24 February 2005

September Summit Must Be Venue for World Leaders to Take Important Decisions, Deputy Secretary-General Tells European Parliament

She Emphasizes Need for Event to Avoid Ritualistic Stock-Taking, Reiteration of Long-Standing Promises

NEW YORK, 23 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette’s remarks to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament as delivered in Strasbourg, today, 23 February 2005:

First I want to thank you very much for that warm welcome.  It is a pleasure to join you today.  This visit is yet another welcome step in deepening the relationship between the United Nations and the European Parliament, as well as the other institutions of the European Union.  We are natural partners, and I want to reiterate to you the great importance that the Secretary-General and all of us at the United Nations attach to these ties.

Indeed, I am glad and very encouraged that you have become so actively engaged in discussing the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which was issued last December.

The Panel’s recommendations are now at the heart of efforts by the international community and the United Nations to improve the way we address the threats of our times -- from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to organized crime, poverty, armed conflict and the spread of disease.

But the Panel’s report should also be seen as part of a wider process of reform and renewal.  That process will culminate in September, when Member States meet at a summit in New York to assess progress that has been made -- and where we are falling short -- in implementing the Millennium Declaration adopted five years ago.

Extraordinary developments have taken place since the Declaration was adopted -- most notably the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States and the deep divisions over the war in Iraq.  This led the Secretary-General to conclude that the world had arrived at a “fork in the road” -- a transformed international security environment in which the international community could either come together and agree on how best to handle the grave threats we face, or else remain at odds, letting history take the decisions for us, with all that that implies for our safety and prosperity.  Such high stakes have also made the Secretary-General determined that the September Summit must not be a ritualistic stock-taking exercise or reiteration of long-standing promises, but rather a full-fledged summit at which important decisions can be taken by the world’s leaders themselves.

That is why he created the High-Level Panel -- 16 leading policy experts from around the world.  I think this effort has paid off handsomely.  The Panel’s report entitled “A more secure world:  our shared responsibility”, contains the most comprehensive, coherent and realistic set of proposals for improving global security that we have seen for a long time.

The Secretary-General also initiated a second, parallel effort that is every bit as important as the first -- and is closely linked to it. He asked a group of eminent development specialists, led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, to determine what more needs to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the target year of 2015.  The group, known as the Millennium Project, issued its report last month.  Entitled “Investing in Development”, it, too, is an important intellectual and practical achievement.

Next month, the Secretary-General plans to issue a report of his own.  It is still taking shape.  But I can tell you that he will draw on the two reports I just mentioned, and on his own wide-ranging consultations, and put forward an agenda of what he believes to be the most urgent decisions needed at the Summit.

That agenda will cover a wide spectrum of issues -- peace and security, development, the rule of law, protection of the vulnerable, and of course strengthening the United Nations itself.  It will ask Member States to address questions that have long divided the international community.  It will be ambitious, but crucially, it will be achievable.  This process is meant to produce results.

Now let me highlight some of the substantive issues involved.

The High-Level Panel has given us a compelling vision of collective security for the twenty-first century.  In an age of interdependence, when threats can cross borders in an instant, we are mutually vulnerable, and our defences are only as good as our weakest link.  That holds true whether we are talking about terrorism or the spread of disease.  Moreover, the threats we face are linked to each other.  Development is essential for security, and security is essential for development.

From that overarching message, it follows that collective action is essential, and is most effective when it is used preventively.

The Panel has thus recommended ways to avoid what has become a real possibility of a cascade of nuclear proliferation, and to improve biosecurity -- whether bioterrorism or the spread of disease.

It has suggested how to strengthen the UN’s capacity for mediation, for peacekeeping and rapid response, and for peace-building to keep countries from lapsing back into violence.

It has proposed an approach to the use of force, surely one of the hardest dilemmas of collective action, whether the aim is to act against armed attack, genocide or massive violations of human rights.

The Panel has also put forward a definition of terrorism, the lack of which has undermined our efforts to combat it.

It has set out two options for reforming the Security Council, and offered ideas for other institutional strengthening.

And it has stated unequivocally that economic and social development must be the cornerstone of any credible collective security system. 

That brings me to the report of the Millennium Project, which sets out an equally compelling vision -- of a world in which education, health and gender equality are available to all; in which societies protect the environment; and in which today’s global partnership for development works even more effectively to reach all the Millennium Development Goals. 

Some have described the Goals as utopian.  Certainly, progress towards them has been too slow, with many nations lagging behind, especially in Africa.  But as the report shows, countries can meet these goals.  Many are well on their way, making important strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS or in educating children, for example.

Success is possible if longstanding promises are fulfilled.  Moreover, there is no need to wait for the technological breakthroughs of tomorrow; there are affordable initiatives that can begin to do the job today.  One such “quick win” -- the free mass distribution of malaria bed nets -- could save the lives of up to a million African children each year.

Indeed, as we prepare for the Summit, let us remember that action need not be frozen until then.  The Secretary-General, for his part, will move forward wherever possible.  Next month in Madrid, for example, he will outline an anti-terrorism strategy for the United Nations.

He is also continuing with his programme of managerial and other reforms that has been a priority since taking office.

That includes taking strong steps to prevent any more of the appalling sexual exploitation and abuse that has taken place in the context of our peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African countries.

It also means getting to the bottom of what happened with the oil-for-food programme, and why.  That programme brought relief to millions of Iraqis.  But the Volcker investigation, and before that our own internal audits, have revealed serious managerial defects and other lapses.  It is important now to sort out who among the Security Council, Secretariat and individual Member States had responsibility for what, as Mr. Volcker is doing. The Secretary-General is determined to hold wrongdoers accountable, and to introduce whatever changes are needed to ensure proper oversight and accountability of UN activities.

The European Union will continue to be a leading partner of the United Nations.  Our personnel are working together in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Africa and many other places.  European support for rapid deployment can play a key role in strengthening United Nations peacekeeping and crisis management.  Europeans have also been strong supporters of the Millennium Development Goals, through aid, debt and trade and your effort to establish innovative sources of financing.  Moreover, additional steps in these areas would send an important signal to the developing countries in the process leading up to the Summit.

So 2005 is a big year for all of us.  After a period of deep division, heavy criticism, sober reflection and careful analysis, UN Member States must answer some serious questions in the months ahead:

-- Can they build a collective security system capable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century?

-- Can they make the smart investments that will eradicate global poverty and hunger?

-- And can the United Nations itself be updated and renewed?

I am realistic enough to know that this is a very elaborate agenda.  But I sense, on all sides, an understanding that division is in no one’s interest, and would only allow the threats and challenges we face to grow.  I hope we can all work together to seize the opportunity that is now before us.

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