|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
58th & 59th Meetings (AM & PM)
ADOPTING CONSENSUS RESOLUTION, GENERAL ASSEMBLY RECOGNIZES URGENT NEED TO TACKLE
AFGHANISTAN’S ONGOING CHALLENGES -- VIOLENCE, TERRORISM, NARCOTICS, CORRUPTION
Assembly to Observe 26 March 2007 in Commemoration of Two-Hundredth
Anniversary of Abolition of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, in Historic Decision
The General Assembly, recognizing the urgent need to tackle ongoing challenges in Afghanistan, including resurgent extremist violence and terrorist attacks, the burgeoning drug trade, and rampant corruption, today endorsed key principles outlined in the Afghanistan Compact as providing the framework for partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community to help bolster the war-torn country’s security, economy and counter-narcotics efforts.
The Assembly also took an historic decision today, unanimously declaring 26 March 2007 a day for the worldwide commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It also decided to hold a plenary meeting on the International Day to “honour the memory of those who died as a result of slavery, including through exposure to the horrors of the Middle Passage and in revolt against and resistance to enslavement”.
Wrapping up a morning session devoted to its annual debate on the situation in Afghanistan, the world body, acting without a vote, adopted a wide-ranging resolution expressing its commitment to the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, which was launched in January as five-year plan for sustained engagement in that country, with a view to consolidating democratic institutions; curbing insecurity; controlling the illegal drug trade; stimulating the economy; providing basic services to the Afghan people, and protecting their human rights.
The resolution, introduced by Germany’s representative, strongly condemned the upsurge of violence throughout Afghanistan, in particular in the south and east, “owing to the increased violent and terrorist activity by the Taliban, Al-Qaida, other extremist groups and those involved in the narcotics trade,” and noted with concern that the lack of security was causing some organizations to cease or curtail their relief and development work in some areas.
Thus, the Assembly called on the Afghan Government, with the help of the Operation Enduring Freedom Coalition and the International Security Assistance Force, to continue addressing the threat posed by armed extremist groups as well as criminal violence, in particular violence involving the drug trade.
Ahead of that action, Afghanistan’s speaker spotlighted his Government’s concern that those who “sought to wreak havoc and terrorize Afghan society” continued to receive, and rely heavily on, external military, financial and logistical support. It was imperative to bolster Afghanistan’s capacity to deal with external sources fuelling the increase in terrorist activity. Regional cooperation was vital to effectively combat international terrorism, and he looked forward to increased cooperation with Pakistan, within the framework of the Tripartite Commission.
On the fight against corruption and drugs -– key components of the Afghanistan Compact –- he warned of the dangerous link between narcotics production and terrorism, which threatened stability and social development. In that connection, he emphasized the need to provide alternative livelihoods to farmers as an essential element for a successful counter-narcotics strategy. Specifically on corruption, President Hamid Karzai and his Government had embarked on a comprehensive initiative aimed at transparency and good governance. That, in turn, had led to the establishment of an anti-corruption committee.
Pakistan’s representative said that peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan were vital, most of all for its long-suffering people, but also for Pakistan. And while prospects for Afghanistan’s future appeared bright two years ago after the achievement of several Bonn process benchmarks, today, perceptions were much gloomier. Afghanistan’s central issue remained that of peace and security. While geography and history dictated a close friendship between the two countries, there were problems within Afghanistan; the Taliban were an Afghan phenomenon. In light of that, the Government should accept its responsibility and not transfer blame to Pakistan or others.
Expressing concern over growing violence in parts of the south and southeast of the Afghanistan, and its possible spread to other areas, Pakistan’s speaker also noted that corruption was fed, in part, by such factors as the drug economy, political alienation, the Taliban resurgence, and repeated failure to deliver on economic and social development. All those causes should be addressed through a comprehensive strategy, especially since insecurity in Afghanistan caused insecurity in regions of Pakistan. His country would spare no effort to contribute to Afghanistan’s peace and stability; some $110 million had been spent on Afghanistan’s development so far, and more would follow, he said.
