DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan told world business leaders Wednesday the United Nations during his tenure had initiated a "new mindset" on human rights, law, the nature of war and the role of corporations.
In his swan song to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Annan said his legacy after 10 years in office, which ends in December, was reaching out beyond governments to businesses, celebrities and non-profit groups to promote the United Nations' work.
And he had surprise guests -- Oscar winner Angelina Jolie, who is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency and actor Brad Pitt, whose child she is carrying. The two chatted with Annan after his speech but stayed on for a panel on the United Nations.
Ironically, the panel included three possible contenders for his job: South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, Sri Lankan presidential adviser Jayanthan Dhanapala and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
"And my successor -- since I understand several members of this panel may be interested in the position -- need not worry," Annan said. "Changing the mindset of the United Nations, so that it can both reflect and influence the temper of the times, is a never-ending challenge."
Looking to the future, Annan said the United Nations would be involved "whether it is a looming crisis over Iran and its compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, continuing atrocities in Darfur, or the threat of an avian flu pandemic."
He said people looked to the United Nations for "making peace, protecting civilians, improving livelihoods, promoting human rights and upholding international law."
Annan has warned since 1999 that genocide and other mass crimes could never be treated as a purely domestic affair.
"Being rightly called crimes against humanity, they demand a collective response from humanity, which should be organized and legitimized by the United Nations," he told the forum.
Annan recalled that when he first spoke in Davos in 1999 he urged a "global compact" between the United Nations and the private sector. Many colleagues "would hardly have been more shocked if I had proposed a compact with the devil."
"My objective has been to persuade both the (U.N.) member states and my colleagues in the secretariat that the United Nations needs to engage not only with governments but with people," he said.
The Global Compact is a voluntary grouping of companies and pressure groups that promotes social responsibility by pressing companies to produce public reports on their social impact. Some 2,400 firms in nearly 90 nations are involved.
Noting the 16 peacekeeping ventures the United Nations was asked to undertake when no one else would, Annan said one had to consider causes of war and how to make peace afterwards.
"The U.N. has become, in effect, the indispensable mechanism for bringing international help to countries recovering from conflict," he said,
"This new mindset must also extend to the domain of international peace and security -- so that we think of security not only in conventional terms, focusing on prevention of war between states, but also as including the protection of the world's peoples, against threats which, to many of them today, seem more immediate and more real," he said.
Annan recalled innovations in international law, which have burgeoned over the last decade, from war crimes tribunals to the International Criminal Court.
But he did not refer to the oil-for-food program in Iraq which ended with investigations blaming him for not spotting corruption in the $64 billion venture.
Did you find this article insightful?