SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS REGIONAL CHALLENGES,
NEW YORK, 3 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the inauguration of United Nations House in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 2 January:
We have heard a lot this afternoon about the word small. The United Nations is an organization of States, equal States, large and small. It is well known that in the United Nations there are many small countries that punch above their weight, and I am sure that there are many in this room and in this region that will continue to do that.
It is also remarkable to hear that the small countries take the United Nations very seriously because they do know what it means. I think the small countries appreciate that collective interest, and collective action is also the national interest. I would also recall before World War II, when Haile Selassie appeared before the League of Nations, and asked for help, his country had been invaded by Italy led by Mussolini. He said, "I need your help", and then he went on to say, "today it is me, who would it be next, you, you or you". He did not get the help, but we saw what happened a few years later. This is a message that small countries understand, and this is why I think you have become the backbone of the United Nations in terms of your support and encouragement.
As to the Prime Minister’s comment, that the international press have been silent, they have not said anything about where I was, or where I was taking holidays. The simple truth is that I did not tell them. When they asked my wife Nane, "where are you going?", she said, "a secret place". When I was asked, I said, "we are going to an island in the sun". There are so many islands in the sun that you have to be very creative to figure out where we were.
I must also say that the people of Barbados have been very discreet and left us alone. We have, therefore, had a very, very good rest and we are returning to New York, fit for action. We are going to try to hold onto this memory of a restful holiday as long as we can. I know, from day one, they will try and make us forget it, but we are going to refuse, we are going to refuse.
It is, indeed, a great pleasure to join you today.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Barbados, his Government, and the people of Barbados for extending such a warm welcome to my wife and me.
I would also like to stress how moved I am that so many of the region’s leaders and several of your colleagues have taken time from their busy schedules to be here for this ceremony. Your presence is yet another demonstration of your strong commitment and support to the United Nations.
We have gathered to inaugurate a new and beautiful state-of-the-art United Nations House. The use of the word "house" is no coincidence. The idea of a house of all nations, of "we, the peoples", held together by a common bond and structure, helps us to visualize the very concept upon which the United Nations was built.
This new United Nations House in Barbados will be an extension of that vision. Several bodies will share these premises, working on issues such as economic and social development, agriculture, drug control, telecommunications, the advancement of women, and the well-being of children -– all under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, Ms. Rosina Wiltshire.
Moreover, this United Nations House will serve not only Barbados, but also nine other countries in the Eastern Caribbean. Thus it symbolizes the great potential and realities of regional cooperation and integration in an interdependent world.
Your region faces formidable challenges. Along with other developing countries, your countries have suffered from a sharp and steady decline in official development assistance. Natural disasters have increased in frequency and intensity in recent decades. Climate change places you on the frontline of the fight to protect the global environment. And you are vulnerable to external economic shocks in key areas such as agriculture and tourism –- indeed, as we have seen happen in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States.
The number of people in the region living with HIV/AIDS is rising rapidly. An end to special trade preferences may make it harder for some of the region’s products to compete. And, of course, there is globalization, which brings both opportunity and uncertainty.
Let us not be daunted by the complexity of these issues, or by the global forces at work in today’s world. Your nations have achieved high rankings on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. The region’s record on some of the critical socio-economic indicators is likewise impressive. You are working with each other to harmonize your development policies and strategies. And you are working with the United Nations to strengthen institutions. This is progress on which you can and must build.
We have a common vision to guide us -– the Millennium Declaration, which bears the strong imprint of you yourselves, the leaders who gave it essential political backing at the highest level.
What we need, as ever, is implementation.
As you know, among the many objectives set out by the Declaration are specific goals for development and poverty eradication by the year 2015. These Millennium development goals are ambitious -- and they are not self-implementing. Their impact on reality depends on a great deal of subsequent effort, by Member States, as well as by the United Nations Secretariat.
The entire United Nations system will do everything in its power to assist Member States in this task. Ultimately, however, it is governments that bear the main responsibility for action. So I hope you, too, will do everything in your power to muster the will and resources needed.
What happens in your nations is of great concern to the rest of the world. Your countries are places where, in concentrated form, many of the main problems of development and environment are unfolding. Your experiences, your experiments, your transformation -- can guide the way to a brighter future for all peoples. As we move ahead, I hope you will see, operating from this United Nations House and throughout the region, a unified, cohesive and effective Organization working towards our shared goals.
Let me close by again thanking the Government of Barbados for providing these premises, and all of you for your commitment and support.
Now, it is my great pleasure to declare this UN House open for business.
Thank you very much.
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* Reissued as delivered.