Press Releases

    30 September 2004

    Speakers Stress Need for More Effective Means to Address Genocide, Warn against Losing Sight of So-Called ‘Soft Threats’, as General Assembly Debate Continues

    NEW YORK, 29 September (UN Headquarters) -- As the vast majority of today’s speakers in the General Assembly’s high-level debate continued to focus on eradicating international terrorism, they were reminded of the need for the United Nations and the international community to find more effective means of combating government-sponsored or “tolerated” genocide.

    Raising the issue of genocide, Sebastian L. Anefal, Secretary (Minister) of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Federated States of Micronesia, stressed that there must be no refuge for those who deny the basic right of existence to entire populations. “It is obvious today that expressions of condemnation and even multilateral treaties do not deter such people. As our technology provides even more effective and readily available means of mass destruction, the bright promise of coming years could be overwhelmed by an unthinkable nightmare”, he warned.

    Some of today’s speakers also urged the Assembly not to lose sight of so-called “soft threats” -- poverty, hunger and inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, health care and education -- while other issues raised were the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; transnational organized crime; trafficking in drugs and people; illegal migration; and reform of the United Nations and its Security Council.

    With a few notable exceptions, the international community had failed to prevent the occurrence of violence and intervene when violence had begun, the Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, told the Assembly, as he addressed it for the first time. And while a simple expansion of the Security Council might suffice to strengthen the United Nations, and might make that body more representative, it would not necessarily make it more effective. Ultimately, no amount of structural adjustments to the United Nations bureaucracy could make up for a moral vacuum or lack of political leadership, he added.

    There were also calls for refocusing attention on human rights protection and greater respect for defenders of those rights; abolition of the death penalty; and better protection of children and civilians in armed conflict, as well as child soldiers. Benin’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration, Rogatien Biaou, said that when the Security Council’s presidency fell to his country in 2005, it would hold a special debate on the troubling phenomenon of child soldiers. The meeting would aim to help find a lasting solution to that problem, which particularly affected Africa.

    Expressing concern at the possible lessening of attention within the United Nations towards economies in transition, the Foreign Minister of Belarus, Sergei Martynov, said that while the Organization’s programmes and funds played an important role, more targeted assistance was necessary. In the planning and implementation of country programmes, it was necessary to take into account a country’s level of socio-economic development, and the degree of its integration with international trade and financial institutions.

    Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Samuel R. Insanally, said that according to this year’s Human Development Report [by the United Nations Development Programme], cultural diversity must be a central aspect of human development, “requiring us to go beyond social, political and economic opportunities to provide cultural freedom”. Supporting that premise, he said that, too often, strategies for peace and development ignored that reality with disastrous results. Not enough consultation and coordination were undertaken to ensure that programmes and projects were in keeping with nationally defined priorities and local circumstances.

    Statements in today’s debate were also made by the President of Colombia and the Foreign Ministers of the Czech Republic, Armenia and Eritrea, as well as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, the Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration of Chad, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and la Francophonie of the Central African Republic.

    The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office of Myanmar, the Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of Libya, and the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary also spoke today, as did the Permanent Representative of Nauru and the Secretary for Relations with States for the Holy See.

    The representatives of Azerbaijan, Serbia and Montenegro, Cuba and the Czech Republic spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    The General Assembly will resume its general debate at 10 a.m. tomorrow, following the meeting of its General Committee at 9:30 a.m.


    ALVARO URIBE VELEZ, President of Colombia, said he came to the General Assembly at a time when Colombia, its people and institutions, were advancing in achieving democratic security, which would allow all citizens to live in peace and express their political ideas without any risk to their lives. The democratic security policy had shown significant progress in reducing homicides, kidnappings and other terrorist acts, as well as population displacement and illicit crops. However, there was still a lot to be done, but the country would prevail if it was persistent, he said.

    Citing higher growth and lower unemployment statistics in Colombia in recent years, he said that had all happened despite fiscal restrictions to public investment and in the midst of an intense struggle to eliminate illicit drugs, which had become so prevalent that they now affected the level of growth in the country’s agricultural sector as a whole. His country’s goal was to reduce poverty and obtain an equal or higher percentage of economic growth. Colombia’s social investment programme depended on sound and sustained economic growth, and, therefore, went hand in hand with democratic security policy. If democratic security was neglected, terrorism would grow, which would in turn affect investment and weaken economic recovery. His Government had placed much emphasis on education, and was also subsidizing school nutrition programmes; senior adults, who lived in poverty; demobilized and reintegrated persons, who had disengaged from violent groups; and ranger families, who had been formerly involved in illicit drug crops.

