Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message for the New Year, 2004:

Dear Peoples of the United Nations,
Your Organization, which I have the honour to serve, has just been through one of the hardest years in its history.

We have seen war in Iraq, and deep divisions among nations, about grave issues of war and peace. On 19 August, in a bomb attack on our headquarters in Baghdad, we lost some of our best and most beloved colleagues.

These events have distracted the world's leaders from dealing with other threats -– threats which, to most people, are more immediate, and more real.

I mean the threats of extreme poverty and hunger, unsafe drinking water, environmental degradation, and endemic or infectious disease.
These dangers stalk large parts of our planet.

They kill millions and millions of people every year.

They destroy societies.

They fuel division and desperation.

After a year of war and division, it's time to focus more of our energy on people's health and welfare.

It's time to make sure that poor countries have a real opportunity to develop.

And it's time we took decisive action to save the resources of our planet.

Yes, we have to fight terrorism. Yes, we must prevent the spread of deadly weapons.

But let's also say Yes to development. Let's bring hope into the lives of those who suffer.

Without development and hope, there will be no peace.

Just over three years ago, at the Millennium Summit, leaders of all nations pledged to provide that hope. They set themselves precise, time-bound targets -– the Millennium Development Goals .

To meet these Goals would cost only a fraction of what our world spends on weapons of war. Yet it would bring hope to billions, and greater security to us all.

But in 2003 we did not live up to these promises. We let ourselves be swept along by the tide of war and division.

2004 must be different. It must be the year when we begin to turn the tide.

We can turn the tide against HIV/AIDS, if we act on the “three-by-five” initiative –- the World Health Organization's plan to get three million people on anti-retroviral treatment by 2005.

It's a bold target, but it can be met -– if rich countries, poor and afflicted countries, governments, civil society, the private sector, and the United Nations system all pull together -– and if the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is fully funded.