Annan Calls on Asian-African Leaders to Back U.N. Reforms

Apr 22 2005

Richel Dursin

JAKARTA, Apr 22 (IPS) – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday made an emotional plea to Asian and African leaders urging them to be bold and support his push to reform the world body, which has been mired in scandals and plagued by corruption.

In his speech at the opening of the summit of Asian and African nations, Annan asked over 40 heads of state present in the meeting to come to New York in September and adopt his proposals at a United Nations summit on development, security and human rights.

“If a global deal is to be reached, everyone must see their major concerns addressed and everyone must be prepared to compromise. And everyone must keep in mind that we live in one world, and that our fate is shared,” he told leaders and ministers from 106 countries participating in the two-day Africa-Asia summit in Jakarta.

The summit, co-hosted by Indonesia and South Africa, marks the 50th anniversary of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, West Java — a landmark meeting where the Third World sought to assert itself for the first time.

”For the sake of your peoples, this is the time to be creative and bold,” Annan said, adding he wanted to make 2005 a turning point for the poor and the United Nations.

He called on developed countries to commit to a timetable to allot 0.7 percent of their gross national income for official development assistance by 2015.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2000. The MDGs include a 50 percent reduction in poverty and hunger, universal primary education, reduction of child mortality by two-thirds, cutbacks in maternal mortality by three-quarters, promotion of gender equality and reversal of the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Wealthy countries were also urged to commit at least 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) on development aid in order for the MDGs to be met. A summit of 189 world leaders in September 2000 pledged to meet all of these goals by 2015. A summit later this year will review progress towards the goals and set the development agenda for the next decade.

”The time has come for action – for concrete, measurable steps, leading to a quantum leap in resources for development,” Annan said in his speech, which was also broadcast live by state television station ‘TVRI’.

”The developing world also stands to benefit enormously from major steps on security and human rights,” the U.N. secretary-general stated.

Annan, who has served as secretary-general of the United Nations for over eight years, dismissed notions that his reforms did not adequately address poverty eradication.

”Disease, poverty and hunger are the greatest killers of our time. The fight against them must be at the heart and soul of the reform agenda,” he said.

On his reform agenda, Annan proposed the expansion of the Security Council to include more voices from the developing world and reflect in 2005, not the post-World War II order of 1945.

Annan pointed out that the United Nations needs a new, permanent human rights body with greater authority, possibly on par with the powerful Security Council, to combat abuses around the world.

”I ask you to instruct your representatives in New York to work energetically in the coming months to agree on language that will allow you, their leaders, to approve a historic reform and renewal of the United Nations,” he implored.

A series of corruption allegations have rocked the United Nations under Annan’s leadership, including the 20 billion U.S. dollars U.N.-Iraq Oil for Food Programme and cases involving U.N. peacekeepers trading food for sex with young girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Annan also told leaders to honour the memory of the 1955 Asia-Africa conference by reviving the spirit of an event that he regarded as a major turning point in history.

Leaders are holding a two-day summit in Jakarta before they travel to Bandung on Sunday for the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference that gave birth to the Non- Aligned Movement, which tried to steer a neutral course between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the summit by calling on Asia and Africa to cooperate more closely and urged both continents to look forward to a time when “our people would live in comfort and dignity, free from the fear of violence and free from the clutches of poverty”.

“It took 50 long years for this conference to happen, but Asia and Africa have finally assembled here again. Today, the sons and daughters of Asia and Africa stand together in this hall as equals. We stand tall, proud and free,” said Yudhoyono.

”In 2005, we have to sound a different battle-cry,” the Indonesian president said. ”In 1955, the battle-cry of the day was freedom which made perfect sense given the persistence of colonialism back then. But now that Asia and Africa are free, we must take on the next phase and that is the battle for human dignity.”

During the opening ceremony, Yudhoyono acknowledged the presence of Cambodia’s retired King Norodom Sihanouk, only one of the legendary Bandung leaders still alive.

The Indonesian President also recognised the participation of Roeslan Abdulgani, former secretary-general of the organising committee of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference, which was attended by leaders from 29 mostly newly independent countries.

However, a festering feud between Japan and China over Tokyo’s World War II aggression took centre stage at the meeting.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan, which is seeking for a broader leadership role in world affairs including a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, apologised over his country’s wartime past in a bid to ease row with China.

The Japanese Prime Minister also pointed out that Japan will adhere to a ”peaceful path” and increase its overseas development aid to Asian and African nations.

“With feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology always engraved in mind, Japan has resolutely maintained, consistently since the end of World War II, never turning into a military power but an economic power, its principle of resolving all matters by peaceful means, without recourse through the use of force,” Koizumi said.

In his speech, Chinese President Hu Jintao made no reference to Japan, but pledged China ”will always be a member of the developing world.”

“Let’s stand shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand,” Hu said.

South African President Thabo Mbeki denounced what he called the unfairness of globalisation.

“Every day the process of globalisation emphasises the gross imbalance in the global distribution of power, making it imperative that we use our collective strength urgently to achieve the restructuring and democratisation of the United Nations and other multilateral organisations,” Mbeki said.

Leaders were expected to endorse Saturday a document seeking for more cooperation in combating terrorism and poverty, and improved economic cooperation between Asia and Africa. (END/2005)

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