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In Larger Freedom: Annan demands results from reformed UN

27 March 2005

UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has unveiled an extensive package of reforms aimed at turning the UN into a more effective instrument for development, security and human rights and confronting increasing criticism. The reforms were presented as part of a five-year progress report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, yet omitted reference to minority rights and enhanced minority protection mechanisms, seen by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) as vital to achieving his stated goals.

Key to Mr Annan’s vision for the future is a message of cooperation and collective action by states, and greater cohesion within the UN system itself. His 21 March speech criticized UN Member States over inaction and lack of political will in the face of ongoing conflict, continuing poverty, and the struggle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He stated that ‘this hall has heard enough high-sounding declarations to last us for some decades to come’. Progress in the fields of development, security and human rights, he suggested, must be addressed through a comprehensive strategy that acknowledges their inter-connectedness.

MRG submitted recommendations for UN reform to the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change in June 2004, calling for an innovative new minority rights mandate, strengthened mechanisms and increased linkages between specialist human rights bodies based in both Geneva and New York. However, MRG expressed disappointment that Mr Annan’s report makes no specific mention in its considerations of the crucial role of protecting and promoting minority rights as an effective means of conflict prevention and to achieve the MDGs.

Spokesperson for MRG, Graham Fox, described the proposed reforms as, ‘potentially bringing new momentum to a UN system, which, in its sixtieth anniversary year, is in danger of becoming mired in ineffective practices and political stalemates’.

In an apparent rebuke, Mr Annan stated that the Commission on Human Rights, currently sitting in its 61st session in Geneva, ‘has been undermined by its declining credibility and professionalism’ and should be replaced. The report describes a system in which some states have sought membership not as a means to strengthen human rights, but rather to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others. A new standing Human Rights Council is called for, which should be smaller and accord human rights a more authoritative position. Alongside such changes must come far-reaching reform of bodies including the Security Council and the UN Secretariat to ‘refresh and realign’ the administration and delivery functions of the organization.

MRG calls upon the UN Member States to clearly recognizes the need to prioritize the promotion and protection of minority rights and back a package of reform that is consistent with this need, when heads of state and government convene for a summit meeting in New York in September.

Notes for editors

Download the full text of the report ‘In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All‘.