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Annan Warns War on Terror Could Boost World Tensions and Endanger Human Rights

Submitted by: World Economic Forum

Categories: Community Development

Posted: Jan 22, 2004 – 11:00 PM EST


Jan. 22 /CSRwire/ - DAVOS, SWITZERLAND – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today warned the world could slide “into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle” and that the “War on Terrorism” declared by the United States in the wake of the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington could sharpen global tensions and endanger human rights and civil liberties.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Annan also called for the abolition of agricultural subsidies in rich countries and urged business leaders to swing support behind efforts to meet the Millennium Goals he set in the year 2000 to conquer poverty by boosting investment in developing countries and helping those nations to help themselves.

“Business … has a powerful interest in helping to prevent the international security system from sliding back into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle,” he told Forum participants who include top executives from many of the world’s biggest companies who are among the 2,100 corporate chiefs, political leaders and cultural and religious figures attending the five-day gathering in the Swiss mountain resort.

“On the security front, international terrorism is not only a threat to peace and stability. It also has the potential to exacerbate cultural, religious and ethnic dividing lines. And the war against terrorism can sometimes aggravate those tensions, as well as raising concerns about the protection of human rights and civil liberties,” Annan told the session on “The Future of Global Interdependence.”

In a clear reference to the decision by the United States and Britain to invade Iraq in March without approval from the Security Council, he said that although the world body’s Charter gives member states the right to protect themselves against attack, the UN’s first purpose is to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace.

“We must show that the United Nations is capable of fulfilling that purpose, not just for the most privileged members of the Organization, who are currently – and understandably – preoccupied with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations must also protect millions of our fellow men and women from the more familiar threats of poverty, hunger and disease. We need to understand that a threat to some is a threat to all, and needs to be addressed accordingly.”

The war in Iraq, Annan said, had also diverted international attention from the common struggle for peace and human dignity set out in the Millennium Goal Programme – like cutting by half by the year 2015 the vast numbers of people without access to safe drinking water. And in a forceful message on trade, he called on business to use its influence to help break the current deadlock in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round of talks aimed at lowering barriers to international exchanges of goods and services and which is due to conclude with a new global agreement by the end of this year.

“More than anything else, we need a deal on agriculture that will help the poor. No single issue more gravely imperils the multilateral trading system from which you benefit so much,” he declared. “Agricultural subsidies skew market forces. They damage the environment. And they block poor-country exports from world markets, keeping them from earning revenues that would dwarf any conceivable level of aid and investment flows to those countries. For all our sakes, and for the credibility of the system itself, they must be eliminated.”

Speaking after the UN chief, new Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said an effective United Nations is vital to the future of all countries. “If it doesn’t work, then let’s not kid ourselves, the work of every national capital will be severely hobbled,” Martin declared. “The United Nations has to work because it reminds us, like no other institution, that all nations have interests that demand recognition, and all nations have responsibilities towards each other that they cannot shirk. The UN stands at the centre of the global vision – battered but crucial to defend – that says: it either works for all, or it doesn’t work at all.”

Session summaries are available at : www.weforum.org/summaries2004

Photos of our events can be downloaded free of charge for journalists at http://www.swiss-image.ch/worldeconomicforum (login required).
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About us www.weforum.org/aboutus

The World Economic Forum is the foremost global community of business, political, intellectual and other leaders of society committed to improving the state of the world.

Incorporated as a foundation, and based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum is impartial and not-for-profit; it is tied to no political, partisan or national interests. The Forum has NGO consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. (www.weforum.org.)

For more information, please contact:

Mark Adams Communications Department, WEF
Phone: +41 (0)81 414 69 17


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