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Lord Castlereagh's return: the significance of Kofi Annan's High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change

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This article suggests that the Annan High Level Panel that reported in December 2004 has produced the most important strategic document to be published by the UN since 1945, eclipsing the now distinctly dated Millennium Development Goals. It documents how it is unusually cogent and candid for a Blue Ribbon exercise. This article starts by describing both the long wave and the immediate events within which the Panel's work exists. The world is now plainly moving through the biggest change of course since the late eighteenth century, which the Panel also discusses, and which was punctuated in 2002–3 by a specific crisis over Iraq. The aftermath of that crisis was the occasion for the secretary-general of the United Nations to establish a High Level Panel with a wide mandate, to describe the new environment of international peace and security and to recommend changes to refurbish the United Nations in order to face new threats, challenges and change. The article analyses the Panel's strategy to obtain action on its key recommendations. These are to make routine the exercise of the responsibility to protect individuals at risk in failed or collapsed states by ‘full spectrum’ UN interventions embracing peace-enforcement, -keeping, -making and -building. The mechanisms recommended are described and the judgement made that the shrewd presentation of the brokerage of different interests gives a modest but real chance of success. The Panel also addresses the matter of membership of the Security Council but in a way which will enable the likely deadlock over that question later this year to be contained so as not to impede action on other matters. In sum, the High Level Panel promises to be Kofi Annan's best legacy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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