Press Releases

                                                                                                                     20 April 2004

    Parliamentarians Have Major Role in Helping Countries Recover from Conflict, Says Secretary-General in Message to Mexico City Meeting

    NEW YORK, 19 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message for the 110th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, delivered by Danilo Türk, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in Mexico City, 18 April:

    It is a great pleasure to send my greetings to everyone who has gathered in Mexico City for this assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Two years ago, I had the honour of addressing the Mexican Congress, and stressed the key role that parliamentarians can and do play in world affairs. Today, your efforts to promote peace and democracy through political dialogue are as vital as ever.

    One of the main topics you have chosen to address at this assembly -- reconciliation and partnership -- lies at the heart of UN peace-building and peacekeeping activities, from Afghanistan to West Africa, from Tajikistan to Timor-Leste, from Guatemala to Guinea-Bissau, and many other places. UN assistance in this area may also be needed soon in Burundi, Haiti and Sudan. While each of these situations -- the history, the wounds, the way forward -- is unique, requiring its own, custom-built solution, they are linked by the need to address the painful legacy of past abuses. Only a fair and judicious process of airing difficult facts and feelings can provide a foundation for improved relations following a conflict, political upheaval or other national trauma. Only a genuine acceptance of what has taken place can bring solace to the victims and healing to all of society.

    Such a process of transitional justice encompasses a range of judicial and non-judicial responses. The prosecution of perpetrators at the national or international level is crucially important in upholding the idea of accountability. The United Nations opposes impunity in cases of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. We should resist the temptation of an immediate end to hostilities if that were to mean no action against perpetrators of atrocities. Every peace agreement, to be sustainable, has to be founded on the principle of the longer term need for justice.

    Yet, unto themselves, prosecutions are often only a part of the solution. Criminal justice is an instrument of truth, and truth is an essential basis of reconciliation. Therefore, criminal justice must be combined with efforts to acknowledge the suffering of victims and to arrive at a common understanding of the root causes. And it must be part of a broader picture that includes building up permanent justice systems, promoting human rights, and putting in place the full range of institutions that are essential for democratic governance and equitable development.

    Parliamentarians have a major role to play in this essential aspect of recovery. You can set up bodies to promote reconciliation. You can set an example, in your own deliberations, of dialogue among communities divided by hatred. Through your legislative power, you can give domestic meaning to international standards and agreements. And you can support international organizations, such as the International Criminal Court, that can make a clear contribution.

    It is encouraging that the IPU has already demonstrated its firm determination to global cooperation for peace-building. The IPU and the United Nations are already carrying out joint technical assistance projects in many countries, working with national parliaments in Albania, Timor-Leste and Uruguay. These are just the kinds of partnerships we need for reconciliation to be effective and sustainable. I urge you to continue this useful work, and looking forward to continuing our own partnership for a safer, more just world. Thank you for your commitment to the United Nations, and please accept my best wishes for the success of your deliberations.

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