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Fréchette urges graduates to remember that one person can make a difference

Fréchette urges graduates to remember that one person can make a difference

Louise Fréchette
Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will depend “to no small extent” on the efforts of individuals such as community activists and private entrepreneurs, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today as she urged university graduates not to underestimate the power of a single person to make a difference.

In a convocation address to Waterloo University in Canada, where she was awarded an honorary degree in law, Ms. Fréchette called on the graduates to choose a career path that “involves contributing to the greater good.”

“You might wonder what you, as an individual, can do about such seemingly intractable global problems as terrorism, pollution and the proliferation of weapons and disease; or about the extreme poverty faced by the world’s poorest people, who seem bypassed by life and battered by cruel circumstances,” she said.

But Ms. Fréchette stressed that change always starts with one determined person, citing as an example Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and senior UN envoy who was killed along with many colleagues in the bombing of the UN’s Baghdad headquarters last year.

“I also think of similarly dedicated people who, without being part of any government or large organization, get together and work for a cause – like those who pushed governments to draw up and sign the international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines; or those who campaigned for alleviating the debt of poor countries or for making trade fair,” she said.

The Deputy Secretary-General said that while the MDGs – a set of eight, time-specific targets such as halving extreme poverty and reducing child mortality – were framed by governments at a global summit in 2000, ultimately their achievements depends greatly on individuals.