President Michael D Higgins has said a “profound” rethink of international politics is needed to tackle poverty, hunger, climate change, and conflict around the world.

Speaking at the World Humanitarian Summit, organised by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President Higgins said it was time for political leaders around the world to move beyond talking about aspirations and undertake real action.

“To achieve the changes which the Secretary General calls forth requires much more than any re-statement of aspirations,” he said.

“It requires a profound and integrated re-think of international politics, and of our theory and practice of economics, development and trade; it requires a reform of the representational structures of the world’s peoples; and indeed it demands little less, I suggest, than a new paradigm of thought and action, grounded in a reconciliation between ethics, economics, ecology and cultural diversity.”

President Higgins was speaking at the gathering of some 6,000 world leaders and heads of state at the summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

It was organised as part of an effort by Ban Ki-Moon to reform the global emergency aid system and reduce the gap between the needs of victims of disasters and conflict on the one hand and available funding for support programmes on the other.

President Higgins calls for profound rethink of politics to tackle global issues

The summit comes at a time when more than 60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their home countries and the economic cost of violent conflict has reached an estimated $14 trillion — 13% of the global economy.

President Higgins said concrete action was needed to help these people, and pointed out that “deep political and intellectual failures” of world leaders needed to be acknowledged.

“For too long, empty pledges and fine words have died in our mouths — now is the time to turn promises into action for this generation.

“So, let us honour those who have worked so hard to prevent, reduce and respond to conflicts, who have helped pick up the pieces in a broken world. But let us not shrink from the reality of the deep political and intellectual failures, with which we must deal, from which we must depart,” he said.

President Higgins said described the current challenge facing the world as a “moral test”.

“Let us then not seek evasions. Let us strive to realise the great promise of security, prosperity and human flourishing that can flow from a comprehensive and positive shared global solution to the great challenges and the great opportunities of our times.”


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