting the General Assembly to regularly review progress in implementing the Declaration, and asking the Secretary-General to issue periodic reports as a basis for further action.

"We believe that the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people," the Declaration states in its opening section. "For while globalization offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed."

The opening section also identifies six core values as "essential" to international relations, namely freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility. In addition, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the UN and express their determination to establish a just and lasting peace all over the world in accordance with the UN Charter.

The Declaration sets out a number of measures in the area of peace and disarmament, including providing the UN with the necessary resources for conflict prevention, peacekeeping and related tasks. Leaders also resolve to counter the world drug problem and fight transnational crime. In addition, they say they will strive to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, while working to end the illicit traffic in small arms.

"We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty," the Declaration states in its longest section, on development. Leaders set out a specific timetable for reducing poverty (halving the number of people in extreme poverty by the year 2015), ensuring universal primary education for boys and girls (by 2015), reducing maternal mortality (by three quarters by 2015), halting the spread of HIV/AIDS (by 2015) and improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers (by 2020).

Other measures to achieve poverty eradication concern promoting gender equality, working with the private sector, and providing access to information technology. In addition, the Declaration commits Member States to "an open, equitable, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory multilateral trading and financial system."

On the environment, the leaders declare, "We must spare no effort to free all of humanity, and above all our children and grandchildren, from the threat of living on a planet irredeemably spoilt by human activities, and whose resources would no longer be sufficient for their needs." The Declaration also calls for such measures as ensuring the entry-into-force of the Kyoto Protocol, which contains binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases, and pressing for full implementation of treaties on biodiversity and desertification.

"We will spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms," the Declaration states. It calls for specific measures to secure the rights of all people, with particular mention of women, minorities and migrant workers, among others. Leaders undertake to eliminate acts of racism and xenophobia -- on the rise in many societies -- and to ensure media freedom as well as the public's right to information.

In a section on protecting the vulnerable, Heads of State and Government pledge to assist and protect all civilians who suffer the consequences of natural disasters, genocide, armed conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies. They also pledge to help all refugees and displaced persons return to their homes, in safety and dignity.

The Declaration also outlines a series of specific measures on meeting the special needs of Africa, including debt cancellation, improved market access, enhanced Official Development Assistance, and increased flows of Foreign Direct Investment as well as transfers of technology. The leaders also pledge to help Africa build its capacity to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

On strengthening the UN, the leaders reaffirm the central position of the General Assembly as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative UN organ. They also resolve "to intensify our efforts to achieve a comprehensive reform of the Security Council."

In addition, leaders resolve to ensure that the UN is provided with timely and predictable resources to do its job. The Declaration also calls for giving the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society more opportunities to realize the UN's goals. The leaders conclude their Declaration by pledging "our unstinting support for these common objectives, and our determination to achieve them."

Annan tells world leaders that he will work for Summit goals, and they must too

8 September -- As the historic United Nations Millennium Summit drew to a close Friday evening, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for action to realize the goals set by world leaders during the three-day event attended by a record number of Heads of State and Government from all parts of the world.

"You have sketched out clear directions for adapting this Organization to its role in the new century, but ultimately, you yourselves are the United Nations," Mr. Annan told the assembled leaders. "It lies in your power, and therefore it is your responsibility, to reach the goals that you have defined."

For his part, Mr. Annan pledged to carry out the mandate entrusted to him.

Speaking immediately after the Summit adopted a Millennium Declaration containing a set of goals, the Secretary-General noted that if measures "are really taken, we all know that targets can be achieved."

Mr. Annan said the Member States were right to want results, and he pledged to work with them in the coming year "to ensure that the United Nations of the twenty-first century can deliver real improvements in the life of the world's people."

The Secretary-General pointed out that States alone could not solve the problems of globalization -- a central theme of the Summit's debates -- they need to work in partnership with the private sector, and with civil society. He also pledged to give further thought to new approaches to the debt problem, including a proposed system of arbitration which would balance the interests of creditors with those of debtors.

Acknowledging that the UN has "fallen short" of expectations in protecting innocent people, Mr. Annan said the Organization must improve its performance so that vulnerable communities feel able to count on it. Noting that proposals to achieve this were contained in the recent Report of the Panel on Peace Operations, he pointed out that "so many of you" promised to "act quickly on its recommendations."

The Secretary-General said he agreed with the widely expressed view that the process of reforming the UN which he began three years ago was not complete, and said he looked forward to working with Member States to take it further.

Mr. Annan's call for action was echoed by the Summit's two co-chairs. "We cannot afford to go back home from here and continue business as usual, we as Heads of State and Government have a mandate and a responsibility -- individually and collectively -- to undertake steps to help the people to help themselves," Namibia's President, Sam Nujoma, told the gathering. "We must act now by translating our commitments into actions."

