World Maritime Day 2006: A message from the Secretary General

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Six years ago, the adoption of the Millennium Declaration by the General Assembly of the United Nations was a defining moment for global co-operation in the 21st century. The Declaration sets out, within a single framework, the key challenges facing humanity at the threshold of the new millennium; outlines the response the world community should provide to these challenges; and establishes concrete measures for judging performance.   

The measures necessary to realize those challenges are embodied in the Millennium Development Goals – universally known as the MDGs. The MDGs pursue the quest for a peaceful, secure and poverty-free world, and emphasize the need to focus development efforts on areas in which they can be translated into clear, measurable and sustainable improvements in the quality of the lives of people, especially the poor.

Last year, as a follow-up to the Millennium Summit, a World Summit was organized at the UN Headquarters in New York, in conjunction with the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.  This Summit was the largest gathering of world leaders in history, attended by Heads of State or Government from more than 150 countries, observers representing various UN specialized agencies and programmes, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. I had the privilege and honour to represent IMO at the Summit and later to report on its outcome to the IMO Council and Assembly.

The 2005 World Summit endorsed and re-affirmed the eight MDGs that were enshrined in the original Millennium Declaration.  Which brings me to the theme of this year’s World Maritime Day which is “Technical Co-operation: IMO’s Response to the 2005 World Summit”. It reflects how important it is that the work of the Organization should be seen, not just in terms of the service it provides to the maritime community itself, but also in the wider context of the international agenda set by the United Nations.  

At a cursory glance, you might wonder how, beyond professing general support, we, in IMO, can make a really positive contribution to the achievement of the MDGs.  The answer, of course, is that we simply have to.  It has been widely acknowledged that the scale of the MDGs means that achieving them is beyond the responsibility or the capability of individual Governments.  The challenges they present are too massive to be tackled by a single entity or a single agency or even by a single strategy. 

It, therefore, falls to the international community as a whole to take action to address them.  We should all be aware of the unsustainability and unacceptability of the current situation.  The knowledge that hundreds of millions of people are, for example, left defenceless against hunger, disease and environmental degradation, even though the means to rescue them are there, must galvanize us all.  Within its sphere of responsibility, IMO – and the maritime community as a whole – has to make its own contribution.