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UN Deputy Secretary-General underscores value of public service

UN Deputy Secretary-General underscores value of public service

Louise Fréchette
Delivering a commencement address in Canada today, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, underscored the value of public service in today's interdependent world.

Accepting an honorary degree from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ms. Fréchette said the world is gaining awareness of the role that governments can play in meeting people's basic needs. “To reinvent Government – to make it more effective, more accountable, and bring it closer to the citizens it serves – requires energetic and educated people such as yourselves,” she told the departing students.

The Deputy Secretary-General stressed that work in government was not a bureaucratic pursuit. “Good public policy requires values, commitment, care for what you do, and a sense of responsibility to the greater public,” she said.

At the same time, Ms. Fréchette emphasized that she was not trying to persuade all young graduates to choose a career in public service. “Government can't – and shouldn't – do it all,” she said. “Each part of society has a responsibility to the public interest, and in every profession you can find ways of contributing the welfare of your community.”

This was especially true, the Deputy Secretary-General said, “in an age where boundaries of many kinds are coming down – in culture, in politics, between peoples and among all sectors of society.” Governments must respond to the needs of the private sector, which, for its part, must assume responsibilities in the public sphere. “In this age, a society's success will in large part be measured by its ability to combine ideas from the public and private sectors, simultaneously strengthening the role of the State and the role of private enterprise and civil society,” she said.

This new understanding of the role of Government must be applied internationally in the era of globalization, she said. “Today's interdependence – of people and products, information and ideas – means that more and more of the challenges we face can no longer be addressed at the national level alone,” she said. “More and more, the forces of modern life escape the control of national governments.”

Ultimately, she said, all citizens must show a commitment to respect and serve the public good. “The choice, in other words, is yours, and I am confident that you will discover that serving the public good is a wonderful way of enriching and improving your own lives.”