28 September 2006

General Assembly Debate Ends on Sombre Note, as Leaders Appeal To United Nations to Put Post-Conflict Societies on Sustainable Path to Peace, Democracy

Pressing Global Issues Dominate Debate:  Funding for Development, Revitalizing UN General Assembly, Conflict Prevention, Quest for Peace in Middle East, Darfur

NEW YORK, 27 September (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly wrapped up its sixty-first annual debate on a sombre note today, with senior Government officials appealing for increased vigilance and United Nations support to help stabilize and rebuild societies transitioning from conflict, civil strife and political change, so they could reach a sustainable path towards peace and democracy.

While the representative of Thailand assured the Assembly that his country would emerge from the aftermath of last week's military intervention a "stronger and more vibrant democracy", senior ministers from Timor-Leste and Côte d'Ivoire, as well the representative of Haiti, said that, in order to ensure democratic gains in the wake of resurgent violence and ongoing tensions, they would need help from the United Nations in such areas as disarming previously warring parties, monitoring elections and reforming or strengthening Government institutions.

"We have to build trust and common interest and achieve tangible results that will make a difference to the lives of millions of people around the world", Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed al Khalifa of Bahrain said in her closing remarks to the two-week general debate, which this year heard statements from 191 of the 192 United Nations Member States, and featured the participation of two Observer delegations and 74 Heads of State and Government.

Timor-Leste's Foreign Minster José Luis Guterres said his country had recently relapsed into violence because of institutional failures in its defence and police forces, high unemployment levels and poor political decisions by its leaders.  The violence had led to the internal displacement of nearly 150,000 people and nearly 100 deaths, prompting the Government to ask for international help.  He welcomed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's creation of an international commission of inquiry to study the events surrounding the crisis and allegations of human rights abuses, as well as the Security Council's decision to expand the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

He said that his Government was aware that reconciliation and justice must mesh with development, and it had increased the fiscal budget for the year by some 122 per cent, with a focus on job creation in towns, as well as rural areas, where most people lived.  The Government was determined to foster the stability and peace needed to develop the country and improve people's living conditions.  Timor-Leste needed the support of the United Nations to organize and supervise the nation's first upcoming legislative and presidential elections.  Free, transparent and fair elections would pave the way for a stable political and social environment.

Reporting on the socio-political developments in Côte d'Ivoire, Youssouf Bakayoko, Minister for Foreign Affairs said that the peace and reconciliation process had continued apace since the formation of Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny's Government last December.  That had followed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1633 (2005), which had, among other things, demanded that the Forces Nouvelles armed opposition and all militias proceed without delay with the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme so as to help restore State authority throughout the national territory, reunify the country and allow the organization of the postponed elections as soon as possible.

But, while significant progress had been achieved, much nevertheless remained to be done.  "The future of the West African region and beyond is at stake and our confidence in the United Nations and the international community remains complete", he said.  He thanked the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and friendly States for their help.  They were invited to continue their support of the Ivorian Government and its people in their quest for a definitive solution to a crisis unprecedented in the country's history.

Haiti's representative said the country's February election had been fair and democratic, and he looked forward to the municipal and territorial elections at the end of the year.  The new Government of René Préval had embarked on a long-term plan for rebuilding the country, requiring support from the international community to rebuild the country's infrastructure.  The lack of security, however, was fertile ground for destabilizing elements, which exploited the sub-human living conditions of the poor by arming them and causing death and destruction.  He added that the Government's top priorities were to broaden the national dialogue and demonstrate a new "toughness" to eliminate the banditry and gang activity.

While he detailed Haiti's efforts to provide speedy relief to the poor and thereby eliminate a source of gang recruitment, he called for increased support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, even if Haiti was not a textbook case.  He welcomed the international community's support, particularly donations of police and military personnel to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  The Security Council's recent renewal of the Mission's mandate had been welcome, and he hoped the staff would work with police and Government authorities to make changes to the Mission based on the priorities of the moment.

" Thailand is going through critical times -- a transition after a military intervention -- and a necessary reform process that will strengthen democracy in form and content", its representative said.  A new civilian Government would be put in place in the coming days, and one of its first tasks would be to eliminate martial law.  Grateful that last week's events had been peaceful and that "the situation has returned to normal within hours", he assured the Assembly.  An interim Constitution would be promulgated in the coming days, which would again place the military under the Constitution.

The new Constitution would provide full guarantees for civil liberties and rights under the supervision of the National Human Rights Commission, she said, adding that constitutional reform would lead to a new Constitution and general elections within one year, if not sooner. The Thai people hoped that the reform would produce more effective independent organizations, which could monitor the work of the Government's executive branch.  He assured the General Assembly that Thailand's foreign policy would remain unchanged and be guided by the principles in the Charter.   Thailand would also maintain its obligations under international treaties and agreements, including trade pacts.

Assembly President Sheikha Haya said that the annual session had provided an opportunity for world leaders to meet and exchange views on the most pressing global issues and challenges.  "While there may not be agreement on all the matters on our agenda, we share a common belief in the merit of dialogue and international cooperation."  Many delegations had introduced the theme of international development into their statements, along with ideas for creative funding for development, including from the private sector.  Delegates had also called for the United Nations to take a more proactive role in the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts, ethnic cleansing, mass killings and genocide, and underlined the importance of reaching lasting solutions in the Middle East and Darfur.

She said that many statements sought a continued United Nations role in fighting terrorism, and welcomed the adoption of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  They had also reiterated the call for the reform of the Security Council, progress on Secretariat management reform, including mandate review, the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly's revitalization.  It was made clear that efforts needed to be redoubled to generate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  It remained a central concern to eradicate extreme poverty, particularly in the light of the reversed trends in Africa.

Also speaking today were the Foreign Ministers of the Czech Republic, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The Minister of Defence of India also participated in the debate, as did the Minister for Legal Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament of the Marshall Islands.

The Assembly also heard statements from the representatives of Cape Verde, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Monaco, Tonga, Seychelles, Tuvalu, Swaziland, Ethiopia and Cameroon.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State spoke for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Cuba, Sudan, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic.

The Assembly will reconvene on Monday, 2, October, at 10 a.m., to take up the Secretary-General's report on the work of the Organization.


The General Assembly met today to continue the general debate of its sixty-first session.  For more background details, see Press Release GA/10500 of 19 September.


ALEXANDR VONDRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, stated his country's full support for Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia, as Eastern Europe's candidate for the next Secretary-General, noting that no one from the region had ever held the post and the time had come to seriously consider that option.  The Czech Republic also welcomed Montenegro as the newest member of the United Nations and associated itself with the European Union statement.

