A positive change had occurred in the work of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda during the past year, Tribunal President, Judge Laity Kama, told the General Assembly this afternoon during review of the Tribunal's annual report.
Judge Kama said the historic first judgement of the Tribunal -- the first-ever verdict handed down on the crime of genocide by an international court -- was delivered in September in the case against Jean-Paul Akayesu. His conviction on nine counts, including genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, was crucial to the development of international criminal justice. The sentencing of Jean Kambanda, Prime Minister of the Interim Government of Rwanda in 1994, was also historic because of the position of authority held by the Mr. Kambanda and the fact that his guilty plea on a count of genocide was without precedent.
In addition, Judge Kama continued, the Tribunal had improved its working methods, with its Registrar working to rationalize administrative procedures in pursuit of greater efficiency. To support efforts to further improve effectiveness, the Tribunal urgently needed to computerize the judicial archives and to increase the number of legal advisors assisting the Trial Chambers.
The representative of United Republic of Tanzania -- the host country for the Tribunal -- said the significance of the recent judgements was heightened by the fact that they were meant to put an end to impunity and, thereby, promote national reconciliation and restoration of peace in Rwanda. "We owe it to the people of Rwanda", he said, "that we do not fail in the delivery of justice as we failed in preventing the genocide and carnage which took place in 1994".
Addressing the matter of where persons convicted by the Tribunal would be imprisoned, the representative of Norway said his Government was willing to
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receive a limited number of individuals to serve their time in Norway. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland had also expressed their intention to receive, sometimes under conditions, convicted persons in their national prisons. No African country had declared its readiness to receive convicts.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of Austria expressed concern about the administrative problems which the Tribunal still needed to overcome. Nonetheless, he said the European Union trusted that the Tribunal would be able to speed up its judicial work, particularly regarding those who had been detained for a long time. He, along with many other speakers, welcomed the recent establishment by the Security Council of a third Trial Chamber as a great contribution towards enhancing the effectiveness of the Tribunal.
Also speaking during that debate were the representatives of Senegal, Russian Federation, Lesotho and Costa Rica.
At the outset of this afternoon's meeting, the Assembly urged strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU), adopting a resolution to that effect, without a vote. The Assembly also welcomed the initiative of the IPU to hold a conference of presiding officers of national parliaments at the United Nations Headquarters, in conjunction with the proposed millennium Assembly in the year 2000.
Also this afternoon, the Assembly concluded its consideration of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s, since its mid-term review in 1996. Statements on that item were made by the representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania, Ghana, Botswana, Norway, Brazil, Nigeria (for the Group of African States), Uganda, Philippines and Russian Federation.
When the Assembly resumes its work at 10 a.m. tomorrow, it will consider United Nations cooperation with the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee; the Economic Cooperation Organization; the Organization of the Islamic Conference; the Organization of African Unity; and the Caribbean Community. It will also take up a letter from the Chairman of the Committee on Conferences regarding the adoption of the agenda and organization of work of this session.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider the report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and to conclude debate on implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s. The Assembly was also expected to take action on a draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Cooperation with IPU
By the terms of the draft resolution (document A/53/L.12), the Assembly would recommend that the cooperation between the two organizations be further strengthened, to support the United Nations in meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century.
The Assembly would welcome the initiative of the IPU to hold a conference of presiding officers of national parliaments at the United Nations Headquarters, in conjunction with the millennium Assembly in 2000 proposed by the Secretary-General. The Assembly would also ask that the Secretary-General report to the Assembly during its next session on various aspects of continued cooperation, including preparations for the proposed conference. (For additional information on cooperation between the United Nations and the IPU, see Press Release GA/9489 issued today.)
The sponsors of the text are Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zambia.
