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UNSG Kofi Annan "Civil Society" Speech In Montreal

7 December 1999

Press Release
SG/SM/7249


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SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS 'GLOBAL PEOPLE-POWER' BEST THING FOR UNITED NATIONS IN LONG TIME, NEEDING RESPONSE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CIVIL SOCIETY

19991207
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Montréal Speech Notes Fear, Unease over 'Globalization', Shown At WTO Meeting in Seattle; Challenge is to Address Concerns of Protestors

This is the text of a statement to be delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Civil Society Conference in Montréal Canada on 8 December:

C'est avec un réel plaisir que je me joins à vous aujourd'hui pour évoquer notre avenir commun. Je suis ravi de vous voir tous ici. Cette salle pleine d'activistes du monde entier est vraiment très stimulante. Et elle donne clairement tort à tous ceux qui affirment que l'individualisme et l'isolationisme sont les tendances dominantes de notre temps.

Permettez-moi, avant tout, de remercier le Canada, le Québec et Montréal pour leur généreuse hospitalité. Dans quelques années, quand la société civile sera encore plus présente, plus organisée et plus puissante, ils pourront être fiers d'avoir contribué à son essor en accueillant sa toute première conférence mondiale.

Je remercie aussi le Forum international de Montréal et Cyril Richie, dont l'engagement, l'enthousiasme et l'efficacit, feront, j'en suis s-r, de cette conférence un succès.

You have gathered here to discuss how you can help build stronger partnerships for global governance, both among yourselves and with the United Nations. Nothing could please me more, and no choice of timing could be more appropriate.

As we prepare to leave the twentieth century, both civil society and the United Nations can look back on some impressive accomplishments. But better still, we can look ahead to what we might accomplish together in the future.

Looking ahead, I see a world of opportunities for stronger ties between us. I see us making greater strides together towards a just, democratic and peaceful future for all. I see a United Nations keenly aware that if the global agenda is to be properly addressed, a partnership with civil society is not an option; it is a necessity. I see a United Nations which recognizes that the non-governmental organizations revolution -- the new global people -- power, or whatever else you wish to call this explosion of citizens' concern at the global level - is the best thing that has happened to our Organization in a long time.

This phenomenon is arguably one of the happier consequences of what we now recognize as the essence of modern life: globalization. Like all profound changes, globalization is stirring deep feelings, from confusion and fear to a sense of exciting opportunity and promise. I believe that all these feelings together underlie the emergence of global citizenship.

On the one hand, many have experienced personally the social damage and insecurity inflicted by what began as a financial crisis far away from home. Many fear that their customs, culture and even their livelihood are in danger of being lost in a sea of foreign products and ideas. Many sense that their elected Government does not have as much control over things as it once did. Many cannot even put what they feel into words -- they only know something powerful is happening and they suspect it might not be good for them.

These are, I believe, some of the feelings that lay behind the protests I witnessed during the WTO meeting in Seattle last week. People were voicing their fears about the effects of globalization.

It would be wrong, however, to portray globalization as the source of all evils. Globalization does present tremendous opportunities for growth and prosperity. It does help us connect to one another and learn more about each other. It does knit our world closer together.

The challenge before us is to seek creative and constructive ways of managing globalization so that it benefits the greatest number of people and nations. We must strive to give globalization a human face.

Your presence here tells me that you have understood this well. Most of the issues we will face in the next century are and will be increasingly global. Seeking refuge in the comforts of the local is not a solution. On the contrary, solutions can be found only if we address global issues together -- through better cooperation, closer alliances, increased commitment and a renewed sense of solidarity.

This is not wishful thinking. Civil society organizations have already given new life and new meaning to the idea of an international community. The desire to participate in the management of a changing world, and the need to engage in areas where Governments are unable or unwilling to act, have driven you to action. The development of new communications technologies has enabled you to gather and distribute information in an almost unlimited way. Even more important, it has allowed you to connect and interact across almost all frontiers.

Since the Earth Summit in 1992, you have made your mark on a series of world conferences on such vital issues as human rights, population, poverty and the advancement of women. You have helped shape a universal consensus that should form the basis for your countries' efforts to achieve greater social justice and greater respect for the environment. You have made your concerns heard.

But in recent years you have done more than that. You have made your power felt. In 1997, you were united in your outrage at the sight of children killed and women maimed by landmines. You put all your weight behind the banning of those abominable weapons -- and Governments listened. The result is the Ottawa Convention.

In 1998, you were united in your determination that no war criminal should enjoy impunity, and that justice must be done for the victims of genocide, mass rape and other war crimes. You campaigned and lobbied tirelessly for the Statute of the International Criminal Court to be adopted - - and it was.

For several years, you have been united in your indignation at the debt that is stifling the development of developing countries and, in some cases, consuming more than half of their annual budget. You have been the driving force in raising Governments' political awareness and willingness to provide substantial debt relief to the poorest countries, and to redirect the savings to poverty reduction programmes -- and Governments have at last agreed to do so this year. I am sure you will keep up the pressure, to see that they fulfil that pledge, and indeed go further.

The new diplomacy is working. That is why I am so glad to have you as allies of the United Nations.

There is much we can do as partners in the field -- in places where people go hungry, have seen their homes destroyed or have had their basic rights violated.

We can also be strategic partners in policy -- in areas where you can persuade your Governments to work through the United Nations. You can tell them that our goals are your goals, and that you want them to give us the means to achieve those goals. You can goad them into providing adequate resources for the missions they have already approved in Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone. You can remind them of crises that are not currently in the world media spotlight but which still need international attention.

You can petition them to fulfil the pledges they made at the great world conferences of the 1990s, and to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court. You can pressure them to focus on preventing conflict rather than waiting to react after the event. In sum, you can encourage them to think globally.

And you can give us your ideas about the role the United Nations should play in the twenty-first century. I hope you will come to the Millennium Forum next May full of constructive suggestions on how to approach the world's most pressing problems, and how to deal with them in a spirit of global solidarity.

By bringing your energy, creativity and practical idealism to the process, you will help us achieve our goal of bringing the United Nations closer to the people. And you will give global civil society its rightful place as one of the pillars of the international community in the twenty-first century. I am counting on you, and I hope to see you all at United Nations Headquarters next year. Thank you very much. Merci. Gracias.

ENDS

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