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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

95/03/28 SPEECH:  D. BENNET ON U.N. 50TH ANNIVERSARY

BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AFFAIRS

 

 

 

(prepared for delivery) 

 

           Douglas J. Bennet, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State 

               for International Organization Affairs 

         Conference on the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations

                Institute for the Study of Diplomacy 

              Georgetown University -- Washington, D.C. 

                          March 28, 1995 

 

 

Thank you, I am delighted to be here. 

 

According to the letter I received from Professor Yost, our assignment 

is to draw together the threads of the UN's next half century--

development, human rights, collective security and multilateral action--

and assess their capacity to serve as the basis for future prosperity 

and peace.  That is a daunting task. 

 

I begin with this truth. 

 

The need for vigorous, trusted, forward-looking mechanisms for 

multilateral action is so real, so undeniable, so essential to the 

quality of all our lives that we will meet that need. 

 

Although the United Nations is not the only such mechanism; it is the 

most important.  It is universal; it has global legitimacy; it is 

relevant to the central concerns of citizens from Georgetown to Jakarta; 

and in the United States, it enjoys broad public support.  According to 

a recent Times Mirror poll, 84% of Americans want to strengthen the UN. 

 

Why, then, the recent outbreak of reactionary, isolationist rhetoric in 

Congress?  And why did the House of Representatives pass a bill that 

would kill UN peacekeeping? 

 

We live in an era of porous borders, instant communications and 

relentless change.  There is a primal impulse to curl up and pull the 

covers over our heads.  And a temptation to blame our anxieties on 

others--of another party, race, ethnic group or country. 

 

The current tantrum will wear itself out, hopefully before too much 

gratuitous damage is done.  Meanwhile, we need faith to sustain us. 

 

Walter Lippman wrote once that a person with faith can confront 

martyrdom without flinching; those lacking it are lost when not invited 

to dinner. 

 

I do not invite you to martyrdom; and this Conference does not include 

dinner for any of us; but I do invite you to a reaffirmation of faith: 

 

-- Faith that, indeed, our combined efforts in support of development, 

human rights and collective security will make this a safer, freer and 

more prosperous world. 

 

-- Faith that the Charter of the United Nations--the Contract among all 

peoples of the world--will stand long after other, lesser contracts have 

faded away. 

 

-- And faith that we can cope with the realities of this transforming 

world, provided only that we are pragmatic enough to face those 

realities, and creative enough to harness them to our purposes. 

 

Nor are these articles of faith in any way at odds with reality: 

 

We know that technology, capital flows and communications have 

integrated the world economy; that open markets are replacing statism 

and that a global free trading system is in prospect. 

 

We know there is a growing consensus--forged in large measure under UN 

auspices--on key developmental goals; family planning, the empowerment 

of women, debt reduction, and the need for cooperation between 

industrialized and less-industrialized countries. 

 

We know that citizens everywhere are becoming conscious of the impact 

that events elsewhere have on their lives.  They are demanding results 

from their leaders that national governments, acting alone, cannot 

produce. 

 

A final reality is that much of our multilateral machinery does not work 

very well: too often, institutions are looked to by governments for 

patronage and politics--not results; and too many national and 

international bureaucrats confuse meetings and memos with 

accomplishment. 

 

Our challenge is to connect our faith with the new reality; and to build 

multinational arrangements that work. 

 

But work to what end?  Here is where the threads mentioned by Professor 

Yost and discussed throughout this conference come together.  

Development, peace and respect for human dignity are inter-twined.  

Democracy reinforces peace; peace aids development; and development is a 

friend to democracy because its absence breeds instability and conflict. 

 

Let's take these objectives one at a time.  First, development. 

 

Here, the challenge is far different than fifty years ago--or twenty--or 

ten.  The world is multi-polar, energized by democracy, free markets and 

free trade and awash in enterprise, ideas and information. 

 

In development, as elsewhere, those who are succeeding are first 

adapting.  External assistance is being matched by internal energy and 

reform.  Markets are opening, investments are welcomed and corruption is 

curbed.  Once-marginalized segments of the population are gaining 

greater access to economic and political life.  And the lessons of Rio 

are being heeded; strategies for growth are more sustainable and focused 

on the long term. 

 

The Clinton Administration has taken the lead in expanding trade and 

supporting economic systems that are decentralized and free.  We have 

faced down the protectionist pressures that are inevitable, but deadly.  

We have restored American credibility on the environment, in the 

broadest sense of that term.  And we have made the case strongly that 

development anywhere will encourage growth everywhere, for the global 

economy can be an ever-expanding pie. 

 

What is the UN's role?  How will we measure its success in development 

over the next fifty years?  Clearly, it will be more catalyst than 

agent; more coordinator than implementer; a wide-ranging forum where 

priorities are debated and consensus goals are hammered out.  It can 

report on progress made, fill gaps, share information and advocate the 

fullest possible development of human resources, without discrimination 

and without neglect. 

 

To fulfill these tasks well, the UN's social and economic structure will 

require revitalization and some consolidation.  UN members must be clear 

about objectives and focused on results. 

 

The same is true with United Nations peacekeeping.  Here, our task is 

not to develop a means for ensuring absolute collective security; that 

is a pipedream.  Our task is to develop a system that works when you 

expect it to work, and often enough to be useful; with peace operations 

that don't go on forever, don't cost too much, don't risk lives 

unnecessarily and do give peoples wracked by conflict a chance to get 

back on their feet. 

 

This is realistic, necessary and happening. 

