23/09/2003
Press Release
GA/10156



Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

7th Meeting (AM)


OPENING ANNUAL GENERAL DEBATE, GENERAL ASSEMBLY HEARS CALL FOR RADICAL CHANGE


TO ADDRESS THREATS OF TERRORISM, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION


Secretary-General Announces Plans for High-Level Panel

To Focus on Threats to Peace, Security, Other Global Challenges


With the United Nations standing at a crossroads, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that the world body must decide whether to commit itself to radical change to deal with such global threats as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation.


While issues of security and the future of multilateralism dominated the discussions, other speakers touched on other issues including the need to ensure equitable trade schemes, creating conditions for lasting peace in Africa and the importance of United Nations peacekeeping operations.


“We have come to a fork in the road”, Mr. Annan told world leaders gathered in New York for the opening of the 2003 General Assembly.  This was perhaps the most decisive moment in the United Nations 58-year history, and the time was ripe for a “hard look at fundamental policy issues”, he added.


With that, he announced plans to create a high-level panel of eminent personalities to focus primarily on threats to peace and security, but also to examine other global challenges, including:  considering the contribution which collective action could make in addressing those challenges; reviewing the functioning of the major organs of the United Nations; and recommending ways to strengthen the Organization, through reform of its institutions and processes.


Mr. Annan said that while everyone understood that the struggles to protect against “hard” threats like terrorism and “soft” threats such as poverty were inextricably linked, “Where we disagree, it seems, is how to respond to these threats”.


He stressed that unilateral action constituted a fundamental challenge to the principles on which world peace had rested for the past 58 years, with some States arguing that they could use force pre-emptively without the agreement of the Security Council.  He warned that such unilateralism could set dangerous precedents.


Calling for reform in the functioning of the United Nations, as well as the Security Council, he said it was not enough “to denounce unilateralism unless we face up squarely to the concerns that make some States feel uniquely vulnerable, since it is these concerns that drive them to take such action.”


He reaffirmed the vital urgency of finding a successful outcome in Iraq.  “Whatever view each country might have taken in recent months, it is vital for all of us that the outcome is a stable and democratic Iraq at peace with itself and with its neighbours”, he said.


George W. Bush, President of the United States, said that nations which supported terrorism and other threats such as the weapons proliferation called for “moral clarity” and unified action by the nations of the world.


Urging the international community to put aside its differences and help Iraq rebuild itself into a democracy with the “great power to inspire the Middle East”, President Bush said “helping Afghanistan and Iraq to succeed as free nations in a transformed region, cutting off the avenues of proliferation, abolishing modern forms of slavery -- these are the kinds of great tasks for which the United Nations was founded”.


Acknowledging that some Members States opposed his decision to go to war in Iraq, he said:  “Yet there was, and there remains, unity among us on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations.  We are dedicated to the defence of our collective security, and to the advance of human rights.  These permanent commitments call us to great work in the world -- work we must do together.  So let us move forward.”


President Bush said the United Nations was carrying out vital work, too, in Iraq with its humanitarian operations and had a role to play in the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty, in helping to develop a constitution and conducting free and fair elections.  He also called on the Security Council to adopt a new anti-proliferation resolution “calling on all Members of the UN to criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, enacting strict export controls and securing all sensitive material.


For his part, President Jacques Chirac of France said the war in Iraq, embarked on without Security Council approval, had undermined the multilateral system.  “In an open world, no one can live in isolation, no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules”, he declared.


“Multilateralism is the key, for it ensures the participation of all in the management of world affairs.  It is a guarantee of legitimacy and democracy in matters regarding the use of force”, he said.


Mr. Chirac called for the United Nations to oversee the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraq and mandate a multilateral force commanded by the United States.  He also urged the international community to restore the dynamic of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and proposed a Security Council summit to frame a United Nations plan against nuclear proliferation.  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) must dismantle its nuclear weapons programme and Iran must implement strengthened safeguards against nuclear weapons production, he added.


At the outset of the meeting, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil expressed his strong belief in “a multilateral framework in which the United Nations is given a central role” when dealing with complex issues of security and national reconstruction such as Iraq and the Middle East.


He said reforming the United Nations had become an urgent task, given the present risks to the international political order.  The Security Council must be fully empowered to deal with threats to peace and the composition of its permanent membership “cannot remain unaltered almost 60 years on”, he stated.


General Assembly President, Julian R. Hunte of Saint Lucia, said recent unfolding and often tragic developments in the world posed a serious challenge for the United Nations and especially the Assembly.  This was particularly so for primary objectives enshrined in the Charter such as the promotion of economic and social advancement, tolerance and peace, and the maintenance of international peace and security, including collective security.


“Lately, we have engaged in a process of self-searching and re-examination”, he said, “looking, for example, at the goals we have set ourselves in the economic and social fields and our efforts to keep peace in the world.”  Reform and revitalization of the United Nations was key to the success of the Organization’s initiatives and was high among the Assembly’s priorities.


Also addressing this inaugural day of the Assembly’s fifty-eighth session were the presidents of Peru, Micronesia, Switzerland, South Africa and Croatia.


The King of Morocco also spoke, as did the President of Italy (on behalf of the European Union).


The General Assembly will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue its general debate.


Background


This morning the General Assembly is expected to hear statements by the General Assembly President, Secretary-General and several heads of State and government.


