Press Releases

    22 September 2004

    Secretary-General Opens Annual General Assembly Debate Urging World Leaders to Restore Respect for Rule of Law

    US President Says Iraq, Afghanistan “on Path to Democracy, Freedom”; Calls on Member States to Do More to Help Build Secure, Federal, Free Iraq

    NEW YORK, 21 September (UN Headquarters) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today warned that international law was being “shamelessly disregarded” around the globe, and urged world leaders gathered at the General Assembly to do everything within their power to restore respect for the rule of law -- at home and abroad.

    “Today the rule of law is at risk around the world”, said Mr. Annan, opening the general debate of the fifty-ninth General Assembly, citing violations in Iraq, where civilians, journalists and relief workers were being murdered, and in the Sudan, where whole populations had been displaced and where rape was being used as a deliberate strategy in the country’s Darfur region.

    The situation was particularly grave today for children, he said, decrying recent events in northern Uganda, where children had been mutilated, and forced to take part in acts of unspeakable cruelty, as well as in Beslan, Russian Federation, where more than 100 children had been taken hostage and brutally massacred. “The prevalence of such acts reflects our collective failure to uphold the law and instil respect in it”, Mr. Annan said.

    He called on the international community to start from the principle that no one was above the law, and no one should be denied its protection. At the international level, all countries needed a framework of fair rules and the confidence that others would obey them, he argued, noting that one of the United Nations proudest achievements had been the creation of a body of norms and laws covering trade to terrorism, from the law of the sea to weapons proliferation.

    But he pointed out weaknesses in that framework, saying that many felt that the Security Council’s enforcement capacity was not always used fairly or effectively, and adding that those invoking the rule of law on the Commission of Human Rights did not always practice what they preached. “Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it”, he asserted.

    “Throughout the world, the victims of violence and injustice are waiting. They are waiting for us to keep our word”, he said, adding that they noticed when words were used to mask inaction. “I believe we can restore and extend the rule of law throughout the world. But ultimately, that will depend on the hold that the law has on our consciences.”

    “People everywhere want and are worthy of freedom”, said United States President George W. Bush. Afghanistan and Iraq were “on the path to democracy and freedom” and all United Nations Members had a stake in their success. Expressing gratitude to countries that had helped deliver Iraqis from an oppressive dictator, he said the United Nations and its Members must respond to Prime Minister Allawi’s request and do more to help build an Iraq that was secure, democratic, federal and free. The proper response to difficulty was not to retreat but to prevail.  “We will stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq until their hopes of freedom and security are fulfilled.”

    Because democracy was not simply a western value, he proposed the establishment of a “democracy fund” in the United Nations to which the United States would make an initial contribution. Such a fund would help countries lay the foundations for democracy, through such steps as setting up a free judiciary and press, receiving election monitors, and manning voting stations.

    Speaking at the outset of the debate, Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula Da Silva appealed for economic and social justice in a world where the disparity in per capita income between the richest and poorest nation was now 16 times greater than it was nearly two decades ago, while a lack of basic sanitation had killed more children in the past decade than all military conflicts since the end of the Second World War.

    Citing ongoing wars and terrorist attacks, he said mankind was losing the fight for peace. He favoured an international order based on a constructive dialogue among different cultures and perspectives. “No organ is better suited than the United Nations for ensuring the world’s convergence towards common goals.”

    Picking up that thread, Omar Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, said efforts at reform should include a strengthening of action in the entire United Nations system that had been identified at the Millennium Summit. What was at stake was the survival of millions of people. And while Africa was shouldering its share of the burden, defeating poverty required tackling armed conflict. Here and now, it was necessary to implement a commitment to change the course of shared history and nurture the hope of a better destiny for all, so that future generations had a better chance at life, he said.

    He was particularly concerned by the major discrepancies between rich and poor countries, yet it was not possible to reconcile to despair. In fact, African States were ever more involved in ending conflicts that undermined the continent. At the same time, the international community had a moral obligation to support the development of Africa, which hinged on the maintenance of peace and security throughout the continent. Here, he added that it was necessary to expand the Security Council in both categories, permanent and elected members. Additionally, Africa should have a seat on the Council. It was paradoxical that Africa was not a permanent member, while the core items on the Council’s agenda had to do with Africa.

    At the top of the meeting, Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon extended his deepest sympathies to the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti for the loss of life and damage due to the recent hurricanes in those countries, and urged the international community to show solidarity and respond promptly and generously to those nations.

    Following that, Boniface Alexandre, Interim President of Haiti, expressed his heartfelt thanks for the expressions of sympathy from the international community. Carlos Morales Tronsco, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, also expressed his thanks, on behalf of his President, for the kindness shown to his nation with regard to the disaster, which had just struck.

