The General Assembly this afternoon invited the Secretary-General, Member States, the United Nations system, and other intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations to contribute actively to the follow-up process of the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies on Democracy and Development, which was held in Bucharest, Romania, from 2 to 4 September 1997.
It took that action as it adopted, without a vote, a text on support by the United Nations system of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies. Also, the Secretary-General was encouraged to improve the Organization's capacity to respond effectively to requests of Member States for assistance in the field of good governance and democratization.
Welcoming the coordination measures taken within the organizations of the Administrative Committee on Coordination in the field of democratization, the Assembly also encouraged Member States to identify possible steps that could be taken to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.
During the extended debate on the issue this afternoon, the representative of Norway said, "Unless we are able to bridge the poverty gap, misery and disillusion will prevail and democracy will grow on thin soil." Economic opportunities and social progress were essential for democracies to flourish and poverty was undermining democracy and hampering democratic developments.
The representative of Benin said that simply meeting the requirements of periodic elections was not enough to establish and guarantee democracy in a given country, especially a developing one. The international community had to intervene to help young democracies, which were developing in a fragile economic environment.
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Also this afternoon the Assembly began its consideration of certain aspects of United Nations reform, including the environment and human settlements, a Millenium Assembly, a new concept of trusteeship and time limits on new initiatives.
The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Member States of the Joint Coordinating Committee of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the Secretary- General's proposals, which required further consideration by the Assembly, should be discussed through an open and transparent procedure allowing all delegations to participate effectively in negotiation and not be subjected to any imposed time frame.
The representative of Croatia said that integrating the Organization's approach to environmental and human settlement activities should not only be directed at cost savings, but to greater efficiency in achieving mandates. Also, finding the best way to make use of existing structures was important to that process, as was the rapid expansion of international environmental law. It was the responsibility of the Organization to reflect international law in its reform process, he said.
Statements were also made on new or restored democracies by the representatives of Bangladesh, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Germany, Philippines, Ukraine, United States, Italy, the Republic of Moldova, Swaziland, Hungary, Belarus and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On the issue of United Nations reform, statements were also made by Norway, Canada, India, Kenya and Japan.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 24 November, to consider oceans and the Law of the Sea and take action on related draft resolutions.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider United Nations support for the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies and a related draft resolution, as well as to discuss United Nations reform measures concerning the environment and human settlements.
Consolidation of New Democracies
The Assembly had before it the Secretary-General's report (document A/53/554), submitted in response to the Assembly's resolution 52/18, which concentrates on policies and principles, while giving an account of relevant recent events shaping the emerging framework for inter-governmental action in the field of democratization. The report refers to the need for the whole United Nations system to provide concrete assistance to countries that ask for help in various ways related to democracy, governance and development. (For more detailed information, see Press Release GA/9511 issued today.)
By the terms of the draft resolution on support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new and restored democracies (document A/53/L.38), the Assembly would invite the Secretary-General, Member States, the relevant specialized agencies and bodies of the United Nations system, and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to contribute actively to the follow-up process of the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies on Democracy and Development held at Bucharest from 2 to 4 September 1997. The Secretary- General would be asked to report to the next session of the Assembly on the implementation of the present resolution, and encouraged to improve the Organization's capacity to respond effectively to requests of Member States for assistance in the field of good governance and democratization.
Welcoming the coordination measures taken within the organizations of the Administrative Committee on Coordination in the field of democratization, the resolution would also encourage Member States to promote democratization by identifying steps to support government efforts in promoting and consolidating new or restored democracies. It would recognize that the Organization has an important role to play in providing timely, appropriate and coherent support to the efforts of governments to achieve democratization within the context of their development efforts. The Assembly would also decide to include the item in its provisional agenda of its next session.
Sponsors of the draft resolution are Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras,
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Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Zambia.
United Nations Reform
Under its agenda item on United Nations reform, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General's report on environment and human settlements (document A/53/463) was prepared in response to action 12 of the Secretary- General's report entitled "Renewing the United Nations: a programme for reform" (A/51/950). In that report, it was provided that the Secretary- General, in consultation with governments, the Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) would develop new measures for strengthening and restructuring the two organizations and make recommendations to the Assembly.