Also the Assembly had before it a Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization (document A/58/1), which takes stock of the Organization’s activities in the past year and emphasizes its tasks’ ever-increasing number and scope.  The report, which covers the Organization’s action in the areas of achieving peace and security, meeting humanitarian commitments, cooperating for development, the international order and human rights and enhancing management and partnerships, acknowledges that it has been a trying year for the United Nations in the area of peace and security.  The war in Iraq severely tested the principle of collective security and the resilience of the Organization.  Moreover, the 19 August 2003 attack on United Nations headquarters in Iraq was the most deliberate and vicious attack in the history of the Organization.


In the report, the Secretary-General emphasizes the need for the people of Iraq to see a clear timetable with a specific sequence of events leading to the full restoration of sovereignty as soon as possible.  Also within the scope of peace and security, the report draws attention to the emergence this year of the Quartet’s “Road Map” for peace in the Middle East, as well as to Security Council resolution 1497 (2003), by which it authorized Member States to establish a Multinational Force in Liberia and declared its readiness to establish a follow-on, longer-term United Nations stabilization force to relieve that Multinational Force.


Within the scope of cooperation for development, the report notes the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which was welcomed by the General Assembly in 2002 as the framework for the international community’s support for Africa’s development.  The General Assembly also endorsed the establishment of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa within the Secretariat.  Additionally, HIV/AIDS continued to be a key priority for the Organization’s operational activities in development, and during 2002, United Nations theme groups on HIV/AIDS assisted countries to develop multisectoral plans and to integrate HIV/AIDS into development planning instruments.


Human rights retained a central role in the work of the Organization, states the report.  In the past year, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has assisted some 50 national human rights institutions, engaged in human rights technical cooperation projects in 32 countries, and maintained a field presence in 29 countries.  Moreover, the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on Human Rights included an unprecedented high-level segment.  However, the Commission itself is not without problems, notes the report.  There has been public disquiet in the past year over the fact that governments accused of gross violations of human rights are admitted to membership in the Commission, as well as concern about the tone of the Commission and the fact that it does not address certain situations of grave violations of human rights.


Although one year is a fleeting moment in the perspective of human experience, it is clear that the Organization is contributing to international stability and progress in positive and practical ways, concludes the report.  Despite its imperfections, the United Nations still embodies the hopes of the peoples of the world for a peaceful and just world.


Opening Statement by General Assembly President


The President of the General Assembly, JULIAN R. HUNTE (Saint Lucia), said that the fifty-eighth session was taking place at a time of enormous challenge for the United Nations.  Recent unfolding and often tragic developments in the world pose a serious challenge for the Organization and especially the Assembly.  This was particularly so for primary objectives enshrined in the Charter such as the promotion of economic and social advancement, tolerance and peace, and the maintenance of international peace and security, including collective security.


“Lately, we have engaged in a process of self-searching and re-examination”, he said, “looking, for example, at the goals we have set ourselves in the economic and social fields and our efforts to keep peace in the world.”  Reform and revitalization of the United Nations was key to the success of the Organization’s initiatives and was high among the Assembly’s priorities.  The safety and security of United Nations personnel was also a high priority and had taken on renewed urgency following yet another attack on the Organization’s headquarters in Baghdad.


He went on to say that the Assembly’s achievements over the past decades were unquestionable, but many initiatives would only be useful if they led to concrete action.  The Assembly’s Member States were partners, he said, and they must work cooperatively to ensure that urgent and necessary action was taken to implement those initiatives “if we are to remain relevant”.  In doing so, it was in the Assembly’s best interest to be consistent in respect for the Charter and international law and to demonstrate that the body had not only the capacity, but the political will to constructively address and resolve complex world issues.


“Heads of State and government must bring new dynamism to the General Assembly this session”, he said, adding “the political direction they will provide will be key to enabling the Assembly to effectively address critical issues such as sustainable development, poverty alleviation, violations of human rights ... terrorism and United Nations reform.”  That was the direction the Assembly needed to take throughout the session’s full twelve months.


Presentation of Secretary-General’s Annual Report


KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the last 12 months had been painful for those who believed in collective answers to common problems and challenges.  Terrorism had once again brought death and suffering to innocent people in many countries.  In the Middle East, and parts of Africa, violence continued to escalate; in the Korean peninsula and elsewhere, the threat of nuclear proliferation cast an ominous shadow across the landscape; and barely one month ago, in Baghdad, the United Nations itself had suffered a brutal and deliberate assault, in which the international community had lost some of its most talented servants.  Yesterday, it had been attacked again.  Another major disaster had been averted only by the prompt action of the Iraqi police, one of whom had paid with his life.  Deploring the brutal attempt on the life of Akila al-Hashemi, a member of Iraq’s Governing Council, he said that subject to security considerations, the United Nations system was prepared to play its full part in working for a satisfactory outcome in that country and to do so as part of an effort by the whole international community, pulling together on the basis of a sound and viable policy.


He recalled that three years ago at the Millennium Summit, the world community had expressed its shared vision of global solidarity and collective security in the Millennium Declaration.  But recent events had called that consensus into question.  All knew there were new threats that must be faced or, perhaps, old threats in new and dangerous combinations:  new forms of terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  But, while some considered those threats as self-evidently the main challenge to world peace and security, others felt more immediately menaced by small arms employed in civil conflict, or by so-called “soft threats” such as the persistence of extreme poverty, the disparity of income between and within societies, the spread of infectious diseases, or climate change and environmental degradation.