    Also speaking today were the Presidents of Switzerland, United Republic of Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica and Slovenia.

    Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the Emir of Qatar also addressed the Assembly, as did the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, who spoke on behalf of the European Union.

    The Assembly will resume its general debate at 3 p.m. today.


    The General Assembly met this morning to begin its general debate, with statements by its President, the Secretary-General and several heads of State and government.

    The Assembly had before it, the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization (document A/59/1), which takes stock of the United Nations system’s activities in the past year and emphasizes the ever-increasing scope of its tasks. The report, covering the world body’s action in the areas of achieving peace and security; meeting humanitarian commitments; cooperating for development; human rights and the international legal order; and enhancing management and partnerships, acknowledges that the past year had been “extraordinarily challenging”.

    The Security Council had to deal with the controversies surrounding the Iraqi crisis and the Organization’s role in the aftermath of the war, says the report. There was a surge in demand for peacekeeping operations in a number of countries emerging from violent conflicts. International terrorism and the threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction cast a shadow over all peoples of the world. Simultaneously, the United Nations faced a surge in infectious diseases, as well as the ongoing challenges of extreme poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, human rights violations and humanitarian emergencies.

    It was against that backdrop that the Secretary-General, last November, had appointed his High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change to examine the threats the United Nations faced; evaluate its policies, processes and institutions; and make bold practical recommendations. Further, the Secretary-General notes that for the majority of the world’s people, the most immediate threats to economic progress and social development are those of poverty, hunger, unsafe drinking water, environmental degradation and endemic or infectious diseases. The Organization’s important work in those areas centres on the Millennium Development Goals.

    While there has been some success, Mr. Annan says that progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been mixed. The Goals can be met only through sound economic and social policies, good governance, mobilization of resources, and a true partnership between developed and developing nations. The report notes that the gap between increasing demand and limited resources becomes even more evident and urgent when it comes to addressing natural disasters, refugee situations and other humanitarian emergencies. Appeals issued by the United Nations were consistently under-funded, with resulting limits on the services provided.

    The report stresses that adequate funding of development and humanitarian causes would be a sound investment.  It would also be cost-effective, considering the likely returns in terms of peace and security. On Africa, the report notes that the continent’s critical situation and the plight of its peoples is a

    high-priority concern. The armed conflict in Darfur, Sudan, is a grim reminder of the persistence of deadly conflict on the continent. On the other hand, positive trends and efforts of some African States and institutions in dealing with the challenges of peace and security, economic and social development and human rights have encouraged the Secretary-General.

    Overall, the Secretary-General hopes that the momentum gradually building up for the event on the five-year review of the Millennium Declaration in 2005 and the Organization’s sixtieth anniversary will be sustained and strengthened, and will lead to the positive results that the United Nations and the world need.

    Mr. Annan notes that much has changed since the Millennium Summit and even more since the Charter had been adopted. “Yet the values of interdependence and shared responsibility remain fundamental”, he adds.

    He also hopes that, in the coming months, Member States, the Secretariat and other entities of the United Nations system, civil society and business organizations, as well as individuals around the world will work together to ensure that the sixtieth anniversary will be worthy of the United Nations and everything it stands for.


    JEAN PING (Gabon), President of the General Assembly, extended his deepest sympathy to the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti for the loss of life and damage due to the recent hurricanes in those countries. In addition, he extended his sympathy to the governments affected, and urged the international community to show solidarity and respond promptly and generously to those nations.

    BONIFACE ALEXANDRE, Interim President of Haiti, thanked the President of the General Assembly, on behalf of the Haitian people, for the special attention being given to Haiti. He expressed his heartfelt thanks for the expressions of sympathy from the international community. The disaster had taken many lives, especially in the southern part of the country, causing significant damage. He was also sensitive to the rapid response given by the international community following the flooding last spring. Lastly, he appealed for solidarity from the international community in the framework of emergency assistance to those who had suffered.

    CARLOS MORALES TRONCOSO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, expressed his thanks, on behalf of his President, for the kindness shown to his nation with regard to the disaster, which had just struck. Grave flooding had taken many lives and caused tremendous damage. In the face of that situation, his Government had taken urgent steps to bring relief to the most affected areas. The challenge was considerable and international cooperation was necessary. Convinced that his country could rely on that help, he expressed thanks for the show of solidarity from nations at this difficult time.

    KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said having so many countries represented at such a high level reflected world leaders’ continued understanding that, as they had expressed four years ago on their adoption of the Millennium Declaration, in such difficult times, the United Nations was “the indispensable common house of the entire human family”.