He said that, while everyone wanted the world to be a safer place, there seemed to be an absence of security.  Above all, there was the ominous threat of terrorism, often fed by Islamist extremists, and it was imperative to keep adapting to that threat.  The Millennium Summit in 2000 and the 2005 World Summit had helped by balancing security, development and human rights concerns but there was a lack of collective will to implement designed measures and actions.  The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy must be a real tool for those who are fighting terrorism in the field.

There was a spirit of hope that the new Peacebuilding Commission would generate the political will and the means to help countries emerging from conflict, he said.  The Czech Republic stood ready to assume its duties on the Commission from January 2007.  Peacebuilding must maintain strong ties with peacekeeping but, even with more "blue helmets", there would still be room for regional organizations to help the United Nations in maintaining peace and security.  It was unfortunate that the World Summit had failed to find common language on disarmament and non-proliferation.  The Czech Republic welcomed the Security Council's growing engagement regarding possible proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, resolution 1540 being a major step forward.  Both the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Iran must comply fully with nuclear non-proliferation regimes and abandon any ambitions beyond peaceful uses of nuclear power.

He said his country attached great importance to development cooperation and the Millennium Development Goals, and had steadily increased its development assistance, which stood at 0.11 per cent of gross national income in 2005.  The Czech Republic had been one of the first contributors to the United Nations Democracy Fund and felt that development aid was more effective when matched with stability, rule of law, democratic structures, corruption-fighting and respect for human rights.  The country had worked hard with others to make the Human Rights Council a beacon of hope for millions living under oppression.  Regimes that breached human rights must be confronted, and it was a sad irony that Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest in Myanmar, 15 years after having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, while Cuba had been jailing and harassing members of the peaceful democratic opposition as alleged enemies of the State.  A voice of solidarity must also be raised after the sentencing to prison of Alexsandr Kozulin in Belarus for alleged incitement to disorder.

Regarding United Nations reform, he said even sceptics could not deny that the Organization today was profoundly different from what it had been 10 years ago.  If reform of its management was successful, the Organization would be stronger, leaner, less bureaucratic and more operational.  The Czech Republic was ready to fulfil all its obligations as a Member State, including by increasing its share of the United Nations budget and its contributions to peacekeeping.  Those contributions, together with its increased humanitarian aid and engagement in peace and security around the world, qualified the country as a strong candidate for an elected Security Council seat in 2008-2009.

TIMOTHY HARRIS, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Industry and Commerce of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said human development and human rights had not always run in parallel on the United Nations agenda.  When the focus shifted from one to the other, the resources also shifted with an adverse effect on the one from which they had been withdrawn.  A strategy linking the two was needed to ensure that all peoples were nurtured holistically.  The right to development should be included in the broader theme of human rights with regard to the Human Rights Council.  The global partnership should ensure that development and rights ran in tandem and complemented each other, the only way true global partnerships could occur.

A few months ago, he recalled, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had formally established the CARICOM Single Market and Economy mechanism for a regional approach to partnership for development with rights of citizens and development of people at the forefront.  There had been growing pains that the Governments tried to minimize.  Saint Kitts, for example, had made the painful decision to close its 360-year-old sugar industry, but partnerships within CARICOM had helped ease the pain and prepared the country for the single market in a kind of partnership to be developed on a global scale, so that the human rights and development of every State were taken into consideration and addressed.

Calling for acknowledgement of the human rights of the Republic of China ( Taiwan) as a democratic country, he also singled out Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for special mention regarding efforts made to overcome instability and uncertainty through the democratic process.  Further, the renewed commitment to a global partnership on development, security and human rights that world leaders had made at the 2005 World Summit had been solidified since then by the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.  Yet, while dialogue had also continued on United Nations reform, progress seemed at an impasse and greater concerted effort was needed to build consensus and move the process along.  "Our diversity", he said, "must not continue to produce adversity."

He said the International Conference on Migration and Development and the midterm review of the Brussels Programme of Action on the Least Developed Countries had been a good start to the present Assembly session on partnerships for development.  In addition to all the challenges that small island developing States faced, a notable factor was that developing countries were still locked out of the decision-making processes of global financial institutions whose policies often undermined and circumscribed development.  A true partnership translated into consideration for every State, big or small, and the issues critical to them.  Financing for development was still a major concern for all developing countries, but issues of international peace and security affected all.

PRANAB MUKHERJEE, Minister for Defence of India, said that, despite recent successes in peacebuilding, human rights and counter-terrorism, the United Nations faced a number of unfulfilled but significant tasks including reform of various multilateral bodies that oversaw security, trade, financial flows and development.  Failing to complete those reforms would only fuel the discontent around the world over the impact of globalization, but also make it impossible for many nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Private sector investment could not replace aid and development assistance in countries with limited capacities and weak physical and social infrastructure.  Official development assistance (ODA) remained an important means to augment public investment in human development and rural infrastructure, and developed nations were urged to set aside 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for it.  There was also a need to introduce debt cancellation programmes without conditions such as mandatory privatization, which, when applied indiscriminately, often recreated the original difficulties that had led to indebtedness in the first place.

He said the impasse in international trade negotiations was disappointing, especially after hopes had been raised following the Hong Kong ministerial meeting and the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit in St. Petersburg in July.  India urged an early resumption of those negotiations.  When the World Trade Organization had been created, developing countries had been promised a phasing out of agricultural subsidies as well as a number of other steps that were essential to the promotion of rural development, including tariff reductions and the application of development instruments included in the special products and special safeguard mechanism.  The Government of India approved of giving the United Nations a role in providing direction to the comprehensive reform of the international financial and trading systems, which must reflect the realities of the twenty-first century and support national efforts to eradicate poverty.

The Outcome document of the 2005 World Summit emphasized the need to have the voice and participation of developing countries in the Bretton Woods institutions, he said, adding that their participation in the quota structure was long overdue and necessary to upholding the legitimacy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The Assembly should encourage a second round of discussions on IMF quota reforms, which would begin to include underrepresented countries.

On Security Council reform, he said that organ could no longer be regarded as reflecting the changed international environment that had emerged since its creation.  The Council's diversion of its attention to issues other than peace and security encroached on the roles mandated to other United Nations bodies.  It urged a comprehensive reform of the Council and an expansion of its permanent and non-permanent membership categories, which would also help revitalize the General Assembly.