In order to initiate the process of preparing those recommendations, the Secretary-General established the Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements, under the chairmanship of the Executive Director of UNEP. Its terms of reference included: a review of current structures and arrangements through which the Organization carries out its environmental activities; an evaluation of the efficacy of those arrangements; and recommendations for the changes and improvements required to optimize the Organization's and UNEP's environmental work and their effectiveness. (For details, see Press Release GA/9511.)
The Assembly also had before it the report on the status of implementation of actions described in the report of the Secretary-General entitled "Renewing the United Nations: a programme for reform" (document A/53/676). The report was prepared by the Secretary-General after considering the views and comments expressed by Member States in implementing the various reform initiatives. While actions on many areas have already produced positive results within the Secretariat and in its relations with the programmes and funds, the consideration of several other questions will continue to be dealt with by the Assembly at its current session. (For details, see Press Release GA/9511.)
By decisions taken during its fifty-second session, the Assembly deferred consideration of three proposals of the Secretary-General to the fifty-third session. Before the Assembly was the Secretary-General's note on a new concept of trusteeship (document A/52/849). In his report (A/51/950), the Secretary-General proposed that the Trusteeship Council be reconstituted
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as the forum through which Member States exercise their collective trusteeship for the integrity of the global environment and common areas, such as the oceans, atmosphere and outer space. He also proposed that the Council served to link the Organization and civil society in addressing those areas of global concern, which required the active contribution of public, private and voluntary sectors. The note indicates that the Task Force on the environmental and human settlement areas would have the opportunity to elaborate further on the proposal for a new concept of trusteeship.
The Secretary-General's note on a Millennium Assembly, the United Nations System (Special Commission) and a Millennium Forum (document A/52/850) contains his elaborations concerning the General Assembly session in the year 2000. He recommends that the Assembly's fifty-fifth session be designated the Millennium Assembly, and that a high-level segment, called the Millennium Summit, be devoted to in-depth consideration of the theme "the United Nations in the twenty-first century". The integration of the Summit into the Assembly's regular session would facilitate the participation of heads of State and government, while maximizing continuity in the Assembly's normal programme of work. (For details see Press Release GA/9511 issued today.)
Also before the Assembly is the Secretary-General's note on time limits of new initiatives ("sunset" provisions) (document A/52/851 and Corr.1 and Add.1). The idea of specific time limits, or "sunset" provisions, is intended to provide a specific time horizon for mandates, whereupon their continuation would require explicit renewal by the Assembly. The purpose of sunset provisions is to strengthen the role and capacity of the Organization, by focusing its efforts only on activities that have continuing relevance, usefulness and effectiveness. (For details see Press Release GA/9511 issued today.)
Statements on New Democracies
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said economic opportunities and social progress were essential for democracies to flourish. Poverty was undermining democracy and hampering democratic developments. The world was witnessing a widening gap between those living in affluence and those who did not have sufficient means of subsistence. "Unless we are able to bridge the poverty gap, misery and disillusion will prevail and democracy will grow on thin soil", he noted.
He said that words alone would not suffice -- increased development assistance was clearly needed. The peaceful resolution of conflicts was at the very core of democracy. In post-conflict situations, particular attention must be given to the development of democratic institutions, as well as a vibrant civil society, which might further promote democracy and guard against undemocratic currents.
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He said African nations had the primary responsibility for defining and implementing solutions to the many problems ravaging their continent, thereby laying the foundation for long-term development. However, assistance from the international community must be made available. Democracies were never completed. They needed renewal and the strengthening of democracy required dedication and patience. Better cooperation among the different actors involved was essential. His Government would work for even closer cooperation with the United Nations and such groups, as new and restored democracies when his country took over the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
MOHAMMAD SELIM (Bangladesh) said his country believed that the United Nations system could play an effective role in the global democratization process. Restored and new democracies looked forward to the support and cooperation of the United Nations and of the international community, in their efforts to democratize and pursue good governance and development. The changes that had occurred in the international arena provided a powerful impetus in that regard. The final document of the Third International Conference of the New and Restored Democracies held last year in Bucharest had underlined the role of the United Nations in helping countries meet associated challenges.
He said in the present international scenario, democracy was the only thing that could help States address effectively many of the problems and tensions of the world today. In the same vein, it could help States formulate policies for the next century. Democracy and development were inseparable, and in their efforts on both fronts, the poor countries depended to a large extent on the cooperation of the developed economies. Unfortunately, in many instances, those poor countries were given conditions that affected them negatively.