    Reiterating Colombia’s commitment to multilateralism, he said his country was fully prepared to support the efforts of the international community in favour of consolidation of democracy and security in the region, especially in Haiti. Colombia would be part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in that country, and would cooperate with police experts in fighting against drug trafficking.

    The total commitment of the international community was required for the struggle against terrorism in Colombia, he continued. Terrorism in one country fed and strengthened terrorist networks throughout the world. It was difficult to find a country facing the challenge of terrorism while simultaneously strengthening its democracy. If more decisive and effected support were extended, the violent groups would have no option but to abandon terrorism and accept peace.

    CYRIL SVOBODA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czech Republic, addressing the Assembly for the first time since his country had joined the European Union, said that security –- or lack of it –- had emerged as the most challenging issue of the day. International terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, failed States and organized crime were indeed a menace to all. Moreover, the brutality and increasing incidents of terrorism over the past year had been frightening. While terrorist groups had previously targeted institutions or specific persons in an attempt to gain public sympathy, the general public had now become the main target. “But what could you expect from individuals who sacrificed unlimited numbers of their own to a perverse ideology?”

    Those “new” terrorists and their absolute disregard for human life had also given birth to their most dangerous tool –- the ideological suicide bomber, he continued. That had added another ominous twist to the terrorist scourge. Where previously, terrorists had to spend most of their time covertly planning every aspect of an action, suicide bombers only had to concentrate on how best to hit and destroy their chosen targets. Because stopping terrorists was at the top of the international agenda, he warned that if the international community was lax in understanding cultures and values, and if it did not have a firm grasp on human rights, it might find that in the end, it was unable to cope with the uneasy balance between security and freedom. But nevertheless, “in the fight against terrorism, nobody can be neutral”, he said, stressing that terrorist ideology was “aggressive and expansive” and did not recognize the principles of conciliation or coexistence.

    Here, he stressed that while the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) had done an outstanding job in overseeing the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and facilitating the universal acceptance of United Nations conventions against terrorism, certainly more could be done. “The true tests of our ability to cooperate are Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East”, he said. He called for further cooperation on wider global concerns, chiefly in Iraq, the wider Middle East, Kosovo and Africa, where he urged the international community not to turn away from tragedies occurring in Darfur and the Great Lakes region. He also urged delegations not to lose sight of so-called “soft threats”, particularly with the midterm review of the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching. Furthermore, he called for a greater focus on the promotion and protection of human rights, greater efforts to abolish the death penalty, better protection of children and civilians in armed conflict, and greater respect for the activities of human rights defenders.

    SAMUEL R. INSANALLY, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, said the recent wave of hurricanes that destroyed Grenada and battered other island countries showed how destructive nature could be to development. Such was the frequency of those [natural] phenomena that the international community must now seek to devise stronger and more responsive machinery to address their consequences. Therefore, he attached great importance to the outcomes of the international meeting to review the Barbados Programme on small island developing States and the World Conference on Disaster Reduction that would be held in January next year in Mauritius and Japan, respectively.

    Globalisation and liberalisation had brought with them laissez faire attitudes and policies that seriously affected societies everywhere, he stated. One example was the recent interruption of the democratic process in Haiti -- the newest member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) -- that had exacerbated social conditions in that country. Both the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society condemned such breaches of democracy. But notwithstanding its concern, Guyana was ready to help Haiti overcome its social difficulties, while CARICOM was coordinating humanitarian assistance to the island.

    Respect for the fundamental tenets of the United Nations was essential “if we are to avoid conflicts”, he said. The United Nations Charter was clear in its proscription of the use of force. He supported Security Council reform and had decided to support the aspirations of Brazil, India and an AfricanState to permanent membership. “We believe that their participation as developing countries in the work of the Council will make that body more balanced, representative and ultimately more accountable to the General Assembly.” He said it was also imperative that “we strive with greater determination to secure our economic development and social progress”. For more than six decades, the international community had diligently sought answers to the development dilemma, moving from one facet to another. So far, the various models of development had failed to achieve their goals.

    According to this year’s Human Development Report [by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)], cultural diversity must be a central aspect of human development “requiring us to go beyond social, political and economic opportunities to provide cultural freedom”. Too often strategies for peace and development ignored that reality with disastrous results. Not enough consultation and coordination were undertaken to ensure that programmes and projects were in keeping with nationally defined priorities and local circumstances.

    He added that as globalisation gained further ground, many more countries, especially small developing ones, that were unable to take advantage of the process would be marginalized. His own country had recently been struck a devastating blow to its sugar industry -- on which thousands of people depended –- as a result of trade liberalisation and the reform of the European Union sugar regime. “Unless small States like ours are provided with special and differential treatment, they will be excluded from the global economy.”

