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Prime Minister's Office

Millennium Summit of the UN

Speech by the Prime Minister of Iceland
The Millennium Summit of the United Nations
New York - September 6th. 2000

The United Nations are uniquely suited to the task of tackling the many global challenges that the world faces today and have already done much good work in this respect. In fact it is fair to say that with increasing globalisation, the world needs the United Nations more than ever before. At the same time, greater demands are being made towards the Organization.

One consequence of growing globalisation is to make ideas and information much more accessible to the entire world. Thus collective awareness of the fundamental rights of democracy and the rule of law are spreading among people in different places as never before. An indication of this is that opinion surveys about worldwide attitudes towards the United Nations showed human rights, as the Secretary General points out in his Millennium Report, to be a central issue in peoples expectations towards the United Nations. If anything, such expectations may be expected to grow stronger, and the United Nations need to respond to them.

New times and greater demands call for changes in the organization and work of the United Nations. Thus the Security Council is a child of its time and reforms to it need to be expedited. Moreover, the Organization's record in peacekeeping operations has also been rather uneven over the past decade. However, with its valuable experience in this field, the UN has great potential to promote peace in regions of conflict. The Secretary General's initiative in making a special study of peacekeeping operations deserves to be applauded. This is a well produced report which will facilitate the Organization in drawing up a clear strategy on this important issue.

Despite the fact that Iceland has only a small population and no armed forces of its own, we have contributed medical personnel and police officers to peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. The Icelandic Government is now drawing up proposals about ways to increase and broaden our participation in the civilian side of peacekeeping.

Thus I made a particularly careful note of the report's call for a greater emphasis on rapid participation by civilian peacekeeping personnel, such as police, lawyers and other experts, in order to speed up the establishment of lasting reconciliation and peace between parties in conflict.

Ultimately, the United Nations' potential for doing good depends on the will of its member states, as we repeatedly hear. While this is quite right, it is also clearly a tautology. This is the political reality which international organizations such as the United Nations inevitably face, not least with regard to security issues. Complaints about a lack of willingness among member nations must not overshadow its successes in numerous fields. It is, however, the clear duty of all members to ensure sufficient resources for the United Nations to undertake the tasks they entrust to the Organization. It is unacceptable for the United Nations to be starved of funds, and even worse if members are late in making their required contributions or fail to make them at all. At the same time there is certainly still much scope for improving the operations and effectiveness of the United Nations. The Secretary General's proposals in this respect are necessary, and deserve to be supported.

One area of the United Nations' activities has been moving increasingly into the spotlight. I am referring to environmental issues, which are often global in character and need to be solved accordingly. To achieve this as successfully as possible, we must consider not only how to share out fairly among different nations the cost that these solutions involve, but also how to produce the maximum benefit for the global community as a whole.

One example concerns the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. As the Secretary General points out in his Millennium Report, there is an obvious need to increase the use of renewable energy resources in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It follows that the potential for using renewable energy resources for power-intensive industries must not be restricted, even if this leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the countries where such energy resources are available. Such emissions will obviously be made wherever power-intensive industries operate. Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol should therefore be arranged so as to encourage the location of those industries as far as possible in places where clean, renewable energy resources are found, so that total emissions can be kept to a minimum. This would represent a global benefit for the environment.

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