His Government, he continued, was making a lot of efforts to strengthen institutions and laws that would reinforce democracy and good governance. To that effect, it was now in the process of passing bills that would transfer more powers to the democratically-elected local authority. In the same context, his country was committed to the promotion of human rights and social development had remained the main focus of its development strategy. His country strongly recommended the improvement of the capacity of the United Nations to respond to the request of Member States for support in their democratization efforts. It was also happy to note the commencement of the follow-up process of the Bucharest Conference, with projects such as a website and data base inventory, as well as the democracy forum.
ALIOUNE DIAGNE (Senegal), said the march of people towards liberty and democracy had stepped up its pace. Political regimes would always fail if they overlooked the self-evident fact that the power of government must find its source in the freely expressed will of its citizens. At the same time,
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viable economic and social structures were required to help realize socio- economic and cultural rights. The right of development was also linked firmly to civil and political rights.
The degradation of economic and social rights was the most serious menace to the establishment of democracy, he said. Democracy, peace and development were interconnected. He hoped that more attention would be given to cooperation between traditional democracies and new and restored democracies. Since democracy was an ideal, it had taken no final form. It was a work in progress, a dynamic that could always be perfected and a perpetual construction built by the history and culture of nations.
FASSASSI A. YACOUBOU (Benin) said that democracy was a model for social and economic development, and the international community had the duty to encourage it always and everywhere. Democracy was a demanding human endeavour, but one that was profitable for the prosperity of peoples. It allowed for the establishment of peace and for the full development of the individual. For that to be true, however, democracy had to be based on fundamental criteria, which included literacy campaigns. Democracy could not take place among the illiterate and uninformed. For that reason, he appealed to the international community for help in achieving the objective of primary education for all children.
He remained convinced that simply meeting the requirements of periodic elections was not enough to establish and guarantee democracy in a given country, especially a developing one, he said. The international community had to intervene to help young democracies sustain themselves with a stable economy. Young democracies were developing in a fragile economic environment. Minimum economic development was necessary for the establishment of a democratic culture. Periodic elections were costly and absorbed a high percentage of a young democracy's budget. Assistance from the international community was necessary to consolidate the democratic experience.
His country was fighting to establish a democratic culture, he said. It had a broad programme to combat corruption and it encouraged the free flow of information. It wanted to commend the international community for the results achieved during the Bucharest Conference and especially for the unanimous support given to Benin to host the Fourth International Conference. Benin was banking on the international community, the Secretary-General, United Nations bodies and agencies, non-governmental organizations, and development partners for their contributions to the Conference.
MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that the 1990s had been marked by a strong movement towards liberal democracy in Africa. A few days ago, Presidential elections had been held in his country, and elections were taking place in several other African countries. Pluralistic democracy had become the indispensable condition on that continent. However, today's
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democratization was still a work in progress, as there were many impediments in its way. There were also philosophical questions about whether representative democracy was compatible with African culture. No democracy could flourish in social disorder and the United Nations attached great importance to maintaining peace in Africa. The United Nations had also raised awareness of that issue. It was playing a key role in educating citizens and electoral assistance was being provided on a wide scale.
While the United Nations was committed to helping governments to consolidate democracies, he continued, it was essential for the Organization to increase its assistance in the human rights area. Without those rights, it was impossible to grasp the very idea of democracy. The United Nations must also urgently draw the attention of the international community to the Fourth International Conference, which was to be held in Benin in 2000. That Conference would allow the consolidation of achievements. For all those reasons, he urged delegates to give full support to the draft.
DIETER KASTRUP (Germany), associating his delegation with the statement of the European Union, said his country's keen interest in promoting and consolidating democracies went well beyond moral and material support to third countries. The fall of the Berlin Wall nine years ago had placed Germany among those for whom the restoration of democracy was a day-to-day challenge in their own country. The peaceful revolution that had taken place in eastern Germany would always be a source of pride for Germans. It had been brought about by the people through non-violent means, solely through the continuous public expression of the people's will.
German reunification had to be understood as part of a development towards unifying Europe, he continued. Both processes were based on the firm belief in -- and unconditional respect for -- human rights, democracy and the rule of law. But, building and preserving those foundations of German and European unity were not easy tasks. The advent of democracy often created high-flying expectations that were not easy to fulfil.
