8 September 2006

General Assembly Decides to Continue Consideration of Secretary-General's Report on Preventing Armed Conflict at Upcoming Sessions

Also Expresses Serious Concern about Damage Caused by Wide-Scale Fires in Azerbaijan

NEW YORK, 7 September (UN Headquarters) -- In the wake of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's finding that there is an "unacceptable gap" between rhetoric and reality at the United Nations in the area of conflict prevention, the General Assembly today decided to devote more time during its upcoming session to consider his recommendations on how to better equip the Organization to fulfil its core mandate.

With the adoption of a consensus resolution, the Assembly decided to continue consideration, during its sixty-first session, of the Secretary-General's progress report on the prevention of armed conflict (document A/60/891), in which he stresses that averting conflicts is one of the United Nations chief obligations and urges Member States to channel more money into preventive measures as the world body strengthens its capabilities to detect and then mediate disputes.

Released five years after his first comprehensive report on the issue, the 54-page survey notes that too often the international community spent vast sums of money to fight fires that, in hindsight, might more easily have been extinguished with timely preventive action "before so many lives were lost or turned upside-down". The report also report outlines a three-pronged approach to preventing armed conflict: targeting the sources of tension within and between societies, States and regions; reinforcing the norms and institutions for peace; and strengthening the mechanisms that can resolve inter-State disputes.

Noting that conflict prevention is a "moral imperative" and a "political necessity for the credibility of international cooperation, in particular the United Nations," Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden, opening the 192-member body's debate on the subject said: "What a qualitative difference we could have in the United Nations if we moved the focus from the late stages of conflict to the early stages, if we were to spend more time on smoke detection rather than taking care of a house that has already burned down."

In a statement read by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, Mr. Annan noted that one of his consistent objectives has been to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. One of the main findings of his latest report was that such a culture was indeed beginning to take hold. But his report nevertheless revealed an "an unacceptable gap remains between rhetoric and reality in the area of conflict prevention".

In his own statement, Mr. Malloch Brown said that the most striking recommendation of the report came in the last paragraph, which was that, if 2 per cent of the peacekeeping budget was spent on prevention, there was a possibility to prevent one or more wars a year. Everyone agreed that prevention was better, but if prevention was so cheap, why were people so reluctant to invest in it? The answer was that the utility of any given prevention strategy was very difficult to prove. The need for it could always be questioned, until it had already failed. Wars that did not happen were not news.

However, there were some very persuasive examples of successful conflict prevention, including the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria, diffusion of a political crisis in Ecuador, and overcoming of tensions in Guyana. Sadly, however, it was much easier to cite cases where conflict was not prevented but should have been. The disaster of Côte d'Ivoire could have been avoided if previous Ivorian Governments had received help and advice in integrating, rather than excluding, the workers of foreign origin. Prevention still remained an area of much promise but few answers, and the United Nations could play a role in finding them.

When delegations took the floor, they all supported the thrust of the report as well as the Secretary-General's recommendation that the Assembly continue to examine the matter closely in the coming year. Many speakers highlighted ongoing conflicts and tensions in the Middle East, as well as civil strife on the African continent. Also weighing heavily on the mind of several speakers was the need for the Assembly and the Security Council to address the situation on the Taiwan Strait, which they considered a threat to peace and security in the East Asia region. For his part, the representative of China reiterated that there was only one China in the world and that the Taiwan question was an internal matter that had no bearing on today's discussion.

In other action today, the Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution expressing serious concern about the damage caused by wide-scale fires in the eastern part of Azerbaijan, taking note of the intention of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- whose Minsk Group is leading the negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia to end the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh -- to send a mission to the region to assess the long- and short-term environmental impacts of the fires in order to prepare for an environmental protection operation.

Also speaking were representatives of Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Peru, Guatemala, Gambia, Switzerland, Tuvalu, Germany, Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Japan and Benin.

The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also addressed the Assembly.

Representatives of the United States (on behalf of the Minsk Group), Armenia, Ukraine (on behalf of GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Republic of Moldova)), Pakistan and Turkey spoke on the issue of the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's representative introduced the draft resolution.

The General Assembly will meet again tomorrow, 8 September, at 3 p.m.


The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider Secretary-General Kofi Annan's progress report on the prevention in armed conflict (document A/60/891). Released five years after his first comprehensive report on the issue, the 54-page survey responds to resolutions of the Assembly, as well as those of the Security Council. In it, Mr. Annan notes that "a culture of prevention is indeed beginning to take hold at the United Nations", but adds that "an unacceptable gap remains between rhetoric and reality in the area of conflict prevention".

