13 September 1999


Press Release
GA/9590



GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES FIFTY-THIRD SESSION; ADOPTS TEXT ON CULTURE OF PEACE

19990913

The crisis in Kosovo would affect the functioning and credibility of the Organization and demonstrated that the reform of the United Nations should proceed without any further delay, Didier Opertti (Uruguay), President of the General Assembly, told that body at the closing of its fifty-third session this morning.

The threat of the use of the veto had played its role, he said, demonstrating that the mechanism that had been ostensibly conceived to avoid the use of force, ultimately became a factor which took the decision regarding its use away from the Security Council and the Organization itself. It was necessary to intensify the efforts to restore the primacy of the United Nations in the conduct of international affairs by strengthening and improving it and by adapting its structure and functioning to the new requirements.

The process of the general reform of the United Nations had been slower than originally envisaged, he said, and the reform of the Security Council was the most controversial aspect in the efforts to re-shape the Organization. There was a need to change the functioning of the main bodies of the United Nations. More than once, he had been surprised in noting that despite sporadic contacts of representatives, the bodies with major responsibility -- the General Assembly and the Security Council -- had acted without coordination and transparency.

In summing up, he said that during the fifty-third session, 170 items had been discussed in 107 plenary and 9 informal meetings; 309 resolutions had been adopted - - 248 of them by consensus -- and 130 decisions. The variety and importance of the issues and the seriousness with which they had been considered showed that the United Nations continued to be the only global forum for continuing dialogue, and it must continue to play that role.

Recognizing the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and intolerance, including those based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, and birth, the Assembly, in other business this morning, adopted without a vote a resolution on the culture of peace, which contains the texts of the Declaration and the Programme of Action. By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly expressed deep concern about the persistence and proliferation of violence and conflict in various parts of the world. It solemnly proclaimed that governments, international organizations and civil society may be guided in their activity by provisions of the Declaration to promote and strengthen a culture of peace in the new millennium.


General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9590 107th Meeting (AM) 13 September 1999

Introduced by the representative of Bangladesh, the document contains nine articles, which advocate that a culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviour and ways of life based on respect for life, ending of violence and promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation.

The Programme of Action encourages Member States to take actions for promoting a culture of peace at all levels and states that civil society should be involved in its promotion along with the United Nations, which should strengthen its ongoing efforts towards that end. The role of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in those activities is emphasized.

In its resolution 52/15 of 20 November 1997, the Assembly had proclaimed the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace, and, in its resolution 53/25 of 10 November 1998, it proclaimed the period 2001 to 2010 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.

Representatives of Costa Rica (on behalf of the Central American States, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Ecuador, Colombia, United States, El Salvador, Cuba and the Russian Federation spoke on the culture of peace.

In other action, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, the decision that consideration of the agenda item on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters be continued at its fifty-fourth session, building upon the work done during the previous session. According to the draft decision contained in paragraph 28 of the report of the Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council, the Working Group should also submit a report to the Assembly before the end of the fifty-fourth session, including any agreed recommendations.

On the question of armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Assembly decided to defer consideration of the item and to include it on the draft agenda of the fifty-fourth session. Regarding that country’s request for the item to be considered directly in a plenary meeting, it was decided to convey that information directly to the Assembly at its fifty-fourth session.

Also at this morning’s meeting, the President of the Assembly expressed condolences to the peoples of Turkey and Greece in connection with the loss of life and property as a result of recent earthquakes there. The Assembly also took note of the fact that Mongolia had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.

Under other matters this morning, the Assembly decided to defer consideration of the remaining 61 items of its agenda to the fifty-fourth session and to include them on the draft agenda of that session.

At the closing of the session, a minute of silence and meditation was observed.

The fifty-fourth session of the Assembly is scheduled to begin tomorrow, 14 September, at 3 p.m.


Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to conclude its fifty-third session. It was expected to take action on a draft resolution on the Culture of Peace and consider: a report of the Working Group on the question of the equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other related matters; and a note verbale from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on armed aggression against that country. The Assembly was also scheduled to defer consideration of items to its fifty-fourth session, hear a closing statement from its President and observe a moment of silent prayer before its officially closes its fifty-third session.

Draft Resolution on Culture of Peace

By the terms of part A of the text (document A/53/L.79), entitled Declaration on a Culture of Peace, the Assembly would express deep concern about the persistence and proliferation of violence and conflict in various parts of the world. It would recognize the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and intolerance including those based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

By the text, the Assembly would solemnly proclaim the present Declaration to the end that governments, international organizations and civil society may be guided in their activity by its provisions to promote and strengthen a culture of peace in the new millennium.

Article 1 of the Declaration states that a culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviour and ways of life based on:

-- respect for life, ending of violence and promotion and practice of non- violence through education, dialogue and cooperation;

-- full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States and non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law;

-- full respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

-- commitments to peaceful settlements of conflicts;

-- efforts to meet the developmental and environmental need of present and future generations;

-- respect for and promotion of the right to development;

-- respect for and promotion of equal rights of and opportunities for men and women:

-- respect for and promotion of the rights of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information;

-- adherence to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society among nations and fostered by an enabling national and international environment conducive to peace;

Article 2 of the Declaration states that progress in the fuller development of a culture comes about through values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life conducive to the promotion of peace among individuals, groups and nations.

Article 3 states that the fuller development of a culture of peace is integrally linked to:

-- promoting peaceful settlements of conflicts, mutual respect and understanding and international cooperation;

-- compliance with international obligations under the Charter and international law;

-- promoting democracy, development and universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

-- enabling people at all levels to develop skills of dialogue, negotiation, consensus-building and peaceful resolution of differences;

-- strengthening democratic institution and ensuring full participation in the development process;

-- eradicating poverty and illiteracy and reducing inequality within and among nations;

-- promoting poverty and sustainable economic and social development;

-- eliminating all forms of discrimination against women through their empowerment and equal representation at all levels of decision-making;

-- ensuring respect for and promotion of the rights of children;

-- ensuring free flow of information at all levels and enhancing access thereto;

-- increasing transparency and accountability in governance;

-- eliminating all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

-- advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity among all civilizations, peoples and cultures, including towards ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities;

-- full realization of the rights of all peoples, including those living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation, to self- determination enshrined in the Charter and embodied in the international covenants on human rights, as well as in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples contained in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960.

Article 4 states that education at all levels is one of the principal means to build a culture of peace. In this context, human rights education is of particular importance. By the terms of Article 5, governments have an essential role in promoting and strengthening a culture of peace. According to Article 6, civil society needs to be the fully engaged in fuller development of a culture of peace. By Article 7, the educative and informative role of the media contributes to the promotion of a culture of peace. Article 8 states that a key role in the promotion of a culture of peace belongs to parents, teachers, politicians, journalists, religious bodies and groups, intellectuals, those engaged in scientific, philosophical and creative and artistic activities, health and humanitarian workers, social workers, managers at various levels as well as to non-governmental organizations. By the terms of Article 9, the United Nations should continue to play a critical role in the promotion and strengthening of a culture of peace worldwide.

By the terms of Part B of the text, entitled Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, the Assembly would adopt the Programme. Among other things, the Programme would serve as the basis for the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. Member States would be encouraged to take actions for promoting a culture of peace at the national level as well as at the regional and international levels. Civil society should be involved at the local, regional and national levels to widen the scope of activities on a culture of peace. The United Nations system should strengthen its ongoing efforts in promoting a culture of peace.

According to the Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) should also continue to play its important role in and make major contributions to the promotion of a culture of peace. By the terms of the text partnerships between and among the various actors as set out in the Declaration should be encouraged and strengthened for a global movement for a culture of peace. In addition, effective implementation of the Programme of Action would require mobilization of resources, including financial resources, by interested governments, organizations and individuals and the strengthening of actions at the national, regional and international levels by all relevant actors.

