President Halonen strikes optimistic note in UN speech
"The United Nations is stronger because it is more unified than it was before this meeting", said Finnish President Tarja Halonen on Wednesday at a press conference in New York after the largest meeting of national leaders in the history of the world organisation.
On the opening day of the UN summit, Halonen gave Finland’s five-minute speech exuding the same kind of optimism. "I am happy with the outcome document, which provides basis for further work during the coming months" President Halonen said from the podium.
She could only find one fault in the document, which some have criticised as being diluted: "Still, I would have liked to see our firm commitment to fight terrorism accompanied with progress made also in disarmament and non-proliferation."
In this issue she agreed with her friend, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose standing has been compromised somewhat by criticism in a report on problems with the Iraq oil for food programme, and by the shortcomings of plans for reform in the UN.
"What does not kill you makes you stronger", Halonen said in a message to Annan, noting that he had survived the ordeal.
The president said that she was much more satisfied at the beginning of the summit than she was a week ago.
She said that she was especially pleased that globalisation, which is one of her favourite topics, has been taken up for the first time in the official documents of the UN.
Halonen found much that she liked in the document. It gives the go-ahead for a new peace building commission, and a new human rights commission, although a number of important details were left open.
She was at least somewhat optimistic about the enlargement of the Security Council.
The President feels that organisational reform is a less interesting topic from the point of view of ordinary citizens. Much more important was the programme aimed at halving world poverty.
She used sports imagery in her comments on the poverty programme: "It is like a long-distance run, and the speed that has been kept so far is not enough", Halonen said.
Commenting on the speech of US President George W. Bush, Halonen said that she was pleased that the United States plans to keep its promises.
Halonen was one of the small group of heads of state to meet with Bush at a reception on the evening before the summit began.
The problems of the UN did not frighten Halonen, who is a staunch supporter of multilateralism.
"This is international democracy. It is a slower and more cumbersome process, and more difficult to handle than if someone made decisions alone. But already Winston Churchill said in his time that democracy is the best of all bad alternatives", Halonen said.
She told journalists that she hoped that there would be discussion on these broad international issues in the upcoming Finnish Presidential election campaign.
Speech by President of the Republic Tarja Halonen at the UN Summit in New York on 14 September 2005