7th UN Global Forum on Reinventing Government: Building Trust in Government, Austria Centre Vienna, 26 June 2007
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Madam Deputy Secretary-General,
Dear Director-General Costa,
On behalf of the Government of Austria, I warmly welcome you to Vienna.
I value the opportunity to host the 7th Global Forum on Reinventing Government at the UN Headquarters here in Vienna. We Austrians are proud of our long-standing tradition of providing fora for multilateral and intercultural dialogue. And I am personally delighted that such a great number of outstanding innovative minds from more than 150 countries have found their way to Vienna for this occasion.
I trust that this will be a week of dynamic exchanges on a core issue of interaction between citizens and governments:
- strengthening trust;
- preserving trust;
- re-building trust where it has been damaged or broken.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Building and preserving this trust requires our sustained commitment and persistent effort.
One key factor for creating trust is upholding and implementing the rule of law principle. Rule of law creates an environment of predictability, of trust, for individuals as well as for society at large. In combination with an efficient and reliable judicial system it guarantees that the same rules are applied to everybody and thereby empowers people to rely on the future, to plan ahead with a feeling of confidence.
Observing the rule of law, respecting human rights, safeguarding social justice and ensuring women’s full participation are integral components of good governance.
Every government is accountable to its people. This is why we have to strive every day anew for good, transparent, modern and innovative governance.
Only when the people trust the governments to guarantee security and stability, they will be willing to invest politically and economically - which in turn will lead to a dynamic and positive development in society.
Some argue that access will be the currency of the global village in the information age: Access to information, access to public services, access to education. In short, access to opportunities. Governments as well as public institutions will in future be measured as facilitators of access for their citizens.
The Global Forum offers a good opportunity to examine the issue from different angles, be it accountability, transparency and access to information or be it participation and inclusion of all sectors of society in the political process.
There may be no "one size fits all" solution that proves successful in all circumstances. This is why we should learn from each other, compare best practices. This conference is an excellent opportunity to do so.
Ladies and Gentlemen! Let me invite you to consider 3 objectives to accompany our work throughout this Forum:
- human security;
- resistance to corruption;
- fostering women's contributions to political processes.
First, human security.
Placing the citizen at the centre of our political work means constant improvement of human living conditions and fostering human security - in its original sense as freedom from fear and freedom from want.
Combating poverty and providing security are essential conditions, but they are only parts of a larger whole. Human rights education is another integral part of human security. Its knowledge transfer, skills building and attitude shaping dimensions raise awareness of our common basis for the protection of human dignity and thus human security. To give you a small practical example: Together with states of all regions of the world, Austria is a member of the Human Security Network. Together we supported the publishing in many languages, including Arabic and Chinese, of a manual on Human Rights Education.
The Vienna based UN organisations and Agencies make important contributions to human security as well, including in the areas of non-proliferation, combating terrorism and organised crime, but also by stimulating sustainable energy production in developing countries.
Second, strengthening the integrity of governments.
No country and no political structure is immune to corruption. As corruption erodes the very foundations of citizens' trust, our focus is to address its very beginnings and exchange our best practices on preventive measures - measures designed to make governments and public institutions resistant to corruption.
The United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption offers an excellent framework for effective action and international cooperation in this context. I am therefore grateful that the Convention will be one of the major themes of this forum.
Austria, together with 15 other states, participates in a voluntary pilot review programme that aims to find the best ways for effectively implementing the Convention. Adhering to and complying with the Convention is a basic benchmark of our integrity as governments.
Austria hosts the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which has been instrumental in developing the Convention. UNODC supports states in their efforts to ensure its full implementation and promote the rule of law, in particular through concrete technical cooperation programmes. These programmes assist states in reforming their criminal justice systems and in combating money-laundering and corruption.
Third issue, the necessity to foster women's contributions to political processes.
As we set out to discuss strategies to strengthen citizens' trust in our actions, we should and will, I am sure, take an inclusive approach.
Women constitute 50 per cent of every society. No society can afford to neglect, to disregard, let alone to push aside 50 per cent of its potential.
Governments should therefore manifest confidence in women's capacities and expertise by promoting women's equal participation on all levels of society, politics and economy.
Around the world, women make essential contributions to conflict solution and peace-building. For any government and any international organisation it is thus a challenge to integrate women’s perspectives, concerns and contributions and give them a stronger voice by making their views accessible for the whole of society.
We are in the middle of developing a new culture of networking and cooperation between governments and NGOs, and the United Nations are the forum where cooperation has made remarkable progress.
Let me conclude with a word on trust. Trust is a valuable but vulnerable asset. To quote Berthold Brecht:
"Trust is a delicate thing. Once broken, it can be restored only with great effort. It is like a rope that once torn can be knotted again. It will hold, but it will never be the same."