International Tribunal for Rwanda
By his note on the matter (document A/53/429), the Secretary-General transmitted to the General Assembly and the Security Council, the third annual
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report of the International Criminal Court for Rwanda which describes the activities of the Chambers, the Prosecutor and the Registrar. It also reviews cooperation with Member States, particularly Rwanda, and with other institutions, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The report states that since the submission of its second annual report, the Rwanda Tribunal has substantially increased its judicial activities. Forty-three individuals have been indicted by the Tribunal and arrest warrants have been issued for each of them. Of these, 31 have been apprehended by various States and handed over to the Tribunal for detention in its facility. One indictee, arrested in the United States, is still being held in that country pending his transfer to Arusha -- the seat of the Tribunal.
The first judgement ever handed down by an international court on the crime of genocide was rendered by the Tribunal for Rwanda on 2 September 1998 in the case against Jean-Paul Akayesu. The accused was found guilty on nine counts, including the crime of genocide. The sentencing is to take place in October 1998. The second of the three trials -- joint case against Clément Kayishema and Obed Ruzindanawhich -- began in 1997 and is nearing an end. The third trial, in the case against Georges Rutaganda, will resume shortly. It has been adjourned repeatedly because of health problems of the accused and of his lawyer.
On 1 May 1998, the Tribunal recorded the first guilty plea by an accused. Jean Kambanda, Prime Minister of the Interim Government established in Rwanda after the 1994 air crash in which President Habyarimana was killed, pleaded guilty to all the counts in the indictment against him, including those of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. In pleading guilty, the former Prime Minister not only confirmed that genocide did occur in Rwanda in 1994, but also indicated that it was organized at the highest levels. Jean Kambanda was sentenced to life imprisonment on 4 September 1998. The defence appealed the sentence on 7 September 1998.
The report further states that under the Prosecutor's direction, further arrests have been made, working in cooperation with the Kenyan authorities in July 1997 and with the authorities of many West African countries in 1998. The persons apprehended on those occasions had all occupied positions of authority in the Government or the armed forces or had been highly influential in Rwanda in 1994. The two Trial Chambers have published some 150 decisions relating both to the indictment procedure and to various motions, including those concerning witness protection or preliminary motions.
The report welcomes the efforts of the new administration to improve the support provided to the Chambers and the Prosecutor. Following the construction of a second courtroom, the establishment of a legal reference library has made it easier to access the information needed to take decisions.
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The additional efforts under way should include improving courtroom audio-visual equipment, computerizing judicial files and strengthening the translation and interpretation section.
Also according to the report, despite its heavy workload, the Tribunal still does not have the necessary technical resources and staff. In response to the difficulties encountered by the trial judges, the ever-increasing number of detainees and the need to observe certain norms and principles governing the administration of justice, the Security Council, at the Tribunal's request decided by its resolution 1165 (1998) of 30 April 1998 to establish a third Trial Chamber. To speed up the trials, the Security Council also urged the organs of the Tribunal to increase the efficiency of their work.
The report states that the Tribunal for Rwanda, like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has been frequently criticized for conducting trials too slowly. Accordingly, the Judges of the two international tribunals undertook a joint procedural reform. The Tribunal for Rwanda has already put the changes into effect at its fifth plenary session, held in Arusha from 1 to 5 June 1998, at which numerous amendments to its Rules were adopted. To ensure justice to the victims and survivors of the Rwandan tragedy, and to promote national reconciliation by ending impunity, the two international Tribunals depend on the support of all States in exercising their responsibilities.
New Agenda for African Development
The Assembly had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document A/53/390 and Add.1), which presents progress made in the implementation of the New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s since the mid-term review in 1996. (For further details, please see Press Release GA/9487 issued on 27 October.)
Action on IPU Draft
DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay), President of the General Assembly, said that since the introduction of the draft earlier today, Belarus, Israel, Mali, Seychelles, Suriname and Uganda had joined the list of co-sponsors.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the IPU without a vote.
