Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the annual U.N. General Assembly debate with a grim assessment of world progress during his 10-year term in office.
In his farewell address to the General Assembly, Secretary General Annan painted a stark picture of a world beset by social and economic inequality, war and terrorism. He lamented that his 10 years in office had witnessed little progress in resolving the planet's most pressing problems.
"The events of the last ten years have not resolved, but sharpened, the three great challenges I spoke of - an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law," said Mr. Annan.
The Secretary-General launched a blistering attack on the phenomenon of economic globalization. He charged that while globalization brings people together in theory, in practice it drives them apart.
"My friends, globalization is not a tide that lifts all boats," he added. "Even among those who the statistics tell us are benefiting, many feel deeply insecure, and strongly resent the apparent complacency of those more fortunate than themselves."
Mr. Annan was equally harsh in his criticism of the fight against terrorism. In a thinly veiled criticism of the United States, he suggested the terror fight is being used as a cover for human rights abuses.
"Even the necessary and legitimate struggle around the world against terrorism is used as a pretext to abridge or abrogate fundamental human rights, thereby ceding moral ground to the terrorists and helping them find new recruits," he noted.
The Secretary-General spoke of the challenge of easing tensions in the Middle East. He said that as long as the Security Council is unable to end the conflict, respect for the world body would continue to decline.
He also said that sadly, the biggest challenge facing the world community comes from Africa.
"From Darfur, where the continued spectacle of men, women and children driven from their homes by murder, rape and the burning of their villages makes a mockery of our claim, as an international community, to shield people from the worst abuses," he said.
Mr. Annan received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his final General Assembly speech. Later, at a luncheon attended by scores of world leaders and other dignitaries, President Bush raised a glass to toast the secretary-general's accomplishments.
"We need to toast the fact that he's a decent, honorable man, and we need to raise our glasses to 10 years of extraordinary service, and be thankful that a man such as Kofi Annan was willing to stand up and serve the cause of justice and peace," said Mr. Bush.
But not all went according to script on this ceremonial opening day. As leaders spoke, word spread of a military coup in Thailand.
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was to have attended the luncheon honoring Secretary-General Annan, and was slated to address the General Assembly Wednesday. When news of the coup broke, the prime minister's slot on the schedule of speeches was hastily moved up to Tuesday evening. A spokesman said the change had been made to allow Mr. Thaksin to go home.
But at the luncheon, the prime minister's seat was vacant, and a short time later, an announcement came that his speech had been cancelled.