Issue 39: Highlighting the professional integrity of the Secretary-General

As the year ends, the Secretary-General is responding to two reports in a way that reveals his professional integrity and his ongoing dedication to improving the UN.

Analysis: Kofi Annan’s principled reaction to recent reports on UN activities in Srebrenica and Rwanda, and his consistent call to attention of problems in Africa, mark this Secretary-General as a man deeply committed to the protection of human rights and to the promotion of the just principles of the UN Charter.

The Secretary-General’s report on UN action in Srebrenica, and the independent report on the UN’s involvement in Rwanda, are two contentious documents. The criticisms raised in the reports are far-reaching, extending from the UN Secretariat to Member States.

Perhaps it is fair to ask to what point it is appropriate for the Secretary-General to apportion blame among UN Member States. But taking a step back, it is clear that this Secretary-General has brought to his office an increased level of transparency and responsibility. His willingness for self-evaluation and accountability will hopefully promote a standard of behavior that others within the UN will strive to match.

Actions of the Secretary-General may demonstrate a willingness to challenge “conventional wisdom” within the UN. For example, the Secretary-General was recently the keynote speaker at a dinner honoring UN Watch Chairman Morris B. Abram. In his speech, the Secretary-General recognized the unfair treatment Israel receives frequently within the UN: “The intense focus given to some of Israel’s actions, while other situations sometimes fail to elicit the similar outrage…have given a regrettable impression of bias and one-sidedness.”

Speaking-out on Israel’s exclusion from the UN regional group system, Annan said, “we must uphold the principle of equality among member states. I shall keep encouraging all concerned to find a solution.”

Overall, the Secretary-General should be applauded for his proactive approach to renewing principles of the UN Charter, and his willingness to confront the historical record.

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