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Fréchette urges collective international response to emerging security threats

19 January Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today made a strong case for the ability of the United Nations to evolve, while stressing the need for a strengthened collective response to emerging security threats.

Delivering the keynote address to the Canadian Club in Montreal, she said it is legitimate to ask whether existing collective security mechanisms - including the UN - can rise to the challenge posed by terrorism and other perils. In particular, she called attention to the role of international bodies in intervening in the domestic affairs of States when necessary to combat gross human rights violations, including genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Contrary to the perception of some, she said, the UN is capable of adapting to new challenges and has already, in recent years, undergone significant reform in order to function more effectively. "The principles which guide us have also evolved," she said.

Offering examples of recent successes, she cited the UN's role in fostering East Timor's independence, its help with Afghanistan's political transition, and its complex operations in African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"The UN has also been very active in addressing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction - and its role in that effort is more important than is usually recognized," she said, pointing to the establishment of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee.

But the UN has reached a critical juncture, the Deputy Secretary-General asserted. "We have to be able to fashion collective responses to challenges such as those posed by Iraq or Al-Qaida, just as we have to deal better with mass killings such as we saw in Rwanda and Srebrenica."

Towards that end, she noted that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has created a High-Level Panel to examine these issues and make concrete proposals to strengthen the international system. "We need to come out of this review with a stronger consensus within the international community on the principles and rules which must govern the pursuit of peace and security, as well as the political will to bring whatever improvement might be required to our collective mechanisms and institutions," she said.

She also called on the international community to uphold the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and to address HIV/AIDS.

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