30 May 2004
THE UN DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, MS. LOUISE
TO THE EUROPEAN FOUNDATION CENTRE’S ANNUAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Athens, 30 May 2004
European Foundation Centre was meeting under the theme, "The
Athens Agora - Bridging Civilizations and Cultures."
In her keynote address, the Deputy Secretary-General focused on
how European foundations can work more closely with the United
Nations to advance development and the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs). The Goals are a set of eight targets endorsed at
a UN summit in 2000 which address global ills such as extreme
poverty and hunger as well as the spread of AIDS and other major
you, Mr. Owen, for those kind words.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure and an honour to address you today. Above all, I
am heartened that you have asked for the United Nations to be present
at your Annual Assembly. I take this as a most welcome signal that
European foundations appreciate the need to reach out beyond the borders
of Europe to the world at large.
And how apt that you are holding your gathering in Athens on the theme
of bridging civilizations and cultures. Surely there is no city in
the world richer in symbolism and history as a meeting place of people,
intellects and ideas. This summer, there is no place that will rival
Athens as a focal point for friendship among nations, when athletes
gather under the flame of the Olympic Torch.
The global theme of your Annual Assembly could not come at a more
crucial time in world affairs. Recent events have surely shown all
of us that in today’s world, it is more important than ever
to build bridges among cultures, communities and countries; to reach
out and seek to make common cause around our most fundamental and
What are those values, you may ask? Is there even such a thing as
a universal set of values? I would venture that there is -- and that
we have a document to prove it.
Four years ago, the world’s Governments adopted the Millennium
Declaration -- the product of the Millennium Summit, the largest gathering
of leaders the world has ever seen.
In it, they stated that they had “collective responsibility
to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity at
the global level”.
They recognized that as leaders, they had a duty “to all the
world’s people, especially the most vulnerable and, in particular,
the children of the world, to whom the future belongs”.
And they held “certain fundamental values to be essential to
international relations in the twenty-first century”. Among
those values, they counted freedom, solidarity, tolerance, respect
for nature and shared responsibility.
Those were the values they saw as the glue binding together the peoples
of the world.
Four years on, the consensus behind the Millennium Declaration has
been challenged by upheavals we could not have imagined in the year
Major differences have emerged in the international community, shaped
above all by the threat of terrorism, by the war in Iraq and by events
related to it.
Those events have raised a number of wider questions about the nature
of the challenges we face, and about the ability of the multilateral
system to deal with them
They have brought home to us that there is a pressing need for the
international community to find common ground again.
They have underlined the need to make the United Nations a more effective
instrument in meeting threats to global security in the 21st century.
And they have made us realize that we must re-evaluate our existing
capacities, as well as build new ones to meet the threats and challenges
That is why, in November, the Secretary-General appointed a High-Level
Panel to examine the threats we face, evaluate our existing policies,
processes and institutions, and make bold recommendations for change.
But surely we already know -- and we do not need a panel to tell us
-- that to find common ground, to build bridges between cultures and
civilizations, we must focus on what the ordinary people who make
up those cultures and civilizations have in common. We must look to
the things that fundamentally matter to them.
And ultimately, what matters most to them are not necessarily issues
discussed in the Security Council of the United Nations. Rather, they
are issues to do with building a decent life for themselves and their
families – enough food in the table, adequate housing, good
health care, clean drinking water, an education for their children.
Issues expressed in the Millennium Development Goals -- eight commitments
drawn from the Millennium Declaration which, taken together, form
a blueprint for building a better world in the 21st century.
These eight goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the
spread of major diseases and providing universal primary education
-- all by the target date of 2015. They represent a set of simple
but powerful objectives that every man and woman in the street --
from Athens to Addis Ababa -- can easily understand and support.
I am delighted that the International Committee of the European Foundation
Centre has adopted the Millennium Development Goals as its framework
Yes, these goals are ambitious. But they are not utopian. Why are
they different from other bold pledges that became broken promises
over the past 50 years? For three reasons.
First, the MDGs are people-centred, time-bound and measurable.
A classic complaint about development aid is that undirected, uncoordinated
resources tend to be wasted by corruption and mismanagement without
any mechanisms to track progress and ensure accountability. Now we
have a set of clear, measurable indicators, focused on basic human
needs, that can provide clear benchmarks of progress -- or the lack
of it -- both globally and country by country.
