In an increasingly complex international environment, the United Nations in 2004 addressed the many challenges it faced, especially on peace and security, such as the threats posed by international terrorism, conflict situations, the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related problems of transnational organized crime, as well as corruption and trafficking in and abuse of illicit drugs. The UN High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the UN framework in meeting such challenges, put forward a new vision of collective security and made recommendations for future policy responses and for strengthening the Organization through institutional reform. The Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations also made recommendations for enhancing the participation of civil society in UN deliberations and actions to further strengthen global governance.
In its continuing war against international terrorism, the United Nations in 2004 took action to impose punitive measures against individuals and entities associated with terrorist activities and to strengthen the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee. However, UN efforts to address the many conflict situations met with mixed results. While it achieved success in helping to restore political stability in some countries, especially Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, the United Nations had to act swiftly in response to the tense situation in Cote d'Ivoire, the outbreak of new violence in Haiti and the urgent need for peacebuilding assistance in Burundi. It responded by establishing in quick succession an unprecedented three new peacekeeping operations, bringing the number of peacekeeping missions to 16, served by a combined total of some 65,000 military and civilian personnel compared to 46,000 the previous year. By year's end, it was faced with yet another crisis situation in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
In the Middle East, no progress was made in getting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track or in stemming the continuing violence. Nevertheless, the Israeli Parliament in October approved a unilateral initiative to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and areas in the northern part of the West Bank. In November, security cooperation between the two sides resumed following the death of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, raising new hopes for peace. Concerned over political developments in Lebanon, the Security Council called for free and fair presidential elections, the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country and the disbandment and disarmament of militias. …