Madeleine K Albright

Address at the 10th Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly - Sept. 12, 2000

Madeleine K Albright
September 12, 2000— New York City
United Nations General Assembly
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I am honoured to address the Assembly on behalf of the United States and to reinforce the eloquent message President Clinton conveyed during last week's Millennium Summit. Because my father worked here when I was young, I have always considered myself a child of the United Nations. And because I had the privilege to serve here as America's Permanent Representative, I feel at home and so will speak plainly.

The members of this body reflect virtually every culture, ethnicity and geographical region. We are city and country, inland and island, tropical and temperate, developing and industrialized. We are as diverse as humanity.

And yet, in responding to the daunting demands of this new era, we are bound together by the interests we share and the ideals to which we aspire.

We all have a stake in building peace and relieving poverty, championing development and curbing disease. We all want to see the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction reduced, refugees cared for, children nourished, the environment protected, and the status of women advanced.

We all believe the benefits of globalization must be allocated more broadly within and among societies. Because if the new technologies are to ease the old problems, they must help the many who today lack access and skills, so that every village becomes a home to opportunity and every school a midwife to hope.

As the Millennium Summit reflected, we have no shortage of worthy goals. We are right to aim high and take on the mightiest tasks.

But as the Secretary-General has said, progress depends on working together. We need all hands on deck, pulling in the same direction. For each of us, that responsibility begins at home because the international community cannot help any nation that is not striving to help itself.

Each Government has an obligation to observe international norms on human rights, uphold the rule of law, fight corruption and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. But in the twenty-first century, no nation can protect and serve its people simply by going it alone and that is why we all benefit from strengthening regional bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Because of their unique expertise and regional legitimacy, they can be instruments for solving some of the hardest challenges we face. But they will succeed only if we raise our expectations of these organizations, call upon them to act boldly and back them when they do.

Regional bodies can contribute much to the purposes outlined in the Charter, and the goals established during the Millennium Summit. But here again, they cannot do it all.

The role of the United Nations is also vital, because no other institution combines a comprehensive mandate with near universal representation and global reach.

We all have an interest in the success of the United Nations. That is its greatest strength, and also its burden, because 189 nations have to work very hard if they are to agree.

I remember when I came to New York in 1993, I was told by cynics that the United Nations was too bureaucratic to change, and too big ever to achieve consensus on measures to improve its governance.

Those cynics were wrong. With support from many countries, we have made impressive progress.

Compared to seven years ago, the United Nations accomplishes more and wastes less. Accountability has increased and duplication diminished.

The Internal Oversight Office, which did not exist in 1993, has grown steadily more rigorous and is responsible for tens of millions of dollars of savings. A culture of transparency and results is slowly but surely taking hold. Moreover, both United Nations Headquarters and the entire United Nations system are better led than they have ever been.

United Nations leaders and Members can take pride in the gains made, but we all know there is much more work to be done.

That is why we must back the Secretary General's efforts to further improve United Nations management, recognizing that every dollar wasted is a dollar lost to the fight against poverty and to the achievement of other urgent goals.

We must also move ahead rapidly to strengthen peacekeeping, because it is the most visible and vital yardstick of United Nations success and, for people in strife-torn regions, often means the difference between a normal life and no life at all.

There is no magic formula for curing the ills that have plagued United Nations peace operations in the past. But the report, just prepared by Ambassador Brahimi's team, is a solid place to start.

As President Clinton said last week, we need to ensure that United Nations peacekeepers can be deployed with the right training and equipment and the right rules of engagement so they can achieve, not merely attempt, their missions.

This will require a larger peacekeeping staff, on permanent assignment, comprised of the best talent and experience we can find.

It will require military planners the world over to recognize that training for peace operations is a legitimate part of every nation's security strategy. It will require the ability to deploy rapidly not only United Nations military forces, but also civilian police and experts in law enforcement and judicial reform. It will demand improved coordination between military peacekeepers and civilian builders of peace, so that missions begun are completed and recovery bred by reconciliation can take hold.

And it will require additional resources from my Government and from each of yours. And by "additional," I mean resources that should not come at the expense of other core United Nations goals.

The United States will heed the Secretary- General's request that we work together to consider and implement the best recommendations of the Brahimi report.

Whether for peacekeeping or programmes, the United Nations also needs a sustainable and equitable system of financing. We do not have that today. Member States, including my own, must do a better job of making payments on time. But we must also look afresh at the method used to allocate responsibility for United Nations costs.

Last week, the Security Council called for adjustments in the scale of assessments. This plea has been echoed by dozens of other countries and should be acted upon by the General Assembly this fall.

A more equitable system should provide a much stronger foundation for United Nations programmes and missions. It should preserve the special responsibility for peacekeeping of the Security Council's permanent members. It should retain heavily discounted rate for the poorest countries. And it should reduce the United Nations overall reliance on payments from the United States, while at the same time enabling my Government to write a check to the United Nations for nearly $600 million in prior obligations.

Clearly, adjustments are long overdue. The United Nations needs a firm and reliable financial base. In the weeks ahead, the United States will be pleased to work with members to accomplish this landmark goal.

Further improvements in management and peacekeeping and a sounder financial base are a vital step towards a stronger and more effective United Nations. But we must also stand up to the campaign launched by Baghdad against the United Nations authority and international law.

Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) provides an effective plan for protecting world security through resumed weapons inspections and monitoring inside Iraq. It has expanded the oil-for-food programme that has delivered $8 billion in humanitarian supplies to Iraqi civilians, with $6 billion more on the way. And it would enable Iraq, through compliance with the resolution's terms, to achieve an early suspension of sanctions. Thus far, Baghdad has flatly refused to accept the resolution. The regime's strategy is to ignore its United Nations Charter obligations and to seek to preserve at all costs its capacity to produce the deadliest weapons humanity has ever known.

We must continue to do all we can to ease the hardships faced by Iraq's people. But we must also defend the integrity of this institution, our security and international law.

The Millennium Summit illustrated the United Nations long-standing role as a forum for articulating consensus goals. But achieving these objectives will require action at all levels, from local to global. It will also require a willingness to move well beyond the limits and habits of the past.

Today, the United Nations is taking on a wide array of new issues, what I call "people issues", because they so directly affect the lives of our citizens. They include the challenge of protecting our planet by limiting greenhouse gas emissions; securing safe water supplies; halting desertification; and putting a stop to trafficking in human beings. They especially include the fight against HIV/AIDS, which was highlighted in a letter to the Secretary-General signed by the women Foreign Ministers last night. These and similar challenges are sure to be important components of twenty-first century diplomacy, and because they are global in scope, require a global response.

The United Nations is also playing an increased role in areas where cold war divisions once held it back. Over the past decade, United Nations entities have contributed much by prosecuting war criminals, promoting democracy, supporting human rights and aiding the fight against illegal drugs.

These issues require a willingness to take a stand, as the United Nations has done in holding accountable the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and the Balkans; striving to end rebel outrages in Sierra Leone; and expressing opposition to the long-standing and ongoing violation of basic human rights in Burma.

Let me say this morning that when the Burmese Government tries to blame the victims for the crime, and say that Aung San Suu Kyi and her party are responsible for their own repression, I can only reply that much the same was once said about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Václav Havel. The world is not fooled, and we must not be silent.

Some argue that speaking out in defence of human rights constitutes interference in internal affairs. I believe it helps to fulfil the purposes of the United Nations Charter, because when international norms are assaulted, the United Nations must do more than simply observe injustice, or report upon it, or sympathize with the victims. We must do all we can, where we can, to stop the perpetrators.

This requires the active backing and participation of United Nations Members, so that respect for international law becomes steadily more universal and the incentives for observing global standards progressively more clear.

The result, if we are united and determined enough, will be a world of greater security, justice and peace. Realistically, this is essential, if we are to achieve the ambitious social goals we have set. But there is one other essential element as well, and that is democracy. This past summer in

Poland, for the first time, more than 100 nations came together to reaffirm democratic principles and ensure that the democratic tide remains a rising one around the world. We did this not because democracy always produces good Governments, for it does not. But we are convinced by the evidence of the old century that the hopes we share for the new will more readily be accomplished if people are able to live and work in freedom.

Democracy is the one road we can all walk down together and the best system yet devised for sowing and growing the seeds of economic opportunity.

In promoting democracy, we are not attempting to impose our values on anyone else. In fact, this is not possible, because democracy, by definition, enables citizens within a country to shape their own destinies in accordance with their own convictions and ideals.

Make no mistake. In any country, at any time, dictatorship is an imposition. Democracy is a choice.

As we have learned during the last 55 years, the United Nations provides no guarantees of global peace or prosperity. But it can play a vital role as catalyst and coordinator, and as a bridge connecting the contributions of one to another.

To those who would judge it harshly, I would respond not by pointing first to the deliberations of diplomats such as myself, in surroundings such as these. Instead, I would point to the day-to-day efforts of United Nations workers caring for refugees, feeding children, providing shelter and preventing disease.

I would point to the men and women on the front lines, from Port-au-Prince to Freetown, and from Kosovo to Kisangani, doing some of the world's hardest work, and, as we have been reminded by the recent slayings of employees of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in East Timor, also the most dangerous. It is their efforts and sacrifice, in partnership with so many indigenous and other non-governmental organizations, that truly remind us of the United Nations purpose and of our kinship with one another.

This is, I expect, my last official speech to a United Nations audience. As I stand before you, I am deeply conscious not only of our many accomplishments, but also of the tasks not yet completed.

I am grieved by the conflicts that still rage, and the basic rights and freedoms still denied. I am frustrated by the gaps that still exist between our ideals and actions, and alarmed by the deepening material divide that ultimately threatens every nation, rich and poor alike.

There are those who say it is naive to think that the future can be made better than the past. I am reminded that this institution was founded by men and women who were as realistic as any human beings could be, for they were the survivors of the worst conflict our world has known and determined that succeeding generations should be saved from holocaust and war. They had faith. Surely we, as well, must have faith that by working together within and outside this Organization, we can move together, step by step towards the lofty goals we have set, and

thereby bring about a world more peaceful, prosperous and free than it has ever been. Since 1993, it has been my privilege to work with so many of you, from every part of the globe, in support of the interests we have in common and the dreams our people share.

This morning, I want to thank you for your friendship; pledge my cooperation in the months immediately ahead; and ask respectfully, in turn, for yours. I promise, as well, to serve the cause of international progress and individual liberty not only for as long as I am in office, but for as long as I am alive.

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