    “Indeed today, more than ever, the world needs an effective mechanism through which to seek common solutions to common problems”, he said. “That’s what this Organization was created for.”  With the mid-term review of the Millennium Development Goals set for next year, he hoped world leaders would be ready to take bold decisions together on a full range of issues covered in the Declaration, helped by the report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, which would be available by the end of the year.

    Recalling that, last year, he told the Assembly that the United Nations had “reached a fork in the road”, he warned today that if top political leaders could not reach agreement on the way forward, “history will take the decisions for you, and the interests of your peoples may go by default”. While not seeking to prejudge those decisions, he reminded the Assembly of the all-important framework in which they should be taken -- namely, the rule of law -- in each country and in the world.

    The vision of a government of laws and not of men was almost as old as civilization itself, he continued, recalling Hammurabi’s 3,000-year-old code espousing legal protection for the poor; restraints on the strong so they could not oppress the weak; and laws publicly enacted and known to all.  Those principles of justice were a landmark in mankind’s struggle to build an order where, “instead of might making right, right would make might”.

    And while many nations and organizations had been founded on those principles, he said the rule of law was at risk around the world, and laws were being “shamelessly disregarded”.  “In Iraq, we see civilians massacred in cold blood, while relief workers, journalists and other non-combatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion”, he said.  “At the same time, we have seen Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused.”

    He went on to highlight the situation in Darfur, Sudan, “where whole populations” had been displaced and rape had been used as a deliberate strategy. In northern Uganda, children had been mutilated and forced to take part in acts of unspeakable cruelty, while in Beslan, children were taken hostage and brutally massacred. Turning to the Middle East, he said that civilians, including children, were deliberately targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers, and in Palestine, homes were destroyed, lands were seized and needless civilian casualties had been caused by Israel’s excessive use of force.

    “No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts. They put all of us to shame”, he said. The prevalence of those acts reflected the international community’s collective failure to uphold the law and to instil respect for it at home.  “We all have a duty to do whatever we can to restore that respect”, he said.

    The rule of law began at home, he said, but, in too many places it remained elusive. The vulnerable lacked effective recourse, while the powerful manipulated laws to retain power and accumulate wealth. At times, even the necessary fight against terrorism was allowed to encroach unnecessarily on civil liberties. And, while a framework of fair rules existed, in which States could be confident that others would obey, that framework was riddled with gaps and weaknesses, too often selectively applied and arbitrarily enforced.

    In the Security Council, where enforcement capacity did exist, many felt it was not always used fairly or effectively, he said. Where rule of law was most earnestly invoked, as in the Commission on Human Rights, those invoking it did not always practice what they preached. “Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it; and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it”, he said.

    Laws must be put into practice, and “permeate the fabric of our lives”. By strengthening and implementing disarmament treaties, including their verification provisions, “we could best defend against the proliferation, and potential use, of weapons of mass destruction”. Likewise, by applying the law, financial resources and safe havens to terrorists could be denied. It was the law, including Security Council resolutions, he said, which offered the best foundation for resolving prolonged conflicts -- in the Middle East, Iraq, and around the world.

    Turning once again to the situation in the Sudan, he said that the Security Council had requested that an international commission to investigate reports of human rights violations be appointed, and determine whether acts of genocide had been committed. “I shall do so with all speed”, he said.  Noting the African Union’s lead and responsibility in providing monitors and a protective force in Darfur, as well as in seeking a political settlement, he expressed the newborn Union’s present limitations, and urged every possible support. “Let no one imagine that this affair concerns Africans only”, he remarked.

    Citing his promise to the Security Council to make the Organization’s work to strengthen the rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies a priority for the remainder of his tenure, he urged representatives to do more to foster the rule of law at home and abroad, and to sign and implement treaties on the protection of civilians. In addition, he implored full support for the measures he would bring before the Assembly to improve the security of United Nations staff. “Those non-combatants, who voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to assist their fellow men and women, surely deserve your protection, as well as your respect”, he said.

    He went on to say that throughout the world, the victims of violence and injustice were waiting -- waiting for the United Nations to keep its word. “They notice when we use words that mask inaction; they notice when the laws that should protect them are not applied”, he said. “I believe we can restore the rule of law throughout the world. But that will ultimately depend on the hold that the law has on our consciences.”

    LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, President of Brazil, said he had a lifelong commitment to those silenced by inequity, hunger and hopelessness. The Assembly was the highest expression of an international order based on the independence of nations. Political transformation, however, had not been transposed to the economic and social fields. And history showed that that would not happen spontaneously. This year alone, more than 1,700 people had died as a consequence of terrorist attacks around the world.  Those were tragedies that must be added to so many others in India, the Middle East, the United States and most recently in Beslan, Russia.  Mankind was losing the fight for peace, and only enlightened values of humanism would be able to counter barbarism.

