US engagement vital for UN success in tackling global challenges, Fréchette says

US engagement vital for UN success in tackling global challenges, Fréchette says

Louise Fréchette
With the United Nations and the United States collaborating on "causes of great importance," they are moving forward in reforming the world body for its contemporary role and have held successful elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today.

"I do not need to tell any of you how important the role of the United States will be in moving forward the process of renewal and reform. US vision and values helped give birth to the UN and America's engagement has always been crucial for a strong and successful United Nations," she told the Women's Foreign Policy Group in Washington, DC. "That remains true today and it will be true tomorrow."

This year UN Member States have to find solutions to such challenges as building a collective security system for the 21st century, making smart investments to eradicate global poverty and updating and renewing the United Nations itself, she said.

Some of the fruits of US-UN cooperation were seen last Sunday when millions of Iraqis went to the polls to vote, Ms. Fréchette said.

She was proud of the many dedicated UN staff who worked over many months with the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq to help put in place the electoral system that was used, she said.

"Believe it or not, Iraq is now the 95th Member State which the UN has helped conduct elections since 1992 – a record of promoting democracy that should be more widely known," she said.

The Iraqi elections were an important landmark in that country's political transition, a process which the UN is willing to help make more inclusive "should the Iraqis ask us to do so," she said.

The UN could offer technical expertise as the Iraqis draft their constitution and also could help with a nationwide media campaign to maximize transparency, Ms. Fréchette said.

On other security issues, the world body now has 17 peacekeeping missions on four continents with 75,000 personnel and has taken a leading role in the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, feeding 1.1 million people and providing safe water to half a million, with a high priority given to transparency, she said.

Nonetheless, certain people still questioned the relevance of the UN and doubted its effectiveness, she said.

"Many who supported the Iraq war saw the Security Council's failure to authorize action as symptomatic of the UN's inability to provide a muscular response to today's threats," the Deputy Secretary General said. "Many who opposed the war were disillusioned that the UN appeared helpless to prevent it."

The biggest contributor to loss of confidence in the UN, however, has been the criticism of the management of the Oil-for-Food programme that brought relief to millions of Iraqi civilians, she said. Sanctions were in force against their country at the time.

With the first report of the independent investigation led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker into the allegations surrounding the programme due out tomorrow, Ms. Fréchette said, it was important to find out what happened and why, to hold any wrongdoers accountable and to introduce whatever changes would be needed to ensure proper oversight and accountability in the future.