Press Releases

    SG/SM/7760
    2 April 2001


    DIALOGUE "VITAL" TO SUCCESS OF UN MISSIONS,
    SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN REMARKS TO
    SEMINAR OF SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVES

    NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Seminar of Special and Personal Representatives and Envoys, in Mont Pèlerin, Switzerland, on 30 March:

    I am delighted to be here. Never have so many of my Representatives and Envoys come together in a single setting -- and a lovely setting at that. Let me thank the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), particularly Marcel Boisard and Connie Peck, for their role in bringing us here and in organizing this programme.

    This dialogue is a wonderful opportunity for us to talk about the problems you face, the ideas you have and the lessons you have learnt. It is also a reminder that dialogue -- with a number of actors, inside the United Nations, as well as outside -- is vital for your mission to succeed.

    As my Representatives and Envoys, you personally have the power to make an enormous difference -- in many ways and on many levels. Having myself walked in your shoes, I know well what complex and relentless demands are placed on you by the United Nations, and by the countries and regions you are serving. I know that this requires each of you to play several roles simultaneously.

    First, you are, in a very real sense, the personification of the United Nations in the country or region in which you serve. Second, you are leaders of a peace process, the international community's links and main interlocutors with the parties. Third, you are the head of a peacekeeping operation or a political or peace-building mission, in which management is a key requirement. And fourth, I count on many of you to be the unifying force of all United Nations activities in the field -- the political leader of the United Nations team in the country or region where you serve. Your extended team includes not only the mission which you head, but also agencies, funds and programmes. And your work often requires bringing the Bretton Woods institutions on board at an early stage.

    At its best, the United Nations family is a source of knowledge and strength. But, I know that working as a team may not always come naturally to many of the players concerned. For your team to work well, its members must feel that cooperating with you is ultimately beneficial to the people we are there to serve. An investment of time and energy is obviously required to cultivate relationships. Many of the United Nations agencies were active in the mission area prior to your arrival and will stay on long after your departure to build on your work.

    Let me, therefore, make a few very basic points about what can make your teamwork easier. I know they are things we all aspire to, but we might need to remind ourselves of them now and then.

    Keep up a constant dialogue with everyone in the United Nations team. Try to hold meetings with your immediate staff every day, and set aside time to thrash out deeper issues. Meet regularly with the larger United Nations team to discuss not only what they can do to help your work, but also how you can help them in theirs. Sit together with them, plan with them, implement with them. Bilateral donors, regional organizations and non-governmental organizations, too, can be rich sources of goodwill if tapped properly –- again, through dialogue.

    From our end at Headquarters, you obviously need timely logistical and administrative support. The Secretariat tries its best to deliver despite being understaffed and over-regulated. We are determined to strengthen our capacity, and that is why I commissioned the Brahimi Report. We are already in the process of implementing some of its recommendations.

    Please don't underestimate the value of maintaining a policy dialogue with United Nations Headquarters. This is not meant to restrain you. On the contrary, it should be of value to you, as much as to us. The more you can achieve at your own initiative, the better. However, we do need to be kept abreast to ensure sustained political support from the members of the Security Council, the troop and police contributors, and other interested countries. You may also find that a regular exchange of ideas with us enriches your mission, in that it offers a second opinion, a different perspective.

    But, ultimately, let us never lose sight of the fact that you are there to serve people and nations in need. You are there to help them -- not to act in their place. The process you are there to facilitate is, in the last resort, their process. It is they who will have to live with the results. Long and painstaking efforts are required to build up structures and mechanisms that will allow them to help themselves. Learn from the locals about their history, their motivation and their aspirations. Talk with the parties directly as much as you can, rather than rely on second-hand information. In short, maintain a dialogue with them.

    I realize many of these things may seem very simple and self-evident -- and that many of you have already put them into practice as a matter of course. But, sometimes, they are precisely the things that get lost in the pressure of day-to-day business.

    And now, I am keen to take my own advice and have a dialogue with you about your experiences, and how you see the challenges ahead.

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