PEACE in Action

Part III - Economic and Social Development

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Policies for International Peace
The United Nations at 60
Part III - Economic and Social Development

While the maintenance of peace is the UN's raison d'etre and primary role, the employment of military force is not the sole means of achieving that objective. Keeping the peace is a complex, multifaceted undertaking. Article I of the UN charter recognized this by calling on the organization to "take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace." The Charter's preamble mandates the UN to foster a law-abiding, prospering community of nations by promoting "fundamental human rights," establishing "conditions under which justice and respect for…international law can be maintained," and promoting "social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." (Jerrold Berke article, PEACE in Action, Fall 2000)

Initially, these activities were implemented pretty much in a piecemeal fashion. As the importance of new problem areas was recognized, new agencies were created—see the list of UN-affiliated organizations (with their dates of establishment) on page 18. In the 1990s, however, the internecine warfare between and within the developing nations became to be seen as a threat to world peace. In 1995, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali noted in his Agenda for Peace: "the sources of conflict and war are pervasive and deep. To reach them will require our utmost effort to enhance respect for human rights and international freedoms, to promote sustainable economic and social development for wider prosperity, to alleviate distress, and to curtail the existence and use of massively destructive weapons."

The next Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, picked up this theme in his Agenda for Development, saying: "Peace and development are closely interrelated and mutually supportive." This was followed by the Declaration of the United Nations Millennium Summit 8 September 2000. This led to the enumeration of the Millennium Development Goals, including targets for completion of each of the eight Goals—see end of article.

In September 2005, the General Assembly reviewed progress on the Goals at its World Summit. In preparation for this meeting, Secretary-General Kofi Annan commissioned two major studies:

  1. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility"—The report of the UN's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change; and
  2. Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Also prior to the Summit meeting, another report was prepared by the World Federation of United Nations Associations and The North-South Initiative: We the Peoples' 2005 Special ReportThe UN Millennium Declaration and Beyond—Mobilizing for Change: Messages from Civil Society. Their report was the result of surveys carried out with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in developing countries in the economic and social development fields. Their messages to the world leaders were:

  • Keep the promises made to the world in the Millennium Declaration.
  • Implement the Millennium Development Goals, but go beyond them. Get at the roots of poverty and growing inequality; remove the obstacles to universal human rights, health, and education; eliminate the dangers to our planet's climate and environment; and undertake urgent collective action to build and sustain peace everywhere.
  • Strengthen the United Nations to assure development, social justice, peace, and security in our world.
  • Commit the necessary resources, human and financial, to these ends.

The NGOs' report further states that the promises remain significantly unfilled, and the goals unmet. They ask for a fresh commitment of resources to the objectives of the Declaration and clear markers for progress over the next 5 years.

World Summit Outcome Action

The decisions pertaining particularly to economic and social development are set forth below. Those relating to terrorism and peacebuilding, peacekeeping and peacemaking are covered in The UN at 60—Part II. There were also some actions directed to overall management reform. Herewith the actions particularly related to economic and social development as enumerated in the UN Chronicle, September-November 2005.


  • Strong and unambiguous commitment by all Governments, of donor and developing nations alike, to achieve the Millennium Development goals (MDGs) by 2015.
  • Additional $50 billion a year for fighting poverty by 2010.
  • Commitment by all developing countries to adopt by 2006 national plans for achieving the MDGs.
  • Agreements to provide immediate support for quick impact initiatives to support anti-malaria efforts, education and health care.
  • Commitments to innovative sources of financing for development, including efforts by groups of countries to implement an international finance facility and other initiatives to finance development projects, in particular in the health sector.
  • Agreement to consider additional measures to ensure long-term debt sustainability through increased grantbased financing, cancellation of 100 percent of the official multilateral and bilateral debt of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs). Where appropriate, to consider significant debt relief or restructuring for low- and middle-income developing countries with unsustainable debt burdens that are not part of the HIPC initiative.
  • Commitment to trade liberalization and expeditious work towards implementing the development dimensions of the Doha work program.

Responsibility to Protect

  • Clear and unambiguous acceptance by all Governments of the collective international responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Willingness to take timely and decisive collective action for this purpose through the Security Council when peaceful means prove inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to do it.

Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law

  • Decisive steps to strengthen the UN Human Rights machinery, backing the action plan and doubling the budget of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Agreement to establish a UN Human Rights Council during the coming year.
  • Reaffirmation of democracy as a universal value, and welcome for a new Democracy Fund, which has already received pledges of $32 million from 13 countries.
  • Commitment to eliminate pervasive gender discrimination, such as inequalities in education and ownership of property, and violence against women and girls and end impunity for such violence.
  • Ratification action taken during the Summit triggered the entry info force of the Convention against Corruption.


  • Recognition of the serious challenge posed by climate change and a commitment to take action through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Assistance will be provided to those most vulnerable, such as small island developing States.

Now what is needed is for member countries to keep their promises. In the United States, it is high time that U.S. Congressmen:

  • Stopped wasting time and energy introducing legislation every year to get out of the UN and get the UN out of the United States.
  • Stopped holding up payments of the United States' dues to the United Nations, and started paying its annual dues at the beginning of the year, not at the end of the year as it does now.
  • Started ratifying (and signing where necessary) UN treaties and protocols, particularly those related to nuclear affairs, environment and human rights—including those especially related to women and children.

Millennium Development Goals

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger

    Target: Halve the proportion of people on a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger.

    [More than a billion people still live on less than $1 a day; sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and parts of Europe and Central Asia are falling short of poverty eradication targets.]

  2. Achieve Universal Primary Education

    Target: Ensure that all boys and girls complete primary school.

    [As many as 113 million children do not attend school, but the target is within reach.]

  3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

    Target: Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education , preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.

    [Two-thirds of illiterate people are women, and the rate of employment among women is twothirds that of men. The proportion of seats held in parliaments is increasing, reaching about onethird in Argentina, Mozambique, & South Africa.

  4. Reduce Child Mortality

    Target: Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five.

    [Every year, nearly 11 million young children die before their fifth birthday, mainly from preventable diseases, but that number is down from 15 million in 1980.

  5. Improve Maternal Health

    Target: Reduce by three-quarters the ratio of women dying in childbirth.

    [In the developing world, the risk of dying in childbirth is one in 48, but virtually all countries now have safe motherhood programs.]

  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases

    Target: Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

    [Forty million people are living with HIV, including five million newly infected in 2003. Countries like Brazil, Senegal, Thailand, and Uganda have shown that the spread of HIV can be stemmed.]

  7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability

    Targets: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.

    By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people without safe drinking water.

    By 2020, achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

    [More than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and more than two billion lack sanitation. During the 1990s, however, nearly one billion gained access to safe water and the same number to sanitation.]

  8. Develop Global Partnership for Development

    Targets: Develop further an open trading and financial system that includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction—nationally and internationally.

    Address the less developed countries' special needs, and the special need of landlocked and small island developing states.

    Deal comprehensively with developing countries' problems.

    Develop decent and productive work for youth.

    In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.

    In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies.

    [Many developing countries spend more on debt service than on social services. New aid commitments made in the first half of 2002 could mean an additional $12 billion per year in 2006.]

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