In truth, he said the United Nations must confront all those threats and challenges, new and old, “hard” and “soft”.  It must be fully engaged in the struggle for development and poverty eradication, starting with the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; in the struggle to protect the common environment; and in the struggle for human rights, democracy and good governance.  In fact, all those struggles were linked.  It could be seen with chilling clarity that a world where many millions of people endured brutal oppression and extreme misery would never be fully secure, even for its most privileged inhabitants.  Yet, the “hard” threats, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, were real, and could not be ignored.  Terrorism was not a problem only for rich countries –- as the people of Bali, or Mumbai, or Nairobi, or Casablanca could attest.  Weapons of mass destruction did not threaten only the Western or Northern world.


Disagreement occurred over how to respond to those threats, he said.  Since the Organization’s inception, States had generally sought to deal with threats to the peace through containment and deterrence, by a system based on collective security and the United Nations Charter.  Article 51 of the Charter prescribed that all States, if attacked, retained the inherent right of self-defence.  But until now, it had been understood that when States went beyond that, and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they needed the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.  Now, he went on, some said that understanding was no longer tenable, since an armed attack with weapons of mass destruction could be launched at any time, without warning, or by a clandestine group.  Rather than wait for that to happen, they argued, States had the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other States, and even while weapons systems that might be used to attack them were still being developed.


According to that argument, he said, States were not obliged to wait until there was agreement in the Security Council.  Instead, they reserved the right to act unilaterally, or in ad hoc coalitions.  That logic represented a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability had rested for the last 58 years.  If adopted, that logic could set precedents that would result in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification.


But it was not enough to denounce unilateralism, he said, without facing up squarely to the concerns that made some States feel uniquely vulnerable, since it was those concerns that drove them to take unilateral action.  It must be shown that those concerns could, and would, be addressed effectively through collective action.


A fork in the road had been reached and the present moment may be no less decisive than 1945 itself, the founding of the United Nations.  The world must decide whether it was possible to continue on the basis agreed then, or whether radical changes were needed.  And it must not shy away from questions about the adequacy and effectiveness of the rules and instruments at its disposal.  Among those instruments, none was more important than the Security Council, he said, recalling a recent report in which he had drawn attention to the urgent need for the Council to regain the confidence of States, and of world public opinion.  It must demonstrate its ability to deal effectively with the most difficult issues, by becoming more broadly representative of the international community as a whole, as well as the geopolitical realities of today.


The Council’s members might need to begin a discussion on the criteria for an early authorization of coercive measures to address certain types of threats –- for instance, terrorist groups armed with weapons of mass destruction.  And they still needed to engage in serious discussion of the best way to respond to threats of genocide or massive violations of human rights.  Once again this year, the collective response to events of that type in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Liberia had been hesitant and tardy, he noted.  As for the Council’s composition, that had been on the Assembly’s agenda for over a decade and virtually all States agreed that the Council should be enlarged, but there had been no agreement on the details.  The time was ripe for a hard look at fundamental policy issues and at the structural changes that may be needed in order to address them, he said.


He announced his intention to establish a high-level panel of eminent personalities, which would be tasked with examining current challenges to peace and security; considering the contribution that collective action could make in addressing those challenges; reviewing the functioning of the major organs of the United Nations and the relationship between them; and recommending ways of strengthening the United Nations through reform of its institutions and processes.  The Panel would focus primarily on threats to peace and security, but would also need to examine other global challenges, in so far as those might influence or connect with those threats.  The Panel would be asked to report before the beginning of the fifty-ninth Assembly.


Statements


LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA, President of Brazil, said the Assembly had convened under the impact of the brutal attack on the United Nations Mission in Baghdad, which took the life of its head officer, Sergio Vieira de Mello.  Mr. Vieira de Mello’s renowned competence was nurtured by the only weapons in which he believed:  dialogue, persuasion and concern for the most vulnerable.  His sacrifice and that of his colleagues must not be in vain.


The international community faced enormous political, economic and social challenges requiring accelerated reform, he said.  The improvement of the multilateral system was the necessary counterpart to democratic practice within nations.  The tragedies that had befallen Iraq and the Middle East could only be overcome within a multilateral framework, one in which the United Nations was given a central role.  In Iraq, insecurity and tension made national reconstruction an even more complex task.  The impasse could only be overcome under the United Nations’ leadership, not only in re-establishing acceptable security conditions, but also in guiding the political process towards the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.


The images of the barbaric attacks of 11 September, some two years later, were still haunting, he said.  While there was willingness to adopt more effective measures to deal with terrorism, there were also worrisome signs of an attempt to discredit the Organization and divest it of its political authority.  The United Nations was conceived to do more than to clear away the rubble of conflicts it was unable to prevent.  Its task was to preserve people from the scourge of war and to negotiate settlements inspired by the principles and objectives of the San Francisco Charter.


Given the present risks to international political order, reform of the United Nations had become an urgent task, he continued.  The Security Council must be empowered to deal with crises and threats to peace and must be equipped with the tools for effective action.  Its decisions must be seen as legitimate, and its composition, particularly concerning permanent membership, could not remain unaltered some 60 years later.  Developing countries, important actors that often exercised a critical role in ensuring the pacific settlement of disputes, must be taken into account.  Brazil had an important contribution to make, as it sought not to advance an exclusive conception of international security but rather to give expression to the perceptions of a region that was a hallmark of peaceful coexistence among its members.