Finland's President, Tarja Halonen, praised the spirit of the event as "excellent," saying that the General Assembly must now continue the work with the same vigour. She expressed confidence that this would be possible, saying, "I have the feeling that we made a new spirit for the new millennium."

Prior to the close of the event, the chairmen of each of the four round tables addressed the plenary, stressing the value of the interaction which resulted from the exercise and emphasizing that the United Nations should apply the same dialogue format to future meetings. The round tables were chaired by Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of Singapore; Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland; Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, President of Venezuela; and Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria.

The meeting concluded with a moment of silent prayer or meditation, and then a round of applause. Finland's President, Tarja Halonen, praised the spirit of the event as "excellent" saying that the General Assembly must now continue the work with the same vigour. She expressed confidence that this would be possible, saying she was optimistic that the Summit had been able to create a "new spirit for the new millennium."

Summit co-chairs praise leaders for "frank and constructive" dialogue

8 September -- The co-chairs of this week's historic Millennium Summit today praised the "frank and constructive" spirit demonstrated by the world leaders attending the forum and called on them to translate agreed commitments into action.

"Both in their speeches in the plenaries of the Summit and in the interactive round tables, the heads of State and Government again and again stressed the relevance and the importance of the United Nations in a global society," President Tarja Halonen of Finland and President Sam Nujoma of Namibia said in a statement released at UN Headquarters before the Summit's final session. "They pledged their commitment to helping the United Nations strengthen its capacity to deal with the challenges of maintaining peace and eliminating poverty."

The co-chairs expressed their hope that the Summit would unanimously adopt its Millennium Declaration this afternoon "to give a new momentum to the United Nations" and urged the participants to ensure that the commitments made in the Declaration were implemented.

They also praised UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his leadership and expressed appreciation for his "outstanding" Millennium Report, which was submitted to Member States in advance of the Summit.

Calls for "Globalization for All" still top debates at Millennium Summit

8 September -- World leaders, speaking on the last day of the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York, continued to focus much of their attention on ways of turning globalization into a positive force for solving such problems as poverty, marginalization and inequality.

Expressing support for the Secretary-General's call for building "digital bridges," Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev said there was a vital need to prevent the threat of information breaks between countries. Kyrgyzstan, together with other countries, had started a telecommunication project for an optimal entry of Central Asia in the global telecommunications system, the Minister said. Linking information technology to development, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid said that the greatest challenge facing the Summit was to determine how to harness the promise of globalization and information technology in the service of development. "In short, we must seek to transform the digital divide into a global landscape of digital opportunities," he said.

Along the same lines, Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez said that knowledge, information and the access to new technologies were the foundations on which to build higher living standards. He urged the Summit's participants to commit themselves to closing the digital divide. The Central American leader also said that in order to promote social justice and development, the UN General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN Development Programme should be on an equal footing with the Security Council.

Romania's President, Emil Constantinescu, said the General Assembly and ECOSOC should address the effects of globalization, against which public opinion risked becoming increasingly hostile, and elaborate a framework of principles and practices making globalization a process of common progress. Similarly, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki had said the previous day that the new millennium provided humanity with the capital, technology and skills to end world poverty and underdevelopment. The Summit should demonstrate the will to end poverty: if that epoch-making decision were taken, it would be possible to arrive at the practical decisions about how to make the UN an organization for the new century, he said.

For Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, globalization should become a positive force for the entire world population in solving its real problems -- poverty, marginalization and inequality. While some were participating in globalization, he said, others were not, since a lack of freedom, education, health and/or nutrition prevented them from taking full advantage of its potential.

Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen called for a human framework for the international market economy -- as it had been done in national economies. The private and public sectors should work hand-in-hand to ensure an even distribution of the benefits and realize the truly global promise of globalization. To those who said that equality was a brake on development, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said that nations that put the tools of development in the hands of all people were making more lasting progress. A well-educated population, fair income distribution, a social safety system encouraging enterprise and mobility were the keys to success in the new economy. Globalization called for a wider social contract, making market forces serve people better, he said.

Also touching on the issue of market forces, India's Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said one quarter of the world's people found themselves more vulnerable and marginalized, as development economics gave way to unbridled market economics and social objectives were erased by profit motives. Removing economic equalities, both between and within nations, and ensuring funds for development were two of the challenges to be met collectively. Bhutan's Prime Minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said the appeal against "consigning globalization entirely to market forces controlled by multinationals for profit alone" was growing louder. The direction, pace and impact of globalization should be guided to ensure that it enhanced common interests and values.

Warning that a sort of "North-South antagonism" had replaced the Cold War, Bolivian President Hugo Banzer Suarez called for a more democratic form of exchange and a "shared responsibility." He also said open economic markets should not be blocked by discriminatory measures and protectionism, and that large and small States should be guided by the same agenda through a truly democratic exercise, "where it is not the few that dictate the norms that the rest have to accept," he said.