The President said that the dialogue that had led to the creation of the IPU was even more important today. The parliaments of the world, now composed of men and women elected by the people, were undoubtedly a point of reference for peace and democracy. Those were principles that the United Nations had to stimulate in all its Members. The proposed conference for the year 2000 would
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be an ideal and welcome opportunity to further deepen cooperation between the Organization and the IPU.
Statements on Rwanda Tribunal
LAITY KAMA, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said that 1998 marked a very positive change in the work of the Tribunal. During the period under review, judicial activities had increased considerably. The much-awaited first judgement of the Tribunal on the case against Jean-Paul Akayesu had been delivered on 2 September, closely followed by the sentencing of Jean Kambanda, who had been Prime Minister of the Interim Government of Rwanda in 1994. Akayesu was found guilty on nine counts out of 15, including genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. That judgement was crucial in the development of international criminal justice, as it was the first delivered by an international court on the crime of genocide. The judgement against Kambanda was also historical because of his position of authority held and the plea of guilty on a count of genocide.
Two other trials were under way, Judge Kama continued. Thirty-one accused persons had been arrested by various States and handed over to the Tribunal to be held in custody. He welcomed cooperation extended by various countries in the apprehension of the accused, including Kenya, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Togo. However, the presence of all those detainees at the Tribunal's facility and the need to arrange for speedy trial had made the organization of the judicial calendar more difficult. Due to the Tribunal's overload, the Security Council had decided to establish a third Trial Chamber in April.
The Tribunal was undertaking actions to improve its work, he said. It fell to the Registrar to rationalize administrative procedures in pursuit of greater efficiency. Among the most urgent problems before the Tribunal was the need to computerize the judicial archives and to increase the number of legal advisors assisting the Trial Chambers.
He hoped that the provisions of the draft budget pertaining to the creation of several posts for legal officers would be approved as soon as possible, in order for the new judges to begin hearings as soon as they arrived in Arusha. The judges had also amended certain provisions of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence at the fifth plenary of the Tribunal, held in Arusha, in June. Although certain motions had not been dealt with as rapidly as the judges would have liked, more than 150 decisions in regard to indictment procedures had been handed down, as well as measures of witness protection or preliminary motions, he said.
A serious problem before the Tribunal was the place of imprisonment, he said. The Statute of the Court provided that "imprisonment shall be served in Rwanda or any of the States which had indicated to the Security Council their
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willingness to accept convicted persons". To date, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland had expressed their intention to receive, sometimes under certain conditions, convicted persons in their national prisons. No African country had declared its readiness to receive the persons convicted. The Tribunal believed that the reluctance of African States was due to financial difficulties, as the convicted persons should serve their sentences in facilities that meet international standards. He requested cooperation from governments in placing the convicted in their prisons and providing the financing for their imprisonment.
Another problem before the Tribunal was that of security, he said. It was necessary to strengthen the witness protection services and to improve the guarantee of security. The judges and the Registrar were in contact with the authorities in the host country, United Republic of Tanzania, in order to strengthen security at the Tribunal in view of the fact that several sentences had been handed out.
He said that history would probably remember the twentieth century not only because it saw the most barbaric acts, but also because it witnessed the affirmation of the fundamental principles of human rights and of international humanitarian law. The twenty-first century could well be that of the effective implementation of those principles through the systematic repression of any violations thereof through combined efforts of many countries.
E.E.E. MTANGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the first judgement ever handed down by an international tribunal on the crime of genocide was undoubtedly of historic significance. It was a pivotal landmark in the history of international law and underscored "our common resolve to ensure that genocide and crimes against humanity will not go unpunished". Their significance was also of importance, not only to the people of Rwanda, but of the Great Lakes region and indeed elsewhere, where conflicts had eroded the value of human life. The process of prosecution was not only fair to defendants, but also called for sentences which were clearly meant to put an end to impunity and thereby promote national reconciliation and the restoration of peace in Rwanda. "We owe it to the people of Rwanda that we do not fail in the delivery of justice as we failed in preventing the genocide and carnage which took place in 1994", he said.