He said that a strong response to terrorism required broad-based international cooperation as well as sustained and specific cooperation by a variety of national, regional and global agencies.  India had adopted the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, but would have liked a tougher message from the United Nations.  Nations must collectively and unanimously reject the notion that any cause could justify terrorism, and the international community must signal that it would not tolerate the actions of its sponsors and abettors or of those who failed to prevent terrorists from using their territories.  The Assembly must work to adopt the comprehensive convention against international terrorism, a work in progress that would provide a better legal framework to fight the phenomenon.  India also urged universal nuclear disarmament and would be presenting a working paper on that issue during the current session.

JUSTIN L. SIMON, Attorney-General and Minister for Legal Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, joined other delegations in underscoring the importance of social and economic development, basic human rights and their importance to the maintenance of international peace and security, and mutual respect and lasting goodwill among nations.  Slavery was perhaps one of today's most under-recognized crimes against humanity despite devastating evidence of the displacement and brutality that the phenomenon evinced.  So, as 2007 marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the 14-nation Caribbean Community -- whose people were primarily of African descent -- was committed to bringing worldwide attention to that commemoration and looked forward to broad support for its soon-to-be-tabled resolution on the subject.

He went on to say that in November, his country would celebrate 25 years of independence and, looking back on the Government's efforts to maintain a decent standard of living for the islands' people, a mixed picture was emerging.  Successes were interspersed with failures, and hopes offset by frustrations.  The reality was that Antigua and Barbuda was a politically independent, small island nation with limited resources, existing in an economically interdependent yet fiercely competitive world.  While proud of the strides it had made towards freedom and democracy since emerging from colonial domination, and in order to survive and grow, the nation required multilateral assistance and real international partnerships.  With that in mind, the Government supported any organizational reform that would boost the capacities of young developing nations to achieve the ambitious, globally agreed development agenda within a multilateral framework.  The United Nations should, therefore, be more democratically representative and reflective of modern-day geopolitical realities, and more timely and effective in delivering on the outcomes of its many international agreements, especially the Millennium Development Goals.

Revitalization of the Organization's various development-centred programmes should focus on ways to mitigate the unique vulnerabilities of some States, he said.  Indeed for countries whose entire GDP could be wiped out by a single natural disaster, or whose economic prospects could be undercut by the actions of outside countries or forces, vulnerability was the greatest insecurity.  Moreover, with the increasing occurrence of monsoonal flooding in the Asian region, drought in sub-Saharan Africa and devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean subregion, Antigua and Barbuda would call for a review of existing international disaster-relief funds, as well as a general increase in their availability.

YOUSSOUF BAKAYOKO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of C ôte d'Ivoire, said it was the remit of the United Nations to forge a global response to the world's problems.  Recent events, notably those in the Middle East, however, called into question the commitments made in the Millennium Declaration.  Those events had divided the international community and raised questions about the effectiveness of the United Nations.  It was urgent, therefore, for the General Assembly to reflect deeply on the future of multilateralism, a concept that had to reflect a broad consensus in finding ways to address the main threats to peace and security.  In the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001, the United Nations had demonstrated its ability to act, by putting in place a collective mechanism to fight terrorism.  With regard to weapons of mass destruction, as in the case of light weapons, it was necessary to reinforce and complement existing international legislation.  The United Nations must take the necessary steps to halt proliferation.  It should also take unequivocal measures to spell out the consequences if a State did not respect that legislation.

He said that terrorism was a global threat from which no one was sheltered.  If universal condemnation of terrorism was to remain firm and unbending, the fight against it had to unfold in the context of strict respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.  Regarding conflict prevention, more resources should be directed to programmes and projects aimed at preventing conflict.  A mechanism should be put into place in countries at risk of conflict, aimed at reinforcing international cooperation; history had shown that disagreements, however mild, if not addressed in time, could lead to conflicts that were difficult to resolve.  Putting into place a conflict prevention policy must be a major priority for the United Nations.

The current make-up of the Security Council, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, was "a prisoner of the past", which did not reflect the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century, he said.  Developing countries, particularly those in Africa, had yet to find their place.  So long as that issue was left unresolved, the Council's decisions would be seen as primarily reflecting the interests of those States, which benefited the most from its current composition.  Member States, in particular the five permanent members of the Council, should show a spirit of initiative and openness regarding the issue, which had been on the United Nations agenda for more than a decade.

Reporting on developments in Cote d'Ivoire, he said that, since the formation of Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny's Government in December 2005, following the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1633 (2005), the process of peace and reconciliation had continued.  Much remained to be done, however.  Cote d'Ivoire thanked the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and friendly States for their help.  They were invited to continue their support of the Ivorian Government and its people in their quest for a definitive solution to a crisis unprecedented in the country's history.  Concluding his address, he said: "The United Nations remains useful, even today.  It can be stronger in the future -- if we wish it."

JOSÉ LUIS GUTERRES, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste, said his country had experienced a relapse into violence because of institutional failures in its defence and police forces, high unemployment levels and poor political decisions by its leaders.  The violence had led to the internal displacement of nearly 150,000 people and nearly 100 deaths, which had prompted the country's leaders to ask for international help.  Timor-Leste welcomed the creation of the international commission of inquiry by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to study the events surrounding the crisis and allegations of human rights abuses.  It also commended the Security Council for creating the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) pursuant to resolution 1704 (2006) and thanked all United Nations and other international agencies for their help.

He said the Government was aware that reconciliation and justice must mesh with development.  As a result, the fiscal year budget had been increased by 122 per cent with a focus on job creation in towns, as well as rural areas, where most people lived.  The Government was determined to foster the stability and peace needed to develop the country and improve people's living conditions.  Timor-Leste needed the support of the United Nations to organize and supervise the nation's upcoming first legislative and presidential elections.  Free, transparent and fair elections would pave the way for a stable political and social environment.

Turning to security in other parts of the world, he said the international community should support the forces of peace and moderation in Palestine and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, while engaging the elected Palestinian Government.  The goal should be to find ways to guarantee a free and democratic Palestine living side-by-side with the State of Israel.  Timor-Leste hoped the arrival of the United Nations forces in Lebanon would protect the country's sovereignty and its territorial integrity.  Also, the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan required the sustained attention of the international community to foster peace and stability.  And in Western Sahara, a dialogue between the Government of Morocco and leaders of the POLISARIO Front would help leaders reach a solution in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.

And on economic issues, he noted that one of the initiatives taken since 2002 to increase the financial resources of developing countries was the Millennium Challenge Account.  Timor-Leste had been selected as a threshold country this year and was working with Millennium Challenge Corporation members to benefit from grant funds.  As a least developed country and member of the "Group of 77", Timor-Leste believed that developed countries' allocation of 0.7 per cent of their GDP to ODA was crucial to the South's development and stability.