Brazil also favoured an Economic and Social Council capable of bringing about a fair and just economic order, he said.  That Council must regain the role bestowed upon it by the Organization’s founding fathers.  The General Assembly must be strengthened politically, so as to focus on priority issues and avoid duplication of efforts.  It should not hesitate to take on its responsibilities for maintaining international peace and security.  Peace, security, development and social justice were indivisible.


The protectionism practiced by rich countries unfairly penalized efficient producers in developing countries, he continued.  The crucial goal of opening markets was achievable through mutually reinforcing negotiations that brought about an effective opening of markets.  Liberalization should not require countries to abandon the prerogative of formulating industrial, technological, social and environmental policy.  International trade should be a tool not only for creating wealth but also for its distribution.


The eradication of hunger was a moral and political imperative, he said.  Nothing was more absurd than the pervasiveness of hunger in the twenty-first century, the golden age of science and technology.  Hunger was an emergency and should be dealt with as such.  The true path to peace was to fight hunger and extreme poverty.  Hunger was the most urgent expression of a structural imbalance requiring correction through integrated policies that fostered full citizenship.


In that regard, he said he was submitting for the Assembly’s consideration a proposal for setting up, within the United Nations itself, a World Committee to Fight Hunger, comprised of heads of State or government from all continents with the purpose of unifying proposals and making them operational.  The century, so full of technological and material promise, must not be allowed to slide into political and spiritual decline.


GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States, said that two years ago, the “centre of New York City became a battlefield, and a graveyard, and a symbol of an unfinished war”.  Since that day, terrorism had struck many other places as well, among them Bali, Casablanca, Jakarta and Jerusalem, as the terrorists measured the advance of their cause in the chaos and innocent suffering left behind.  Then, last month the terrorists brought their war to the United Nations itself.  “The UN headquarters in Baghdad stood for order and compassion -- and for that reason, the terrorists decided it must be destroyed.”


By the victims they chose and the means they used, the terrorists had clarified the struggle:  the clearest of divides existed between those who sought order and those who spread chaos, between those honouring the rights of man and those taking the lives of men, women and children without mercy or shame.  Between these alternatives there was no neutral ground, he said.  Thus, all governments supporting terror were complicit in a war against civilization, while those fighting terror would earn the favourable judgment of history.


The former regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq knew those alternatives, he said.  Where the Taliban had been the sponsor and servant of terrorism, Afghanistan’s current President today represented a free people building a decent and just society.  The regime of Saddam Hussein had also cultivated ties to terror while building weapons of mass destruction, and then refusing to account for them.  The Security Council had been right to be alarmed, it had been right to demand the weapons be destroyed, and it had been right to vow serious consequences if Iraq refused to comply.  And there had been consequences; a coalition of nations had acted to defend the peace and the credibility of the United Nations.


Because there had been consequences, he continued, Iraq was free.  The monuments of Saddam’s rule had been taken down -- not just the statues but also the true monuments:  the torture chambers and rape rooms, the prison cells for innocent children.  And as killing fields and mass graves were discovered, the true extent of Saddam’s cruelty was revealed.  Though the Iraqi people faced hardships, as did every nation embarking on the path of democracy, their future promised lives of dignity and freedom.  “Across the Middle East, people are safer because an unstable aggressor has been removed from power.  Across the world, nations are more secure because an ally of terror has fallen.”


While many governments had supported the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, some sovereign nations had disagreed with them, he acknowledged.  Yet, there was still unity on the fundamental principles and objectives of the United Nations:  the defence of collective security and the advance of human rights.  Presenting in depth the accomplishment of the Coalition and of the United Nations in Iraq, he reiterated that the primary goal of the Coalition was to assist Iraq to an orderly and democratic self-government.  And as the United Nations could contribute greatly in this regard, the United States was working with its friends and allies for a new Security Council resolution, by which the United Nations’ role in Iraq would be greatly expanded.


The success of a free Iraq, he said, would be noted by millions, who would see that freedom, equality and material progress were possible at the heart of the Middle East, while the region’s leaders would face clear evidence that free institutions and open societies were the only path to long-term national success and dignity.  The Palestinian people should also take the Iraqi example to heart.


While the Palestinian people deserved their own State, they had been betrayed by their leaders, who clung to power by feeding old hatreds and destroying the good work of others, he said.  All parties in the Middle East needed to meet their responsibilities, and Israel must work to create the conditions necessary for the emergence of a peaceful Palestinian State.  Arab nations must cut off funding and other support for terrorist organizations, and the United States must work with every nation in the region that acted for peace.


The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction posed yet another challenge, he continued.  Outlaw regimes possessing them could use nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to blackmail and create chaos, and these weapons could also be used by terrorists to bring sudden disaster and suffering on a scale barely imaginable.  Thus, the “nations of the world must have the wisdom to stop grave threats before they occur”.  One crucial step in this direction was provided last year in Canada, where the “Group of eight” (G-8) nations pledged $20 billion to fight the risk of proliferation over 10 years.  Another was reflected by the Proliferation Security Initiative, through which 11 nations were preparing to search planes, ships, trains and trucks carrying suspect cargo.  These nations had agreed on a set of interdiction principles, consistent with current legal authorities.  The third was to ask the Security Council to adopt a new anti-proliferation resolution calling on all Members of the United Nations to criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to enact strict export controls, and to secure sensitive materials within their borders.