    A generation was remembered not only for what was accomplished, but also for what it failed to accomplish, he noted. How could the present generation explain to the next why it did so little, when so much was within reach, he asked. What set civilization apart from barbarism was the political architecture that promoted peaceful change and advanced social and economic life by means of democratic consensus. “If we fail against hunger and poverty, what else could bring us together?”  There was a need for a shift in the financial flows from international multilateral bodies, he said.  While such bodies were created to provide solutions, they often became part of the problem. Their focus must be readjusted onto development, thus restoring their original objective. The International Monetary Fund should be able to provide the guarantee and the liquidity which were necessary for productive investment, and which could restore the poor countries’ capacity to pay.

    Brazil sought to join other nations in efforts aimed at establishing a world of justice and peace, he said.  Yesterday, 60 leaders gathered to give new impetus to international action against hunger and poverty. That process would heighten the level of the fight against world poverty. Turning to the issue of international stability, he said there seemed to be no prospects for improvement in the Middle East.  The Palestinian people were still far from achieving self-determination. In addition, Brazil and other Latin American nations were committed to stabilization efforts in Haiti. He said the promotion of equitable development was crucial to addressing the centuries-old causes of that nation’s instability.

    Brazil, he added, was at work in multilateral negotiations to reach just and equitable agreements. At the last World Trade Organization meeting, steps were taken toward eliminating abusive restrictions that hampered developing countries. Coordination among nations from Africa, Asia and Latin America in the “G-20” was decisive to keeping the Doha Round on the right track. It was essential to carry on building a new world economic and commercial geography, which, while maintaining ties to developed countries, allowed for the establishment of solid bridges among countries of the South. Committed to the success of the international climate change regime, and his nation was developing renewable sources of energy, and would continue to strive for the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States, said that the American people respected the idealism that had given life to the United Nations. Now, “we gather at a time of tremendous opportunity” for the United Nations and all peaceful nations. For decades, the circle of liberty had been expanding throughout the world, bringing unity to Europe, development to Latin America, and new hope to Africa. It was now ready to expand even further, thus creating a true international peace founded on human freedom. Stressing that basic human dignity was being dishonoured throughout the world by oppression, corruption, terrorism, bigotry and violence against the innocent, he said that wise governments respected such dignity for practical reasons, knowing that free people embraced progress and life instead of becoming the recruits of murderous ideologies. Declaring that, in an interconnected world, there was no safety in ignoring the travails of others, he emphasized that the line between right and wrong was the same in every culture, religion and nation. Expressing sympathy with terror victims in Beslan, Madrid, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Istanbul, who had done nothing to deserve the random murders they had experienced, he stressed that terror networks had to be fought wherever they were.  All civilized countries “are in this struggle together”.

    Because human dignity did not rest solely on the elimination of terrorism, his country had also been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the lifting of poor countries’ crushing debts. Regarding the former, the United States had undertaken a $15 billion effort to help 15 severely stricken countries combat the disease. With respect to the latter, he agreed that international financial institutions should provide grants instead of loans. Also intertwined with the dignity of mankind were human trafficking, which needed to be stopped, and human cloning.  Expanding upon cloning, he expressed his support for a draft resolution calling for a ban on the process, which would be introduced by Costa Rica at the present session.  No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for the benefit of another, he maintained. Stating that the international community must create permanent capabilities to respond to future crises, he noted that the members of the Group of Eight (G-8) were planning to train and support African peacekeepers. Such a force would be valuable in places such as the Darfur region of the Sudan, where genocide had taken place.

    When it came to the desire for liberty and justice, there was no clash of civilizations, he said.  People everywhere wanted and were worthy of freedom. Afghanistan and Iraq were “on the path to democracy and freedom” and all United Nations Members had a stake in their success. Instead of harbouring terrorists, Afghanistan and Iraq were now fighting them and the governments that were rising did not pose threats to their neighbours. Noting that over 10 million Afghans -- including 4 million women -- were currently registered to vote in next month’s elections, he said that, for anyone doubting the compatibility of Islam and democracy, Afghanistan was giving an answer. Expressing gratitude to countries that had helped deliver Iraqis from an oppressive dictator, he said the United Nations and its Member nations must respond to Prime Minister Allawi’s request and do more to help build an Iraq that was secure, democratic, federal and free.  The proper response to difficulty was not to retreat but to prevail. Freedom always had a cost, paid by the bravest among us.  “We will stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq until their hopes of freedom and security are fulfilled.”

