Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

United Nations Development Programme: Choices Magazine Interview with Mr. Kofi Annan Secretary-General of the United Nations

Academic journal article International Journal of Humanities and Peace

United Nations Development Programme: Choices Magazine Interview with Mr. Kofi Annan Secretary-General of the United Nations

Article excerpt

Introduction: In an exclusive interview for CHOICES, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Kofi Annan, reflects on the role of the UN in the new millennium, the organization's achievements over the last 50 years, and the contributions made by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Editor in Chief of CHOICES, Djibril Diallo, conducted the interview.

Mr. Secretary General, the first question I have for you is related to a theme you have talked about a lot, which is that there can be no peace without development. What in you view are the crucial factors that can ensure both peace and development?

In the world we live in, most of the countries now in conflict also turn out to be poor. The lack good governance; they do not provide the basic amenities for their people. And here I'm referring to education, good health, and clean water. Having these basic necessities, the right regulatory system--and a government that believes in establishing "an enabling environment"--frees and releases the energies of the people to participate in economic and social activity, and prepare for their future. They will be too busy in these constructive areas to get engaged in the sort of wars or conflicts that we've seen destroying so many of these countries.

So I would, in this case, encourage governments to establish the right regulatory systems and to offer education and health services, etc. Of course, the international community still has a responsibility to assist them by providing development assistance and advisory services.

More and more humanitarian needs are taking precedence over development needs. For example, developing countries fear that the money raised to rebuild Kosovo will reduce the funding that would have gone to their development projects. What is your opinion on this?

A humanitarian operation is, by its nature, an emergency operation, where one is forced to move in to save people; the question of alleviating poverty, working with poor countries, and trying to improve their situation is an ongoing process that must continue. To take money away from development for emergency relief in one part of the world and thus ignore the essential task of development in others would be short-sighted and unfortunate.

In my discussions, including during the General Assembly, all the leaders and the donor countries I spoke to assured me that they are not going to do that because they understand the essential task that we are engaged in is to alleviate poverty and foster development. They also realize that it is a sustained effort. If you do not make the necessary investment either in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA), or grants, or debt-relief or encouraging private investment, you are not going to make the progress you want; in fact, countries may regress. So I hope that donors keep the promises they have made, that they will not reduce assistance to regions like Africa and South Asia.

Looking back over the last 50 years, what do you think have been the most significant achievements of the United Nations?

The UN was born out of conflict and war. And so, at the time of its creation, its founders were very conscious of the need to avoid wars and to protect the individual. This also explains why I've tried to reach out to the public to explain that the ideals and principles of this organization are to protect and defend what belongs to the people. The UN Charter starts with, "We the peoples." I will always place the individual at the centre of everything we are trying to do.

I think one of the UN's major achievements is in the area of human rights-- giving back dignity and respect to the individual. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we had that yardstick, if we had that convention before World War II. It may not have saved everybody, but at least people would have had a basis to say--"Wait a minute. This is not right. …

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