A third challenge that lay before the international community was to act decisively in response to humanitarian crises, he declared.  The United States had pledged $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, and Congress had been asked to provide $200 million for a new famine fund.  However, a new humanitarian crisis was spreading, hidden from view.  Each year, an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings were bought, sold or forced across the world’s borders.  Among them were hundreds of thousands of children fell victim to the sex trade.  “There is a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable”, he said.  The victims of the sex trade often saw little of life before they saw its worst.  The United States had begun to enact legislation to stop this trade, yet its victims also needed help from other Members of the United Nations.  Clear standards and the certainty of punishment must be incorporated into the laws of every country.  Moreover, the United States would commit $50 million dollars to support the work of organizations rescuing women and children from exploitation.


All those challenges required urgent attention and moral clarity, he concluded.  They were the kind of great tasks for which the United Nations had been founded, for just like those of the United States, the founding documents of the United Nations asserted that human beings should never be reduced to mere objects of power or commerce.  Both recognized a moral law that stood above men and nations and both pointed the way to the peace that came when all people were free.


ALEJANDRO TOLEDO, President of Peru, said his country harboured no doubt that multilateralism was the key instrument with which to confront global challenges, particularly threats to international peace and security.  Therefore, the United Nations was indispensable, and States must not flinch from efforts to ensure that the Organization was reformed and revitalized.


He said that there were many threats to peace and security, which urgently demanded solutions.  “Terrorism conspires against the democracies of the world”, he said, adding that it also conspired against world economies and conspired to make the poor poorer still.  “We cannot accept terrorism as a political tool”, he said, recalling Peru’s own grave history at the “irrational” hands of terrorists, which had cost it countless lives and millions of dollars.


He denounced impunity and praised Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was actively trying to resolve the lingering effects of the country’s troubled past.  He thanked all the nations that had assisted the Commission and urged broad cooperation with the body to ensure the requisite healing for the people of Peru and the region.


Poverty, social exclusion and fundamentalist ideologies were but some of the causes fuelling today’s crises, he continued.  The hope of nations was to bring about “inclusive globalization”, which would undercut or reverse many of those threats.  In the case of Peru, while there had been significant economic growth, much remained to be done in other sectors.  He urged regional and international cooperation, saying that “the poor could not wait another fifteen years for economies in the region to grow”.  There was no doubt that there was a relationship between the health of the world economy, social inclusion and good governance.  World leaders must be creative, he said, for there could be no proper governance without poverty reduction and social inclusion.


He said Peru, in its own capacity and as Chair of the Rio Group this year, had been working on a series of initiatives which aimed to reaffirm democracy and boost economic reforms, including creating innovative financial mechanisms which would enhance investment in roads, schools and jobs.  The initiatives would also support private investment.  Peru also decided to create a South American Infrastructure Authority to finance projects that would promote South American integration.  He was sure that such a scheme would be helpful if implemented in other parts of the world.  These were positive steps aimed at moving towards a South American community of nations.


Developing nations were noting with concern that many of their countries were being increasingly affected by rapid fluctuations in the world marketplace.  They were also noting increased trade protectionism, particularly on the part of certain industrialized nations.  “We ask that they not demand the opening of our markets, while they protect theirs with billions of dollars a year in subsidies.”  The time had come to build a “two-way trade highway”.  The failure of the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) round was a source of concern for Peru, which was dedicated to multilateralism and free trade.  It hoped that in the coming months, negotiations would resume with a renewed focus on the agreements reached at Doha, which were focused on trade and development.


JACQUES CHIRAC, President of France, paid tribute to the honour of Sergio Vieira de Mello along with other United Nations staff members who died on 19 August.


The United Nations had just weathered one of the gravest trials in history, he said, when the debate had turned on respect for the Charter and the use of force.  But having taken stock of the crisis, the Organization could now resume its onward march.  “No one can live in isolation, and no one can act alone in the name of all, and no one can accept the anarchy of a society without rules”, he said.


There was no alternative to the United Nations.  Multilateralism was the key because it ensured the participation of all in the management of world affairs, he said.  It was a “guarantee of legitimacy and democracy, especially in matters regarding the use of force or laying down universal norms”.


On Iraq, he said it was up to the United Nations to give legitimacy to the process of transferring sovereignty to the people.  It was also up to the United Nations to assist with the gradual transfer of administration and economic responsibilities to the present Iraqi institutions according “to a realistic timetable and to help the Iraqis draft a constitution and hold elections”.  The people of Iraq must have sole responsibility for their future, since it was essential for stability and reconstruction.  It was up to the United Nations to give a mandate to a multinational force, commanded by the “main troop contributor, in order to ensure the security of Iraq and all those helping with the country’s reconstruction”.


In the Middle East, only firm political resolve to apply on both sides the law as stipulated by the United Nations would pave the way to a just and lasting solution, he said.  The international community must be resolutely involved in implementing the Road Map; an international conference should be organized as soon as possible.


He said fresh impetus needed to be given to France’s proposal for the creation of a permanent corps of weapons inspectors under the authority of the Security Council.  He also called for a summit meeting of the Security Council to frame a genuine United Nations action plan “against proliferation”.  Further, there must be a demand that North Korea dismantle its military programme, “completely, verifiably, and irreversibly”.  Further, “we must demand that Iran sign and implement unconditionally and without delay, a strengthened nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency”.


