Deputy Secretary-General, in Remarks to Joint Meeting of European Parliament Committees, Hails ‘Shared Efforts’ of United Nations, European Commission

14 October 2009

Deputy Secretary-General, in Remarks to Joint Meeting of European Parliament Committees, Hails ‘Shared Efforts’ of United Nations, European Commission

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

Deputy Secretary-General, in Remarks to Joint Meeting of European Parliament

Committees, Hails ‘Shared Efforts’ of United Nations, European Commission

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Extraordinary Joint Meeting of the European Parliament Committees on Foreign Affairs and Development, delivered in Brussels, 12 October:

This is my third visit to the European Parliament since becoming Deputy-Secretary-General in 2007.  I welcome this opportunity to address the two Committees whose mandates span the three interconnected pillars of the United Nations’ work, namely development, peace and security and human rights.

I thank the Chairs for inviting me, and express my appreciation to the members of their committees plus those members of other committees here today whose work is of key relevance to the United Nations, including Environment, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, and Budgetary Control.

Europe has always been a strong advocate of international solutions to international problems, and of global frameworks in which all countries have a say in identifying the appropriate solutions.  The European Union has repeatedly stated its commitment to building an effective multilateralism with a strong United Nations at its core, and it has backed this commitment both politically and financially.

Today’s economic crisis affects your constituents deeply.  It is having an even harsher impact on developing countries and transition countries in Europe’s own neighbourhood.  It means reduced demand for exports and lower commodity prices; a decline in capital flows, including remittances; and lower income from tourism.  Decreased demand has cost African economies an estimated $251 billion.

For many countries, the economic crisis is also worsening income distribution and exacerbating the impact of climate change and the food crisis.  The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is at stake.

The Secretary-General’s 2009 report on the MDGs estimates that between 55 and 90 million more people will live in extreme poverty by the end of this year.  The number of hungry people now exceeds 1 billion.  The consequences of less access to food, health and education will be felt by many for the rest of their lives.

Last month, I launched the report of the MDG Gap Task Force.  I urge you to review its recommendations on addressing gaps in commitments on debt, trade and aid.  Now is not the time to cut back on aid and financial flows to developing countries.

The current crises demonstrate powerfully that global public goods are not a luxury but a necessity.  Without climate stability, or an equitable international financial order, progress on human development may slow or stall in most developing countries.  Now, more than ever, is the time for a strengthened multilateralism, where burdens are shared and interventions are effective.

The UN is working to equip itself to rise to the challenge through an ongoing process of reform.

We have professionalized our internal system of administration of justice, and increased accountability and transparency through the strengthening of the independent oversight bodies.  A new Enterprise Resources Planning System will increase efficiency and provide better information to Member States and the public.

We are also putting equality at the heart of the Organization.  The General Assembly’s recent decision to establish a single, dedicated United Nations entity on gender gives us a better platform for pursuing women’s empowerment.

Let me also say a few words about the “Delivering as One” initiative, launched in 2007 to increase coherence and maximize our impact.  “Delivering as One” has brought together partner Governments, donors and UN country teams with fresh energy and a greater sense of common purpose.  By strongly encouraging eight pilot country teams to implement agreed reforms, and giving them broad latitude to innovate and experiment, “Delivering as One” has accelerated the pace of change and demonstrated the potential of a more coherent UN system.

The stocktaking reports prepared by Governments and UN country teams indicate some promising achievements.  Most importantly, the pilot countries have seen the emergence of strong national ownership and leadership.

Through the pilot countries, and in many other programme countries, we increasingly see more coherent and focused programming.  UN Country Teams are responding more effectively to Government requests ‑‑ delivering substance and speaking with one voice on important policy matters.

Several pilot countries are also demonstrating how a common budgetary framework can strengthen both the transparency and the predictability of resources.  The “One Fund” mechanism has helped to harmonize resource mobilization and reporting among UN organizations, and reduce transaction costs.