Opening the debate on setting aside a day to commemorate the anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines introduced the resolution. On behalf of the Caribbean Community, she said that, by commemorating the dismantling of the institution of slavery, the Assembly would have the opportunity to do the right thing and bring a measure of closure to a dark past that some would rather forget.
She said that it still jolted the conscience to remember that, for nearly 500 years, upon arrival in the Americas, Africans who survived the horrific trans-Atlantic journey were branded with hot irons to imprint the names of their new owners and forced into degrading slave labour. It had taken the world almost 200 years to acknowledge slavery as a crime against humanity.
To anyone who asked “Why bother to re-hash an event that happened so long ago?,” the Caribbean Community would say that to the decedents of those who lived and died during that time, 200 years was not so long ago. “It is our solemn obligation to ensure that their memories are honours and that their suffering is never forgotten,” she declared.
By the text of the resolution, the Assembly “recognized that the slave trade and slavery are among the worst violations of human rights in the history of humanity, bearing in mind particularly their scale and duration”. It acknowledged that the institution of slavery was at the heart of “profound social and economic inequality, hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, which continue to affect people of African descent today.”
The resolution also recalled key sections of the Durban Declaration, adopted at the close of the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, emphasizing, in particular, the importance of the “provision of effective remedies, recourse, redress, and compensatory and other measures at the national, regional and international levels”, aimed at countering the continued impact of slavery and the slave trade.
Also today, acting on the recommendation of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the Assembly congratulated the United Nations Children’s Fund on its sixtieth anniversary and decided to convene, in December, a special commemorative meeting devoted to the celebrating the Fund’s substantial and significant achievements and contributions in promoting the survival, development and protection of children.
On the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly approved the renovation of the United Nations Secretary-General’s residence and authorized up to $4,490,400 under the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007 towards that end.
Also speaking today on the situation in Afghanistan were the representatives of Finland, for the European Union; Kyrgyzstan, for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and Belarus, for the Collective Securities Treaty Organization.
Further speaking on Afghanistan were the delegations of Iceland, Kuwait, Iran, Canada, Australia, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Japan, United States, India, Turkey, New Zealand and Norway.
Speaking on the commemoration of abolishing the slave trade were the representatives of Namibia, for the African Group; Guyana for the Rio Group, and Finland, for the European Union.
Also speaking were the delegations of Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, India, Cuba, United States, Liberia, United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. The Permanent Observer of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization also spoke.
Germany and Monaco spoke in relation to the UNICEF draft.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 29 November, to begin a debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.
The General Assembly met this morning to take up a number of agenda items, including the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan (document A/61/326) and related draft resolution (document A/61/L.25), along with the commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and related draft resolution (document A/61/L.28). It was also expected to consider a report of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial) (document A/61/427) containing a draft resolution on the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as a report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007 containing a draft resolution on the renovation of the Secretary-General’s residence (document A/61/591).
The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Afghanistan (document A/61/326) reviews developments since the previous report of 7 March, with the most significant being the recent upsurge in violence, particularly in the south, southeast and east of the country. Security has become the primary concern of most Afghans. Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 2,000 casualties, at least one-third of them civilians. That was three to four times the casualty rate of 2005. The number of security incidents involving anti-Government elements has increased from fewer than 300 per month at the end of March, to nearly 500 per month.
In addition to a review of the security situation, the report includes sections on political developments; security institutions; human rights and rule of law; economic and social development; counter-narcotics efforts; and the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board. The Board was created during the reporting period to provide high-level coordination and political guidance for the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact (document S/2006/90.annex), which describes shared political commitments of Afghans and the international community, and sets forth a series of benchmarks.
