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Annan Seeks Help To Decide UN Role

January 9, 2000

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan is inviting world leaders, key lawmakers and grassroots organizations to cast a critical eye on the United Nations and help shape its role in the 21st century.

Three years ago, Annan proposed using the year 2000 to examine the challenges facing the 55-year-old world body and to decide whether it needs to change its priorities or overhaul its methods of operation.

The secretary-general envisioned a millennium summit to be attended by government leaders, a ``people’s millennium assembly,″ and several regional hearings to gather ideas from those who couldn’t come to New York.

The United Nations has not only moved ahead with those plans _ but has gone beyond Annan’s proposal in an effort to increase participation and to look more broadly at the challenges facing the world in the next century.

The centerpiece will still be the Millennium Summit from Sept. 6-8, at the start of the annual General Assembly session. Leaders from all 188 U.N. member states have been invited.

``It looks very likely that it will be the largest single gathering of heads of state and government ever held,″ said Assistant Secretary-General Miles Stoby, who is coordinating preparations in Annan’s office.

Annan’s people’s assembly has become the Millennium Forum, which will bring 1,400 representatives from grassroots groups worldwide to the United Nations from May 22-26. An annual U.N. meeting for grassroots organizations will be held the week before the summit, with about 1,000 participants, Stoby said.

Other local, national and regional meetings are being planned across the globe to funnel ideas to the summit from a wider group of people.

South Africa’s U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said many member states applaud the idea, saying that the vision for the 21st century should not be left to governments alone.

``We don’t have a corner on wisdom,″ said Kumalo, adding that he would also like the business and the entertainment community to be heard.

Themes that will be covered in ``The U.N. in the 21st Century″ summit include peace, security, disarmament, development and poverty eradication. Other themes are still being discussed.

The Millennium Forum has similar themes as well as human rights and ``achieving equity, justice and diversity,″ said co-chairman Techeste Ahderom.

Annan plans to bring out a report in advance of the summit sketching his vision for the United Nations in the 21st century with a series of concrete proposals, Stoby said. The General Assembly has not yet decided whether the summit will produce a declaration, a plan of action, or some other document.

Governments pay the bills of their leaders and the summit coincides with the General Assembly so most costs will be covered.

The United Nations’ performance has been severely censured during the past year.

Highly critical reports documented the U.N. failure to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the death of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in 1995. The United Nations was initially sidestepped in the Kosovo conflict and it failed to prevent a rampage by pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor.

The secretary-general is almost certain to again call for the Security Council to protect civilians from ethnically based terror and other human rights abuses _ overriding national sovereignty if necessary. He will undoubtedly make proposals about U.N. reform, and is also likely to renew his concern about the impact of the global economy on poorer nations.

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