RUBEN ZACKHRAS, Vice-Speaker of the Marshall Islands, said his country was very concerned about the state of the world's oceans and fish stocks and how those vital resources were being exploited.  The country continued to develop and explore ways to enforce conservation and develop its domestic fishing industry.  The Assembly should support a moratorium on bottom trawling until there were clear indications that it had no effect on ocean biodiversity.  Small island developing States had come together to spread the knowledge of marine conservation and biodiversity.

Regarding the impact of nuclear-weapons testing on his country, he said his people had paid a disproportionate sacrifice for helping the world understand the power of the nuclear bomb.  Since the Marshall Islands had become independent in 1986, it had found that the effect of the 67 atmospheric weapons detonated there was much worse and more widespread than previously understood.  The Marshall Islands had been under the care of the United Nations Trusteeship Council during the United States nuclear testing programme from 1946 to 1958.  Member States with similar nuclear legacies were urged to share their expertise in restoring environments contaminated with radiation, and support the Marshall Islands Changed Circumstances Petition, which had been submitted to the United States Congress in 2000.  The Marshall Islands were committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Urging the United Nations to continue to press for the decolonization of all nations in the Pacific region, he also appealed to the Assembly to admit the Republic of China ( Taiwan).  The Marshall Islands endorsed the reform, restructuring and expansion of the Security Council, as well as the inclusion of Japan as a permanent member.

The Assembly was also urged to recognize the vulnerability of small island developing States, and to help them to manage vulnerability, strengthen food security, and build resilience to economic, social and environmental change.  For instance, sea-level rise was a serious threat for small island developing States, which called on the major emitters of carbon dioxide around the world to halt and reverse the emissions that caused devastating climate change.

MARIA DE FATIMA LIMA DA VEIGA ( Cape Verde) said rapid change in the world posed constant challenges to the Organization's capacity to fulfil its role in promoting development, peace and security, and human rights.  To confront those challenges, the Organization must unambiguously commit itself to modernization and adapt its work.  Member States, meanwhile, must provide the means for it to carry out its mandate.  More work must be done towards reforming the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the Secretariat in a spirit of openness and flexibility, without putting into question the principles of equity and justice.  Cape Verde had agreed to handle the pilot creation of a Joint Office Mechanism envisioning a framework of common action for United Nations programmes, agencies and funds, with the goal of improving the efficiency of operational activities.

Global Partnership for Development could not be a timelier theme for the General Assembly's debate, she said.  It was regrettable that, despite scientific advances, underdevelopment remained a fact of life for many children, women and men on the planet.  Though primary responsibility rested with national leaders, a global partnership was also important in attaining the Millennium Development Goals, and the international committee must meet its commitments in terms of ODA and a fairer international trading system.

With international help, Cape Verde had seen improvements in its social and economic indicators in its 30 years since independence, she said.  It was on that basis that the General Assembly, in December 2004, had decided to graduate the country from least-developed status in 2008.  The Government was aware, however, that in order not to backslide, the country needed financial support that it could not mobilize on its own.  Cape Verde was a small, isolated State, deprived of natural resources and exposed to permanent drought and external shocks.  However, its Government had accepted the challenge, in dialogue with its bilateral and multilateral partners, with the conviction that its primary duty was to put into place a development model best adapted to its people's interest.

Climate change and environmental degradation were a special threat to isolated developing States such as Cape Verde, she said, adding that the international community must lend its weight to applying the Mauritius Strategy.  It must also act in concert, and quickly, on disarmament, international organized crime, clandestine immigration and its effects, as well as the spread of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.  Terrorism was also a threat to peace and stability and Cape Verde had signed up to the principal instruments for countering it.  In the Middle East, there was a need for a global strategy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had been a major source, if not the epicentre, of international instability for 60 years.  Regarding Darfur, Cape Verde paid tribute to the efforts made by the international community, and in particular the African Union, and called upon the parties concerned to embrace dialogue and a peaceful solution to the crisis.

ANDERS LIDÉN ( Sweden) called on the Government of the Sudan to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur and for all rebel groups to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement.  It was time to live up to the responsibility to protect as accepted the 2005 World Summit.  Also, a comprehensive approach must be taken towards the conflicts in the Middle East with increased international involvement and participation of other States in the region.  The Stockholm Conference of last month had resulted in immediate steps to extend support for Lebanon's early recovery.  The commitment to reconstruct the country and strengthen its sovereignty must be sustained and Sweden was preparing a military contribution to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  In addition, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the core of tensions in the Middle East must be addressed, as must the situation in Iraq.

He said there were an estimated 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world and progress must be made in addressing the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.  Disarmament and non-proliferation were interlinked and both crucial to world security.  Concerns over Iran's nuclear programme must be met, but an isolated Iran was undesirable as was the alternative of its pursuing a nuclear weapons option.  The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission had made recommendations offering a way forward on both disarmament and non-proliferation.

Regarding the more than 1.1 billion people living in abject poverty today, he said there had been progress, as in the number of the extremely poor having declined by 130 million since 1990.  Aid had also increased by over $50 billion since the 2002 Monterrey Conference.  But the 2005 World Summit had given increased attention to development issues and forged the vital linking of security, development and human rights in the fight against poverty.  If the Millennium Development Goals were to be reached by 2015, more must be done with developing countries in the lead and donor countries actively supporting their efforts.  The High-Level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence provided an opportunity to revitalize the Organization's support to developing countries by improving effectiveness at the country level.

The Peacebuilding Commission was a tool to assist countries in managing the difficult transition from post-conflict situations, he said.  The country-specific commissions should deliver results from Burundi and Sierra Leone.  Finally, Sweden called for implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy with full respect for human rights and for agreement on a comprehensive convention on terrorism during the current Assembly session.  The key proposals on United Nations reform deferred last year should be dealt with in the current session.

KHUNYING LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN ( Thailand) said her country was passing through critical times -- a transition after a military intervention -- and a necessary reform process that would strengthen its democracy.   Thailand would emerge as a stronger and more vibrant democracy and an interim constitution would be promulgated in the coming days, with the military being placed under the constitution again.  That constitution would provide full guarantees for civil liberties and rights under the supervision of the National Human Rights Commission.  A new civilian Government would be in place within the coming days and one of its first tasks would be to eliminate martial law.

Constitutional reform would lead to general elections within one year if not sooner.  The Thai people hoped the reform would lead to more effective independent organizations that could monitor the work of the Government's executive branch.  Thailand's foreign policy would remain unchanged and guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter.   Thailand would also maintain its obligations under international treaties and agreements including trade pacts.

