Public awareness on the importance of the 2005 World Summit has been steadily growing as the Secretary General pushes ahead in his agenda that the time is ripe for reforms within and beyond the UN system. Without reinventing the wheel, concrete decisions have to be taken combined with sustainable follow-up about the essential building blocks of the common endeavor to strengthen the UN system to the greater benefit of all. Since the mid-1990s reform discussions have constantly been on the UN's agenda. Rivalries among states have frustrated many initiatives whilst the UN's budget is too small to afford some of the more fundamental innovations requested. In September 2005, the UN will host the 2005 World Summit to evaluate the progress made since the United Nations Millennium Declaration was adopted in September 2000 by 150 state leaders at the Millennium Summit. In the 2000 summit the heads of state reaffirmed their faith in the organization and resolved to meet eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including halving the proportion of people living in poverty and hunger by 2015, ensuring universal primary education, and combating HIV/AIDS, as well as other major diseases.
However, the slow response over the past five years prompted the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan to lay out a far-reaching reform package in his report "In Larger Freedom: Towards development, security and human rights for all". In this report Annan urges world leaders to turn their promises made in the Millennium Declaration into action and outlines achievable proposals organized around four topics of policy commitments and institutional reforms. Larger freedom implies that men and women all over the world are free from want -- or free from extreme poverty and infectious disease -- and free from fear -- i.e. free from violence and war -- and that they can live in dignity -- with a right to security and to development. Dividing the freedoms into three categories does not imply that they are not related -- in fact development, security and human rights are mutually independent concepts, with parallel agendas that complement one another. The fourth and no less important issue in the Secretary General's report relates to strengthening the United Nations itself and adopting practices that meet the needs of today. In the September Summit this whole reform package will be presented to the member states for their approval.
Africa's Special Needs
From Africa's point of view the problems discussed in the report are of utmost importance as almost all of them affect Africa disproportionately. Accordingly, both the Millennium Declaration, as well as the Secretary General's report place emphasis on meeting the special needs of Africa. At the same time it should not be neglected that there have been many positive developments in Africa over the past five years. There are more democratically elected African governments than ever before. Some longstanding conflicts, like in Angola and Sierra Leone have been resolved. Several countries have experienced sustained economic and social recovery and throughout the continent more and more ordinary people make their voices heard whilst African States have been building a new architecture of institutions, including the African Union and New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
However, this progress should not lead to complacence as much of Africa continues to suffer from persistent violent conflict, extreme poverty and disease. 2.8 million refugees and half of the world's 24.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) are Africans. Three quarters of the world's HIV/AIDS deaths occur in Africa, which is a human tragedy and major obstacle to development as it is much more than a public health crisis, undermining economic and social stability, education, agriculture and social welfare systems. Similarly, malaria remains a major scourge on the continent, with 90% of the one million people killed by malaria every year being sub-Saharan Africans and most of them under five years old. This is particularly disturbing as there are highly effective measures for the prevention and treatment of malaria. Further special attention must be focused on the need to step up efforts to meet the goal of universal primary education. In Africa tens of millions of children are out of school. Education protects children in many ways, it is relevant from a peacebuilding perspective and is a strong indicator for development success. The pervasive gender bias also has to be overcome by increasing primary school completion and secondary school access for girls.
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