Press Releases

                                                                                                                            31 March 2004

    Deputy Secretary-General Calls for Increased Support by European Union for Millennium Goals, UN Peacekeeping

    NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the address by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, 29 March:

    It is a pleasure and an honour to address you today. The European Parliament is a unique institution.  It lends democratic legitimacy to the enterprise of European integration, one of the most remarkable projects in human cooperation undertaken in modern history.

    The European Union and the United Nations are natural partners.  We are founded on the same universal values of peace, freedom, social progress, human rights and dignity.  Increasingly, we are working together in new and more productive ways.  I am grateful to you, and to the European Parliament as a whole, for your efforts in helping to make this happen.

    Over the past year, we have improved our joint structures and mechanisms for humanitarian assistance, and we have broken new ground in cooperation on conflict prevention and crisis management.

    So, I am delighted to be able to speak to you today about some of the big challenges on the United Nations agenda -- challenges that render the strengthened cooperation between our two institutions absolutely crucial.

    Nowhere is our vibrant relationship more important than in the work for development worldwide.

    As you know, the international community is currently mounting a new, coherent and eminently feasible attack on global poverty, focused on the Millennium Development Goals.

    The Goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of major diseases and providing universal primary education -- all by the target date of 2015.  They represent a set of simple but powerful objectives that every man and woman in the street -- from Strasbourg to Santiago to Suleimaniyah -- can easily understand and support.

    But although there have been some successes, so far overall progress on the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven at best.  There is no rising tide in the global economy that will lift all boats.  Sound development strategies and good, democratic governance are paramount.  Equally needed is a true partnership of developed and developing countries.

    In addition, a real development trade round, with an elimination of agricultural subsidies and increased access of poor countries to developed markets, would provide a significant boost to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    To meet the Millennium Development Goals, at least $50 billion in further aid is required annually -- on top of domestic resources.  That may sound like a lot, but it is only one seventh the amount rich countries currently spend on agricultural subsidies.  The European Union has made great strides in increasing official development assistance (ODA), but more needs to be done.  And taken together with a real development trade round, it would be a cheap investment, given the likely returns in terms of peace, security and equitable economic growth.

    I am delighted that the European Union is undertaking some excellent initiatives to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

    Take, for example, the goal of halving, by 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

    The European Union Water Initiative is a commendable effort, in that it seeks to mobilize and bring together governments, civil society, the private sector and the science community in the work to reach the water goal.  The Initiative rightly goes far beyond conventional means and aid patterns, providing for coordination and cooperation at all levels, including among countries that share river basins and other water resources.

    It also dovetails well with the work of the UN family.  Our programmes range from integrated water resources assessment and management, water and sanitation in schools and ensuring “more crop per drop” in agriculture, to environmental and water quality issues, as well as isotope tracing to assess groundwater.

    By the same token, we hope for strengthened collaboration with the EU on the goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.

    Let us be clear:  the AIDS epidemic is far from over.  Quite the opposite -- it is still in its infancy.  Experts now agree that HIV/AIDS is the worst epidemic humanity has ever faced.  It has spread further, faster and with more catastrophic long-term effects than any other disease.  Its impact has become a devastating obstacle to development.

    But, at the same time, we are making real progress in our response.  For much of the international community, the magnitude of the AIDS crisis has finally begun to sink in.  At no time in the two decades of dealing with this catastrophe has there been such a sense of common resolve and collective responsibility.

    In the few short years since its creation, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has made remarkable headway.  As a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and affected communities, the Global Fund represents an innovative approach to international health financing. This considerable scaling-up of resources is already supporting aggressive interventions. Through the Fund’s contributions to new and existing programmes, as well as support from the UN system and other partners to national AIDS responses, millions of lives can be saved.

    One of the most important new global programmes is the "three by five" initiative -- an effort by the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to provide antiretroviral therapy for 3 million people by the end of 2005. It was created because currently, 6 million people infected with HIV in the developing world need access to anti-retroviral therapy to survive.  Only 400,000 have such access. Addressing this global health emergency requires concerted, sustained action by many partners -- as reflected in the "three by five" strategic framework.  I’m sure we can rely on Europe to play its part.

    While keeping our attention on the Millennium Development Goals, we must also show that we are capable of meeting the increasing demands on our peacekeeping capacity that we expect in the months and years ahead.

    Today, the UN Department of Peacekeeping is responsible for 15 operations around the world.  Seven of those are multidimensional -- that is, they deal not only with issues related to security, but also with political aspects, human rights, humanitarian concerns, the rule of law, police activities, and other elements vital to assisting a country’s transition from conflict to peace.

    While the UN is currently drawing down its mission in Sierra Leone, Liberia has just become our largest peacekeeping operation, with a troop strength expected soon to reach almost 15,000.

    The total number of personnel in UN operations around the world -- uniformed and civilian -- stands at almost 60,000.

    Sustaining those figures would be challenging enough, to be sure.  But we are now also preparing for a range of new operations -- in Burundi, in Haiti, in Iraq, and in the Sudan.  In addition, we will be scaling up our mission in Côte d’Ivoire.  And if all goes well in current negotiations over Cyprus, we would face new and expanded responsibilities in supporting the implementation of a peace agreement on the island.

    All that means that by the middle of this year, the total number of uniformed and civilian personnel in UN operations be as high as 80,000.

