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U.N. Leaders Spell Out Plans for New World

September 09, 2000|MAGGIE FARLEY and JOHN J. GOLDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

UNITED NATIONS — The largest-ever gathering of global leaders ended Friday with the adoption of an ambitious Millennium Declaration--an eight-page plan to cure the world's direst problems.

Now all they have to do is live up to it.

"Ultimately, you yourselves are the United Nations," Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared at the close of the summit. "It lies in your power, and it is your responsibility to reach the goals you have defined. Only you can determine whether the U.N. rises to the challenge."

The declaration pledges, among other things, to halve the number of the world's people in poverty, reverse the spread of AIDS and strengthen the U.N.'s ability to keep peace. Delegations had six months leading up to the summit to prepare plans on exactly how to translate their promises into practice, and Annan stressed that there will be an aggressive follow-up program to monitor implementation.

Annan convened the summit to breathe new life into a troubled organization that is confronting challenges never envisioned when it was founded in 1945 with only 51 members. Today, it has 189 members but is deeply underfunded and under-equipped to deal with its core mission of maintaining global peace and security.

One of the key products of the summit was an agreement to strengthen peacekeeping operations. It mandates an overhaul of U.N. forces to enable them to respond more quickly and robustly to conflicts that are not only between countries but also within them, in which warlords and terrorists often target civilians and children.

The specifics of the peacekeeping reforms, especially financing, will be taken up next month by the General Assembly in a relatively speedy follow-up to the summit's pledges.

Not many of the overarching problems discussed in the three-day convocation had such concrete responses. The benefits and disparities of globalization quickly emerged as a key theme in four free-form sessions attended by the leaders.

"The discussion was not whether globalization is good or not. It was that it is here and how to deal with it," said the leader of one panel, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The dignitaries tried to address the social and economic gaps that exist in this era in which developing countries are confronted with unforgiving markets and dazzling technology yet half the world's people have never made a phone call.

Agencies inside and outside the U.N. are already working to translate promises into practice. Across the street from U.N. headquarters, the man who must head the mission to reduce the number of people who live on less than $1 a day is ready to begin.

"Halving poverty in 15 years seems like the most pie-in-the-sky goal imaginable," said Mark Malloch Brown, head of the U.N. Development Program. "But it's really quite doable. And the people who can do it are right here.

"This week they talk about doing something about poverty," he said. "Well, next week they can carry through."

On Monday, some of the government ministers who came for this week's summit will stay on for a meeting to make policies designed to reduce poverty: building schools, improving health care and creating jobs through small businesses.

The three days of intense diplomacy opened new dialogues, with hundreds of encounters both official and accidental. In a notable first, Cuban President Fidel Castro approached President Clinton to shake his hand. It was the first time Castro, who has lasted as long as nine U.S. presidents, has had such contact with a sitting president, but Clinton was quick to downplay any musing that it might lead to a rapprochement. "It just happened, you know," he said.

There were also portents of future concerns for U.S. policymakers. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who recently visited Iraq, stayed out talking with Castro until well after midnight two nights in a row, solidifying what U.S. officials might see as a "bad-boy alliance" in the making.

And then there were the disappointments. Attempts to pick up the pieces of a Mideast peace agreement failed this week, despite Clinton's shuttling between Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Africa's leaders pressed for greater recognition of the continent's struggles against poverty, disease and strife--but specific solutions remained elusive. No progress was reported on a diplomatic way of ending the war in Congo. In Zimbabwe, the government-sanctioned seizures of land from white farmers continued unabated.

And the grim dangers of peacekeeping were underscored when Annan, with deep sorrow, announced the killing of three U.N. refugee workers in West Timor by a mob of Indonesian militia members and supporters angered by the death of a militia leader.

The summit came in the midst of a U.S. presidential campaign, and some U.N. staffers observed that decision-makers were hindered by not knowing what the attitude of the next administration will be toward the world body. A major unanswered question was the degree of vigor with which Washington will follow the problem-solving blueprint ratified by the leaders at the historic meeting.

The U.S. is the largest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations. However, by the world body's tally, it also owes $1.7 billion, and its contributions are diminishing while the world's trouble spots multiply.

* CLINTON, JIANG MEET

The president and his Chinese counterpart disagree on the issue of religious persecution. A8

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