I would like first of all to express, on my personal behalf and on behalf of the United Nations, my sincerest congratulations on your historic election to the National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I would also like to tell you how pleased and honoured I am to speak before you at this crucial time in the history of your country.
This has been a chequered decade for development, but an extraordinary one for the UN's role in development.
When I took office in 1997, official development assistance had been declining for more than a decade. Funding for the UN system had dropped precipitously, amidst fierce ideological debates with the Bretton Woods institutions and other partners about the right approach to development. And the world was falling rapidly behind in tackling new challenges, particularly HIV/AIDS.
Let me first thank our hosts, President Joaquim Chissano and the people of Mozambique, for their wonderful welcome and generous hospitality. Equally, let me say a special word of gratitude to President Thabo Mbeki for his hard work and leadership during the first -- and highly challenging -- year in the life of the African Union.
I should also like to pay tribute to Mr. Amara Essy, First Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, for his dedicated service and for the leadership he has provided in helping lay down foundations for the Commission of the African Union.
Thank you, Mr. Vice-President, [United States Vice President Al Gore] for that thoughtful statement. Your presence here today is a promising start indeed to the New Year, and welcome evidence of your country's commitment to the United Nations.
As we open this new millennium, many of us have much to be thankful for. Most of the world is at peace. Most of us are better educated than our parents or grandparents. We can expect to live longer lives, with greater freedom and a wider range of choices.