France, he said, agreed on the Millennium Goals but a strong political impetus was still needed in order to achieve them.  He proposed that heads of State and government meet in New York in 2005 for a preliminary review of progress.  And he expressed hope that the General Assembly would confirm his Government’s resolve to overcome the failure at Cancun in order to complete the Doha development round of trade talks successfully.


He said the United Nations must evolve, and democracy, authority and efficacy must be the Organization’s watchwords.  The United Nations suffered from the current weakness of the General Assembly, yet that was where debate on solutions to the world’s greatest problems should take place and where consensus was forged.  A culture of confrontation must give way to a culture of action, aimed at achieving common goals.


As the chief responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security lay with the Security Council, it was essential to its legitimacy that its membership reflected the state of the world, he said.  The Council must be enlarged to include new permanent members, because it needed the presence of major countries, such as Germany, Japan and some of the leading countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.  It also needed additional elected countries as well, in order, to “make the Council more representative still”.  The reform should be accompanied by a strengthening of the Council’s authority, since it was the Council’s role to set bounds to the use of force.  However, in the face of mounting threats, States must have an assurance that the Council had appropriate means of evaluation and collective action at its disposal, and that it had the will to act.  Also, the establishment of the International Criminal Court must be accompanied by strengthening of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


He called for two changes to financial resources for international action.  First, it was necessary to reverse the trend toward raising voluntary contributions at the expense of mandatory contributions.  Failing that, he said, the world would end up with a “pick and choose” United Nations, an outdated vision, and a harmful one.  And the world needed to make progress in harnessing funds for development.  He said France wanted to meet the official development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income by the year 2012.  France also supported the “innovative concept” of an International Financial Facility.


Against the “chaos of a world shaken by ecological disaster”, he called for a sharing of responsibility around a United Nations Environmental Organization.


JOSEPH J. URUSEMAL, President of Micronesia, said that despite the immediacy of so many pressing political demands today, the challenges of the environment and sustainable development could not be put on hold.  In fact, they were part of the worldwide security challenge, especially over the long term.  No one was immune to the wide range of fundamental security threats.  War and terrorism were only consequences of their deeper root causes; poverty, human injustice and environmental degradation.  The unique vulnerability of island States to those scourges was widely recognized, yet they were often overlooked in the allocation of resources.


His country had welcomed the initiatives of the Millennium Summit, but returned home and found itself “struggling just as ever with fundamental needs”.  As the memory of the Sustainable Development Summit was pushed into the background by seemingly more urgent crises, the people of Micronesia were beginning to ask questions about such a process.  Misconceived private sector initiatives and wasteful patterns of consumption might produce initially encouraging results, but they eroded natural capital -- resources and ecosystems.  The challenges were enormous and they were immediate.  “Business as usual” multilateralism was not getting the job done, he said.


A clear and pressing emergency for Micronesia, perhaps even more urgent than in years past, was action to combat climate change, he said.  At a time when many wars were spoken about, the war against climate change was one that mankind could not afford to lose.  Micronesia was being severely affected by typhoons, mudslides, droughts and other unprecedented weather phenomena.  “Everything we are and hope to achieve as a people is under grave threat” because of climate change.  Yet, the worst polluters among the industrialized countries were purposely delaying the needed action.  The “scornful attitude” toward the Kyoto Protocol shown by some countries would doom the entire Framework Convention to utter failure.


His people, living in such close harmony with the natural environment, faced a host of other pressing environmental issues, he said.  The coral reefs of the country, which were attracting a great deal of international attention in part because of their commercial potential, were more than a resource -– they were a lifeline for any island country.  “The serious decline in the health of coral reefs all over the world must be reversed”, he said.  Also, there had been a serious decline in the stocks of tuna, which constituted his country’s only substantial economic resource, and other species and key elements of the ocean ecosystem were now imperilled as never before.  And, while surrounded by an ocean, his country’s fresh water was a threatened resource and Pacific islands were now more concerned about drought than any other natural threat.  Thus, he appreciated the special exposure given to small island States at the Kyoto World Water Forum.


PASCAL COUCHEPIN, President of Switzerland, said his country attached high importance to respect for international law, which explained Switzerland’s commitment to international humanitarian law and to the International Criminal Court.  He also said it was time to rethink the role of the United Nations, as threats to international security had changed, as well as geographical realities.  He pointed to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, civil wars, poverty and HIV/AIDS as examples of some of those realities.


Mr. Couchepin also emphasized security concerns, and said that together with other nations Switzerland would focus on issues of small arms, light weapons and anti-personnel mines.  “We hope that the General Assembly will set up a working group to develop an instrument for marking and tracing small arms”, he said, adding that Switzerland would be prepared to chair the group, if accepted.  As for the United Nations as a whole, Mr. Couchepin said its role in economic and social fields needed to be redefined.  “In particular, the links between international security and economic development have to be taken more into account”, he said.


In addition, Mr. Couchepin supported enlarging the Security Council by providing more opportunities to non-member countries to participate in the Council’s work.  Regarding the General Assembly, he noted that resolutions were too often reduced to “the smallest common denominator, or to a long list of wishes, but with no real impact”.  He said that the Assembly needed to reduce the number of points for debate, restricting the length of texts, and avoiding multiple resolutions on issues that overlapped.


He called for a more open relationship between the United Nations and civil society, and welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts to work toward this end.  “It is in this spirit of openness towards civil society that the preparations are being carried out for the World Summit on the Information Society”, he said.


