New York, 20 November 2008 - Secretary-General's remarks at the Parliamentary Hearing at the United NationsMr. President of the General Assembly,
The Honourable Theo-Ben Gurirab, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Excellencies,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the United Nations. As parliamentarians, you are our natural allies. Like you, we are answerable to the world's people. And like you, our common aim is building consensus in order to address the urgent issues of the day.
I am very glad to know that this year's parliamentary hearing at the United Nations is focusing on peacekeeping and conflict prevention.
Preventing conflict is the cardinal mission set out by the founders of the United Nations. And this year, we mark 60 years since the deployment of the first UN peacekeeping operation.
Through quiet diplomacy and the work of my Special Envoys, the United Nations is promoting dialogue, building consensus and providing technical advice.
In Nepal, we are working with all parties to solidify the recent progress in democracy.
In West Africa, we are playing a significant role in mediation between Nigeria and Cameroon on their common border.
And in northern Uganda, the efforts of my Special Envoy have significantly increased the prospects for a more peaceful future.
But the primary responsibility for conflict prevention lies with the Member States concerned. The main role of the United Nations is to assist national actors in resolving conflict at an early stage, and to help build national capacity to sustain peace. Without political settlements, without lasting political solutions, the world will continue to be left with humanitarian emergencies and peacekeeping without end.
This is the rationale behind the proposals that I have submitted to the General Assembly for strengthening the UN's capacity for preventive diplomacy, and in particular, its mediation and peacemaking responsibilities. We have already improved collaboration between UN agencies working on conflict prevention programmes. And we are strengthening cooperation with regional organizations. This is particularly the case in Africa, where the United Nations is working closely with the African Union on prevention and peacekeeping, including a joint peacekeeping operation in Darfur.
But we need to be able to do more. Conflict prevention has been severely under-funded, and our capacities stretched thin. The proposals now before the Assembly complement recent peacekeeping reforms, and will help us address problems at an early stage, before they become far more difficult to manage.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Where preventative work does not succeed, we often see a recourse to peacekeeping.
Today, with more than 100,000 personnel in the field, peacekeeping has become the largest enterprise in the UN Secretariat. Costs have also risen, and are now more than three times the regular UN budget.
There are no easy answers to the question of what constitutes “effective” peacekeeping. The determination of effectiveness may well differ depending on one's perspective.
Governments funding peacekeeping operations may pay closer scrutiny to the costs.
Civilians caught up in conflict will look at the ability of peacekeepers to protect them.
Parties to a conflict may have their own strategic considerations.
As Secretary-General, I have my own firm views on the key ingredients for an effective peacekeeping mission.
First, for peacekeeping to have a chance for success, there must be a peace to keep. The parties to the conflict must be committed to an inclusive political process and disengage their forces. Parties to the conflict must agree to the presence of peacekeepers.
Second, peacekeepers must have clear and achievable mandates, with the means to match that mandate. Unity within the Security Council is essential in this regard.
Third, peacekeepers must always avoid becoming part of the problem. They must always act with utmost sensitivity towards the local population, and uphold the highest standards of professionalism and good conduct.
Fourth, we must continue to improve the operational side of peacekeeping within the United Nations itself. We need to link different elements – headquarters to field missions to funds and agencies – in order to deliver as one. This will improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Even with such improvements, we will not be able to control all the elements that make peacekeeping effective. But we will continue to learn from our experience and to strengthen our ability to bring relief to countries and communities emerging from armed conflict.
I worry that these basic conditions are becoming harder and harder to achieve in some of the world's most prolonged conflicts. But even where such conditions are not met, the United Nations has an obligation to act. Indifference is not an option.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me close with a few words on the global financial crisis, which I know is also foremost in all our minds.
Projections for the global economy are bleak. Mature economies are taking steps to recover from the recent panic that froze the credit markets. But the situation is far from stable.
At last weekend's G-20 Summit meeting in Washington, I stressed that the stimulus packages that many countries are enacting or contemplating need to be coordinated internationally. I also urged governments to meet their aid commitments.
More broadly, we need make sure that all countries, including those that were not represented at the Summit, are part of efforts to shape international economic governance and decision-making. We need a multilateralism that is fair, flexible and responsive.
We face two important tests in the weeks ahead. The financing for development conference that opens later this month in Doha, Qatar is an opportunity to rejuvenate the global partnership for development. And climate change negotiations next month in Poznan, Poland offer a chance to get on track to reach the agreement that is needed next year.
This crisis, devastating as it is, offers an opportunity to promote green economic development. Renewable energy offers tremendous potential to improve energy security, spur economic development and address climate change at the same time. These great challenges are interrelated -- the global economy, climate change and development. We need solutions to each that are solutions to all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The parliamentary voice must be heard as we move ahead. I greatly appreciate the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and its longstanding efforts to build an effective alliance between parliaments, governments and civil society, and particularly with the United Nations. And I look forward to working with you across our broad, shared agenda.
Thank you very much.
Statements on 20 November 2008
- Seoul, Republic of Korea, 20 November 2008 - Secretary-General's video message to the Korean Academy of Science and Technology
- New York, 20 November 2008 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Darfur
- New York, 20 November 2008 - Secretary-General's message on Africa Industrialization Day