He said that sharing some of his country's experiences by no means implied that, for Germany, the promotion and consolidation of democracy had become a matter of mere introspection. On the contrary, those experiences allowed Germans to have a better understanding of the material, institutional and psychological problems involved. His country had demonstrated firm and substantial commitment to the cause of promoting and consolidating democracy by its: involvement with the movement of new and restored democracies; attendance at the international conferences and the recent Ministerial Follow- up Meeting organized by that movement; support to democratization programmes led by the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union; own national democratization programme; and support to the draft resolution sponsored by Romania.
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Democracy was no quick fix to the unresolved problems of an economic, social and political or cultural order, he said. But, it was the only remedy likely to produce lasting solutions, ensure that problems which might arise in the future would be dealt with in a fair and equitable way and inspire a new common sense of purpose to a people that history had torn apart. In that spirit, Germany was interested in continuing its cooperation with the new and restored democracies. While thanking Romania in its capacity as the acting chair of the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies, Germany's best wishes went to the Government of Benin in its intention to carry on the torch.
FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) said that with each day that passed, the international consensus that democratization was the way to the future increased, just as the numbers of the movement of new and restored democracies had continued to expand. The dreams and aspirations of the movement's first conference were being transformed into reality. The movement's numbers continued to swell, just as its collective commitment to democracy continued to grow. The involvement of other national and international players had also been growing. The process of democratization should involve a partnership between government, the private sector and civil society. Participation of all those sectors had been growing and the Philippines looked forward to even more vigorous exchanges and interactions between and among those partners, when the movement met in Africa for its fourth conference.
He said eternal vigilance was the price of freedom and liberty. Democratic gains should not be taken for granted. The draft resolution before the General Assembly and the report of the Secretary-General were not only direct results of the call for an enhanced and meaningful relationship between the new and restored democracies and the United Nations, but also represented the collective political commitment to promoting the ideals of the movement and the basic tenets of democracy. Member States must, therefore, continue to work as individual nations and as an Organization to strengthen democratic gains. Member States must continue their dialogue and deal with specific issues and problems relating to democratic and good governance.
In that regard, he said, the Philippines, in cooperation with United Nations agencies and other international organizations, would host next year the World Conference on Governance. That conference, to be held in Manila from 31 May to 4 June, would bring together a balance of people of influence from the public service, academe, the business sector, non-governmental organizations, international agencies and organizations and civil society from all over the world and address specific issues relating to government and governance.
VOLODYMYR YU. YEL`CHENKO (Ukraine) said the process of democratization was among the most important factors determining the political life of the international community. The role of the United Nations in assisting the
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consolidation of new and restored democracies should not be underestimated. His country would always be ready to cooperate with other countries and with appropriate United Nations bodies in implementing the recommendations of the Third International Conference. His country believed that the ultimate objective of the process of democratization should be aimed at achieving political, economic and social stability, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
He said his country, having embarked on democratic reforms seven years ago, had demonstrated its desire to become a State in which every person's potential could be realized. The Parliamentary elections last spring had confirmed that the majority of the Ukrainian people continued to support the country's transition to a democratic and law-governed State. The ongoing reform of his country's legal system, designed to bring it in line with existing international standards, especially with those of the Council of Europe, was governed by the spirit of the Bucharest Conference. His country believed that a follow-up mechanism to the Conference was necessary, to help interested States collect and exchange experiences in promoting democracy.
HOWARD SQUADRON (United States) said that the national interests of every nation were best served by the global growth of democracy. Democratization was a long struggle, marked by advances and setbacks. Any democracy-promotion policy should place a large emphasis on multi-party elections. Countries emerging from conflict-ridden or repressive pasts typically faced urgent development tasks in all sectors, and elections were the necessary early milestones of political development. The United States supported United Nations electoral assistance projects around the world, and the speed with which the Electoral Assistance Division had responded to needs in Nigeria most recently was admirable. However, nobody should expect the elections to instantly fix the problems of post-conflict societies and fragile democracies.
Genuine democracy was a function of a number of factors, he said, including the existence of civil society, an informed citizenry, an independent judiciary, a free press, a loyal opposition, respect for human rights and the rule of law. The last two principles were always interrelated, and should always be a major goal of any democracy policy. It was also necessary to vigilantly reject the discredited thesis that for the citizens of certain nations, democracy and human rights existed only in the distant future or did not suit their culture.