The Programme also advocates actions to foster a culture of peace through education including: the reinvigoration of national efforts and international cooperation to promote the goals of education for all with a view to achieving human, social and economic development and for promoting a culture of peace; ensuring that children, from an early age, benefit from education values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life to enable them to resolve any dispute peacefully and in a spirit of respect for human dignity and of tolerance and non-discrimination; involve children in activities for instilling in them the values and goals of a culture of peace; ensuring equality of access for women, especially girls, to education; and encourage revision of educational curricula, including textbooks bearing in mind the 1995 Declaration and Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy for which technical cooperation should be provided by UNESCO upon request.

Addressing the promotion of sustainable economic and social development, the Programme states that actions should: undertake comprehensive actions on the basis of appropriate strategies and agreed targets to eradicate poverty through national and international efforts, including through international cooperation; strengthen the national capacity for implementation of policies and programmes designed to reduce economic and social inequalities within nations through international cooperation; promote effective and equitable development-oriented and durable solutions to the external debt and debt-servicing problems of developing countries through debt relief; reinforce actions at all levels to implement national strategies for sustainable food security, including the development of actions to mobilize and optimize the allocation and utilization of resources from all sources, including through international cooperation such as resources coming from debt relief; and ensure that the development process is participatory and that development projects involve the full participation of all. In addition, actions should integrate a gender perspective, and empowering women and girls should be an integral part of the development process.

The Programme states that actions should promote respect for all human rights including: full implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action; encouraging development of national plans of action for the promotion and protection of all human rights; and strengthening of national institutions and capacities in the field of human rights, including through national human rights institutions. Actions should also ensure equality between women and men, including implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, with adequate resources and political will, and through the elaboration, implementation and follow-up of the national plans of action. The Programme also advocates fostering democratic participation through: reinforcement of the full range of actions to promote democratic principles and practices; special emphasis on democratic principles and practices at all levels of formal, informal and non-formal education; and the establishment and strengthening of national institutions and processes that promote and sustain democracy through training and capacity-building of public officials.

According to the text, the Programme also lists actions to: advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity; and support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge.

Report of Working Group on Question of Equitable Representation On and Increase in Membership of Security Council and Other Related Matters

The Assembly also had before it a report of the Open-ended Working Group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Security Council (document A/53/47).

The report states that during the fifty-third session of the General Assembly, the Open-ended Working Group held 53 meetings in the course of six substantive sessions. During that time, delegations made several written and oral proposals, all of which remain on the table. The Working Group affirmed that the work of the General Assembly on Security Council reform should be conducted in conformity with the relevant Assembly resolutions, fully respecting the need for transparency and open-endedness.

According to the report, substantial differences of view still remain on many issues. Owing to the importance and sensitivity of the subjects being debated in the Working Group which affect vital interests of States, progress towards a general agreement on the main issues has been very slow. Among other issues, that of the category or categories of the new members in an enlarged Security Council still needs to be resolved. However, during discussions, a number of elements emerged that may prove useful when the Working Group resumes its work.

The report also states that concluding its work at its fifty-third meeting, on 30 July, the Working Group decided to recommend to the General Assembly that consideration of this item be continued at its fifty-fourth session, building upon the work done during the previous sessions. According to the draft decision contained in paragraph 28 of the document, the Working Group should also submit a report to the Assembly before the end of the fifty-fourth session, including any agreed recommendations.

Note Verbale

According to a note verbale (document A/53/1048), the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo indicated that it would like the item on armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo included in the agenda of the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly and that it be considered directly in a plenary meeting.

Statements

At the opening of the meeting, the President of the General Assembly DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay) expressed condolences to the peoples of Turkey and Greece in connection with the loss of life and property in connection with the recent earthquakes there. He expressed hope that the international community would provide assistance to those countries in crisis.