While noting the Government’s impressive strides, the Secretary-General says in the report that Afghanistan is in the middle of a “new crisis” since a third of the country is “racked by a violent insurgency” that gravely threatens the political transition nationwide. If not addressed urgently, the insurgency could jeopardize the considerable achievements of the Bonn process and plunge parts of the country into chaos and uncertainty. These events mean the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the south of Afghanistan is particularly welcome and timely.
Further to the report, the Secretary-General calls on the Government of Afghanistan, its regional partners and the international community to redouble efforts, including political and financial commitments, to stabilize the country. He says the international community and the Government must also intensify efforts to accelerate reform of the Afghan police. National and international bodies working on justice reform should redouble their efforts to extend the rule of law.
Other areas requiring attention, the Secretary-General says, are the disbanding of illegal armed groups, one of the Afghan people’s most consistently expressed demands, and efforts to counter corruption and the activities of the narcotics industry. Administrative corruption was of concern in hampering efforts to improve governance and government service delivery at all levels. The growth of the drug trade, which fuels insurgency and corruption, calls for a new direction in current policy.
Regarding the increased insecurity, the Secretary-General says efforts to combat the insurgency should minimize the potential for civilian casualties. Afghan security forces and international partners, however, should be wary of invoking the security situation to justify suppressing human rights guaranteed under the Constitution and international treaties.
Acknowledging that the country’s challenges are daunting, the Secretary-General says the international and local community must work together with the Government towards the long-term vision outlined in the Afghanistan Compact.
The draft resolution on Afghanistan (document A/61/L.25) would have the Assembly strongly condemn the upsurge of violence throughout Afghanistan, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the State.
The Assembly would stress the importance of providing sufficient security, and urge the Afghan Government and local authorities to take all possible steps to ensure the safe and unhindered access of international personnel to all affected populations. It would strongly condemn all acts of violence and intimidation against them.
Further by the draft, the Assembly would stress the need to ensure respect for all human rights and continue to emphasize the need to investigate allegations of violations, both past and ongoing. The Government would also be urged to continue reforming the public administration sector to strengthen the rule of law and meet the benchmarks of the Afghanistan Compact.
In other provisions, the Assembly would express concern at the recent increase in the cultivation of opium and urge the Government to promote the development of sustainable livelihoods in the formal production sector while carrying out the National Drug Control Strategy. It would welcome the numerous international measures taken to control drug trafficking in the country, and would endorse the key principles for international cooperation towards that goal.
The Assembly would also urgently appeal to the entire international community to provide all possible and necessary assistance for Afghanistan. It would urge the international community to increase donor assistance to the core budget, and to other predictable core budget funding modalities in which the Government participates, such as the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, the Law and Order Trust Fund and the Counter-Narcotics Trust Fund.
It would emphasize the need to examine and adjust the civil-military relationship among all actors and at all levels with the central and impartial coordinating role of the United Nations in mind. The Secretary-General would be requested to continue reporting on the situation every six months.
The draft resolution on the commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (document A/61/L.28) would have the Assembly designate 25 March as the International Day for the commemoration. It would urge States to develop educational programmes to inculcate an understanding of the lessons, history and consequences of slavery and the slave trade, including at the level of the school curriculum.
The Assembly would also decide to convene a special commemorative meeting on 25 March 2007 and would request the Secretary-General to establish a programme of outreach towards that goal, as well as to report to the Assembly at its sixty-second session on initiatives by States to implement the Durban Declaration with regard to countering the legacy of slavery and restoring the dignity of victims.
According to the draft text on the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the operations of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (document A/61/427), approved by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) without a vote on 17 November, the Assembly would congratulate UNICEF on its sixtieth anniversary. It would request the Assembly President to convene, in December, a special commemorative meeting devoted to the Fund’s sixtieth anniversary.
