27 February 2003

Real Test of Usefulness of Conferences Is Whether They Make Difference in People's Lives, Says Deputy-Secretary-General

(Delayed in transmission.)

NEW YORK, 26 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks, as delivered, by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the Seminar on the Integrated and Coordinated Implementation of the Internationally Agreed Goals, Targets and Commitments at Country Level: Millennium Development Goals -- Opportunities and Challenges, in New York, on 14 February:

Unfortunately, I will be with you for a very short time, but I wanted to be here to say thank you for taking this initiative. Your country (Belgium), Mr. Ambassador, has demonstrated a real commitment to the cause of development, and you have played a leading role, in particular, by hosting this seminar. I think it is very much in keeping with your country's very active engagement to the cause of development, that you should be offering this forum and this platform to discuss the follow-up and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals at the country level.

I think the concept of country level is very welcome, because at the end of the day the real test of the usefulness of all these conferences is whether they make any difference in the lives of people. People don't live in the conference rooms at the United Nations; they live in their own countries and their own communities. This is where it has to happen. And I think the United Nations family has a big role to play to support national efforts towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Mark Malloch Brown, who will speak right after me is in a much better place than I am to say all that needs to be said about country levels. But I would like to underline the fact that we need continued engagement at the global level, as well. The Millennium Development Goals are the most compact expression of commitments and goals set by the international community, through a long process of international conferences and special sessions of the United Nations, all the way to Monterrey and Johannesburg. I think we have come to the end of that cycle, the cycle of norm-making, of setting priorities, of strategy- setting goals, and we really have a very rich programme.

Member States have wisely decided that the way forward, as we focus on implementation, is not to have more of these conferences and these major events, so as to really focus on where the energy is now needed, which is implementation. But we must bear in mind that much of the political mobilization that has taken place internationally around the goals and around the financing has happened because there were these processes that were complex, that involved big networks of support groups and the involvement of societies and non-governmental organizations and, increasingly, of the business community.

I think the big challenge that we have now is to find ways to ensure that we have means to maintain this global political engagement, without necessarily going through these complex processes of international conferences. It is in that context, I guess, that the work of this open group is really very important. I think that not only does it have to rationalize and clarify the role of the various United Nations organs in the integrated follow-up to conferences, but I hope it will apply its imagination and creativity to finding the right formula that will ensure that we continue to see, in the United Nations, real political commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the outcomes of the major conferences; to a process of monitoring of the progress, assessment of what has worked, of what has not worked; comparing experiences; and, very importantly, ensuring that there continues to be a commitment to provide the necessary resources for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

There is no doubt there that there is a big responsibility that rests on each and every government and community, but we also know that these goals will not be achievable unless there is a major and sustained effort on the part of those who have more means to provide the official development assistance (ODA), the access to markets, the stimulation of foreign direct investment that will generate the resources necessary to achieve the goals. I think that is one of the key responsibilities of the political organs of the United Nations, to ensure that we don't lose sight of these requirements and that we keep the political mobilization alive. I think we are entering in a new phase where we need action at both levels, at the country level, and at the global level. If we are successful at having really effective support for countries at the country level, and if we find ways to really keep these issues on the political agenda at the global level in all countries of the world, I think we still have a very good chance of achieving the goals that were set.

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