Chretien's address to the UN

Gary Lawrence Murphy garym at
Wed Sep 24 11:53:10 PDT 2003

>From the pmo ...


September 23, 2003
New York 

It is a pleasure to address this important gathering. I congratulate the new President of the General Assembly and wish him well.

As you all know, Canada has always believed in multilateral approaches to global opportunities and problems. We believe in this multilateral cooperation, not as an ideology, but as a proven way to enhance security, and solve over-arching problems.

Our age presents us with enormous opportunities to improve health and lengthen life, especially in poor countries. To safeguard security and rights. And to increase education and help people realize their dreams.

Our age also presents us with urgent challenges. The environment. Rolling back diseases such as HIV - AIDS and malaria. Preventing conflict and ending impunity for crimes against humanity. Stopping terrorism and organized crime. Controlling weapons of mass destruction.

Each government is responsible for taking action within its own borders. But in this global era such issues cannot be successfully addressed by acting alone.

Multilateral cooperation is indispensable. To ensuring the well-being of citizens and protecting them effectively from harm.

Consider the fight against terrorism. None of us has ever believed that, without co-operation from all, terrorism could be controlled, let alone stopped. Drying up sources of funding for terrorists also requires coordination and effective legal regimes. Swift coordinated action is imperative to prevent attacks.

The UN has been enormously helpful in this fight. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Security Council launched an extensive effort in support of the fight against terrorism.

Consider also health. Distance from the source of new viruses no longer provides protection. The next one may be a plane ride away. Multilateral cooperation is key to managing health threats. We risk disaster if we do not share with each other all the facts, and coordinate efforts to control outbreaks. Coordinated action is also required for development in poor countries and to ensure reasonable access to health care.

Consider, further, the ongoing problem of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We face increasing challenges from the proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction to hostile states and terrorist groups. Such proliferation must be stopped. Through coordination and strict application of export controls. Through rigorous verification and enforcement of multilateral treaties. Through other forms of collective action under international law.

We all recognize that, through the UN, we have met many global challenges successfully, but we recognize that on others we have failed. We have been slow to adapt the UN to changing circumstances. The times call for bold renewal at the United Nations.

This morning, the Secretary General set out proposals which are timely, necessary, and courageous. I congratulate him on his remarkable speech. And I can say that Canada is fully supportive of the objectives proposed by the Secretary General.

The necessity of multilateral action means that there is no legitimate alternative to the UN. I call on my fellow leaders to make meaningful UN reform a priority.

We should not be pessimistic about our ability to succeed. Consider some recent UN successes: the 2000 Millennium Summit and the 2002 Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey. We created a shared framework on priority setting for more effective aid. We set targets and key principles. We spelled out mutual accountabilities for developed and developing countries. This spirit of accountability and shared responsibility also lies at the heart of the New Partnership for Africa`s Development (NEPAD) and the G8 Africa Action Plan. And it has led to policy initiatives with respect to market access, and the availability of pharmaceutical drugs to poor countries. For instance, Canada this year eliminated virtually all tariffs and quotas on products from Least Developed Countries.

At the same time, the outcome of the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun is very worrisome. Agricultural subsidies of developed countries must be radically reduced to give developing countries, particularly in Africa, the chance to prosper. The developed world has an obligation to act. And to act quickly.

Colleagues, on no issue is progress more necessary or more difficult than the protection of the innocent.

Canada, in partnership with others, advocates putting the protection of people at the heart of the mandate of this organization.

Too often, conflicts are allowed to ignite, even when the whole world can see what the dreadful consequences will be. Too often innocent civilians are left to their fate.

Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. In all conscience, we must ask ourselves "Are we any more ready now than we were then to respond to another ‘Rwanda'?" I fear the answer unfortunately is No.

It was with our collective failures in Bosnia and Rwanda in mind that Canada sponsored the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The Commission has done excellent work. In its report, it argues that sovereignty entails responsibility, as well as rights.

The most fundamental duty of a state is to protect its people. When a government cannot or will not do so, the responsibility to protect them becomes temporarily a collective international responsibility.

Some question this idea because they fear intervention occurring on slight pretexts. Or with motives other than human protection. Others, due to their own tragic experience, fear there would be too little outside involvement. We need to reconcile these two concerns.

We believe, as does the commission, that in the face of large scale loss of life or ethnic cleansing, the international community has a moral responsibility to protect the vulnerable. The primary purpose must be to avert and end human suffering.

No entity is more appropriate than the UN Security Council to authorize military action to protect the innocent. But the member states of the Council have sometimes failed the innocent. Past failures must motivate us to prepare better for future crises. We can reform how this place works. Improve its effectiveness. Enhance its relevance. Inspire its participants.

Before closing, I wish to comment on some of the challenges we all face to peace and security.

In Afghanistan, much has been achieved and much remains to be done. For our part, Canada has been engaged in the war on terrorism from the outset. We are the largest current military contributor to the International Security Assistance Force.

We have pledged $250 million (Cdn) for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. We are committed to helping the Afghani people build a democratic, pluralistic society.

In Iraq, we have also joined the international effort to help the Iraqi people. We have decided to contribute $300 million (Cdn) – one of the largest single country pledges we have ever made. We are encouraged that members of the Security Council are exploring how to elaborate upon the UN's role in the reconstruction and progress towards Iraqi self-government.

The situation in the Middle-East preoccupies us as it does the entire international community. Innocent lives on both sides are being lost. Israeli families and Palestinian families fear for their children and their future. Terrorism and violence – in whatever form to advance whatever cause – simply creates more violence and takes even more innocent life.

For the international community, as for Israelis and Palestinian, despair is not an option. Our goal must remain a political solution based on two viable states, Israel and Palestine, within secure and recognized borders. We need to support Palestinian efforts to develop modern, transparent and responsible government.

We need also, to support those seeking to promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians in the search of practical solutions to the core issues. It is our responsibility to help those who are preparing for peace which must one day come.

When the time is right, the international community must be able to offer a robust international presence that will guarantee the safety and security of Israel and of a Palestinian state.

And we should be getting ready to do so now. And we should be looking for lessons in how the international community has acted in other places to stop violence, as for example, in Cyprus and Kosovo.

Regional tensions, the war on terror and efforts at reconstruction in recent hot spots must nevertheless not distract us from continuing to help Africans realize their goals for trade and investment, democracy, human development and good governance.

In summary :

Multilateral cooperation remains indispensable. The UN remains at the heart of the multilateral system. New challenges demand new structures. And a historic opportunity has emerged.

Let us seize it. And let us realize the powerful idea that created the UN. The idea that nations can unite to save their people from the scourge of war.

Let future generations say of us that we did not fail that idea. That we realized the potential of this great body. Supported it. Renewed it. Re-energized it. To serve humanity better.

Thank you. 

Gary Lawrence Murphy - garym at - TeleDynamics Communications
   - blog: - biz: -
  "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." (Picasso)

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