He said it was clear that the workload of the Tribunal had been very high, and he welcomed the recent establishment of a third Trial Chamber. The increasing number of detainees held by the Tribunal was proof of the growing support of governments which had responded to the Tribunal's request for the surrender of suspects. "We must continue to appeal for increased support in surrendering to the Tribunal, the suspects it seeks." Even with widespread moral support for the Tribunal, much would depend on the practical assistance extended to it. The Chambers remained without sufficient technical resources despite their heavy workload. The Office of the Prosecutor continued to face resource constraints which undermined its ability to optimize administrative
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services to the Chambers and the Prosecutor. Those concerns needed to be addressed as a matter of priority.
IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said the international community, moved by the atrocities of Rwanda in 1994 and expressing its will to prevent such acts in the future, decided to put an end to the prevailing culture of impunity. The judges of the Tribunal could be considered pioneers in the context of international law. As could be seen from the report, despite difficulties, they had applied international law in a credible manner. Since its inception, over 40 people had been indicted.
The guilty plea by the former Prime Minister of Rwanda, enabled the international community and the Tribunal to achieve a major breakthrough in the establishment of an international legal system which rejected impunity in the face of atrocity, he said. That admission of guilt and the trial which proceeded were significant and made the Tribunal the first court of law to deal with the issue of genocide. That achievement was made possible due to international cooperation and support provided by African States in discharging the Tribunal's mandate.
In often difficult conditions, the judges, with great dedication and courage, accomplished a great deal of work, he said. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it should be recognized that the Rwandan Tribunal had accomplished a useful precedent to put an end to the culture of impunity. However, the work of the Tribunal was not complete and many challenges remained. The international community had to help the Tribunal complete its work.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the first judgement on the crime of genocide by an international court in September had provided the legal confirmation that such crimes occurred in Rwanda in 1994. Light had also been shed on the chain of events linked thereto. Moreover, the judgement represented an important new building block in international jurisprudence with regard to the prosecution of the most serious international crimes. The experience obtained by the Rwanda Tribunal was also a stepping stone towards the establishment of the International Criminal Court, in accordance with the Rome Statute adopted in July.
Noteworthy improvements included measures taken this summer to speed up cases before the Tribunal, he said. His delegation was confident that those steps would contribute to an effective handling of cases without reducing, in any way, the procedural rights of the accused or any party to the process. Norway remained a strong supporter of the Tribunal, and joined those that had appealed to States to take all the legislative steps necessary to ensure effective cooperation with the Tribunal.
He said that in addition to legislation and compliance with the Tribunal's request for assistance, concrete support to it should be shown
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through financial and material assistance. His Government had declared its willingness to consider applications from the Tribunal concerning the enforcement of Tribunal sentences and subsequently, in conformity with Norwegian law, receive a limited number of convicted persons to serve their time in Norway.
ALEKSANDR V. ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said that his country attached great importance to the work of the Tribunal, which was a factor in the normalization of the situation in the region. The Tribunal had passed down verdicts of historical importance, as they created a precedent in international criminal law. Russia had supported the work of the Tribunal and had tried to enhance its effectiveness. In a few days, a new group of judges of the Tribunal would be elected by the General Assembly. They would immediately start presiding over the trials of a large number of the accused.
There should be no double standards in dealing with flagrant violations of international humanitarian law, he continued. So far, the Tribunal had handed down only two judgements, while more than 40 people had been indicted. Some of them had been waiting trials for a long time, and each trial had taken more than a year to conclude. At that rate, it was hard to envision a successful conclusion of the work of the Tribunal. The third Chamber would start its work only after its premises had been constructed. He hoped it would start functioning as soon as possible. There were a number of ways to improve the effectiveness of the Court, and the situation involving the shortage of the staff should be rectified.