The Assembly then took note of the information that Mongolia had made the necessary payment to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.

Culture of Peace

Introducing the draft on a culture of peace, ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that his country had coordinated a long negotiation process which had begun in December of 1998. He thanked all delegations for their active interest and contribution in arriving at a forward-looking consensus text which would advance in a big way the promotion of a culture of peace in the next century. Many representatives of civil society had shown great interest in the work.

The Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace identified the major areas of action to promote and strengthen a culture of peace, which included education, sustainable economical and social development, human rights, equality between women and men, democratic participation, advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity, participatory communications and free flow of information and knowledge and international peace and security. The document was unique in more than one way: it identified actions that would foster a culture of peace; it transcended boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. It was action-oriented and encouraged actions at all levels. The document also went ahead in terms of bringing in various subjects that had rarely been touched upon in the 50 years of the General Assembly existence.

In conclusion, he introduced oral editorial changes to the draft.

BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Group of Central American States, said the adoption of the documents would successfully bring to a close a lengthy work process on the draft. The cornerstone of the declaration was the affirmation that “since war begin in the minds of men, it in indeed in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. That affirmation had been taken from the declaration of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which had taken an active part in the work on the draft and would continue to play an important role in promoting the culture of peace.

It was necessary to recognize that the creation of the United Nations system had proven that there was hope for the capacity of the human race to live in peace, he continued. The culture of peace and non-violence should be cultivated. Today, new conditions existed to build it. Everybody should participate in the process through education and training. Human rights played a central role in the culture of peace, and respect for and promotion of human dignity was a pre-requisite for it. Much remained to be done. He did hope that the adoption and dissemination of the Declaration on the Culture of Peace should advance the cause. Urgent considerable effort of the United Nations was required to promote it. Educational institutions and civil society also had a role to play.

Turning to a particular section of the document on military conversion, he said that there already was such an experience in Central America. Costa Rica had also started military conversion, and he sincerely hoped that all nations would earmark funds for the purpose of human development instead of wasting them on the military. Tomorrow, on the proposal of Costa Rica, when the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly began, the Day of Peace would be celebrated, which reflected a centuries-old aspiration for the world without war.

ANNA-MAIJA KORPI (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the history of the United Nations was the history of the promotion of the culture of peace. The very foundation of the Organization was indeed a major milestone for that endeavour. As a first priority after the Second World War, the United Nations had undertaken to codify and encourage respect for the universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms inherent in mankind. The role that the Organization had played in promoting a culture of peace through the pursuit of justice, tolerance, solidarity and pluralism at all levels could hardly be overestimated. The educative role of UNESCO in that endeavour had been crucial.

She said peace, human rights, development and democracy were all interdependent and interrelated. Today's Declaration and programme of action were strong pronouncements by Member States in favour of a holistic view of the vocation of the United Nations. Peace could not be pursued in isolation from justice, and development could not be induced in the absence of democracy. A key to progress in all those fields, and thereby a key to the fuller development of a culture of peace, was the recognition that the human person was ultimately the central subject and principal beneficiary of all the purposes of the United Nations. Therefore all policies and programmes of the Organization should be human centred and should be guided by and based on the promotion of full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

MARIO ALEMAN (Ecuador) said he trusted that in the not too distant future, the Assembly would give serious thought to the human right to peace. The time had long passed when one could speak in the conditional. All the documents prepared by mankind were now capable of improvement. The present document on the culture of peace was one of them. The Programme of Action called for hands-on action . "Let us make a reality of it", he urged. More than 30 years ago, a former Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Luis Bossanno, had said that "what we have to do directly is to make a direct and frontal assault on the profound consciences of all social groups using the substance of a peace-loving doctrine". That doctrine to disarm the consciences was now called the culture of peace today. "Let us move forward", he stressed.

