UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his annual address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, said he is concerned about the three challenges that humanity faces, and hailed the UN's role in tackling these challenges.
"As the second African to serve as (UN) secretary-general, I felt that all three of these challenges, the security challenge, the development challenge, the challenge of human rights and the rule of law, concerned me directly," Annan said.
Although globalization and growth have continued in tandem in the economic arena, the UN chief cautioned against relying too heavily on statistics as many feel deeply insecure and strongly resent the apparent complacency of those more fortunate than themselves. "So globalization, which in theory brings us all closer together, in practice risks driving us further apart," he said.
As to the second challenge, or the ravages of war, Annan said that in far too many parts of the world, especially the developing world, people are still exposed to brutal conflicts, fought with small but deadly weapons.
Moreover, the misconceptions and stereotypes underlying the idea of a "clash of civilizations" have come to be more and more widely shared, and insensitivity towards other people's beliefs or sacred symbols is seized by those eager to foment a new war of religion on a global scale, Annan said.
"This climate of fear and suspicion is constantly refueled by violence in the Middle East."
Annan assailed the Middle East violence as not just one regional conflict. "No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield," he said.
Annan warned that as long as the Middle East conflict does not ended and as long as Israel does not put a stop to its occupation of Arab land, and UN Security Council resolutions cannot be implemented, the respect for the UN will continue to decline.
As to the third challenge, the rule of law and protection of rights and dignity, the UN chief announced that progress has been made in this regard, yet "every day, reports reach us of new laws broken, of new bestial crimes to which individuals and minority groups are subjected," Annan said, referring to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
Annan said he remains convinced that the only answer to this divided world must be "a truly United Nations."
"Climate change, HIV/AIDS, fair trade, migration, human rights ... addressing each is indispensable for each of us in our village, our neighborhood, our country. Yet each has acquired a global dimension that can only be reached by global action, agreed and coordinated through this most universal of institutions," Annan said, pointing out the UN's "indispensable role" in ending the Israel-Lebanon conflicts.
The UN General Assembly opened its annual general debate on Tuesday and presidents and heads of government from more than 80 countries are expected to attend the meetings.
This was the last time that Annan addressed the UN General Assembly as secretary-general. His term expires in December.
(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2006)