KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY
PRESIDENT OF THE FIFTY-EIGHTH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
H.E. MR JULIAN R. HUNTE
MODEL UNITED NATIONS
30TH ANNUAL SESSION
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
General of the Model United Nations, Members of the Faculty,
Distinguished Delegates of the Yale University Model United
Nations, Ladies and Gentlemen, students:
I am deeply committed to the United Nations and to multilateralism.
It is this commitment that underpins my Presidency of
the Fifty-eighth Session of the United Nations General
Assembly, and which is the incentive that brings me to
Yale University to join you at the opening of this Model
I wish to thank President Levin and all at Yale University
who have so warmly welcomed me here, and Mr. Favors and
the organizers of the Model United Nations for affording
me this opportunity.
Multilateralism - the belief that nations act more effectively
when they act together to address issues of a global nature
- has been an organizing principle and the foundation
of the work of the United Nations from the start. We all
know, however, that obstacles to economic and social progress,
human right and fundamental freedoms and peace and security
remain, notwithstanding strong support for multilateralism.
Daily, the United Nations faces new and emerging challenges,
some of which have proved to be quite daunting.
When the United Nations Charter was signed at San Francisco
in 1945 nearly fifty-nine years ago, it would have been
difficult to predict what would be the shape of the world
of the early twenty-first century. Today, we can say authoritatively
that it is a time of challenge and change for the world,
and indeed, for the United Nations.
I imagine that it would have been difficult to contemplate
at San Francisco that the ranks of the United Nations
fifty-one founding members would be swelled to the one
hundred and ninety-one Member States it is today. A forward-looking
United Nations took up the cause of colonial countries
and peoples for self-determination and independence. Some,
no doubt, may have quibbled about this open door policy
and about what in fact constituted a viable nation state
that might take a place in the United Nations. Today,
nations large and small sit in the United Nations General
Assembly - the organization's only universal organ - with
equal rights and duties under the Charter.
The reality we face today is that the achievement of national
independence has not significantly reversed the economic
imbalances between former colonies and colonial powers.
Disparities between rich and poor nations, in many cases
compounded by globalisation and trade liberalization,
is marginalizing many countries, particularly in the developing
world. Poverty worldwide - the burden of which falls unequally
on our most vulnerable groups - children, women, the elderly
and the disabled - harbour the seeds of instability, hatred
and conflict. At the same time, there has been a marked
drop in official development assistance from richer to
We could not have known in 1945 that as we work to improve
public health and eradicate disease, new and deadly diseases
such as HIV/AIDS would emerge to threaten societies and
nations. Yet this disease, in particular, continues to
wreak havoc among the most productive sectors of the population,
and especially our youth, and to negatively impact the
economies of many countries, particularly in the developing
world. We also could not have anticipated how difficult
it would be to erase age-old attitudes like racial discrimination
and religious intolerance. Nor could we foresee the extreme
contemporary forms these now take.
At San Francisco, we could not have foreseen the "internationalization"
of major perils we face today - the illicit traffic in
drugs and small arms and light weapons, the organized
criminal networks that control these nefarious trades
and other transnational crime, and the ever present threat
of terrorism - to name a few. National borders, even those
of the most powerful, cannot protect nations against these
perils. Even international credentials and a mandate to
act on behalf of the international community is no longer
a safeguard. For last August in Baghdad, the United Nations
itself became a terrorist target.
Today, conflict and war continue to be major challenges
for the United Nations, threatening international peace
and security and constituting a major impediment to development
in many regions of the world. While the United Nations
continues to act in respect of conflict and war, many
situations seem to be intractable.
There is much to be said for the manner in which the United
Nations is rising to today's challenges and to change.
It has been credibly demonstrated that the nations of
the world acting through the United Nations on behalf
of their peoples, can come together to overcome obstacles
to progress and to peace.
Notwithstanding the high anxiety of war and conflict,
the world has managed to avoid a major international conflagration
and to prevent or shorten a significant number of regional
conflicts. The United Nations has, in almost every situation
of conflict and war, been able to play a meaningful role.
In so doing, the Membership has, by and large, sought
to live up to the Charter obligation to maintain international
peace and security. When we have failed or delayed longer
than we should, it is because we could not, as Member
States, achieve consensus on how to proceed.
We have recognized and accepted, including through our
signature, ratification and accession of international
treaties, that we cannot alone protect ourselves from
perils such as drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism.
These critical global problems know and respect no national
borders. Therefore, we have accepted obligations to uphold
international standards and to act together to protect
Just as our membership in the United Nations requires
us to act jointly to maintain international peace and
security, we are also required to take joint action to
support socio-economic development and to eradicate poverty
worldwide. The United Nations agenda for development is,
of necessity, a work in progress, for circumstances change,
and a variety of external forces impact our work. Natural
disasters, diseases and changes in attitude among more
powerful Member States all have an impact.
Work to promote development and eradicate poverty being
done within the United Nations system includes that of
the Specialized Agencies, which focus their particular
competencies in areas such as food, health and education.
If I had to describe in a few words this development and
poverty eradication work, I would say that we work to
elaborate attainable development goals, to create the
mechanisms for reaching them together, and to impress
upon Member States the importance of keeping their commitments
in this area.
Let me cite the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as
a specific example of goal setting, on which all United
Nations Member States agreed as we moved into the Twenty-first
Century. These are practical and fairly modest goals,
aimed, among other things, at eradicating poverty and
hunger, combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases,
ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a
global partnership for development. A major commitment
has been made, and a tremendous effort is underway to
attain these goals, which we have pledged to implement
by 2015. Acting together is a prerequisite for success.
