Kofi Annan - Center of the Storm

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As Secretary-General, Kofi Annan deals with issues ranging from nuclear weapons and world poverty to ozone depletion and civil wars. Yet despite the enormous tasks competing for his attention, there are issues that have always been at the top of Annan's agenda. Since taking office, he's focused on revitalizing the UN with reform efforts and by offering a new role for the organization in the 21st century. He's also involved businesses in the UN's fight for human rights and rallied support for Africa. To find out more, check out the Hot Issues below.

UN Reform
Critics of the UN often cite it as an ineffective, bloated bureaucracy. Within months of taking office in 1997, Annan announced the first phase of his reform program aimed at streamlining the UN. The goal? Bolster the UN's image and facilitate the payment of American UN membership fees -- a payment made contingent on UN reform. Annan proposed to reduce 1,000 jobs from the Secretariat, cut the administrative costs of the Secretariat from 38 percent to 25 percent of the budget and overhaul the Department of Public Information, often criticized for its lack of communications strategy and difficultyin fostering a positive image of the UN.

Under phase two of the reform program, announced in July 1997, Annan consolidated many programs to reduce overlapping of functions and improve accountability. A Senior Management Group or cabinet was created made up of managers responsible for sectoral areas: peace and security, humanitarian affairs development and economic and social affairs. The post of Deputy Secretary-General, now held by Louise Fréchette of Canada was also created to improve management and to oversee interdepartmental work.

By carrying out these far-reaching reforms, Kofi Annan was able to persuade Congress to pay out a portion of its $1.6 billion debt to the UN. But some critics say that Annan has not gone far enough -- for example the 1,000 jobs cut were jobs that were actually not occupied. The consolidation of programs -- including development and human rights programs -- are more likely to make an impact in increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Check it out: UN Reform

Millennium Development Goals
Kofi Annan published "We the Peoples: the Role of the UN in the 21st Century" -- prior to the Millennium Summit in order to spur the UN and the world to focus on improving the lives of the poor in the new millennium.

At the Summit, the largest group gathering of world leaders agreed to a set of measurable goals based on this report, now called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). By agreeing to the MDGs, member states must strive to eradicate poverty and hunger, combat illiteracy and discrimination against women and halt environmental degradation by 2015.

In October 2002, the Secretary-General, on his first annual progress report on the MDGs, declared the world was falling short on meeting these goals. To help accelerate progress, Annan has begun a Millennium Campaign to bring attention to the goals and to ensure that countries focus on its commitments.

Check it out: Millennium Development Goals

Global Compact
Nearly four years ago, Kofi Annan, in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, challenged business leaders to "initiate a global compact of shared values and principles, which will give a human face to the global market." In this age of large multinational corporations, the Secretary-General recognizes that companies -- especially those who do business in developing countries -- affect people's standard of living by their labor and environmental practices.

Over a year later in July 2000, the Global Compact was launched at UN headquarters. The Global Compact calls on companies to adopt nine universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor standards and environmental practices. Among the nine universal principles are: support internationally proclaimed human rights; end child labor and discrimination in respect to employment; and encourage the development of environmentally friendly technologies.

Critics of the Global Compact such as the Alliance for a Corporate-Free UN , a grouping of human rights and environmental organizations, argue that companies engaged in the Compact enhance their reputation by their association with the UN without actually committing to real changes in their corporate behavior. The UN counters that companies must not only support the principles, but must also provide examples of how they are incorporating the principles in their business operations.

Check it out: Global Compact

Kofi Annan, the first Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa, has sought international support for Africa's peace and development efforts. In 1998, the Secretary-General issued a report in which he detailed measures to reduce violence on the continent, slash the debt burden of the poorest nations, and halt the spread of AIDS. Annan also accepted UN responsibility for the disastrous conflicts in Rwanda, Somalia and Liberia, but not without sharing the blame: "By not averting these colossal human tragedies, African leaders have failed the peoples of Africa; the international community has failed them; the United Nations has failed them."

The Secretary-General has also highlighted Africa in the G8 Summit in June 2002. The G8 Africa Action Plan promises to develop a peacekeeping force in Africa, rid Africa of polio by 2005, and distribute at least half of the G8's development aid to Africa.

Check it out: Africa by Annan

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