Migiro Addresses UNA-NY Annual Meeting

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro addressed the Annual Meeting of the United Nations Association of New York this evening. Below is the complete text of her remarks.


Thank you all for your kind words and warm welcome. It confirms for me what I already knew: I am among true friends and loyal allies of the United Nations.

The UN needs the engagement of concerned citizens everywhere. This is no where more true than right here in New York, our host city and a veritable UN in its own right! The United Nations Association of New York is the vanguard of this support.

Despite the relatively short time I have been at the United Nations, it is already clear to me how much your backing matters to the Organization. Your advocacy is indispensable to our everyday work and crucial to its long-term success. This is why I welcomed this early opportunity to meet with all of you. As it is our first interaction, I thought it would be useful to share with you some of the main priority areas of the new Administration.

The Secretary-General and I see challenges in three broad categories: First, the immediate need to address pressing geopolitical and development issues; Second, a mid- to long-term agenda relating to climate change, human rights and greater cultural understanding; and Third, United Nations reform.

On the first subject, the tragedy of Darfur remains foremost on my mind. For me and for many others, this is one of the most important moral issues of our time. And I want to tell you that there is no single issue on which the Secretary-General or his senior colleagues spend more effort than the Darfur tragedy. The United Nations has organized what is currently its largest humanitarian operation in the world. We are engaging politically at numerous levels with the Government of Sudan, the Darfurian rebel factions, countries in the region, organizations such as the African Union and key world powers, in order to work out a negotiated solution.

Recently, the Government of Sudan confirmed its agreement on the entire heavy support package of the United Nations assistance to the African Union Mission in Sudan. We are encouraged by this development and intend to move quickly with the deployment, in close cooperation with the African Union.

I have been touched by the level of concern in New York and across America for the situation in Darfur. It is reflected in the strong and sustained US engagement on this issue. Progress there may seem painfully slow, especially given how many people continue to die and suffer. But it is also undeniable that UN efforts, sustained by American involvement, are producing some results.

The situation in Iraq is another area where the US and the UN have strong shared interests. We all want the Iraqi people to succeed. We all want to see a strong, stable and democratic Iraq. We all want peace in the region.

I know that the challenges there sometimes seem insurmountable. Yet, two recent developments defy the tide. Earlier this month, the international community pledged $30 billion in specific financial commitments as part of an International Compact with Iraq that was colaunched by Secretary-General Ban. The very next day, an expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Iraq’s neighbours brought all regional players together to discuss ways to help the Iraqi people and Government. Both these events provide an important opening to promote visible, tangible progress in the country and, ultimately, to turn the tide itself.

As the UN and the US work for peace in Darfur and Iraq, we must also keep pressing for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. No other issue ignites such passions in people across the Middle East and the world. No other issue is as closely tied to long-term stability in the Middle East. Events of recent years have clearly demonstrated that progress towards a resolution is simply not possible without US leadership. That is why I am encouraged by recent efforts by Secretary of State Rice to promote dialogue between the parties. Peace will not come overnight, but sustained US engagement is essential if it is to come at all. As we work to address the suffering in places like the Middle East and in Darfur, it is also important to keep chipping away at the broader pain inflicted by poverty.

I know that schools in remote African villages or immunization drives in Latin America may not be the stuff of headlines. But for millions of people across the world, this is what the UN is ultimately all about. And that is why development is the Organization’s second pillar. Together with security and respect for human rights, it represents our core aspirations for a peaceful and better world.

Development is also a cause close to my heart. I spent several rewarding years as Tanzania’s Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children, before moving to the Foreign Ministry and recently to the United Nations. I, therefore, intend to pay special attention to the UN’s development agenda and, in particular, to finding new ways of working with Governments to accelerate programmes to attain the Millennium Development Goals. In this, I look to the United States for leadership on debt relief and aid flows.

This year will have to see real movement towards the MDGs, our shared blueprint for a better world by 2015. Midway towards that date, we have arrived at a tipping point. Concerted action now -- on poverty, on health and HIV/AIDS, on education and on other needs -- may mean the difference between success and failure in achieving these crucial targets. As we address immediate security and development needs, we must keep one eye on our longer-term goals. This agenda includes the promotion of human rights and sustained action on climate change.

As you know, we now have a new instrument in the UN’s work to uphold human rights. The UN Human Rights Council has to work together to promote an objective and universal approach to human rights, and to scrutinize the performance of all countries instead of just a select few. Council members should also use the mechanisms at their disposal, from the help of independent experts to periodic review, to forcefully advance the cause of human rights. It is not only their duty, but also their solemn obligation.

The US has a long and proud tradition of human rights advocacy at the UN. I hope it will continue to take the lead on the UN’s human rights agenda and work with other Member States to give each of the UN’s human rights instruments direction and purpose. I believe we have also reached a defining moment in the fight against climate change. The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change point to a scientific consensus on the quickening pace of human-induced changes in global temperatures. As the world’s largest energy producer and consumer, the United States remains central to any effort to curb carbon emissions. At the same time, this country is also the world’s largest innovator. So, all of us at the United Nations look to American initiative on both conservation and innovation.

We also believe that the United Nations has a unique and important role to play in addressing this growing crisis. Earlier this month, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of three Special Envoys on Climate Change. Their mission will be to consult with Member States about the scope of the UN role. I look forward to supporting their work in any way I can.

Finally, let me turn to the third area that I identified at the start of my speech: UN reform. The United Nations in 2007 would be almost unrecognizable to its founders. Since the birth of the Organization, the demands placed upon it have grown and changed tremendously. Whereas once we were mostly to be found in New York conference rooms, we are now just about everywhere around the world, in schools and clinics in Central America and in refugee camps in the Horn of Africa.

That is why the Secretary-General and I want to see real gains in terms of UN reform. We recognize that today’s UN cannot deliver with yesterday’s structures. Thus, we have already made proposals in the areas of peacekeeping and disarmament. More broadly, we are looking to significantly improve the functioning of the Secretariat. This will mean strengthening internal management and the way we use and develop our human resources. This will mean focusing on accountability and oversight.

By reforming the Secretariat, we can make this Organization more efficient, accountable and result-oriented. At the same time, I am also coordinating efforts to strengthen the UN’s development architecture. A High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence has made important recommendations in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment. In the months ahead, I expect to work closely with the Secretary-General and with UN Member States to advance on these issues. Our ultimate goal remains a UN system that delivers as one in meeting the needs and expectations of people everywhere.

These are some of the issues Secretary-General Ban and I expect to focus on in the months and years ahead. Much needs to be done. We are both excited about this agenda and energized by your support. We also know that our success requires a close and continuing partnership with the United States. Quite simply, the UN needs the US. In turn, American values and interests benefit enormously from a healthy and effective UN.That is why this partnership is of vital importance to both sides. In fact, I believe it is crucial for broader peace and prosperity in the world.

In many respects, you -- the members of the United Nations Association -- are the guardians of this bond. You work to nurture it and, when necessary, you help to heal it. Your involvement and advocacy sustain and strengthen our ties. So thank you, dear friends, for all that you have done for the United Nations and for all that you continue to do. I truly look forward to working in partnership with you, and to achieving great things for the United Nations and for all the peoples it ultimately represents.