PERCY M. MANGOAELA (Lesotho) said that through the ad hoc tribunals the world was witnessing unprecedented developments in the protection of basic norms of humanitarian law and human rights. By offering justice as an alternative to revenge, the tribunals broke the cycle of violence and contributed to the process of reconciliation. Ultimately, the tribunals would give way to a permanent court with authority to punish atrocities whenever, wherever and by whomever they were committed. The importance of those tribunals for establishing a precedent for a permanent criminal court could not be underestimated. It was therefore essential to ensure the ad hoc tribunals' success. The adoption of the Rome Statute had given renewed hope to the human rights struggle and the fight against impunity.
The guilty plea by former Prime Minister Kambanda, the most senior official of Rwanda's Interim Government, vindicated the international community's long held conviction that genocide was not only committed in that country, but was planned at the highest level, he said. The guilty plea sent a clear message to those who participated in the mass murders of innocent people in Rwanda that their days were numbered. The vitality of the Tribunal depended upon States' cooperation in apprehending and transferring suspects; in permitting on-site visits and interviews with witnesses; and in securing documents. His Government commended all countries that had accorded full cooperation and assistance to the Tribunal.
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Lesotho welcomed the various measures taken to improve the administration and logistical support provided to the Chambers and the Prosecutors, he continued. He applauded the creation of the third Trial Chamber to help the Tribunal carry out its work effectively and to ensure that justice was speedily rendered to the victims and survivors of the Rwandan tragedy. The international community bore responsibility to share the burden of enforcing the Tribunal's sentences by accepting prisoners. He hoped that more States would be willing to accept convicted prisoners. Finally, since inadequate resources caused delays in the Tribunal's administration of justice, he called for financial, human and technical resources needed to ensure its effective functioning.
ERNST SUCHARIPA (Austria), and on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Liechtenstein, said the Tribunal intended to end impunity and violence, and ensure that such events never happened again. While the European Union was encouraged by the number of measures to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of the Tribunal, it was disturbed by problems that continued to exist in administrative areas.
Nonetheless, he said the Tribunal was now in a better position to discharge its mandate. The Tribunal's registry had hired 210 new staff members and renewed the contracts of another 189 people. Further recruitment was envisaged. However, the recruitment policy still had problems. The European Union stressed the importance of finding qualified personnel. The Tribunal continued to receive voluntary contributions in cash and kind from countries including the Union member States. Also, some member States of the Union had seconded staff to the Tribunal. Regarding the judicial work of the Tribunal, the court was now operating at cruising speed. The European Union stressed that in order to carry out its work in an impartial manner, the Tribunal must operate totally independent of all political parties.
He said the Court's first judgement on genocide reflected the ability of the United Nations to create an institution that served the higher ideals of the human race. Full cooperation by all parties and States with the Tribunal was needed. Noting arrests of some persons by third countries following indictments by the Tribunal, he said he hoped that trend would continue. Member States must also be made more aware of the mandate given to the Tribunal.
CARLOS FERNANDO DIAZ (Costa Rica) said the Tribunal was indispensable for the establishment of a durable peace in the Great Lakes region. The Tribunal's jurisprudence was an impetus for the development of international law and had contributed to the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The international community and the Tribunal had to respect the fundamental rights of the accused for a prompt trial, and support the
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establishment of a third Trial Chamber. Costa Rica hoped the election of judges for that third Trial Chamber would accelerate the Tribunal's judicial activities.
The Tribunal needed the necessary financial and human resources to carry out its mandate, he said. The international community had to secure the proper level of support for the Tribunal. Rwanda had to bring to trial all the perpetrators of the crimes committed in 1994. His country was concerned about the condition of detainees and indictees. Costa Rica was also concerned about the execution of those people who committed acts of genocide. It objected to the use of capital punishment and urged the authorities to impose sentences while respecting human rights.
