14 May 2003

UN Charter Provisions on Peaceful Dispute Settlement at Heart of Collective Security System Says Secretary-General

NEW YORK, 13 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council on the role of the Council in the pacific settlement of disputes in New York on 13 May:

Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter, on the pacific settlement of disputes, stands at the heart of the Organization's system of collective security.

Over the past 10 years, resolutions adopted under Chapter VII have been the better known. But, the majority of the Security Council's work continues to be carried out under Chapter VI.

While the framers of the Charter understood clearly the need for an enforcement mechanism, and provided for the use of force against threats to international peace and security, their hopes for a better world lay in the peaceful resolution of armed conflicts.

In recent years, the Council has used Chapter VI in various ways. It has entered into direct dialogue with the parties to a conflict, for example through its discussions with the Political Committee of the Lusaka Agreement. It has tried to work more closely with the Economic and Social Council, and with other regional and subregional organizations, to prevent and resolve conflicts in Africa.

The Council frequently calls on me to use my good offices as Secretary-General, and has encouraged me to appoint a growing number of special representatives and envoys. And increasingly, Council members are venturing into the field -- as you will later this week to West Africa -- for fact-finding missions, to review implementation of a peace agreement, to deliver messages or even to conduct negotiations.

I think we would all agree that these efforts have achieved mixed results. We have seen both innovation and inertia. We have seen genuine displays of political will, and instances where the Council has failed to dissuade the parties to a conflict from using force.

The questions today are: what have we learned from these experiences, and how can we do better?

My report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict made a number of recommendations, including the use of regional prevention mechanisms, more frequent resort to the International Court of Justice, and an increased reporting by the United Nations system to this Council about serious international violations -- violations of international law, human rights and potential conflict situations arising from ethnic, religious and territorial disputes or from poverty and other factors.

While the primary responsibility for the pacific settlement of disputes rests with governments and the parties to the dispute, the Council has many tools at its disposal and can play a key role while pressing those directly involved to make peace. As you yourselves recognized from resolution 1366 (2001) on conflict prevention -- you play a role in pressing the parties.

You can help identify and address root causes early, when the opportunities for constructive dialogue and other peaceful means are greatest. You can ensure an integrated approach that brings together all factors and all actors, including civil society. And you can support the other United Nations organs in their efforts to resolve disputes or address volatile situations before they erupt into full-fledged threats to international peace and security.

Let us be imaginative. Let us use what influence we have. And let us focus on implementation and action.

I would like to thank you for your initiative in putting this subject on the agenda of the Council during Pakistan's presidency. Recourse to Chapter VII may have increased in the past decade. But that does not lessen the importance of Chapter VI. The processes it sets out for the peaceful settlement of disputes and situations affecting international peace and security remain as relevant today as it has ever been.

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