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Al Gore Remarks At UN Security Council Opening

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release January 10, 2000

REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY BY VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL OPENING SESSION

I call to order this first meeting of the United Nations Security Council in the 21st Century.

Let me thank the distinguished members of the Council for the honor of presiding, and for your willingness to greet the dawn of this new millennium by exploring a brand new definition of world security.

Today marks the first time, after more than 4,000 meetings stretching back more than half a century, that the Security Council will discuss a health issue as a security threat.

We tend to think of a threat to security in terms of war and peace. Yet no one can doubt that the havoc wreaked and the toll exacted by HIV/AIDS do threaten our security. The heart of the security agenda is protecting lives -- and we now know that the number of people who will die of AIDS in the first decade of the 21st Century will rival the number that died in all the wars in all the decades of the 20th Century.

When 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected every minute; when 11 million children have already become orphans, and many must be raised by other children; when a single disease threatens everything from economic strength to peacekeeping -- we clearly face a security threat of the greatest magnitude.

This historic session not only recognizes the real and present danger to world security posed by the AIDS pandemic -- which I will discuss in further detail during my remarks as head of the U.S. delegation -- this meeting also begins a month-long focus by this Council on the special challenges confronting the continent of Africa. The powerful fact that we begin by concentrating on AIDS has a still larger significance: it sets a precedent for Security Council concern and action on a broader security agenda. By the power of example, this meeting demands of us that we see security through a new and wider prism, and forever after, think about it according to a new, more expansive definition.

For the past half century, the Security Council has dealt with the classic security agenda -- built upon common efforts to resist aggression, and to stop armed conflict. We have witnessed wars among nations, and violence on the scale of war within nations, for many reasons:

--Because of claims of religious or racial superiority.

--Because of lust for power, disguised as ideology or rationalized as geo-strategic doctrine.

--Because of a sense that a small place or a larger region -- or the whole world itself -- was too small to allow for the survival and prosperity of all, unless the powerful could dominate the weak.

--Because of the tendency of too many to see themselves solely as separate groups, celebrating and defending their exclusivity, by demonizing and dehumanizing others.

--Because of poverty, which causes the collapse of hopes and expectations, the coming apart of a society, and makes people first desperate, then freshly open to evil leadership.

But while the old threats still face our global community, there are new things under the sun -- new forces arising that now or soon will challenge international order, raising issues of peace and war. As our world enters the year 2000, it is not the change in our calendar that matters. What matters is that in this symbolic transition from old to new, we find one of those precious few moments in all of human history when we have a chance to become the change we wish to see in the world -- by seeking a common agreement to openly recognize a powerful new truth that has been growing just beneath the surface of every human heart: it is time to change the nature of the way we live together on this planet. From this new vantage point, we must forge and follow a new agenda for world security, an agenda that includes:

--The global environmental challenge, which could render all our other progress meaningless, unless we deal with it successfully.

--The global challenge of defeating drugs and corruption, which now spill across our borders.

--The global challenge of terror -- magnified by the availability of new weapons of mass destruction so small they can be concealed in a coat pocket.

--The new pandemics, laying waste to whole societies, and the emergence of new strains of old diseases that are horrifyingly resistant to the anti-biotics that protected the last three generations.

Our new security agenda should be pursued with determination, adequate resources, and creative use of the new tools at the world's disposal that can be used to bring us together in successful common efforts -- tools such as the Internet and the emerging Global Information Infrastructure -- which, if used imaginatively, will enable new depths of insight and cooperation by nations, non-governmental organizations, and citizens at all levels.

Our task is not merely to recognize and confront these challenges, but to rise to our higher ideals, and work together to make our brightest dreams real in the lives of our children. In order to succeed, I believe, along with growing billions around this planet, that we must create a world where people's faith in their own capacity for self-governance unlocks their human potential, and justifies their growing belief that all can share in an ever-widening circle of human dignity and self-sufficiency. A world of freedom and free markets. A world where the free flow of ideas and information, and freer access to education, sustain our more fundamental freedoms. A world in which parents are free to choose the size of their families with the confidence that the children they bring into this world will survive to become healthy adults, with economic opportunity in prosperous and peaceful communities. A world where we educate girls as well as boys, and secure the rights of women everywhere, as full members of the human family.

All this and more constitutes the great global challenge of our time: to create and strengthen a sense of solidarity, as we seek a newer world of security for all -- security not only from loss of life and the ravages of war, but security from constant fear and degradation, and from a loss of the quality of life and liberty of spirit that should belong to all.

If we are to succeed in addressing this new security agenda, we must recognize that because of our rapid growth in population, and the historically unprecedented power of the new technologies at our widespread disposal, mistakes which once were tolerable can now have consequences that are multiplied many-fold.

For example, for almost all the years of recorded history, people could do whatever they wished to their environment, and do little to permanently harm it. People could wage war in the world, and do nothing to destroy it. But now, threats that were once local can have consequences that are regional or global; damage once temporary can now become chronic and catastrophic.

As a world community, we must prove to our citizens that we are wise enough to control what we have been smart enough to create. We must understand that the old conception of global security -- with its focus almost solely on armies, ideologies, and geopolitics -- has to be enlarged.

We need to show that we not only can contain aggression, prevent war, and mediate conflicts, but that we can work together to anticipate and respond to a new century with its new global imperatives.

The human mind -- our ingenuity, our dreaming, our restless quest to do better -- created this moment. Now the human will -- not of one individual, not of one nation or group of nations -- but the collective will of truly united nations, must master this moment. We must bend it in the direction of life, not death; justice, not oppression; opportunity, not deprivation -- a new security for the new world we now inhabit.

The future is not something that we merely try to predict. The future is something that we make. For ourselves. Together. It is up to us to move forward -- with faith in our principles, in our foresight, and in our common humanity. The Spanish poet Antonio Machado once said: "Pathwalker, there is no path, we create the path as we walk."

There is great hope in this pathmaking meeting. It is an honor to open it. And my hope is that the first days and years of the millennium -- and all those that follow -- will be guided by the vision that marks this first meeting. We live in a new time. We face new and larger responsibilities. Meet them we can, and meet them we must -- for the new threats to humanity are as grave as war itself -- and the new hopes we have are as precious as peace.

Now I am pleased to present the distinguished Secretary General of the United Nations, who has given so much to the cause of peace and security, Kofi Annan.

ENDS

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