FRANCESCO PAOLO FULCI (Italy) said it was crucial that the United Nations assist Member States in the democratic process, by helping them to develop more equitable and effective government and strengthen their civil society. Societies that emerged from prolonged periods of authoritarian rule were inevitably characterized by structural weaknesses, which could best be overcome with help from the international community. The Secretary-General's
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report rightly focused on certain issues which were crucial to the efforts to strengthen democracy, including electoral assistance, free and independent media and the mobilization of civil society.
Electoral assistance was a very complex issue, since elections were indeed a critical time in the building of a democratic system, he said. The procedures through which assistance was provided should be carefully defined, so as to avoid even the shadow of a doubt of inappropriate interference. The Organization should consider ways and means to improve that crucial element of its strategy to support the efforts of governments to promote democracy. Freedom and pluralism were prerequisites of democracy, and the development of a free and responsible press was essential to effective democratization.
Also, the self-organization of the different sectors of society was essential to strengthening the roots of a democratic system, he continued. Non-governmental organizations could be a powerful instrument to facilitate the democratic growth of a society. More attention had to be devoted to the contribution that such organizations could provide to the United Nations system as a whole, and ways to improve their interaction with the Organization should be devised. One essential component of a viable democratic system was the mature political culture of its citizens. That could only be achieved through education, and the teaching of democratic values to children was the first step in that direction. Only if children's rights were promoted and respected could children grow to become responsible citizens, willing and able to participate in the democratic life of a country.
ION BOTNARU (Republic of Moldova) said that since the proclamation of its independence some seven years ago, his country had committed itself to the path of democracy and the rule of law. The Republic of Moldova had made much progress towards the democratization of social and political life as well. Parliamentary elections held this year, which took place on a multi-party basis, had been free and fair. Democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms were also in place in his country, and there was freedom to develop separate ethnic, cultural and linguistic identities. However, a separatist regime in the east of the country continued to violate the civil, political and cultural rights of the people. Efforts to find solutions had come up against the intransigence of that separatist movement. However, there was still a firm belief in the curative powers of democracy.
The stationing of foreign military units in a country without its consent was interference in its affairs, he said. The unconditional and immediate withdrawal of troops from the territory of the Republic of Moldova would have an inestimable influence on the future of the country. Democracy as a system of government could not proceed without sustainable development. The United Nations therefore had an important role to play in any such process. He welcomed the decision of the Government of Benin to host the Fourth Conference of New and Restored Democracies. His delegation also
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supported the text introduced by Romania and hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.
MOSES M. DLAMINI (Swaziland) said his country was currently engaged in a Constitutional Review Commission, which was charged with reviewing the national constitution. It was a vitally important exercise and substantial progress had been made over the past 24 months. The end result would truly reflect the will of the people themselves, and he said, "we are confident that we will have in place a constitution that will serve the best interests of all Swazis for many generations to come".
In addition, he said, with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), his country was conducting an exercise in the codification of its laws and customs. "We believe that the success of any country's political and economic system hinges on the appropriateness of its cultural orientation and, through this exercise, a concrete and factual analysis of our customs will be made, with a view to sensitizing our people on laws and customs governing aspects of our life".
As Swaziland ventured towards the new millennium, its overall aim was to raise the living standards of all its people and to ensure that access to all the basic requirements of decent human life were available to them, he continued. His country had put in place a number of initiatives aimed at identifying areas of priority for action through the involvement of its people. Through such initiatives, "we have identified a twin-track approach which encompasses the economic and social reform agenda covering a shorter term, and a national development strategy to provide an action plan for a longer term. With these in place, we believe that effective management of our resources, accountability and the transparency of our public sector will be guaranteed." He added that the creation of the African Centre for Civil Society, which would serve as a focal point and information centre for activities related to popular participation, was yet another major development.
ANDRE ERDOS (Hungary) associated himself with the statement made by the representative of Austria on behalf of the European Union and said that in spite of all the inevitable difficulties, the process of democratization was continuing. In a time of globalization, the United Nations must make additional efforts, so that good governance and the rule of law truly became universal. He noted the continuation of oppression and existence of efforts to distort democracy in certain parts of the world. The process of democratization must take into consideration the variety of conditions in different parts of the world. In view of those diverse parameters, the universal values proclaimed by the Charter constituted the common heritage of all nations. Adherence to them should be required from all.
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Continuing, he welcomed the Third International Conference of the New or Restored Democracies and said that the mechanism for implementation of its recommendations was already in place. Preparations for the Fourth International Conference were now underway. Hungary had restored its democratic system in the last decade, which had not been an easy task. Nevertheless, the promises and advantages of that transition were worth the price. He hoped the draft would be adopted by consensus.
