Secretary-General Kofi Annan came to power at a time of differences between the UN and the US government concerning financial matters. At the end of 1996, the US was US$ 376.8 million in arrears, but the government was reluctant to pay the debt because of the belief that the UN had not been thrifty with its budget. The US held the position that the UN should be reduced in size, but Annan took a strong stand against further budget and staff cuts. Nevertheless, Annan took action to reform the UN. In 1998, the organization announced it stood "poised, finally, to undertake sweeping structural change." The then 185 member states gave strong backing to a plan to overhaul the organization, making it more efficient and responsive to the world scene in the post–cold war era. The secretary-general was credited with mobilizing the General Assembly behind the "ambitious program" while member states were lauded for not allowing individual concerns to "override their common recognition that strategic changes were essential to ensure the relevance and vibrancy of the organization in meeting current global challenges." Reforms included consolidation of some offices and revisions to the charter to allow for further streamlining.
The Annan-led reform efforts helped strengthen relations between the UN and its headquarters host country, the United States, which by the time the reorganization was announced was more than US $1 billion in arrears to the international body. President Clinton praised the reform and issued strong statements of support for the new secretary-general. Further, the US President promised to work out a plan with Congress to pay the nation's debt to the UN. Faced with losing its vote and influence in the organization (at the end of 1999), the US later made good on the promise, which, combined with initiatives to ensure zero-growth budgets, relieved the international body's long-standing financial crisis.
However, relations between the US and the UN were strained over US military action (including the Clinton administration's attacks on suspected terrorist bases in Afghanistan in August 1998, and US-British bombings of Iraqi targets in May 2000) and inaction: Faced with wars on several fronts in Africa, in mid-May 2000, Kofi Annan said that the UN peacekeeping efforts needed the kind of military help that the United States was unwilling to provide. The US had offered only to transport troops from other countries to confront the crisis in Sierra Leone, where hundreds of UN peacekeepers were being held hostage.
Indeed, Sierra Leone was one of four peacekeeping missions added in 1999 alone. The others were in Kosovo, East Timor, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). In a press statement about the emerging situation in Africa, Annan called for a "new style of peacekeeping force for a different age." The secretary-general described it as one needing "rapid-reaction contingents" who would be on-call from countries with well-trained and well-equipped troops, ready to move fast to pave the way for peacekeeping forces. He also cited the need for better intelligence and more intelligence sharing, admitting the UN was "completely sleeping on the issue of intelligence." While world health, the environment, the status of women, and nuclear nonproliferation were the emphasis of the UN's program at the turn of the 21st century, the peacekeeping initiatives continued to take center stage—posing formidable hurdles for the UN leadership.
The Global Compact. In an address to the World Economic Forum on 31 January 1999, Kofi Annan proposed an international initiative called the "Global Compact," that would bring companies together with UN agencies, labor, non-governmental organizations and other actors to pursue good corporate citizenship or responsibility. The focus of the initiative is to allow companies to develop and promote "values-based management," rooted in internationally accepted principles. The Global Compact was launched at a meeting in New York on 26 July 2000, which brought together senior executives from abour 50 major corporations and the leaders of labor, human rights, environment, and development organizations. Hundreds of companies and organizations have participated in the initiative, and the private-sector participants represent virtually all industry sectors on every continent. The Global Compact is supported by four UN agencies: the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); the International Labour Organization (ILO); and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Millennium Declaration. In September 2000, at the UN Millennium Summit, world leaders, led by the secretary-general, agreed to set a timetable for achieving eight major goals by 2015. The first is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, by reducing by half the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day, and by reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. The second goal is to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education. The third goal is to promote gender equality and empower women, by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education. The fourth goal is to reduce the child mortality rate by 2/3 for children under five. The fifth goal is to reduce by 3/4 the maternal mortality ratio. The sixth goal is to stop and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to stop and reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. The seventh goal is to ensure the sustainability of the environment, by reducing the loss of environmental resources, by reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water, and to achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020. The eighth and final goal is to develop a global partnership for development, by first developing a rule-based and non-discriminatory open trading and financial system; by addressing the least developed countries' special needs, including tariff- and quota-free access for their exports, enhanced debt-relief for heavily indebted poor countries, the cancellation of bilateral debt, and more generous assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction; by addressing the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states; by developing decent and productive work for youth; by providing access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries, in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies; and by making available, with the cooperation of the private sector, the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies. Kofi Annan's report on the project was entitled "We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century."
Nobel Peace Prize . On 10 December 2001, the secretary-general and the United Nations received the Nobel Peace Prize. In conferring the Prize, the Nobel Committee said Mr. Annan "had been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the Organization". The Committee noted the secretary-general's attention to peace and security, and his regard for human rights. It also praised his work in combatting HIV/AIDS and international terrorism, and his efficient handling of the UN's modest resources. The Committee also stated that Mr. Annan "has made clear that sovereignty can not be a shield behind which member states conceal their violations."
Nigeria. The secretary-general was supportive of Nigeria's peaceful transition from military rule under General Sani Abacha to a democratic government in 1999. President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president of Nigeria in February 1999 as the first civilian leader in 15 years.
