17 November 2003


NEW YORK, 14 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Congress of Bolivia in La Paz, 13 November:

It is a great pleasure to be making my first visit to Bolivia.  And it is an honour, indeed, to address the Bolivian Congress.  Your country has many special places:  this dramatic city, the highest capital in the world; spectacular Andean mountainscapes; and Lake Titicaca, revered by the indigenous peoples who inhabit its shores, to name just a few.

In that brilliant constellation, this Congress itself is, in a different way, one of the brightest stars.  For it is here that the laws of the land are made:  laws affecting your people’s livelihoods and living conditions, their health and homes, the well-being of their children, their very freedoms.  And, as we have seen in recent weeks, this Congress has a central role to play in times of crisis, when it alone can take the most vital decisions about the country’s direction and leadership.

So I come to this place, at this demanding time for your country, with a message from the international community -- a message of solidarity with your efforts to achieve lasting peace, democracy and development.  It is heartening that, with your active engagement, a constitutional solution to the crisis was found.  That speaks loudly of your determination to make democracy work.  You understood that, so far from being sacrificed to concerns about globalization or frustration with the results of economic and political reform, democracy can and must be the instrument through which those concerns are both voiced and answered.

Difficult though this period of transition is, and terrible though the loss of life has been, I believe you have rightly recognized that this is also a moment of opportunity.

The anti-corruption measures the Government has announced should help to build trust in the political system and government institutions.  And next month, when the United Nations Convention against Corruption is opened for signature at Mérida in Mexico, you have an opportunity to join with many other countries in the struggle to defeat this sinister and tenacious obstacle to development throughout the world.

The creation of a new Ministry of Indigenous Affairs is likewise a very important step in combating the long-standing discrimination against, and marginalization of, communities that actually form the majority of your population.  Participation and inclusiveness are among the hallmarks of democracy.  It is hard to imagine lasting social peace and prosperity anywhere in the world where indigenous peoples do not enjoy safeguards for their traditions, languages and knowledge, or where they are denied the chance to play a meaningful part in the economic and political life of their country.

I know that Bolivia is moving ahead on other fronts, as well, as you battle to overcome the constraints of being a landlocked country beset by economic problems.  You have been paying greater attention to equality in the social sector, in particular giving greater power and opportunities to women, widening access to education, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and achieving the other Millennium Development Goals.  You are pursuing policies to ensure access and secure title to land. You are making efforts to maintain macroeconomic stability -- and for that purpose, the implementation of your fiscal laws and the pursuit of structural reforms will help.  And you are wrestling with the threat posed by drug-trafficking -- by focusing on programmes that provide sustainable alternative livelihoods, and here, too, by trying to increase popular participation in decision-making.

You should not be left alone in these efforts.  International assistance must expand -- especially now, when there is both an opening and a sign of will to address root causes.  This assistance should include grants and concessional loans to combat poverty and sustain social safety nets.

The United Nations, for its part, following discussions with the Government, will be increasing its assistance in a number of areas, from quick-impact projects involving health, education, employment and public works, to public sector and constitutional reform. You yourselves, the Bolivian Congress, have requested assistance from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and others in investigating the recent violence.  Let me assure you of our strong commitment to this effort. I know the Government only yesterday sent a letter seeking help to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and I am sure it will be promptly available.

But international assistance also means debt relief and more effective development aid.  Even more important is an end to the subsidies that rich countries pay to their farmers, along with the tariffs and other obstacles that are unfairly denying you your best chance to achieve prosperity.  I hope that you and other developing countries will soon win a bigger say in international decision-making, so that you have a better chance to ensure that your efforts to adapt your economy to the global marketplace are recognized and rewarded.

But, I cannot conceal from you the fact that our international system is currently under great stress -- not only in the area of trade and economic governance, but also in that of peace and security.  There are deep cleavages on basic principles, as we saw with the war in Iraq.  Some of our international institutions and mechanisms are showing their age, or suffer from what might be called a “democratic deficit”.

It is with that in mind that I have called for a radical review of the international system, to see how it might need to be adapted to cope with the threats and challenges of the new century. To assist in that process, I have just appointed a panel of eminent persons, to be chaired by former Prime Minister Anand of Thailand and whose membership includes two distinguished Latin Americans. The Panel will focus primarily on threats to peace and security. But it will also need to examine other global challenges, including those in the economic and social realms, in so far as these may influence or connect with those threats. 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 major organs of the United Nations, and consider what improvements might be necessary. I have asked the Panel to report in time for me to make recommendations to the next session of the General Assembly.

The ultimate decisions -- decisions to modify the rules of the system, or the institutions that manage it -- can only be taken by the Member States.  That means not only governments but also you, the parliamentarians. Even if the changes decided do not require formal parliamentary ratification, they should be the result of wide-ranging discussion within States, as well as between them.  The peoples of the world, in whose name the United Nations was founded, must feel fully represented in the decision-making process.  So it is clear that national parliaments like this one have a vital role to play.

In other words, your responsibilities are not only national. In an era of accelerating interdependence, your international role is more pivotal than ever.  Globalization means that States have no choice but to integrate themselves into the global economy.  Therefore, it is vital that their legislators put in place legal and regulatory frameworks that promote investment and liberate their peoples’ creative and entrepreneurial energies.  And since most of today's major problems -- such as environmental degradation, drug trafficking and the spread of diseases such as AIDS -- transcend borders, countries must cooperate with each other even more than in the past.  If at one time parliamentarians were mainly the link between the local and the national, today you are also the meeting point where the local and the global come together.

And together is where we must stay -- as partners, and as firm believers in multilateralism and the United Nations Charter.  Your country is a place of great human dynamism, and extraordinary ecological diversity.  You have now embarked on a historic transition.  And you are proving yourselves ready to struggle and sacrifice in your efforts to achieve social justice and the common good.  With dialogue and accountability, and through the deliberative process that is the hallmark of this Congress, I have every hope that you can succeed.  I look forward to working closely with you towards a better day for all Bolivians, and a better world for all the world’s people.

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