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"In Larger Freedom" High-Level Panel Report on Threats, Challenges and

21 April 2005

Letter to H.E. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, 21 April, 2005


Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches and the UN were formed at the same time
and in the same political context, with the ultimate aim to work for unity and
peace in the world. We have grown and struggled together in response to the
challenges of our times.

The reflection on international affairs of the World Council of Churches is based
on ethical and theological reflections with our 347 member churches worldwide.

The concerns raised in our process are closely linked to the agenda of the UN.

The WCC and UN have shared goals on justice and peace, on eradication of poverty
and on the promotion and defence of human rights and human dignity.

The WCC has with interest received your report "In Larger Freedom: Towards
Development, Security and Human Rights for All". We have also considered the
reports from the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges
and Change as well as from the Millennium Project and would like to take this
opportunity to share with you our concerns and reflections.

We consider these reports most helpful in the urgent work to reform the UN,
set clearer priorities and mobilize the political will needed to fulfill its tasks.

One of the most important achievements of these reports is that they have
aimed at, and to a large extent have also succeeded, in bringing together the concerns
of development and security. By seeking a common and inclusive approach
involving the global South and the global North, there is a basis for moving
towards a reformed United Nations.

In particular we appreciate the consensus achieved by the High-Level Panel on
the main threats to peace and security and the correlation between them. We welcome
that you, in your report, are building on this consensus and bring that concept
further towards the September 2005 Summit of the UN General Assembly.

The WCC advocates a reform that empowers and strengthens the UN and
achieves better representation so that the world organization can successfully
address the global challenges facing humanity: wars, conflicts, nuclear arms, environmental
degradation, AIDS and other diseases, under-development, extreme
poverty and acts of terror.

Your report is comprehensive and the interconnectedness of the issues that it
addresses very timely. The WCC is encouraged by this initiative and recommits
itself to support the UN and the agenda you are proposing.

We would also like to take this opportunity to comment specifically on a number
of issues in the reports: economic justice and poverty eradication, peace and
security, institutional reform, environment and the role of religion.

1. Economic Justice and Poverty Eradication

The WCC shares the aspiration of the UN to end hunger and extreme poverty.

The number of people who suffer from extreme poverty, hunger and lack of
health and education must be reduced by at least half before 2015, if not earlier.

The absence of basic living conditions is a clear violation of human rights and
human dignity. Fighting poverty means replacing desperation with hope, and is
therefore also the best investment in security and peace. As the report rightly
indicates, extreme poverty is closely linked to insecurity. However, the Development
Agenda should not be guided by a narrow focus on security and the threat of terror.

The ecumenical approach to the pressing concerns of economy and ecology is
based on the vision of human development and life with dignity, within sustainable
communities. Such a vision can become a reality only when economic, financial
and ecological justice is addressed holistically, with democratic participation
at all levels.

The vision can never be achieved while the material over-abundance enjoyed
by a small part of the global community continues to grow side-by-side with,
and often at the expense of, the extreme need of a large proportion of the same
community, resulting in increasing inequity.

It is precisely this vision that WCC shares with the UN in its aspirations to
end hunger and extreme poverty. The number of people who suffer from extreme
poverty, hunger, lack of health and education is a violation of human rights. The
WCC calls for all countries to honour the implementation of MDGs, particularly
in implementing Goal Eight, to "develop a global partnership for development".

The current inequitable trade policies make it difficult to achieve the goal of
"creating an international partnership for development". Trade is a crucial part
of global society and, ideally, trade policies should serve the needs of development
within a government's overall policy. The present tendencies and patterns of trade
liberalization have critically weakened the structures that are necessary and thereby
have widened the gap between poor and wealthy countries, between those individuals
that have the strength to participate in a competitive market and those
that have not. The timely finalization of the Doha Development Round should
contribute to increasing resources in the developing countries to combat poverty.

One hundred percent debt cancellation for poor countries and increase of Official
Development Assistance, ODA, to the UN level of 0.7 are also essential. It is
impossible for many developing countries to escape the poverty trap without
major growth in ODA.