    SERGEI MARTYNOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said illegal migration, transnational crime, the trafficking of drugs and of people and ensuring the security of energy supply infrastructures were among the most serious challenges. By dealing with those issues, Belarus, which controlled a major European crossroad, acted as an important guarantor of stability in Europe. Because of his nation’s major role in the Euro-Asian transport of energy resources, he proposed that Belarus’ neighbours, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU), engage in regional cooperation to secure critical infrastructure installations, such as oil and gas pipelines, and electrical and nuclear power stations.

    His country’s contribution to regional and international security, beginning with the nuclear and conventional disarmament of the early 1990s, continued to be sizeable and real, he said. He was appreciative of assistance by international organizations and individual nations to improve border and customs installations, the effect of which could be felt throughout Europe. Turning to development issues, he noted that only seven out of 50 least developed countries had reached the level of seven per cent annual economic growth. Also, every four seconds, one human being in the world died of hunger. The difficulty of solving the poverty problem must not prevent the international community from seeking new solutions.

    With regard to economies in transition, Belarus was concerned with the possible lessening of attention within the United Nations towards that issue. While the Organization’s programmes and funds played an important role, more targeted assistance was necessary. In planning and implementation of country programmes, it was necessary to take into account a country’s level of socio-economic development, and the degree of its integration with international trade and financial institutions. Still experiencing the effects of the Chernobyl disaster, Belarus acutely realized that the problem of radiation safety could not be ignored. In that regard, he supported the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency aimed at maintaining nuclear non-proliferation regimes and the strengthening of nuclear and radiation safety.

    VARTAN OSKANIAN, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said the Millennium Development Goals were guidelines for his country. The empowerment of women, child protection and the fight against poverty were not just goals, but building blocks for a prosperous, healthy and stable society. His Government had approved national plans of action for protecting children’s and women’s rights, as well as for preventing trafficking in people. In addition, a broad anti-corruption strategy had been developed with the participation and advice of the international community, and would complement the poverty reduction strategy that was already beginning to yield results. There was also important collaboration with the United Nations on a number of important issues, including the use of information and communication technologies to improve governance and institutionalise public-private interaction.

    Armenia, he continued, was ready to compromise and collaborate with its neighbours, who were ready to join it in making history rather than rewriting it. “We want to work with an Azerbaijan that understands its place in a rule-based international order, not one whose policies, practices and statements threaten the fragile peace and stability of the region”, he said. Although the Armenian presence in the region had been long and extensive, Azerbaijan had succeeded in eliminating the Armenians of Nakhichevab, who comprised more than half the population. In Baku and Sumgait, and throughout Azerbaijan, there were over 400,000 Armenians in the Soviet years. “There are none today”, he said. The Azerbaijan experiment in ethnic cleansing had worked. That country’s leadership had dismissed opportunities to build bridges and seek solutions. For more than half a decade, it had rejected every proposal placed before it from the Common State Proposal in 1998 to the Key West Document of 2000.

    He said that Armenians had prevailed in the military confrontation unleashed by Azerbaijan as a response to the peaceful demands of the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh for self determination. Today, that location had reversed the injustice of the Stalin years and was free and democratic, as well as tolerant of minorities. In the last century, Armenians and Azeris were forcibly linked together. “In this century, where we have earned the right to our own destinies, we can determine to live together peaceably”, he said. “If we are serious about becoming full deserving residents of the European neighbourhood, where borders don’t matter, but intentions and tolerance do, we will have to come to terms with our past, with our history, [and] with the realities that have gripped our region”, he concluded.

    MOMODU KOROMA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said that given adequate resources, and moral and political support, the United Nations could deliver, as it had done in his country. He thanked Member States for their assistance and participation in the work of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). He went on to stress the importance of the rule of law as the cornerstone of international peace and justice. Sierra Leone was concerned by the financial situation of the Freetown-based Special Court, which had been set up to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity committed during the country’s brutal decade-long civil war. He appealed for continued voluntary contributions to support the body, as it was essential for the promotion of peace, justice and national reconciliation.

    He went on to say that following Sierra Leone’s violent and constrictive conflict, the country was in a delicate post-conflict phase. Now was the time to address the root causes of the conflict and to lay the foundation for permanent peace, stability and sustainable development. Further, now the gains of having achieved the peace should be maximized, using a comprehensive approach that incorporated development principles within the wider framework of post-conflict peace-building efforts. But such an approach would require resources beyond traditional peacekeeping strategies that generally involved pulling out when guns fell silent. With that in mind, Sierra Leone would require special attention, he stressed, appealing for development partners and financial institutions to keep in mind the delicate nature of post-conflict transitions and to consider making their policies more flexible and site-specific.

