INDEPENDENT NEWS

UK PM Tony Blark Speech to UN2K Summit

Published: Thu 7 Sep 2000 09:49 AM
SPEECH
BY
THE PRIME MINISTER
THE RT IION TONY BLAIR MP
AT THE
MILLENNIUM SUMMIT
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
NEW YORK
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WEDNESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2000
1215 LOCAL TIME
(1715 BST)
Mr President,
The challenge for the UN is the same as for all of us: how to respond to change.
It must become better organised, better managed, with the direction and purpose fit for the awesome tasks it faces.
Fortunately, we have a Secretary‑General who speaks to us with great wisdom and candour about what must be done, and is leading a UN ready to reform. We, the member states, must match his vigour.
I want to talk about one area for reform: peacekeeping operations.
Today, the United Nations struggles to cope with the new types of peacekeeping operation which current conditions demand. Whether in Africa, East Timor or the Balkans, it is no longer good enough to organise blue helmet operations as if they were still largely geared to marking an agreed ceasefire line between two states that have consented to a UN presence. The typical case now is fastmoving and volatile. The appalling attack on UN staff in West Timor is demonstrating this vividly. Locally brokered agreements can be discarded overnight, and militias may be more than ready to pick a fight.
I am proud of the role British forces play, not least in Sierra Leone where British soldiers are still held hostage today. As we work for their release, we should pay tribute to the courage and commitment of our forces on humanitarian missions around the world.
But UN soldiers need to work within a system, and a UN organisation, better geared to dealing with the heavy demands being placed on them.
We need; UN forces composed of units appropriate for more robust peacekeeping that can be inserted quickly, rather than whatever the Secretary‑General's staff has been able to gather from reluctant member states.
This means a new contract between the UN and its members. We must be prepared to commit our forces to UN operations. The UN must alter radically its planning, intelligence and analysis, and develop a far more substantial professional military staff. When the moment comes, a field headquarters must be ready to move, with an operational communications system up and running immediately rather than weeks into the deployment.
The Brahimi report is right. We should implement it, and do so within a twelve month timescale.
My second point concerns Africa. There is a dismal record of failure in Africa on the part of the developed world that shocks and shames our civilisation. Twenty‑one of the 44 countries in sub‑Saharan Africa are affected by conflict which undermines efforts at development. Even worse, ten times as many people died of AIDS in Africa last year as were killed in all the continent's wars combined.
Nowhere are more people dying needlessly from starvation, from disease, from conflict. Deaths caused not by acts of fate, but by acts of man. By bad governance, factional rivalries, state‑sponsored theft and corruption.
Nowhere are more people being left behind on the wrong side of a growing digital and educational divide, children being denied the opportunities that will transform the lives of their contemporaries elsewhere in the world.
Yet, 30 years ago, the same depressing analysis might have been made of parts of Asia or Latin America. There can be change. There can be hope for Africa. There is political leadership, business opportunity and above all the will on behalf of people for a better future in Africa. We must be partners in the search for change and hope.
By 2004, under the new British Government, we will have increased our aid budget by 70 per cent since 1997, much of it going to Africa. We have pushed forward on debt relief. Yet individually, none of us have a decisive impact. We need the economies of scale that closer co‑ordination brings. We need the political will to broker change that only comes by combining our efforts.
We should use this unique summit for a concrete purpose: to start the process of agreeing a way forward for Africa.
For the first time, we have in one place the leaders who hold Africa's destiny in their hands. And so as we continue our discussions in the rountables, at the Security Council, in our bilaterals, I urge you all to ask one thing:
What can we do for Africa?
We need a new partnership for Africa, in which Africans lead but the rest of the world is committed; where all the problems are dealt with not separately but
together in a coherent and unified plan. Britain stands ready to play our part with the rest of the world and the leaders of Africa in formulating such a plan.
This is the time to renew the UN, and this is why. Our brief speeches might not change the world, but is it still not better that we are here, talking to each other, than fighting each other?
The sentiments we express may often be the same but at least they are the sentiments of unity, peace, hope and co‑operation.
We may be frustrated some times by the way the UN works, but at least for all its imperfections, it is a force for good and our desire is that it does more not less.
If it did not exist, we would need to invent it.
Finally, I do not wish to leave the UN without saying this: the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi by the Burmese regime is a disgrace. I call upon the Burmese Government to let her go free, and I call on fellow world leaders to back that call.
Thank you.
ENDS

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