George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
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We must join forces to face the challenges ahead

UN General Assembly, 20 September 2010

Speech on Development Millinium Goals
Speech on Development Millinium Goals
Office of the Prime Minister

Millennium Development Goals Summit - Prime Minister’s speech

"Ladies and gentlemen, dear President, ten years ago the Millennium Development Goals expressed a realization, the realization that we are all in this together. Whatever the problem, wherever it hits, sooner or later it will affect us all.

In our interdependent world there is no problem that can be dealt with in isolation, no country that is immune to job losses, environmental disasters, pandemics, or the whims of the financial markets.

We know this well in Europe, and our Union has created a stronger potential for effectively dealing with many of these challenges.

In Greece our recent experience has given us real insight into how one small country’s problems can ricochet around the world. Greece, the Greek people, we have taken unprecedented steps to overcome our fiscal crisis. It is a painful process, but we are making real progress and delivering on our commitments, and we will emerge stronger. With one prerequisite: we decided to change.

Greece is not a poor country. But did we manage our resources, our environment, our human capacity prudently, transparently, equitably, sustainably? No, we did not. And this is what we are challenged to change.

But isn’t that the core challenge of our Millennium Development Goals also, to manage our planetary resources, our human capacity, our amassed capital, our amazing technological advances, our common wealth of knowledge, in a much more responsible way, manage our resources in a way that respects our natural resources, respects the rights and needs of all our people, respects the well-being of future generations?

In Greece we are dealing with more than simply a sovereign debt crisis. The world is not dealing simply with a financial crisis. We in Greece, and all of us, face fundamental challenges, to revitalize our democracies and good governance, to redefine what we mean by quality of life, to change our consumption patterns in order to stimulate clean, green growth around the world, and do so in an equitable manner.

This is why in Greece we have launched radical reforms to make our government more transparent, our institutions more efficient, our economy more competitive, green, and our society more just.

We are delivering these changes with our citizens, and not in spite of them. But we are also more aware than ever before of the need to work together to change our world for the better.

Environmental disaster, climate change: These are wiping out positive gains in the economies of so many countries, and are putting a new burden on the poor, and this affects us all.

Or the example of women. If women are illiterate in parts of the world, they will suffer more violence, they will be unable to plan their families, they will be less likely to contain pandemics, such as HIV/AIDS or malaria. They will bring up children more desperate, more marginal, more violent. And this in the end affects us all.

So even though Greece is facing daunting challenges in its economy, we do plan to contribute development aid for areas such as green growth, health, hunger, poverty alleviation, women’s rights and freedom from violence.

And I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Secretary General for the appointment of Michelle Bachelet to the UN Women.

But we need to transcend our national boundaries and work together for another reason. Around the world, many of our citizens, I would say particularly our youth, feel disempowered. They know. They know that we do have the resources to make poverty history, to wipe out illiteracy, to prevent pandemics, to protect women and children, to protect biodiversity. But they also know we are not managing our resources and capabilities to do so effectively.

That is why our citizens question our political will, our political will to move forward as a global community. They expect, and rightly so, political leaders to do more, to do more to correct the imbalances and inequities that the current system of global governance has created.

Underlying our failure to act on our good intentions is a crisis of governance, democratic governance, global democratic governance.

Our national institutions lack the capability to deal with global issues. At the same time, the concentration of power, capital and media has enabled privileged elites with vested interests to capture our democratic processes.

So we must step up to the challenge to strengthen our democratic local and institutions with greater urgency and resolve. We must prove that our democracies can protect and empower our citizens, can equalize opportunities, and that the benefits of globalization can be fairly and evenly distributed.

We need to create new tools, new tools that will optimize the use of our resources, change financial incentives, redistribute wealth. Tools such as a financial transaction tax, carbon tax or green bonds could be used to fund education, health care, green infrastructure and technology, particularly in developing countries.

Instead of national austerity, we ought to be thinking in terms of global responsibility. Yes, to manage sovereign debt, but also responsibility to social protection, decent jobs and green growth.

Unless we join forces to face the challenges ahead, we will all remain vulnerable to new crises. Either we provide direction, vision and action for a sustainable world society, or we will suffer more conflict, poverty and suffering.

The Millennium Development Goals have challenged us to develop a global governance which will empower our citizens, in order to transform the world of free markets to a world of free people. Either we have politics of solidarity or we will have politics of fear, xenophobia and scapegoating. Either we humanize globalization or globalization itself will undermine humanity.

The choice is clear, so it is time to act. Thank you very much."

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