In addition, the Resident Coordinator System, which is the core of inter-agency coordination at the country level, has grown much stronger and more accountable.

The pilot countries are now starting their country-led evaluations.  The General Assembly has also asked the Secretary-General to make arrangements for an independent evaluation of the “Delivering as One” initiative.  I am now working within the UN system, with the support of UN Evaluation Group and UN Development Group, to design this exercise.

Today’s challenges make our cooperation with the European Union more important than ever.  Our collaboration is already solid, varied and extensive.  It ranges from coordination of peacekeeping missions to consultations on conflict prevention.  It includes the exchange of management best practices, staff exchanges and training, European Commission financing of UN humanitarian and development interventions, and consultations on development policy.

The report I am presenting to you today ‑‑ Renewing Hope, Rebuilding Lives ‑‑ takes an in-depth look at one critical area of this partnership:  support to countries emerging from crises, be they natural disasters or manmade conflict.

The challenges in such environments are immense, with needs often vastly exceeding capacities and resources.  The report identifies some key results we have been able to achieve ‑‑ and why these results were possible.

Allow me to list some of the highlights.

The European Commission sponsored UN interventions to enhance communities’ physical security by removing landmines, curbing the circulation of weapons and protecting individuals and groups at risk.

Together, we helped ex-fighters and those indirectly engaged in combat to return to normal lives and reconcile with their pasts and with their communities.

Commission-supported UN safety nets secured food, nutrition and health for millions of people when traditional safety nets were failing and State systems were non-existent.

We worked to create jobs.

We focused on early warning systems, which dramatically increased the ability of Governments and communities to stop or curb outbreaks of disease.

We promoted “environmental recovery” ‑‑ the management of natural resources for countries emerging from crisis, which is rarely a priority.

And we engaged in institution-building, given the central importance of their legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens they are there to serve.  Our efforts to re-establish the rule of law included helping security services to reinvent themselves and adapt to newly democratizing environments.  This is a good example of how the UN’s impartiality allows the Commission to engage on politically sensitive issues.  Together, we supported local and national elections in Afghanistan, the Great Lakes region and West Africa.  We supported three rounds of elections in Iraq over a five-year period.

The report does not minimize the difficulties that countries face as they emerge from crisis.  International support is not always decisive in creating and sustaining stability.  However, our partnership has been able to improve lives, marginalize spoilers and restore peoples’ hope for a better future, even in those cases where the overall security situation has not greatly improved.

The report also illustrates our common commitment to “building back better” ‑‑ that is, not just replacing what was there before, but redressing pre-existing problems and inequities.  In Pakistan, the increased participation of girls in school and the establishment of more sustainable community land use practices, demonstrate that crises can provide opportunities to do things differently and better.

Our partnership is premised on the fact that the role of the international community is to support national actors to take back the reins of their own development as soon as they can.  We help them build so-called “infrastructures for peace” ‑‑ the institutions, processes and skills within Government and civil society that are needed.

Finally, the report reiterates the conclusions of an independent evaluation carried out in 2008 under the Commission’s auspices.

The evaluation concluded that by working through and with the United Nations, the Commission has been able to deliver aid where this may have proved difficult or impossible ‑‑ particularly in crisis countries.

Further evidence outlines that the Commission has benefited from the UN’s often privileged policy dialogue with Governments.

Together, we have been able to keep attention and resources on “forgotten crises” long after the media spotlight had moved elsewhere.

The United Nations is tremendously grateful to the European Commission for the support it gives to UN development and humanitarian efforts in more than 100 countries.  We attach the greatest importance to our shared efforts to uphold human rights, protect vulnerable groups, strengthen governance and invest in health, education, water and sanitation.

I invite you, in your travels as parliamentarians, to see this work for yourself if you haven’t already.  Please visit UN operations and offices on the ground.  Watch the European Commission partnership with the United Nations in action.  I am confident you will be pleased to see the results of our partnership.  But I am also sure you will come back with ideas for doing it even better.

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