Second, the MDGs have unprecedented political support. Never
before have such concrete goals been formally endorsed by rich and
poor countries alike. And never before have the UN, the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund and all the other principal arms of
the international system come together behind the same set of development
Third -- and most important -- the MDGs are achievable. Take
the goal of halving poverty. The number of people living on less than
one US dollar a day is around 1.2 billion -- little changed from the
late 1980s. But that figure disguises some huge successes.
East Asia has seen the proportion of people living on less than one
dollar a day plummet from 28 per cent to 14 per cent in one decade.
In South Asia, where nearly half the world’s very poor live,
there has been a more modest drop from 44 per cent to 37 per cent
-- but progress is accelerating.
Progress is also being made in the fight against HIV/AIDS. There have
been remarkable successes in some countries in Africa and Asia, despite
rising infection rates in those regions as a whole. Senegal, Uganda
and Thailand have launched nationwide programmes of prevention that
have contained the rates of infection.
In every region, and at every level, the MDGs are proving to be a
powerful catalyst for change. MDG-based poverty monitoring systems
are being introduced to sharpen national poverty reduction strategies.
And MDG action plans are being mainstreamed into the development process.
Nevertheless, overall progress has been uneven at best. There is no
rising tide in the global economy that will lift all boats. Good,
democratic governance and sound development strategies are paramount.
Equally indispensable is a true partnership of developed and developing
countries – as expressed in the eighth Millennium Development
Goal. Much more can and should be done by Governments in the developed
world to open up markets, increase official development assistance
and provide debt relief.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is a multitude of ways in which all of you, as foundations,
can be active partners in the work to build bridges among cultures
and civilizations; in the mission to make common cause around what
matters most to people’s lives.
First, many of you have ideas and expertise to share on ways
to solve global problems. You can advance knowledge and understanding
of the issues, influence debate, and contribute to decisions about
the kind of research that is worth investing in.
Second, you can take up roles of leadership and advocacy. You
are credible and respected actors in your respective countries and
communities, and you can use you voice to build wider support for
the MDGs. You raise public consciousness, and speak to people’s
Third, you can work as partners on the ground on specific projects.
Many of you have long and solid experience at the local level of how
to get things done. You can use that experience to take action, working
with local partners in other countries where the need is even greater.
You have plenty of examples to draw on. Over the past decade, there
has been a virtual explosion in the number of partnerships bringing
together Governments, the private sector, non-Governmental organizations
and foundations. By forging alliances, by pooling skills and resources,
by making the connection between the local and the global, these partnerships
are making an impact more widely and deeply than one actor ever could.
Let me mention a couple of examples. The MTCT Plus initiative is an
alliance of nine foundations working with other institutions to protect
children from being infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission,
and to provide treatment for their mothers. It is a wonderful illustration
of the role foundations can play in the fight against AIDS through
both prevention and care.
Or look at the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which brings together
more than 100 partners in an international programme to provide scientific
information to decision-makers and the public about the consequences
of changes in the ecosystem, and options for responding to those changes.
There are many other examples, and we in the United Nations welcome
and embrace them. In recent years, we have opened up to this way of
working with non-State actors on a scale that could not have been
imagined a few decades ago.
The UN office for international partnerships, established in the first
instance to channel the billion dollars donated to the United Nations
by CNN founder Ted Turner in 1997, works together with the agencies
of the UN system to foster collaboration and synergies. This has inspired
a number of other foundations and philanthropists to work with the
UN in areas ranging from education to maternal health to biodiversity.
The UN is also reaching out to the business community. More than 1,400
companies from over 70 countries, as well as dozens of civil society
organizations and global trade union federations, have joined our
Global Compact initiative -- a forum promoting the practical application
of universal principles on human rights, labour and the environment.
This has helped many corporations address issues such as human rights
for the first time. It has helped business, labour and NGOs learn
how to work together through learning and dialogue, and discover that
cooperation is better than confrontation. It has helped the United
Nations learn how to open up its doors and work with the business
sector. And it has inspired a range of new projects on the ground
in the developing world, for the benefit of those who need them most.
The United Nations is truly transforming the way it works with the
outside world. Partnering with us has never been easier. We stand
ready to welcome you, and work with you.
Above all, I hope that you will bring all your creativity and experience
to bear on the mission we surely all have in common – the work
for human dignity, freedom and solidarity, for tolerance, respect
for nature and shared responsibility.
And I hope your example will encourage and energize others to act.
I thank you for listening to me today, and look forward to seeing
many of you again.
Thank you very much.