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UN2K: Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon

Statement by

The Commonwealth Secretary General

Mr. Don McKinnon

On the occasion of

The United Nations Millenium Summit

New York, 8 September 2000

Madam and Mr. Co‑Presidents,

It is an honour for me as Secretary General of the Commonwealth to make a statement to this Millenium Summit.

Allow me also to convey our warmest congratulations to Tuvalu, the newest member, who equally became a full member of the Commonwealth on the 1st September.

This platform here, Mr. President, has given since 1946, hundreds of world leaders the opportunity to declare their concerns, their needs, their wants, their aspirations, their despair. The same people have spoken of visions of hope, about excitement of what this great organization could do, of what regions, great powers, or what small states could do.

Today it would be hard to find a person amongst the 1.2 billion who live on‑ less than 1 dollar a day who would say this organization should be garlanded with success.

We must however pay tribute to all the UN has done so far. We must also pay tribute to the tens of thousands of UN staff around the world that do their best to deliver on the mandates agreed to here. That the people are committed there can be no doubt. The recent death of UN workers in Timor is testament to that. But success by the UN, as in other international organizations, must begin with clear unambiguous and workable political decisions and the will to implement them.

We in the Commonwealth, the global grouping of 54 nations of 1.7 billion people want to also make things better for:

• all those living in poverty,

• who do not know peace,

• the people who do not know where tomorrow's food is coming from,

• who have no permanent place to live,

• who cannot contemplate education for their children,

• who watch family friends die without health care and can only depend on family for their old age.

And in today's world the 'Digital Divide’ widens the gap.

When you can travel to the other side of the globe in 24 hours, when you can move billions of pictures, words, or dollars around the world in seconds, no one lives far away anymore and everybody is our neighbour.

This global neighbourhood means we all have an interest in helping our neighbour. It is costly for us to have neighbours who are unwell, uneducated or unable to work, because ultimately the costs of rescuing them climb even higher, and the costs become ours to meet.

In the Commonwealth, we are not able to tackle all these problems, but we do believe that they must be addressed and we will continue to uphold and pursue those basic entitlements of all people.

Essential is the freedom to choose who should govern you. Equally only those Governments with a high level of probity, that support sound democratic institutions, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and that provide rights and opportunities for all citizens regardless of race, gender, colour, religion, or political belief, will truly be able to deliver to their people that which their people are entitled to expect.

Our enshrined Commonwealth values require members to uphold these principles. Our commitment is exemplified by the fact that 2 of our members are currently suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth because democratically elected governments have been overthrown.

I'm pleased that the Leaders of the Organization of African Unity have decided to make unwelcome those leaders who have come to power using a loaded gun. Mr. President there is a challenge to the UN to make unwelcome those in this Institution who also use a gun to overthrow a Parliament or Government elected by the people.

In the Commonwealth we will continue to work hard to encourage the practice of good governance. It may not by itself put food on the table or educate a teenager but it is fundamental to a society that wishes to progress.

We will continue to run programmes to, better educate, train and qualify people. We will continue to play our part in conflict resolution, encouraging trade expansion, and fighting communicable diseases.

There are many times we can not go it alone so we will continue to work with the LIN and its agencies, with Development Banks and Regional Institutions, with NGOs and the private sector.

We do believe that we must work together in this new millenium to better this world. If we work with others; all moving in the same direction, with similar goals and objectives, and less discord amongst each other, we will improve upon the last century.

If we can convince ourselves that the malnourished child in a war‑torn state is more important than who sits on what Committee in this Institution we will have some success and this Institution, the UN, will get the praise we believe it deserves.

ENDS

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