    Extolling the virtues of democracy, he said commitments to democratic reform were essential to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Additionally, Arab States needed to establish normal relations with Israel, which, in turn, had to institute a settlement freeze, dismantle certain outposts and end the humiliation suffered by the Palestinian people. At the same time, world leaders would do better to withdraw their support from any Palestinian ruler who failed his people and betrayed their cause.  Because democracy was not simply a western value, he proposed the establishment of a “democracy fund” in the United Nations. Such a fund would help countries lay the foundations for democracy, through such steps as setting up a free judiciary and press, receiving election monitors, and manning voting stations. The United States would make an initial contribution. “History will honour the high ideals of the UN”, he said in closing. “Let history also record that our generation of leaders followed through on these ideals, even in adversity.”

    SHEIKH HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL-THANI, Emir of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the Group, which had expanded to some 132 members since its inception in 1964, embodied the commitment of the developing world to the wider mission of the United Nations, and its determination to be guided by the lofty principles included in the Charter.  With that in mind, the Group of 77 believed that the difficult challenge facing the international community today was maintaining peace and security while achieving and maintaining economic welfare and development.

    “The history of international relations over the second half of the past century has shown that it is almost impossible to maintain peace and security as long as the minimum standards of a basic livelihood are lacking”, he said. Further, poverty and destitution had often resulted in tensions that had eventually led to breaches of international peace and security. It was no coincidence that the poorest regions of the world were the ones that suffered the most complicated conflicts. So, to balance the necessary goals of security and development, the world community needed to adopt more equitable policy regimes, that did justice to the largest number of the world’s people, who often still lacked basic necessities.

    He went on to say that globalization, which had yielded undeniable results for some, had been accompanied by adverse effects, which had negatively affected others. Achieving “globalization with a human face” continued to be the ultimate aim and should be the focus of current international policies. Without such focus, the widening gap between developed and developing countries, the continued deterioration of living conditions in the poorest countries of the South, and continued economic imbalances worldwide, would heighten “feelings of discontent and frustration and could even lead to abhorrent forms of international conflict”.

    So, while it was necessary in that regard to reaffirm international commitment to the eradication of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, it was also urgent to establish a multilateral, open trade system, geared to helping developing countries combat poverty and underdevelopment. The Group of 77, therefore, called on developed countries to liberalize trade by removing the various obstacles that currently hindered poor countries’ access and equitable participation in the international marketplace. While noting that the Doha development round of World Trade Organization (WTO) had yielded some positive achievements in agriculture, the Group of 77 advocated that access to the global market for products of interest to developing countries be given priority.

    Speaking in his national capacity, he addressed a number of political questions closely related to enabling developing countries to enjoy economic rights, particularly singling out issues related to the absence of democracy and what he characterized as a “slackening of political reform” in quite a few countries in the South. That trend was probably most evident in the Middle East region, where political reform and the wider participation of the people in decision-making processes were no longer an option but a necessity.

    Turning to Palestine, he said the Israeli occupation remained a crushing burden on the Palestinian people’s legitimate dreams of freedom and development. That issue had been festering on the Assembly’s agenda for more than 50 years, and it was time for the international community to heed the voice of its conscience and compel Israel to implement relevant resolutions. It was clear that Israel must fulfil its commitments under the Road Map peace plan, as well as halt construction of the separation wall in Gaza and the West Bank, which was severely hampering efforts to find a two-State solution to the problem.  Moreover, the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the need to transform the Middle East region into a weapons-free zone needed to be urgently addressed. Qatar would spare no effort in supporting reconstruction in Iraq, and he urged the international community to work positively with the Government of the Sudan in its efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur.

    OMAR BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, expressed his deepest gratitude for the confidence shown in his nation and in the people of Gabon for the election of Jean Ping to the presidency of the General Assembly. Four years ago, the Millennium Declaration was adopted and representatives committed themselves to a number of objectives, including the reduction of poverty and hunger, the war against HIV/AIDS, and the establishment of a global partnership for development. To achieve those objective, he said, a strong political impetus would be required.

    He was concerned by the major discrepancies between rich and poor countries, yet it was not possible to reconcile to despair. In fact, African States were ever more involved in ending conflicts that undermined the continent. At the same time, the international community, the nations of the Group of Eight (G-8) and specialized institutions, such as Bretton Woods, had a moral obligation to support the development of Africa, which hinged on the maintenance of peace and security throughout the continent. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, the peace process was re-launched in 2004. The African Union was playing a role in Darfur, the Congo and Sierra Leone, among others.  He said the support of the United Nations and the Secretary-General in those areas should be hailed. In addition, he welcomed the prospects for a more effective contribution to the political transition in Iraq, which would be vital to world peace.

