13 October 2014
131st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
Opening Remarks for Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
131st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
Geneva International Conference Centre
Monday, 13 October 2014 at 11:00 a.m.
Secretary General Chungong
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you again. Let me, first of all, commend President Radi on his Presidency. Under your leadership, we have worked closely together to strengthen the links between our organizations and we appreciate your firm commitment to partnership and collaboration to take forward parliamentary democracy. We were privileged to host with you earlier this year the special event to mark the 125th anniversary of the IPU as a demonstration of this commitment. Thank you for the excellent cooperation.
And a very warm welcome to Secretary General Martin Chungong in his new role. We have already started a strong partnership with you. We look forward to building on the very firm foundation established by your predecessor, and also with you in your function then as Deputy Secretary General, to enhance our relations even further. You can rely on our full support.
Let me also add a warm welcome to Guinea and Madagascar on joining the IPU this morning.
When I spoke at the 130th Assembly in March of this year, many of the statements highlighted a growing, collective sentiment that the situation in our world was worsening. Despite cautious recovery from the economic and financial crisis, ongoing and fresh conflicts in several regions – combined with an apparent inability at the global level to address these effectively – left the feeling that we were headed in the wrong direction, towards more instability, polarization and mistrust.
If anything, that feeling has been reinforced since then. This analysis was also reflected in many of the speeches of world leaders taking part in the opening of the United Nations General Assembly a couple of weeks ago. The conflict and instability in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Gaza, South Sudan – among others – continue. The violent extremism perpetrated by ISIL represents a dramatic evolution in the nature of the terrorist threat. Above all, there is a sense that the rules of the game, the frameworks that we have put in place together through negotiation and consensus-building, can just be broken with impunity. A deeply disconcerting trend towards a world where “might” equals “right”. The polar opposite of the core principles and values of multilateralism and of parliamentary democracy. On top of this, the spread of Ebola with its rising death toll and incredible human suffering adds another layer of complexity to our political, economic and humanitarian challenges.
These are all challenges that are reflected in the very comprehensive agenda before you. And there can be no doubt that we need strong parliaments and active participation by parliamentarians at all levels to confront them. A common thread that ties together many of the challenges is lack of good governance, abuse of human rights, disenfranchised individuals and groups, injustice and failed leadership. All of which adds up to lack of social cohesion, which fuels instability and undermines development potential.
As institutions, parliaments represent avenues for inclusion of different voices, and platforms for accommodation of different points of views. But more importantly, as individuals, parliamentarians play a key role in representing and reaching out to different segments of society, to serve as advocates of moderation, agents of empowerment and protectors of human rights and the rule of law. As the rules are increasingly broken at the international level, we need – more than ever – parliamentarians to help cultivate an environment of respect for the law and to uphold the ideal of working for the collective good.
When I was here in March, I highlighted how we over the past decade successfully have injected the parliamentary dimension into the work of the United Nations. And I called for greater efforts to inject the United Nations into the discussions in, and the work of, parliaments around the world. Against the background that I just outlined, this call remains very relevant today. We need global backing for collective, multilateral solutions to the challenges we face. And this requires connecting the global and local levels much better than we have done so far. I see the record attendance at this Assembly as a reflection of the increasing global commitment of parliamentarians, which we greatly appreciate.
Next year, the United Nations will celebrate its 70th anniversary, while the IPU will come together for the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, to take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York. These two events will provide a most useful opportunity for taking stock of the relationship between the United Nations and parliaments, and also to combine our strengths even further.
As we look ahead, our main challenge will be establishing a universal and transformative post-2015 development agenda that combines socio-economic ambition with respect for our planet, and with human rights at its core. We need the support of parliamentarians, not least when the development agenda has to be implemented at national level, with appropriate accountability for the commitments made. The United Nations family in Geneva will similarly have a key role to play in the implementation phase, and we look forward to working closely with the IPU in this endeavour.
The empowerment of youth will also be critical. We have the largest generation of youth ever. With greater possibilities for connecting with the world than ever before through online communication and travel. At the same time, we experience record numbers of unemployed youth, and meaningful political participation remains out of reach for far too many. Disappointed expectations feed an overarching feeling of lack of dignity and justice. Younger parliamentarians have a particularly important role in engaging youth in support of parliamentary democracy. And I have been impressed by the promise shown in this respect by the IPU’s First Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians, which has just concluded. I hope that synergies can be found between this timely initiative and youth engagement activities at the United Nations.
I particularly commend the focus at this Assembly on gender equality and ending violence against women. We are united in our resolve to end the brutality that all too many women are subjected to around the world – whether in conflict or in their own homes. Violence against women is often a symptom of deeper-lying discrimination in our societies, of our collective failure to effectively include women in shaping their own futures – in families, in schools, in the workplace and in politics. Yet, we will not be able to effectively confront any of the challenges before us if we do not achieve gender equality. There will be no peace without the full engagement of women. It is as simple as that.
Across our shared agenda, we need healthy democracies where everybody is involved in determining the future of their communities and societies at large. Parliaments are key in that process, as is the United Nations at the global level.
Let us continue strengthening our strategic partnership for a better world.
Thank you very much again for having invited to be part of your Assembly.