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PRESS CONFERENCE BY HIGH-LEVEL PANEL ON THREATS, CHALLENGES, CHANGE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

2 December 2004

Using the new report on United Nations reform as a starting point, Member States would now have to decide if they wanted a more effective organization, said Anand Panyarachun, Chair of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, this morning, at a Headquarters press conference on the Panel’s report, entitled “A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility”.

Mr. Panyarachun was joined by Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, member of the independent Panel, along with StanfordUniversity professor Stephen Stedman, who guided research and compiled the report. Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, introduced the speakers.

Minutes before the conference was convened, Mr. Panyarachun said, he formally presented the report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who broadly endorsed its framework for collective security. He expressed appreciation for Mr. Annan’s initiative in creating the Panel.

The report, he said, examined all sorts of threats, both old and new, along with threats as they were perceived all around the world. It also evaluated United Nations performance in the past, and found that the Organization had not been given as much credit as it deserved. It had, after all, ended a number of civil wars, prevented widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons and stopped the spread of infectious diseases, such as SARS.

It was now, however, a new century with new circumstances and new threats, he said, which required a new strategy for the future with a focus on the interconnectedness of threats such as proliferation, terrorism, and civil strife. The Panel felt there was a need to strengthen the preventive process, from monitoring, inspection, verification, and mediation all the way up to peacekeeping. For that, it recommended a number of concrete institutional changes, including a number of changes in United Nations bodies and the Secretariat.

Ms. Brundtland stressed that collective security must be built around functioning, effective and responsible States. For that reason, development must be the first line of defence in the combat against terrorism, crime and proliferation. There was a strong international consensus, for that purpose, in the Millennium Declaration, but progress towards the Millennium Development Goals was not on target. The review of that progress in March would continue the development focus, but the message was strong in the current report, which stressed States must meet the mark of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for official development assistance.

Progress towards the Goals would also influence eligibility for seats on Security Council, she continued. The report also called for major action to build public health capacities to counter infectious diseases and possible biological terrorist attacks; it was critical that the Security Council coordinate with the World Health Organization on such threats. In addition, she said, the United Nations would have to do more to help States recover and build capacity in such areas as the rule of law.

A correspondent asked if there were any proposed time lines for the recommendations to be implemented. Mr. Stedman replied that certain recommendations to outer bodies, such as those to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on safeguards, could be implemented immediately, as could recommendations for the Security Council to convene another session on HIV/AIDS and peace and security. In other areas, the Secretary-General would first have to put forward a framework on, for example, the need to develop a comprehensive terrorist strategy respectful of human rights. Recommendations regarding new posts could be taken up next year in the various committees. Some recommendations could be presented to heads of State in March, in conjunction with the Millennium Development Goals review.

Asked about the need for Security Council reform at this moment, Mr. Panyarachun noted that when the Organization was founded in 1945, there were countries named as enemy States who were now in the top 10 of contributors in budget, troop contributions and diplomatic support. The need for a review of major bodies had been obvious for the past 20 years.

As the United Nations’ sixtieth anniversary approached, he said, the major organs must reflect current political realities, as well as geographical considerations. Having heard many sides on reform, it was not possible to come up with one single recommendation, and the Panel tried to narrow down many options to just two. The ball was now in the Secretary-General’s court to submit the proposals to Member States. What was finally accepted might be something totally different from anything in the report.

Regarding questions on the costs of the Panel and the proposed changes, Mr. Stedman said that the Panel had spent about $3 million of a $4 million voluntary fund. Budgetary implications for providing the Secretariat with greater capacity included around $15 million to $20 million for 60 or so posts, along with a one-time cost for an overall review of personnel and retirement offers. The peacekeeping contributions would be on a voluntary basis. Those costs would be more than offset, however, by the savings resulting from serious preventive action in the areas of proliferation and civil conflict.

Asked whether the release of the report was timed to coincide with current scandals and calls for the resignation of Mr. Annan, Mr. Stedman said that it was not necessary to look at the oil-for-food affair to have a sense of urgency about the Organization. Mentioning Rwanda and Iraq, he said there had been a lack of consensus among member States on many major issues, including how to provide collective security for everyone. Mr. Panyarachun added that he personally had great respect for Mr. Annan and his leadership was needed for the process of change.

Questioned finally about the discussion of pre-emption in the report, Ms. Brundtland replied that the report was meticulous in the way it analysed legitimate use of force based on Article 51 of the Charter and the right to self-defence. Nothing was said in the report about the legality of the Iraq war, or any specific cases of the past.

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