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3 December 1997

Press Release


19971203 ADVANCE TEXT Addressing United Nations Association of Canada, Stresses Importance of Good Governance in Interdependent World

Following is the text of a statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the United Nations Association of Canada, to be delivered today in Toronto:

For any United Nations Secretary-General visiting Canada is like visiting family. For this Secretary-General, with a background in peacekeeping, visiting Canada is like coming home.

In 1956, Lester Pearson gave the world his vision of peacekeeping as we know it today. Pearson, then Canada's Foreign Minister -- and one of the best Secretaries-General the United Nations never had -- set a high standard for Canada's commitment to the founding ideals of the United Nations. Canadians have lived up to it ever since.

Peacekeeping has evolved over the years. Peacekeepers these days are just as likely to be asked to observe elections, protect deliveries of humanitarian assistance or help rebuild roads and bridges as they are to monitor ceasefires and patrol buffer zones. Throughout this evolution, no nation has provided more leadership and service than yours.

Peacekeeping remains an activity at the heart of the United Nations. But today, peace and stability are understood not only in military terms, and as far more than the absence of conflict.

Economic development, social justice, environmental protection, democratization, disarmament, respect for human rights -- these are the principal pillars that together build the house of peace and stability.

Today, the foundations of that house are being rattled. We live in a world that is changing rapidly and constantly, at the national and inter- national levels, where change must be accepted as an essential condition of life, where new forces are transforming the very ways in which our societies are being structured.

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Most visibly, we have seen this unfold in societies in conflict, in so- called failed States. We have seen what happens to these States when the centre falls apart, when rival militias replace reason, when citizens are bereft of the most basic conditions of stable existence, when outside powers involve themselves in the running of the country. We have seen it in Angola, in Somalia, in Zaire, in Bosnia.

But in the developed world, too, we see the State being challenged. We see an endless emergence of new actors in civil society. We see unelected bodies that must be factored into governmental decisions. We see a revolution brought on by the impact of new technology. We see insidious threats posed by elements of what I call "uncivil society".

Globalization, democratization and economic liberalization have prompted dramatic changes. New opportunities and freedoms have raised the expectations of individual citizens. An increasingly vocal civil society does not hesitate to call governments to account. And all the while, international borders are becoming blurred. The problems impacting one country today are likely to impact them all -- environmental change, organized crime, drug trafficking, to name a few. These are problems without passports.

No one is any longer immune from the effects of actions taken or not taken in another country, or on the other side of the globe. The financial crisis that has evolved in eastern Asia over the past few months provides a telling case in point. It is the first time an upheaval in the developing world has had a profound impact on capital markets of the North.

The financial mayhem that rocked places like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong hit Wall Street hard; it could lead to a slowdown by as much as one percentage point in world growth. The subsequent contagion to South Korea and Japan presents nothing less than a global threat. Should the troubles get worse before they get better, as some economists believe they will, the effects will continue to reverberate around the world.

And there will be other global crises like it. Never has it been more important for Member States to act as united nations -- not just in name, but in reality -- in order to cope with such cross-border problems. The key, I believe, lies in pursuing a common goal of good governance.

The development of good governance is already a central activity of the United Nations. The vital challenge of sustainable development requires us to direct more of our energies towards ensuring adequate institutional infrastructure in developing countries. We are seeking to bring the stability, the trust, the legitimacy and the accountability of good governance to all parts of the world. We are seizing on the instrument of good governance to ensure that development is lasting and equitable.

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The evolution and strengthening of effective, transparent, accountable and responsive government, subject to the rule of law, is a condition for sustainable development, not a result of it.

Sans bonne gouvernance et tout ce que cette notion recouvre -- état de droit, administration transparente, légitimité politique et réglementation adéquate -- le monde en développement restera irrémédiablement à la traîne, quel que soit le volume des investissements, et en dépit d'éphémères miracles économiques.

En effet, vouloir édifier une société, qu'elle soit nationale ou internationale, en négligeant les principes d'une bonne gouvernance, revient à bâtir sur le sable.

De plus en plus, les Etats Membres s'accordent à reconnaître que la bonne gouvernance est l'un des piliers de la paix, de la prospérité et de la démocratie. Ils se tournent vers l'ONU parce qu'ils savent que, depuis la fin de la guerre froide, notre expérience et nos connaissances dans ce domaine se sont considérablement étendues.

Il n'est pratiquement aucun aspect de la bonne gouvernance auquel nos programmes ne s'intéressent: nous aidons certains pays à se doter d'un cadre juridique bien conçu et d'un appareil judiciaire efficace. Nous assurons, souvent dans le cadre d'opérations de maintien de la paix, la formation de base d'officiers et d'agents de police, que nous sensibilisons au respect des droits de l'homme.