    Ten days ago, the Security Council had extended UNAMSIL’s mandate through June 2005, and had agreed to review the matter, weighing the Mission’s residual functions against the capacity of Sierra Leone’s armed forces and police to effectively maintain security and stability throughout the country. He reassured the Assembly that Sierra Leone did not expect UNAMSIL to remain in the country indefinitely and that the Government was determined to ensure a smooth transition from the Mission to the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and Police. The restructured army and police had already demonstrated that they would shortly be ready to assume full responsibility for the safety of the people of the country.

    In order to be as prepared as possible, he said both the army and police needed logistic support and equipment, in addition to training. He appealed to friendly nations to equip Sierra Leone’s security forces and enable them to function effectively. He went on to express concern at the current tragic humanitarian situation in Darfur, Sudan. He applauded the African Union’s response to the crisis and urged all stakeholders to do whatever was necessary to speedily resolve the conflict. He added that the Union would like to do more, if it had the resources, and, therefore, called for greater international support for its work.

    GÁBOR BRÓDI, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, said that today’s complex and difficult tasks required not only strong political will, but also an improved and adapted multilateral framework of cooperation. Only through such a system could the threats and challenges of the contemporary world be addressed successfully. Hungary remained strongly committed to a more effective United Nations, urged the world body, including the Security Council, to adapt to the changing circumstances of the political landscape.

    He said that new and emerging threats such as international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery and transnational organized crime had regional and global dimensions, which required responses on both those levels. With the fast-changing global security environment, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was and remained the cornerstone of the universal non-proliferation regime. He also expressed confidence that the joint efforts of the Iraqi people and the international community would lead to a democratic and prosperous Iraq living in peace with itself and with its neighbours. In that regard, he stressed that the contribution of the United Nations in that endeavour was essential for success.

    Similarly, he said the successful realization of the presidential elections in Afghanistan would be an important step towards the normalization of the political situation in that country. Expressing concern about the continuing violence in the Middle East, he remained convinced that only the full and unconditional implementation of the Road Map offered the best hope for reaching a peaceful solution. He urged all involved, including the Quartet, to redouble their efforts to that end. Hungary was also following with serious concern the deterioration of the human rights situation in neighbouring Serbia and Montenegro, and called on the Serbian authorities to take the necessary step to stop and prevent violence there. It was particularly alarming that the number of incidents against the non-Serb population, including the Hungarian community, was on the rise.

    Archbishop GIOVANNI LAJOLO, Secretary for Relations with States for the Holy See, conveying greetings from Pope John Paul II, said that among the Millennium Goals, pride of place went to poverty eradication and development. In order to find a lasting solution to inhumane conditions, it was necessary to progress, under the aegis of the United Nations, toward a more flexible and just international trade system. Financial structures were needed that would favour development and cancellation of foreign debt for the poorest countries. Also of immediate relevance to global peace, he said, was total and general disarmament. While the commitment of the United Nations in that area was attested by the various conventions it had supported, the world was only at the beginning of a long process, with huge economic interests as obstacles along the path.

    Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said that the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority had the duty to demonstrate their desire for peace. If peace was the fruit of justice, it should not be forgotten that there could be no justice without mutual forgiveness, and that clearly required greater moral courage than the use of arms. Regarding the conflict in Iraq, he said that everyone could see that it did not lead to a safer world, either inside or outside Iraq, and that it was now imperative to support the present Government to bring the country to normality and to a substantially democratic political system. He was also gravely concerned about various African countries scarred by bloodshed, arising from mutual conflicts and even more from internal strife. The African Union needed to intervene authoritatively, so as to bring all legitimate interested parties around a negotiating table.

    Regarding terrorism, he said what was most important was long-term action directed with foresight and patience at the root causes, designed to stop it from spreading further and to extinguish its deadly contagious effects. Finally, he reminded the Assembly that Pope John Paul II had called for “a greater degree of international ordering” at this year’s World Day of Peace. That could be brought about by giving organizations such as the United Nations special prerogatives to facilitate action to prevent conflicts at times of international crisis, and also, when absolutely necessary, to carry out humanitarian intervention.

