United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged members of the world's political and business elite to refocus their attention on development issues that have been overshadowed by the Iraq war and the U.S. drive to defeat terrorism. Mr. Annan also warned the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that security threats and economic dangers have put the international order in jeopardy.
Mr. Annan said "it is time to rebalance the international agenda to prevent terrorism and the war against it from exacerbating cultural, religious and ethnic dividing lines."
He wants a renewed focus on the United Nation's goal of reducing the number of people living in poverty throughout the world by half over the next decade.
Although he says he recognizes that rich countries are justifiably preoccupied with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, he says the world community must also protect millions of people from the more familiar threats of poverty, hunger and deadly diseases.
"In the past year or two, the war in Iraq and other events caused our attention to drift dangerously away from them. It is time to rebalance the international agenda," he said.
Mr. Annan implored rich countries to eliminate subsidies to their farmers, a practice that he says badly hurts farmers in poor countries.
His message came just as officials from more than a dozen countries used the Davos meeting to explore ways to restart global trade talks that fell apart last year, partly over the issue of agricultural subsidies.
The secretary-general appealed directly to his audience of mostly corporate executives to use their influence with governments to bring about freer trade.
He also urged efforts to rebuild the international collective security system to prevent the world from falling back into what he called brute competition based on the laws of the jungle.
Mr. Annan also warned that excessive concentration on the fight against terrorists and other security issues threatens to undermine human rights and civil liberties.