2. Peace and Security

The danger of war and the need to restrict and limit military violence with the
help of international law is reflected in the UN Charter, in particular in Chapter
VII and Article 51. The Charter was drawn up from the experiences of two world
wars. The legal foundation to avoid or place limits on war remained important
during the process of decolonization and the Cold War. We are therefore concerned
by the far-reaching interpretation the HLP, in paragraph 188, gives to
Article 51, by referring to the possibility to pre-emptively "take military action
as long as the threat is imminent". For the same reason we cannot agree with the
interpretation in your report, paragraph 124, that "imminent threats are fully
covered by Article 51". There is no consensus among international law expertise
on such a reading, and we would not wish the UN to give away so much of its
responsibility.

Although there are examples prior to the UN Charter where such an interpretation
would be valid, we cannot find the examples after 1945 where such principles
have been relevant. Furthermore, given the developments of information
technology, there is today no threat so imminent that there is no time to go to
the Security Council when facing any potential threat. We understand the need
for wide consensus on Article 51.

However, this political goal cannot be achieved by re-interpreting the legal
foundation. Given the seriousness of military action, the final resort to such action
needs strict legal regulation, to be limited to self-defence when attacked, and to
be the responsibility of the Security Council when international peace and security
is threatened. Actors who move outside of these strict principles need to be
judged legally as well as politically for their actions.

We welcome the progress made in the High-Level Panel Report and also in
your report on criteria for the responsibility to protect individuals in a situation
of genocide or other serious violations of International Human Rights and
International Humanitarian Law. The responsibility to protect can ultimately
best be met by a stronger political commitment to the responsibility to prevent
- being answerable to act accordingly and appropriately in time. The difficulty
of promoting human rights, democracy and a healthy society calls for the focus
of our discussion to be shifted from a consideration of borderline cases at a late
stage, to an emphasis on meeting our responsibility towards the vulnerable, including
civilian means, police forces and peace keeping.

The WCC, together with its member churches, is undertaking a study process
on "The Responsibility to Protect: Ethical and Theological Perspectives", leading
up to the WCC Assembly in 2006. We would be happy to provide you and
the UN Secretariat with the results of this study.

In this context, we also wish to express the appreciation of the WCC of the
importance given in your report to the International Criminal Court, ICC. As you
state, "enormous progress has made been with the establishment of the International
Criminal Court" (§ 138). We firmly believe the ICC provides a new framework to
combat impunity and to enhance the rights of victims. WCC member churches
are working in their countries for the universal ratification of the Rome Statute
and are joining other religious organizations in advocating for the ICC.

The WCC furthermore appreciates the strong commitment to nuclear disarmament
and non-proliferation in your report as well as in the High-Level Panel
Report. The WCC was born at the same time as the atomic bomb and at the time
when the nuclear arms race began. The concern about a possible nuclear war and
commitment to nuclear disarmament has been with the Council throughout the
years. Already at its Second Assembly, in Evanston in 1954, the WCC called for
a new international order where nuclear weapons were eliminated and prohibited
and for a mechanism for effective international inspections and control. The
WCC considers that the production and deployment as well as the use of nuclear
weapons are a crime against humanity and that such activities must be condemned
on ethical and theological grounds.

We are concerned at the risk of collapse of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,
NPT, at its review in May 2005. The five nuclear weapon states are not honouring
their commitment to disarmament and more states are looking at the nuclear
option, at the same time as non-state actors, ready and able to use terror, are organized
in a way that they might obtain nuclear weapons. A breakdown of this fundamental
instrument for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation might bring
us to a situation of nuclear anarchy with a clear risk that nuclear arms would be
used against urban centres or in some of the asymmetric wars of today.

We are fully in agreement with you that the international community must
not only urgently address the issue of terrorism and have a clear definition of the
term, but also address the issues of poverty, deadly infectious diseases and environmental
degradation. The comity of nations, civil society and religions, working
together collectively, must help to promote the values of tolerance, human
rights, peace and justice in order to overcome trends directed to violence and war.

3. UN Reform

Reform of the Security Council is needed, but should not be a precondition for
reforms in other areas. A permanent membership limited to five countries that
derive their primacy from events that occurred sixty years ago is not acceptable.
For reasons of accountability, efficiency and necessary political guidance, the permanent
members need to reflect the world of today and the world that is likely
tomorrow. Whatever formula for reforming the Security Council is considered,
it needs to ensure more relevant representation from Asia, Africa and Latin America
and a permanent seat for a country with a Muslim majority and identity. A condition
for any new permanent membership should be a clear and verified status
as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

Your report discusses in some detail the present structure and shortcomings of
the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The World Council of
Churches supports your proposal for additional funding of the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights. From our own experience we feel that some
important mechanisms of the Commission have suffered because of lack of funding
and other resources.

