— Kofi Annan
Truman Library address (2006)
Context: Governments must be accountable for their actions in the international arena, as well as in the domestic one.
— Today, the actions of one State can often have a decisive effect on the lives of people in other States. So does it not owe some account to those other States and their citizens, as well as to its own? I believe it does.
— As things stand, accountability between States is highly skewed. Poor and weak countries are easily held to account, because they need foreign assistance. But large and powerful States, whose actions have the greatest impact on others, can be constrained only by their own people, working through their domestic institutions.
— That gives the people and institutions of such powerful States a special responsibility to take account of global views and interests, as well as national ones. And today they need to take into account also the views of what, in UN jargon, we call “non-State actors”. I mean commercial corporations, charities and pressure groups, labor unions, philanthropic foundations, universities and think tanks — all the myriad forms in which people come together voluntarily to think about, or try to change, the world.
— None of these should be allowed to substitute itself for the State, or for the democratic process by which citizens choose their Governments and decide policy. But, they all have the capacity to influence political processes, on the international as well as the national level. States that try to ignore this are hiding their heads in the sand.