ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA 17-18 NOVEMBER
The Secretary-General arrived in Sarajevo from Geneva at midday on Sunday, 17 November, and had a working lunch with the heads of the principal international organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the Office of the High Representative, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) and the United Nations. Also attending were representatives of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, among others.
He then dedicated a monument to United Nations personnel who lost their lives in the former Yugoslavia. The stone, taken from the same quarry that is being used to rebuild the Mostar Bridge, stands outside the United Nations Headquarters in Sarajevo and displays the following words from the Old Testament:
“And when asked
‘Whom shall we send, and who will go for us.’
‘Send us. We shall go.’”
“This memorial”, the Secretary-General said, “will serve to reinforce our own determination –- as peacekeepers, citizens and members of the human family -– to build better lives for succeeding generations”. (See press release SG/SM/8502.)
The Secretary-General then met with United Nations staff and thanked them for the fine work they have done in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as their mission draws to a close. He then mingled with the staff, chatting with many whom he knew personally.
The Secretary-General then met with heads of United Nations agencies with programmes in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a review of their activities. He thanked them for their spirit of close cooperation, which allowed them to maximize their impact while working with the Government.
In the late afternoon, he attended a concert at the National Theatre given by pianist Sasha Toperich and the Pontanima Inter-Religious Choir.
In introducing the Secretary-General, United Nations Special Representative Jacques Klein announced a 100,000 convertible mark (about 50,000 euro) contribution by the United Nations Trust Fund to help preserve the theatre. The Secretary-General said, “I can think of no better venue than this historic
theatre, in the heart of Sarajevo, to celebrate the living legacy of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s historic cultural diversity”. (See press release SG/SM/8503.)
In the evening, he and his wife were guests of honour at a dinner hosted by the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On Monday morning, the Secretary-General met with the three members of the Bosnian Presidency, Mirko Sarovic, Dragan Covic and Sulejman Tihic. He welcomed their common resolve to introduce a series of reforms to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina into compliance with European economic and social standards, as a prelude to applying for membership in the European Union. He urged them to continue these efforts after the United Nations Mission in the country ended next month and to work with its neighbours in the fight against terrorism, human trafficking and organized crime. He pledged the United Nations continued support to improve the economy and strengthen the rule of law.
He then met with the Council of Ministers, including its Chairman, Dragan Mikerevic. The Secretary-General reiterated his offer to keep the United Nations engaged in Bosnia and Herzegovina to accelerate economic reform, strengthen the system of justice and reform the education sector. Speaking from experience, as a reformer, he said, “I know this will take time”.
When the Chairman raised the need to boost gross domestic product, the Secretary-General suggested that the Government consider demilitarizing the country, handling national security by using special police and a national guard, along the lines of what Costa Rica has done. That would dramatically reduce military spending, while freeing up scarce resources for other priorities. The Ministers admitted something had to be done to balance the budget and reduce military spending.
Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija emphasized jobs, justice and education in his remarks. The Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, Mladen Ivanic, expressed his optimism over the future of the country and affirmed his support for reduced military spending. Bosnia and Herzegovina Prime Minister Alija Behman also talked of reducing military expenditure to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) standard. He then raised the problems of landmines and organized crime. Finally, the Minister of Human Rights and Refugees, Kresimir Zubak, said that the country would need another two-to three years support from the United Nations to complete the process of the return of refugees.
Jacques Klein, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, then summed up the United Nations Mission’s accomplishments:
The pre-war police force of 44,000 was reduced to 17,000, and those were trained to meet European standards. The country’s State Border Service is a model for the region, with illegal immigration having been reduced from 35,000 last year to a few hundred this. The visa system in Bosnia and Herzegovina works; he claimed you can pass through Sarajevo Airport more quickly and efficiently than you can London’s Heathrow. And $24 million has been spent on some 500 development projects around the country.
The Secretary-General then had a brief press encounter at which he reviewed his talks with the Ministers. He was then asked to comment on the return that day to Iraq of United Nations weapons inspectors. He paraphrased a written statement he had issued earlier in the day, saying:
“Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei have gone to Iraq determined to carry out effective and prompt inspections. Their hands have been strengthened by Resolution 1441. I think that resolution states clearly what Iraq must do. The Security Council, speaking with one voice, demands that Iraq give the inspectors prompt and unfettered access and comply with all Security Council resolutions. I urge President Saddam Hussein to comply fully for the sake of his people, for the sake of the region and for the sake of world order.”
Before leaving Sarajevo, the Secretary-General met with three representatives of the Mothers of Srebrenica, a group dealing with missing persons from the 1995 massacre in that village. “There is peace”, one of them said, “but there is no justice”. She appealed for the arrest of Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leaders wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
The women thanked the United Nations for its support in helping them to return to Srebrenica to visit and in the planning of a fitting memorial for those killed. Thousands of women, they said, lost all the male members of their family. To be at peace, they must find the bodies and bury them properly.
The United Nations had been there to protect them, the women said; they felt deceived and betrayed. One of the women said she lost five male family members; another lost 22. Justice can be partially done, they pleaded, if there were compensation. The Secretary-General said, he could barely imagine the pain that the mothers had experienced. “Until you find the missing”, he said, “you cannot bring closure”. “And it is hard to swallow that Karadzic and Mladic are still at large”, he added.
The United Nations and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been through a lot, the Secretary-General said. The experience has changed us both, he observed. “I wish things had turned out otherwise”, he concluded. “Our intentions were good”.
In parting, one of the women said that she had seen on television the night before a ceremony unveiling a monument to United Nations peacekeepers who lost their lives in the former Yugoslavia. “I had no idea there were so many”, she said. “The mothers of those soldiers must feel what we feel”.
In a separate programme, Nane Annan visited an inclusive kindergarten for Roma children in Sarajevo supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and local non-governmental organization Step-by-Step. The Roma children, together with the Bosnian children, presented a dance and other activities they had been learning.
The previous evening in Sarajevo, she had witnessed an interactive presentation by, and for, young people on avoiding the dangers of the HIV/AIDS and
other sexually transmitted diseases. The programme, supported by the United Nations Population Fund, the International Red Cross and local non-governmental organizations, focused on training young trainers to educate their peers.
The Secretary-General and his party flew early on Monday afternoon to Pristina, Kosovo.
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