The proposal of setting up a Human Rights Council and the need for the High
Commissioner to relate directly to the Security Council is both novel and interesting.

It will go a long way to help draw attention to some of the most critical
human rights situations that require immediate action from the international
community. It will also allow the Security Council to have a constant and regular
overview of the global human rights situation.

We identify closely with your views that human rights cannot be compromised
in the name of national security. If poverty and terrorism are to be eliminated it
is essential that civil and political rights as well as socio-economic cultural rights
of all peoples be realized.

We have noted that the reform proposals regarding the ECOSOC are comparatively
weak and lack appropriate links to the International Financial Institutions.

It is of utmost importance to provide credible and relevant political mechanisms
to manage a world of growing economic interdependence to ensure life in dignity
for millions of people and to promote trust in the UN system. The ECOSOC
could improve, for example, by using its capacity to hold short focused sessions
to discuss high priority issues or emergencies, by introducing a segment of its
annual session on global macro-economic management to which finance ministers
should be invited, and by inviting the International Financial Institutions to
report to it.

4. Environment

To address the issue of Climate Change, the WCC stresses the need, beyond
technical changes in areas such as energy, transport and economic policy, for a
fundamental reorientation of the socio-economic structures and personal lifestyles
that are at the origins of the phenomenon. Those convictions need to be at the
centre of the more inclusive international framework that is needed to ensure the
follow-up required to the Kyoto Protocol, in particular beyond 2012.

The centrality of water to life and the experience of water as a gift are two
sources of the WCC's affirmation of water as a basic human right. To treat water
as a gift of God and as a human right implies that clean fresh water should be
available to meet the basic needs of all, rather than be treated as a private commodity
to be bought and sold.

The adequate financing of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is to be
assured through increased national contributions. Eco-sustainability will require
the vision and reality of economically viable alternatives; corporate accountability
along with corporate social and environmental responsibility; green accounting,
or full cost accounting, e.g. Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI); Environmental
Indicators that account for the value in the light of Global Common Goods against
Global Common Bad.

5. The Role of Religion and Culture

There is in most cultures today a growing interaction and interplay between
religion and politics. This phenomenon is related to fundamental changes in our
society, linked to globalization, the decreased power of the main ideologies of the
20th century and the changing role of the nation state.

Religious influence on politics can be both destructive and constructive. If religion
is used as an instrument to gain political power and emphasize the exclusiveness
and primacy of one's own group at the expense of others, it will be a
destructive contribution. On the other hand, by stressing fundamental ethics and
humanity, by giving a voice to the voiceless, by focusing on inclusiveness and a
deeper sense of hope, religion can make a much needed and constructive contribution
to societies.

The High-Level Panel has in its report overlooked the increased role of religion
in conflicts, international affairs and politics. We would like to encourage
you to explore ways for the UN to work closely, constructively and creatively with
this issue, seeking to understand and interpret the growing influence of religion,
searching for ways to prevent a destructive role for religion and to promote religion's
constructive role. This could mean the UN Secretariat having the capacity
to analyze and understand these developments. It could also mean increased
interaction between the Secretariat and the General Assembly and faith communities
and academics involved in this field.

The WCC is willing to offer its experience in this field, for example by sharing
our results from the inter-religious conference "A Critical Moment in Interreligious
Relations and Dialogue: Thinking Together, Assessing the Present, and
Imagining the Future" in June this year.

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the World Council of Churches, please allow me to express my
admiration for your leadership role at a time when multilateralism and multilateral
reflection, commitment and action is at risk and, at the same time, more
needed than ever.

The World Council of Churches has worked closely with the United Nations
from the very beginning. We will continue to offer our constructive critique and
creative support. Among the first concerns raised by our representatives, already
at the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, was that the
United Nations must be seen not just as an instrument of states, but also give
expression to the aspirations of the world's peoples.

The main role of the civil society is to bring the voice that is not necessarily
heard through the normal political UN channels to the attention of those that have
the power to change - in member states and in the UN system. Although the relation
to civil society is not discussed in the reports we discuss in this letter, it is of
utmost importance that those perspectives be present in the September Summit.

I very much appreciate the opportunity we have had to meet personally to discuss
some of these issues. I would be most grateful if it would be possible for us
to have our next meeting before the September Summit of the General Assembly.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary