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Kobia shares WCC viewpoint on UN reform report with Kofi Annan

21 April 2005

A memorandum sent today by the World Council of Churches' (WCC) general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, to the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, shares WCC points of view on issues dealt with in Annan's report on reforming the UN.

Annan's report is entitled "In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all". The WCC memorandum critiques particular sections of the report, as well as an earlier report on threats, challenges and change by the UN High Level Panel (HLP) established by the UN secretary-general, and the report of the UN Millennium Project.

On peace and security, the WCC memorandum is concerned about a "far-reaching interpretation" of Article 51 of the UN Charter as allowing pre-emptive military action "as long as the threat is imminent".

"There is no consensus among international law experts on such a reading, and we would not wish the UN to give away so much of its responsibility," the memorandum stipulates.

On UN institutional reform, the memorandum notes that "permanent membership [of the Security Council] that is limited to five countries that derive their primacy from events that occurred sixty years ago is not acceptable."

The Council needs more relevant representation from Asia, Africa and Latin America and a permanent seat for a country with a Muslim identity. Furthermore, "a condition for any new permanent membership should be a clear and verified status as a non-nuclear-weapon state," it says.

The WCC memorandum offers comments on other parts of the report, including sections on economic justice and poverty eradication, and the environment. It also suggests that the HLP report "has 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."

The full text of the memorandum by the WCC general secretary is available on our website at: www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/un-reform.html

UN secretary-general's report "In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all"

For more information, please contact Peter Weiderud: +41 22 791 63 06.