21 October 2005

Deputy Secretary-General, in Address to Occidental College Symposium, Stresses Need to Keep Working on Outstanding World Summit Issues

She Cites Security Council Reform; Nuclear Questions; Guidelines on Use of Force; Equitable, Effective Collective Security

NEW YORK, 20 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette's address to the Occidental College Symposium in New York yesterday, 19 October:

Thank you, President Chan, for that very kind introduction, and I'm also grateful to you, John [Hirsch], for your words of welcome.

First, allow me to congratulate Occidental College on the twentieth anniversary of its UN programme, and say how glad I am to join you all to discuss where the UN is today, and where it is going.  I am particularly pleased that so many students are with us, along with a number of people who figure prominently in the continuing effort to reform the United Nations.

So, where do we stand after last month's World Summit?  The Secretary-General has described the outcome as "a glass half full".  That means that the glass is also half empty.  Certainly, the Summit did not achieve everything we might have hoped for, and I shall mention a little later some of the important opportunities that were regrettably missed.  But I do want to stress up front that the Outcome Document contains very important advances, particularly when it is judged by the standards of any document that requires the consensus among 191 Member States.

Indeed, few would have dared to predict 12 months ago -- perhaps even less a few days before the Summit -- that, in one process, we could have achieved:

-- detailed agreement on the principle of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide and other heinous crimes;

-- a massive boost in financing for development and genuine progress on debt relief, matched by commitments to national strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals;

-- a decision to have a Peacebuilding Commission in place by December, with most details already agreed;

-- a decision to establish a new Human Rights Council very soon, along with a commitment to press ahead with negotiations on the key details;

-- a doubling of the budget of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;

-- an unambiguous statement that terrorism in all its forms is always wrong;

-- and support for a host of important management reform initiatives.

When all of this is taken together, it is fair to say, as the Secretary-General said at the opening of the general debate the day after the Summit, that progress was made across a broader front than on any other single occasion in the 60-year history of the Organization.

The immediate task before the Organization is pretty clear.  We have to make sure that everything that was agreed is implemented.  The progress reflected in the Outcome Document will not be assured unless we convert a number of its general statements into specific, tangible improvements in the UN's performance, and thereby in the lives of people around the world.  That is why the Secretary-General's first priority in the weeks and months ahead will be to work very closely with the Member States to make sure that each and every item on which agreement was reached is followed up -- on time and in full.

One of the most important achievements of 2005 has been to secure an ambitious commitment to add tens of billions of dollars a year to the fight for development, within five years, with more countries providing plans to meet the target of providing 0.7 per cent of gross national income in development assistance, new agreements on debt relief, and any lingering doubts about support for the Millennium Development Goals being erased.

Many of these achievements were triggered by the Summit agenda and timetable, even if the initial breakthroughs were achieved in other forums, including the Group of Eight, the European Union, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  In the same way, much of what now has to happen must happen outside the corridors of the UN as well.  It falls to national Governments to put in place by next year comprehensive national development strategies bold enough to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, based on good governance and sound economic policy.  And it falls to developed countries to meet the pledges they have made to boost development aid and cancel debt.

The third leg of international support for development -- a free and fair trading system -- is as important as aid and debt relief.  The Summit outcome speaks of concluding the Doha trade negotiations by the end of next year.  If we are to achieve that, we need to see real progress at the WTO talks in Hong Kong in December.  In particular, all WTO members must show leadership to break the deadlock on agriculture, and seek to finalize in Hong Kong a document that can lead to end-game negotiations in 2006.

To implement the Summit outcome on security and human rights, a lot has to happen at the UN itself -- both in the General Assembly and in the Secretariat.  The Member States must finalize the outstanding details on the Peacebuilding Commission, and agree on important details to establish the Human Rights Council.  They must press ahead with efforts to achieve a comprehensive convention on terrorism, and develop a global anti-terrorism strategy based on the elements the Secretary-General has suggested.  They must meet their pledge to double the budget of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and provide the necessary support to enable the development of a standing policy capacity for UN peacekeeping.  And, of course, the Security Council must be prepared to meet its responsibility to protect through timely and effective action.

For its part, the Secretariat needs to set up and get fully operational the Peacebuilding Support Office, the Peacebuilding Fund, the Democracy Fund, and the Rule of Law Unit.  We need to work with the African Union on a 10-year plan to improve its peacekeeping capacity, and with all our regional partners to reach formalized agreements to improve cooperation.  We must develop detailed proposals to strengthen mediation capacity and deploy peacekeepers rapidly, and to improve system-wide coherence through more tightly managed entities in the fields of development, humanitarian assistance and environment -- proposals that will then come back to the membership for their consideration and action.

The Summit outcome also gives support to a host of management reform initiatives, including:

-- a review of all rules on the management of budgetary, financial and human resources;

-- a review of all mandates more than five years old;

-- a framework for a one-time buyout of staff;

-- an independent external evaluation of the entire oversight and management system;

-- and proposals for a new independent oversight advisory committee.

These measures complement the reforms already launched by the Secretary-General aimed at ensuring greater accountability, better performance and full compliance with ethics codes throughout the Secretariat.

As a result, we now have an opportunity to transform the UN into a much more efficient and transparent instrument in the hands of its members.  But these measures will not implement themselves.  They require further decisions by the General Assembly; and to win those decisions, we must convince a broad majority that a more efficient UN will better serve, and be more accountable to, not just one or a few Member States, but all of them. 

We also have to keep working on the issues where large differences remain.  When one considers, for instance, that Security Council reform eluded the Member States, that there was not even a single sentence in the Outcome Document on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and that little progress was made on guidelines relating to the use of force, it is clear that we still have much work to do to build a collective security system that equitably, efficiently and effectively responds to all of today's threats and challenges.  In that respect, at least, we have not yet made the kind of decisive choices that the Secretary-General believes are required.

Nevertheless, the very fact that we have a full work programme ahead of us to implement the Summit outcome underlines how substantive the process was.  With implementation, the Summit may come to be seen as a turning point for the United Nations.  But if implementation lags or fails, those who say the Summit was a major disappointment will be proven right.

The challenge ahead of us was captured by United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said this at the Summit:  "I have heard people describe the outcomes of this Summit as modest.  No summit requiring unanimity from 191 nations can be more than modest.  But if we did what we have agreed … our modesty would surprise.  There would be more democracy, less oppression.  More freedom, less terrorism.  More growth, less poverty.  The effect would be measured in the lives of millions of people who will never hear these speeches or read our statements.  But it would be the proper vocation of political leadership; and the United Nations would live up to its name.  So let us do it."

With that sentiment, I can only register my full and complete agreement.  We in the Secretariat are getting down to work, and we hope that the Member States are doing the same.

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