Kofi Annan remained focused

We too will have to do this, the better to be able correctly to determine our principal tasks, as a new Secretary General takes over leadership of the UN on 1 January 2007. In the meantime, the recent and current international gatherings, the Havana XIV Summit Meeting of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (NAM), and the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), have given all participants an opportunity to convey warm thanks and a fond farewell to Kofi Annan, an outstanding global leader who has done Africa proud.

In this regard, when we addressed the UN General Assembly on behalf both of the more than 130 countries organised as the “G77 and China”, and our own country, we said:

“The G77 and China as well as my own country, South Africa, sincerely thank the Secretary-General for the selfless and dedicated work he carried out during one of the most challenging periods of this Organisation. In the midst of increasing poverty and underdevelopment during an era of unprecedented wealth accumulation and technological advances and, as the river that divides the rich and the poor zones of the metaphorical global village ever widens, the Secretary-General of the United Nations never lost focus on the imperatives of our time.

“We thank him for never losing sight of the fact that poverty and underdevelopment remain the biggest threat to the progress that has been achieved, and that equality among the nations, big and small, is central to the survival, relevance and credibility of this global organisation.”

The two gatherings to which we have referred also provided the Secretary General with an opportunity to say his own farewell and thanks to the developing countries and the nations of the world, given that these would be his last addresses to these gatherings as UN SG.

Speaking at the opening of the UNGA, he said: “This is the last time I shall have the honour of presenting my annual report to this Assembly. Let me conclude by thanking you all for allowing me to serve as Secretary-General during this remarkable decade. Together, we have pushed some big rocks to the top of the mountain, even if others have slipped from our grasp and rolled back. But this mountain, with its bracing winds and global views, is the best place on earth to be.”

At the NAM Summit, he correctly traced his political parentage to the great movement for the liberation of Africa and other colonised peoples, which resulted in the defeat of colonialism and apartheid, and placed our continent at the centre of the emergence and development of the Non-Aligned Movement. He said:

“I stand before you a proud son of one of our founding nations. Half a century ago, when Kwame Nkrumah and his peers built the foundations of this Movement, they could not have imagined the upheavals and advances that were to shape our world ‘ and the crucial role our countries were to play in it.”

As we spoke at the Havana, Cuba NAM Summit on behalf of South Africa, we were fully conscious of the challenge posed by Kofi Annan regarding the tasks facing the developing countries in terms of shaping the world. In this regard, we therefore said:

“Can we go from here to gather in the meeting halls of the UN knowing that we are coherent in our solidarity to confront pressing issues of development, security and human rights in the context of the current debate on UN reform? Will we say, as we conclude this important Summit that we have interrogated all issues and formulated appropriate responses that would help us defeat the scourge of unilateralism and the continuing impoverishment and marginalisation of billions of our citizens?.

“Our gathering here as the XIV Summit of our Movement, must carry a unified and unequivocal message reaffirming to the world at large that the NAM is very much alive, relevant and will continue making the necessary interventions so as to ensure that the poor and the marginalised would begin to walk tall as equals among the peoples of the world.”

In his own Address to the NAM Summit, Kofi Annan had drawn attention to the same challenge ‘ the urgent need for the developing countries to live up to the promise of the founding years of the Movement. This was the promise that the Non-Aligned Movement would ensure that the potentially powerful voice of the poor billions of the South would help to determine the global agenda. He said:

“The sheer size of this Movement does not equal success. A larger voice brings with it greater responsibility, both internationally and at home; a responsibility to work decisively and constructively to build a multilateral system ‘ and a United Nations ‘ capable of responding effectively to today’s challenges; a responsibility to explore ways of working better together, to forge cohesive and flexible positions that will make the South a more effective player in the international community.”

The NAM Summit Meeting itself adopted a Document on Methodology and a Declaration, which focus precisely on the issue of “making the South a more effective player in the international community.” The Declaration says:

“The Non-Aligned Movement, faced with the goals yet to be reached and the many new challenges that are arising, is called upon to maintain a prominent and leading role in current international relations in defence of the interests and priorities of its Member States. The developing countries will be marginalized if they are unable to define their priorities, share their concerns and efficiently design their own actions so as to ensure that their interests are taken duly into consideration. Thus, it is imperative that the Movement continues to be in the frontline in the struggle to change and transform the present unjust international order.”

I believe that no honest observer will have failed to sense the mood behind, and the meaning in the statements I have cited. Together they communicate a sense of impatience among the representatives of the poor, deriving from the failure of human society as a whole to transform what the NAM Summit Meeting described as “the present unjust international order”. This impatience emanates from the fact that perhaps too many rocks of strategic interest to the developing world “have slipped from our grasp and rolled back”, as Kofi Annan put it.

From all this, it seems perfectly obvious that the countries and peoples of the South are losing patience with the countries of the North, which,

despite their rhetoric, continue to act in a manner that seeks to perpetuate “the present unjust international order”. At the same time, the countries and peoples of the South are losing patience even with themselves because, despite their own rhetoric, they have failed to use their combined strength to achieve the transformation of “the present unjust international order”, regardless of the resistance and narcissism of the big powers of the North.

For 10 years, Kofi Annan has stood at the apex of the multilateral system, exposed to what he described as “its bracing winds”. More than most, he is eminently qualified to provide leadership as to what must be done to create a just international order. As developing countries we must therefore take his advice very seriously, that we must organise ourselves and act in a manner that will “make the South a more effective player in the international community.”

