30 October 2003


NEW YORK, 29 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks delivered by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the Peace and Security Funders Group today:

It is a pleasure to welcome you to United Nations Headquarters.

The United Nations greatly welcomes the generous support that you provide to this Organization and to others carrying out activities in the vital realm of peace and security.

But your contributions are far more than financial.  Your expertise and energies also have a tremendous impact on the policy-making process, whether you participate in official proceedings at United Nations conferences, in Security Council debates under the “Arria formula”, or simply in informal discussions.

You are also a crucial intermediary between the United Nations and public opinion -- bringing the urgent concerns of the global public to the United Nations, and taking back to that public, from your encounters here, a sense of what is being done to address those concerns.

Finally, and just as important, you have great power to mobilize people at home in your own countries -- for that is where, ultimately, change must emerge, coalesce and take place.

The relationship between the United Nations and members of civil society such as yourselves has greatly intensified in the past 15 years, and for the most part has been very rewarding for governments and civil society alike.  At the same time, I think we all sense that some real challenges have come to the fore -- such as the sheer numbers of non-governmental organizations, foundations and other groups seeking to participate and the quality of that participation.  As you know, the Secretary-General felt some stocktaking was in order and appointed a panel of eminent persons to study the UN-civil society relationship in all its aspects.  That panel, chaired by former President Cardoso of Brazil, is expected to report early in the new year.

There is also important stocktaking going on in your primary area of concern:  the field of peace and security.

Three years ago, in the Millennium Declaration, world leaders committed themselves to address common threats to peace and security, to meet agreed development goals, and to advance human rights and democracy.  But while that vision remains valid, events of the past year have upset the consensus behind it.


The war in Iraq and its aftermath have brought us face to face with a host of fundamental questions of principle and practice -- on the use of force, on the rule of law, evolving notions of sovereignty, and the principles that have helped preserve us from another world war since 1945.  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” or new 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 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 new panel of wise men and women to examine ways to further strengthen the United Nations.  The new panel’s scope will be quite broad.  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 these 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.

In the end, governments will decide on these matters.  But they, and we in the Secretariat, will be that much better prepared for all of these challenges with your involvement and insights.  Thank you very much.


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