This latest report says averting conflicts is one of the Organization's chief obligations and urges Member States to channel more money into preventive measures as the world body strengthens its capabilities to detect and then mediate disputes. "Too often the international community spends vast sums of money to fight fires that, in hindsight, we might more easily have extinguished with timely prevention action before so many lives were lost or turned upside down", the Secretary-General says.

"Over the past five years, we have spent over $18 billion on United Nations peacekeeping that was necessary partly because of inadequate preventive measures. A fraction of that investment in prevention action would surely have saved both lives and money", he continues.

The report outlines a three-pronged approach to preventing armed conflict: targeting the sources of tension within and between societies, States and regions; reinforcing the norms and institutions for peace; and strengthening the mechanisms that can resolve inter-State disputes.

As a way to mitigate sources of tension, the report details the concept of so-called "systemic prevention", or cooperative efforts. These global initiatives would help deal with a wide range of issues -- from the illicit flow of small arms to environmental degradation to the spread of HIV/AIDS -- that are fuelling tensions around the globe.

Mr. Annan also suggests that sanctions could be used more creatively as a tool to tackle conflict. The Security Council, for example, could use the reports of expert groups to then take action to help curb the exploitation of natural resources and the use of revenues by armed groups.

Among other recommendations, the report calls for strengthening the United Nations Department of Political Affairs; more support for development assistance through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and support to the United Nations Democracy Fund. "If we are serious about conflict prevention, we have to better equip the Organization to fulfil its core mandate", the report concludes.

Opening Statement of General Assembly President

JAN ELIASSON, President of the General Assembly, broadly outlining the themes included in the Secretary-General's Progress Report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict (document A/60/891), stressed the moral imperative of preventing conflict, saying that it was a human necessity to save lives and protect civilian populations. "It is a political necessity for the credibility of the international community and the United Nations in particular", he said, adding that it was also an economic necessity both for the countries involved and the world community because of the enormous costs of war and post-conflict recovery and reconstruction.

Early action should be the natural reaction to early warning, he said, declaring that prevention must be a moral, political and economic priority of the United Nations and its Member States. He said that the Secretary-General's personal commitment to early action and preventive diplomacy had been pivotal in integrating a culture of prevention throughout the Organization, and that his first comprehensive report on the subject -- released in 2001 -- had been one of the United Nations cornerstones in the field. The Organization had an essential role to play in preventing armed conflicts -- by virtue of its mandate, legitimacy, universal membership and broad-ranging activities and competence.

He went on to say that one of its main tasks under the Charter was the maintenance of peace and security, in other words, the prevention of war. Indeed, preventive diplomacy must engage all parts of the United Nations system, including specialized agencies, funds and programmes, regional and field offices and the international financial institutions. From the review annexed to the report, it was evident that many of the activities of the United Nations had directly, or indirectly, a conflict prevention dimension. "This is most welcome", he said, noting that he believed that Article 33 of the Charter, calling for peaceful settlement of disputes, was "diplomatic poetry", though sadly, little used.

He also said that he agreed with the Secretary-General's recommendation that Member States make more effective use of the tools for pacific settlement of disputes, such as negotiation, mediation, conciliation and judicial settlement. But such preventive actions should be proportional to the conflict. The gist of the Secretary-General's report was the importance of using the full capacity of the United Nations. With the Department of Political Affairs as focal point, with the Secretary-General's good offices, effective system-wide coherence was vital, bringing in actors in human rights and political, economic, environmental and social development.

"To promote democracy, respect for human rights, protection of refugees and sustainable development worldwide must be part of a comprehensive preventive strategy," he said, adding: "We need to work both with the more short-term measures described as operational prevention and the long-term, so-called structural prevention, addressing sources of tension and root-causes of conflict." He said that the Secretary-General was also pointing out some crucial issues that the international community needed to address, such as natural resources, proliferation of small arms, HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation and migration. The Assembly President then went on to draw the link to the United Nations reform agenda, including the establishment this year of the Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council.

