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UN Timeline: 1997-Today

1997: Kofi Annan takes up the post of Secretary-General.


1997: Kyoto Treaty tackles climate change. The agreement calls for a reduction in global greenhouse emmissions by 5 percent, but critics say concessions offered to polluting nations will do little to stop global warming. The U.S. pulls out of the treaty in March 2001.


1997: Annan sets out his UN reform plan. Upon taking office, Annan took immediate steps to make the UN a leaner, more efficient and more effective organization. The effort is ongoing.


1997: Ted Turner pledges $1 billion to UN.


1998: Weapons inspectors pull out of Iraq.


1998: Annan denies received warning and did nothing in response to Rwanda genocide. "No one can deny that the world failed the people of Rwanda. But the crucial issue is not how to apportion blame with the benefit of hindsight. . .we should be asking how we can insure that such a tragedy can never happen again." He sets up an independent inquiry into the UN handling of the crisis.


1999: Annan endorses NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. "It is indeed tragic that diplomacy has failed, but there are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace," Annan notes, but emphasizes the Security Council should have been consulted.


1999: UNMIK is established to administer the war-ravaged, breakaway Yugoslav province of Kosovo until its status is decided.


1999: East Timor votes for independence; militias respond with murderous rampage. After nearly 80 percent of the population votes yes for independence from Indonesia, militias with some Indonesian backing, launch a campaign of violence, looting and arson, killing thousands of Timorese, destroying schools and homes and forcing more than 200,000 East Timorese to flee to West Timor. Five UN staff are murdered. Peacekeeping troops arrive in September and in October the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) officially takes charge to prepare the country for independence.


1999: Democratic Republic of the Congo and five African nations sign the Lusaka Peace Accords. After the six African countries (Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola) involved in the war in the DRC sign a cease-fire, the UN Security Council authorizes a 5,500-strong UN monitoring force, but fighting continues. In 2001, President Laurent Kabila is killed by a bodyguard and his son takes over. Peace talks start in South Africa in late 2002 to negotiate a power-sharing deal. Neighboring countries say they have pulled out most of their forces.


1999: Annan apologizes for Rwanda tragedy upon receipt of independent investigators' report. The independent investigation faults the Security Council as well as the U.S., France and Belgium for failing to stop the genocide. "All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it. There was a United Nations force in the country at the time, but it was neither mandated nor equipped for the kind of forceful action which would have been needed to prevent or halt the genocide. On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse."


2000: UN holds the "Millennium Summit." Gathering 189 heads of states to make a "moral recommitment" to the principles of the UN, Kofi Annan releases his report, "We the Peoples," on how the UN will face population growth, globalization, conflict, AIDS and other issues in the new century. "Many in the present generation are losing confidence in the ability of the United Nations to make the difference between war and peace," he tells the Security Council, reaffirming "only determined action... can restore the reputation of the United Nations as a credible force for peace and justice."


2001: The Security Council imposes "smart sanctions" on Liberia for fuelling the civil war in Sierra Leone with illegal 'arms-for-diamonds' trade. The civil war between the government and rebels, backed by neighboring Liberia, is marked by atrocities -- such as hacking off the limbs of civilians and kidnapping children to fight as soldiers. The UN first deployed peacekeepers in 1998 to monitor the peace accord and disarm and reintegrate combatants. In May 2002, the first peaceful elections are held since the 10-year civil war ended and the government sets up a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine the atrocities and promote healing.


2001: UN conference against racism is held in Durban, South Africa. The largest conference on racism closes with a global plan to fight discrimination but verges on collapse over two main obstacles: the Middle East and how to deal with the legacy of slavery. Slavery is recognized as a "crime against humanity˛ but the US and Israel walk out in protest at language equating Zionism with racism.


2001: The UN responds to Sept. 11 attacks. Annan addresses the General Assembly and calls for "immediate, practical, and far-reaching changes" in the way the UN and its member states act against terrorism. The Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee is formed.


2001: The United Nations and the Secretary-General win the Nobel Peace Prize. Annan is the UN's second Secretary-General to receive the honor, after. Dag Hammarskjoeld, who won it posthumously in 1961. The Nobel Committee cites work for a better organized, more peaceful world and states, "the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations."


2002: A peace accord is signed in Angola /b> following the death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, ending 27 years of conflict.


2002: World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg Ten years after the Rio Earth Summit, world leaders gathered in Johannesburg to assess progress made towards the goals of Agenda 21 and set new goals on clean drinking water, energy for the poor, curbing global warming, protecting biodiversity.


2002: On Sept. 10, Switzerland votes to become the 190th UN member state. The country had previously held observer status to not compromise its neutrality.


1995: As many as 20,000 Muslim men are massacred in the UN-controlled "safe area" of Srebrenica. In November 1999, when Annan is Secretary-General he issues an official report on the fall of Srebrenica that takes a hard-hitting and critical look at UN failures in the operation.


2002: East Timor - now officially Timor-Leste-- becomes the 191st member of the UN. The Sept. 27 event takes place four months after the country's official independence from Indonesia.


2002: UN arms inspectors return to Iraq. In order to lift sanctions imposed at the start of the Gulf War, Iraq must end all production and development of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical, biological and other - and be subject to monitoring. Once cleared, Iraq can sell its oil.


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