10 October 2003


NEW YORK, 9 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at a meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York today of the International Crisis Group:

I am pleased to be here with you this morning.  The International Crisis Group has a unique niche in policy analysis.  Your reports are especially helpful because they are issued in real time, rather than in retrospect.  We might not always agree with all the recommendations, but the analysis is always sharp and thoughtful and helps to make our decision-making better grounded.

You have come to United Nations Headquarters at a very charged moment for the Organization and for the human community it exists to serve.

The war in Iraq and its aftermath have brought us all face to face with a host of fundamental questions of principle and practice -- on the rule of law, the use of force, evolving notions of sovereignty, and the principles that have helped preserve us from another world war since 1945.  Add to that the setback in Cancun and other events, and you begin to sense that the consensus that appeared to be so solid behind the Millennium Declaration maybe is not quite as solid as it was three years ago.

Some countries see terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, transnational criminal networks and the ways in which these may be coming together to reinforce each other as self-evidently the dominant threats to peace and security.  These countries worry that the international architecture is not up to meeting them.  I urge you to read, if you haven’t already, the Secretary-General’s recent report on implementation of the Millennium Declaration, which deals at length with these so-called “hard threats”.

But in many and probably most other countries, other threats would surely register higher as the main priorities:  civil wars and other armed conflicts fought with conventional, even low-tech, weapons; AIDS and other diseases; poverty and environmental degradation; oppression and violations of human rights.  The people in developing countries have quite a different set of worries:  that their voices are not being heard, and that political will can be found for the former set of issues but not the latter, despite promises and pledges made at world conferences.

Our central challenge is to ensure we have the rules, instruments and institutions to deal with all these threats and issues -- how to integrate them into a comprehensive, cohesive agenda, how to deal with the hard threats without neglecting the soft threats.  After all, they are closely linked.  A world not advancing towards the Millennium Development Goals will not be at peace.  And a world awash in violence will have little chance of achieving the goals.

That is what led the Secretary-General to tell the General Assembly that the United Nations had come to something of a fork in the road, a moment that may well be as weighty as when the Organization’s founders gathered in San Francisco, and when equally far-reaching decisions are needed.

And that is why he is about to appoint a panel of wise men and women to examine ways to further strengthen the United Nations.  This should not be seen as a continuation of the reform process that he set in motion upon taking office.  That effort is still one of his priorities, and continues.  The new panel’s scope will be much broader.  First, it will look at major threats and challenges to peace and security -- hard and soft, new and old.  Then it will consider collective solutions or responses to those threats.  Only in the light of that analysis will it look at the international machinery, including the United Nations, and consider what improvements might be necessary.  The Secretary-General is expecting -- and, indeed, is hoping -- that those recommendations will be bold.

As I hope you know, a separate panel is already reviewing the range of relations between the United Nations and global civil society -- including groups such as your own.  That process, too, is essential for ensuring that United Nations processes and decisions are effective and have the greatest possible global legitimacy.

In the end, Governments will decide on these matters.  But I hope that groups such as the International Crisis Group will also make their views known, based on your rich experience both in the debates over core principles, and in the practices taken on the ground to address the challenges of our times.

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