Federation views on the United Nations Millennium Declaration

Published: 22 November 2004

Mr. President,

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) finds this debate to be of particular importance. In some respects it is a preview to important debates that will be held in the General Assembly in 2005.

It can be seen as laying down guiding principles for members of the international community, and Member States. It is especially relevant to Member States who are dedicated to the provision of humanitarian and development assistance. However, it serves as a reminder to all States of their accountability to their citizens for ways in which economic and social development is managed.

This is true for both developed and developing countries. We believe that it is a mistake to see the Millennium Declaration as exclusively relevant to the needs of developing countries. The vulnerabilities it addresses are experienced in all countries, without exception, although very often in different ways.

This point has been included in many important statements recently made by the Secretary-General and his colleagues, such as the Secretary-General's remarks at the event on "Fair Globalization" convened by Mr. Juan Somavía on 20 September 2004, and again the same day at the World Leaders' Meeting on Action against Hunger and Poverty sponsored by His Excellency the President of Brazil. This point is an important factor in the main document for this item [UN document A/59/282].

We were therefore pleased to see so much of this document devoted to an analysis of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, we were disappointed to see that the thrust of the document was on what the focus of governments and international organizations should be, but with very little recognition of the synchronized contributions that need to be made by communities and civil society.

For example, there is no reference in the paragraphs relating to Goal 6 on combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, to partnerships beyond the government, and nor were references made to issues such as the stigma and discrimination often accompanying HIV/AIDS.

The references to Goal 8, the importance of creating global partnerships for development, also have no link to the wider partnerships which are essential if the Goals are to be achieved.

We hope that future discussions on the Millennium Declaration will permit more debate. Hopefully this debate will centre around the significant contribution, which will have to be sought and obtained from civil society, volunteers and communities as a whole. This is especially the case if the MDGs are to be achieved.

We also hope that future examinations of the Millennium Declaration see it in more than a development assistance context but rather as relevant to all vulnerability, everywhere.

For that reason, we were disappointed to see that the section of the document, which addresses the need to provide protection to the vulnerable, is so heavily weighted towards vulnerabilities caused by emergencies. There is no doubt that emergencies significantly enhance vulnerability, and that their impact is at the heart of many of the IFRC's programs.

But it is no less true that vulnerability also exists in other situations and in developed countries. This can often result in what might be termed "forgotten vulnerability." One of the points we will be making in other debates concerns the need for governments and international organizations to address all forms vulnerability.

Our member National Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies have as their fundamental priority the mobilization of the power of humanity, to protect the vulnerable in all countries, starting of course, with their own home. We see the task of governments as being very similar, which is why we emphasize the application of the Millennium Declaration everywhere.

It is also why we stand so strongly behind the remarks by the Secretary-General to the World Leaders on Action against Hunger and Poverty. We clearly see that unless the Millennium Declaration is applied worldwide, there is a grave danger that the global underclass, of which he spoke, will build a considerable challenge to the peace, prosperity and stability of the world.

Mr. President,

My delegation has addressed various aspects of this challenge in other items during this Session of the General Assembly. Our purpose under this particular item is to state the IFRC's respect for the Millennium Declaration, and our determination to work with the international community to help realize the goals. The MDGs resonate within our Strategy 2010, which was adopted in 1999.

Our programs have felt this resonance, and we look forward to working with the Secretary-General, his teams, and other partners in specialized agencies to help realize the goals. This is also exactly the focus of our 2005 Appeal, which will be launched on 23 November in Geneva. [The Appeal is now available at http://www.ifrc.org/where/appeals/index2005.asp].

We look forward to exchanging experiences with others who are dedicated to the achievement of the MDGs. We believe that our experience, and the work done by our worldwide base which includes 97 million volunteers and members, towards similar objectives gives us special insight into the vulnerabilities addressed in the Declaration. We are sharing the benefit of these experiences through our special relationship with other components of the United Nations family, and we will continue to do so.

We hope that governments will also recognize the importance of similar relationships with their auxiliary partners - the National Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. Without such a relationship, and without the reach that our members can provide to the vulnerable, it will be difficult for anyone to report sizeable progress when the review starts.

Mr. President,

We also invite all governments to build practical measures on the commitments they made when they joined us in adopting the Agenda for Humanitarian Action at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2003.

One of those commitments, highly relevant to the objectives of the Millennium Declaration, involves building and sustaining the capacity of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies.

This task, accompanied by programmes which ensure good governance and accountability in all aspects of country management, will do a great deal to protect human dignity and support the achievement of the Declaration.