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28 July 1997

Press Release


19970728 Following is the text of a statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the opening meeting of the International Conference on Governance for Sustainable Growth and Equity, at Headquarters today:

It is a genuine pleasure and a privilege for me to open this first global Conference on Governance held at the United Nations.

It is a major event, which will bring important new insights. I congratulate Gus Speth and his United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) team and the co-sponsors for their initiative in calling this Conference, and for their energy in organizing it.

It is good to welcome here today such a large number of government ministers and officials from more than 153 Member States of the United Nations, and also a host of governors of provinces, mayors of cities, leaders of local authorities, and representatives of civil society from all around the world.

This meeting will draw on a vast wealth of experience and insight. Your experiences are many and varied. We, the United Nations and the international community, have much to learn from you. I will look to this Conference for guidance on practical, on-the-ground measures that you can take, and the United Nations can support. And you, conferring among yourselves, have, I believe, much to learn from each other.

You are the symbols and expression of a vast coalition of forces now emerging around the world, united in its desire to transform the nature of the relationship between people and government. You are the agents of change and of a new politics.

Crucial to the new politics is a redefinition of the role of the State. The State, it is increasingly understood, is not a creator of wealth but a facilitator and catalyst of development. An essential function of the State

is to provide an enabling environment in which investment can take place, wealth can be created, and individuals can prosper and grow. Civil society can then form and express itself, involving individuals in decisions affecting their own lives.

Good governance and sustainable development are indivisible.

That is the lesson of all our efforts and experiences, from Africa to Asia to Latin America. Without good governance -- without the rule of law, predictable administration, legitimate power, and responsive regulation -- no amount of funding, no amount of charity will set us on the path to prosperity.

A new consensus is emerging on the nature, role and function of official institutions. We are moving from old ideologies to a new pragmatism. Our work at the United Nations reflects this momentous change.

We are fully engaged in efforts to improve governance around the world. The number of requests for assistance has grown exponentially in recent years, reflecting the recognition by Member States that good governance is indispensable for building peaceful, prosperous and democratic societies. They turn to the United Nations because, since the end of the cold war, our expertise has expanded greatly. Our programmes now target virtually all the key elements of what we think of as good governance.

A foundation of law and effective national institutions is essential if Governments are to perform their mission and be held accountable for their actions. United Nations legal officers are helping nations establish sound and transparent legal frameworks and fair and reliable judicial systems.

United Nations police experts, often as part of peace-keeping operations, are training police forces in the basics of police work and in the rudiments of human rights.

Our human rights field operations are helping build national as well as non-governmental institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. I am pleased and proud to say that we now have more staff working on human rights issues in the field than at Headquarters. All these efforts yield another important dividend: they help to combat crime and corruption, which thrive where laws and civic institutions are weak.

The United Nations has provided electoral assistance to dozens of countries. We promote the full participation of women in politics, particularly at the senior decision-making levels. Support for democratization has become one of our major concerns.

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Good governance is also a component of our work for peace. It has a strong preventive aspect. It gives societies sound structures for economic and social development. In post-conflict settings, good governance can promote reconciliation and offer a path for consolidating peace. Good governance demands the consent and the participation of the governed and the full and lasting involvement of all citizens in the future of their nation. I have been deeply gratified by the movement towards good governance that is taking place around the world. The success of this new movement begins with a single and simple proposition -- the will of the people. The will of the people must be the basis of governmental authority. That is the foundation of democracy. That is the foundation of good governance. Good governance will give every citizen, young or old, man or woman, a real and lasting stake in the future of their societies -- politically, economically, and socially. With that stake in their minds and hearts, there are no limits to what the peoples of your countries can achieve. Many of you have gathered here, as mayors and local leaders, because you wish to effect positive and immediate change in the lives of your constituents. Many of you have been elected by newly empowered citizens who seldom, if ever, have had the power and privilege of representative government. I salute you for your courage and your leadership. You are showing the way to an era of new and effective government. You have understood -- and more importantly you have demonstrated -- that good governance must be built from the ground up. It cannot be imposed, either by national authorities, or by international agencies. It cannot be created overnight, nor can it take root in one day. Good governance is an accomplishment. It is the fruit of true dedication, selfless leadership, and a politics of integrity. Indeed, if all politics are local, so too can it be said that all good politics begin with good local politics. By bringing good governance closer to those who have elected you, by showing that honest, efficient government is possible, you are giving new life and new reason to politics. In conclusion, let me leave you with the words of Edmund Burke: "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

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For information media. Not an official record.