He also stressed that the full realization of the Millennium Development Goals and a committed approach to poverty reduction and sustainable development was a prerequisite for the maintenance of peace and security. He said that the World Summit Outcome had welcomed the establishment of the Democracy Fund, and he was pleased to see that that mechanism had now decided on financing its first projects. He drew particular attention to the Outcome's commitment to the "responsibility to protect", which had been a major achievement on which the international community must build. The most important part of that concept was the responsibility to prevent ethnic cleansing, mass killing and genocide and to supply States with the capacity to protect their own populations. Finally, he said that he hoped the Assembly would continue to play an active role in preventing armed conflicts, as set out in the Charter. "I sincerely hope that we can begin to spend more time on smoke detection rather than spending so much time on the house that has already burned down", he added.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General MARK MALLOCH BROWN read out a message by the Secretary-General in which he said that, in the first year of his tenure, the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly conflict had inspired all. Since then, the Secretariat had sought to build on the Commission's work. Reports on the subject had been submitted in 2001 and 2003. The current report's main finding was that "a culture of prevention was indeed beginning to take hold at the United Nations". He hoped that, with the help of Member States, his successor would be able to strengthen that vital aspect of the Organization's work.

In his own statement, Mr. Malloch Brown said that the most striking recommendation of the report came in the last paragraph, which was that, if 2 per cent of the peacekeeping budget was spent on prevention, there was a possibility to prevent one or more wars a year. Everyone agreed that prevention was better, but if prevention was so cheap, why were people so reluctant to invest in it? The answer was that the utility of any given prevention strategy was very difficult to prove. The need for it could always be questioned, until it had already failed. Wars that did not happen were not news.

However, there were some very persuasive examples of successful conflict prevention, including the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria, diffusion of a political crisis in Ecuador, and overcoming of tensions in Guyana. Sadly, however, it was much easier to cite cases where conflict was not prevented but should have been. Too often, vast sums of money had been spent to fight fires that, in hindsight, could have been easily been extinguished with timely preventive action. The disaster of Côte d'Ivoire could have been avoided if previous Ivorian Governments had received help and advice in integrating, rather than excluding, the workers of foreign origin. Prevention still remained an area of much promise but few answers, and the United Nations could play a role in finding them.


KIRSTI LINTONEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said a clear message of the Secretary-General's report was the progress the United Nations had made towards a culture of prevention. In order to further promote prevention of armed conflicts, Member States should focus resources to strengthen the preventive mechanisms of the Organization. Understanding the root causes of armed conflicts was the basis of conflict prevention. Sources of tension at the global level included the spread of small arms and light weapons, illegal narcotics, illicit trade in natural resources, lack of human rights, inequality and poverty. The link between security and development should be understood. Poverty was a root cause for insecurity and might lead to instability and conflict.

She said that, although international normative and institutional frameworks played a key role in prevention, establishing such instruments was not enough. They should be fully and effectively understood and implemented. The European Union strongly supported the work of the International Criminal Court and underlined the importance of ending impunity. Regional efforts to prevent conflicts should be emphasized, as regional organizations usually possessed strong interests in the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Each State had the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Bad governance, corruption and lack of rule of law were problems that could lead to instability and conflict. External actors could assist the States to mitigate those potentially destabilizing factors by conflict-sensitive development assistance and promotion of good governance and human rights. Government should find ways to cooperate with non-governmental organizations, academics, religious leaders and other representatives of civil society to thoroughly understand and tackle injustices. The United Nations organs should further explore ways to engage with civil society groups to facilitate conflict prevention and settlement.

In conclusion, she said preventing conflicts more effectively required better and more thorough understanding of the origins of conflict and addressing the root causes of tension. The challenge was to ensure that due importance, including in resource terms, was given to long-term conflict prevention activity rather than short-term crisis response. Cooperation and coherence of actions at all levels should be enhanced, from the global level to enhancing national capacities for peaceful resolution of conflicts and engaging civil society actors in order to promote conflict prevention and support peace.

MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said there was no doubt that the prevention of armed conflict was one of the Organization's most important duties and that it should receive due attention by the Secretary-General, as well as the General Assembly, within the boundaries set out in the Charter. To carry out this important duty, it was necessary to have broad agreement in the Assembly in order to characterize the Organization's preventive role, particularly by using preventive diplomacy.

The United Nations should also in this regard work to ensure respect for international law and ending foreign occupation. He was concerned that, while the report mentioned the illegal flow of small arms and exploitation of environmental resources, among others, it did not directly address foreign occupation. It was clear that the main reason behind conflicts in the Middle East had been the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, Shebaa Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights. That continued occupation had ultimately been behind the launching of the Arab League's initiative calling for a political track to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict within the United Nations, aiming to bring about a lasting peace in the shortest possible time.

He said the report addressed the absence of a clear strategy to prevent the use of nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons; and the failure of the 2005 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) review Conference, which needed further study and work, not only to minimize the chances of armed conflict but also to keep the NPT regime from collapsing. He also noted that the report did not highlight the role of the Assembly in dealing with disarmament issues.

