PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
H.E. MR. JULIAN R. HUNTE
WITH THE MASTERS PROGRAMME STUDENTS
FREIE UNIVERSITAT BERLIN
25 MAY 2004
believe that if there is a place where we should strive
to leave a lasting impression, it ought to be an academic
institution, and more specifically, a university. In
universities the world over, such as this Freie Universitat
Berlin, faculty and staff daily take up the critical
challenge to provide education and training of a kind
that would make young people not only academically proficient
but visionary, objective, analytical, and realistic
about their own world and the world beyond their borders.
It is in universities that young people break down barriers
- to knowledge, to information, to other people, and
to other cultures - and learn to see the world through
different eyes. Universities help advance the process
whereby young people learn to accept that others can
have widely divergent viewpoints, but that collaboration
and cooperation can bring all to a common position.
I was told a long time ago that it you want to leave
a lasting impression, you must do more than speak -
you must make a case. I could use this occasion to speak
to you about the immense challenges confronting the
United Nations each day, among them abject poverty,
lack of, or slow socio-economic development, deadly
disease, conflict, war and terrorism, to name just a
few. But I would be telling an all too familiar story
- instantaneous communication and the media are bringing
world events to your very doorsteps.
I might tell you that globalization and trade liberalization
are proceeding at such a pace that a majority of developing
countries, in particular, are having grave difficulties
keeping up. Some are losing faith that globalization
and trade liberalization are going to bring improvements
in their socio-economic situation, since so far, such
improvements have simply not materialized.
I could point to grave inequalities that persist in
the global economic system, that in many instances further
impoverish the poor and enrich the rich. I could say
that developing countries want empathy, not sympathy.
But many of you many know that official development
assistance (ODA) has not been forthcoming at the 0.7%
level, and the implication this has for support of the
development objectives of developing countries.
I might also tell you what the United Nations is doing
to confront these myriad challenges and to accomplish
the ideals set out in its Charter and in international
law. I could, for example, point to the General Assembly
over which I preside, and emphasize its significance
as the platform from which leaders of nations large
and small enunciate the positions of their governments
on critical issues on the international agenda. But
many of you would have seen your leaders on that world
stage at United Nations Headquarters in New York, and
would fully comprehend the nature of the issues that
they addressed from the perspective of your national
I could point to the essential work that United Nations
agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health
Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Conference
on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are each doing in
their special fields of competence. But many of you
would be aware of these through your studies, civil
society connections and perhaps through the interaction
of your government with the United Nations system.
Time has been allotted to us at the end of my presentation
to have an open exchange of views on matters pertaining
to the General Assembly and to the United Nations generally.
During that time, I will welcome your questions and
comments on any issues you may wish to raise. Issues
such as sustainable development, revitalization of the
United Nations General Assembly, reform of the Security
Council, peace and security issues including developments
in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East - I very much
appreciate that all these matters and more are of interest
here in Germany, a country whose government is an active
and proactive participant in the international arena.
I want to use this time, therefore, to make a case,
and hopefully, to leave an impression. Let me begin
by emphasizing a point - I have a deep and abiding belief
in, and commitment to, the United Nations and to multilateralism.
The internationalization of major perils in this the
twenty-first century - transnational organized crime,
international drug trafficking, terrorism and disease,
to name a few - makes it virtually impossible for any
nation, no matter how powerful, to solve problems on
its own. Multilateralism provides the framework for
the resolution not only of the myriad dangers that loom
large in this the twenty-first century, but in all matters
of a global nature.
There are many regional and international organizations
and arrangements in the world. None, however, deals
in the same way with the full range of global issues.
From development to peace and security, from health
to trade, from terrorism to weapons of mass destruction,
from passport issues to stamps - virtually all areas
of human endeavours are addressed by the United Nations
system. In short, the United Nations is the world's
premier multilateral organization: in accepting the
ideals of the Charter all nations agree that it is.
We live in a world of nation states, each having in
mind its own national interest. The imperative of peaceful
co-existence, however, compels us to agree on common
standards. The United Nations has been in the forefront
of global standard setting, codifying international
law in areas such as human rights, including the rights
of women, children and refugees, climate change, crime
prevention and criminal justice and combating terrorism.
The United Nations has also, from time to time, established
new bodies to address emerging challenges. Bodies such
as the Commission on Sustainable Development, for example,
are of recent vintage.
The United Nations has been given responsibility for
the maintenance of international peace and security.
No other international organization has been given such
authority. All 191 Member States of the organization
confer responsibility on the United Nations Security
Council to act in their behalf in peace and security
matters, and in that regard, the Council's decisions
So, what is the specific case I wish to make? It is
a case for your support for the United Nations, and
if I might be a little biased, for the General Assembly
over which I preside. Speaking especially to young people
- to the student body of this University - I urge you
to commit yourself: to uphold the ideals Charter of
the United Nations; to help raise consciousness to the
critical work that the United Nations does on behalf
of all the world's people; to mobilize youth groups
in support of the United Nations; and to give your support
to national and international initiatives to ensure
that the United Nations remains relevant, is effective
and is better able to fulfill the principles and purposes
of the Charter. For the many of you who are already
active supporters of the United Nations, I say let us
continue to make our constructive contribution.
Why is my case one of support for the United Nations?
It is because the organization stands at a critical
juncture, in times of great challenge, in a rapidly
changing global environment. But this is also a time
of great opportunity that must be seized by all the
peoples of the United Nations. The United Nations is
a "one of a kind" organization - there is
nothing else we can put in its place. Importantly, the
commitment of young people is our best hope - the future
of the United Nations, and indeed of our world, is in
I thank you.