For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1673
Release Date: 1 September 2000
GA President, Addressing Presiding Officers of National Parliaments,
Sees Inter-Parliamentary Union Arriving “With a Bang” on UN Scene

VIENNA, 31 August (UN Headquarters) -- Let me, first of all, join my colleagues and co-workers at the United Nations in warmly welcoming you all in this people’s Assembly Hall, where I have the honour to preside over its deliberations currently.

Next week, Tuesday, 5 September, I will have handed over the Presidency of the General Assembly, after an extraordinary one-year tenure of office, to my worthy successor, former Prime Minister of Finland Harri Holkeri, President-designate of the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly.

In the same vein, I would like to mention that the historic Millennium Summit, which will formally open on Wednesday, 6 September, in this sainted Hall, will be co-chaired by the Heads of State of Finland and of Namibia, on account of the successive Presidencies of the Assembly by their respective countrymen. 

The other consideration is that one Head of State is from the South and the other from the North, not to mention the appropriate gender balance.  I will say a few things more about the Millennium Summit itself later on.  Suffice it to say, at this stage, that we are witnessing a happy convergence of people and energy at the United Nations for renewing commitment to the United Nations and to map out together a shared vision for the future.

We started last Monday with a Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization dialogue forum.  Religious and spiritual leaders followed, and this Conference is coinciding with theirs.  Still to follow are other high-level meetings, conferences and consultations of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Islamic Republic of Iran on dialogue among civilizations, United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Conference on Developing Corporate Strategies in the Fight against HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, a La Francophonie meeting, a meeting of the Group of 77 and China, and, not least, the Security Council’s own Millennium Summit.  I did not forget the earlier NGO Millennium Forum, as well as numerous other inspiring and related activities that were carried out at, or in conjunction with, the United Nations.

This is, indeed, a Millennium homecoming.  It is good for the United Nations and, no doubt, for global good governance, which itself requires some hard knocking in the best interest of democratization, transparency and accountability in international relations.

For now, I would like to personally underline the relevance and, indeed, the importance of this Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments.  The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is a global organization and it is, therefore, a natural ally of the United Nations.  Regrettably, this obvious reality had, for many years, failed to hit a home run.  That is, for a long time until very recently, when the IPU held a meeting at the United Nations in October 1999.

I had the honour of addressing that meeting last year and also held at that time fruitful discussions with Her Excellency Dr. Najma Heptulla, President of the IPU, as well as with some of the other Members of Parliament who attended that pioneering meeting.

On that occasion, I said, amongst other things, the following:  “Today, although I am here in my capacity as President of the fifty-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, I continue to serve as Foreign Minister of Namibia and a Member of Parliament.  I am thus very much part of you and the IPU.”

I continued and said, “When we met in Windhoek in April 1998, I shared my thoughts with the participants on key issues which I felt were of concern to all of us.  They included the current unipolarity of the world, democratization, challenges of globalization, regional cooperation, poverty eradication, unemployment, the worsening gap between the rich and the poor -- namely, industrialized and developing countries -- gender equality, alienation of youth, abuse of children, HIV/AIDS, wars and armed conflicts, including anti-personnel landmines, denuclearization, sustainable development, United Nations restructuring and democratization, as well as the protection of the environment.  All these issues remain relevant and urgent on the international agenda and constitute the business at hand for the United Nations.”

Against this background, it was a source of great satisfaction and an immense joy for me that what we had long dreamt of was finally realized.  The General Assembly unanimously adopted resolution A/RES/54/12 on 18 November 1999, entitled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union”.  The IPU has, at last, arrived -– but with a bang -– on the United Nations scene, never to look back or to walk away.  Let us celebrate this great victory.  Let us make this newly formalized relationship between the United Nations and the IPU constructive and lasting.

I want, for purposes of information, to read out the operative paragraphs of that resolution:

“The General Assembly,

“1.  Welcomes the support provided to the United Nations by national parliaments through their world organization, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and expresses the wish that the cooperation between the two organizations will be further strengthened and enhanced in the third millennium;

“2.  Also welcomes the information contained in the report of the Secretary-General regarding preparations made with his support by the Inter-Parliamentary Union to hold a conference of presiding officers of national parliaments in conjunction with the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, designated the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations, in the General Assembly Hall from 30 August to 1 September 2000;

“3.  Requests the Secretary-General to examine the possibilities of inviting the Inter-Parliamentary Union to report to the General Assembly at its fifty-fifth session (Millennium Assembly) on the outcome of the conference of presiding officers of national parliaments, and to report thereon before the end of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly;

“4.  Also requests the Secretary-General to submit a report to the General Assembly at its fifty-fifth session on the various aspects of cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union;

“5.  Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its fifty-fifth session the item entitled ‘Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union’.”

I must confess to you that I am exceedingly happy and emboldened this morning in the knowledge that it happened under my Presidency.

I am aware that not all of you are present at this crucial conference.  Some of the Speakers who had wanted to be here were prevented from coming and this for me is a source for deep distress.  We can never understand, nor condone, such unilateral actions.  We must speak up and take joint action against what we all clearly detest.

Now, a word or two about the Millennium Summit.  This will be a gathering of world leaders unlike anything ever before.  They will converge here not to list world problems, but to exchange views on them and, it is expected, to find solutions – answers -- to the world’s problems, and resolve, individually and collectively, to act.

Our indefatigable and innovative Secretary-General has prepared an excellent working document for consideration and action by the soon-to-be assembled world leaders and heads of delegations.  This document  the world’s future and the pivotal role of the United Nations in it.  I commend it highly.

At the conclusion of their deliberations on Friday, 8 September, the leaders will adopt a final declaration.  I have been honoured, as United Nations General Assembly President, to be superintending the drafting of the text of that declaration, with the assistance of my gifted and dedicated collaborators.

For me, the real meaning of social justice hinges on this pertinent question of people’s empower- ment.  The question is, what are the root causes of poverty in the developing countries?  From the world’s richest countries through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and also to the United Nations, the answer must come!  And the answer must include this aspect as well, namely, whether globalization and stringent structural adjustment programmes, said to be life-saving prescriptions, can really bring the much-needed relief to turn the situation of poverty and debt burden around in the Third World.  That is the question.  It is here where the opportune debate on financing for development comes in.  Parliamentarians are no strangers to this very necessary debate and I urge you to keep it up.

We hope to hear, in loud and clear words, the reaffirmation of commitment to the United Nations, its global mission, guided by the letter and spirit of the Charter; and to instil in the Organization a new impetus towards realizing our universal aspirations for peace, cooperation and development.  That is what we want our world leaders to be addressing.

Both the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union are unceasingly engaged in the search for global peace, justice and human security.  Let us now turn away from this place with a renewed commitment to act.

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