Press Releases

    SG/SM/8439
    17 October 2002

    IN ADDRESS TO MONGOLIAN PARLIAMENT,
    SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES CONTRIBUTIONS
    OF NATIONS GREAT OR SMALL

    NEW YORK, 16 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia: "Small States in an era of globalization", Ulaanbaatar, 16 October:

    Thank you very much for that warm welcome. It is a great pleasure to be making my first-ever visit to your country, and to experience some of Mongolia’s renowned hospitality.

    I am especially grateful for the privilege of addressing the Mongolian Parliament.

    This is a place where some of the country's most important business is carried out. From this Parliament come the laws of the land: laws affecting people's livelihoods and living conditions, their health and their homes, the well-being of their children, their very freedoms.

    Parliamentarians carry tremendous responsibilities. As the elected representatives of the people, you are the embodiment of Mongolian values and the institutional bridge between civil society and the State.

    Your constituents expect you to give voice to their struggles and aspirations. They want you to ensure that the concerns of all sectors of society, but especially the marginalized and the vulnerable, are part of the national debate.

    They will judge your actions by rigorous standards of democracy, good governance and effective public administration. And they themselves want to be involved in your work, helping you to determine the direction of the country’s future and how best to meet new and emerging threats.

    Today your role is more pivotal than ever. In an era of globalization, States must keep pace with rapid change by building viable economies and liberating their people’s creative and entrepreneurial energies. And since most of today's major problems -- such as environmental degradation, drug trafficking and the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS -- transcend borders, countries must cooperate with each other even more than in the past.

    If at one time parliamentarians were mainly the link between the local and the national, today they are also an essential link between the local and the global.

    It is easy for countries that are small in size or, like Mongolia, small in population only, to feel daunted by the global forces at work in our lives today.

    The globalization of trade and finance; mass movements of workers and goods; instant communications -- all present great opportunities while at the same time imposing considerable demands. Countries with enormous labour forces, abundant natural resources, arsenals of high-tech weaponry and fleets of expert technicians and negotiators may seem to have all the advantages. Countries that lack those advantages may be tempted to conclude that they have little or no role to play internationally.

    That would be absolutely wrong. The contributions of small States to international cooperation are crucially important.

    Consider peacekeeping operations authorized by the United Nations Security Council. It is common, when thinking of the Council, to think only of the five permanent members. But we should never forget that nine votes are required to adopt a resolution. Therein lies an opportunity for the Council's non-permanent members to shape a mission's mandate and goals, and to put matters on the agenda.

    Small states such as Fiji, Ireland and New Zealand are also among the stalwart nations that consistently contribute troops, police and observers. Two Mongolian observers are now part of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I would like to thank you for that contribution. I hope that Mongolia will join in more such operations and be an even bigger part of our efforts to stem the tide of conflict.

    The contributions of small States also extend to the United Nations regular budget. Here, too, the big powers may seem to be the only important players, since the top 15 contributors account for more than 85 per cent of the budget. But quite a different picture emerges when one considers the matter in per capita terms: many small nations give well out of proportion to their population -- showing their strong commitment to the United Nations and its global mission.

    Indeed, I can point to small States playing a central and innovative role on many leading issues of our times.

    Disarmament offers one such example. Norway was among those behind the international coalition that brought about the adoption of a convention banning the production, sale or use of anti-personnel landmines. Mongolia, for its part, 10 years ago proclaimed its nuclear-weapon-free status, and this Parliament played an important role by adopting legislation defining and regulating that status. I welcome your efforts to make this world a safer place, not just for us but for future generations.

    Small States are also among those most committed to environmental protection. The small island developing nations of the world, which are especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change through rising sea levels, are on the front-lines of our work for sustainable development. They may be small islands, but big issues are involved, with implications for us all.

    But if small nations make these and other crucial contributions to international cooperation, they also have a right to expect that the international community will pay attention to the very real problems they face.

    Trade barriers and subsidies for developed-country goods undermine the competitiveness of the developing countries, thereby hindering their integration into the global economy. Small States face resource and capacity constraints that keep them from participating in global negotiations, make them seem less-attractive investment opportunities, and keep them from seizing the opportunities of globalization. They are particularly vulnerable to external economic conditions, and also to man-made and natural disasters.

    Beyond even these challenges, Mongolia knows its own variations on what it means to be a small State. The combination of small population and vast size places special strains on transportation and the ability to provide social services. Your fateful geographical position, between two countries where AIDS has become a major epidemic, means that Mongolia needs to take strong preventive measures to protect its population while there is still time.

    Two years ago, at the Millennium Summit at the United Nations in New York, world leaders -- including your own President -- pledged strong action to ensure development and progress for all States, small and large. Those pledges were based on fundamental human needs -- from reducing poverty to providing access to safe drinking water. They came with a target date attached: the year 2015. We call them the Millennium Development Goals.

    A series of world conferences since then has sought to increase our chances of meeting them. Last November in Doha, the World Trade Organization launched new negotiations that offer the promise of fully opening global markets to developing-country goods.

    Last March in Monterrey, the International Conference on Financing for Development not only generated substantial new pledges of official development assistance, reversing a decade-long decline. It also led to new appreciation of what well-targeted official development assistance (ODA) can achieve. And just last month, at the World Conference on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, leaders committed themselves to waging this fight against poverty while ensuring that it is done in a manner that safeguards resources and ecosystems for succeeding generations.

    The challenge now is implementation. And to do that, we will have to take global cooperation to a new level. As Chinggis Khan has been quoted as saying, "If we see rivers meeting to make a sea, we will see a nation flourishing under the eternal blue sky."

    What we need more than ever today is a fundamental compact between small States and large, based on an acknowledgement of our mutual interest, awareness of our common fate, and adherence to the norms and standards of international law, without which we would be left with the raw politics of power.

    The United Nations Charter reaffirms "the equal rights … of nations large and small". Globalization demands more and better multilateralism. Interdependence means not only that what we do affects each other, but that we must truly be able to depend on each other. And the United Nations is the forum where that understanding can take hold and, through peaceful dialogue and debate, bear fruit.

    For that to happen, each country must put its best foot forward in the international community. I am pleased to note that this Parliament has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court. You have ratified various human rights conventions, and I hope that commitment will soon be translated into an approved national programme on human rights. Mongolia has also either signed or ratified 10 conventions on terrorism, and acceded to more than 150 international treaties and agreements.

    Good neighbourliness is one of the cornerstones of the country’s foreign policy, and good governance for human security lies at the core of your national development. Next June, you will be hosting the Fifth International Conference on New or Restored Democracies in a series the United Nations has supported from its inception. At the United Nations, Mongolia has worked hard to draw attention to the challenges facing the world’s landlocked developing countries. It has also sponsored resolutions on principles for international negotiations, on ensuring the rights of women in rural areas, and on the worldwide literacy decade that begins on 1 January.

    That attitude, that active engagement, your young and dynamic population, your opening to the world -- all these, taken together, offer you a real chance of finding the path of long-term security and prosperity. A member of the United Nations for more than four decades, Mongolia has played a valued role in building and nurturing a system of international cooperation. Now is the time to strengthen that system still further, so that multilateralism can fulfil its potential and meet the demands of the world’s people. With your help, I have every confidence that we can achieve the goals we all hold dear.

    Thank you very much. Ikh Bayarla.

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