3 April 2000


3 April 2000

Press Release



Following is the address of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechétte to the United Nations Association (UNA)-United States, at the third annual UNA-USA Members Day at Headquarters, 1 April:

It is a pleasure to join you today and to welcome such good friends and partners to the United Nations.

Much has changed since last year's UNA-USA Members Day -- in the world and especially in terms of one of your core concerns: the relationship between the United Nations and the United States. And much awaits us in the year ahead. Millennial fever continues with the Millennium Summit in September, the NGO Millennium Forum next month, and the launch, less than 48 hours from now, of the Secretary-General's Millennium Report. You have come together at a very opportune moment.

As you know, recent months have brought us many indications that a new era in United States-United Nations relations is at hand. Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and of the Security Council have just exchanged visits and had a very useful exchange of views. Ambassador Holbrooke took up his post and hit the ground running, focusing world attention on Africa and not hesitating to describe the United Nations as an "indispensable institution". And the Helms-Biden Bill was signed, saving the United States vote in the General Assembly and, despite the many conditions attached to the payment of United States arrears, at least paving the way towards putting this issue behind us. Ambassador Luers has described Helms-Biden as a "classic case of the glass being either half empty or half full". The Secretary-General takes the latter view and all of us at the United Nations would like to think that the overall trend will remain positive. Indeed, there is too much at stake for it to be otherwise.

We have also seen changes in the landscape of United Nations involvement around the world, especially in the area of international peace and security. One year ago, there was no United Nations peacekeeping operation in Kosovo, the people of East Timor had yet to be given a free say in their future, and the men, women and children of Sierra Leone were still being subjected to some of the most appalling human rights abuses the world has seen in recent years. Today, notwithstanding considerable obstacles, hope has returned to each place and United Nations peacekeeping operations are struggling to carry out a range of formidable responsibilities.

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In Sierra Leone, a United Nations peacekeeping operation is working hard to secure a fragile peace, to ensure the disarmament and demobilization of the former combatants, and to heal the deep psychological wounds of that brutal conflict. That operation may be the United Nations' largest in the world, and certainly faces an array of daunting challenges, but it is in Kosovo and East Timor that the tasks entrusted to the United Nations are truly all-encompassing. These two missions are qualitatively different from almost any other the Organization has ever undertaken. In each place, the United Nations is the administration, responsible for fulfilling all the functions of a State -- from fiscal management and judicial affairs to everyday municipal services, such as cleaning the streets and conducting customs formalities at the borders. This is a new order of magnitude for an organization that more customarily provides States with technical assistance in such areas, rather than assuming complete responsibility for them. And it is a new order of magnitude for peacekeeping operations, as well, making them extraordinarily complex and almost as dependent on civilian experts as on military personnel.

In Kosovo, the United Nations Mission is working in tandem with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and a range of European security and development partners, helping to rebuild Kosovo as a multi-ethnic society. This is a decidedly elusive goal given the well-publicized troubles the Mission is encountering, but it is one to which we remain deeply committed. And in East Timor, the United Nations Transitional Administration is guiding the East Timorese towards their long-held goal of independence. This means rebuilding or building nearly everything -- from infrastructure to institutions -- virtually from scratch, since what little they had was mostly destroyed in the systematic violence of last September.

I should add that there was also, one year ago, no peace agreement for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Even with the signing of the Lusaka Agreement last July, however, it remains unclear whether the parties involved are committed to transferring their differences from the battlefield to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, the Security Council has authorized the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation if and when the right circumstances prevail. Should we reach that point, that operation, too, will be among the most complex and perilous we have ever undertaken.

Such operations have sparked a lively global debate about humanitarian intervention, about the moral responsibilities of the international community, and about the capacity of outsiders such as the United Nations to make a difference in internal armed conflicts and other humanitarian crises. The issues involved -- human rights, democracy, solidarity with the less fortunate members of the global community -- speak to American values and engage the American public. These are also operations in which Americans are involved -- in some cases with troops, in others with material and logistical support, but in all cases through its assenting vote in the Security Council. None of these operations would have gone forward without the Council's approval, and none will achieve its aims without the resources and will of the Council and wider United Nations membership.

One should not take the approval of these missions as a sign that concerns about peacekeeping's effectiveness have disappeared. But their existence does signal United States support for the valuable role of peacekeeping as one of the diplomatic instruments the international community can deploy to help resolve conflicts. Given the failures and recriminations of the 1990s, that is no small thing.

