24 June 2005

‘Your Voices Must Continue to Be Heard’ in 2005 World Summit Process, Says Deputy Secretary-General, at Hearings with Civil Society

NEW YORK, 23 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette’s opening remarks at the General Assembly hearings with Civil Society in New York, 23 June:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. First let me welcome you very warmly to the United Nations. The Secretary-General is currently travelling, but he intends to join you briefly tomorrow.

The presence of so many civil society, NGOs and private sector representatives in the General Assembly hall is important for two reasons. Let me begin with the first one.

The process under way this year will be decisive for the future of the United Nations.

Two years ago, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations had “come to a fork in the road”. Recent events had called into question the consensus behind the shared vision expressed in the Millennium Declaration, which was adopted at the Millennium Summit right here in this hall in 2000.

As the Secretary-General pointed out, humanity is faced with a range of threats and challenges to its security, from the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and trafficking in small arms to the spread of infectious diseases and poverty -- the latter being the biggest threats to the majority of people on this planet.

We face a choice of coming together to tackle those challenges collectively, or we risk increased tension, disorder and inequality.

In the last several months, a great deal of thinking has been done on those issues -- the reports of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and of the Millennium Project, to which you brought your own ideas and contributions -- offered very thoughtful analysis of the challenges of our time as well as bold, yet practical, proposals on how to deal with them.

The Secretary-General’s own report, In Larger Freedom, brought all that thinking together. It underlined, in particular, the interconnected nature of the challenges facing us. The report made clear that development, security and human rights are ends in themselves -- but also that they reinforce each other, and depend on each other.

In our interconnected world, the human family will not enjoy development without security, it will not enjoy security without development, and it will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.

This year offers an opportunity to address all those linked challenges at once.

Now, we are entering the most crucial phase of the 2005 process -- the one in which governments have to decide on the way forward.

A few weeks ago, the President of the General Assembly tabled a draft outcome document for the World Summit which will be held here in September. Member States have just begun negotiations to reach agreement on a final outcome.  

The issues that are on the table are of relevance to every human being on the planet. If the Summit in September takes decisions that help strengthen our collective security; if we make real progress in our fight against poverty, disease and illiteracy; if the world provides the means to reach the Millennium Development Goals; if governments recognize the centrality of human rights and reform the United Nations to ensure it is up to the job it has to do -- then all the world’s people will benefit.

In that process, your voices must continue to be heard. Your contribution to our debate, your expertise, based often on the direct experience on the ground, bring the perspectives of engaged citizens, grass-roots organizations and communities.

That brings me to the second reason why the presence of civil society here is so important.

These hearings represent a significant new step in the way the United Nations relates to civil society.

We have a long history of working together, and your contributions have taken many forms.

Most major UN meetings are occasions for non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector to come together to participate in parallel events, such as round tables and workshops. You are, of course, partners in humanitarian work around the world.

These hearings take that interaction a step further. Through a decision of the General Assembly, time has been reserved in its formal deliberative process to bring in the views of civil society in an organized fashion.

The fact that the President of the General Assembly is himself chairing these hearings is an indication of the importance Member States attach to these two days.

I hope that the format will be used again as part of the General Assembly’s efforts overall to open up and interact much more with non-State actors.

 As many of you know, that recommendation was advanced by the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations, chaired by Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former president of Brazil. The Secretary-General subsequently recommended that the first step be held in preparation for the Summit.

So let us hope this is the shape of things to come.

Finally, let me thank the Governments of Canada, Finland and Norway for their generous contributions to the trust fund set up to support participation by developing country civil society representatives in these hearings.

Above all, let me thank each and every one of you for your commitment. I hope you will keep making that commitment felt -- here at the United Nations, and out there in the world.

Thank you very much for your attention.  I wish you a very productive two-day session.

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