    With regard to the Palestinian people and Israel, he said that the restoration of lasting peace was only possible through negotiations and through reactivation of the Road Map. Turning to the war on terrorism, he said action by the Organization must be more effective, and the decisions of the Security Council should be decisive. In fact, the role of the Security Council in the maintenance of peace and international security had continued to grow, and the field for its decisions had expanded. To cope with that situation, it was necessary to expand the Council in both categories, permanent and non-permanent members. Additionally, there was a need for Africa to have a seat on the Council, and it was paradoxical that Africa was not a permanent member, while the core items on the Council’s agenda had to do with Africa.  He said the Council’s reform must be a high priority topic.

    Beyond that, he added, efforts at reform should include a strengthening of action in the entire United Nations system identified in the Millennium Summit in 2000. Africa was shouldering its share of responsibility. What was at stake was the survival of a million of people. The defeat of poverty required tackling armed conflict. Here and now, it was necessary to implement a commitment to change the course of shared history and nurture the hope of a better destiny for all, so that future generations had a better chance at life.

    JOSEPH DEISS, President of Switzerland, said experience had shown that actions taken without a clearly defined Security Council mandate were “doomed to failure”. Such actions resulted in endless differences of opinion that ultimately reduced efficiency and jeopardized international security.  Nevertheless, although the recent Iraq crisis had shown that the current structures for maintaining global peace and security were no longer appropriate, it had also shown that the international community was firmly attached to multilateralism. Adding that it was not helpful to reinterpret the United Nations Charter’s enshrined right of self-defence, he called for greater conflict prevention efforts.  Such efforts should be based on fighting poverty and more rapid responses from multilateral institutions.

    Turning to the Security Council, he questioned the legitimacy of that body’s composition. To rectify the situation, he suggested that membership better reflect geopolitical changes since the Council’s creation. He also called for a greater voice for developing countries, for non-members to have more opportunities to participate in the decision-making process, and for the Council to take into account the financial and material contributions of specific Member States if and when it expanded its membership. On the other hand, he opposed extending the right of veto to more countries, since that mechanism was undemocratic and limited the Council’s ability to act.

    Insisting that the United Nations and its Member States had to be “unshakeable guarantors” of international law, he highlighted the lack of respect for humanitarian law in the Darfur region of the Sudan, where attacks on civilians needed to be more firmly addressed by the relevant authorities, and in the occupied Palestinian territory, where the separation barrier -- a construction deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice -- was still being built.  Such respect for international law was necessary if the United Nations was to remain credible in its role as a keeper of the peace.

    He also said that peace promotion efforts needed to be strengthened in the areas of religion and environmental preservation.  Regarding the former, he said religion was quickly becoming the only frame of reference for analysing political and social problems. That simplification of reality needed to be addressed, perhaps through dialogue at the United Nations. After all, killing for religious reasons was unacceptable. With respect to the environment, the increasing scarcity of resources was leading to global tensions. In that regard, the principles of sustainable development had to be respected, and the Kyoto Protocol had to be promoted.

    BENJAMIN MKAPA, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that the Millennium Development Goals represented the international community’s vision and hope for a new global partnership. Never before had so many African governments committed themselves to good governance, peer review, ownership of the development agenda, and prioritization and sequencing of the tasks necessary for the attainment of the Goals. What was now needed was an equally unprecedented commitment in all rich countries, in both words and deeds, to the global war on poverty. African countries doing their part in the global fight to alleviate poverty should not be constrained by lack of external resources.

    Globalization, he said, had produced both striking achievements and harmful distortions in global growth and development. Left unchecked, globalization would exacerbate the wealth gap within and between nations, thereby sowing seeds of social instability and crime on a national and global scale.  Responses to the challenges of globalization had to begin at home. The continent had to address issues such as good governance, prudent monetary and fiscal policies, macroeconomic stability, peace and security, protection of property rights, setting priorities for poverty reduction, and creation of a conducive environment for investment and trade, between Africans themselves and between Africa and the rest of the world. He stressed that solutions to Africa’s problems could not be sustained unless they were genuinely embraced and owned by Africans themselves.

    On regional conflicts, he said the Democratic Republic of the Congo deserved the continued and strong support of the international community because instability in that country robbed the entire region of its potential for shared progress, development and solidarity. Similarly, the crises in Burundi, the Great Lakes region, Western Sahara and Darfur needed urgent attention. Describing the human tragedy in Darfur as “harrowing” and one that demanded urgent remedy, he asked for the practical, urgent and increased support of the United Nations, and the international community as a whole, for the African Union’s initiatives to address that crisis.

    He regretted that the Middle East Road Map had been “put aside”, even though it remained the most reasonable, viable and sustainable way of resolving that long-standing conflict.  He described the spectre of international terrorism as the most vicious and pernicious among international crimes.  Turning to United Nations reform, he felt the Security Council should be representative of the wider membership of today’s Organization, and reflect the current geopolitical and economic structure of the world.  There were countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America that deserved a permanent seat on the Council because of their major contributions to the sustainability of the United Nations, and to global peace, security and development, he said, adding that the time to bring them in had come.