Believing that conflict prevention was less costly than peacekeeping operations, Thailand was encouraged by the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council, she said.  Development was one of the most effective measures for the prevention of armed conflict and the theme of this year's debate, "Implementing a Global Partnership for Development", highlighted the immediate need to ensure that development goals were achieved.  Sustainable development was about trade and opportunity not aid, and the suspension of the Doha Round of global trade talks was a serious setback for the partnership between developed and developing nations.   Thailand supported a redoubling of efforts to ensure development did not become a casualty of domestic interests.

She said there was an urgent need to reform the United Nations Secretariat and ensure coordination between Headquarters and the field.  Thailand urged Member States to take seriously the commitments that the General Assembly had made in June when it had adopted a strong political declaration as a follow-up to the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.  Those efforts would boost universal access to comprehensive prevention, care, treatment and support for all people needing it by the year 2010.

Finally, she paid tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his decade of dedication and said the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had endorsed the candidacy of Thailand's Surakiart Sathirathia to carry on his work.

PHILIP SEALY ( Trinidad and Tobago), welcomed the recent creation of two new international organizations, the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, which would help the Organization in promoting dialogue and cooperation, as well as in efforts to restore peace and normalcy to countries in transition from conflict.

He told the Assembly that the next Secretary-General must be more than a chief administrative officer and would need to have profound knowledge of the dynamics of current inter-State relations.  He said his country was hopeful that the Assembly would be able to choose a candidate in an inclusive and transparent manner and remain faithful to the principles and procedures enshrined in the Charter.

Commenting on the situation in the Middle East, he urged the major political parties in the Palestinian Territory to find common ground that would satisfy the aspirations of the Palestinian people.  The use of disproportionate force in recent conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon had increased bitterness and hatred and inspired extremism.

On Darfur, he said that the international community must bring to justice under the International Criminal Court those responsible for crimes against humanity.  His country viewed the universal adherence to the Court as integral to entrenching the rule of law in the conduct of international relations, and as yet another pillar in the promotion of international peace and security.  He urged Member States that are not yet party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to join that investment.

He was hopeful that the recent adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism strategy would lead to a holistic and integral approach to terrorism threats worldwide.

He said his Government was hopeful that, during the 2005 Millennium Review Summit, a resolution had been agreed, which would provide monitoring mechanisms to follow up the commitments made at that meeting by the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization.  He also hoped that the commitments in that text to international development objectives would be honoured and not be the subject of renegotiation at the next reviews.  Trinidad and Tobago joined other small economies in calling for a process that would accelerate the recommencement of negotiations of the Doha Round trade talks, painfully aware of the adverse impact the trade imbalances were having on developing economies.

He also briefed the Assembly on the problems his country faced with the flow of illicit drugs, and small arms and light weapons, which contributed to increased gun violence and fatalities.  He urged the international community to provide the necessary resources to bolster Caribbean regional efforts aimed at interdicting drug shipments and the flow of illicit firearms.  Trinidad and Tobago was disappointed that the five-year review 2001 United Nations Programme of Action on the illicit small arms trade had not produced broad international agreement on measures to strengthen that plan.  He was heartened, however, by the emerging broad international support for a legally binding instrument to govern international arms trade.

GIOVANNI LAJOLO, speaking for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, noted that, not so long ago, the world had been growing into a single global village at a pace beyond control.  Now it appeared to be more and more fractured.  As the recent struggle between Israel and Hizbollah had shown, it was not so much a lack of resources that left vulnerable non-combatants to die, but the difficulty of first moulding a consistent political will on the part of the international community.  The story of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues was an image of the current divided state of human affairs -- with misunderstandings and hostilities spawned, not naturally, but by human pride -- where terrorists, super-Powers, regional Powers, aspiring Powers and oppressed peoples yielded to the temptation of believing, against historical evidence, that only force could bring about a just ordering of affairs among peoples and nations.

He said the United Nations had been founded on the very different understanding that peace could only be achieved by shared labours aimed at securing a decent and dignified life for all.  Strengthening the capacity to foresee a conflict and resolve it non-violently, before a resort to force, was of primary importance in renewing the Organization.  The resolution on Lebanon could have been agreed upon a month earlier to avoid the enormous indiscriminate devastation, if pleas for the immediate cessation of violence had been heeded.  As history had shown, millions had died in needless conflicts for lack of sufficient capacity to intervene in what had been called "pointless massacres".

The surest way to prevent war was to address its causes, he continued, stressing that at the root of war were usually real and serious grievances.  Fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals and resumption of the World Trade Organization trade round were two steps promising economic progress, alleviation of poverty, reduction in terrorism and increased social harmony.  Building peace for tomorrow required doing justice today, and protection of human rights was another essential pillar in the edifice of world peace.  The right to life, to religious freedom and to freedom of thought and expression were not all adequately protected in every nation, and in some, they were openly denied, even among States sitting on the Human Rights Council.

Finally, he said that, while religion continued to be cynically exploited for political ends in some cases, at its best, truest and most authentic essence it was a vital force for harmony and peace among peoples.  The misrepresented message of the Holy Father's recent address at Regensburg was that "not religion and violence, but religion and reason", went together.  Religious motivation for violence must be clearly and radically rejected, whatever its sources.  At the same time, political life must recognize the contribution of the religious vision.  If religion were to be relegated to the ambit of subcultures, an automatic violent reaction would be provoked, and violent reactions were always a falsification of true religion.  The Holy Father had been defending openness to the Transcendent, intending to contribute to the dialogue between cultures by opening Western thought to the rich patrimony of all religions.

GILLES NOGHÈS ( Monaco) said that his country continued to reinforce its contribution to development and international cooperation through a significant rise of its ODA, among other things.  Monaco will continue efforts to meet the goals to which the Sovereign committed at the last General Assembly.  The advancement of women and improvement of maternal health, as well as efforts to alleviate poverty were among Monaco's priorities.  In particular, his country hoped that the outcome of the Security Council debates devoted to the protection of children in armed conflicts and the effective implementation of Resolution 1620 (2005) would allow progress in that alarming field.

The state of the environment also remained another priority; in addition to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, his country started a foundation for environmental preservation and sustainable development, as a source of dynamic and creative action in the fields of climate change, biodiversity loss and water resources, he said.  Monaco also remained engaged in the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Along with ongoing contributions, Monaco had decided to finance a project of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Africa to serve women who are mainly seropositive, and enduring extreme poverty and moral distress by offering them psychological, medical and social relief.

