Press Releases

    15 October 2004

    Secretary-General, Noting Next Year’s Review of Millennium Development Goals, Urges Stronger Efforts to Meet Them

    Ongoing Crises in Sudan, and Urgent Need for Greater Help, also Stressed in Wide-Ranging Dublin Address to National Forum on Europe

    NEW YORK, 14 October (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of an address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Dublin today to the National Forum on Europe:

    It is truly a joy to be in Dublin, in Dublin Castle, and in the company of Irish men and women from all walks of life here at the National Forum on Europe.  I know that many visitors to your country claim a bit of Irish heritage.  Well, I’d love to, but I just can’t -- and frankly, even in the land of the

    Blarney Stone, I don’t think any of you would believe me if I did!

    However, I will say this.  There’s a little bit of Ireland in anyone who dreams of a day when no child will go to bed hungry.  There’s a little bit of Ireland in anyone who believes in fairness, or who dreams of a world in which all nations can choose their own destiny in freedom and peace.  And there’s a little bit of Ireland in the very notion of solidarity among men and women everywhere.  So if you will forgive me, I am proud to say that there’s a little bit of Ireland in me!

    And I’m very much looking forward to discussing Ireland’s relationship with the United Nations with President MacAleese, with the Taoiseach, and with Foreign Minister Ahern -- who I have no doubt I will enjoy working with closely, as I did with his predecessor, Brian Cowen.

    Ireland’s contribution to the United Nations is a rich one.  Ireland has served with distinction on many UN bodies -- including, of course, your recent tenure on the Security Council.  You have strongly pursued the cause of disarmament, taken the lead in managing sanctions on the UNITA rebels in Angola, and stressed the role of civilian effort in preventing and managing crises.

    The United Nations has been blessed to have both Irish civilian police and peacekeepers serve in many of our missions -- including the very first large-scale peacekeeping operation in the 1960s, in the Congo.  For many years, Irish troops were the bulwark of UNIFIL in Lebanon.  Irish soldiers and police are serving proudly under the blue flag in a number of trouble spots today.

    Ireland is committed to the cause of development, working to boost your overseas aid and to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa, all in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals.  Many Irish citizens are dedicated UN staff members.  And many more work in NGOs as partners of the UN.  Ireland reminds the world that all human beings deserve all human rights, as my friend and former colleague, Mary Robinson, puts it.  The Irish people don’t just preach multilateralism -- they practise it.

    Yet today, the promise of peace and development seems to be in question.  We live in an era where some people fear deadly attacks at the hands of terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction.  Others fear genocide or massive violations of their human rights by their own governments or their neighbours.  Millions are dying from HIV/AIDS.  And billions still live on less than a dollar a day.  We have huge problems on our hands, and terrible suffering in our world.  And anyone who believes in collective responses to our common problems must be disturbed at the course of events in the past few years.  It is clear that both individual states and the organizations they belong to -- including the United Nations -- must do better.

    I’m determined to do whatever I can to make sure that we do.  I want to help the world seize this moment of flux and crisis in world affairs and make sure we get something positive out of it.  To help Member States do that, I appointed a High-Level Panel of eminent people last year.  I asked it to analyse the threats we face, to provide a tough evaluation of our existing capacities to meet them, and to recommend changes in the doctrines and structures of the international system, so that we are better able to mount an effective collective response.  I emphasize -- a collective response.

    The Panel’s report is due in December.  It will set the stage for next September, when world leaders will meet in New York.  It will be their responsibility to find common ground, and make bold decisions about the future of the international system, if the twenty-first century is to have the kind of United Nations it so desperately needs.  If 2003 was a year of deep division, and 2004 has been a year of sober reflection, 2005 must be a year of bold action.

    That action must cover not only the peace and security agenda.  Next year’s high-level meeting will, in fact, be held five years after the adoption of the Millennium Declaration.  World leaders will be reviewing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.  Perhaps everyone here knows the eight goals by heart.  But just in case some of you don’t, let me remind you that they range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensuring universal primary education -- all by the target date of 2015.  We have eleven years left to get there.

    We can do it -- we must do it -- but we will do it only if rich countries start doing their fair share.  I appreciate Ireland’s commitment to meet its promise of providing 0.7 per cent of its GDP in overseas development assistance.  I add my voice to many Irish voices reminding all rich countries that they have made promises on aid, on debt relief and on fair trade, and that they must live up to them.  Bono said the other day:  “It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.”  And he’s right.  But it’s also about being smart.  As long as billions of people have little hope of a better life, our world has no hope of being stable and secure.  It is both the moral duty and the enlightened self-interest of all rich countries to help the developing world fight poverty, inequality and injustice.  The cause of development is the cause of peace.

