United Nations

At the UN, world leaders renew promises

UNITED NATIONS — World leaders renewed their five-year-old promise to halve global poverty rates, ensure education for all, and sharply reduce HIV/AIDS and other diseases — and also took new steps towards reforming the United Nations — at the 2005 World Summit in September.

Some 154 heads of state or government attended the Summit, held 14-16 September to assess progress towards meeting the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted at the Millennium Summit in 2000 and set global targets for reducing poverty and improving health and education.

“We reaffirm our commitment to eradicate poverty and promote sustained economic growth, sustainable development, and global prosperity for all,” stated the outcome document, the final resolution adopted by the General Assembly at the Summit's end.

Also on the Summit 's agenda were proposals aimed at reforming the United Nations so as better to meet the needs of a globalizing world in which new and broadly interconnected problems — from terrorism to new diseases to poverty — increasingly threaten international peace and security.

“We believe that today, more than ever before, we live in a global and interdependent world,” stated the outcome document. “No State can stand wholly alone. We acknowledge that collective security depends on effective cooperation, in accordance with international law, against transnational threats.”

World leaders took steps to adopt some of the reform measures that had been proposed in the lead-up to the Summit . Earlier in the year, for example, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan released a report titled “In Larger Freedom” that called for the expansion of the Commission on Human Rights into a more broadly constituted Human Rights Council, urged the creation of an intergovernmental Peacebuilding Commission, and outlined steps to enlarge the Security Council to make it more representative.

The outcome document called for the creation of a Human Rights Council, with the objective of “promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.” Decisions about “the mandate, modalities, functions, size, composition, membership, working methods and procedures of the Council,” however, were handed to the 60th session of the General Assembly, which remains in session until next September.

World leaders also established a Peacebuilding Commission, with a mandate “to bring together all relevant actors to marshal resources and to advise on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery.”

However, plans to reform the Security Council were even less concrete. While the outcome document states “we support early reform of the Security Council...in order to make it more broadly representative, efficient, and transparent,” no definite proposals were put forward.

Much of the outcome document restated and reaffirmed the broad principles and commitments articulated in United Nations global conferences of the last decade.

“We reaffirm the universality, indivisibility, interdependence, and interrelatedness of all human rights,” world leaders said, echoing one of the most important elements of the Vienna Declaration of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights.

The outcome document likewise emphasized the importance of full employment, sustainable development, and the idea that “progress for women is progress for all,” echoing key themes from the 1992 Earth Summit, the 1995 Social Summit, and the 1995 Fourth World Conference for Women.

Where the 2005 Summit broke new ground was, perhaps, in the broad articulation of the interconnections between the main global challenges facing humanity.

“We acknowledge that peace and security, development, and human rights are the pillars of the United Nations system and the foundations for collective security and well-being,” world leaders said. “We recognize that development, peace and security, and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.”