He said it was up to each State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, but when those tragic events could not be prevented, the international community must bring relief to victims of such tragic events, regardless of whether those events were natural or manmade.   In that regard, he congratulated the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination for his continuous efforts, namely for restructuring the Central Emergency Response Fund.

MAHE 'ULI'ULI TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that he was pleased with the concrete landmarks that attested to the implementation of the 2005 World Summit,  particularly the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, Peacebuilding Support Office and Fund, the Human Rights Council, the Central Emergency Response Fund, as well as the adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  He pledged Tonga's commitment to the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.  He called for full restoration of the General Assembly as the main decision-making body of the United Nations and supported management reforms in the United Nations Secretariat, as well as strengthening the Economic and Social Council and the streamlining of the Organization.  He maintained support for Japan's permanent membership on the Security Council.  The work of United Nations peacekeepers was to be commended, he said, and Tonga was committed to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands.

He next noted that Tonga took primary responsibility for its development, but welcomed regional and international complements to its national efforts, such as the Pacific Plan of 2005 and the Mauritius Strategy for implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.  The United Nations system for small island developing States needed to be strengthened.  He said that, in Tonga's experience regarding migration, labour mobility was a potential vehicle for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other pro-poor commitments.  He also called the suspension of the Doha Round of trade talks disappointing, urged a resumption of negotiations, and sought "aid for trade" from donors independent of the Doha talks.

Finally, he noted the establishment of a National Committee of the Kingdom of Tonga on Political Reform.  It had completed public meetings and consultations throughout the country and in countries where the majority of Tongans resided - namely New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.  He anticipated that the Legislative Assembly would deliberate the report during its session in 2006, with a view towards attaining an appropriate political reform agenda that would build national unity and promote social and economic advancement.

LÉO MÉRORÈS ( Haiti) said that, on 3 July, Haiti regained its seat in CARICOM.  It appreciated that its Caribbean neighbours had never lost interest in his country during its two-year absence.  He also noted Haiti's membership in the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as its support for South-South cooperation.  There were now manifold threats to the world, however, and the United Nations was the place to find solutions to them.  He warned of terrorism assuming apocalyptic proportions, adding that "9/11" and other attacks had been wake-up calls to silence petty interests and face the scourge, lest it lead to a cycle of violence, in which "crazy groups" destroyed whatever they could "to annihilate government institutions".  He, therefore, supported measures against terrorism that were based on clear definitions acceptable to all.

He praised the United Nations reforms completed during the previous session, such as the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Human Rights Council and the Central Emergency Response Fund.  Hopefully, the progress made would give the Organization the resources it needed to carry out its mission.  At the same time, adaptation was required, and he agreed with the need to revitalize the Economic and Social Council, as the principle economic tool of the United Nations, which could find the best approach for the achievement of Millennium Development Goals.  He was also happy that the Economic and Social Council had extended its mission to Haiti, which could help the country achieve sustainable development.  He also warned that any reform of the Security Council would remain incomplete without reorganization of its membership to reflect equitable representation based on the realities of the twenty-first century.

Haiti's February 2006 election had been fair and democratic, and he said he looked forward to the municipal and territorial elections at the end of the year.  He welcomed the international community's support to Haiti, particularly the donations of police and military personnel to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  The August renewal of Security Council Resolution 1702 (2006) had also been welcome, and he hoped Mission personnel would work with police and Government authorities to make changes to the Mission, based on the priorities of the moment.  He expressed sorrow to the families, friends and colleagues of those who had died during the Mission's mandate.

He said that the new Government of René Préval had embarked on a long-term plan for rebuilding the country, requiring support from the international community to rebuild the country's infrastructure.  The lack of security, however, was fertile ground for destabilizing elements, which exploited the subhuman conditions of the poor by arming them and causing death and destruction.  A top priority of the Government was dialogue and toughness aimed at eliminating the banditry.  International support was needed for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, even if Haiti was not a textbook case.  He detailed Haiti's efforts to provide speedy relief to the poor, and thereby eliminate a source of gang recruitment.

JEREMIE BONNELAME ( Seychelles) said there was a need to reform the United Nations and bring it more in tune with today's world.  He urged the United Nations to be an organization that recognized all States, big and small.  His Government hoped that the Assembly would take an active part in the appointment of the next Secretary-General, who should be from Asia.  Also, Security Council reform would have an impact on the institutional legitimacy of that body.

He said his country had just completed national elections that had culminated with the election of President James Michel.  The Seychelles would place importance on social development, economic growth and protection of the environment.  His Government would also uphold human rights, the rule of law and good governance principles.  As the World Bank highlighted in its last report, however, small States like his had seen a decline in economic growth in comparison with larger and middle income countries in the last five years.  They had larger foreign debt and were given little access to foreign capital, as international financial institutions considered them high risks.

A number of meetings had taken place; resolutions had been adopted; and statements had been made, but there still was no specific action to face those problems, he said.  Small States rarely had the means and capacity to meet those challenges in an appropriate manner.  The need for a global partnership for development was pressing and necessary, and the Seychelles hoped that the Assembly would take decisive steps forward to bring this partnership into effect.

ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA ( Tuvalu) said that the fact that his country was allowed to "paddle its canoe in harmony along with super-tankers", and allowed to join the United Nations, was a statement of hope and recognition of a shared common future for all States, regardless of their size.  The showdown of words that had taken place in the Assembly among some countries was unfortunate.  One must never forget that with wealth and power came responsibility.  He welcomed the adoption of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  Both major innovations must be supported to ensure peace and the protection of human rights of all peoples and communities.

Turning to United Nations reform, his country supported the "G-4" resolution on Security Council expansion, calling for the consideration of Japan, Germany, Brazil and India as permanent members in an expanded Security Council.  The successful conclusion of the World Summit last year had reaffirmed his country's resolve to fight poverty and ensure sustainable development.  He called for the full implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, as well as the strengthening of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, among other reforms.

He meanwhile asked that Tuvalu and other small island developing States not be included for graduation from the least developed countries.  A decision to graduate countries should be based on an in-country data analysis and not on an analysis done remotely, half a world away.  He added that a new Government had been elected in Tuvalu; it had pledged good governance and media freedom as its guiding principles.

Among the other points he raised was the non-representation of Taiwan, appealing to the Assembly for proper consideration of that issue.  He also urged the Assembly to address the issue of climate change, and called on all Member States to fully implement the Kyoto Protocol.  Stronger incentives were needed to promote the development and distribution of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in developing nations.  He also urged the Assembly to consider having the countries that produce the greenhouse emissions pay for the damage they caused in vulnerable countries.  The United Nations should host a Heads of Government summit as early as possible, to address climate change policies beyond the year 2012.