    SEBASTIAN L. ANEFAL, Secretary (Minister) of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Federated States of Micronesia, said that, in addition to the need to defeat terrorism, the United Nations also had to find more effective means of combating government-sponsored or tolerated genocide. There must be no refuge for those who would deny the basic right of existence to entire populations. “It is obvious today that expressions of condemnation and even multilateral treaties do not deter such people. As our technology provides even more effective and readily available means of mass destruction, the bright promise of coming years could be overwhelmed by an unthinkable nightmare”, he warned. Much more work was required on a global level to eliminate the conditions that provide the fertile ground on which the sponsors of terrorism and genocide were able to prosper.

    Those conditions, he continued, included poverty, hunger, and inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, health care and education. Statisticians had been able to identify significant progress over the last 60 years, and those trends could be expected to continue as Member States dedicated themselves to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. But trends, he reminded the Assembly, “don’t mean much to children who will die of starvation today, tomorrow, and the next day”. Growing gross domestic products were little comfort to the man desperately trying to support a family on less than $1 per day, who saw no hope of improving his situation. The world, through the United Nations, must redouble efforts because there was still a long way to go.

    He said that foremost amongst his country’s vulnerabilities, along with other members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), was their extreme exposure to the adverse effects of climate change. Micronesia’s people, like the inhabitants of most island States, had a tradition of living in harmony with nature. Consequently, their ecological “footprint” had been small. “But while we in the islands can and need to do more to curb unsustainable practices, it is clear that we have contributed little to the climate crisis, and that we can contribute little to its solution. Yet, we are among the first to be affected and even face possible extinction”, he said. For the populations of the low-lying islands, there were few practical options. Land was in short supply and, contrary to romantic fantasy, there were no deserted islands available.

    Populations already tended to be concentrated, he continued, while previous efforts to relocate island populations had brought suffering and cultural loss to the people concerned. “To those of us faced with the prospect of cultural eradication, the unabated advancement of already-inflated lifestyles in the industrialized world does not seem to us a greater good”, he said. His country, therefore, continued to support the AOSIS call for immediate implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Also expressing concern over the practice of deep-sea trawling in his region and the damage caused to the seabed, he underscored the urgent need for improved and coordinated scientific focus on identifying and managing risk to biodiversity and the environment in the deep oceans.

    NAGOUM YAMASSOUM, Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration of Chad, said States needed to apply the Charter when reacting to terrorism and threats to international security. He called on States to act together to curb major scourges, which were a threat to all mankind. Chad was actively cooperating with the United Nations to build national capacities to prevent and combat the scourge of terrorism. Chad’s national agenda, which was in line with the Millennium Development Goals, promoted health, education, and employment, in particular for women and young people, and provided a range of measures to combat poverty, malaria and HIV/AIDS. That programme was based on the principles of peace, security and justice.

    Turning to economic issues, he said that efforts to resolve the practice of subsidies on agricultural products had not been successful, adding that African nations felt the double weight of foreign debt and social issues, which made it difficult to stimulate economic growth. With the exception of oil, there had been a decline in the export of commodities, and commitments made by States on development issues had not borne fruit. In addition, cotton producers were confronting an invasion of locusts, raising the spectre of famine. Chad was, in fact, in the natural reproductive zone for locusts, and that was of great concern since those areas exposed to locusts also housed many refugees. The threat of locusts was still viable, despite help received from the international community. It was necessary to mobilize while possible, and he renewed his nation’s appeal to the international community to help put structures in place, to do so.

    Tropical depressions had caused damage in the Caribbean, he continued, expressing sympathy for those nations and calling on the most well off nations to offer as much assistance as possible. Armed conflict was responsible for social crises, from which his people suffered. In 2004, there had been active diplomatic activity between Chad and the Sudan. Yet, the situation in the Sudan was still of serious concern. The scope of hostility and violence had provoked a flow of Sudanese refugees to Chad, which had consequences for his people and the environment. Chad had made a commitment to help the Sudan by offering mediation efforts, which he hoped would help promote dialogue.

    He asked for international assistance to help host countries ensure appropriate stays for refugees. If that issue was not handled carefully, there could be security issues within his nation. Chad was looking to ensure security for the refugees, and to ease their pain. It would, however, react against refugees involved in subversive activity. Despite challenges in his country, he was still following with interest the other conflicts in Africa and throughout other parts of the world. He called for a restructuring of the United Nations, and the enlargement of the Security Council to ensure equitable geographical representation. In conclusion, he pointed to the unjust exclusion of the 23 million people of Taiwan, a republic that was involved in the global economy and deserved to be involved in issues relating to its survival.

    MOHAMED VALL OULD BELLAL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, said the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved only if the “Group of Eight” and other industrialized countries stood by their commitments and worked together with less developed nations to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development for all. He stressed that the achievement of those Goals was also linked to the international community’s will and ability to come together to curb violence, conflict and terrorism.

