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United Nations, European Union Engaged in Vital, Complementary Partnership, Says Deputy Secretary-General in Strasbourg Speech


Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s speech to the European Parliament on the occasion of the launch of the report: The Partnership between the UN and the EU, in Strasbourg, 14 March:

Thank you for this very warm welcome. I am very happy that one of my first official visits abroad as Deputy Secretary-General is to the European Union (EU), and in particular to this renowned Parliament.

Parliamentarians play an increasingly important role in international affairs. The EU, for its part, is one of the great supporters of the United Nations and a believer in the strength of multilateralism. As documented in the report on UN-EU cooperation that I am here to launch, that partnership encompasses all the core areas of the United Nations work, from peace and security to human rights, humanitarian assistance and development. So I am eager to have this opportunity to advance those excellent ties further still, through this early and timely exchange with you.

I thought it would be useful to start with a few words about the role of my office, and on the priorities of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he gets his Administration up and running.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be one main focus for my office. As you know, this summer will mark the midpoint between the year 2000, when the Goals were first articulated and adopted, and the year by which they are meant to be achieved, 2015. With so many countries not on track, concerted action will be needed this year to propel us forward.

UN coherence will be another area of concentration. The Secretary-General will soon report to the Member States on how he plans to follow up on the report issued last year by the High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence -- a panel that benefited from the participation of several prominent Europeans, including your own Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, [Louis] Michel. While that report is still being prepared, I can say now that he will emphasize the importance of an intergovernmental consultation process, building on existing reform mandates. He will also suggest a possible implementation process, so that the agencies and entities that make up the broad UN system can truly “deliver as one”.

My office will also be involved in other aspects of UN reform, including efforts to strengthen internal management, improve the way we use and develop our human resources and place greater emphasis on accountability and oversight. In addition, as you know, the Secretary-General has put before the membership proposals for significant reform and restructuring in the key areas of peacekeeping and disarmament.

With respect to peacekeeping, a drastic surge in demand has left our systems overstretched. To ensure that the Secretariat can handle both the complexity of the operations and additional growth expected in the year ahead, the Secretary-General’s proposals aim to improve planning, speed up deployment and make the overall system more responsive.

With respect to disarmament and non-proliferation, I think you would agree with the Secretary-General that there has been an absence of meaningful outcomes at major conferences and summits in recent years, at a time when clear challenges have emerged. To revitalize this agenda, the proposals call for more active leadership, including the designation of a High Representative and more personal involvement by the Secretary-General himself.

While I hesitate to focus too much on myself, let me just say that I bring with me experience of someone who has seen, both as a private citizen and as a public servant, the strivings and yearnings of a developing country to make its way in a difficult national and global environment. However, I am more than ready to open up to new ideas and work with all partners, such as your esteemed Parliament, and others who are in a position to contribute to the United Nations global mission.

In all of the above, the European Union and its institutions are superb partners of the United Nations. Our organizations are united in many ways:

We share common values. These include the fundamental rights and freedoms established in the Charter of the United Nations and in international human rights law.

We have worked closely together on the main UN international policy agendas. The United Nations welcomes the centrality of the MDGs in Europe’s first-ever joint policy on development, the “European Consensus”.

We are committed to addressing the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged members of the human family. Africa in particular matters deeply to the UN and the EU. Europe has a strategy for Africa. The UN emphasizes the least developed countries in its assistance strategies. I welcome the fact that more than 60 per cent of the Commission’s cooperation with the United Nations pertains to Africa, which is home to some of the most complex developmental, environmental and humanitarian challenges of our day.

The United Nations and Europe support the same country processes. Representatives of our organizations work closely together on the ground. Our organizations attach great importance to the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness adopted two years ago. Our engagement with Governments is rooted in the belief that Governments of developing countries must have a critical role to play in shaping their own development and poverty reduction strategies.

Finally, the UN and the EU are accountable to many of the same people: to the Governments and people of the developing world and to the citizens of the developed world whose taxes fund our work.

The UN team in Brussels has put together an illuminating report: The Partnership between the UN and the EU, showing the remarkable extent of our cooperation. The numbers tell an encouraging story of real results in the daily lives of people across the globe.

In 2005, 16 UN specialized agencies, funds and programmes worked together with 13 Directorate Generals of the European Commission (EC). With expenditures of more than €700 million from EC funding, those efforts reached more than 80 countries, encompassing all the world’s main regions. The assistance helped developing countries and countries in transition to make headway in a number of crucial areas:

Reflecting the common concern of the UN and EU in governance and democratization, our assistance helped Governments deal with highly sensitive issues. Some 50 million citizens in 10 countries gained a chance to vote. Several Governments improved public administration, strengthened the judiciary and adapted security sectors to newly democratic environments. Central-Asian countries bolstered their fight against illicit trafficking of people, arms and drugs, while simultaneously improving legal flows of people and goods.

Cooperation also focused on education. With EC support, 9 million textbooks were distributed to 7 million children across Africa and the Arab States, and 4 million Palestinian refugee children received elementary education. Meanwhile, 25,000 Haitians received a different kind of education: awareness-raising to prevent transmission of HIV and AIDS, particularly among women.

Assistance in the health sector covered dozens of countries around the world. Four hundred million children were immunized and 2.2 billion doses of oral polio vaccine were administered.

The need for secure livelihoods also received significant attention. In Benin, tens of thousands of jobs in the fisheries sector were saved thanks to programmes that strengthened standards and led, in turn, to the lifting of a ban on shrimp exports to the EU. In Pakistan, rural households benefited from agricultural inputs after the October 2005 earthquake, helping them move swiftly away from dependency on food aid.

UN-EU cooperation extended to other emergencies as well. The EC is one of the principal contributors to the trust funds that support UN efforts in crisis and post-crisis situations. As a result, protection and assistance were provided to 7 million refugees and internally displaced people in 70 countries. Often, this included giving refugee children birth certificates, so as to help secure their rights. At the height of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, UN-EU assistance fed 2 million daily. Post-conflict recovery efforts were advanced through the clearing of 18 million square meters of land riddled with landmines and through support provided for the reintegration of combatants into civilian life. In Liberia, for instance, social service infrastructure was rebuilt and 50,000 ex-soldiers were given education and vocational training.

These are only some of the results and activities. But the overriding message is clear: the United Nations and the European Union are engaged in a vital, tremendously complementary partnership.

The United Nations brings to this relationship its unique global legitimacy and impartiality; its longstanding presence, especially in fragile countries; and its deep expertise in economic and social development. The European Union brings the admirable solidarity of its citizens with the plight of the world’s poor and with the agenda of the United Nations. You bring resources, creativity, innovation and the inspiring example of a continent that has proved to the world that peace, stability and human security can be achieved through cross-border cooperation.

Together, we have made a tangible difference in the lives of millions of people. Of course, we must always strive to do better, to draw lessons from our setbacks and to strengthen cooperation for tomorrow.

Thank you again for your generosity. We at the United Nations are extremely grateful for the support we receive from the European Union, its institutions and the citizens of Europe. And we are committed to living up to the expectations that Europe and others around the world place in us.


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