PHESHEYA MBONGENI DLAMINI ( Swaziland) welcomed Montenegro as the newest United Nations Member State and said the exclusion of Taiwan from the ever-globalizing Organization posed a legal and moral challenge to the international community.  Accepting Taiwan as a member would not only restore the rights of the people, but would also contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Also welcoming the recent agreement on the Counter-Terrorism Strategy, he recalled that all States in all regions were vulnerable to terrorism and could be affected by it.  He supported the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty and called for the elimination of all nuclear weapons by States that possessed them.  Reviewing specific gains in the area of United Nations reform, he noted the successful inaugural session of the Human Rights Council as a step in the right direction towards strengthening the Organization's human rights tools.  Reform of the United Nations would retain its global credibility, and deferred proposals should be dealt with in the current session.  Security Council reform should also be concluded.  At the same time, adequate funding should be made available for implementing the Millennium Development Goals, in order to advance the objectives commonly identified by the major United Nations conferences and summits.

The breakdown of the World Trade Organization's Doha Round of talks had been lamentable, as the needs of developing nations must be considered to keep from undermining already limited trade opportunities and detracting from pursuing appropriate policies towards key objectives in areas such as employment, industrialization, food security, rural development and sustained economic growth, he stressed.  The ideas and general principles for designing microeconomic, sectoral and trade policies presented in the 2006 Trade Development Report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had been welcome.  Still, the specific needs of developing nations should be addressed.

Noting that the HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to be one of Swaziland's biggest challenges, with an estimated 63,000 children orphaned and needing care, he urged concerted international effort in halting the escalation of the infection rate.  On other national fronts, Swaziland had completed its constitutional development process and was putting in place the laws and regulations to comply with the new constitution.  The decentralized policy for implementing the strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goals had also been finalized.  The classification of Swaziland as a lower middle-income country had limited access to various funds and resources that would otherwise have been available to it to face the challenges of poverty and unemployment.  The skilled human resources pool was also draining in the exodus to developed countries, and Swaziland was working with United Nations agencies to address that problem.  A job creation summit had been held last year, and the King encouraged the development of small businesses to reduce unemployment.  Still, market fluctuations posed additional challenges, such as for products like sugar and textiles.  Meanwhile, the people were encouraged to form partnerships with foreign direct investors in joint ventures to boost national development.

NEGASH KEBRET ( Ethiopia) said that it was imperative that the international community remain committed to the Millennium Development Goals.  Each country was responsible for its own development, but at the early stage of development, all needed strong support from the international community.  The opening of international trade, especially through the elimination of agricultural subsidies, should be expedited.  Since the end of the dictatorship a decade and a half ago, the socio-economic climate in Ethiopia had greatly improved, with citizens having access to education and health care.

He said that, as Ethiopia continued to carry out its development agenda, it would not allow the dispute with Eritrea to distract it from its focus.  For the last four years, Eritrea had blamed Ethiopia for its own aggression towards its country and the current stalemate in the peace process.  In May 1998, Eritrea launched an unprovoked attack against Ethiopia, which ignited the war and the present crisis.  The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission decided that Eritrea was liable for committing unprovoked aggression against Ethiopia and should compensate Ethiopia.  It also rejected Eritrea's territorial claims.

Ethiopia had demonstrated a strong desire to resolve this conflict with Eritrea by peaceful means, he said.  His country had presented the "Five-Point Peace Plan", which the Security Council and the international community had welcomed, but it was rejected by Eritrea.  In addition to cooperating with the Secretary General's Special Envoy, Ethiopia had welcomed the Peace Initiative by the Witnesses to the Algiers Agreements.  The plan sought to have the parties resolve the current impasse with the neutral facilitator in the demarcation process; fully restore United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea's (UNMEE) freedom of operation and the sanctity of the Temporary Security Zone; and refrain from threat or use of force.  The aim was normalization of relations between the two countries.  Ethiopia would persevere in its search for lasting peace.

He said that Eritrea blatantly violated the Algiers Agreement by threatening the use of force.  It had also violated the integrity of the temporary security zone by deploying armed forces.  Eritrea had also prevented the Mission from carrying out its mandate, and it had engaged in a series of arrests of its personnel.  Eritrea needed to withdraw its troops from the security zone, and demonstrate compliance with article 1 of the December 2000 agreement by renouncing the use of force.  It should behave responsibly and resolve any dispute through diplomatic means. 

Given his country's shared border with Somalia, he called on the international community to assist Somalia and its Transitional Federal Government.  That country was being dragged into an abyss by those who were using religion as a cover to deny the Somalis peace and the opportunity to revive their collapsed State.  For that reason, he sought the partial lifting of the arms embargo.

MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU ( Cameroon) said the world needed to pursue courageous and innovative solutions to major global problems within the United Nations framework.  While there were criticisms of the Organization, there was no substitute for it as the only place that could tackle the world's numerous problems in a coherent way.  The Greentree Agreement of June 2006, resulting from a 2002 International Court of Justice ruling, had produced the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from Cameroon's Bakassi region.  The assistance of Germany, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom had brought moral and political support to the accord.  Cameroon renewed its solemn commitment to protect the rights of Nigerian nationals remaining in Bakassi.  The lesson of that experience was the need for patience and moderation to achieve true and lasting peace.

The place of the United Nations in the management of world affairs could only continue if it paid special attention to the Middle East, Darfur, and nuclear proliferation, he said.  In addition, failure to resume the Doha Round negotiations would have negative results for Africa.  Cameroon also called on the United Nations to protect the cultural identities of the world's various peoples and to favour dialogue between cultures and civilizations.  The country also pledged to put the human person up front via Cameroon's membership in the Human Rights Council.  The massive migrations currently underway were a tragedy to which the United Nations must not be indifferent.

Closing Remarks by President of General Assembly

Sheikha HAYA RASHED AL KHALIFA, General Assembly President, said in her closing, that the last two weeks had provided a rich and substantive debate, and, while all delegations had not agreed on every matter, a number of pressing points had been made.

She noted that many delegations had introduced the theme of international development into their statements, along with ideas for creative funding for development, including from the private sector.  It was made clear that efforts needed to be redoubled to generate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  It remained a central concern to eradicate extreme poverty, particularly in the light of the reversed trends in Africa.