    At a venue such as this, I know I am speaking to you as citizens of Ireland and of Europe as well.  The European Union and the UN both emerged from the ashes of the Second World War.  Their close cooperation is vital to the promise of peace through multilateralism.  And I am pleased to say that our cooperation was taken to a new level during the recent Irish presidency, for which I thank the Irish Government today. 

    The European Union and its member States pay a lot of the UN’s bills, and support our work right across the spectrum.  I am deeply grateful for that -- but I look to Europe for even more.  That’s why I welcome the development of European Union capabilities in the context of the European Security and Defence Policy, and the progress that we are making together in the field of crisis management. 

    During the Italian Presidency, we signed the joint UN-EU Declaration on crisis management.  But it was during the Irish Presidency that we worked hard on the basis of the declaration to make sure that our cooperation was structured, substantive, and broad-based:

    -- Structured, because it occurs in the framework of a joint consultative mechanism;

    -- Substantive, because it has focused on concrete operational issues -- planning, training, communication and best practices;

    -- And broad-based, because it covers the spectrum of conflict management, from prevention to peacekeeping to post-conflict peace-building, and includes both its military and civilian components.

    I want to leave you in no doubt of how important strengthened EU capacities are to the UN.  The EU is in a position to provide specialized skills that our largest troop contributors may not be able to give us, and to deploy more rapidly than we can.  Many people are alive today because of the French-led Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which in turn handed over to a UN operation.  Artemis pre-dated the Joint Declaration, but it is a model of EU cooperation with the UN, based on the primary role of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security.

    Of course, the European Security and Defence Policy must not mean a weakening of the commitment of EU member States to providing traditional blue helmets for UN peacekeeping missions.  Today, the UN faces a surge in demand for peacekeeping.  In the last nine months, with five new operations either deployed or on the drawing board, the demand on our peacekeeping has jumped by about

    50 per cent.  We have around 56,000 troops and military observers deployed today.  But we desperately need another 30,000 of them -- not to mention many more civilian personnel, both police and others.

    Yet today, less than one in ten UN peacekeepers is from an EU country.  And in Africa, where most of our peacekeepers are deployed, the proportion drops to less than one in twenty.  I am glad to say that the Irish are bucking this trend.  Ireland is making a vital contribution on the ground in Liberia.  I hope that other European nations will follow your lead.  While I recognize the many complex demands on European military forces, our starting point must be one of commitment to the Charter and solidarity with our fellow men and women -- regardless of

    whether they live in Kosovo or Darfur or Afghanistan or the Congo.  And the presence of troops from the range of UN Member States sends a critical signal that the international community is determined and united in the pursuit of peace.

    But we don’t just need troops.  Civilians do much of the most important work in crisis management, to address the root causes of conflict and build long-term peace.  The Security Council has stressed the importance of civilian contributions to crisis management, and my good friend, Javier Solana, recently came to the Council to speak on the EU’s developing capacity in this area.  I particularly welcome the effort the EU is making to have a cadre of qualified, specialized civilian staff ready to be deployed at short notice.

    I cannot leave this topic without mentioning the terrible crisis in Sudan.  Events in Darfur have shocked the conscience of the world, and stirred memories of horrors we saw in other parts of Africa a decade ago.  From the outset, the United Nations has responded to the humanitarian emergency in Darfur, as have a number of our NGO partners.  But security for civilians, and for humanitarian workers, is still a major problem.  The African Union, with the support of the Security Council, has stepped forward to lead the political and security response.  I welcome the support that has been forthcoming from the EU, including the funds it has committed through the African Peace Facility.

    But let me be very frank:  much more help is needed.  Darfur is an enormous region and a huge number of people are suffering.  The humanitarian effort needs more money.  And the African Union needs concrete support -- including logistics, equipment and financing, as well as political pressure on the parties.  Every country and organization that can help must do so, now.

    The promise of the UN and the EU, and of the AU too, is a promise of peace through multilateralism.  We have to prove that these institutions, each in their different ways, can be equal to the task.  That means reforming them when we have to.  But it also means making full use of them.  Our common security, and our common mankind, demand nothing less.

    I have a feeling that the people of Ireland know that very well.  After all, it was an Irishman, Seamus Heaney, who spoke of a “republic of conscience”.  And it is he who reminds us that, when we are asked, who is our neighbour, we must answer:  “All of humanity”.

    So I say to you, my neighbours and friends:  “Go raibh maith agaibh” [guh-rev-MUHH-agwiv]!  I hope and pray to the Good Lord that that sounds something like “Thank you”!

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