The draft text on the renovation of the Secretary-General’s residence contained in a report of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) (document A/61/592) was approved without a vote by the Committee on 22 November. By its terms, the Assembly would approve the renovation of the residence and authorize up to $4,490,400 under the programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007 towards that end. It would request the Secretary-General to ensure that timetables were met and that the procurement processes were conducted in a transparent manner, and in full compliance with relevant resolutions on procurement reform.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
THOMAS MATUSSEK ( Germany), introducing the draft resolution on Afghanistan (document A61/L.25), said that much had been achieved since the Bonn Agreement of 2001. Within four years, Afghanistan had given itself a modern Constitution, and after free presidential and parliamentary elections, had formed a competent Government. Today, the United Nations continued to play a key role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, within the framework of the Afghanistan Compact.
On the Afghanistan Compact, he said that it had redefined the shared vision for all sectors of its reconstruction until 2010. More than a political vision, it was a precise roadmap for Afghanistan and the international community, with benchmarks and timelines. Furthermore, the Compact reflected an integrated approach to four main sectors: security, governance, development, and the narcotics industry.
A number of challenges remained, however, including issues with insecurity, a thriving drug industry, and lack of good governance, he said. On the security situation, ISAF was dealing with insurgency in the south and east by Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups. Opium was at its highest level ever, and corruption was likewise a problem.
At the same time, there were several achievements not to be overlooked, he continued. Those included the return of Afghan girls to school, over 2000 kilometres of roads having been repaired, and more than 80 per cent of the population now having access to health care. That said, progress remained slow on both security sector reform and disarmament of illegal militia. The Afghan national police still lacked qualified motivated manpower at lower ranks, urgent justice sector reform was required and more even progress was needed where economic and social recovery was concerned.
Referring to the draft, he said that this year’s text consisted of a single document for the first time. While carrying 90 per cent of the consensus language of previous years, it was now structured like the Afghanistan Compact, including the issues of security, governance, development and counter-narcotics. Furthermore, its adoption would mean endorsement by the Assembly of the Afghanistan Compact.
RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan), referring to the draft resolution, said that his Government remained concerned that those who sought to wreak havoc and terrorize Afghan society continued to receive, and relied on external military, financial and logistical support. It was imperative, therefore, to enhance the focus on addressing the external sources fuelling the increase in terrorist activities. Regional cooperation was vital to effectively combat international terrorism in Afghanistan, and he looked forward to increased cooperation with Pakistan, within the framework of the Tripartite Commission.
On his country’s national army and police, he said that significant progress had been made but a lack of modern equipment, logistical support, and extensive delays in the payment of soldiers and police was drastically impacting effectiveness. He added that the security situation required the additional support of the international community.
Referring to the country’s social and economic development, he said that substantial progress was vital to overall success. He highlighted the need to channel donor assistance through the Afghan national budget, while expressing appreciation to the Government of India for having co-hosted the second Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, in November.
On the fight against corruption and drugs -– key components of the Afghanistan Compact –- there was a dangerous link between narcotics production and terrorism, which threatened stability and social development, he warned. Further, he emphasized the need to provide alternative livelihoods to farmers as an essential element for a successful counter-narcotics strategy. Referring to corruption specifically, he added that President Karzai and his Government had embarked on a comprehensive initiative aimed at transparency and good governance. That, in turn, had led to the establishment of an anti-corruption committee.
KIRSTI LINTONEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the single draft resolution on Afghanistan, like the Afghanistan Compact, had been built on a comprehensive and integrated approach by outlining a broad range of issues relevant to Afghanistan and the international community. That holistic approach was necessary; donors sometimes focused too much on the different development sectors, indicators, trust funds and programmes. It was vital to look at Afghanistan as a whole and pay attention to the most critical aspects, on the way to a more secure and prosperous future for the country and its people.
She said that building functional, transparent and accountable Afghan institutions at the central level and in the provinces was the most urgent task at hand. The Secretary-General’s latest report painted a grim picture of the deteriorating security situation in some parts of the country. The United Nations, mainly through the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), played a key role in coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, and the European Union supported an even stronger role for UNAMA in finding political and regional solutions to the country’s challenges. The Union also welcomed plans to expand the mission’s presence throughout the field, if security permitted.
