Baird Criticizes UN In Speech To General Assembly

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JOHN BAIRD UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) | CP

The United Nations has to stop looking inward and start looking at what it's getting done in the world, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Monday in a speech to leaders from around the world.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Baird says the UN must spend less time looking at itself and more time focused on the problems that demand its attention.

"I believe the UN spends too much time on itself. It must now look outward," he said. "The preoccupation with procedure and process must yield to substance and results. If the UN focuses on the achievement of goals such as prosperity, security and human dignity, then reform will take care of itself."

Baird says the UN itself is not a goal, but the means to accomplish important goals.

"You measure results by measuring results," he said.

"Not by weighing best efforts. Not by counting good intentions. And not by calculating inputs."

Action against Assad blocked

Baird has called repeatedly for an end to violence in Syria and asked again for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. He also criticized the UN Security Council for its inability to do anything about Assad's attacks on Syrian protesters.

Syria has sent its foreign minister Walid Moallem to defend the Syrian regime's actions throughout its last 18 months of violence and civil war. While his speech is not likely to be well-received, the UN's Security Council has been repeatedly unable to pass resolutions that would see any kind of strong action taken against Assad's regime, thanks to efforts by Russia and China to block UN intervention.

"The crisis in Syria is a test of this organization's ability to achieve results," Baird said.

"While the brutal and repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad continues the slaughter of its own people, the United Nations continues to fail to impose binding sanctions that would stem the crimson tide of this bloody assault."

"Until the last syllable of recorded time, the world will remember and history will judge Member States that are allowing the atrocities to continue."

Baird also called on the Syrian regime to ensure its stockpile of chemical weapons is secured against theft.

On Iran, Baird said the country is thoroughly testing the will of the international community and must stop its enrichment activities.

Last day of 67th General Assembly

The address comes on the final day of the 67th United Nations General Assembly.

Canada's relatively low-ranking speaking slot can be explained partly by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision not to address the gathering this year, as other country's leaders have done, the CBC's David Common suggests.

Stephen Harper has spoken to the assembly only twice during his time as prime minister. He travelled to New York last week to accept an award and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he's left the official speaking duties to Baird. Recent Canadian prime ministers have not spoken at the General Assembly each and every year.

The Canadian delegation walked out on Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech last Wednesday, as it has before when it found the rhetoric from the Iranian regime unacceptable.

Canada lost its bid for a seat on the UN's security council in Oct. 2010. Baird said in a year-end interview last year that it would not try again.

Later today, North Korean vice-foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon will make his country's first address since the death of former leader Kim Jong Il.

A missile test in April destroyed an earlier deal under which North Korea agreed to suspend its nuclear activities in exchange for food aid shipments from the United States, and UN observers will be watching this speech for any sign of movement from the dictatorship on its nuclear ambitions.

Cuba's foreign minister will also speak on Monday.

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