THABO MBEKI, President of South Africa, recalled that when world leaders met last year they were all concerned about what would happen to Iraq.  At the same time, they were also concerned about what role the United Nations would play in resolving the Iraq affair.  Dramatic events since then had provided answers to those questions.  The central question remained whether the United Nations had a future as a strong and effective multilateral organization that enjoyed the confidence of the peoples of the world and which was capable of addressing matters of concern to all humanity.


While the future of Iraq was still a major preoccupation, no one wanted to rehash the debate that had followed the last General Assembly, he said.  If, for some time after the last Assembly, States had been concerned to provide answers about the role of the United Nations in Iraq, today questions about the impact of the Iraq affair on the future of the United Nations should also have been answered.  Matters had evolved in such a manner that it seemed extremely difficult to resolve the issue of the United Nations role in Iraq unless questions about the Organization’s future as the legitimate expression of the collective will of the world’s peoples, and the principal guarantor of international peace and security, among other global issues, were also answered.  What was decided about the United Nations role in Iraq would also decide what would become of the Organization in the context of the United Nations Charter, and the important global objectives that had been taken since its adoption.  History placed an urgent and practical test case that had obliged the world to answer the question of what the United Nations should be, “what to do to distinguish the trees from the woods”.


As partisan activists, he said, South Africans had campaigned in favour of a strong and effective United Nations because of the place their country had occupied in the contemporary world.  That place was defined by the fact that South Africa, like the rest of the continent, had been faced with the challenges of eradicating poverty and underdevelopment.  Everything that had happened had placed an obligation on the United Nations to reflect on a number of fundamental issues that remained of critical importance to the evolution of human society.  The General Assembly would disappoint the expectations of the world’s peoples and put itself in jeopardy if it did not address those issues.


One of the issues that should be addressed, he said, was the accepted national right to self-defence and the implications of the exercise of that right in light of the historic responsibilities of the United Nations to guarantee international peace and security.  While all understood that threats from non-State organizations, such as Al Qaeda, could express themselves as the most inhumane and despicable terrorism, and that the United Nations, therefore, must ensure that all acted together to defeat the threat of terrorism, the world had no choice but to deal with the brute reality that reform of the United Nations system must recognize the imbalance of power as represented by different countries and regions.  The world must proceed from the position that distribution of power was not necessarily in the interest of the peoples of the world; the rich countries were concerned about maintaining the status quo from which they benefited, while the poor countries were interested in changing their condition for the better.


The world was confronted by global challenges that the United Nations could not solve, he said, noting that the disempowered would continue to look to the Organization because they understood they were too weak to advance their interests outside the collective voice of the United Nations.  The Global poverty and underdevelopment were the principal problems facing the United Nations and while billions across the globe expected the General Assembly to address that challenge in a meaningful manner, the world’s masses expected that statements made in the Assembly would indicate a serious commitment to implement what was said.  The poor expected an end to violence and war everywhere.  They wanted an end to the killing that was taking too many Israeli and Palestinian lives; they wanted Africans to stop killing one another, which continued to convey a message of their inability to live in peace; they also desired the realization of the democratic objective that the people shall govern and they were seriously committed to the eradication of poverty and the provision of a better life for all.


STJEPAN MESIC, President of Croatia, said this was a world where none could go it alone, however big and powerful they might be.  And as global solutions required the concerted and unified efforts of all countries, it was important that everyone recognized that the United Nations was an organization dependent upon the will of each and every one of its 191 Member States.  There was no doubt the United Nations must be reformed, but unfortunately, there had not thus far been enough political will to pass from debate to actual reform.  Although never a member, Croatia had considerable experience of the workings of the Security Council and knew that without adapting itself to the new realities of international relations, the Council would not be able to maintain its credibility and authority.


High on Croatia’s list of priorities was the fight against terrorism, he said, which required not just the actions of the democratic coalition at the global level, but the involvement of each of its members at the national and regional levels.  Also of importance was the need to intensify efforts to assist countries lagging behind in terms of economic and other development.  Although unable to contribute financially, Croatia stood ready to offer its wealth of experience in post-war reconstruction and post-war confidence building to Iraq.


Croatia also reiterated the importance of United Nations peacekeeping, noting that the mandate and character of peacekeeping operations had been significantly transformed from operations aimed at disengaging warring parties into complex missions for building democratic systems, protecting and promoting human rights, strengthening civil society and establishing the groundwork for sustainable development.  Referring to his country’s firsthand experience of United Nations peacekeeping and the feeling of moral obligation arising therein, he declared Croatia’s intent to further intensify its participation in peacekeeping missions.


Another priority area was in the need for closer links between the main bodies of the United Nations, he continued, as well as for a strengthening of the role of the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Commission.  Yet, apart from terrorism, the biggest threat to security in the world came from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  In this regard, universal adherence to the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty was of particular importance and should be encouraged.


Finally, he said, Croatia welcomed the efforts of the United Nations and the Secretary-General to raise awareness of the importance of the rule of law and international instruments such as the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.  The United Nations remained the central point for resolving problems of international relations and promoting the interests of humankind.


KING MOHAMMED VI of Morocco, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said his presence at the rostrum was an emotionally charged moment as he recalled the appeals and initiatives launched by his late grandfather and father, King Mohammed V and King Hassan II, respectively, in calling for concerted international community action to speed up decolonization in the Maghreb and the rest of Africa and to uphold the principles of peace, coexistence, openness and tolerance.  Guided in its international action by the same ideals that had inspired the founding fathers of the United Nations, Morocco sought to contribute to the significant accomplishments of mankind through the Organization by preserving human dignity and ensuring equality in rights and obligations.