ALYAKSANDR SYCHOU (Belarus) said that for a number of years his country had been a co-sponsor on the item, because of the special place taken by countries with transitional economies. The problems of those countries were important and had to be taken into account as a whole. He wanted to reaffirm his country's commitment to the United Nations Charter and other international instruments pertaining to the protection of political and social rights. His Government had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. All its citizens had equal opportunity to participate in political life and the different faiths of its people were allowed free development. Retention of such a unique ethnic balance was its contribution to peace in the region.
There was a need to establish general machinery to achieve consensus, constructive dialogue, democracy, market economies and cooperation among States, he said. New and restored democracies could and must play a role in the new world model for security. The international community must recognize the complexities and contradictions of the development of countries with new and restored democracies. His country had co-sponsored the draft and would promote its basic provisions.
ANDRE MWAMBA KAPANGA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the Secretary-General's report gave a clear overview of the stages in the process begun by the Organization in response to the needs of States to further develop democracy. It also gave a forecast to help promote communication and understanding between new and restored democracies and already established democracies. It emphasized that new and restored democracies frequently confronted uncertain futures. International assistance had two major objectives: to prevent the reoccurrence of conflicts; and to create the necessary conditions for a durable democratic process.
The international community must make a special effort to supply positive assistance to new and restored democracies, he continued. Results would come progressively and it would be a slow process, but there was a reason for optimism. Many factors had to be forged and integrated. Colonial society and shameful post-colonial dictatorships had to be destroyed. Traditional democracies had evolved, but had not reached the end of their task.
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His country had set up a ministry to deal with human rights and spread a political culture based on human rights, he said. It would also transmit that culture throughout the population, so its citizens could become the primary holders of public power and the primary benefactors of good governance. Despite the war in his country, it had played an important role in protecting various groups in its society. The Government wished to restore democracy in the country and based its policies on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Initiatives included the preparation of an electoral calendar, a draft constitution and the authorization of a free and independent press. Everything had been done to return to democratic values. However, no results had been achieved, due to the aggression committed against his country.
Action on Draft
MATIA M. SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda), Acting President of the Assembly, said that since the introduction of the draft, the following countries had joined as co-sponsors: Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti and India.
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution on support by the United Nations system of the effort of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies (document A/53/L.38) without a vote.
Speaking in explanation of position, RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said he had joined in the consensus on the draft resolution. The right of people to choose their economic, political or social systems was mentioned in the text and that was of utmost importance. It was completely up to the people to choose the system, in accordance with their wishes. He believed that States had sovereign and discretionary power to forge their own political culture, as part of their internal policy.
Statements on reform
The Acting President of the Assembly, Mr. SEMAKULA KIWANUKA, (Uganda) then announced that Switzerland wished to participate in the debate on United Nations reform. The request was accepted without objection.
KHIPHUSIZI J. JELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Member States of the Joint Coordinating Committee of the Non-Aligned Movement and the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that consideration of the item before the Assembly should take place through an intergovernmental process. Furthermore, the Secretary-General's proposals, which required further consideration by the Assembly, should be discussed through an open and transparent procedure, which allowed all delegations to participate effectively in negotiation and not be subjected to any imposed time frame. To that end, "we are of the view that in considering issues under the item, we should avoid any conflict of schedule with other meetings in order to enable
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us to engage in a focused and substantive deliberation, while ensuring proper illustration and negotiation".
He said the Joint Coordinating Committee strongly believed that the recommendations contained in the report on environment and human settlements, like other proposals under the agenda item, must be discussed through the mechanisms to be decided by the Assembly. That would provide the required opportunity for all Member States to contribute to the crucial and important task of strengthening UNEP and Habitat.
KENNETH MACARTNEY (Canada) said that the increasing fragmentation and growing complexity of the international environmental agenda represented one of the most urgent challenges the United Nations had to face. The Secretary- General's recommendations were pragmatic and constructive. They provided a valuable road map for implementing the proposals of the United Nations Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements. His Government urged the Secretary-General to proceed quickly to establish the inter-agency Environmental Management Group, due to the obvious need for better coordination of the work of the Organization in the environmental field. The annual, ministerial-level, global environmental forum recommended by the Secretary-General was, likewise, strongly needed.