In that regard, he called for a clearer understanding of the mandates of the Organization's major organs in the field of conflict prevention, particularly to end the Security Council's encroachment on the Assembly's mandate. That task would require differentiating between "prevention", "peaceful settlement", and the "enforcement measures" at the Council's disposal when all other measures were exhausted. It also required studying the value of the Council's debates on issues such as "women and armed conflict" or "children in armed conflict" when, at the same time, that body seemed incapable of reaching a decision to end hostile acts in Lebanon. Indeed, as a fully democratic organ, the Assembly should be able to deal with situations or conflicts when the Council failed to address them, for whatever reason. He added that certain responsibilities in this regard could also be assigned to the Secretary-General during the preventive diplomacy stage.

Among other things, he called on the Assembly to stop attempts to "mix up" the global initiative against terrorism and the peaceful settlement of disputes. He also called for the establishment of a new commission, similar to the new Peacebuilding Commission, called a "Commission on the Prevention of Armed Conflict". That panel would have a new mandate and should focus on coordinating with the Secretary-General on relevant issues and on enhancing the Assembly's powers to deal with differences before they escalated into conflict.

MARGARET HUGHES FERRARI (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) stressed the Charter's call for the pacific settlement of disputes and drew the Assembly's attention to what her delegation considered a "simmering dispute" between China and Taiwan. She highlighted a Chinese law, which she said threatened the peace and security of the 23 million peace-loving people of Taiwan. Indeed, China's "bellicose threats" and posturing bore watching. China was a permanent member of the Security Council and that country had a duty not to act in contravention of the spirit of the Organization and the tenets of the Charter.

She said that it was incumbent upon the membership of the United Nations to use creative thinking so that the Taiwan situation could be resolved in a peaceful way. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had the utmost respect for Chinese society, and it was her delegation's fervent hope that the situation could be brought to a conclusion quickly and peacefully to the lasting benefit of both parties, which would ensure peace and security in that region.

CARLOS OBANDO (Peru) said the use of a systemic approach was a reflection of the reality, in a context of growing globalization, that emphasized the influence of the international dimension in armed conflicts. Themes such as inequity, climate change, food security, migration, and terrorism implied high transnationality. Social and economic issues were often the main cause of conflicts, and those factors should get more attention. Those countries that had the lowest levels of human development were the ones most exposed to conflict.

He said that, together with peacekeeping operations, attention should be paid to reconstruction, elections and economic sustainability. The establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission had been a step in the right direction, but it was not enough. More aggressive mechanisms should be established that addressed such issues as external debt, trade tariffs, foreign investments, technology transfer and improvement of basic public services and infrastructure. Strengthening political institutions and addressing the trade in small weapons should also be considered.

The mechanisms of political dialogue, development of a strategy for education for peace, promotion of respect for law and human rights and reform of the security sector must be more efficient, he said. Also, early warning systems could guide the United Nations to a more farsighted and integral approach. It was imperative that a system of early warning caused an immediate response in the Organization in order to implement the scope of measures referred to in Chapter VI of the Charter. He proposed a United Nations database through which the United Nations, regional organizations, States, local governments and civil society could share with the international community their successful experiences in conflict prevention.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said his country, as a post-conflict country, was mindful of the importance of promoting a culture of peace. The reduction of risk and preventive attention were the best way of mitigating, if not avoiding, irreparable and irreversible damages. Ten years after the Peace Accords, Guatemalan society was still not completely reconciled. There was still a need for a more participatory and equitable society, for development opportunities for all, and for rebuilding the social fabric. To that end, the country had embarked on a complex process of acknowledging the responsibilities of all the parties, initiating reparation and retribution systems, and allowing for the elucidation of the truth of past occurrences.

He said the subject of conflict prevention must be approached from the perspective of fully safeguarding the rule of law, human rights and human responsibilities. In that regard, he underlined the importance of establishing dialogue mechanisms with all stakeholders, including civil society, religions and the private sector. Guatemala's experience with holding open dialogues had already resulted in rewards, such as the National Agreement for a Policy of Rural Development. Selection of a theme for those dialogues was essential.

He encouraged the Bureau for the Prevention of Crisis and Recovery of UNDP to continue its valuable work and stressed the importance of cooperation among the different components of the United Nations system. Guatemala and other countries had greatly benefited from a joint programme of the UNDP and the Department of Political Affairs entitled "Building National Capacity for Conflict Prevention".