Nous favorisons la création d'institutions nationales ou d'ONG spécialisées dans la défense des droits de l'homme.

Nous proposons des programmes d'assistance électorale dont de nombreux pays ont déjà bénéficié. Nous encourageons l'investissement et prônons les principes d'une saine concurrence. Nous insistons sur les avantages d'une administration intègre et responsable.

I would submit tonight that what we have recognized at the national level, we are also learning at the international level. I believe that as we have realized the importance of building credible institutions within States, so must we reinvigorate the effort to consolidate norms for relations between States.

I believe that just as we understand there are global forces at play that we cannot control, so must we seek to conceive global mechanisms and structures to manage their effects.

I believe that the challenge of good governance now is a global challenge.

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This is not a call for world government. On the contrary, it is a call on nations of the world to jointly explore ways of governing relations among sovereign actors.

Nor is it an excuse to relax efforts for good governance at the national level. On the contrary, it is a renewed call on nations to work to ensure sound policies at home, and bring that experience to bear in the international arena. Global integration requires States to cooperate in order to combat global threats. It requires them to overcome economic, political and cultural differences to work in concert towards common goals.

Together, they can strive to manage or avert regional crises through a more integrated assessment of how State policies handle nascent conflict. They can enhance coordination and awareness in the environmental field to improve national and local practices.

They can develop and disseminate new research and technology. They can explore international mechanisms to guard against the destabilizing effects of financial upheavals that spill over into other markets.

Ultimately, prudent and responsive domestic policies will still offer indispensable protection for any country. It is a two-way street: global good governance begins at home; global good governance should help countries develop and safeguard norms, practices, and institutions at the national and local levels.

The objective is to create an enabling environment which can foster the growth and prosperity to which all human beings aspire.

Good governance is the work of good people. Today, more than ever before, we need dedicated and talented individuals to enter public service. But the incentives are lacking. We are, of course, fortunate to have some outstanding individuals working in the United Nations system and in the public sector at national levels.

Yet increasingly, in many countries, the best people are turning their backs on public service as a career. They are opting instead to take up positions in the private sector, in the business world, in civil society.

And civil society has produced some truly remarkable people. Were it not for Jody Williams, the Coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, we would not have gathered in Ottawa this morning for the signing of the Treaty to ban their production, export, stockpiling and use. The cooperation between Ms. Williams and her colleagues in more than 1,000 Non- Governmental Organizations throughout the world on the one hand, and Governments like yours on the other, was a model of its kind. And here I

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would also like to single out Lloyd Axworthy for his leadership and courage. He was a voice in the wilderness when he started.

Without their efforts -- and now we can say their success -- more of these abominable weapons would no doubt be planted to lie there in silence and in their millions, waiting to kill and maim innocent women and children.

They say of Ms. Williams that it takes only one person with courage to create a majority. They are right.

Why, then, are there not more Jody Williamses in public service? The reason is dishearteningly simple: Governments today, in all parts of the world, are often regarded with scepticism or even distrust. They are seen as afflicted by inefficiency or even inadequacy; they are accused of incompetence or even corruption. In short, public service is too often seen as not answering to the needs of the people.

And that, as I indicated at the outset, is where the real danger lies. When a society, a State, a system is unable to respond constructively to the challenges it faces, when the gap widens between what it can do and what people ask it to do, its very credibility is quickly called into question.

Our duty, therefore, is not only to make talented and courageous people believe that their contribution to public service will make a difference -- it is to make them understand that without them the mission of good governance will fail.

The United Nations has at its disposal many of the tools needed to work on the challenge of good governance. In this speech alone, I have mentioned areas that are the core activities of several parts of the United Nations system. And as you know, I have embarked on a quiet revolution to reform the Organization in order to render it more responsive to the needs of our changing global environment.

The General Assembly has now endorsed in its entirety the first part of the reform plan I proposed in July. It is now in the midst of debating the second set of proposals. They are reforms that will give us a new and revitalized United Nations, better equipped to meet the challenges I have outlined today. And of course, I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Maurice Strong of Canada, the Executive Coordinator for United Nations Reform.

Those reforms that are within my mandate as Secretary-General will affect virtually every department and every activity of the United Nations.

From the United Nations Environment Programme to the Development Programme, from the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention to the United Nations Children's Fund -- these are your tools. Use them, develop them,

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refine them. They need good craftsmen, brave thinkers and strong wills to make them work, to keep the house of peace and stability in order -- whatever the storms that threaten to rattle it in the future.

You may have heard me say it before: no Government, however powerful, can do it on its own. Nor can the United Nations. I am counting on all of you here tonight, because together we can make a real difference.

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For information media. Not an official record.