Agenda for African Development
DAUDI NGELAUTWA MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that the statistics of the last three years had demonstrated ample African growth. The continent had embarked on ambitious reforms aimed at harnessing its potential, taking into account that development, in the final analysis, was the responsibility of African themselves. Africa had taken on the challenge of fully implementing policies aimed at creating an enabling environment for growth and development. In doing so, African countries had managed to halt the deteriorating economic trend and, in many cases, had registered modest growth. What was now required was a supportive international environment, in terms of increased financial resources and other mechanisms, to sustain growth. Given the interdependent nature of the global economy, progress in Africa would benefit all including those who came to its assistance.
It had been eight years since the adoption of the New Agenda began, but Africa had very little to show from the programme's existence, he said. The development efforts being made by Africa would only be meaningful if the international community developed a spirit of partnership with it and comprehensively addressed Africa's problems. Given the unsustainable level of external debt on the continent, it would be difficult to have any meaningful capital transformation -- a prerequisite for development. Africa looked forward to the creation of a meaningful mechanism aimed at effectively addressing that problem.
By and large, Africa lacked the necessary resources to undertake all restructuring and infrastructure projects which could attract foreign direct investment, he noted. The hesitancy of investors to enter into new and untested markets was, notwithstanding, the statistical fact that returns on investments in Africa were among the highest. That hesitancy could be a result of deep-seated prejudices resulting from propaganda presenting Africa as a continent of endemic instability and conflict. In some cases, conflicts had plagued individual African countries, but those were very few. The United Republic of Tanzania called on the international community to mobilize resources necessary to build investment-sustaining infrastructure and to
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unblock the negative images of the continent which stood in the way of increased foreign direct investment.
JACOB B. WILMOT (Ghana) said that in the face of limited budgetary resources, higher expenditure demands and new institutions established under constitutional rule, the potential of unaided domestic action in African countries had been distorted or severely compromised. Those limitations had highlighted the important role of foreign direct investments, official development assistance (ODA), and the creation of additional resources as catalysts for growth in African economies. To that end, many countries, including Ghana, had enacted legislation to create among the most attractive environments for investments and courted foreign and local investors. Private capital flows to Africa, however, continued to be a small percentage of total flows to developing countries, with the continent receiving only 2.7 per cent of such capital in 1996.
It was difficult to understand why ODA levels were declining to historical lows, when some donor countries were enjoying surpluses, he said. It was tempting to conclude that lack of political will, and not lack of resources, was the cause. Improvements in African export production had also failed to lift the continent's share of world trade above 2 per cent, primarily due to problems with market access. Africa had been expected to be "a loser" as a result of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, because of the continent's weak institutional frameworks for implementation of those results, price uncertainties and higher interest rates affecting export financing.
In conclusion, Ghana proposed a dialogue, within the framework of the New Agenda, to address enhanced capital flows to Africa, he said. The way the international community resolved Africa's debt burden would show how serious its commitment was to the Agenda's implementation. The easiest way to free Africa's human and economic potential was to convert all its official debt to grants.
OTLAADISA M. KOOSALETSE (Botswana) said while some progress had been achieved since the launching in 1996 of a United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa, many of the critical social and economic problems still persisted. The performance of sub-Saharan African economies had improved only marginally and their integration into the world trading system was still a long way from being realized. The impact of the Asian financial crisis, which had resulted in the loss of income for societies already on the margins of survival, threatened to erode the progress achieved so far.
Botswana supported the incorporation of some of the recommendations of the Secretary-General's report on conflict and sustainable development in Africa into the existing Agenda framework. Addressing the links between peace and development was a vital part of the debate on the initiatives on Africa. Various activities should be harmonized through the collaboration of all
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partners in order to avoid unnecessary duplication and ensure the efficient use of resources. There had been an improvement in the operational activities for development of the United Nations system.
