It gives me great pleasure to extend my greetings to the parliamentarians from around the world who have gathered in Geneva for the 109th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly.
Three years ago, in the Millennium Declaration, world leaders committed themselves to address common threats collectively, to meet agreed development goals, and to advance human rights and democracy.
But, as was underlined during last week's opening of the 58th session of the General Assembly, the events of the past year have called into question some parts of the consensus which underlay the Declaration. Those who feel uniquely endangered by the so-called “new” threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are concerned that the international architecture may not be equal to the task of meeting them. Those who feel more vulnerable to other threats –civil wars and other armed conflicts in which conventional weapons and small arms cause terrible destruction, or so-called “soft threats” such as extreme poverty, infectious disease, climate change and environmental degradation –are worried that their concerns do not receive sufficient priority and that their voices are not adequately heard.
All these threats –new and old, “hard” and “soft” –are real and must be addressed. And they are, of course, inter-related. After all, a world which is advancing to meet the Millennium Development Goals is more likely to be a world at peace. But the United Nations is not always as effective as it could be in meeting all these challenges. This is hardly surprising, given that the principal organs of the United Nations have not altered in their fundamentals since 1945, while the world they are intended to manage has changed almost beyond recognition.
The time has long since arrived to look hard at the institutions of the United Nations –and, if necessary, to make radical reforms. A central challenge is to enhance their authority by making them both open to more voices and more effective in taking action. I have appointed a high-level panel to examine how this might be done, so that I may make recommendations to the General Assembly this time next year. The decisions will of course rest with the Member States –but I will do everything I can to help them render the United Nations a better instrument in the service of the peoples of the world.
I hope you will too. Indeed, I appeal for your help. If the reform agenda is to succeed, it will require States to promote their national interest by advancing the global interest. You as parliamentarians can do much to mobilize public opinion and encourage governments to do just that. The IPU itself, recently granted observer status in the General Assembly, can also make vital contributions to deliberations on these issues in the United Nations.
Just as we must ensure that the architecture of the United Nations is better suited to the challenges of today and tomorrow, so we must ensure that the United Nations maximises its cooperation with others who are working to meet those challenges. That is why, earlier this year, I appointed another high-level panel to examine United Nations relations with global civil society. I attach great importance to its work, and you have much to contribute to it –particularly its consideration of the parliamentary dimension of the Organization's cooperation with civil society.
The UN and the IPU need to work together to advance global public goods. I therefore wish your Assembly every success.