Regarding counter-narcotic efforts, the Union and its member States believed the National Drug Control Strategy, under the primary responsibility of the Afghan Government, was an appropriate approach for tackling the problem. The Union also placed particular importance on the rule of law and was considering ways to increase its engagement in that sector. It sought to increase its counter-narcotics assistance to Afghanistan, in line with plans of the “EU Drugs Action Plan 2005-2008”. The Union had pledged more than 250 million Euro, beginning in 2005, and additional trainers, mentors and other personnel to support the development of the Afghan capacity in the fight against drugs. It was also strongly committed to improving the country’s security in close coordination with NATO. The Afghanistan Compact was the principal framework for future reconstruction and stabilisation until 2010, and the Union supported the United Nations’ central role in implementing the plan. In addition, a strong role for UNAMA was the key to improving coordination of everything from governance to reconstruction to the rule of law.
NURBEK JEENBAEV (Kyrgyzstan), speaking on behalf of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, said his delegation had been closely following Afghanistan’s peace settlement and rehabilitation process, and was satisfied that there had been some progress in both political and economic arenas. Afghanistan had adopted a new Constitution, held presidential and parliamentary elections and re-established the governance institutions that were expected to lay the groundwork for the country’s development. Moreover, the Afghan leadership had demonstrated its commitment to post-war rehabilitation, with the help of international assistance and its own resources.
At the same time, however, he said that Afghanistan, a close neighbour, continued to face several dangerous threats and challenges, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was seriously concerned by the deteriorating security situation and sporadic outburst of deadly violence across the country. The scale and violence of recent terrorist attacks there had spotlighted the fragile political situation. Armed militants –- mainly recast remnants of Taliban and Al-Qaida fighters –- had stepped up their confrontations with Afghan police forces and international military, thus undermining the world community’s efforts to ensure post conflict rehabilitation and jump start Afghanistan’s economy. “We are particularly concerned with the fact that, in a number of provinces, the Taliban have already begun to establish parallel bodies of government and justice,” he added.
With all that in mind, he said that the increasing threat from intransigent extremists had made it urgently necessary to ensure strict compliance, by all parties, including the Afghan Government, with the Security Council-imposed sanctions regime. And, while the Shanghai Cooperation Organization acknowledged the importance of implementing a national reconciliation programme that would pave the way for long-term stabilization in the country, that important process should not run counter to or interfere with the full implementation of the Council’s edicts, which sought the total elimination of the terrorist threat remaining in Afghanistan. He went on to draw the Assembly’s attention to particularly troubling incidents in which persons included on the Council’s sanctions list had been assigned posts in the Afghan Government, as well as attempts to exclude from that list former high-ranking Taliban officials who were suspected of serious crimes.
He said that the overall unstable situation had been aggravated by the acute threat of the narcotics trade, which affected both the fight against terrorism and efforts to reform the Government. Unfortunately, the combined efforts of the international community and the Afghan Government to curb drug production and trafficking had been ineffective. In order to address that scourge, the international community should focus on eradicating the bases and sources of drug production in that country. In order to ensure peace and long-term stability in Afghanistan, as formulated in the Afghanistan Compact and endorsed by the recent “G8” (Group of 8 industrialized nations) Summit in Saint Petersburg, the international community should focus on security, governance, human rights and combating the drug trade.
ANDREI DAPKIUNAS (Belarus) speaking on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), said that while his delegation recognized the political progress that had been achieved in Afghanistan, it was very concerned about the recent up tic in violence stoked by the Taliban and Al-Qaida, as well as the mounting casualties during military operations. The deteriorating security situation, not only hindered Afghanistan’s reconstruction process, but also cast a shadow on the country’s political, social and economic achievements. It was important, therefore, to ensure strict compliance with the Security Council’s sanctions regime.
