Press Releases


    9 October 1999

    Deputy Secretary-General Addresses Panel on Human Security
    Marking the 20th Anniversary of the Vienna International Centre

    VIENNA, 9 October (UN Information Service) -- Following is the statement by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to a high-level panel discussion on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Vienna International Centre (VIC) here today.

    Let me at the outset express a resounding "Happy 20th Anniversary" to the United Nations family in Vienna and to our partnership with the people and Government of Austria. The increasingly important role of our Vienna-based organizations has been matched throughout by the commitment and hospitality of the people and Government of our host country. On behalf of all the United Nations family, I congratulate you and thank you most sincerely for the wonderful contribution you are all making to the accomplishment of the United Nations’ mission.

    The issues of concern to the United Nations organizations based here in Vienna -- organized crime , drug trafficking , terrorism, nuclear safety, industrial development, trade law -- are of growing importance in this era of globalization and are indeed central to human security as we understand it on the eve of the 21st century.

    What do we mean by human security? We mean, in its most simple expression , all those things that men and women anywhere in the world cherish most: enough food for the family; adequate shelter; good health; schooling for the children; protection from violence whether inflicted by man or by nature; and a State which does not oppress its citizens but rules with their consent.

    From time immemorial, people have pursued these simple aspirations. What distinguishes our era is that their fulfilment depends increasingly on developments occurring in the four corners of the globe. Nowadays, no society can claim to be immune from outside influence. Threats travel more easily across borders. Drugs, nuclear proliferation, environmental degradation and AIDS are but a few of the phenomena we have come to know as "problems without passports". The globalization of economic activity is affecting every country’s economic prospects. It is bringing tremendous benefits to some, but many others have suffered because of it. New technology is disseminating knowledge and information and opening up potential economic opportunity to many people through the world. But globalization is leaving behind hundreds of millions of people who live in desperate poverty and have little prospects of realizing their potential. It heightens the risk of major disruptions in societies that are not prepared for it and presents new challenges for social cohesion and cultural diversity.

    Growing interdependencies among people and nations are reshaping our destinies. We must ensure that our ability to cope with global problems, and our willingness to share responsibility are keeping pace.

    The United Nations was founded precisely to provide a forum for the pursuit of common solutions to common problems. Even in 1945, our founders recognized the need to fight on two fronts to win the battle for human security: on the security front, where victory spells freedom from fear; and on the economic and social front, where victory spells freedom from want. The fundamental mission of the United Nations remains what it has been from the very beginning: preventing conflict where we can, and easing suffering where we cannot; fighting poverty, disease and inequality; improving our environment; enabling humankind to turn the dynamics of change into social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

    But in a world transformed by geopolitical, economic, technological and environmental changes whose lasting significance still eludes us, we must ensure that our Organization is capable of responding to the new realities.

    The role of the United Nations in matters of peace and security has evolved very significantly over the last decade. Many of the new peace-keeping missions deployed over this period involved the United Nations in situations of internal conflicts, often in response to pressures from public opinion to put an end to senseless bloodshed and massive violations of human rights. But as recent events relating to the Kosovo crisis illustrated all too well, there is as yet no consensus within the international communtiy regarding its rights and responsibilities in such circumstances.

    In a recent speech to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General invited the Member States to reflect upon this vital question. He argued forcefully that States should not be allowed to hide behind the rampart of their sovereignty to abuse the rights of their own citizens. He suggested that the international community should be prepared to act, including by using force in extreme cases, in order to stop such aggression. But he also underlined the dangers posed by decisions to use force taken outside the framework of the United Nations Charter and the authority of the Security Council.

    Our concerns for human security require that the international community forge a new consensus on these matters. Failure to do so would leave us with two equally undesirable options: action without authorization of the Security Council or disagreement within the Council preventing action while ethnic cleansing, mass deportations and murder continue under our very eyes.

    The United Nations is also adapting its action in the field of development to the new dynamics of globalization. The goal is to prevent further marginalization of entire countries and poorer segments of societies and to equip them to benefit from the advances of technology, open markets and private investments. Above all, we aim to reduce poverty and provide decent standards of living for all human beings. To achieve these goals, the support of donor countries continues to be essential: an increase in the levels of ODA, which have declined steadily over the past several years, and vigorous action on the debt front would make a real difference for those countries that are simply not ready yet to become players in the market place.

    More than ever, comprehensive strategies are required, strategies that address the complex interrelationships underpinning the development process and that ensure coherence among all the stakeholders, both within the developing countries and among the various donors.

    The reform programme of the Secretary-General was designed to revitalize our organizational machinery and to better position it for the highly complex, increasingly interconnected and far more fluid contexts of the new era. We can say with some satisfaction that the United Nations family today acts with greater unity of purpose and coherence of effort than it did a few years ago. A "quiet revolution" is underway, a revolution that results in better service to all our Member States.

    Whether we like it or not, our globalized age does bring global responsibility. In recent years, we have witnessed an entirely new phenomenon that is one of the happier consequences of globalization: an incipient sense of global citizenship and responsibility among all sectors of civil society. Individuals and groups animated by shared concerns, united by communications and supported by world public opinion have given voice to a new global people-power. They were a driving force behind the treaty banning anti-personnel mines two years ago, and the Statute for the establishment of the International Criminal Court last year.

    Increasingly, economic actors, too, recognize that their responsibilities -- and their interests -- lie not only in how their actions affect their shareholders, but in the way they affect all life on this planet.

    It was with this in mind that the Secretary-General proposed a "Global Compact" at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January. The compact challenges business leaders to embrace three sets of universal principles in the areas of human rights, core labour standards and the human environment. The International Labour Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Environment Programme are currently joining forces to encourage global corporate citizenship and to foster the translation of these principles into corporate practice.

    Human security is about people: their needs, their welfare, their aspirations. It touches everybody and it is the responsibility of everybody. International organizations, particularly the United Nations, will continue to play a central role in the pursuit of human security since they provide the indispensable framework for what Dag Hammarskjold used to call "organized international cooperation". Thus, this 20th anniversary of the Vienna International Centre will be followed by many more, I am sure. "Happy Anniversary" to all and let us wish that our work here continue to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

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