15 April 2009


15 April 2009
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the full text of remarks by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro to the High-Level Meeting on the United Nations and the European Union:  Building an Effective Multilateralism, 14 April, in Barcelona, Spain:

It is wonderful and an honour to be with you tonight and join together with Commissioner [Benita Ferrero-] Waldner and others.  In today’s turbulent world, multilateralism is more important than ever.  So I want to thank the United Nations Association of Spain, the Foreign Ministry, and all the other organizers who have brought us together for this important meeting.

It is especially meaningful that we are gathering in Spain, a country which has been unwavering in its support for the UN’s goals on development, peace, cross-cultural understanding and so much more.

Prime Minister [José Luis Rodríguez]Zapatero has shown great leadership in increasing Spain’s overseas development assistance toward the target of 0.7 per cent of GDP.  In fact, Spain increased its aid in 2008 faster than almost every other European country.  This is just one way this great country is demonstrating its commitment to development.   Spain’s support for the Millennium Development Goals achievement fund is also exemplary, as is its pledge of €1 billion to fight hunger and promote food security.

The turmoil we are experiencing throughout the developed world is reverberating even more forcefully in developing countries.  An additional 53 million people there are being pushed into poverty, 51 million are losing their jobs, and 40 million are going hungry.

These statistics come on top of the already unconscionably high figures on widespread global poverty.  The numbers are startling enough, but there are other effects that are not easy to quantify.  We cannot precisely measure human frustration.  But we do know that with so many people unemployed and unable to feed their families, social unrest will likely increase.

And with Governments stretched beyond their capacity, the protection of human rights could suffer.  This would be a terrible setback.  The European Union appreciates the need to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was born out of the conflict that devastated this continent.

The economic crisis is just one strong headwind in the storm buffeting our world.  The challenges of food, energy and climate change are also exacerbating the problems plaguing developing countries.  The Millennium Development Goals now hang in the balance.

Women, who should be the great engine of economic recovery, are struggling against dire circumstances.  They are more likely to lose their jobs and credit than men.  Girls are far more likely to be taken out of school than boys.  And studies show that women face increased risk of violence during times of crisis.  This could precipitate a major regression in hard-fought gender equality.  The consequences would be enormously damaging for society as a whole.

We need global solutions to these global problems.  An effective multilateral system that delivers results has never been more important.  The United Nations, as the only institution providing all countries with a platform to work together, has never been more relevant.

We deeply value the European Union, which is advocating multilateralism.  My good friend Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner put it well when she called the United Nations “the heart and soul of the multilateral system”.  She also pointed out that the European Union’s vision of the world “can only be guaranteed by this globally legitimate institution”.

Such support is vital.  The EU is active in all three main pillars of our work ‑‑ peace, human rights and development.  It is the largest provider of global official development assistance.  EU countries fund nearly 40 per cent of the UN’s budget and peacekeeping costs.  You, my friends, provide more than half of the core resources for our development activities.

This financial support is extraordinary, but it is not the most valuable contribution European States make to the United Nations.  What we depend on much more than funds is political will.  European Union countries share the UN’s universal values.  This is reflected in the work that they do with the Organization.

As Deputy Secretary-General, I am committed to forging an ever-closer partnership with the European Union.  Since my first visit to Strasbourg and Brussels two years ago, I have seen our already vibrant collaboration grow.

The EU is one of our most important partners in peacekeeping.  Our experiences on the ground ‑‑ in places like the Balkans, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad ‑‑ are the foundation for work that goes beyond peacekeeping to encompass conflict prevention, peacebuilding and post-conflict recovery.

Ultimately, these interventions help development, which is critical to cooling tensions before they flare and achieving lasting recovery after the guns fall silent.

The European Commission and United Nations country teams are working together in more than 100 nations, building capacity to hold elections, promoting health care and ensuring equitable access to education.  We are committed to addressing the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged members of the human family.

Together, the EC and the UN have placed a special focus on Africa’s development needs.  In 2007, the Secretary-General brought together eight leading multilateral organizations ‑‑including the European Commission ‑‑ to intensify their support for the MDGs in Africa.

The MDG Africa Steering Group’s recommendations provide a clear road map to achieving the Goals and ensure goals are progressing where needed most.  We need to deliver on this plan.

EU investments make it possible for the UN to fulfil its mandate in Africa and around the world.  And for the EU, cooperation with the UN can contribute to the accomplishment of mutually important goals, including around sensitive matters like elections, human rights and civilian oversight of the military.

This is most obvious in crisis situations, where the UN is often on the ground during and immediately after a conflict.  We are on the scene, and we can channel funds that might not otherwise get into the country.

In 2007 alone, the United Nations and the European Commission joined forces to help feed some 48 million people and shelter 33 million refugees and internally displaced people.

We joined forces to enable 80 million people to vote in credible elections, and advance the campaign to eradicate polio.  These are just a few of the many joint efforts we are undertaking to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide.

All countries have rallied behind the Millennium Development Goals.  Despite their own best efforts, however, developing countries could see progress erased by forces beyond their control.

These States did not cause global warming or the financial crisis, but they are bearing the brunt of the consequences.

Developing countries do not have the social safety nets that have protected European States during the financial crisis.  In response, developed countries must actively pursue sustainable solutions, not only in a spirit of solidarity but also out of self-interest.

Solutions must be hammered out in a process involving all States.  Groups such as the G-8 and G-20 are important, but it is vital to return to the United Nations as the natural locus of action on global issues.

The EU can be a bold leader in building coalitions through the United Nations.

I know that some are asking Europe to close its doors, and I am encouraged that they remain open.  The EU must fight protectionism, ensure that markets are accessible, keep financial flows strong and continue transferring technology to developing countries.

I urge the European Union to step up investments for promoting development and combating climate change.  The price of fulfilling the promise of the MDGs is going to be higher than anticipated, but compared with the trillions being spent on rescue packages, it is still a bargain that will benefit rich and poor countries alike.

At the recent G-20 summit in London, the Secretary-General called for a truly global stimulus package that meets the needs of all developing countries.  He argued strongly against protectionism.  And he urged the world’s wealthy nations to act in their enlightened self-interest by showing solidarity with their poorer neighbours on our small and increasingly vulnerable planet.

All countries must join forces to respond to the challenges of our time; not only the global economic downturn but also the many other problems that transcend borders, from terrorism to infectious disease to climate change and more.

As the Secretary-General recently said, “We either succeed together, or we fail alone.”

The choice is clear.  To succeed, we must build an effective multilateralism.  The European Union is one of our strongest partners in this urgent task.  I salute you, I thank you, and I count on your continued support so that we may overcome our common challenges and live up to our shared ideals.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.