He said he was very concerned about long-term stability in Afghanistan, particularly as some 25 per cent of that country’s territory straddled the respective borders of several of the CSTO’s member States. His delegation aimed at providing security within the zone of its responsibility, and the CSTO was strengthening its potential for countering global challenges and threats, such as international terrorism, extremism and illegal drug trafficking. Towards that goal, establishing broad regional cooperation was an important element of the overall settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. Such cooperation might include coordination between Afghanistan and its neighbours on a wide range of security issues and economic projects, as well as on initiatives to counter all aspects of the drug trade, including cultivation, production and trafficking.
He highlighted several instances in which the CSTO was helping Afghanistan combat the narcotics problem, including joint initiatives aimed at nabbing heroin smugglers and confiscating illegal small arms and munitions. He called on the international community to help the Afghan Government eliminate the root causes of many of the country’s troubles, and stressed that Afghanistan’s CSTO neighbours had the knowledge, experience and economic and technological potential to help in that effort. The CSTO was also ready to provide a wide range of high-quality, inexpensive products that could be used to help complete projects that were already under way on the ground.
MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said that peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan were vital most of all for its long-suffering people, but for Pakistan, and for the international community, as well. Though prospects of Afghanistan’s future appeared bright two years ago, following the achievement of several Bonn benchmarks, today’s perceptions were much gloomier.
Afghanistan’s central issue remained that of peace and security. Expressing concern over growing violence in parts of south and southeast Afghanistan, and its possible spread, he said that there were multiple and interlinked sources for that growing insurgency. Corruption was fed, in part, by factors such as the drug economy, political alienation experienced by some in certain areas, criminal gang activity, the resurgence of Taliban, and a failure, once again, to deliver on economic and social development.
All those causes should be addressed through a clear and comprehensive strategy, he continued. After all, Pakistan had a vital and strategic interest in Afghanistan’s welfare. Insecurity in Afghanistan caused insecurity in regions in of Pakistan. In light of that, Pakistan would not spare any effort to contribute to peace stability and in Afghanistan. Some $110 million had been spent on its development so far, and more would follow.
On Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan, he noted that geography and history dictated a close friendship between the two countries. However, problems were within Afghanistan: the Taliban were an Afghan phenomenon. In light of that, the Government needed to accept that responsibility and not transfer blame to Pakistan or others.
Regarding cross-border movement, he said monitoring that was a joint responsibility, and Coalition and Afghan forces needed to assume equal responsibility. His Government had proposed that refugee camps be relocated within Afghanistan, and urged the Afghan Government to cooperate in implementing that.
On the reconciliation and reconstruction process, he said that Pakistan had seen much success with that. In fact, statistics of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had shown that violent incidents had declined there. He hoped that success could be replicated on the Afghan side. Although the process was often painstaking, bombs and bullets were not the answer.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) said that five years had passed since the toppling of the tyrannical and oppressive Taliban regime, which had allowed Afghanistan to be used as a base to export terrorism. Since then, the international community had assisted the Afghan people in tackling the remaining challenges. He highlighted three of those critical obstacles to Afghanistan’s long-term peace, stability, rehabilitation and socio-economic development -- the recent upsurge in deadly violence, the “alarming” increase in poppy cultivation, and institutional corruption, saying that those interconnected challenges required sustained vigilance and support from the international community, particularly Afghanistan’s neighbours.
He went on to say that secure aviation and air transport was essential for ISAF flights returning Afghans to their homeland, as well as for humanitarian aid and reconstruction work in the region. Iceland had supported rehabilitation of the aviation sector, both by providing advisers and staff at the Kabul international airport, and also by preparing a transition plan for that facility. Iceland had also participated in provincial reconstruction in the Ghor district, the poorest area in Afghanistan. Recently, a course on midwifery was held in that district, which featured experts from Iceland. They discussed traditional childbirth assistance, as well as other important issues, such as infant and maternal mortality.
