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Address by H.E. Dr. Vaira
I would like
to begin by extending
Three days ago the people of
It is our hope
that this extended Union of 25 member States will serve not only to promote
the welfare of its citizens, but that it will also become an even more
significant contributor to international stability and worldwide prosperity.
The EU is already the world's largest provider of development assistance, and
Many other nations in transition are now undertaking similar paths of development and reform.
Twelve years ago, when
Perhaps humanity's greatest problem lies in its propensity for violence, which manifests itself in all levels of society, starting with the abusive individual in the family household and ending in an armed conflict in the international arena. Even peaceful countries with lengthy traditions of non-intervention and domestic tranquillity are finding themselves faced with tragic acts of senseless violence that include the beating and killing of immigrants and political assassinations.
The unrest and turmoil in the
Ladies and gentlemen,
The establishment of a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians would also have an additional benefit. It would remove the Palestinian cause as an excuse for terrorists to justify their actions of murder and destruction. As the events of the last few years so poignantly reveal, terrorism and arms proliferation have become two of the largest threats to world security today.
Currently the international community is deeply divided about the ethics and feasibility of implementing direct military action against governments that are deemed to support and sponsor terrorism. In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, where undeniably repressive regimes were removed by force through outside intervention, the military measures undertaken by the US and her allies will have to be followed by comprehensive international efforts to help these countries rebuild their societies and their economies. I am certain that most of the people in this room would agree to the need for reconstruction and security, regardless of their opinion about the foreign military presence in these two countries.
Within the limited means at its disposal,
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we collectively seek to avoid a clash of civilizations between different societies of the world, so we must seek to reduce the growing discrepancies between the rich and the poor. Poverty afflicts every single member country of the United Nations. About three billion people, or half of the world's population, struggle to subsist on the equivalent of less than two dollars a day.
Seventy percent of the world's poorest people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their subsistence. The Millennium Goal of reducing poverty and of halving the proportion of people earning less than one dollar a day can only be achieved by improving the plight of poor farmers and creating viable agricultural communities. Poor farmers in the developing countries cannot compete with products subsidized by the treasuries of the world's richest countries.
At this month's World Trade Organization conference in Cancun, Mexico, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the WTO member States "to say 'no' to trade policies that aggravate poverty" and "to say 'yes' to bold and sensible steps that will revive the global economy and set a new course for [sustainable] development."
Poverty also provides fertile ground for modern-day slavery and the trafficking of humans, which continues to occur in nearly all regions of the globe. At the beginning of the 21st century, an estimated 27 million people are still being bought, sold, held captive, brutalized and exploited for profit. Together with NGOs that are working to stop slavery and through international organizations such as the UN, our governments must help these slaves break free from their chains.
We all live in a world where such deadly diseases as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and lately SARS - to name but a few - know no borders. It is only through the continued vigilance of our countries' health officials and through close international cooperation that we will ever be able to keep these mortal dangers in check. I hope that yesterday's AIDS conference has strengthened the resolve and confidence of its participants to overcome this great affliction.
The Government of Latvia is actively pursuing its commitments under the Millennium Declaration to attain the Millennium Development Goals. It has, for example, prepared a national action plan to address the needs of children in consultation with local authorities, NGOs and children themselves. In cooperation with the UNDID office in
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since its foundation in 1948 the United Nations has seen the number of its member States increase almost four-fold. It has seen European colonialism, the Cold War, and apartheid come to an end. It has successfully brokered the cessation of hostilities in
countries. It has provided trillions of dollars of development assistance to numerous countries.
However, the UN has also been criticized for being slow, unwieldy and ineffectual. Few would disagree that the UN has reached a point where changes within its structure are required so that it can effectively deal with the new challenges of the 21st century. Let us recall that a working group on the reform of the Security Council was created already ten years ago, shortly after the collapse of the bipolar world order that had dominated international relations for decades. At that time there were hopes that an unprecedented degree of unity might be reached within the UN community. For the moment, however, it appears that any substantial changes within the UN will have to await a renewed climate of consensus, which is not likely to precede the resolution of the crises in the Middle East, the settling of trade disputes and the establishment of greater unity about agricultural subsidies, arms proliferation and environmental issues.