ANDRES FRANCO (Colombia) said the implementation of a culture of peace must be undertaken by the international community and the United Nations. In an international system where wars arose on a persistent basis, "we must accept that a change is required to move from a culture of war to one of peace", he said. While human beings might well have a few differences, they shared thousands of things in common. The responsibility of UNESCO was clear -- education was the pillar of the culture of peace. The future lay with the children who must become the leaders of the new culture of peace. The end of the arms race and respect for sovereignty of people were key elements. The document before the Assembly today was a valuable step forward. If it called for reflection on peace and for making peace viable, the main objective and a major step forward would have been achieved.

PETER V. LONDONO (United States) said that his delegation joined in the consensus on the adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. The concept was most clearly stated by the Director-General of UNESCO when he had stated that a culture of peace consisted of a set of values, attitudes and behaviours that inspired social interaction based on the principles of freedom, justice, democracy and solidarity.

Turning to a few specific passages in the document, he said that his country interpreted references to the right to development in article 1 of the Declaration and paragraph 10 of the Programme of Action to be consistent with its view that the right to development was focused on the individual and that it was up to national governments to create conditions conducive to the progressive realization of economic development. The right to development was not a collective right of groups or States, and it was not a legal entitlement to a set standard of living or a transfer of resources.

The United States did not interpret the reference to combating violence in the media in paragraph 14 as in any way intending to restrict press reporting on the kinds of violent actions that had been witnessed in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and elsewhere in recent years. In fact, his Government would have liked to have seen in that paragraph UNESCO's enshrined language on the free press, namely, that "an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation and for economic development”.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador) said that his delegation shared and supported the views expressed by Costa Rica on behalf of the Central American countries. One aspect that his Government considered important had not been included in the final document, but it could be seen as one of the subjects on which the international community should take a stand in the future. Collective socio-economic rights of people, as well as the rights to development, a secure environment and others should be implemented.

Within the controversy on the hierarchy of rights, all fundamental freedoms were interdependent and indispensable, he said. That spirit had been confirmed by several international forums, which stated that that the rights of peace, a healthy environment and development could not be relegated to a lower footing. The construction of a culture of peace would allow the international community to resolve differences and conflicts using the principles of negotiations, mediation of third parties, education and recognition of the right to be different. That would contribute to the elimination of sources of conflict. His Government believed that the education for a culture of peace must be built at various levels simultaneously.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARILLA (Cuba) said the ills that arose today were due to inequality and injustice in the world. There was therefore a need to create a socio- economic system that provided equal access to all. The eve of the new millennium was marked by neo-liberal globalization that was based on social inequity. Globalization must be characterized by fraternity and cooperation among all peoples and not by employment and social injustice if the common heritage of mankind was to survive. If that was not possible then it was inconceivable to talk of a culture of peace.

He said 800 million people suffered from hunger today. When 95 per cent of the people in the South who were ill died, when millions of illiterate persons existed and even more millions under the age of five died of malnutrition and illness, there could be no discussion of a culture of peace. Peace meant resistance to all manifestations associated with colonialism, neo-colonialism and racism, among other things. In addition, how could a culture of peace be considered when a great Power was still attempting to put unilateral limitations on other countries? he asked.

VLADIMIR F. ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said that the adoption of the documents on the culture of peace had been a prelude for the Year on the Culture of Peace and an International Decade devoted to the culture of peace and non-violence to children, yet the significance of the Declaration and the Programme of Action transcended those measures. It opened up a prospect of building a culture of peace to replace a culture of war in the next century. It was important to affirm the new culture, and the United Nations had a central role in that respect. The Russian Federation's commitment to the principles expressed in the documents was reflected in its active participation in the work towards their completion. Today's adoption of the draft made the international community think about the ways to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the future. It would strengthen the foundation of peace and international legitimacy for the benefit of the future generations.

The draft was then adopted without a vote.

Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in Membership of Security Council and Related Matters [Item 59]

The Assembly then decided to adopt without a vote the draft decision contained in paragraph 28 of the report of the Open-ended Working Group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to that body (document A/53/47).

The Assembly then concluded its consideration of the item.

Armed Aggression against Democratic Republic of the Congo [item 167]

The President then informed the Assembly that in a note verbale (document A/53/1048), the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had indicated that it would like the item included in the agenda of the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly and to have it considered directly in a plenary meeting.

The Assembly then decided to defer consideration of the item and to include it on the draft agenda of the fifty-fourth session. Regarding the request for it to be considered directly in a plenary meeting, it was decided to convey that information directly to the Assembly at its fifty-fourth session.

Appointment of Under Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services (Item [17(j)])

In light of ongoing considerations, the Assembly decided to defer consideration of the sub-item to its fifty-fourth session and to include it on the agenda of that session.

Question of Comorian Island of Mayotte (Item [57])

The Assembly decided to defer consideration of the item to its fifty-fourth session and include it on the provisional agenda of that session.

Revitalization of Work of General Assembly (Item [60])

The Assembly decided to defer consideration of the item to its fifty-fourth session and to include it on draft agenda of that session.

Restructuring and Revitalization of United Nations in Economic, Social and Related Fields

The Assembly decided to defer consideration of the item to its fifty-fourth session and to include it on that draft agenda of that session.

Question of Cyprus (Item [62])

The Assembly decided to defer consideration of the item to the fifty-fourth session and to include it on the draft agenda of that session.

Improving Financial Situation of United Nations (Item [115])

The Assembly decided to defer consideration of the item to the Fifty-fourth session and to include it on the draft agenda of that session.

Financing of United Nations Operation in Mozambique (Item [129])

The Assembly decided to defer consideration of the item to the fifty-fourth session and to include it on the draft agenda of that session.

Report of Secretary-General on Activities of Office of Internal Oversight Services (Item [144])

The Assembly decided to defer the consideration of the item to the fifty-fourth session and to include it on the agenda of that session

Agenda Items Remaining Open for Consideration during Fifty-third Session

With the exception of the election of the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994 [item 47] and the United Nations Pension System [item 121], the Assembly decided to include on the provisional agenda of the fifty-fourth session items that remained open for consideration during the fifty-third session.

It therefore decided to include the following items on the agenda of the fifty- fourth session: Report of the Secretary-General on the Work of the Organization [10]; Report of the Security Council [11]; Report of the Economic and Social Council [12]; Strengthening of the Coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance [20]; United Nations reform -– measures and proposals [30]; Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development [37]; Oceans and the Law of the Sea [38; Question of Palestine [39]; The situation in the Middle East [40]; The situation of democracy and human rights in Haiti [43]; The situation in Central America: procedures for the establishment of a firm and lasting peace and progress in fashioning a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development [44]; and The

situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security [45].

The Assembly also decided to include the following items on the provisional agenda of the fifty-fourth session: Strengthening of the United Nations system [58]; Sustainable development and international economic cooperation [93]; Environment and sustainable development [94]; Elimination of racism and racial discrimination [108]; Human rights questions [110]; Financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors [111]; Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations [112]; Programme budget for the biennium 1998-1999 [113]; Programme planning [114]; Pattern of conferences [117]; Scale of assessments for the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations [118]; Human resources management [119]; United Nations common system [120]; Financing of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East [122]; Financing of the United Nations Angola Verification Mission and the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola [123]; Financing of the activities arising from Security Council resolution 687 (1991) [124]; Financing of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara [125]; Financing and liquidation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia [126]; Financing of the United Nations Protection Force, the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia, the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force and the United Nations Peace Forces headquarters [127]; Financing of the United Nations Operation in Somalia II [128]

In addition the Assembly decided to include the following items on the provisional agenda of the fifty-fourth session: Financing of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus [130]; Financing of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia [131]; Financing of the United Nations Mission in Haiti [132]; Financing of the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia [133]; Financing of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda [134]; Financing of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991 [135]; Financing of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan [136]; Financing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994 [137].

