NEW YORK, Aug 31 ( – Sensitive to the continued suspicion many People have of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the international body, told the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference of Presiding Officers yesterday that legislators have a key role to play in helping overcome grass roots mistrust of global institutions. “Together, we at the United Nations and you, the parliamentarians, can do much to break down this wall of suspicion, by explaining the global changes to our peoples and, above all, by ensuring that those changes redound to their benefit,” he said in his speech to the group.

Mr. Annan made it clear that slowing down the process of globalization is not an option he is considering: “The fact is that we need the parliamentary vision of international relations more than ever before.” The IPU organizers want to use their conference to build support for the UN leading up to next week’s Millennium Summit. Australia is one of very few nations that seems prepared today to buck this trend.

Several months ago Prime Minister John Howard said his government was reassessing their participation in the UN, having become fed up with the criticisms from some of their monitoring bodies. Yesterday they reiterated their ability to “monitor [their] own human rights record,” Reuters reports today. “Really, they struck me as just a theme park for indulging the fantasies of the global NGO (non-government organization) guilt movement,” backbencher Andrew Thomson said about the world body’s human rights commission.

Predictably, UN supporters responded in frenetic and extremist tones: “The Howard government has delivered a diplomatic windfall to odious regimes everywhere and undermined Australia’s reputation as a civilized nation with yesterday’s irresponsible attack on the United Nations treaty committee system,” editorialized the Sydney Morning Herald.

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