Uruguay's President Jorge Battle Ibanez said one of the most important tasks of the UN in the new millennium was to guarantee the right of countries to create, produce, offer and sell their products. Free trade, so much talked about and so little practiced, was more necessary than ever in a planet made smaller and more interdependent by globalization.

With the ultimate goal of building a global economic regime that fosters productive capacities, not income gaps, promotes openness instead of corruption and rewards enterprise but not greed, the President of the Philippines, Joseph E. Estrada, outlined five priority areas for the international community: preventive diplomacy, disarmament, UN reform, human rights and poverty reduction.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen said the biggest concern was to rapidly reduce poverty and the gaps between rich and poor, creating conditions for the poorest countries to benefit from globalization. This required transfer of financial and technological resources, favourable access to developed markets, an increase in official development assistance and a write-off of external debt. Priority should also be given to human resource development in the least developed countries.

In view of the immense challenges posed by globalization, Thailand's Foreign Minister, Surin Pitsuwan, said there was a greater than ever need for a level playing field, so that developing countries could compete with industrialized nations on an equal footing.

For his part, Uzbekistan's President, Islam Karimov, singled out the fundamental problem of international security and stability, noting that central Asia was becoming a target of the forces of terrorism and extremism, which aimed at reversing democratic and secular development. In that context, he called for Member States' support for establishing an international counterterrorism centre within the UN system.

Special needs of Africa given high priority by Summit speakers

8 September -- With much of United Nations attention lately directed towards Africa, the special needs of the continent in preventing conflicts and promoting development continued to be high on the agenda of many of the world leaders who addressed the Millennium Summit on its final day.

For most of the heads of State and Government from Africa, the UN's peace-building and development programmes were critical in helping their countries own efforts. But for the UN to be able to respond to the continent's needs - in overcoming economic differences, achieving stability and meeting the challenges of globalization - the Organization would need to be strengthened and made more inclusive, many speakers stressed.

For Sudanese President Omer Hassan Ahmed Albashir, the UN is still the "ideal mechanism" for the enhancement of international cooperation. "As such, the UN remains indispensable and irreplaceable by any other arrangements." The President urged the international community to recommit itself to the principles on which the Organization was founded, and to reform and "democratize" the Security Council. Other leaders -- from Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea Bissau, among many others - echoed this view.

The subject of debt relief for developing countries was another pressing theme for many leaders. Nigeria's President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who said that "the world had become a safer place to live in thanks to the contributions of the United Nations," stressed that the message of hope which the Organization has been spreading has yet to reach the millions for whom it is intended because of the heavy burden of external debts, which cripple governments' capacities for national initiatives. For his part, Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili of Lesotho proposed yesterday a "New Global Human Order," one of the main elements of which would be the elimination of the debt burden, within the framework of a new partnership between the developing and developed.

Africa's battle with HIV/AIDS was highlighted by many African leaders, including Nagoum Yamassoum, Prime Minister of Chad, who stressed that while the rich countries "continue to spend billions of dollars on all kinds of weapons -- to fight whom or what? - the poorest nations and especially Africa battles empty handed against an enemy that is as real as it is invincible: the AIDS virus." He noted that if one fourth of the expenditures devoted to arms had been diverted in favour of the fight against AIDS, the pandemic would already be stopped. As for the treatment of AIDS victims, the President of Malawi, Bakili Muluzi, said the cost of medications was prohibitive for most Africans. The international community, he said, has a moral obligation to ensure that cheaper drugs are available to poor countries through grants, not loans. "I am appealing for grants because our countries already have the burden of external debt hanging like a noose around their necks," he said.

Ending and overcoming the many ongoing - and often protracted -- armed conflicts in Africa was a topic of concern for many speakers, particularly those from the Great Lakes region. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo, urged for an international conference to bring together all the countries in the region under the auspices of the UN and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). He warned that peace "would always be fragile unless Africa once again finds its footing," and noted that the responsibility lay mainly with the international community. This view was also shared by Burundi's Foreign Minister, Séverin Ntahomvukiye, who said that his country was "drained, destroyed and ruined at this point, after seven years of war, embargo and the freezing of international assistance."

Drawing attention to the fact that peace could bring about economic wonders around the world, especially in Africa, the President of Gambia, Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, stated that permanent global peace and security could only be achieved "through tolerance, love and caring for each other." He urged for the rationale of "super profit making" to be replaced with a rationale of "super welfare or super humanity" to bring about the narrowing of the gap between rich and poor nations. Joao Bernardo De Miranda, the Minister for External Relations of Angola, said that armed conflict was the main barrier to development, and noted that technological advances had only benefitted one fifth of the world's population - the small percentage that controls 86 per cent of the world's production, 82 per cent of the export market and 74 per cent of all telephone lines on the planet.