The Assembly also decided to include the following items on the agenda of the fifty-fourth session: Financing of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina [138]; Financing of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium and the Civilian Police Support Group [139]; Financing of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force [140]; Financing of the United Nations Support Mission in Haiti, the United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti and the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti [141]; Financing of the Military Observer Group of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala [142]; Administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of the United Nations peacekeeping operations [143]; Review of the implementation of General Assembly resolution 48/218 B [145]; Report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country [152]; Measures to eliminate international terrorism [155]; Financing of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic [161]; Financing of the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone [163]; Joint Inspection Unit [165]; Financing of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo [170].

Closing Statement by General Assembly President

DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay) said that in the course of the ending session, significant contradictions had manifested themselves in three main areas. First, the world continued to move towards the complete realization of individual liberties and democratization of national and international societies. Although much still remained to be done, it was surely true that never until now had the ideals of democracy and liberty been so widely realized. Yet, the sweeping progress in that area had not done away with the manifestations of violence that were used in an attempt to impose the ideas and aims of extreme forms of nationalism, religious fundamentalism or alleged ethnic supremacy. In recent years, the nature of conflicts had changed, and that was a manifestation of the kinds of conflict that the United Nations would have to deal with in the future.

In the past year, there had been a number of events which had caused sadness and concern, he continued. Old and new conflicts in Europe, Africa and Asia had continued to draw the attention of the international community. The world was not a homogeneous place, but there were places where peace prevailed. In Latin America, for example, an end had been put to a number of old conflicts, yet some very difficult situations persisted. The General Assembly had paid particular attention to the African continent -- and the proof of that had been the adoption of the resolution on the causes of conflict and sustainable development in Africa.

The prevailing conditions in the Middle East had not been the most propitious to the peace process, he said. The Assembly had been handling different aspects of the overall problem, hoping that the situation would evolve more positively. In fact, that seemed to be the case at present, and he hoped that in the course of the next session, the Assembly would be able to adopt some significant decisions to consolidate that process.

The magnitude and consequences of the conflict in Kosovo had made it the most important international political event of the year, he continued. He saw it as an unfortunate coincidence that in his year as the President of the General Assembly, the credibility and effectiveness of that body had been submitted to one of the harshest tests in its history. The conflict in Kosovo had brought to light several aspects: it had demonstrated that the Council, committed to the preservation of peace, had been kept from pursuing that goal by its inability to reach the necessary decisions. The threat of the use of the veto had played its role, demonstrating that the mechanism that had been ostensibly conceived, in particular to avoid the use of force, had ultimately become a factor which took the decision regarding its use away from the Council and the Organization itself. It also became a factor for the argument to remove the use of the veto from the work of the Council.

Also, it should be recalled that the General Assembly, in accordance with the Charter and particularly its Articles 10 and 11, was competent in the matters of maintenance of international peace and security, he said. However, it was unable to exercise that responsibility because of the predominant political will not to make use of those powers.

It was clear that the crisis in Kosovo would affect the functioning and credibility of the Organization. It had shown that the reform of the United Nations should proceed without any further delay. He hoped that resolution 53/30 adopted during the current session on the necessary majority required to make changes in the Security Council would facilitate the speeding of the process of reform.

The results in the sphere of disarmament were encouraging, he said. Among the numerous resolutions adopted on that matter was that on the convening of an international conference on the illicit arms trade in all its aspects, including small arms and light weapons. He also highlighted the entry into force of the Convention banning landmines. The Assembly had paid particular attention to peacekeeping operations. Financing was approved for several operations, including the complex operation for the interim administration of Kosovo.

