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‘Minimal’ Policy Response Failing to Keep Pace with ‘Monumental’ Change,
Warns Deputy Secretary-General at ‘Helsinki Process + 10’ Conference
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the “Helsinki Process + 10” Conference, in Helsinki on 13 February:
Thank you for the opportunity to address this Conference.
It is always wonderful to be back in Finland, but this trip is especially meaningful for me. As some of you know, I had the honour to co-chair this Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy along with Foreign Minister [Erkki] Tuomioja. I remember well his positive energy. I am delighted to see that he is as enthusiastic as ever.
Travelling over here, I thought about how this Helsinki Process was always intended to be inclusive. The idea was to involve a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Today, I want to share my ideas on why it is so critical to continue involving these partners — not just for legitimacy but for results.
My focus is on the United Nations: how we are reforming ourselves, how we are advocating for stakeholders in other arenas and how we are bringing in partners to deliver better for the world’s people; Governments, yes — but also intergovernmental organizations, civil society groups, the business community, academia, the media and concerned individuals.
One of the outcomes was the establishment of the Dar es Salaam Institute for Sustainable Development in Tanzania. This is a strong tool for formulating policies — and it is also a powerful means for raising a generation of young women and men leaders. At the time, I remember being very encouraged that — within the Helsinki Process — there was a real emphasis on having a tangible process of multistakeholder cooperation; linking up with civil society was vital in that regard.
Building on such efforts and looking to the future, I believe it is even more important that we prioritize our focus on the role of women and youth, and ensure their inclusion in this overall process, particularly with respect to sustainable development. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly emphasized this point. Women and youth are central to his action agenda for the next five years. He has announced that he will appoint a Special Representative for Youth.
Women and youth are helping to drive change around the world. We saw that last year in the peaceful protests that have set the Arab world on an historical path of transformation and empowerment. The cries for dignity, opportunity and justice are universal. People everywhere want freedom and equality. They are raising their voices, partly because they need better living conditions. But they are also speaking out against unfair and unjust systems.
We have to respond with fair and just global economic governance. We all know that our world is increasingly interdependent. What may be less obvious is how much this heightened connectedness affects those more vulnerable countries. The volume of international trade is growing. So is the flow of capital across borders. And more and more people are on the move.
These changes are monumental, but our policy response has been minimal. We are simply not keeping pace with events. This is especially true of the shocks that have affected millions of people in recent years — the food, fuel and financial crises. Most structures for global economic governance were born more than 60 years ago. Since then, we have many more nation-States, and economic power has shifted — in some places dramatically.
Europe and the United States, in particular, are going through difficult times. But many economies in East and South Asia, in Latin America and even in Africa are growing. Emerging economies can make a major contribution to the world economy. They deserve the opportunity to increase their role in global governance.
Powerful decision-making bodies do not sufficiently reflect the growing impact of developing and emerging markets on the global economy. We have seen some commendable initial steps; the recent reforms at the Bretton Woods institutions are a case in point. Beyond promoting inclusive growth and equality, we have to do more than simply reforming. We need to ensure both greater synergies among, as well as participation of, all stakeholders. We all need to work together to make our institutions more effective, fair and accountable. The name of the game is “delivering for people”.
We are striving to provide food, energy and a social safety net to the poor – but outdated models can slow our progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The gap between old structures and new realities is causing divisions among groups of countries at different stages of development. We need to strengthen ties among Governments, civil society groups, the private sector and other major players on the international scene.
The United Nations is doing precisely that through a number of our initiatives. Every Woman, Every Child is promoting global health. Sustainable Energy for All is focused on energy security and sustainability. And the UN Global Compact has long been a platform for cooperation with partners in the private sector. We are working to address the interlinked challenges of the global economic crisis, environmental degradation, poverty and social tensions.
The “Rio+20” Conference on Sustainable Development, taking place in June later this year, will be the next major opportunity to forge a global plan for the future we want. That Conference will bring together all the partners we need to achieve collective success. Our meeting here today offers a platform to contribute fresh ideas on how the Rio+20 Conference can help usher in the future we want.
The United Nations, too, must keep pace. Our Organization has great legitimacy thanks to its universal nature. But we need greater policy coherence. We need to be more efficient. And we need to move with the times. Beyond our own walls, the United Nations works to represent countries that are not included at other forums. For example, at the G-20, we bring the concerns of the remaining 173 countries to the table. We are especially focused on making sure that globally policymaking reflects the needs of the world’s poor and most vulnerable.
The best way to do this is to close the gap between decision-makers and the people they answer to — the citizens. That is where multistakeholder cooperation comes in. When we engage our partners at all levels of society, we turn resentment into responsibility — and we turn up new ideas for progress.
The final report of the Helsinki Process recognizes the enormous potential of this approach. And the report sees the United Nations as a major force in realizing this potential. The United Nations can bring together different players from around the world. We can link them to both formal and informal negotiations on the most important issues of our day. We have decades of experience in helping partners to gather and interact with official Government negotiations.
From the major conferences of the 1990s to the preparations for Rio+20, the United Nations values consultations with all stakeholders. We are all working towards the same development objectives. And we are exploring the best ways to reach them, including through reforming our own processes where necessary.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that “with the right amount of soul-searching, partnership and determination, we can build a United Nations that plays its rightful and necessary role in global economic governance”. I look forward to a productive discussion on how we can move forward together to achieve this objective.
As I conclude, I pay tribute once again to the Governments of Finland and Tanzania for their leadership and commitment to this Process over the past 10 years.
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