He said that while valuing the Organization’s achievements, Morocco questioned the extent to which it had made peace prevail, contributed to sustainable development and helped in the settlement of conflicts arising from colonization.  Such conflicts had torn apart entire peoples and nations, especially on the African continent, assuring African States of Morocco’s constant and unwavering solidarity, as well as its determination to further expand co-operation with them in political, economic, social and security matters, and to back constructive African initiatives.


Calling on the international community to provide concrete support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), he described it as a realistic and promising initiative for the sustainable development of Africa, mostly through the interaction of its subregional entities.  The Millennium Declaration had been a turning point in the implementation of the mission entrusted to the United Nations, in the area of sustainable development, because for the first time, heads of State and government had agreed on specific objectives and targets in the social, economic and educational fields until the year 2015.  Following several important summit meetings and conferences held under the Organization’s aegis to fulfil those commitments, he had assigned to the Chair of the Group of 77 and China, the priority task of ensuring follow-up to those commitments, as well as the monitoring of their integrated implementation.


He said that despite the efforts made to settle the Palestinian question, the logic of violence and intransigence continued to hamper the restoration of peace.  The suffering, deprivation and injustice endured by the brotherly Palestinian people on a daily basis, called for a stronger commitment on the part of the international community to achieve gradual and irreversible implementation of the Road Map, he said.


Calling for concerted international action, he said it should enable the brotherly Iraqi people to live in security, stability and freedom, and to rebuild their country, while ensuring that their choices were fully respected, and that the sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity of their State was preserved.  Noting that the Palestinian and Iraq questions had particularly affected the Mediterranean subregion, he said a Euro-Mediterranean dialogue was a key element for stability, security and development in the area.


While pledging Morocco’s cooperation with the United Nations, he said his country was trying to find an international consensus on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.  Attempts made so far to reach a solution had shown that the only way to resolve the issue was to come up with a realistic and final political solution in keeping with democratic principles, while fully respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Morocco, just as the United Nations had recommended in June 2001.


Recalling the tragic events of 11 September and last May’s attack on Morocco, he said the international community had been involved in a determined fight against international terrorism, which posed a threat to the sacred values of mankind.  Morocco insisted on the need for intensified international cooperation in order to “eradicate this scourge”.


SILVIO BERLUSCONI, President of Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union stood ready to contribute actively to the goal of building an international order based on effective multilateral institutions within the fundamental framework of the United Nations Charter.  Citing terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as two of the greatest threats to peace and development today, he reiterated the European Union’s condemnation of all acts of terrorism and said the same determination and close collaboration with the United Nations that had been brought to the fight against terrorism should be applied to stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  To this end, the European Union had redoubled its efforts to end the threat of proliferation and, having recently agreed to an Action Plan, European Union member States were now working for its implementation.


Aware of the need to address both the military and humanitarian aspects of the situation, he appealed firmly to the Government of North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programme in a prompt, transparent, verifiable and irreversible manner.  Furthermore, while India and Pakistan were forcefully encouraged to adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to pursue a process of political dialogue leading to an agreement satisfactory to all parties on all controversial points including Kashmir, the Government of Iran was urged to demonstrate accelerated cooperation and full transparency with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The international community, he said, would consider the “urgent and unconditional acceptance, signature and implementation of an IAEA safeguards additional protocol” as a sign of Iran’s commitment to the non-proliferation framework, and a step in the right direction.


Another area of concern related to proliferation was found in the spread of light and portable weapons and the expansion of armed organized violence, he said.  In this regard, the European Union was firmly committed to supporting the United Nations on the common objectives of strengthening international agreements, increasing support for monitoring agencies, and intensifying controls over illegal trafficking.  Moreover, the European Union considered the International Criminal Court to possess great powers of deterrence in the above regard, and reiterated its support for the universal abolition of the death penalty.  The European Union also reaffirmed its support for the reform and strengthening of United Nations peacekeeping activities and was currently engaged in drafting guidelines on the protection of civilians in European Union-led peace operation to fully reflect United Nations doctrine. 


Regarding its relationship with Africa, he said the European Union had expressed a special interest in strengthening African peacekeeping and conflict resolution capacities, including through the African Union.  Yet, stable conditions for peace could not be created without a strategy aimed at eradicating the poverty and social exclusion that fired so many conflicts in Africa and other regions of the world.  Thus, the European Union reiterated its support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and expressed its deep regret over the failure to achieve substantial progress during the Cancún Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  However, viewing further trade liberalization as playing a critical role in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, the European Union felt the importance of continuing negotiations within the WTO framework.  The members of the European Union had also pledged themselves to achieving the target of 0.39 per cent of gross national product (GNP) to official development assistance (ODA) by 2006.


The safeguarding of international peace and security also required a strong commitment to addressing regional conflicts, he added.  Thus, deeply concerned by the deterioration of relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the European Union reiterated its strong support for the Road Map and urged both parties to act urgently to implement the commitments provided for by the Road Map.


On Iraq, the European Union welcomed the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime and underlined the importance of re-establishing Iraq’s sovereignty and establishing a fully representative government, he said.  Also touching upon accomplishments concerning Afghanistan and Cyprus, he stressed the importance of the Union’s relationships with Latin America and the Western Balkans.


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