MOHAMMAD AL-NUAIMI (Kuwait), noting the recent Security Council assessment mission that had been conducted from 9 to 17 November, said that the situation its members had seen had been the result of the 20 years of conflict that had left the country in ruins. Conflict had destroyed the people’s livelihood and food source, and left them vulnerable to the Taliban and to drug trafficking, which threatened the entire region. The international community must live up to its commitments to help Afghanistan recover, particularly with regard to ensuring security, so that the rule of law could take root once again.
He said that all efforts must be exerted to strengthen the Government’s ability to create the conditions in which a long-frustrated population could take advantage of opportunities to reconstruct the country. His own country had pledged $30 million through the Kuwaiti Fund during the Tokyo funding event this past summer. The international community must continue its support of Afghanistan for the benefit and security of the entire region.
MEHDI DANESH YAZDI ( Iran) said that although past developments in Afghanistan had provided grounds for optimism, different hurdles, such as terrorism and a violent insurgency, coupled with a pervasive drug economy, had posed formidable challenges to the political and economic reconstruction of that country. More efforts on the part of the Afghans and the international community were required to stabilize the country and reverse the path towards further insecurity.
Enhancing the capability of the Afghan police and army constituted the most effective response to the surge in terrorism and violence in certain parts of Afghanistan, he added. At the same time, his Government believed that any actions to combat terrorism in Afghanistan, including talks and contacts with those responsible, should be avoided, as those could be wrongly interpreted as rewarding terrorists.
Further, as a neighbouring country, Iran was deeply concerned about the increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan -- now accounting for 92 per cent of the total world supply of opium and its derivative, heroin, he stressed. In addition, there was no doubt that terrorism, insecurity and drug trafficking in Afghanistan were mutually reinforcing, with terrorist groups among the major beneficiaries of the drug money. In that light, members of the international community should adjust their counter-narcotic strategies accordingly.
On regional cooperation, he said that Iran had an enormous stake in the success of the Afghan people. His Government had pledged $560 million in reconstruction assistance – the highest pledge in terms of the per capita income of the donor countries. Referring to his country’s hosting of almost 3 million Afghan refugees for decades, he said that his Government expected further cooperation from the international community and the Afghan Government in the voluntary repatriation of those refugees.
HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) said that during the past year alone, his delegation had seen important signs of progress in Afghanistan, including the successful end of the Bonn process, which had begun in 2002 with the drafting of a national Constitution and ended with nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2005. Those, and other important events, along with the emergence of new governance institutions, would have been unthinkable a few years ago and were a testament to the will of the Afghan people, as well as to the commitment and engagement of the international community. However, while that progress had been encouraging, it was only a beginning.
He stressed that, although “we have reached a watershed moment in Afghanistan”, the country’s successful transition to a peaceful democracy “is not guaranteed.” The Afghan Government, the country’s regional neighbours, and the international community, therefore, must redouble their efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and head off growing threats. The Afghan Government must lead by example. The latest report by the Secretary-General had highlighted Government corruption, particularly within the police and judiciary, as a primary grievance driving the insurgency in Afghanistan. There was no place for corruption in any Afghan institution he said, stressing that the people of that country deserved an effective, accountable and transparent Government.
Turning next to the role of Afghanistan’s neighbours, he said that broad regional cooperation and engagement at all levels were crucial to addressing transnational terrorism, the narcotics trade, and pressing refugee issues. Canada called on regional States, including Afghanistan’s closest neighbours, to bolster their efforts to stop insurgents from crossing borders, stem the growing trade in illegal drugs, and find an interim solution for Afghan refugees living inside their borders. “ Afghanistan and its neighbours must stand together for the security and prosperity of all,” he said.
ROBERT HILL ( Australia) said that building a stable, secure and democratic Afghanistan was no easy task. Australia was committed to working with the Afghan Government and people to ensure a better future for that country, but reaching that goal would require the international community’s long-term commitment, as well as the strong leadership of Hamid Karzai’s Government. Australia would stress the need to focus on reconstruction and development, so that the Afghan people could overcome sobering social indicators, such as its life expectancy of only 46 years and its appalling literacy rate, which was one of the lowest in the world. Success in those areas was central to winning the support of the long-suffering Afghan people, he added.