East Timor. On 25 October 1999, the UN established UNTAET, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, following an independence referendum voted upon by the people of East Timor. Ninety-eight percent of East Timorese voted for independence. UNTAET was established to administer the territory, to exercise legislative and executive authority during the period of transition to independence and to support the move to self-government. Violence led by militias in favor of integration with Indonesia, with the support of Indonesian security forces, had erupted in East Timor following the independence vote; many East Timorese were killed, and as many as 500,000 were displaced from their homes. The secretary-general and the Security Council undertook strong diplomatic efforts to halt the violence. A large-scale humanitarian relief effort was launched by UN agencies. With Security Council Resolution 1272, UNTAET was established as a peacekeeping operation to administer the terrority in its transition to independence. When East Timor became an independent state on 20 May 2002, UNTAET's mandate expired, and a sucessor mission, known as the United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), was installed to support East Timorese authorities in the post-independence era, while undertaking the gradual withdrawal of UN forces.
Middle East. On 24 May 2000, Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon and redeployed them south of the international border, or the "blue line" designated by the UN as separating the two countries. This line was fixed in 1923 by colonial France and Great Britain, and is the one UN cartographers have drawn as the border. The secretary-general issued a report on 16 June concluding that Israel had fufilled its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 regarding withdrawal. The border was controlled by Hezbollah guerrillas, however, who did not surrender their arms. According to Resolution 425, the U.N. would take action to fill the vacuum created following the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and deploy appropriate armed forces to restore effective authority in the area. UNIFIL forces (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), in place since 1978, were reconfigured periodically, and the UNIFIL mandate has been extended every six months.
After Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO leader Yasser Arafat met in July 2000 at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, with the guidance of President Bill Clinton, to discuss peace. For two weeks the leaders attempted to come up with acceptable solutions to questions such as the status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, security, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, and borders. No agreement was reached, and the talks failed. On 28 September, Ariel Sharon, leader of the Likud Party, toured the al-Aqsa/Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites to both Jews and Muslims. Sharon's critics saw it as a highly provocative move. Palestinian demonstrations followed, and developed into what became known as the al-Aqsa intifada.
The conflict escalated over the course of 2001, with an increasing number of Palestinian suicide bombings directed at Israeli civilians, and harsh reprisals by Israel. In the early months of 2002, the situation came to a head. Israel reoccupied major parts of the West Bank held by the Palestinian Authority, surrounded Yasser Arafat's compound in Gaza, and eventually attacked it. In March 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized Israel for its actions, and sent a letter to Ariel Sharon (who had become Israeli Prime Minister in February 2001), stating that Israeli forces had been waging what appeared to be an all-out conventional war on Palestinian civilians. "Judging by the means and methods employed by the [Israeli Defense Forces]—F-16 fighter bombers, helicopter and naval gunships, missiles and bombs of heavy tonnage—the fighting has come to resemble allout conventional warfare," Annan wrote Sharon. "Israel is fully entitled to defend itself against terror," Annan wrote. "But this right does not discharge it of its obligation to respect the fundamental principles and rules of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict with respect to the treatment and protection of civilians in occupied territories."
Iraq . Since the expulsion of UN weapons inspectors (the UN Monitoring and Verification Mission or UNMOVIC) from Iraq in November 1998, the status of Iraq's development programs, facilities for, and stocks of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were unknown. Following the lead of the United States, which was determined to see Iraq either removed of its potential chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs, or to see a regime change in Iraq, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002, deciding Iraq was in material breach of its obligations under previous relevant Security Council resolutions concerning disarmament. Iraq was to comply with its disarmament obligations, and to set up an enhanced inspections regime to operate in the country, allowing unimpeded access to UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its weapons facilities. Any interference by Iraq to comply with the weapons inspections, or false reports of stockpiles and programs that it might make, would cause the Security Council to convene immediately to "consider" the situation. Secretary-General Annan, in praising the unanimous resolution, stated: "I urge President Saddam Hussein to comply fully with the Council's demands, for the sake of his people, regional security and world order."
Terrorism . In the wake of the terrorist attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network on the United States on 11 September 2001, the UN Security Council established a Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) pursuant to its Resolution adopted 28 September concerning counter-terrorism. Resolution 1373 called upon states to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts; to refrain from providing any support to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts; to deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts; to bring those individuals or entities to justice; and to exchange information on the actions or movements of terrorists or terrorist networks. Subsequent Security Council resolutions were adopted regarding threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, including Resolution 1377 adopted 12 November 2001, Resolution 1438 adopted 14 October 2002, and Resolution 1440 adopted 24 October 2002. In November 2002, in speaking with President George Bush, the secretary-general stated: "[E]very region and people of every faith have also been victims of terrorists. This is a scourge that affects all of us, regardless of region or religion. And we need to stand together to defeat terrorism. And this is where the work of the United Nations and effective implementation of this Resolution 1373 is absolutely crucial. We need to work to deprive terrorists of the opportunities by not giving them haven, by not giving them financial and logistical support. And I think the counterterrorism committee of the Security Council is doing a good job in trying to make sure we all work together on it."