    CHANDRIKA BANDARANAIKE KUMARATUNGA, President of Sri Lanka, said that peace and resolution of conflict through dialogue should be accorded the highest priority on the United Nations agenda.  Her Government had pursued peace in Sri Lanka for the past 10 years, implementing a series of programmes to engage an armed group that had used terror and suicide bombs in its pursuit of a separate State.  “We are fully aware that peace is not achieved easily”, she said.  “It is a constant struggle.”  Expressing deep sadness about the ongoing violence and instability in Iraq, she compared its experience with that of Sri Lanka in terms of suffering violence and encountering difficulties in solving the problems of governance in a way that would satisfy all parties.  She said that security measures alone will not end the violence, but that political consensus-building, rehabilitation, and the promotion of the rule of law were all essential elements for establishing a foundation for democracy.

    Recalling the terrorist attack earlier this month on a school in Beslan, in the Russian Federation, she said that terrorism in all its manifestations must be condemned and fought relentlessly and globally.  As Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, she expressed her hope that progress would be made during the current General Assembly session on the drafts of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism and of the convention on nuclear terrorism. She praised the Secretary-General for his strong statement about the importance of upholding the rule of law throughout the world.

    She also emphasized the need for reform to make the United Nations more responsive to all its Member States, so that it would be a forum where the voices of the poor and weak were heard as much as the voices of the strong and powerful.  There was general agreement that the Security Council, as presently constituted, “does not reflect the current geopolitical realities”.  She said that “Asia, the most populous continent that is home to expanding economic powerhouses of the world, is grossly underrepresented”, and that Africa must also be included when a decision was made about the future composition of the Council.  Sri Lanka supported the candidatures of Brazil, Germany, India and Japan for permanent status in an expanded Council.

    Sri Lanka had modified its economic and social development policies to align its plans more closely with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, she said.  On the issue of child rights, she focused on the “ignominious practice” of the use of child soldiers. Her Government was addressing the problem of child conscription by the armed group in her country by pursuing negotiations and by supporting the activities of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

    ABEL PACHECO DE LA ESPRIELLA, President of Costa Rica, said the time had come to speak of an inclusive global society.  The Assembly, which represented and expressed the common will of all mankind, must play a central role in promoting a markedly humane globalization. Economic development must be directed and guided. The economy’s positive and powerful forces must not be left to an invisible hand, which was guided, in most cases, by the obvious inequality among nations.  Current data on the global economy, however, showed the reverse of what was needed for a truly peaceful, stable and fair world. For that reason, and in order to enable the poorest peoples to participate in the benefits of economic development, policies and programmes must be promoted that created opportunities for all.

    He urged progress at the international level in the following two directions:  rules and policies that provided a fair normative framework for globalization must be agreed and strengthened; and the venues for effective international negotiation, management and implementation of those agreements should be created or broadened. Poverty, the lack of opportunities, deficient medical services and limited access to education, frequently accompanied by excessive expenditure in armaments, caused the suffering of most peoples.  In 2003, a record $956 billion was devoted to military expenditure, or 17 times the amount of resources devoted worldwide to official development assistance, and more than the sum of the foreign debt of the 64 countries with the lowest gross domestic product (GDP).  The world did not yet understand that security did not result by a multiplication of weapons, but by “a multiplication of loaves of bread”.

    Peace and security were built, in the first place, by combating injustice, satisfying basic needs, striving for common and social goals, and by fair and honest government, he said.  He fully supported the draft framework convention on international arms transfers, which, by regulating arms exports, could prevent arms transfers to terrorists and rebel groups, and to those States in breach of international humanitarian law or basic human rights principles.  He urged its adoption by all Member States, as that would contribute substantially to the struggle against illicit weapons trafficking worldwide.  Also crucial was to confront, firmly and resolutely, all acts of terrorism, as well as their financing sources and safe havens. Equally essential was to combat, with the same resolve, the poverty, inequality and hunger, of both food and justice, which afflicted so many people. The fight against terrorism must be assigned to an independent and permanent organ located at the centre of the Organization. He, thus, proposed the creation of a United Nations high commissioner for terrorism to assist the Security Council, the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

    BERNARD BOT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that, in this time of global threats, global markets and global media, security and prosperity depended more than ever on an effective multilateral system.  “No nation can respond to threats in isolation; the only way forward is collective action”, he continued, stressing that the search for a strong, rule-based international society was more imperative than ever.  That was why the Union placed such emphasis on reform initiatives to strengthen the United Nations and make the Organization more effective and efficient.

