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In Larger Freedom: The Big Game at the UN

In Larger Freedom:
The Big Game at the UN

New Zealanders need to be aware of the scope and importance of the global summit of national leaders being held at the United Nations in New York on the 14 – 16 September this year. These proceedings have the potential for making major advances in international relations and development programs.

Four fundamental themes are defined:

Freedom from want – addresses poverty, economic development, environment, trade and finance, natural disasters etc.

Freedom from fear – addresses security, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, war and the use of force.

Freedom to live in dignity – addresses democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Reform of the United Nations – addresses a more effective General Assembly, enlarged Security Council, a Human Rights Council and a Peacemaking Commission.

Participants will be responding to a dramatic challenge:

Five years into the new millennium, we have it in our power to pass on to our children a brighter inheritance than that bequeathed to any previous generation. We can halve global poverty and halt the spread of major known diseases in the next ten years. We can reduce the prevalence of violent conflict and terrorism. We can increase respect for human dignity in every land. And we can forge a set of updated international institutions to help humanity achieve these noble goals. If we act boldly — and if we act together — we can make people everywhere more secure, more prosperous and better able to enjoy their fundamental human rights. – In larger Freedom – UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan

This challenge follows the ground-breaking Millennium Summit in September 2000, when national leaders made a unanimous commitment to very ambitious targets addressing key global issues within a 15 year timeframe – called the “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs). Since then, these goals have been a source of inspiration and coordination for many national and international development programs involving governments and NGOs. Since that time, much has been learnt about the process of national development and what initiatives are likely to be effective. There has also been a substantial opening of the UN system to external influences, particularly NGOs, and increasingly, the corporate sector.

Further, there has been hard thinking about what global security means and how to address conflicting perspectives. The developed nations tend to focus on the threat of global terrorism, particularly in combination with weapons of mass destruction; but to many other countries such threats are secondary to the ever-present threat to life from poverty, disease, social unrest and socially destructive economic policies. Other key factors include primary education, particularly for women, women’s rights and maternal health.

One thing is clear: a small part of our global commitment to armed forces could make dramatic improvements to factors such as communicable disease and water quality, which condemn many millions to misery and death.

Currently, the details of the proposed agreement are being negotiated. New Zealand is making important contributions, despite its low level of official development aid. The issue that is attracting most attention is the reform of the Security Council –perhaps the most powerful element of the UN - which is still stuck in its 1945 mold. Maneuvering is taking place between the world powers, both individual nations and regional groups, to determine any new structure. However, by far the most important initiatives are those that will go directly towards enhancing global security, prosperity and respect for humanity, on which our future depends.

These issues cannot be separate, and must be addressed together:

We will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights. Unless all these causes are advanced, none will succeed. In this new millennium, the work of the United Nations must move our world closer to the day when all people have the freedom to choose the kind of lives they would like to live, the access to the resources that would make those choices meaningful and the security to ensure that they can be enjoyed in peace.
In larger Freedom –UN Secretary General

Not all developments are within the UN itself, and the recent G8 summit in Gleneagles was a significant (though perhaps disappointing) step along the way. There are also the inevitable controversies that detract from the main game. Nevertheless, the evidence tells us that:

All the conditions are in place ….. In an era of global abundance, our world has the resources to reduce dramatically the massive divides that persist between rich and poor, if only those resources can be unleashed in the service of all peoples. – In larger Freedom – UN Secretary General

This is the time for dramatic action as the world’s nations meet to respond to these challenges. Watch for the big game on the 14-16 September.

More information is available at:

Gray Southon
United Nations Association of New Zealand


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