“I invite you to join me in dedicating this year this year to those three great tasks: to refocus the world’s attention and resources on the needs and fears of the poor; to strengthen our system of collective security, so that no State feels it has to face global threats on its own; and to overcome distrust and division between people of different faiths and cultures, so that we can all live together in harmony and mutual respect,” he said in the prepared text of his address on accepting the German Media Award in Baden-Baden, Germany.The jury for the prize – which is based on a poll of the editors of the country’s most important media – said the Secretary-General “stands, like no other politician, for the basic ideals of the United Nations, striving for a better organized and peaceful world.”On helping the poor, the Secretary-General recalled the pledges world leaders made in 2000 at a UN summit to halve poverty and hunger, halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and other major diseases, and improve the lives of 100 million slum-dwellers, all by 2015.”Last year we let ourselves be distracted from these vital tasks,” he said. “We were concerned – and rightly so – with issues of peace and security.”At the same time, he warned that “there will be no peace and no security, even for the most privileged amongst us, in a world that remains divided between extremes of wealth and poverty, health and disease, knowledge and ignorance, freedom and oppression.”The Secretary-General said that to help repair the system of collective security, he has asked a 16-member blue-ribbon panel, which he appointed last November, to recommend ways of dealing with threats and challenges to peace and security in the 21st century. “The object of the exercise is to find a credible and convincing collective answer to the challenges of our time.”As for rebuilding trust and confidence between peoples of different faiths and cultures, Mr. Annan noted that many recent events – including the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the war in Iraq and the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians – have pushed the international community dangerously close to a “clash of civilizations.””We must resist this,” he said. “We must deal with all our fellow human beings fairly and objectively, judging them by their own individual words and actions, and not on the basis of generalizations or preconceptions about the group to which we think they belong.”Earlier Wednesday, the Secretary-General said at a press encounter that he was in touch with parties in Iraq and was still considering how best the UN can help following the request Monday by the coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council that he send a team to Iraq to assess the transition process, including elections and the proposed caucus system, before the return of sovereignty at the end of June.”Once I have completed my reflection, and we have studied the documents, I will decide how best the UN can help and I will make a decision and an announcement as to what I am going to do. But I am still considering it,” he told reporters following his meeting with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.In addition to Iraq, the two also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Afghanistan, UN-German relations and the Secretary-General’s high-level panel on UN change.Asked about the political situation in Iran, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that Iranians would find a way to resolve their differences so that they could hold “free and fair elections with participation of all the parties.”On UN efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, Mr. Annan said his settlement proposal was still on the table and that he was waiting to hear from all parties that they are ready to resume negotiations.”We haven’t reached the stage where I would get involved yet,” he said, adding that he expected to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Davos, Switzerland, in the coming days.More photos of Mr. Annan’s visit
“The choice of Mr. Guterres as the next UN Secretary-General offers a unique opportunity to advance the fight against tax evasion and illicit financial flows, at a moment where the world is paying increasing attention to these crucial issues,” Alfred de Zayas, the UN’s Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, said yesterday in a news release.The human rights expert said he sincerely hoped that the abolition of tax havens and the creation of a mandated UN tax authority to combat offshore tax avoidance and evasion, and to outlaw tax havens, will be among Mr. Guterres’ priorities.“Trillions of dollars necessary for combatting extreme poverty and addressing climate change are being kept offshore,” said Mr. de Zayas, stressing that “thus escaping just taxation and effectively stealing hundreds of billions of dollars each year from the public treasuries.” In his new report to the General Assembly, Mr. de Zayas noted that widespread tax avoidance, tax evasion, and tax havens are now routinely documented. However, their true human cost is only revealed progressively. As this also being a growing concern among other human rights experts, the special rapporteur underscored the need to put taxation on both General Assembly and Human Rights Council’s agenda, especially through the Universal Periodic Review and the 2016 Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.“The United Nations must take concerted action […] In particular, I urge the UN General Assembly to draft a convention to outlaw tax-havens worldwide, declare so-called ‘sweetheart deals’ with transnational corporations such as Apple, Google and Starbucks to be contrary to international [public order],” said Mr. de Zayas.Meanwhile, the human rights expert drew attention to enacting legislation to protect whistle-blowers and witnesses from reprisals and to provide them with easy-to-access avenues to make disclosures.“Whistleblowing is one of the most effective methods of shining light on corruption […] But whistle-blowers, who should be considered as human rights defenders as they significantly contribute to a culture of transparency and accountability, often pay a heavy price,” said the expert.In order to counter tax evasion in concrete actions, Mr. de Zayas will convene an expert consultation in Geneva on 14 October, at which “strategies will be discussed, including the mainstreaming of human rights into the activities of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which should henceforth refuse funding to any project or country that participates in or allows illicit financial flows into tax havens.” Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.