19 January 2012
Public Discussion at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva at Geneva Public Discussion at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy,
“The Changing Nature of International Partnerships:
Perspectives of the Heads of OSCE and UNOG”
Thursday, 19 January 2012
Secretary General Lambert Zannier,
Ambassador Fred Tanner,
Dear friends and colleagues!
It is a genuine pleasure to be here with Secretary General Zannier. I am very pleased to again speak here at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. The GCSP has become a close partner of the United Nations in Geneva, and being a widely known and recognized research centre, provides a most appropriate context for today’s discussion, which focuses on the changing nature of partnerships.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has often noted the foresight of the drafters of the United Nations Charter. At a time when there was not a single regional organization, they had the wisdom to recognize that one day the United Nations would work closely with such bodies. Given the current international context, I believe that this was particularly fortunate, as the UN enjoys increasingly close cooperation with a number of our “Chapter Eight” partners.
Much has changed since 1945 and indeed over the past year. 2011 presented some unique challenges, as the world sought to respond to the Arab Spring’s calls for democracy and accountable government. We must use similar foresight as in 1945 to ensure that we respond effectively to these challenges. The regional aspect of individual situations in the Arab world cannot be ignored. While the full impact on the region has yet to be determined, it is already clear that partnerships will be key to effective response.
In the case of Libya, the League of Arab States acted to suspend its membership as a result of its assaults on civilian populations. This peer pressure had strong symbolic and political value, and similar action was subsequently taken with respect to Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council.
The international community has provided crucial support to the region, and with some genuine success stories, but often quietly, out of a recognition that individual countries and their citizens must take “ownership” of their transformations. Thus, the UN has provided some technical assistance or advice for the elections held in Tunisia last October, those under way in Egypt, and those still ahead in Libya. These will be the first elections most people in Libya have ever experienced.
The deficit of democracy and lack of good governance were no doubt the primary influences leading to the Arab Spring revolts, but the dire economic situation was an important contributor, and remains a challenge to stability worldwide. UNCTAD predicts that this year, world growth will slow to 2.6%, and to 0.7% for the EU. Global unemployment remains high, at nearly 9%, and is even more pronounced in some places, such as Spain where youth unemployment has reached an astonishing 40%. Worse, this is coupled with growing income disparity. While we all agree that a jobs-rich recovery is necessary for a sustainable solution to the economic crisis, we are far from consensus on how to get there. A major United Nations report released yesterday on the ‘World Economic Situation and Prospects’ states quite clearly that a failure to address the jobs crisis and prevent sovereign debt distress would send the global economy into another recession. The response, however, is elusive. Stimulus, or austerity? Further oversight, or deregulation? Even among neighbours we see varied analyses and policy approaches, and so finding a global response will remain a key challenge.
The global economic stresses of the past year thus demonstrate that regional trends are not the only forces at work. And a regional approach is not always the best response. The welcome growth in regional organizations comes together with the growth of other groups that are global in their reach, such as the G8 and G20. The flexibility demonstrated by the G20 to quickly gather political will on key issues arguably helped to avoid further deterioration of the global economy.
Similarly, modern communications have resulted in much more cooperation between sub-national level governments. Provinces and municipalities are increasingly making their voices heard.
As we move on from what was a momentous 2011, I would like to remind you of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s, five concrete ‘generational opportunities’ that we must seize. These are 1) Promoting sustainable development; 2) Preventing natural and man-made disasters; 3) Making the world safer and more secure; 4) Helping countries and peoples in transition; and 5) Encouraging youth and gender empowerment. Global-regional cooperation is key to each one of these.
Within this context four areas could benefit from more cooperation between our organizations.
First, we must continue to strengthen our partnerships in the area of conflict prevention. In the United Nations, we have been actively working to strengthen our capacity in preventive diplomacy and mediation, both at headquarters level, but also through mechanisms such as the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. We also seek to increase our cooperative efforts and to diversify our approach based on each situation’s particularities. There are clearly times when regional arrangements are very well suited for the more quiet responses undertaken through investigation, fact-finding, mediation and conflict resolution. In the past, these partnerships have taken different shapes: in some cases, the United Nations played a lead role, in others, a partnership role, and in yet others, a supporting role. Our close cooperation with the OSCE in Kyrgyzstan was a very good example of the benefits of well coordinated action. In the context of the Caucasus, we are both also engaged together with the European Union in the Geneva International Discussions which are supported logistically by the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Second, modern security challenges will require harnessing all of our effort. For example, regional organizations have a central role to play in helping countries implement and cooperate fully with the counter-terrorism work led by the Security Council. The OSCE’s efforts aimed at assisting countries implement Security Council Resolution 1540 on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors is appreciated, as is the work on strengthening border management and organization of contacts between anti-terrorism practitioners. And most importantly, the experiences that will be gained from the OSCE’s recently established Department for Transnational Threats will be interesting for the UN and other organizations as we all work to counter terrorism, organized crime, and cyber threats.
As I have mentioned, the past year has seen important changes, with millions of people courageously demanding a say in their own fate. For them, it is an unknown road. But similar roads have been travelled by others in the past. Experience has shown the importance of ongoing support for civil society during transition phases to help ensure continued active engagement by populations in their own government. The OSCE region has seen a number of successful transitions in the past twenty years, with important contributions by the Organization itself. My third suggestion, therefore, is to actively encourage the sharing of experience and expertise in transitions, because the challenges of the past year, as painful as they have been, have also opened up opportunities that must not be squandered.
And fourth, we should recognize that groups of states which are faced with their own particular concerns can often play a leading role in demonstrating the benefits of cooperation before an issue is ready for adoption at the global level. In some areas, we see this happening now. Just as one recent example, we see increasing support for opening up the Economic Commission for Europe’s “Water Convention” beyond the strictly regional level, enabling global ratification. Whether in the fields of environmental protection, human rights protection, or in the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, when world-wide agreement may not at first be possible, regional arrangements can be an important first step, and actually open the way.
One last area of our close cooperation deserves particular consideration.
One week ago today, when discussing our partnership with the African Union, the Secretary-General highlighted the need to develop new tools and to intensify our engagement with civil society and women’s groups active in mediation and conflict prevention, particularly at the local level. I want to pay tribute to the strong support provided by the OSCE through its extensive network of field operations in this regard, for example by encouraging and supporting implementation of the Security Council’s resolution on Women, Peace and Security, Resolution 1325. Hopefully such good experiences can also be replicated in another critical element in the campaign for gender equality, namely ending the epidemic of violence against women. Leveraging experience from neighbours is a great asset when it comes to such efforts, and we highly value the OSCE’s cooperation in support of our common goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The development of regional arrangements has varied markedly from region to region, whether measured in terms of scope, capacity or authority. We cannot apply a single standard or template to all regions.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon laid out a four-point agenda for cooperation:
1) securing peace, 2) advancing fundamental freedoms and human rights, 3) promoting sustainable development, and 4) making progress on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
I hope that today, I have provided some further concrete ideas, building upon these pillars, that are valid not only in the OSCE context but globally.
The diversity in experience speaks to the value of cross-regional dialogues. In fact, the UN can play a particularly important role in encouraging and facilitating inter-regional cooperation.
The United Nations, with its global reach and its network of Funds, Programmes and Specialized Agencies, will continue to contribute at all levels. We will strive to be an important unifying factor, and look forward to continuing and deepening our cooperation with partners internationally, as well as here in Geneva.
To read an article regarding the participation of the Director-General in this event, please click here