CRISPIN GREY-JOHNSON (Gambia) said his delegation supported the view that it was the United Nations responsibility to intervene to prevent the eruption of conflicts, regardless of whether they were within or between States. In many parts of Africa, the conditions of poverty and deprivation were so dire as to constitute obvious triggers of violent civil unrest. Negligent, unresponsive Governments for whom the development account was marginal on their scale of priorities should be confronted in the same manner as those that openly threatened their neighbours militarily. Indeed, development policies -- or the lack thereof -- that had the potential to provoke violent upheavals were as dangerous to global peace as were policies that amounted to war-mongering.

He went on to stress the need for the United Nations to enhance its capacity to engage Governments seen as unresponsive to the development needs of their people, or whose policies led to impoverishment and destitution. Among other things, he emphasized that creating employment opportunities for Africa's youth was a very urgent conflict prevention requirement. Overall, he noted the tremendous monetary constraints that were hampering the Secretariat from doing more in the field of conflict prevention.

The Gambia, therefore, strongly supported the Secretary-General's recommendation that 2 per cent of the annual peacekeeping budget be allotted to prevention activities, on a predictable and secure basis. Finally, he drew the Assembly's attention to the security situation across the Taiwan Strait -- a "very serious omission" in the report. He strongly urged the Secretary-General to begin the process of mediation between China and Taiwan and to report to the Assembly on the matter during its upcoming session.

ANDREAS BAUM (Switzerland) said it was encouraging to note the improvement of United Nations expertise in the various areas of conflict prevention. However, the review of the United Nations system capacity for conflict prevention showed that the various initiatives undertaken could be coordinated even better. A look at all the ongoing conflicts also showed that international efforts to prevent conflict, as well as the United Nations capacity in that field, must be reinforced. Discussions to date had focused too much on stopping hostilities and had placed too little emphasis on the internal and external factors that caused the outbreak of a conflict. Apart from the human suffering and the social, economic and environmental consequences of conflicts, it was recognized that investment in prevention was generally effective and beneficial.

He said it was important for the upcoming debate in the next session that civil society would participate fully. The role and responsibilities in the field of conflict prevention of social representatives such as non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academia and media, should not be underestimated.

ENELE S. SOPOAGA (Tuvalu) said it must be acknowledged that, since its founding, the United Nations had successfully prevented and resolved several deadly conflicts in the world. Despite those achievements, the current and looming tensions in East Asia, in particular fuelled by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Korean Peninsula and the threat of the use of force in the Taiwan Strait, were a threat to the stability and security of the region and the world as a whole. The swift action of the Security Council over the ballistic missile tests in the Korean Peninsula must serve as an example of how the international community should act in the advent of threats to international peace and security.

Likewise, the United Nations must pay particular attention to the ongoing dispute involving China and Taiwan, he said, drawing attention to the deployment of 800 ballistic missiles in China aimed at Taiwan and the enactment of the so-called "Anti-Secession Law". Those acts of intimidation against Taiwan were against the provisions of the United Nations Charter on dispute settlement. They also contradicted international commitments on peace and security. The United Nations must step in and ensure peaceful dialogue.

BEATRIX KANIA (Germany) said the international community continued to face numerous challenges, which made armed conflict prevention more important than ever. This required a comprehensive approach, and the United Nations must play a key role in developing that idea further. Germany believed in addressing the root causes of conflict, as well as in making violence a less reasonable option in situations of tension. That responsibility lay first with all individual States, which needed to strengthen their capacities for addressing structural risk factors. National dialogue and consensus-building were important in that regard. But States should not be alone in that endeavour; external support, including from the United Nations, should be made available in such areas as democracy-building, elections and constitutional capacity-building.

She went on to say that implementing the Millennium Development Goals would contribute to reducing overall tensions in many developing countries that were vulnerable to conflict. Implementation of a stronger international normative and institutional framework would also help. She added that Germany had supported the 2005 international conference on the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, which had brought together representatives of civil society from more than 100 countries. Indeed, civil society had an important role to play in conflict prevention, and Germany supported the Secretary-General's call for intensifying the international community's dialogue with civil society groups.

COLLIN BECK (Solomon Islands) said the United Nations must strengthen its resolve in the area of conflict prevention. To that end, the international community must recognize that the world was divided into "haves and have-nots" and that the primary causes of conflict were development-related. Indeed, it was the countries on the periphery of the international system, particularly the least developed countries, that were most vulnerable to security threats. Those countries continued to face obstacles that hampered their full participation in the globalized world.

Indeed, good governance, adequate heath care and education all cost money, and, while the primary responsibility rested with sovereign States, such States could only help themselves if there was a concerted global effort to create a fair, just economic system. Here, he regretted the recent suspension of the Doha trade round, which would only perpetuate the structural divide between the North and South. He was also among the delegations that drew the Assembly's attention to the situation on the Taiwan Strait, which had increased tensions in the East Asian region.

