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Stand: 28.02.2002
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Mr. Chancellor, President,
Honourable Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a very great honour for me to address this august assembly – especially as I understand I am one of very few non-Germans to be invited to do so, and only the third since you moved into this magnificently restored home in Germany’s historic capital.
It is also a great pleasure for me to speak to you, since Germany sets an admirable example as a global citizen and member of the United Nations. Ever since I became Secretary-General, and indeed before that, I have enjoyed a close working relationship with the German government and people.
Your constructive and generous approach to the United Nations does you all the more credit when one recalls that Germany was once considered an “enemy state”, and that, because of the cold war division of Germany, the Federal Republic had to wait more than 20 years for admission to UN membership.
This city, and indeed this building, have carefully preserved some traces of the terrible ravages of war, as a warning to future generations. Few peoples, I believe, are more deeply committed to the cause of peace than is the German people today – and few, if any, have better historical reasons to be so.
One thing that has impressed me, over the twelve years since you achieved unity through self-determination, has been the way you have risen above historical inhibitions about your role in the world, including the deployment of military force, and accepted your share of responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
I know this transformation was not easy. It required both courage and ingenuity on the part of your political leaders, and of the elected representatives gathered in this assembly.
But of course that is only one of many ways that the Federal Republic has contributed to peace and stability, in Europe and further afield. Your commitment to constructing the European Union, your work to combine political stability and cooperation with economic progress and monetary union, and your emphasis on the strengthening of democratic institutions is testimony to your understanding that peace is a very complex structure, which has to be built on many foundations at once.
Your role in consolidating peace in the Balkans has been particularly important – and I am very pleased now to have Michael Steiner as my Special Representative in Kosovo.
But I am glad to say you are not limiting your activities to Europe, or even to its immediate neighbourhood. Germany was one of the few countries that paid serious attention to the problems of Afghanistan even before the events of 11 September. And since then you have stepped up your contribution to security there – in particular by accepting the lead role in coordinating international efforts to help Afghans build, or rebuild, an effective and professional police force.
There can be no more vital contribution to the work of building a lasting peace in that country, on which – after a long and regrettable period of neglect – the whole world’s attention is now focused.
It is on that subject of peace building, in its broadest sense, ladies and gentlemen, that I wish to speak to you today. Afghanistan is not the first country where the United Nations has been asked to help with this process, in partnership with other organisations. And it is unlikely to be the last.
More and more it seems that this is one of the key tasks that the international community assigns to us.
In many countries emerging from war we are also expected to keep the peace, by deploying troops under UN command, who wear the famous blue helmets. And Mr. Speaker, thank you for your kind words about the Blue helments.
In other words, in cases – such as Kosovo, and now Afghanistan – this military task is seen to require heavily armed forces with very robust rules of engagement. Member States then prefer to undertake it directly – in so-called “coalitions of the willing”, authorised by the Security Council, of course – while leaving the UN itself to co-ordinate the multiple civilian tasks that the international community undertakes to help a country in that situation.
But even where we do have military forces under UN command, nowadays they are often integrated with civilian elements in a larger mission, whose mandate goes beyond traditional peacekeeping. That mandate, in essence, is to lay foundations for a more lasting peace.
In the past, UN peacekeepers were deployed to preserve a ceasefire while the parties worked on a political settlement – and too often they stayed onfor many years because no settlement was reached. But since the end of the cold war, it has been much more common for them to be deployed under the terms of a political settlement already agreed, to help the parties put it into effect.
They are no longer a static element, which cannot be removed without destroying a precarious military balance and precipitating a renewal of the conflict. Instead they are expected to play a dynamic role, as part of complex operations involving numerous actors seeking to solidify and build a peace which can sustain itself once they have withdrawn.
Peace-building is a noble mission, and a necessary one. Yet the United Nations can only hope to succeed in it if two things are clearly understood:
First, that it is a very complex process, combining many different tasks – success or failure in each of which has an inescapable impact on the others.
And secondly, that it is a long and delicate process, in which there are no quick fixes. Whoever embarks on it must be prepared for the long haul.
As an example of the first point, take the training and monitoring of local police forces – an example which should be of interest to you, in view of the role you are about to undertake in Afghanistan.