    Turning to the situation in the Middle East, he said that the ongoing unrest and tensions surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remained the main cause of instability in the wider region. That was why it was high time that the international community, led by the Assembly, the Security Council and the diplomatic Quartet, made a genuine effort to rescue that war-torn region and bring about stability and peace for the long-suffering Palestinian people. The only way forward was to follow the path to a two-State solution, based on the Road Map peace plan, relevant Council resolutions and the Arab Initiative.

    He said Mauritania was also following closely many other issues that had drawn international concern. It welcomed the praiseworthy efforts undertaken by the Government of the Sudan to bring an end to the crisis in Darfur. He called on all States, international organizations and groups to support Khartoum’s efforts and give it time to address the refugee and humanitarian situation, without facing threats of armed intervention or sanctions. Mauritania also supported the efforts exerted by the Secretary-General and the United Nations to bring about a definitive settlement to the question of Western Sahara. It also supported all the recent decisions and steps taken by the African Union, including the establishment of the Strategic Programme for Development and Peace, which would serve as a framework for the continent to move past many obstacles that were hindering overall sustainable development.

    For its part, Mauritania was determined to pursue the process of reform by deepening democracy and enacting policies and programmes aimed at enhancing education, ensuring the advancement of women, promotion of human rights and good governance. It was also moving ahead with its efforts to achieve the fundamental goals of development and stability. He added that leaders at the recent Tunis Summit of the Arab League had agreed on the necessity of wider reforms, with the understanding that such change must be gradual and country- or region-specific and not imposed from the outside. Finally, he joined others that had called for the Security Council to open itself up to groups and regions, which were currently not represented in a manner that was consistent with modern realities.

    ALI SAID ABDELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, said that, while he recognized the vital contributions of the international community, including the United Nations, to the promotion of peace between his country and Ethiopia, he had to express his dismay with the lack of resolute action by the same international community, at a time when the entire process was on the verge of collapse. Had the international community respected its obligations and seen the process through with requisite seriousness, the border would have been demarcated long ago, and today would have been a moment to celebrate the resounding success of a United Nations peacekeeping effort.

    Instead, he said, the dark clouds of war were again hanging over Eritrea because of Ethiopia’s “intransigence” and the acquiescence of major Powers in Ethiopia’s violations. Ethiopia had categorically rejected the decision of the Boundary Commission, which his country had accepted in good faith on the basis of the Algiers Agreement. In spite of its neighbour’s rejection of the Peace Agreement, major Powers in the international community had not taken credible steps to persuade Ethiopia to uphold the rule of law and abide by its treaty obligations. On the contrary, Ethiopia continued to obtain massive humanitarian, economic and military support from those Powers.

    He said that, as far as his country was concerned, the problem was not Ethiopia’s conduct in the border dispute, but international acquiescence in its violations which had, in turn, encouraged its intransigence. Eritrea would have no problems in restoring normal ties with Ethiopia. But it could not “put the cart before the horse” and discuss economic or security issues while Ethiopia forcibly occupied its land, in breach of the Algiers Agreement and the decision of the Boundary Commission. In fact, Eritrea would not need the good offices of an intermediary to resume normal bilateral ties with Ethiopia once the critical border issue was resolved legally and peacefully. The border issue could not be a subject of “sterile dialogue”, as was sought by Ethiopia.

    ABDURRAHMAN MOHAMED SHALGHEM, Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of Libya, said that before reforms in the Middle East and in the former republics of the Soviet Union -- or in any area of the world -- were discussed, the United Nations must first be reformed. “Before we can talk about the lack of democracy in the world, we must first admit that democracy is lacking in the United Nations”, he said. Since the General Assembly was the “parliament of all parliaments”, and the Security Council was the “government of all governments”, no one had a right to talk about democracy and reforms in the world unless those things were first addressed from, and corrected at, the top.

    He proposed that the Assembly’s sixtieth session be a decisive and important meeting, in which all world leaders would attend and decide on a “radical reform” of the United Nations. He also proposed that the sixtieth session be held in Geneva, to facilitate the attendance of all world leaders, even if an additional budget would have to be allocated.

    There were two options before Member States, the first of which involved transferring the authority of invoking Chapters VI and VII of the Charter to the General Assembly from the Security Council, he said. If that could not be accomplished, there was no choice but to abandon the General Assembly and “stop infusing money into this dead body”. The second option was to enlarge the membership of the Security Council by granting seats to the African Union and countries from South-East Asia and Latin America. Additionally, the veto privilege would have to be re-evaluated, so as to become subject to new rules, since membership of the Security Council would be expanded.