    What gave the United Nations its strength was its legitimacy, he said, stressing that it was that strength which was at the core of efforts to ensure and maintain a rule-based multilateral international order. The reform efforts that had already been set in motion by the Secretary-General must, therefore, be intensified. Highlighting several of the Union’s other priority issues, including eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable development, he emphasized the overriding need for all nations to press hard towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    “Urgent action is called for”, he said, “and both developed and developing countries must set in place a range of measures, which include good governance, expansion of trade opportunities... and an increase in official development assistance, as agreed at the Monterrey Conference (on Financing for Development)”. The European Union believed that combating HIV/AIDS must be an integral part of the global campaign against poverty. Prevention of the disease was inextricably linked to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the Union would reaffirm its commitment to the agenda of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, believing that reproductive health and rights were an essential part of development.

    He went on to say that one of the greatest threats to international peace and security today was the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems. The Union had adopted a strategy against such proliferation and was committed to upholding, implementing and strengthening the multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and agreements. While such regimes provided international norms and frameworks for action, they did not successfully stop the spread of all dangerous weapons and their delivery systems.  So, additional measures were necessary, in particular to combat the risk of terrorist networks gaining access to such weapons and delivery systems. He added that, with others, the Union would explore the possibility of establishing a relationship between the United Nations and the Hague Code of Conduct on ballistic missile proliferation.

    After highlighting the European Union’s initiatives aimed at boosting the international community’s efforts to combat terrorism and to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, he stressed that the world needed a United Nations that could intervene decisively to prevent, limit and put an end to impunity and strengthen the rule of law throughout the world. An estimated 40 per cent of countries emerging from civil wars lapsed back into conflict within five years. The “familiar but forgotten” lesson, he said, was that the United Nations system was much better attuned to how such conflicts could be prevented and peace preserved.

    The Union was both optimistic and concerned in light of recent events on the African continent.  It was important that Africans were increasingly taking the lead for solving problems in their own countries.  The Union would continue to work closely with the African Union as its slate of duties grew, and it would cooperate with African leaders, the United States and the Arab League with a view to harmonizing international efforts to resolve the conflict in Darfur.  The European Union was concerned, however, by the recent increase in tensions in the Great Lakes region and would call on those countries to adhere to the principles of “good neighbourly relations” and cooperation.

    JANEZ DRNOVSEK, President of Slovenia, said the boundaries between “the problems of others and our problems were being increasingly erased”.  That applied to a wide range of areas, from security and social welfare to the economy and the environment.  For that reason, world problems demanded solidarity and the additional commitment of the international community to help those in need and to ensure that everyone shared in the fruits of technological progress.  As such, Slovenia supported the report of the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization. The Millennium Development Goals represented a major commitment to resolving the problems of the modern world, but the goals for bridging the gap between rich and poor were not being realized to a satisfactory extent. It was necessary to “break through the inertia of established systems of operations”, and develop new approaches, such as introducing innovative sources of financing development.

    He went on to say that international terrorism was erasing the boundary between war and peace.  And the common fight against terrorism and its origins must remain one of the priority tasks of individual members and of the entire United Nations.  Combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction was critical, in that regard.  Also, combating terrorism should not be done at the expense of existing legal standards of human rights and international humanitarian law.  Any lowering of such standards would be repaid in a reduction of the legitimacy of international action, creating further fertile ground for attacks on human security.  He welcomed and supported the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, as she began he work and assured her of his country’s cooperation.  He also expressed his nation’s continued support of the International Criminal Court.

    Highlighting the responsibility of transnational corporations, he said they should contribute to protecting the environment and to eliminating the tensions caused by global competitive models.  Non-governmental organizations could contribute to solutions through innovative approaches and by moving beyond the limitations of established bureaucratic frameworks.  The complexity of modern threats to world peace and security demanded a strengthening of cooperation between various regional organizations and the United Nations.  His nation welcomed an open debate in the Security Council on that subject.

    Continuing, he said, the European Union was assuming increasing responsibility for stabilization and progress in the countries of South-Eastern Europe and, in the past year, major progress had been achieved by some of the countries in that region.  At the same time, a resurgence of dangers was also witnessed, created by still unresolved inter-ethnic issues and a lack of socio-economic prospects.  Attaining democratic standards, including human rights and the protection of minorities, must remain at the centre of efforts.  On globalization, he said that not even those who derived the greatest benefit from it could protect themselves from its negative effects.  Not even the richest could isolate themselves from international terrorism, the effects of climate change and extreme poverty.  For those reasons, a common commitment and responsibility must be to ensure that all people benefited positively from globalization.

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