Press Releases

          20 October 2004

    Parliamentarians Can Do Much to Help Meet Global Challenges, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Inter-Parliamentary Union

    NEW YORK, 19 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks delivered by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the annual United Nations parliamentary hearing of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) today in New York:

    I am delighted to welcome you to the United Nations.  Your presence here today is a sign of your commitment to the UN, and the Secretary-General and I are greatly encouraged by it.

    We are also very glad to support communication among you as parliamentarians, and your engagement with international institutions. After all, the issues you deal with often extend beyond national borders. You can help build national consensus and bridges of international understanding that are necessary for international action. You also have the power to ensure effective follow-up to international agreements at home.

    In less than a year, world leaders will meet for the General Assembly high-level meeting to review the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, which was adopted four years ago by all countries as a blueprint for a better world.  That meeting will be a chance for Member States to renew their commitment to the Millennium Declaration.  And it will be an opportunity to renew the UN itself, at a time when nearly everyone agrees that the Organization is both desperately needed -- and desperately in need of change.

    To help Member States find common ground to make the changes necessary, the Secretary-General has appointed a High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. Eminent men and women from many countries are serving on the Panel, and they have consulted widely as they have proceeded with their work.  The Secretary-General has asked the Panel to do three things:

    -- First, to provide a rigorous analysis of today’s threats -- including in the economic and social realm, to the extent that they influence peace and security;

    -- Second, to give a tough and honest evaluation of our existing policies and institutions; and

    -- Third, to look at the UN itself, and to recommend the changes we need for the UN to be effective against the threats of the twenty-first century.

    The Panel will report by early December.  The Secretary-General hopes that the report will help all Member States come to next year’s high-level event ready to take far-reaching decisions to renew the United Nations -- and make it a more legitimate and effective instrument in mounting a collective response to the threats of our age.

    That will be one key task in the year ahead. The other will be to re-invigorate the global commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. I am sure you are all familiar with the MDGs, but let me remind you of the targets, to be achieved by 2015:

    -- To halve extreme poverty and hunger;

    -- To make primary education available to all girls and boys;

    -- To ensure gender equality;

    -- To reduce child mortality, and improve maternal health;

    -- To stop and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis;

    -- To strive for environmental sustainability; and

    -- To work for global cooperation in terms of aid, trade and debt relief.

    As we survey global progress towards the Goals, we see a mixed picture.  Across many parts of the developing world, there have been real development gains -- especially in Asia.  The other side of the development trend story is quite different -- the one that depicts the situation in poorer countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, and least developed countries in other regions.  Overall, it is clear that progress to date in meeting the MDGs has been uneven at best.  There clearly is no time to lose if we are to reach the Goals by the target date of 2015.

    We must reach the Goals -- and we can reach the Goals.  But we will only do so if the eighth Goal -- the forging of a true global partnership for development -- is pursued with a greater sense of commitment and urgency. Developing countries must take the necessary steps at home, including tackling corruption and strengthening good governance. But those efforts must also be accompanied by international support, in the form of development aid and debt relief, and progress in securing market access for the products of developing countries.

    Each of you, as parliamentarians, can do a lot to help the world meet these great challenges -- by focusing attention on them, by educating your constituents about them, and by working to build consensus amongst your fellow parliamentarians on their vital importance for the long-term future of the world.

    The issues you are focusing on in this hearing -- disarmament, peace-building and peacekeeping -- are central to the challenges confronting the world today.  Without progress on each of them, we will not achieve our goal of sustainable peace and security for all.  Nor can we hope for the development process to flourish in conditions of insecurity.

    On the question of disarmament, parliamentary action to implement multilateral mandates and treaties is vital.  Last April, the Security Council adopted resolution 1540, which requires all Member States to adopt legislative and enforcement measures, and to establish domestic controls, in order to prevent non-State actors from gaining access to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or delivery systems.  The Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, adopted by Member States in 2001, also requires domestic legislative action on the part of its signatories.

    On peace-building, the UN’s work is wide-ranging -- involving not just the policing of ceasefires, but working to tackle the root causes of conflict and to help people in fractured societies build lasting peace.  Parliamentarians can help by taking a broad view of peace, and by supporting efforts to involve all sectors of society -- including women -- in peace-building efforts.

    We must not only take a broad view of peace -- we must also take a long view.  All too often, an initial burst of international attention and commitment to a peace-building effort withers away, leaving the root causes of conflict to fester.  For instance, in Haiti, we had a peacekeeping mission in the mid-1990s, and trained a new police force.  And then we left -- along with other international institutions -- before a viable peace had taken root.  Now we are back, with much of what we did before swept away -- almost literally, as the recent floods have laid bare the legacy of years of misrule.  The lesson is that the international community must stay engaged over the long term -- a lesson that is being applied today in places like Sierra Leone and East Timor, where I believe we are doing a better job of staying the course.  And in Haiti itself, we are structuring our new mission for the long term.

    But our missions can only be successful if they have the resources they need -- and today, UN peacekeeping needs more support.  We already have around 56,000 troops and military observers deployed, alongside thousands of civilians.  Yet we face a surge in demand for such operations, and desperately need another 30,000 troops and military observers -- not to mention many more civilian personnel, both police and others -- to help the societies in which we are engaged to emerge from the shadow of conflict and re-establish confidence in the rule of law.

    I ask each of you to work with your home governments to help answer the urgent global call for UN blue helmets, civilian police, and political and financial support for peace operations.  And in making that appeal, I remind you all that United Nations peace operations are an excellent investment.  In the entire history of the United Nations, just over $30 billion has been spent on our peacekeeping operations.  That’s just one thirtieth of the amount that was spent last year alone on global military expenditures.

    In closing, let me thank the IPU for its unwavering support of the UN.  Our cooperation was taken to a new level when the General Assembly accorded the Inter-Parliamentary Union observer status -- and we look forward to it continuing to develop in the future.

    And let me thank each of you for the work you are doing to advance the causes of peace and development.  As the Secretary-General stressed in his recent report, following on from the work of the Panel of Eminent Persons on UN relations with Civil Society, we would like to make our partnership with parliamentarians even stronger than it already is.  And we hope that you share that wish.

    In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful hearing.

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