Sumario: September 8, 2000: Statement by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, to the 55TH United Nations General Assembly. The Millennium Summit.
Madam President and Mr. President, Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
This Summit embodies the commitment of the world's political leaders to strengthening the foundations of a United Nations renewed and reshaped to fit the needs of a new century. It marks a time of hope, and a time of expectation.
To cope with global issues -- like combating poverty, achieving sustainable development and seeking peace, security and human rights for all -- we need global solutions based on global co-operation. The United Nations is uniquely placed to mobilise common action. The Secretary General's excellent and thought-provoking report, and the statement prepared for this gathering, make that conclusion crystal clear.
As a European, I am keenly aware how much the map of Europe alone has changed, with the end of the Cold War and the further development of the European Union. Europeans now have a unique opportunity to create a Europe that is truly whole and truly free, the largest community of democracies today. This is a first in recorded history.
Much has changed in other parts of the world too. Age-old rivalries are being replaced by co-operation. Dictatorships have fallen, to be replaced by fledgling democracies. Conflict remains in all too many places, but the march of freedom can be detected across the globe. This is not a prognosis we could have made twenty years ago.
This Summit is taking place at a time of unprecedented hope, but also of unprecedented challenges -- some old, and some new.
An age-old problem that is still with us is the gap between rich and poor countries, or between the haves and have-nots in our societies. This is unjust and unsustainable. It is an affront to decency, and a threat to world stability.
The challenges of globalisation are, by contrast, entirely new.
How do we cope with these challenges?
I see globalisation as an opportunity to be exploited. This is why I would welcome a new WTO trade round based on four key principles: liberalization -- including better market access for the developing countries, stronger and updated rules, sustainable development and the need to respond to the concerns expressed by civil society.
A new trade round would help give people all over the world a share in the benefits of globalisation, bridging the wealth divide. Clearly, the WTO cannot achieve this goal by itself. Other parts of the multilateral system, especially those responsible for social and environmental issues, also need to be strengthened.
At this time of great expectation, the emergence of a genuine world economy, underpinned by colossal technological forces, calls for a vastly improved system of global governance, that is, a common core of values, rules and practices to which we all subscribe.
In the national arena there is no alternative to democracy. In the international arena there is no alternative to strong multilateral institutions based on impeccable democratic legitimacy. Decisions and procedures must be as transparent as possible. Civil society must be involved more directly. Only improved multilateralism will ensure that globalisation appears not so much as a threat but as an opportunity not to be missed.
The old "trade not aid" slogan does not adequately reflect the challenges of our time. We certainly need more open trade, but we must also improve financial flows to the developing countries, and strengthen our aid commitments.
Without targeted aid, the workings of the global economy would be difficult to reconcile with the legitimate expectations of the poor. It is no accident that the European Union and its Member States have for years been operating a wide-ranging programme of external assistance -- representing more than half of all official development assistance worldwide and some two thirds of all grant aid. This is the result of a deeply felt moral commitment to solidarity.
In the demanding circumstances of this new century, the fight against poverty and marginalization needs a change in approach. The European Union's contribution has come in the form of the new Cotonou Agreement governing its relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, as well as its network of partnership, association, and co-operation agreements with other countries.
A daunting amount still remains to be done, and collaboration is the key to success. The European Union is committed to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, to which the European Community is the largest single contributor. In May next year, it will be hosting the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, in Brussels.
The social and economic development of the South remains vital to our own stability and prosperity.
Social development goes hand in hand with human rights. The new century should build upon the results of our generation's struggle in this field. The Union, in its efforts to enhance the respect for human rights, has been working to promote the abolition of the death penalty and has called for a moratorium on executions. The UN can play a major role in facilitating further developments in this regard.
I hope that the beacon lit at this Summit will illuminate the work of a new United Nations, one placed on a firmer and financially more equitable footing, a United Nations for the twenty-first century. The European Community is fully aware of the challenges facing this organisation, and it stands ready to play its part in meeting them.