At the same time, the big powers of the North, in particular, must respond seriously to the comments that Kofi Annan made at the NAM Summit Meeting concerning the unacceptable global imbalance of power. In this regard he said:

“The Security Council must reform ‘ for the sake of the developing world, and for the sake of the United Nations itself. The perception of a narrow power-base hanging on five countries is difficult to sustain and it risks leading to an erosion of the United Nations authority and legitimacy ‘ even, some would argue, its neutrality and independence. I have, in the past, described this as a democracy deficit. It must be corrected.”

When Kofi Annan addressed the UNGA earlier this month he said: “When I first spoke to you from this podium, in 1997, it seemed to me that humanity faced three great challenges. One was to ensure that globalisation would benefit the human race as a whole, not only its most fortunate members.

“Another was to heal the disorder of the post-cold war world, replacing it with a genuinely new world order of peace and freedom, as envisaged in our Charter. And the third was to protect the rights and dignity of individuals, particularly women, which were so widely trampled underfoot.”

The “Annan Decade” has indeed been characterised, among others, by a further acceleration of the process of globalisation. Commenting on this matter at the UNGA, three months before the end of his tenure, he said:

“Globalisation is not a tide that lifts all boats. Even (among) those who the statistics tell us are benefiting, many are deeply insecure, and strongly resent the apparent complacency of those more fortunate than themselves. So, globalisation, which in theory brings us all closer together, in practice risks driving us further apart.”

Commenting on all the three global challenges he identified in 1997, Kofi Annan told the UNGA: “The events of the last 10 years have not resolved, but sharpened, the great challenges I spoke of ‘ an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law.

“As a result, we face a world whose divisions threaten the very notion of an international community, upon which this institution stands. And, this is happening at the very time when, more than ever before, human beings throughout the world form a single society. So many of the challenges we face are global. They demand a global response, in which all peoples must play their part.”

When he speaks of a threat to “the very notion of an international community”, Kofi Annan is referring to the danger humanity faces of the disintegration of the currently existing agreed system of international cooperation, however imperfect, based on principles and processes that have been agreed especially in the post-World War II and post-colonial periods, including those incorporated in the UN Charter, the Declaration on Human Rights, and other documents and resolutions.

That disintegration would arise essentially from the global power imbalance that has provoked the impatience of the developing countries to which we have referred, and as a consequence of which, as Kofi Annan said, humanity is still confronted by “an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law.”

As Kofi Annan has argued, this reality “demands a global response, in which all peoples must play their part.” Our own movement and country must respond to this call, and therefore play our part in helping to create a just international order. Among other things, this means that to contribute to that “global response”, we must start “from below”, harnessing our own strength, as well as the combined strength of the countries of the South.

An example of the latter is the formation of IBSA. After their first Summit Meeting held in Brazilia on 13 September 2006, the Heads of State and Government of India, Brazil and South Africa issued a Joint Declaration which, among others, said:

“Created in 2003, the IBSA Dialogue Forum plays an increasingly important role in the foreign policies of India, Brazil and South Africa. It has become instrumental for promoting ever closer coordination on global issues between three large multicultural and multiracial democracies of Asia, South America and Africa, and contributed to enhancing trilateral India-Brazil-South Africa cooperation in sectoral areas.

“The importance of the IBSA Dialogue Forum goes beyond its positive impact on India-Brazil-South Africa relations. The Forum, consisting of three large developing countries, provides a framework that will give additional impetus to further contacts between Asian, South American and African developing countries, thus contributing to strengthening South-South cooperation.”

Thus IBSA constitutes an appropriate response to the challenge issued by Kofi Annan, to construct relationships in keeping with the fact that “more than ever before, human beings throughout the world form a single society”.

Of particular importance in this regard, is the fact that the IBSA relationship is not encumbered or compromised by the global power imbalance that Kofi Annan identifies as one of the main challenges of our age. It constitutes an important re-assertion of "the very notion (and practice) of an international community”.

Again, within the context of Kofi Annan’s call for “a global response, in which all peoples must play their part”, we, as the ANC, the liberation movement of the people of South Africa, must both act in a manner that reaffirms our tradition of internationalism and human solidarity, and make absolutely certain that nothing whatsoever diverts us from the pursuit of the objectives of our national democratic revolution. What we do at home, in Africa and the rest of the world must continue to contribute to the birth of a just international order.

In his UNGA Address, pointing to the imperatives of a qualitatively interdependent global human society, Kofi Annan said: “What matters is that the strong, as well as the weak, agree to be bound by the same rules, to treat each other with the same respect. What matters is that all peoples accept the need to listen; to compromise; to take each other’s views into account.

“What matters is that they come together, not at cross purposes but with a common purpose ‘ a common purpose to shape their common destiny. And that can only happen if peoples are bound together by something more than just a global market, or even a set of global rules.

“Each of us must share the pain of all who suffer, and the joy of all who hope, wherever in the world they may live. Each of us must earn the trust of his fellow men and women, no matter what their race, colour or creed, and learn to trust them in turn. That is what the founders of this Organisation believed in. It is what I believe in. It is what the vast majority of people in this world want to believe in.”

Our common and urgent challenge is to ensure that this belief that inspires billions across the globe, must, sooner rather than later, serve as the roadmap that guides the reconstruction and development of the global village. Our actions must say that we heard what Kofi Annan said. Our own guiding motto, as the wretched of the earth, must be that ‘ the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings!

October 2006
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