He said that coherence of United Nations activities in Botswana had brought about a reduction of duplication and could benefit development activities within the framework of its national development plan. Botswana continued to benefit from a partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its sister agencies. The Government of Botswana had embraced the private sector and civil society as partners in the development process. They possessed a remarkable potential in the war against unemployment and poverty.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said it was evident that most African countries were not in a position to take advantage of the globalization process. The constraints facing them were further aggravated by the recent slowdown in the world economy. While he encouraged African countries to continue implementing reform programmes, it was imperative that sound domestic policies were supported by a friendly economic environment.
Norway had recently taken steps to contribute to such an environment for the developing countries, in general, and African countries in particular, he said. Regarding Africa's debt burden, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt-Initiative represented the most far-reaching scheme for debt cancellation to date. However, Norway was sensitive to the demands for more flexibility in the eligibility criteria and for having the implementation of the mechanism speed up. It intended to contribute to strengthening the Debt-Initiative through the recently launched Norwegian debt relief strategy which would benefit a number of African countries.
Norway's strategy to promote activities of the private sector in developing countries aimed to stimulate private investments essential for developing a dynamic business sector in African economies, he said. Within the World Trade Organization, it would continue to attach high priority to the concerns of the poorest countries. Finally, his Government was currently working on a plan to increase Norwegian development assistance in the years ahead. Special emphasis would be put on increased cooperation with its African partners. Sectors of particular interest were poverty alleviation, improved delivery of social services and debt reduction.
HENRIQUE R. VALLE (Brazil) said it was important to ensure that progress made in the socio-economic fields in Africa in the last few years be consolidated and deepened. Such progress included macroeconomic policy reforms, lower fiscal deficits, qualitative improvement of budgetary allocations, increased foreign capital flows, higher growth rates and rises in per capita income. Those achievements must be safeguarded against the negative impact of the current systemic financial crisis. In order to make a difference in areas such as trade, finance, technical cooperation,
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capacity-building and social development, the United Nations must continue to implement specific assistance initiatives, in cooperation with relevant regional organizations and with the Bretton Woods institutions.
He said the success of the New Agenda, however, would rely ultimately on the political will of governments, particularly multilateral and bilateral donor countries, to strengthen their cooperation with Africa. In that context, urgent solutions must be found to tackle the continued decline of the ODA flows. South-South cooperation was also an important tool which could be further promoted. Brazil had deployed significant efforts, through the Brazilian Cooperation Agency and other national institutions, to share with African nations, its own experience in the struggle for development, he said.
More than 21 per cent of Brazilian bilateral technical cooperation among developing countries projects were devoted to the cooperation with African countries. Brazil had also been cooperating with African States in a number of strategic areas, such as capacity-building, health, education, management of agricultural policies, tropical agriculture, electric power generation and the monitoring and exploration of mineral resources. Some of those activities were under way through bilateral and triangular programmes or were under consideration within multilateral initiatives, such as the Commonwealth of Portuguese-Speaking Countries.
IBRAHIM A. GAMBARI (Nigeria), on behalf of the African States, said according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's (UNCTAD) recent study, the continent was currently one of the regions in the world where returns on foreign investments were highest. However, ironically, it was the region receiving the least foreign direct investment. An increase in foreign direct investment would improve Africa's chances of consolidating economic reforms, creating more job opportunities and reducing the level of poverty.
Sustainable development was not compatible with heavy debt burdens, he said. Several debt strategies put in place so far by the international community, including the HIPC Debt-Initiative, had proven to be of limited value to Africa's disturbing and unacceptable external debt problems. Creditor countries were urged to convert into grants, all remaining official debts of the poorest African countries. The international community should also put in place an international agreement to clear the entire debt stock of the those countries. Africa's development efforts would be frustrated as long as they continued to remain in the strait-jacket of external debt.