 

Since 1990, UN peacekeeping has gone from a standing start to an around-

the-clock organization that is more integrated, professional and capable 

and that has been getting results.  It has shown the ability, under the 

right conditions, to nurture new democracies; demobilize rival factions; 

maintain ceasefires; facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and 

lower the global tide of refugees.  Even where it has been  

 

unable to fulfill ambitious mandates, as in Somalia and Bosnia, it has 

saved hundreds of thousands of lives. 

 

As a leading member of the Security Council, the United States 

acknowledges that, in some circumstances, our strategies will be 

limited.  If local factions are intent on killing one another, there may 

be times we will have no realistic choice but to step aside.  When that 

is not acceptable, and the use of decisive force is required, we will 

doubtless have to turn, at times, to individual countries acting alone 

or in coalition.  This is consistent with the UN Charter, which 

recognizes the inherent right of self-defense, cites the role of 

regional organizations in maintaining peace and urges member states to 

assist in carrying out Security Council decisions. 

 

The era of UN Peacekeeping was greeted with expectations that were too 

great; predictions of its imminent death also are premature.  The 

Secretary General has identified correctly the three pillars needed for 

a workable system--consistent response--which we are developing; 

adequate human and financial resources--which the world has, but won't 

always commit; and sustained political will. 

 

The elements are there.  We are making progress and can make more.  We 

can build arrangements that will cause aggressors to think twice; and 

strengthen the hand of conciliators over cutthroats time after time.  

Such a system would provide the international community with an option 

between major power intervention and doing nothing when emergencies 

arise; and it would allocate broadly and fairly the burden of 

maintaining world order. 

 

Looking ahead, we can predict with confidence that unpredictable and 

dangerous conflicts will continue to arise, in response to which we will 

need a full range of diplomatic, political and military tools.  If we 

are wise, United Nations peacekeeping will be prominent among those 

tools--providing true value--for decades to come. 

 

The third thread referred to in Professor Yost's letter was human 

rights.  I talked earlier about the importance of faith.  The UN Charter 

reaffirms "faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth 

of the human person, (and) in the equal rights of men and women." 

 

For decades, UN efforts in this field were crippled by Cold War 

divisions.  More recently, the climate has changed and so have the 

outcomes. 

 

Within the past five years, a UN-appointed Truth Commission has helped 

El Salvador bind the wounds of a bitter civil war.  War Crimes Tribunals 

have been established for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.  UN human rights 

monitors helped expose the brutality of Haiti's former military leaders.  

A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was created.  The right of women  

 

to participate fully and equally in society, and to be protected from 

officially-sanctioned abuse, has been placed high on the global agenda.  

And the UN has played a major role in transitions to democracy in places 

as diverse as Namibia, Cambodia, South Africa, El Salvador and 

Mozambique. 

 

These efforts contribute to development and reduce conflict; they 

reflect the kind of preventive diplomacy that is often discussed, but 

insufficiently practiced; and they are a product both of geopolitical 

trends favorable to democracy and of technological forces that make 

political barbarism more visible, and political barbarians more 

accountable. 

 

In this decade of democracy, the Clinton Administration is unabashed in 

its support for human rights and human freedom, whether in the 

Caribbean, the former Soviet Union, Central Europe or Africa, where 26 

countries have had multiparty elections since 1989 and a dozen more will 

in the next two years. 

 

In 1993, in Vienna, the world community reaffirmed its commitment to the 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  There are some who suggest that, 

for reasons of tradition or culture, some societies or regions are not 

well-suited to democracy and should not be expected to live up to global 

standards on human rights.  We agree that every society is different and 

that democracy must find its roots internally.  But we are inflexible on 

one point: there is no reason of history, ideology, religion, law or 

culture that justifies the theft of human dignity; there is no rationale 

for torture, rape, abduction or murder by the forces of any faction or 

state. 

 

As we contemplate the future, the horrors of the recent past--in Rwanda, 

the Balkans and elsewhere--restrain optimism about higher standards of 

respect for human dignity.  We draw strength, however, from knowing that 

the United Nations, although not able to transform human character, 

provides a bully pulpit for its better side. 

 

With the Cold War behind us, we have an unprecedented opportunity to 

shape a world of open societies and open markets--a more peaceful, 

democratic and prosperous world in which our own people will thrive.  

But we cannot do this on our own. 

 

Isolationist tantrums aside, we have no alternative but to find the 

means of working together if we are to deliver to our children and to 

theirs a civilization worthy of the name.  No nation alone, no matter 

how powerful, can preserve the peace, expand economic opportunity, 

ensure a healthy environment, contain epidemic disease, prevent weapons 

of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands, or safeguard its 

citizens against drugs, terror and crime. 

 

The UN has been around for fifty years.  There is no conceivable 

scenario for the next fifty in which U.S. interests will not best be 

served by a healthy UN--a meaningful political forum, an instrument that 

can help keep the peace, and an entity that affirms human rights and 

other standards on a global basis. 

 

There is nothing ideological or partisan about the need to build a UN 

that will succeed in these times.  Security, prosperity and dignity are 

three threads of one cord; they reinforce each other; and they depend on 

the depth of our own faith not in institutions, but in ourselves. 

 

I cannot look ahead fifty years.  Although I hope, by then, the O.J. 

Simpson trial will have ended.  But I can tell you that if we take 

responsibility, reaffirm basic principles, reject excuses, and harness 

the realities of this exciting new era, we can build a future that 

reflects not our fears, but our cherished aspirations. 

 

In that effort, we all have a role. 

 

Thank you very much. 
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