Yale Bulletin and Calendar

October 11, 2002|Volume 31, Number 6














U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and director of Yale's Center for the Study of Globalization, talk in the foreground, while U.N. officials Marta Maurás and Edward Mortimer look on.

U.N. leader stresses nations'
obligations in 'world without walls'

In a world where "no border is impermeable," the world's richer nations must work to ensure that all countries be given access to the economic, political and social benefits of globalization -- or pay the consequences later, warned Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, in a talk on campus.

Annan spoke on Oct. 2 to a packed Battell Chapel and an overflow crowd at the Law School. The event, sponsored by the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, was hosted by Ernesto Zedillo, director of the Center and former president of Mexico.

The U.N. leader discussed the importance of helping nations become interdependent and repeatedly warned that there would be "very real dangers" if globalization "fails to live up to that potential."

"Either we help the outsiders in a globalized world out of a sense of moral obligation and enlightened self-interest, or we will find ourselves compelled to do so tomorrow, when their problems become our problems, in a world without walls," he said.

Annan suggested that there was a "new division -- between those who are benefiting from globalization, and those who simply see it as one more manifestation of the inequity of the world." The solution to this new divide is "to pursue an inclusive globalization whose purpose lies not only in opening markets but in expanding opportunity and promoting cooperation," he said.

He urged the nations of the world to cultivate "solidarity and understanding, tolerance of dissent, celebration of cultural diversity, an insistence on fundamental, universal human rights and a belief in the right of people everywhere to have a say in how they are governed."

During the question-and-answer period that followed the speech, Annan was asked if he sees Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as a threat to the international community. He responded that until the U.N. Security Council "has assured itself that there are no weapons of mass destruction, we will have to assume that Iraq does possess weapons of mass destruction."

When asked for his response to the United States taking unilateral action against Iraq, Annan said: "Each country has an inherent right, under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, to defend itself when attacked. But when a country or a group of countries decide to do something about a broader threat to international peace and security, I don't see any other option than to go to the Security Council of the U.N. for legitimacy and endorsement for authorization to take that action. If we do not insist upon that, I think we could find ourselves in a very difficult world."

As to the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, Annan noted that the United Nations had observers on the ground and stood ready to assist in resolving the situation, but "The parties must be prepared to work with a mediator ... This is not the case at this time." He cautioned that, with almost a million soldiers massed on the border between the two countries, "accidents can happen" and said both sides needed to de-escalate to avoid a disastrous conflict.

Anan called AIDS the "greatest tragedy the world is facing today." In addition to the health issue, he noted, AIDS is threatening the economy and security of many nations -- especially in Africa but also in Asia and the former Soviet republics -- by killing men and women in their prime and leaving extended families and communities without enough healthy adults to sustain agriculture, industry or education. "The teachers are dying off faster than they can be replaced," said the secretary-general.

Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2001 on the 100th anniversary of the award. He is the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations and the first secretary-general to be elected from the ranks of the United Nations staff.

Commenting on the frustration inherent in his position at the U.N., he said, "I find a way of fighting the limitations on my authority." Acknowledging that he has experienced many "moments of frustration" trying to motivate individuals and nations to do what needs to be done, he said that he "will never be defeated by it."

-- By Gila Reinstein


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Campus Notes

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