CHEM WIDHYA (Cambodia) said that a general analysis of the sources of conflicts, though not comprehensive in nature, provided better insight concerning efforts by Member States to work more effectively with relevant United Nations agencies in the field. As a country that had emerged from a long period of conflict, Cambodia extended its deep gratitude to the international community and the United Nations organizations for their generous assistance.

He said there had been a gap between rhetoric and realities. Admittedly, the United Nations' performance had not been satisfactory to Member States in averting armed conflicts.

AMINU B. WALI (Nigeria) said the report showed clearly what must be done at national, regional and international levels to address the challenges of peace and security. At the national level, there was now more than ever a need to embrace the principles of transparency and inclusiveness in governance. The goal of eliminating poverty by providing gainful employment to youth should remain the anchor of national action. The scourge of pandemic diseases must be overcome, and there was a need to bring an early end to the existing armed conflicts that destabilized meaningful development.

He said the African Union and subregional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had taken various initiatives to resolve current conflicts and prevent the outbreak of new ones, including through the African Peace and Security Council and comparable subregional mechanisms. Poverty had generally served as the canon fodder upon which most armed conflicts fed. The international community must show commitment in addressing the wishes of developing countries on the issue of trade imbalances and youth unemployment. Infectious diseases had proved to be a serious threat to the survival of most African economies. Sustained coordinated effort between national Governments, the United Nations system and civil society would be invaluable in that regard.

The proliferation of small arms and light weapons now represented a veritable scourge in Africa, he continued. Past failures in reaching decisions should not discourage the international community from rising to the challenges posed by that threat. Also, as the example of Nigeria and Cameroon had demonstrated, the resolution of border disputes in an amicable manner could strengthen amity between nations and create a conducive atmosphere for stability and development. The success of the latest diplomatic shuttle of the Secretary-General to the Middle East attested to the premium the Organization should put on preventive measures.

ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY (Indonesia) said, while the overall trend in the number of armed conflicts worldwide might have receded, global upheavals and uncertainty were on the rise. "It was the best of times for some, but it is the worst of times for others", she said. The recent tragedy of Lebanon, and the agonizing delay in the Security Council on reaching agreement to end the hostilities -- at the expense of innocent civilians -- once more reminded everyone that it was imperative to strengthen global norms that could bring about a real culture of respect for human life, mutual respect and equality.

She said that Indonesia believed that multilateralism should be at the heart of all efforts to prevent armed conflicts at the intra-State level. Mutually beneficial and international partnerships could have a significant impact on the peaceful resolution of difficult political and socio-economic problems. The Charter and the principles of international law should be the guides in that regard. Further, the United Nations should be the main forum for addressing the issue. To that end, therefore, the role of the Organization's office needed to be strengthened, including with effective and timely interventions to seek peaceful ways out of confrontational situations. It was the primary responsibility of States to adopt the plans and strategies they saw as most effective to ensure that peace prevailed in their countries. The United Nations, along with other international agencies, should support those efforts through capacity-building.

EDUARDO J. SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua) said the report filled an important need in that it highlighted the importance of the Charter and of the United Nations in the field of maintaining international peace and security. It was incumbent upon the Organization, particularly the Security Council, to prevent conflict and end simmering tensions, particularly in Africa. The United Nations also had a duty to build up institutions on the ground to address tensions and instil a sense of security in conflict prone areas, as well as to promote an international framework for peaceful coexistence among all States. He also supported the recommendation to refer cases to the International Court of Justice to address long-standing issues between States.

He noted that the report did not note the efforts made in the Inter-American region, through the Organization of American States and other regional entities to deal with a primary security concern -- illicit drug trafficking. The report also failed to highlight the role of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in promoting the culture or peace. Finally, he drew the Assembly's attention to the situation on the Taiwan Strait, which he noted was not on the Security Council's agenda but which needed to be addressed urgently. The international community must address the fact that one of the countries in that region -- a member of the Security Council -- had countless nuclear weapons trained on another.

TOSHIRO OZAWA (Japan) said his Government had long advocated the need for a comprehensive approach to prevent conflict, incorporating political, economical, social and humanitarian measures. It considered the concept of conflict prevention as an important measure to achieve human security and had, therefore, adopted it as key element in its foreign and official development assistance (ODA) policies. An important element of his country's approach was its commitment towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals. It had pledged to double ODA to Africa over the next three years and would increase the ODA volume in the next five years by $10 billion over the 2004 level. It had also provided assistance for consolidation of peace and nation-building in the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka and a number of African countries.