In connection with the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among the many resolutions adopted, he highlighted the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Institutions to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It was a new step towards perfecting the international system of human rights protection. Turning to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, he said that the General Assembly had sought the most effective measures to bring to justice those who violated human rights and to affirm the human rights.

The second main contradiction manifested during the fifty-third session was in connection with technological progress, he continued. The world was witnessing changes in transportation and communications, as well as in the growth of knowledge. However, the benefits of progress were distributed unevenly and a small portion of the population was taking advantage of it. Globalization did not mitigate that contradiction. Spiralling globalization and liberalization of trade increased social differences and economic contradictions. If measures were not taken to counter- balance that process, the threat would become greater.

At the beginning of the session, a discussion of the impact of globalization had been held, which had demonstrated great interest on the part of the international community in that problem. Rules should be adopted to provide guidance on the matter. The United Nations should provide guidance for development, and an important resolution on the role of the United Nations in the globalization had been adopted.

The need to strengthen and improve the measures to counteract the financial crisis had also been addressed by the Assembly, he said. The third major contradiction stemmed from the fact that in many societies social integration had been achieved, yet they appeared vulnerable to the dangers of drug-trafficking, crime and degradation of environment. It was necessary to create a barrier to those threats. There was no greater cause that attacked the environment than poverty, which caused great concern for governments, and the General Assembly had adopted several resolutions on dealing with the world drug problem, international organized crime and the rights of the child.

The twentieth special session to assess the follow-up to the Conference on Population and Development had demonstrated the will of the international community to continue to deal with those questions, considering both those aspects as part of the same problem. That had been addressed on the human level. Of particular importance was dialogue between civilizations and the culture of peace, which were cornerstones on which the international community could build in the future. The ethical content of that commitment was unavoidable.

Preparation for the Millennium Summit at the fifty-fifth session had already started, he said. Intensive negotiations had been conducted on determining the format of the meeting and its content. On the basis of that work, the fifty-fourth session would be able to successfully complete the preparation process. To sum up, he said, during the fifty third session, 170 items had been discussed in 107 plenary and 9 informal meetings; 309 resolutions had been adopted - - 248 of them by consensus -- and 130 decisions had been taken. The variety and importance of the issues and the seriousness with which they had been considered showed that the United Nations continued to be the only global forum for continuing dialogue, and it must continue to play that role. Whether it continued to do so, depended on whether the necessary resources were provided. For that reason, it was to be hoped that the major debtors would meet their financial obligations as soon as possible. It was also necessary to adapt the Organization to the new needs and challenges confronting the world. It was necessary to intensify the efforts to restore the primacy of the United Nations in the conduct of international affairs by strengthening and improving it and by adapting its structure and functioning to the new requirements.

Throughout the session ending today, the general reform of the Organization had continued under the guidance of the Secretary-General. The process of implementing initiatives in that area had been slower than originally envisaged. However, at this session, significant progress had been achieved in the sphere of the environment and human settlements. There was a need to change the functioning of the main bodies of the United Nations. More than once, he was surprised and even perplexed in noting that despite sporadic contacts of representatives, the bodies with major responsibility -- the General Assembly and the Security Council -- had acted without coordination and transparency.

Reform of the Security Council was the most controversial aspect in the efforts to re-shape the Organization, he said. The attempts were a complex and delicate task, requiring patience and political will on the part of all participants. A great deal of effort had been devoted to that. However, he believed that there was as yet no genuine universal political will to reform that would facilitate agreement on the main issues. Despite that, he was pleased to report that the Open-ended Working Group on Security Council Reform had been able to agree on some general basic ideas. There was consensus on a series of elements, which, although modest, could be useful in the future.

Progress had been made on the methods of work of the Council and the transparency of its work, he said. After 53 meetings of the Working Group, those results might seem meagre, but when looking at things from the right perspective, it was possible to affirm without being self-congratulatory that limited but significant progress had been achieved. There had been a substantive level of participation and a clear frankness in the discussions. It was to be hoped that in the future there would be greater flexibility.

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