    As the sixtieth session of the General Assembly drew closer, he continued, Libya was presenting an initiative involving the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, chemical and nuclear weapons, and the handing over of such equipment to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Libya, furthermore, deserved to have a permanent seat in the Security Council, he said. Finally, he said that his President had presented a proposal to world leaders that called for the establishment of a Committee of Wise Men whose membership would consist of Presidents Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton to serve as authority to resolve world conflicts. The United Nations, he said, should pass a resolution in support of that proposal.

    JOSE RAMOS-HORTA, Senior Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste, speaking before the Assembly for the first time, said the overall situation in his country was peaceful, stable and politically dynamic. In the two or so years that had passed since Timor-Leste had gained independence and power had been handed over to an elected President, real progress had been made in some sectors such as public administration, education and health. Yet, the fledgling Government was failing in other areas. The most fragile sector of the administration was the judiciary. “We have very few trained judges, prosecutors or lawyers. Most foreign businesses feel unable to trust our judiciary.”

    He went on to say that small-time offenders languished in jail without trial. The Government was committed to creating a strong and independent judiciary, but that was a long way off. He thanked those countries that had assisted Timor-Leste in improving its court system and urged them to continue such support. Timor-Leste was also grateful to Australia, the United Kingdom and Malaysia for their generous support in enhancing the operational competence of Timor-Leste’s security forces. “We are sensitive to, and welcome, constructive criticism of our police force”, he said, adding that the Government was confident that working with partners and friends, it would have a capable force that could hold the trust of the people.

    Timor-Leste’s economy was limping along, he continued. The country was confident that, in two or three years, it would experience a strong economic growth as a result of revenues from oil and gas, as well as capital investment in public infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and airports, telecommunications, public housing, health, agriculture, fisheries and tourism. After that, the country should be able to begin drastically reducing unemployment and poverty. Timor-Leste also hoped that by mid-October, it would be able to conclude and sign with Indonesia a formal agreement on their common land border. While they had agreed on the demarcation of 90 per cent of the land border, there were still some segments to be resolved. Talks were also under way between Timor-Leste and Australia to rectify differences of interpretation of international law and State practice on maritime boundaries between coastal States.

    Turning to the issue of conflicts around the world, he said that, with only a few notable exceptions, the international community had failed to pre-empt the occurrence of violence and intervene when violence had begun. “More often than not, the United Nations has been paralysed, effectively held hostage by the narrow interests of some of its Members.” Regarding United Nations reform, he did not believe that a simple expansion of the Security Council would suffice to strengthen the Organization. While that might make the Council more representative by better reflecting current global demographics and power balances, it would not necessarily make it more effective. Ultimately, however, what was required when facing challenges was moral and political leadership, as no amount of structural adjustments to the United Nations bureaucracy could make up for a moral vacuum or lack of political leadership.

    CHARLES-HERVE WENEZOUI, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and la Francophonie of the Central African Republic, joined others in expressing sympathy to populations fallen victim to recent natural disasters. The major issues of today could not find their solutions simply through the international community and the United Nations. A strengthening of multilateral action was necessary. Terrorism was flouting the international community, and given its complexity, a collective response was necessary. But nations lacking the means to fight terrorism on their own needed the cooperation of richer nations to control the scourge. The current economic situation had negatively affected developing economies. Competition, protectionism and the burden of debt had slowed development. He urged the international community to continue to seek solutions to overcome the failure of the Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) last year.

    He said the Middle East continued to be a source of deep concern and, despite the transition of power in Iraq, the spiral of violence continued there. However, the appointment of a Special Representative in that country signalled that the United Nations had a special role to play. Support for the efforts of the Quartet was critical, and there was no alternative to the Road Map to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the African continent, the surge of armed conflicts was a concern. His nation was following the situation in the Sudan and encouraged the Sudanese Government and the parties involved to follow the path of wisdom and pursue dialogue to spare the Sudanese people more suffering. Security Council sanctions would only worsen the situation. Despite some setbacks, agreements between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had made it possible to move towards peace, he added.

    Since its independence in 1960, his country had gone through brief periods of progress, together with long periods of stagnation, he said. A series of coups marked the evolution of political life. He was pleased to pay tribute to the Organization and the international community, which spared no effort to find a solution to his country’s crisis by mobilizing, among others, the Security Council and the French-speaking world. The people of the Central African Republic had pursued the restoration of broken unity, and confidence was growing with bilateral partners. As such, elections would take place in early 2005.