This work is of little value without an honest and effective judiciary, a decent prison system, and some institutions that promote human rights.
After all, what is the good of building an efficient police force, if when you arrest criminals you have no jail to put them in, or only one that is run in a way that is offensive to human decency?
Come to that, what is the good of arresting criminals at all, if they cannot be tried within a reasonable time, by a tribunal that conforms to the minimum international standards, or if you lack the resources to collect the evidence sufficient to secure their conviction?
To take another example, what use are elections, even with the most immaculate voting procedures, if candidates are not free to campaign, or the media to cover them; if the losers are not ready to accept the result, or if the winners treat their victory as a licence to ignore everyone else's views?
We cannot bring peace to a country through elections unless we also help it to build democratic institutions, and allow its people at least a glimpse of a solution to their social problems.
Or again, what good does it do to rebuild houses for refugees, if we are unable to persuade them that their safety will be guaranteed when they return?
By the same token, what good does it do to disarm and demobilise armed factions, if the young men and boys who come out of them find no decent schools or civilian jobs to keep them occupied?
All these tasks – humanitarian, military, political, social and economic – are interconnected, and the people engaged in them need to work closely together. We cannot expect lasting success in any of them unless we pursue all of them at once, as part of a single, coherent strategy. If the resources are lacking for any one of them, all the others may turn out to have been pursued in vain.
And the uncomfortable truth is that, as matters stand, the United Nations and other institutions are still poorly equipped to devise such a comprehensive strategy, and even less well equipped to carry it out. Yet the UN is often asked to do both.
Our system is at present too compartmentalised. I believe we have had some success in overcoming this within the UN Secretariat, and I have been working hard to coordinate the work of our Funds and Programmes, such as UNICEF, UNDP, the World Food Programme and the High Commissioners for Refugees and Human Rights. We are also trying to bring greater coherence to the work of the United Nations family as a whole, which of course includes the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
But the key decisions are taken by national governments, either individually or in intergovernmental organs such as the Security Council, the General Assembly and its various committees, and also – since the UN is seldom alone in these operations – in the corresponding bodies in other organisations such as NATO and OSCE.
To complicate matters further, the various entities in the UN system respond to different constituencies within national governments, leading to potentially conflicting priorities in capitals and mixed signals at the other end. For example, UNICEF is likely to appeal to and interact with quite a different sector in a Member State than is the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Too often the result is a fragmented approach, which is the exact opposite of what we need. The mandates given to the United Nations and other organisations frequently exceed their capacities. And often we end up with too little money; or with money which is not available for the most urgent priorities, because it is earmarked for something different; or with a prolonged gap between the money pledged and the money disbursed.
The gap between pledge and disbursement is already of particular concern to me in the case of Afghanistan. Although considerable amounts have been promised, not enough has been received there as yet. Peace-building in Afghanistan needs the momentum of early reconstruction. Urgent priorities at this stage include paying teachers’ salaries, making seeds available for the new planting season, and creating jobs both in the cities and in the countryside. Such quick impact projects can make a crucial difference in the early stages of a peace-building operation – particularly in establishing its credibility in the eyes of local people.
And that brings me to my second point – the need to stay engaged for the long haul.
I began by saying that Afghanistan is now the centre of the world’s attention, after a long and shameful period of neglect.
Unhappily that neglect is what typically happens in war-torn countries, once they slip out of the headlines.
And yet I’m sure we all agree that it would have been much better, not only for the Afghan people but for the world, if Afghanistan had received sustained attention after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Instead we allowed it to sink into anarchy.
There have been other cases, too – in Angola, for instance – where peace agreements have fallen apart, and war and anarchy have resumed, prolonging the agony and devastation of a people and dashing hopes that had been raised. In Rwanda, the international community thought a peace agreement was being implemented, when in fact a full-scale genocide was being prepared.
No doubt in such cases the heaviest responsibility lies with the parties that broke their agreements and resorted to violence. But often a share also lies with the international community, which underestimated the legacy of mistrust and hatred that a conflict can leave, or the strength of the incentive to resume fighting when young men and boys have no other outlet for their energies.
The UN has learned from these experiences that just as conflict never occurs in a vacuum, neither is peace just a matter of signing agreements or treaties. It always has to be built from the ground up – as is the case in Afghanistan today.