Recently, the flow of development assistance had virtually dried up, at a time when it was most needed to strengthen the process of economic reforms, he continued. Foreign aid had declined in volume and value, precisely when it was required to complement national efforts to develop the social and infrastructural sectors of the economy. An increase in financial assistance was urgently required to implement priority development efforts. Further, the
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lack of market access for African exports was a major impediment to promoting sustainable economic growth and development. Various barriers had to be dismantled by developed countries and access granted to African products. Foreign trade was the most vital engine for sustainable economic growth and development.
Strengthening regionalism on the continent would facilitate competitiveness of African countries in the global economy and ease their integration into the process of true globalization, he said. The adoption of several multilateral initiatives for Africa's development was not wholly the crux of the matter in the long-term development of the continent. The multiplicity of such initiatives might be counter-productive if left unfettered, as priorities shifted from one initiative to another, while the efforts remained uncoordinated.
MATIA MULUMBA SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda) said that his country's political, institutional and economic reforms were starting to bear fruit as Ugandans at all levels felt empowered to manage their own affairs. That was no small achievement, considering where the country had been in 1986. Despite achievements in Uganda and Africa, poverty still persisted and the agricultural sector had still not been modernized. The result was that Africa was trapped as a primary commodity exporter.
Noting that Africa's share of world trade in 1997 declined to 1.9 per cent, he said its trading opportunities would depend on the extent to which it was integrated into the world trading system and on its productive capacity. Unfortunately, Africa's supply for export goods, except for natural resources, was still very weak. The challenge, therefore, was industrialization to enable sustainable economic growth on the continent. Africa needed partners from within and beyond its regions to redress poor physical infrastructures, weak institutional capacity, inadequate regulatory and incentive systems and the widening technology gap.
The major hindrance to African development was the persistence of deadly conflicts and humanitarian crises in Africa, he said. The slowness of the Security Council and the international community to respond to the steady deterioration in the security and humanitarian situations in many parts of Africa was a matter of great concern. To that end, he called upon the international community to support and strengthen the Organization of African Unity (OAU) mechanism on conflict resolution. Finally, in regards to advancing African development, he called attention to the joint communiqué issued at the Entebbe Summit for Peace and Prosperity in March, which recognized that lasting partnerships with Africa must be built on the principles of shared ownership, joint responsibility and full transparency.
FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) said action at the international level was needed to insulate African economies from the financial crisis raging in some parts of the world. It was important for the international community to
General Assembly Plenary - 15 - Press Release GA/9490 47th Meeting (PM) 28 October 1998
carry out all measures identified during the mid-term review of the New Agenda. African countries should persist in efforts aimed at promoting private sector participation in their economy, and the enhancement of foreign direct investment in Africa's development. The international community, including the financial institutions, had to provide the necessary support to physical, institutional and social infrastructures.
Unless Africa was accorded the opportunity to expand their earning potential through the exports of their goods and services, there was not much hope for a sustained path to progress, he said. The Philippines called on the international community, particularly the developed countries, to implement measures that would expand the market access for African products. He urged that serious consideration be given to the OAU's framework for action on debt that called for an international agreement to clear the entire debt stock for Africa's poorest countries within a reasonably short period of time, and in the context of Africa's overall economic reforms.
NIKOLAI V. TCHOULKOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation considered the New Agenda a basic document that would bring national and United Nations efforts together with a view to the comprehensive development of Africa. The success of the New Agenda strategy lay in the settlement of conflicts in Africa. Helping to settle those conflicts was one of his country's policies on the African continent.
While the primary responsibility for economic policies lay with African countries, the international community still had an important role to play, he said. African countries could not break out of the social and economic burdens that they confronted by themselves. The Russian Federation suggested a shift in focus from emergency humanitarian assistance to support for long-term projects. It was also important to continue seeking ways to reduce the debt burden.
He said an important element in the successful development of Africa was the strengthening of the coordination among donor countries and international institutions. Programmes sometimes criss-crossed and it was important to avoid dissipation of efforts. Finding a solution to the problem of Africa was a priority task of the world community. His country was ready to participate in related projects especially in the humanitarian area and demining.
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