Sunday, September 10, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Summit pledges to fight terrorism
From A. Balu

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 9 The largest gathering of world leaders, trumpeted as a historic moment for the United Nations, ended its three-day Millennium Summit here tonight with the adoption of a comprehensive declaration pledging its commitment to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing the world.

The declaration, approved by acclamation, listed a series of issues crying for attention. They include concerted action against international terrorism, peace, security and disarmament, development and poverty eradication, protection of environment, human rights, democracy and good governance, special needs of Africa and strengthening the United Nations.

Both in their speeches in the plenary of the summit and in the inter-active round tables, the heads of state and government repeatedly stressed the relevance and importance of the UN in a global society. They pledged their commitment to help the UN to adapt to the new era and strengthening its capacity to deal with challenges of maintaining peace and eliminating poverty.

Before it was finalised, the nine-page draft declaration had been discussed informally in several rounds of informal consultations among the 188 member-states, and the final document as approved by the summit was a somewhat diluted version because of reservations expressed by some countries.

The proposal for such a conference had come from the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, in his Millennium Report to the General Assembly in March last. He had warned that nearly 35,000 nuclear weapons still remained in the arsenals of nuclear powers, "with thousands still deployed on hair-trigger alert."

The Indian Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, was one of the few summit leaders to impress on the urgent of a "universal, verifiable nuclear disarmament" and extended support to the Secretary-General's call for an international conference to address nuclear dangers.

The summit resolved to take "concrete action" against international terrorism, the danger of which was highlighted by many world leaders, including the Russian president, Mr Vladimir Putin, and Mr Vajpayee. The declaration resolved to accede as soon as possible to all the relevant international conventions concerning terrorism.

The summit also committed itself to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the world's people whose income is less than $ 1 a day and the proportion of people who suffered from hunger, and also by the same date, to halve the proportion of people who are unable to get safe drinking water.

Of significance was the affirmation of the summit to spare no efforts to promote democracy and rule of law as well as respect for all internationally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The summit leaders agreed to intensify UN efforts to achieve comprehensive reform of the security council in all its aspects, but diplomats at the UN were skeptical of an early breakthrough in the deadlock over the expansion of the council, including an increase in the number of permanent seats. India has made it known to the world its claim to become a permanent member of the security council.

In his address to the summit today, Mr Vajpayee said that as the world's largest democracy, enormous potential, a rapidly growing economic power and a major contributor to peace-keeping operations, India had a "natural claim" to a permanent seat in the council.

An interesting sidelight to the summit was the presentation by the president of Nigeria Olusegen Obasanjo, chairman of the Group of 77 developing countries, to the United Nations Secretary-general, Mr Kofi Annan, a petition with a staggering and unprecedented 22 million signatures calling for the cancellation of debts of the world's poorest nations. The signatures were from people in 155 countries and they ranged from e-mails to thumb-prints.

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