I am not suggesting that peacekeeping missions should remain indefinitely in countries emerging from conflict. On the contrary, it is very important to wean countries away from dependency. Peacekeepers and peace-builders should always be supporting national efforts and promoting self-reliance, not substituting themselves for local leaders and administrators. And peacekeepers should leave as soon as they can, once they have helped create the conditions under which a country can maintain stability.
But they should never be withdrawn abruptly or prematurely – which is why I very much hope the present International Security Force in Afghanistan can be extended beyond its present mandate.
A seamless transition is needed, which must be carefully timed and planned, in close cooperation with the other agencies – bilateral and multilateral, governmental and non-governmental, humanitarian and developmental – whose work must continue long after the peacekeeping operation has been withdrawn. The closer all these partners are associated with each other, and with the peacekeeping operation throughout its presence, the better their chance of carrying the peace-building process forward after the others have left.
It is with this in mind that I am increasingly seeking to appoint the United Nations Resident Coordinator in a country as deputy head of the peacekeeping mission. That way, he or she can ensure that development programmes get under way early in the peace-building process, and also that there is a smooth handover to the regular UN team when the peacekeeping mission leaves. I am also trying to ensure correspondingly close links at Headquarters, between the development and the peace-and-security sides of the house.
But this can only work if Member States, who supply the funds and the personnel for all these operations, are willing to co-ordinate the work of their own departments and services in the same way.
Member States that contribute troops to a peacekeeping operation are always, and rightly, concerned to know what is the “exit strategy”. When do the boys and girls come home? No State wants to leave its soldiers stationed indefinitely in a foreign land, with no political outcome in sight.
In response to this question, we at the United Nations have coined a slogan of our own, in reference to the transition to a new phase: “no exit without strategy”. Once we commit ourselves to helping a people or peoples rebuild peace, after a war that has laid waste their land and left them deeply mistrustful of each other, we believe we must be prepared to stay the course, and to leave behind structures that will help them continue the process.
Otherwise, all our work will have been in vain, and those who have worked hard to keep peace, often at the risk of their lives, will have the deeply dispiriting experience of seeing their work destroyed after they have left.
I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that the aim must always be to create a sustainable peace, just as we aim to achieve sustainable development – and indeed sustainable development itself is one of the conditions for lasting peace.
You Germans, who rebuilt your own country so magnificently after the second world war, with the help of your friends and allies in the international community, are perhaps better placed than any other people to understand what I mean.
German history could have been very different if the western allies had pulled out two or three years after 1945, or if they had not assisted you in building your own Federal Republic, as well as rebuilding your country.
No one disputes that these are above all German achievements, of which you can be justly proud. But I believe they also stand as shining example of what can be achieved when outsiders, committed to a peaceful future, work with the people of a country to help it overcome the bitter legacy of war.
I know that Germans share that view, and that is why Germany is taking a more and more prominent role in efforts to heal the wounds of war and rebuild peace in countries that have suffered more recently.
On that score, let me commend you for being one of the world’s top donors of official development assistance in absolute terms – while hoping that you can do even better, by raising the amount as a percentage of your gross domestic product.
Let me also salute you for your contributing generously to faraway war-torn countries with no direct link to your own, as you are doing now in Afghanistan and you have already done in Sierra Leone for example – ensuring, in the eloquent words of your Federal President, that there is no zones of indifference.
[And let me congratulate you on ratifying the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Within the next few weeks we should reach the total of sixty ratifications needed to bring the Statute into force. We have learnt from bitter experience that true peace cannot be built on impunity. It requires justice and deterrence, as well as magnanimity and
reconciliation.] *
Ladies and gentlemen, in the months and years to come Germany will certainly be called upon to do more, for both sustainable development and sustainable peace. As parliamentarians, you have a crucial role to play. You form the institutional bridge between the State and civil society, and the indispensable link between the local and the global. You are thus uniquely placed to work for a United Nations that is more effective and more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people you represent.
I applaud you for what you have already done, and I look forward to working with the Government and the people of Germany more closely in the future and for our common future.
Meine Freunde, Vielen Dank
* This paragraph has been modified to reflect what the Secretary-General intended to say.

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