Let me turn now from these highlights of the past year to the period ahead, and specifically the launch, on Monday, of the Secretary-General's Millennium Report. That Report is intended to provide a comprehensive review of the challenges facing humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century, and a range of recommendations for handling those challenges. I'm afraid you will have to wait until Monday for the details; the speech and official United Nations document will be available to all. But you would not be mistaken in guessing that its starting point is globalization -- the defining context of our times.

Globalization is not entirely new, of course; human beings have interacted across the planet for centuries. But today's globalization is different: in its extraordinary pace, its wide-ranging impact and especially in the technologies that propel it forward. As such, it has major implications for both national and international governance. And while the hallmark of globalization -- the integration of markets -- may be leading to higher living standards on average, there are millions of people around the world who experience globalization not as an agent of progress, but as a disruptive and even destructive force. Many more millions are completely excluded from its benefits.

Responding to globalization is the main challenge facing the international community -- the leaders, States and civil society groups that must work together. If we are to realize the full potential of globalization, while minimizing the threat of backlash, we must learn to govern better, and how to govern better together. That is the broad nature of the challenge to which the Secretary-General addresses himself.

Since the founding of the United Nations, two interrelated goals have been paramount: helping the world's people achieve freedom from want and freedom from fear. I need not describe for you the economic and social deprivation in which so many of our fellow human beings live. More than a billion people exist in terrible poverty, on less than $1 a day. Nor must I regale you with descriptions of the damage inflicted on societies and individuals by armed conflict. In the past decade alone, 5 million people have died in wars, and many times as many have been driven from their homes. Such numbers demand that we do better, and we can.

We must also acknowledge the urgency of attaining a third major freedom: the freedom of future generations to inherit an uncompromised natural environment with which they can meet their needs. Unfortunately, despite the Earth Summit, and despite important environmental agreements such as the Montreal Protocol on the Ozone Layer, we have continued to plunder the future. We are failing to protect resources and ecosystems, failing to invest enough in alternative technologies, especially for energy -- and failing even to keep the debate alive. Peoples and governments alike must commit themselves to a new ethic of conversation and stewardship.

The quest for these freedoms will take all our ingenuity, resources and will. Not least, the world's people will have to have in their hands a United

Nations that works -- a really useful instrument for tackling all these problems. That means a United Nations that knows how to take full advantage of new technology -- especially information technology -- and modern management techniques.

And it means a United Nations that interacts at every level with civil society -- with non-governmental organizations, with academia, and the private sector -- as well as its own Member Governments. Such partnerships are the new frontier of international action. They might take the form of non-governmental organizations banning together through e-mail to advocate against landmines and for an international criminal court. You might see philanthropist entrepreneurs such as Ted Turner and Bill Gates donating truly remarkable amounts of money to United Nations agencies dedicated to fighting disease and protecting the environment. Or individual businesses might join the Secretary-General's "Global Compact" for greater corporate citizenship by doing what they can to end child labour and safeguard human rights. No matter what form these partnerships take, we are seeing what some have called an "associational revolution" that builds upon the State system, that increases our ability to get things done and from which there is no turning back.

The United Nations, for its part, has and will continue to have tiny resources by almost any standards of international organization. But its undeterred moral voice, allied with the new players on the international scene, creates enormous potential for the Organization to act as a catalyst and coordinator of efforts by others far richer, more powerful, more institutionally agile and less politically constrained than itself.

The United Nations has been grateful for your strong and consistent support over the years. I know it has been as painful for you as it has been for us that so much of our energy and creativity had to be devoted to advocacy on the question of arrears. Such are the quirks of politics and history. In today's atmosphere, we have an opportunity to steer the United States-United Nations relationship in a very constructive direction across the range of a broad agenda.

That agenda will be on display throughout the year -- not only at the millennium events I have already mentioned, but also later this month in New York at the Review Conference for the nuclear non-proliferation Treaty; in April in Dakar at the world conference on education for all, which will focus on the education of girls, which many regard rightfully as the key to our hopes for the future and which is dealt with in some detail in the Secretary-General's report; in June at follow-up meetings for the Copenhagen summit on poverty, and at the Beijing Plus Five session on the advancement of women, which Angela King will tell you about shortly.

We need you more than ever. The time is right. The Millennium Report gives us a plan to rally around. All of us look forward to working even more closely with all of you.

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For information media. Not an official record.