Since San Francisco, many innovative and imaginative ways
have been found to bring home to the "peoples"
of the United Nations for whom the Charter speaks, exactly
what the United Nations does, and why it is important
to the world's people. Few initiatives to do so have been
as effective as the rôle-playing exercise of the
'Model United Nations'. Model United Nations take place
each year, in many countries, and at different educational
levels. It is noteworthy that even in troubling times,
when the relevance of the United Nations was being called
into question, Model United Nations were being organized
Commitment to the Model United Nations concept, I believe,
comes from the abiding curiosity that people - especially
young people - have about other nations, their circumstances,
their goals and aspirations and the challenges they face.
In the case of this model United Nations, I do hope that
your are also committed because of your own belief that
solutions to the world's problems can indeed be found
by working together; by understanding other people's perspectives;
and by acknowledging that the more people that have agreed
on, and have "bought into" a decision, the more
likely it is that the outcome of such a decision will
This exercise in which, for a short time, you become leaders
and diplomatic representatives of countries not your own
and largely unfamiliar to you, has important benefits
for you. It also benefits the country you represent, as
well as the United Nations. In addition to being exhilarating
and rewarding - which I am sure it will be -- it builds
skills that can be very useful to you, not just in the
short-term as students, but as future leaders with major
Already you will have done intensive research, both on
your new country and on the items on your agenda - which
are also items on the global agenda. By now, you are ready
to argue forcefully and convincingly the positions your
country would take, from the perspective of that country,
a perspective that may be quite different to that of the
country of which you are a citizen. I know that you have
prepared effectively, and that your considerable effort
would be rewarded by a meaningful contribution to this
If I may now take off my Presidential hat and put on my
Minister of External Affairs of St Lucia and Caribbean
Community (CARICOM) hat, let me say that I hope that the
delegations representing the countries of CARICOM have
done their homework well, and are ready to represent us
with distinction! Now, I return to my Presidential hat.
This Model United Nations also bears centrally on leadership
and decision-making skills. Many of you will represent
Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers. Your priorities
will compete with those of other leaders. You will have
to show your people that the decisions you have taken
have brought them a benefit. At the same time, you will
have to demonstrate to other leaders that you are prepared
to take, or join in, decisions that will advance international
goals and objectives. You should have a fairly good idea
after this exercise of what it is like to be under the
spotlight of public opinion, and to be accountable, both
at home and in the United Nations.
Your negotiating skills should be considerable honed by
this exercise. Never mind what they say about "diplomacy
being the art of letting somebody else have your own way"
- negotiation is an arduous and often insuperable process.
Negotiations are not a matter of victory or defeat, but
about mutual advantage. Diplomacy puts a premium on compromise,
and oftentimes compromise is the only option you will
have - you may have to abandon that "grand design"
for a more modest outcome.
Hence, you need good judgment, including about the other
person's position - is it flexible? Is it set in stone?
Is the person prepared to give up something, and are you?
Negotiating - this is the skill that lies at the heart
of the work of the United Nations. Importantly, it is
at the centre of what we do in our lives.
Whether the scope of your Model United Nations permits
you to focus on the media and civil society, I want to
make comments on both, as relations with them are critical
to the success of any country's delegation. Your interaction
with the media should be in a manner that would reflect
your country's point of view accurately, and in the best
possible light. It is also expedient for you to go outside
the official ranks of delegations and make common cause
with the organizations of civil society. It is these non-governmental
and other organizations that have the experience, the
contacts and the energy to earn public support for an
idea, and give it life beyond the conference room.
Above all, as you negotiate and take decisions, you must
ask yourself whether your decisions can be effectively
implemented, to meet your goals and objectives. If they
cannot, your work may well have been an exercise in futility.
There are a few final thoughts I would like to leave with
you. The first concerns the "fundamental democracy"
of the United Nations General Assembly, and what it takes
to be a truly effective delegation. It is often not the
powerful countries that marshal the most interesting and
innovative ideas through the United Nations. It was Costa
Rica that was responsible for driving the idea of a High
Commissioner for Human Rights through the General Assembly.
The concept of the Law of the Sea and the possibility
of mining the deep seabed for the benefit of all mankind
was driven by the small island state of Malta. And Trinidad
and Tobago, supported by the countries of the Caribbean
Community, was the driving force behind the most recent
initiative that led to the establishment of an International
Criminal Court. In short, a good new idea, persuasively
presented and patiently negotiated, can become part of
the world's agenda even if it comes from a very small
The second thought I wish to leave with you concerns the
General Assembly, the only representative organ of the
United Nations. As such, agreement would ultimately have
to be forged within the General Assembly on much of the
issues on the international agenda. For it is the Assembly
alone that contains the world as it is, that reflects
both the world's problems and possibilities. Importantly,
it is in the Assembly that reform of the United Nations,
whether General Assembly or Security Council, would be
negotiated and endorsed.
Yes, questions concerning the "relevance" of
the United Nations have focused on the General Assembly,
at a time when great powers are asserting their right
to act unilaterally, and to deal with the United Nations
through more limited membership bodies. But I must tell
you that, in the months that I have been privileged to
serve as President, I have been constantly impressed by
the General Assembly and its Member States - their determination
to find ways through obstacles; their willingness to negotiate;
their readiness to examine new ideas, and above all by
their conviction that this uniquely universal organization,
the United Nations, must be enabled to survive and to
do the great work for which it was designed.
I hope that your deliberations will bring each of you
new insights into the work of the United Nations, and
importantly on where the organization stands in this period
of challenge and change. Whether your future takes you
into academia, the professions, business or government,
I believe that the skills you acquire in this Model United
Nations will serve you well. Above all, I hope that your
participation persuades you to remain involved with the
United Nations and the global issues it addresses. The
world needs the United Nations. And the United Nations
I thank you.