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United Nations
Implementation of the United Nations Millenium Declaration: Report of the Secretary General

27 August 2004

United Nations General Assembly

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  1. The United Nations Millennium Declaration,1 adopted by the world’s leaders at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, captured the aspirations of the international community for the new century. It spoke of a world united by common values and striving with renewed determination to achieve peace and decent standards of living for every man, woman and child.

  2. I said in my report last year (A/58/323) that our sense of common purpose had been shaken by the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and their aftermath. In particular, the war in Iraq profoundly divided the international community and brought to light fundamental differences among members of the United Nations on how to ensure our collective security in the face of increased threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. These preoccupations greatly overshadowed other issues — from HIV/AIDS to extreme poverty and environmental degradation — despite the impact that such issues have on the lives of hundreds of millions of people every day.

  3. In the last 12 months, we have made some progress in resolving our differences. It is essential that we continue on this path, for only a united international community can act effectively to confront the numerous obstacles which stand in the way of realizing the vision of the Millennium Declaration. A number of developments since my last report illustrate the magnitude of the tasks before us.

  4. The situation in Iraq remains a major challenge for both the Iraqi people and the international community as a whole. The end of occupation and the formal restoration of Iraqi sovereignty on 28 June 2004 marked a new phase in Iraq’s transitional process. The Interim Iraqi Government now has an opportunity to reach out to all Iraqis in an effort to bring the country together in a spirit of national unity and reconciliation in order to lay down the foundations for the new Iraq. But there are many competing visions among Iraqis, and the persisting climate of violence and insecurity threatens to undermine the establishment of democratic institutions through elections and the adoption of a new constitution.

  5. One of the most distressing features of the last 12 months is the very large number of civilians who have fallen victim to terrorist acts not only within Iraq itself but also in many other countries. Major attacks targeting civilians in Istanbul, Madrid, Riyadh and Haifa and Moscow are grim reminders of the scope and severity of the challenge we face.

  6. Also, in the last year, we have seen the spectre of gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian law rear its ugly head once again in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Massive human rights violations, including forced displacement, extrajudicial killings and gender-based sexual violence, combined with malnutrition and preventable disease due to a lack of access to food, water and basic sanitation, have led to the death of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of well over a million others, not only internally but also in neighbouring countries. We must not wait for confirmation of our worst fears to put the full force of the international community behind an immediate and definitive end to the atrocities. If we fail to act here, we lose not only lives but also all credibility. The situation in Darfur strikes at the very heart of the ideals of the Charter of the United Nations and the Millennium Declaration.

  7. The record of the last 12 months for the world’s poorest is hardly more encouraging. To cite only one measure, the number of new HIV/AIDS infections was higher in the last calendar year than ever before, raising serious concerns about the development prospects for whole regions of the world in which hundreds of millions of people reside. The growth rate of new HIV infection, which has long been a threat to the development prospects of Africa, has reached alarming levels in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe over the past year. Regional and global economic growth and social development could be hampered if this disturbing trend is not effectively countered. Indeed, in some parts of the world, the achievement of all the other Millennium Development Goals hinges on much more vigorous action to keep the epidemic in check and provide treatment for those already infected.

  8. The impediments to achieving the goals of the Millennium Declaration come in many forms but they are not insuperable. In sections II to IV below, I review the results achieved in the implementation of the Declaration in certain areas: peacekeeping and curbing transnational crime (sect. II); the Millennium Development Goals (sect. III); and the protection of the vulnerable (sect. IV). This and previous reports make it clear that progress is possible and that the steps that need to be taken are well defined.

  9. We have the knowledge and the technological instruments that are necessary to achieve real progress in combating poverty and to share more equitably the benefits of globalization. The conclusions of the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization issued in February 2004 offered fresh ideas to consider.2 They complement the strategies elaborated by the major United Nations conferences of the last decade on the full range of developmental and social issues before us.

  10. Similarly, there are many avenues open to us for strengthening collective security and dealing more effectively with the variety of threats that confront us. The High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which I appointed in November 2003, will report its findings and recommendations to me in December 2004. I am confident that its report will help us find a consensus on the way forward if there is a will to act.

  11. Knowledge, capacity and the political will to act and provide sufficient resources are three necessary components of a successful drive to implement the Millennium Declaration. I would also mention another, equally necessary element: respect for the rule of law.

  12. More than ever before, the global community needs an effective framework of norms to govern the behaviour of States, which continue to be the principal actors in international relations. The norms of international law that have been developed to date are a precious legacy from the past and a bedrock of international cooperation in the present. The most fundamental among them, such as the Charter of the United Nations, were solemnly agreed to after tragedies which should not be allowed to happen again.

  13. This is why the international community must be conscious of the need to respect and uphold the international rule of law — in all spheres — ranging from maintaining international peace and security to managing international trade and protecting human rights.

  14. New challenges to security often bring pressures to bear on established legal norms. In such times, the effort to uphold the rule of law is more necessary than ever. Counter-terrorism must be pursued in a manner that strengthens, not weakens, this effort. Any sacrifice of human rights in the struggle against terrorism demeans us all and also diminishes the prospects for successfully combating the scourge of terrorism. The laws of war must be observed. States have a duty to respect and ensure respect for humanitarian law in the new and complex circumstances of contemporary armed conflict. The creation of new laws, where necessary, must be undertaken in accordance with the norms governing the process of law-making.

  15. One year from now, the nations of the world will reconvene to review their progress in achieving the goals set out in 2000. The results before them will undoubtedly be mixed. There will have been some notable advances and cause for hope in some areas but also stagnation or even regression in some others. The 2005 high-level event must be more than a simple stock-taking exercise. The occasion must be used to inject new energy into the pursuit of this great Millennium enterprise. I sincerely hope that this opportunity will not be lost to strengthen the United Nations itself, because the Organization is an instrument which must evolve and adjust to the needs of the time.

  16. Our success in achieving the vision of the Millennium Declaration is not measured entirely by the quantifiable progress toward each of the Declaration’s goals achieved in any given year. It is also measured by how we respond to crises and challenges when they arise. If we allow these setbacks to define our efforts, we will surely fail the people of the world. If, on the other hand, we use such occasions to mobilize our spirit and our resources, we will be more than equal to the challenge.

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