Also, he supported the proposal for universal membership on UNEP's Governing Council, as all countries had duties and responsibilities related to UNEP and the environment, he said. A strengthened participation by civil society was needed in UNEP, since governments alone could not solve the environmental challenges confronting the global community. He also agreed that UNEP's and Habitat's work should be more integrated administratively and take advantage of synergies at the programme level. The Secretary-General's recommendations represented a constructive contribution to a strengthened role of the Organization, and he urged all Member States to lend their support to their prompt implementation.
IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said that the reform process had to be pursued on two tracks -- one on which the Secretary-General was already empowered to act, and the other on which the approval of Member States was needed. The UNEP and Habitat's significance had usually been stated in terms of their potential coordinating role in relation to environmental conventions. Practical steps towards achieving that goal included a holistic approach to sustainable development, at least within those two relevant bodies. In that regard, a greater role for non-governmental organizations was welcomed.
Turning to the Secretary-General's report on the environment and human settlements, he said the 24 recommendations were bound by the theme of coordination and coherence. He attached great importance to linkages between the agencies and also between the environmental and environment-related conventions. Additionally, the inter-agency Environment Management Group was
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a timely proposal. Integrating the Organization's approach to environmental and human settlement activities should not only be directed at cost savings, but to greater efficiency in achieving mandates.
Finding the best way to make use of existing structures was important to that process, as was the rapid expansion of international environmental law, he added. In order to formulate future policy coherence and coordination, new environmental treaties and their implementing mechanisms would have to have certain structures not sufficiently accounted for in the past. It was the responsibility of the Organization to reflect international law in its reform process.
As coordination and coherence were crucial in the area of environment and human settlements, accountability and effectiveness should be factored in time limits on new initiatives, he continued. The efficiency of the Organization should be judged by the quality of its outputs, as measured by an evaluation of results against resources. Important to that equation would be the amount of time spent and the value added to an issue by United Nations treatment. The "sunset" provision should be viewed in that same context, as a balance between the value added to an issue and the Organization's budget.
Addressing the Millennium Assembly, he warned against marking the occasion by purely ceremonial events and words unsupported by action. The symbolism of the end of the millennium should serve as a natural deadline for the implementation of many reform aspects. In conclusion, he said that his delegation was looking forward to reviewing and commenting on "Renewing the United Nations: a programme for reform" (document A/51/950), but it had only been made available that morning. The report should have been available well in advance of the discussion. He reserved the opportunity to comment on it, in detail, at a later date.
D. P. SRIVASTAVA (India) associated himself with the statement delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 and China and said that it was of paramount importance that discussions on the reform of the United Nations be undertaken in an open-ended, transparent intergovernmental process. That could be ensured through, among other things, consideration of the items by open-ended, ad hoc working groups. The meetings of those groups should not overlap or be in conflict with the schedule of other important meetings. In that way, all delegations would have the opportunity for full and effective participation.
He had noted that some of the proposals contained in the report of the Secretary-General considerably modified the report of the Task Force, he said. Some of his recommendations, including those for action at the Secretariat level, required further deliberation before they could be implemented. No artificial time limits should be imposed on those consultations. It was also necessary to ensure success of the Millennium Assembly and the Summit and to
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identify effective goals for the organization for the future, providing also the means to achieve them. Issues to be dealt with in the context of the Millennium Assembly and the Summit included those of South-South cooperation, the role of the United Nations in development and weapons of mass destruction.
J. K. KOECH (Kenya) said that the Secretary-General's report was a good starting point for a more integrated approach in strengthening and restructuring UNEP and Habitat. Associating his remarks with those of the Group of 77 and China, he stressed the need for open and transparent procedures, stronger links among the secretariats of the environmental conventions and increased UNEP capability in supporting those secretariats. As the global environment authority, UNEP should play the leading role in the coordination of the secretariats.
He welcomed Task Force recommendation for the establishment of the environmental management group. The goal of the group should be coordination and joint action in key environmental and human settlement areas to minimize duplication and overlap. To ensure efficiency, that group should constantly seek the views of Member States, be guided by the decisions of UNEP's Governing Council and the Commission on Human Settlements and be located at UNEP's Headquarters.