Voicing similar concerns, Ugandan Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya said the majority of humankind did not enjoy the progress of technology and science because of "lack of peace," and noted that the leaders gathered at the Summit had the obligation to ensure that a conducive environment for peace was created and sustained. The Ugandan leader also urged the participants to "collectively develop zero tolerance" for leadership that instigates hatred that leads to ethnic and religious violence.

Thanking the UN, as well as the OAU and other regional organizations, for their help to bring about the conditions needed for the recent Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed in Algiers, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki said that his country needed to pick up where it had left off before its conflict with Ethiopia, and urged its development partners to provide multi-faceted support to overcome the challenges it faced.

Among many messages of support to the African continent, Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen urged Member States to support "Africa's Renaissance" by directing investments, transfer of knowledge and resources to the continent.

Fourth Summit round table debates debt relief, terrorism, UN reform

8 September -- The fourth and final round table of world leaders, held today as part of the United Nations Millennium Summit, proved to be a debate of tremendous interest that tackled a wide range of acute international problems - from terrorism to debt relief, according to the event's chairman, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria.

Speaking at a news conference after some 30 leaders met in a setting designed to allow for more informal and open discussion, President Bouteflika said he was particularly impressed by the deep sensitivity some of the delegates from developed nations showed to the problems of the developing countries. He was also struck by the unique plight of small, poor island nations which could not afford to attend international conferences and were thus ignored.

The round table, the President said, recognized that globalization was detrimental to some countries and profitable to others, and that some fundamental changes needed to be made in existing accords and perspectives to deal with this problem. The Bretton Woods system, in particular, needed to be reassessed as the product of another time in history, and the power of the International Monetary Fund had to be reduced. And the question of "Who owes what to whom," in the context of debt repayment, sorely needed to be asked, President Bouteflika stressed, noting that the issue alluded to centuries of colonization, the pillaging of resources, the cost of wars of liberation and the current brain drain.

In the area of security, the President said, there was backing for the recent report on peacekeeping by an expert panel established by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and support for non-recognition of regimes put in place through coups d'état. Terrorism was seen as an anti-democratic scourge that needed to be combated through international solidarity, dispensing with any notion of good and bad terrorism as being like "good or bad cholesterol."

Discussion of UN reform centred on the Security Council, Mr. Bouteflika said, adding that the functioning of that body in relation to the General Assembly, which was the real legislature of the United Nations, also needed to be reassessed.

Rule of international law makes leap forward at UN Millennium Summit

8 September -- In an unprecedented treaty-signing ceremony held throughout the three-day United Nations Millennium Summit, some 40 instruments of international law were signed, ratified, or acceded to by the leaders of at least 85 countries, in an action which significantly advanced the rule of international law.

Altogether there were more than 300 different actions, on treaties, conventions and additional protocols that ranged from the defence of human rights through measures to circumscribe the use and proliferation of deadly weapons to the protection of the environment.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the attending heads of State in his closing statement that by their actions they had "reaffirmed the vital importance of international law, which is the common language of our international community." In their Millennium statement, adopted at the conclusion of the Summit, the Member States resolved to "strengthen the rule of law in international as in national affairs."

Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement issued today by her Office that "ratification of treaties will be the first indicator of State willingness to embrace a rights-based order in the new millennium."

By far the largest number of signatures went to two new optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which each received close to 50, as well as ratifications. The protocols seek to prevent children under the age of 18 from participating in armed conflict, and to eliminate the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Mr. Annan said that the protocols "seek to protect children from abuses that bring shame to all humankind." He welcomed the signature as a "sign that humankind is coming together, at last, to put an end" such abuses.

Another new human rights protocol, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women received 16 signatures as well as being ratified by four countries. The total number of ratifications is now just one less than the 10 required to bring the protocol into force. The protocol will allow individuals who feel their rights under the Convention have been violated to petition the Convention Committee directly.

In its statement, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that "the Millennium Summit initiative has been stunningly successful in speeding up signature and ratification of the three newest human rights treaties."

One of the first pillars of international humanitarian law, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, was further strengthened during the three days, as several countries added their names. The Covenant, which forms part of the "International Bill of Human Rights," defends basic human rights such as freedom from torture, enslavement and arbitrary detention, and freedom of movement expression and association.

The advent of the International Criminal Court drew nearer as the Rome Statute, under which the Court will be established, was signed by 12 countries and ratified by four. The Statute now has a total of 110 signatures and 19 ratifications. The Statute will enter into force following the sixtieth ratification.

Among the many other treaties that were bolstered by international support, there were several treaties on the protection of the environment, including the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which seeks to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases. In addition, actions were taking on a number of conventions and treaties concerned with the suppression of terrorism, nuclear testing, landmines, chemical weapons and other weapons that have excessive or indiscriminate effects.

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