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World Leaders Urged to Decide on UN Reform

The United Nations must undertake the most sweeping overhaul in its 60-year history in order to strengthen collective security, lay down a truly global strategy for development and promote human rights and democracy, Secretary-General Kofi Annan argued in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.

Annan's commentary, which was published Monday, restated the case he made in his recent ground-breaking report, "In Larger Freedom," which outlines a series of proposals for adapting the world body to meet current and emerging challenges.

His article cited cross-border threats, such as organized crime syndicates, AIDS and terrorism, in pressing world leaders to adopt the recommendations when they meet for a summit in September at the UN.

Specifically, he called for measures to ensure that catastrophic terrorism never becomes a reality, protect civilians against human rights abuses, eradicate poverty and foster a strong UN capable of these important tasks.

In perhaps the most closely watched of all reforms, Annan proposed expanding the Security Council to 24 members from 15, providing two alternative formulas for doing so. Neither changes the current status of the veto power enjoyed by the five permanent members.

"Member states should make up their minds and reach a decision before the September summit," he declared.

Annan urged states to adopt a comprehensive convention against terrorism, establish a UN peacebuilding commission and strengthen the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He reiterated his proposal for replacing the "discredited" UN Commission on Human Rights with a Human Rights Council, whose members would be elected by directly by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly and pledge to abide by the highest human rights standards.

The UN leader also backed a call first made by US President George W. Bush for the establishment of a special fund to support countries in establishing or strengthening democracy.

In the development area, he called for urgent action to achieve the antipoverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Donor countries, he said, must draw up a strategy to meet the target of allocating 0.7 percent of their national income to official development assistance.

The UN summit in September is the "chance for all of us to set out on that path" toward achieving better standards of life in larger freedom, he stated.

(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2005)

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