He went on to say that the Secretary-General, during his visit to Nairobi this year, had upgraded the United Nations offices there to the same status as those in Vienna and Geneva. Implementing that would require corresponding finances and human resources for maximum utilization of the facilities. In conclusion, he called for the continued separate senior management for UNEP and Habitat to facilitate effective implementation of their programmes. He expected the normal inter-governmental process to be adhered to in addressing that matter.
MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said the Secretary-General had divided the recommendations contained in the Task Force's report in two categories -- those on which action should be taken at the Secretariat level and those on which action should be taken by intergovernmental bodies. While the division was sound, his delegation requested clarification on the financial implications, and would ask for additional information when those recommendations were discussed in more detail. Regarding the second category, Japan believed that there were three main issues that should be discussed at the Assembly. Those were: linkages among conventions related to sustainable development; establishment of an annual ministerial environmental forum; and making the membership of the Governing Council of UNEP universal.
He said the linkages among the sustainable development conventions was an important issue that should be addressed in all aspects, if coordinated implementation of instruments was to be achieved. The proposal to hold an annual ministerial environmental forum outside of Nairobi every two years
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would impose an additional financial burden on the Organization, and was inconsistent with the agreement in Assembly resolution A/48/174 to utilize the conference facilities and services in Nairobi to the maximum extent.
Regarding the proposal to universalize the UNEP Governing Council, he said he was not sure what benefit would be derived from that. It would also require significant expenses for both Member States and the Secretariat. "We must be realistic and recognize that for all decision-making bodies, the larger the membership, the lower the level of efficiency", he noted. His Government did not feel that the Governing Council in Nairobi felt strongly about making membership universal. His delegation thus felt that the proposal was unwarranted.
Reform of HABITAT lagged far behind that of UNEP, he said. One reason was the absence of a person in charge who could lead that body and also spend time on its revitalization. It was important for the Secretary-General to appoint an officer who would direct the day-to-day operations of HABITAT as soon as possible. On the other hand, UNEP, HABITAT and the United Nations Office in Nairobi should continue to be headed by one person, as the Task Force had recommended. The Millennium Assembly should be substantive and not a ceremonial observance, he noted. Preparations should provide annual impetus to United Nations reform efforts in the political, social, economic and administrative areas.
Addressing sunset provisions to set specific time limits for mandates, he said the perpetuation of activities that had lost their relevance took precious resources that were required to address newly emerging needs. Without delay, the Assembly should adopt a resolution establishing the principle of such time limits.
GURO FJELLANGER, Minister of Environment of Norway, addressed the need to strengthen United Nations performance on environment and human settlements. Those issues were complex and interrelated. Broad agreement needed to be reached on the steps to be taken in that respect, and some of those steps could have financial implications, which also needed to be considered. However, there was no time to lose in getting that process underway. The Secretary-General's report on the environment and human settlements was an excellent starting point for further action. The time had come to look at how all existing instruments and programmes could work together and to capitalize on possible synergies in an open and participatory manner. It was necessary to gradually bring about improved policy coherence and more coordinated action in the fields of environment and human settlements.
While reviewing existing structures and arrangements, it was necessary to keep in mind the basic functions of the United Nations in the fields of
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environment and settlements, she continued. At the normative level, the role of the Organization was to facilitate dialogue and consensus-building on all levels and to assist in the development of international law, guidelines and standards. The United Nations was also entrusted with the task of following up and implementing the priorities agreed upon by the Member States. The Organization needed to develop a visible and distinct profile on environmental matters.
On the issue of intergovernmental cooperation, she strongly favoured the establishment of a global arena for the environment, where ministers could gather to reach a common understanding on future actions. Norway agreed that such a gathering could be convened when the UNEP Governing Council met. All participants should have similar status and equal say in the decision-making process. Countries should be urged to coordinate their national input with different intergovernmental processes. Conferences of the parties should have sufficient awareness of the areas of common concern and of overlapping processes. There were significant additional costs and inefficiencies associated with geographic dispersal of the convention secretariats, and it was recommended that Governments and the Conferences of various conventions consider those costs and seek to address that situation. The UNEP should draw the interest of civil society to its cause.
As far as relations with the Commission on Sustainable Development were concerned, she said that the main future challenge for the Commission was to strengthen social and economic development and to promote the active involvement of other ministers, including environment ministers, at its sessions. Although there were overlaps between environment and human settlements, Habitat must remain a distinct entity within the larger United Nations family in Nairobi. A large body of environmental law and policies had been created, and institutional and financial inefficiencies should not be allowed to come in the way of their full implementation.
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