Many statements sought a continued United Nations role in fighting terrorism, and welcomed the adoption of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, she said.  Delegates also called for the United Nations to take a more proactive role in the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts, ethnic cleansing, mass killings and genocide, and underlined the importance of reaching lasting solutions in the Middle East and Darfur.  They also reiterated the call for the reform of the Security Council, progress on Secretariat and management reform, including mandate review, the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly's revitalization.

She said that other significant concerns had been environmental degradation, climate change, HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, gender equality, and education for all.  She urged the delegations to approach their important work in a transparent, efficient and coherent manner, and to make best use of time and resources.  "We have to build trust and confidence among ourselves to serve our common interest and achieve tangible results that will make a difference to the lives of millions of people around the world."  She pledged close and constructive cooperation in the year ahead.

Right of Reply

In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Cuba said that countries such as the Czech Republic impugned the human rights records of others, not out of a real concern for human rights, but because they were "miserable lackeys" in the service of a powerful nation that practiced a policy of cowardly intervention under the pretext of the war on terrorism.  With its attempt to stigmatize Cuba, the Czech Republic attempted to obfuscate the Cuban struggle for freedom, which had allowed the Cuban people to become the masters of their own fate and to enjoy their human rights, without prejudice.  The Czech Government allied itself with aggressors against Cuba and, by so doing, was actually working against, and not for, the promotion of human rights.

The Czech Government made "shady deals", trying to cover up its own "decrepit" human rights record, he said.   Cuba would not get into the details of the human rights situation in the Czech Republic, but would let the leaders of that country feel the shame of what a small country like Cuba could do when it outlasted a 30-year blockade against it and successfully challenged all outside pressures.  The Czech Republic would never be honourable enough to do that.

The representative of the Sudan said it was his delegation's duty to correct several statements that had been made during the debate about the situation in his country.  The President of the Sudan had explained to the Assembly the complex dimensions of the conflict in Darfur, which had been driven by militias and exacerbated by drought and other natural disasters.  The situation in that region had improved, thanks to a Government strategy that had promoted a political and negotiated solution.  A peace agreement had been signed in early May, and today, peace had been restored and there had been improvements on the humanitarian front, notwithstanding information circulated by some parties that were relishing the situation and claiming that disaster was taking place.

He said that the situation on the ground was improving daily, but some parties, particularly Security Council Powers that were hostile to the Sudan, tried to portray a genocide taking place.  He drew attention to the Council's "notorious" resolutions on his country, which sought no solutions, but only to punish the Sudan and take hold of the country's wealth.  The most recent text did not take into consideration the role of the African Union, and attempted to establish parallel entities.  It circumvented the May peace agreement.  The Sudan had no problem working with the United Nations -- one of the Organization's largest peacekeeping missions was already working in his country and monitoring the situation between the North and South.  Some States were trying to use the Council to interfere with Sudan's sovereignty, particularly the United States.

He called on the Assembly to be aware that the powerful countries were only shedding "crocodile tears" about the situation and the people of Darfur.  Those parties were using the situation in Darfur as a way to settle political accounts.  He also called on the people of the Sudan and all others to reject such "colonialist approaches", and called on the international community to boost the African Union's capabilities and respect the United Nations Charter.  Khartoum also deserved more than "threats and sabre rattling", particularly since it had concluded, in diplomatic fashion, one of Africa's longest running conflicts, when a negotiated comprehensive peace agreement ended hostilities between the North and South.

Also exercising the right of reply, the representative of Azerbaijan said that the Assembly had again been abused by Armenia in an aggressive manner, which was harmful to the negotiations under way between both countries. The Armenian statement had been a "tragic" illustration of the attitude of that country's current leadership towards its immediate neighbours, a reality the people of Azerbaijan and the region faced in their daily lives and in the negotiating process.  There was a strong temptation to refrain from condescending to Armenia's rhetoric, but Azerbaijan had to reiterate that Armenia's extremely aggressive statements were at odds with the position of the international community and the relevant decisions of the Security Council, as well as with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and others.

On Armenia's allegation concerning the destruction of Armenian monuments on Azerbaijani territory, he said that Azerbaijan had given its immediate consent to the Council of Europe to dispatch a fact-finding mission to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, including to the occupied territories, to examine the condition of religious and cultural monuments and cemeteries.   Azerbaijan was still awaiting a response from the Armenian Government in response to that initiative.

On the "notorious allegation" that the Armenian community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan exercised its right for self-determination, that was nothing more than Armenia's design to use that high principle of international law to cover up the ethnic cleansing carried out in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and the continued occupation of those territories.  Those statements, as well as the ongoing occupation, contravened the Charter, particularly concerning the sovereign integrity of States.  The right of people for self-determination was the right of people inhabiting certain territories, and should be carried out in a peaceful manner compatible with the Charter and contributing to the strengthening of political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.  Those were the rules governing inter-State relations in the United Nations, and Armenia had the obligation to abide by them, he declared.

He said that the allegations made by the Armenian delegation had underlined the necessity to increase the awareness in the United Nations about the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.  The Assembly should know the truth and "who is who" in the region -- who was the aggressor and who was the victim of aggression.   Azerbaijan would use every means at its disposal towards that end.

Responding to Cuba's statement, the representative of the Czech Republic said that her Minister's statement had only recited the obvious facts.  It was her sincere hope that the framework for international human rights would only become stronger with the revelation of such facts, and open and honest discussion.  Her country stood ready to discuss openly and constructively any alleged human rights violations taking place there.

In response, the representative of Cuba said that anybody who came to judge his country was pretending that their own had committed no human rights violations.  Such countries hid behind their powerful allies and obfuscated the truth.  Such countries could not talk about systematic torture taking place at Guantanamo Bay, or the transfer of illegal detainees to and from secret prisons in their own regions.   Cuba understood why the Czech Republic could not discuss such violations: because it feared its master; because it continued to adhere to its policy of duplicity and compliance; that was why.  The Czech Republic was merely serving as labourer and lackey and that was a classic case of double standards.

The Czech Government did not want people to hear about the hundreds of thousands of Czech women being discriminated against or abused, he went on. It did not want to discuss that country's disproportionately high levels of illiteracy and poverty.  Nor did it want to talk about racism.  "Why didn't we hear about that?"  If there was a desire for cooperation, the Czech Government would have talked about the rampant corruption that had forced the recent resignation of a high Government official, as well as police brutality and the significant increase in the number of neo-fascist groups in the country.  If there was a true willingness for dialogue, why weren't those issues brought up? he asked.  Moreover, why was the Czech representative silent on the violations of its masters?  Cuba would never be silent, and would always side with those who stood up for themselves. Cuba would never tolerate lackeys.

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