On the eve of their meeting in St. Petersburg, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the G8 countries to take the initiative and ensure that current WTO talks are a success and and to secure the world’s energy supply. In a speech given to political, business, academic and diplomatic leaders on Monday in the Bertelsmann Stiftung conference center in Berlin, Annan said he would ask G8 leaders in the coming week to agree on effective measures for ensuring that the Doha Round succeeds and that developing nations receive the assistance they need. “Countries with mid-level incomes must be provided with real access to global markets for their goods and services and, conversely, they must be willing to provide access to their own markets,” he said. “In addition, the duty- and quota-free access promised to the least developed nations must finally become reality around the globe.” Annan added that it is also time to dismantle all subsidies that keep the globe’s poorer countries at a competitive disadvantage compared to its richer ones.
Given the 1.5 billion people around the globe without electricity, the topic of developing nations’ access to energy supplies must be emphasized at the G8 summit, Annan said at the Monday event, which was organized jointly by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the German Society for the United Nations. At the same time, he added, more must be done to counteract the damage resulting from consumption of fossil fuels. “These fuels are impinging on the sustainability of life on this planet, and our dependency on them is endangering the future of humanity itself,” he said. “Together the global community certainly has the knowledge and the resources not only to overcome the poverty that overshadows the lives of so many, but to protect the earth and its climate as well. What has been lacking up until now is the will to deploy this knowledge and these resources correctly. We must begin redressing this at next week’s summit.” Annan said he was counting on Germany to use its leading role within the EU and in the G8 group to see effective steps were taken in this direction.
The Secretary-General also expressed his hope that Germany and its European neighbors would continue to remain engaged in long-term peacekeeping efforts in Congo following their efforts to ensure proper elections. “It won’t be over with this initiative alone,” he said. “Once the polling stations have closed, help will be necessary for reforming security structures, training police officers and improving government leadership.”
“In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we can’t make the same mistakes that often occured in previous international responses to post-conflict situations,” Annan emphasized. “Those mistakes resulted from a shortage of resources, ineffective coordination and a premature termination of assistance efforts.” All too often, he added, the consequence was the collapse of a hard-won peace, and the international community then had to intervene again a few years later. “Such scenarios are a tragedy for all concerned, above all for the inhabitants in the countries we are trying to help,” he said. For Annan, the deployment of the German military to the African country is a historic event. “The arrival of German soldiers on Congolese soil will open a new chapter in Germany’s efforts to ensure global peace and security. By aiding Africa’s second-largest nation, Germany and its European allies are sending an important signal.”
At the same time, Annan praised Germany’s efforts in promoting a global development agenda, noting that together with other key nations, it has now taken on a leading role in this area. “Following the G8 summit last year, global involvement has ensued in a manner that the United Nations has wished for for many years,” he said. “And this doesn’t just mean making empty promises. Last year alone, global public development aid reached more than $100 billion for the first time, the highest percentage of GNP since 1992.”
Yet Annan also warned Europeans of the necessity of keeping their promise to raise this year’s government development aid to 0.33 percent of national income. “I’m confident that Germany will not only meet this challenge,” he said, “but will also present a clear timeframe for keeping its recent pledge of committing 0.7 percent of its national income to development efforts.”
Such efforts are important, the Secretary-General noted, since major hurdles continue exist, threatening to prevent the UN’s Millennium Development Goals from being reached by 2015, as planned. Recent studies suggest that an additional 140 million people now live in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa compared to 15 years ago. “Whether or not Africa is successful in reversing this trend and reaching its goal of halving the amount of extreme poverty will depend to a large degree on Germany’s maintaining its leading role in the coming year,” Annan said. “Yet given your growing willingness to become involved in global affairs, I have no doubt that you will be successful in rising to the task.”