Kofi Annan: 'I want to hand over a UN fit for the tasks it must take on'

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The Independent Online

From remarks by the Secretary General of the United Nations at his end-of-the-year press conference, held at UN headquarters in New York City

The year about to end has been a really difficult one - from the tsunami to events in Lebanon and Darfur and beyond. I will not attempt to sum up here the complex challenges that have confronted us over the past 12 months, rather let us look forward to what we can and must do next year, and what we have to build on.

The 2005 summit made important strides in a number of areas, even if it did not fulfil all expectations. One of the things it did is that, for the first time, it gave a broad definition of threats as we know them, and came up with five categories: poverty, infectious diseases and environmental degradation; second, armed conflict, both within and among states; third, organised crime; fourth, terrorism; and fifth, weapons of mass destruction.

The other important thing that I believe came out of this summit is the fact that we were able very clearly to establish the link between development, security, human rights and the rule of law. And, I believe, at the end of that conference delegates went away with the understanding that you cannot have development without security and you cannot have security without development. And you would enjoy neither unless there is respect for human rights and the rule of law.

I think what is also important is that the lead-up to the conference stimulated important new pledges to help us achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It also made progress on peace and security, with all member states accepting their responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

We now have agreement on a new and improved Emergency Relief Fund, and a Peacebuilding Commission. I hope that, in the new year, member states will follow that up by agreeing on an effective, impartial Human Rights Council.

If there's one thing I would like to hand over to my successor when I leave office next year, it should be a UN that is fit for the many varied tasks and challenges we are asked to take on today. That is how I would like see the year ahead - in my last year as secretary general.