He said the United Nations, as the only truly universal international organization, played a crucially important role by enacting operational measures for preventing the escalation of conflict. However, the mediation capacity of the Organization needed to be strengthened through establishment of the Mediation Support Unit. The United Nations and relevant regional organizations should act in a complementary manner, of which the negotiation of the Darfur Peace Agreement had been a good example. The Security Council could complement regional efforts through the dispatch of Council missions, the imposition of sanctions and other measures.

About half of all armed conflicts relapsed into violent conflict within five years of a peace agreement, he said. More must be done to prevent the recurrence of conflict. The establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission provided some hope in that regard. It could benefit from first-hand knowledge provided by field missions, regional organizations, donor communities and non-governmental organizations. That information on what was happening on the ground, together with national plans based on ownership, would form the basis for identifying the appropriate measures for achieving the sustainable consolidation of peace.

JEAN-FRANCIS R. ZINSOU (Benin) said the culture of prevention was an inherent part of the United Nations. The Secretary-General's report offered a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, and the preventive measures were based on a systemic, structural and operational approach. The analysis had also proposed a series of measures to develop synergies to mobilize commitments. Initiatives taken to enhance the social responsibility of companies in reducing the risks of conflicts had provided good responses, among other things regarding the illicit exploitation of resources.

He said the establishment of an office to centralize knowledge achieved in the prevention of conflict and lessons learned was an excellent idea. It should become operational as soon as possible, as it had a crucial role to play in designing integrated strategies in prevention of conflicts. Enhancing the functions of the Secretary-General in implementing preventive measures required increasing the Secretariat's capacity for analysis. One should also capitalize on the regional and subregional early warning mechanisms, which meant strengthening United Nations regional offices.

It was important to create a more regular framework for the promotion of dialogue on prevention, he said. The Group of Friends on Conflict Prevention should be made official. Dialogue should be extended to all actors involved in United Nations system. Sufficient financial resources were also crucial. He fully supported the proposal to earmark 2 per cent of the peacekeeping budget of prevention.

LI JUNHUA (China) said that his delegation welcomed the Secretary-General's report on the prevention of armed conflict but agreed with the Assembly President that Member States needed more time to study the report, and urged the Assembly to further consider the question of the prevention of armed conflict at its next session. Unfortunately, a small number of States had seen fit to draw attention to the situation on the Taiwan Strait.

China wondered if those delegations had done so at the instigation of others, or for other reasons, he said. China would reiterate nevertheless that there was only one China in the world and that the Taiwan question was an internal matter that had no bearing on today's discussion. To those who would mention certain Articles of the Charter, China would draw attention to the overriding Charter obligation to respect the sovereignty and integrity of States. Raising the question of the Taiwan Strait today was, therefore, inappropriate and unjustified.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, commended the report's recognition of a third sphere of prevention, namely "systematic prevention", which would allow for the adoption of measures to address cases of conflict which transcended particular States. He also welcomed the recognition of the important role of faith-based organizations, and of religious leaders in particular, as agents of change and peaceful coexistence. The Holy See would reiterate that its institutions throughout the world were constantly promoting a culture of peace and understanding, as well as fostering post-conflict healing and reconciliation.


Without a vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution on conflict prevention contained in document A/60/L.61.

Situation in Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) introduced a draft resolution contained in document A/60/L.60/Rev.2. He said that, early in June, Azerbaijan had registered massive fires in the eastern part of the occupied territories, particularly in the mountainous and plain areas of the districts of Aghdam and Khojavend. Satellite imagery fully confirmed initial observations and estimates. At the time, the fire-affected areas had reached more than 130 square kilometres. In July, the fires had spread to the districts of Fuzuli, Jabrayil and Terter.

He said the Government had officially requested the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a fact-finding mission to assess the damage inflicted upon the environment. The mission had stressed the lack of proper fire-fighting equipment on both sides and insufficiency of water supply, as well as the need for international assistance. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground had been deteriorating severely. In August, the fire had damaged more than 600 square kilometres. The fires had been taking place in those territories where the Azerbaijani population should eventually return.

What was urgently needed now was to take comprehensive measures to suppress the fires, eliminate the impact of that environmental disaster and rehabilitate the fire-affected territories of Azerbaijan. His Government had demonstrated a constructive and flexible approach by drastically revising the original text focusing on purely humanitarian and environmental aspects. For the past few days, intensive consultations had been conducted. In the spirit of compromise, the delegation of Azerbaijan had accommodated every concern in an agreed consensual text as contained in document A/60/L.60/Rev.2.