    Currently, he continued, only $3.5 billion was available to address the issue of elections next year, and he appealed for more assistance in that area. He thanked the international organizations and other nations, including France, China and the European Union, that had helped support his nation in that difficult transitional phase. Yet, the challenges to overcome were still many and pressing. He called for a road map with three distinct points: good governance, the restoration of security, and combating poverty. In conclusion, he said reform of the United Nations was necessary, beginning with a new configuration of the Security Council. The Franco-German initiative also deserved consideration.

    VINCI NIEL CLODUMAR (Nauru) said he looked forward to the report of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change later this year. He believed that multilateralism was the key to resolving contemporary problems in all their complexities. Consequently, it was important that the Panel’s recommendations reinforced that fact, and that their proposals were achievable and added value to the reform efforts already under way, including the revitalization of the Assembly. At the centre of reform efforts should be ensuring equitable representation by all Member States in the major organs of the Organization, and allowing for the full participation of all, particularly small States.

    As one of the small island developing States in the Pacific, Nauru agreed with the position already articulated by other leaders of the AOSIS, expressing the concerns and challenges that such States faced. He added that a healthy Pacific Ocean and the sustainable use of its natural resources, including highly migratory fish stocks, were crucial to the region’s livelihood. The trans-shipment of nuclear waste through the region’s waters was of great concern to many island countries because of the inherent damage that could cause.

    Rights of Reply

    Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Azerbaijan said that, last week, his country’s President had expressed his opinion on a number of issues, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Armenia, meanwhile, continued to create its own history in order to validate its aggressive policies, which contravened international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. Indeed, it was Armenia that continued to occupy the Nagorno-Karabakh region and several other areas, contravening relevant Council resolutions which had proclaimed that the territories belonged to Azerbaijan and had demanded a complete withdrawal of all foreign forces.

    Moreover, it was Armenian policies, practices and statements that threatened peace and security of the region, he said. Armenia’s historical memory was very selective. It had been Armenia that had conducted ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Armenia’s claim’s of standing against and deploring terrorism was ironic and troubling to say the least, when one realized that it had harboured and exported terrorists for years. Armenia continued to attempt to portray itself as a victim of terrorism, all the while organizing terrorist attacks against his Government. The situation in the occupied territories was made worse because Armenia used them for drug trafficking, smuggling and other illegal activities. Azerbaijan would not hesitate to negotiate with Armenia once it evacuated the occupied Azerbaijani territories, accepted autonomous status for Nagorno-Karabakh, and abided by relevant Security Council resolutions on the matter.

    The representative of Serbia and Montenegro said he had been surprised by the statement by Hungary earlier today in which it had voiced concern at the human rights situation in Serbia, namely, the occurrence of acts committed against ethnic minorities. He assured delegations that those acts had been isolated incidents. Further the Government was convinced that the incidents would not undermine the traditionally good relations between Serbs and Hungarians and other ethnic minorities living in the region. The Government was determined to bring to justice those responsible for those isolated acts, he added.

    The representative of Cuba he regretted the role of judge to which the Czech Republic had appointed itself. Earlier today, that country had singled out the human rights situation in Cuba, unfortunately forgetting to look closely and carefully at the human rights situation in the CzechRepublic. That country should have been trying to figure out how to handle the spectacular increase of prostitution in its own society. And not even Czech children escaped being exploited by the mafia, which controlled passports and other travel documents, threatening to turn them over to the authorities if they did not comply with their demands. The CzechRepublic should have been concerned about hundreds of bordellos that were supplying the sex markets. It would have been better for the Czech Republic to explain what its Government was doing to oust the mafia networks that were eating away at the fabric of virtually every institution in that nation. It would have been better for it to explain what it was doing to alleviate the horrible, ghetto-like conditions to which the Romani people had been banished.

    The representative of the CzechRepublic said Cuba’s statement was an overreaction to a statement of fact. The CzechRepublic had merely expressed its solidarity with those brave men and women whose only fault was that they held views different from State propaganda and were not afraid to voice them even when they were threatened with death or imprisonment. She admitted that her country did have problems, and discussion on measures to alleviate them was perhaps a topic for the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian). The difference was the option each would take to address its national concerns. One option was to always solidly engage citizens in a fair, open and transparent manner. The other was to stick to rigid, oppressive arrangements, thus, allowing an outdated regime to survive for a few more years. The CzechRepublic knew from its own experience that change was not easy, but could be very rewarding.

    The representative of Cuba reminded the Czech Republic that those whom she referred to as defenders of human rights were mercenaries in the service of a foreign power. Cuba reserved the right to speak at greater length on that issue, but would stress that it would not allow its revolution to be sullied by the mercenaries of foreign powers for which CzechRepublic was doing favours.

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