    The challenges faced cannot be measured in quantitative terms alone.  For example, when we look at UN operations in Afghanistan, Iraq or Kosovo, the complexity of the responsibilities assigned to them, and the fragility of the political context in which they are deployed, suggest that these three operations alone will demand a great deal of high-level attention throughout the remainder of this year.

    While much progress has been achieved in Afghanistan over the past two years, including the adoption of a new Constitution, some of the most crucial challenges remain -- first and foremost, the challenge of security.  Without security, it will not be possible to hold elections, which we all very much hope will take place this year.

    In Iraq, the extent of the UN’s role is yet to be defined.  But whatever the wishes of Iraq, or the mandate of the Security Council, we can anticipate delicate and dangerous assignments ahead.

    In Kosovo, recent tragic events have demonstrated that we are still far from success in building a multi-ethnic society in which the rights of all Kosovo’s people are protected.  Clearly, the international community's presence remains vital to ensuring stability there.

    Of course, the surge in operations is, in some respects, good news.  It reflects the fact that several conflicts are coming to an end, or at least, becoming manageable -- and that the international community is prepared to deal with them through multilateral instruments.

    But, at the same time, it will stretch, to the limit and beyond, the UN’s capacities to plan, prepare and manage these operations.  We must take steps to ensure that our management systems are primed to respond to this potential surge.  Just as vital, however, will be the support and the political determination to stay the course that only the Security Council and the Member States of the UN can provide.

    We will also need to rely on our partners, including regional organizations -- and especially, the European Union.  Currently, only about 7 per cent of troops and civilian police deployed on UN peacekeeping missions come from European Union countries.

    We fervently hope for more.  As EU member States, you have a unique capacity to field the well equipped, well trained and proficient troops that form the glue of any successful peacekeeping operation. Your specialized and enabling units greatly improve efficiency -- whether in communications, air traffic control, intelligence, logistics, or rapid response. This has been demonstrated by the European participation in SHIRBRIG -- the Standby High Readiness Brigade for UN operations; and by the European Union-led operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    There are some welcome signs that troop contributions from EU States are on the rise.  Look at, for instance, the Swedish troops serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the contingent from Ireland currently deployed in Liberia.

    We also expect that the European Union will actively contribute to the much-needed enhancement of the capacity of African States to conduct peace operations on their own continent, and we will welcome the European Union projects to train the integrated police and assist in the rule-of-law programmes conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Naturally, we take an avid interest in the initiative of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy to make up to nine “battle groups” available for deployment at short notice in support of operations mandated by the United Nations.  We see this capacity, scheduled to become operational by 2007, as a significant contribution to UN-EU cooperation in crisis management activities.  It can also help keep troubled areas peaceful while humanitarian and development programmes -- to which the European Union is the world's largest contributor -- can take hold.

    As a regional organization, the EU has demonstrated its unique capacity to contribute meaningfully to UN and other multilateral operations.  It is clear that if rising demands for peacekeeping are to be met, EU member States -- and, indeed, all UN Member States -- will need to raise their commitment substantially.

    We look to you not only for military resources, but also for civilian police and civilian experts; and for timely investment in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as in the strengthening of institutions.

    Equally, we look to you for support in meeting pressing humanitarian needs around the world –- in particular, those which are currently compounded by being overlooked, under-reported and under-funded.

    In the Darfur region of the Sudan, fighting between rebel groups, armed militia, and government forces is bringing with it killings, rapes and forced displacement on a scale that makes the humanitarian crisis there among the worst in the world.  Systematic violence against civilians is leaving hundreds of thousands of displaced persons cut off from aid, and placing those who can receive it at greater risk of attack.

    In northern Uganda, as the war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda has intensified over the past year, the number of people driven from their homes has risen from 800,000 to 1.5 million.

    In the Central African Republic, where an estimated 95 per cent of the population live on less than a dollar a day, a combination of political tension, economic stagnation, insecurity, disruption of health care, and high levels of malnutrition among children could lead to a grave humanitarian crisis in the coming months.

    I am sure I speak for all of us in saying that the past year has been a difficult one, marked perhaps more than anything by the war in Iraq and the events related to it.  Those events raised a number of wider questions about the nature of the challenges we face, and about the ability of the multilateral system to deal with them.  They have underlined the pressing need to make the United Nations a more effective instrument in meeting threats to global security in the twenty-first century.

    This means re-evaluating our existing capacities, as well as building new capacities to meet the threats and challenges ahead.  And that is why, in November, the Secretary-General appointed a High-Level Panel to examine the threats we face, evaluate our existing policies, processes and institutions, and make bold recommendations for change.

    The Charter of the United Nations is very clear. States have the right to defend themselves -- and each other -- if attacked.  But the first purpose of the United Nations itself, laid down in Article 1, is “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”.

    We must show that the United Nations is capable of fulfilling that purpose, not just for the most privileged members of the Organization, who are currently -- and understandably -- preoccupied with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations must also protect millions of our fellow men and women from the more familiar threats of poverty, hunger, deadly disease and civil war.  We must understand that a threat to some is a threat to all.

    On all the challenges confronting the international community, the voice of the European Parliament is a powerful weapon in mobilizing political will.  With the enlargement of the European Union in May, when your Parliament will represent 450 million Europeans, that voice will grow even more powerful.

    I very much hope the United Nations will be able to count on your support in the work ahead.  And now I look forward to answering your questions.

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