He said the draft welcomed the readiness of the parties to cooperate in the environmental operation to be urgently conducted, with the assistance of the international community, and considered such an operation to be an important confidence-building measure. Azerbaijan was ready to cooperate with Armenia on that matter, particularly in creating proper conditions for the operation. Such action would enable the operation to become a significant confidence-building measure.

ALEJANDRO D. WOLFF (United States) speaking on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs (Russian Federation, France and the United States), said the Group remained committed to promoting a peaceful, negotiated resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and took seriously the concerns raised by either side regarding threats to security and stability in the region, as well as any developments that posed new obstacles to the negotiation process.

After examining information regarding the fires, the Group noted that such fires -- both natural and manmade -- occurred frequently in the region. Whether the more extensive fires this year were a cause for ecological concern requiring international attention was a question that could only be answered through a technical examination of the situation. Therefore, the Group Chairs would immediately lend their assistance to the setting up of an OSCE mission, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to the area. In the meantime, the Group commended the spirit of goodwill demonstrated by both Armenia and Azerbaijan and expressed hope that the agreement reached today reflected a new readiness by both sides to engage in further measures to build confidence that would advance the negotiations process.

ARMEN MARTIROSYAN (Armenia) said the draft resolution addressed an issue that he had thought had been brought to a close, two weeks ago, through discussions with the OSCE and the Minsk Group. A decision had been taken to send a mission of experts under the OSCE to assess the fires. The authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh had already accepted the proposal; Armenia was ready to facilitate such a mission; and he understood that Azerbaijan had also agreed. It was a surprise to see a draft resolution circulating at the United Nations on the same issue. Such a step was clearly intended to pursue other political ends, something which Armenia opposed.

However, as a result of consultations with the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, agreement had been reached on a text that simply reiterated support for the OSCE mission. Although his delegation supported the content of the agreement, he continued to be opposed to the general idea of the agenda item and a United Nations resolution under it. That was the reason Armenia dissociated itself from the consensus on that resolution.

After the adoption of the text, VALERIY P. KUCHINSKY (Ukraine), speaking on behalf of the GUAM States (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine), said his delegation was seriously concerned with the massive fires in the eastern part of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Those fires had already severely damaged the environment and biodiversity in the region. In addition to the immediate consequences, it was clear that the fires and their aftermath would have long-term impact on the health of the population.

He said that the draft resolution placed special emphasis on the humanitarian and ecological urgency of the operation to fight the fires and to overcome their detrimental consequences, and the GUAM considered it a matter of utmost priority to conduct an environmental operation and welcomed the consensus adoption of the draft.

ASIM AHMAD (Pakistan) said his Government's position, expressed through the position of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, was well known. His delegation supported the thrust of the draft under discussion, particularly its humanitarian aspects. Pakistan commended the spirit of cooperation among the parties and would recommend the consensus adoption of the text.

BAKI İLKIN (Turkey) supported a just resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh situation on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and the principle of good neighbourly relations. Turkey also supported the efforts of the Minsk Group to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Ending that conflict would add to peace and security of the whole region. To address the environmental impact of the wide-scale fires, the parties would need the assistance of the United Nations, particularly the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as cooperation between the parties. Such cooperation between the parties would go a long way to ensure peace and security in the region.


Without a vote, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution as contained in document A/60/L.60/Rev.2.

After adoption, Mr. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan), expressing appreciation for everyone's support for the draft, said that, as a result of efforts in New York and the capitals of both parties, the delegations of Azerbaijan and Armenia had come up with an agreed text for the first time. It was, therefore, astonishing that Armenia had dissociated itself from the agreed text which had been negotiated in difficult but ultimately productive consultations during the last 48 hours. At a minimum, the text was honest and appropriate. The resolution opened a unique opportunity to work on real confidence-building measures and trust. It was for the sake of Armenia that it fulfilled its declared readiness to actively participate in the environmental operation and fulfilled all other obligations emanating from the just adopted resolution.

Mr. MARTIROSYAN (Armenia) also thanked all for supporting the resolution. He said Armenia had been consistent in its policies regarding the text. It had voted against inclusion of the item on the agenda of the fifty-ninth session. It had withdrawn from consensus on inclusion in the sixtieth session's agenda. He emphasized that, despite the fact that he supported the content, he had serious problems with the title and remained opposed to the idea of bringing any Nagorno-Karabakh issue to the United Nations. That was the reason Armenia had  dissociated itself from consensus. He thanked Azerbaijan's representative for his concern for the problems of Armenia.

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