|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
MALTA - AS ISLAND NATION, AS CROSSROADS, AS DEMOCRACY - WELL POSITIONED TO PROMOTE
SOLIDARITY ON PRESSING GLOBAL ISSUES, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN VALLETTA REMARKS
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the House of Representatives in Valletta, Malta, 22 April:
Thank you for this warm welcome. It is a great honour for me to come before you today.
Malta plays a dynamic and valuable role at the United Nations.
As an island nation, as a crossroads of people and commerce, as a democracy, your country is well positioned to promote global solidarity on many of the pressing issues of our times.
The United Nations, for its part, has made a pointed effort in recent years to open its doors and intensify its engagement with parliamentarians and other new partners.
Governments understand that they cannot address today’s threats, or seize today’s opportunities, on their own. They need the private sector, civil society groups, philanthropic foundations, academic institutions -- all those with the capacity to contribute -- to do their part. And they need to cooperate with each other and with all stakeholders as never before. This is –- and must be –- an era of partnership.
Parliamentarians are an essential part of that picture. Through your legislative power, you can give domestic meaning to international standards and agreements. Through your deliberations, you can set an example of dialogue and the peaceful resolution of differences of opinion.
And since most of today’s major challenges have an international dimension, you can provide a very vital link between the global and the local. You can bring to your constituents a sense of how global trends and circumstances affect their daily lives. In the same vein, you can bring local concerns into the international arena, for attention and action.
We at the United Nations want and need to work with you.
I want to talk to you today about some of the global problems that are being felt keenly here in Malta. Climate change. The economic crisis. Instability in the Mediterranean region. Irregular migration.
But first, I am compelled to say a few words about the United Nations Conference on racism taking place in Geneva. I want to thank the Government of Malta for taking part in that important Conference.
You have all seen the headlines. Now I urge you to read the fine print.
Yesterday, the United Nations Conference adopted an outcome document ahead of schedule. It is carefully balanced. It addresses all key issues. It is founded on the principles of equality and human dignity. It takes concrete steps towards the abolition of racism and hatred. It sets the stage for a global campaign for justice for victims of racism worldwide.
Moreover, this is not the end of the process, it is the beginning. Discrimination does not go away by itself. It must be challenged at every turn. It is neither a time for grandstanding nor sitting it out. Every Member State must be a full partner in the struggle.
As we look ahead, let us remember: one speech does not speak for all. One short interlude should not derail us from achieving our common goal.
We need to build on the progress we have made and grow beyond the divisions that hold us back from a better future. Defeating intolerance is essential to address global problems as a single human family. We need every country at the table.
Once again, thank you people and Government of Malta for doing your part.
Let me turn now to the challenge of climate change and environmental protection. Malta has been a leader on this front.
Your country’s natural riches are at the heart of one of your main industries, tourism. The arid environment means you grasped the need to combat desertification. You understand that we cannot afford to poison, irrevocably, the foundation of our economic well-being and, indeed, our very existence.
Over the years, you have made crucial political and intellectual contributions that helped in generating the historic Law of the Sea Convention and the landmark Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Today, you are taking steps to promote renewable alternatives, such as wind energy. And you are playing a key role in negotiations on climate change that we hope will produce a new agreement at crucial talks later in December, in Copenhagen.
We also want to work with you on a solid response to the global economic crisis. This crisis has unfolded with frightening speed. I fear that, if it is not handled properly, it could evolve into a full-scale political crisis marked by social unrest and instability.
That is why I pressed so hard at the recent G-20 [Group of Twenty] meeting for action that will safeguard people from hardship.
And that is why I am determined to bring the United Nations together in coordinated, decisive and innovative ways. We will create a new mechanism for coordinating additional financing for food security. We will support a Global Jobs Pact. And we will launch a UN Global Vulnerability Alert, collecting real-time information on the social effects of the economic crisis worldwide.
We cannot afford a reversal in hard-won gains towards the Millennium Development Goals. We must take a stand against protectionism, which hurts everyone. And we must promote green jobs and green growth –- and thereby tackle climate change and the economic crisis at the same time.
We need you to continue doing your part to promote harmonious relations in the Mediterranean. I share your particular concern about faltering efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.
The people of Gaza continue to suffer terribly in the aftermath of the most recent round of hostilities. I have called on the new Israeli Government to relieve the intolerable situation at the crossings, so that the people of Gaza gain access to much-needed humanitarian relief.
More broadly, a massive and united international effort is required to help Palestinians achieve Statehood, and to realize the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
I am encouraged that United States President Obama has signalled that Middle East peace is a major priority. This conflict needs to be settled, not just managed from crisis to crisis.
I understand that Malta has often been a venue where Israelis and Arabs have come together for quiet, practical cooperation on water issues and other matters of common concern. Taking place far away from day-to-day tensions, such contacts can build confidence and understanding. They should be encouraged.
I know the people of Malta are also concerned about irregular migration. Your close proximity to North Africa makes this country a frequent point of arrival for those seeking asylum and employment in Europe. I know this has created difficulties and that, along with Cyprus, Greece and Italy, you have reached out to the European Union for assistance.
As you know, migration is driven by demography, as dramatically rising numbers of young people in the developing world bump up against an ageing and shrinking developed world.
It is also driven by persecution, armed conflict and poverty in countries of origin, and a bona fide need for labour in countries of destination.
Looking ahead, climate change is another factor that could lead to significant relocations of people away from increasingly uninhabitable areas. We see yet again how everything is linked to everything else.
Our longstanding challenge is a dual one. We need to make it possible for people to live safe and productive lives in their own countries so that migration can be a choice, not a necessity. And we must make sure that those who are on the move because of repression and violence can reach safety and find the protection to which they are entitled.
At the same time, we need to work to ensure that economic migration benefits both sending and receiving countries. Managed properly, migration can benefit both sides of the equation. With global growth slowing and unemployment rising, that task is even more difficult. We must do our utmost to promote social harmony and keep tensions surrounding immigration from turning into discrimination. Already, the political discourse has become discouragingly negative in many places.
A thread runs through this agenda. We must increase global cooperation. More than that, we must re-invent how we as nations work together to deliver collective solutions to our collective problems. We need, in short, a new multilateralism organized around delivering global goods.
Towards that end, I have been very pleased to visit Malta at this time -– the first for a UN Secretary-General since that of Javier Perez de Cuellar a generation ago.
Malta may not be as large as other countries in terms of population or square mileage, but its presence on the international stage outweighs those metrics.
I look forward to working with you across the agenda I have set out, for the well-being of your people and the entire world.
* *** *For information media • not an official record