He stressed the importance of combating the drug trade in Afghanistan, and called on the international community, as well as local actors, to work together to turn back recent increases in cultivation, production and trafficking, highlighted in the most recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghan Opium Survey. Australia also stressed the importance of institution-building, including security sector reform and capacity building within that sector. Civil society and the institutions of good governance must also be strengthened, as those were core requirements for long-term stability, and areas in which the international community could carefully apply lessons learned.
Another critical factor in securing peace in Afghanistan was the role of Afghanistan’s neighbours, including in combating the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist elements, he said. All States in the region should cooperate with Kabul and the rest of the international community in building a strong, united and democratic Afghanistan. Despite many challenges, and the substantial work that remained, Afghanistan was an outstanding example of broad-based international cooperation aimed at promoting peace and security. For instance, ISAF consisted of 32,000 troops from 37 countries. For its part, Australia was contributing to that international effort, and had also fully disbursed its 2001 aid commitment of $110 million. It was further committed to another $55 million in development assistance to Afghanistan, through June 2007.
JOON OH ( Republic of Korea) reviewed the enormous progress Afghanistan had made in restoring normalcy, such as the proper functioning of the provincial councils, and the reform of the security sector, which was under way. Nevertheless, Afghanistan faced some priority challenges.
First was the security situation, he said. The programme to disband illegal armed groups must be accelerated, while the army and police forces were strengthened, particularly in terms of equipment and operational capacity. Ties between the central and provincial Government must also be tightened, so as to make law enforcement more effective at the local level. At the same time, the narcotics industry must be eradicated, while rural development projects were intensified, so that those in rural areas had viable economic alternatives to cultivating opium for survival. Finally, the public administration reform must be accelerated, so as to be a driving force in implementing the Afghanistan Compact and other development policies.
Reaffirming his country’s commitment to Afghanistan, he said the Republic of Korea had provided military personnel to Afghanistan since 2002. In addition to the $60 million that had been contributed over the past four years, $20 million had now been earmarked for the next three years towards the implementation of the Compact. The new fund would focus on human resources development, public administration, agriculture and rural development.
ARIF HAVAS OEGROSENO ( Indonesia) said that Afghanistan’s situation had grave consequences for its own people, as well as for the region and the world. While it was up to the Government to consolidate its position, it was a test for the international community to stand up to its responsibilities and help tackle the substantial security and developmental challenges facing Afghanistan. While it was important to institute robust military and law enforcement measures, it was hard to see that the use of force, per se, would lesson the threat of insecurity and attacks against the Government and people. Greater emphasis, however, should be placed on reconciliation, with concurrent Government initiatives, such as the “Strengthening Peace” programme.
Calling on the international community to gear up its support for implementation of the Afghanistan Compact and the interim national development strategy, he said that the coordinating role of UNAMA should be strengthened, along with bilateral and regional cooperation in various areas of nation-building. For example, the Second Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan that had just been held in New Delhi had been among the positive steps in that direction, and should be strengthened.
He said he was pleased that the democratization process continued to be solidified. It was critical that international humanitarian law be observed and that local customs and culture were respected. Utmost care must be taken not to harm civilians in military operations. However, the tangible progress in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was being offset by the intensified insurgency, which gave some an excuse for resisting disarmament. Thus, all entities in and out of Afghanistan must help the Government provide the public with a sense of security.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said the Afghan process that began in Bonn in 2001 and continued through the Tokyo reconstruction conference in 2002 and the London conference in January this year was still on track. Yet, the country was still quite fragile, and there were difficult problems in governance, maintenance of security and reconstruction, not to mention the Taliban-led insurgency and the attacks of terrorists, and the burgeoning illegal drug trade and endemic corruption.
Faced with that reality, he said that the international community could help move Afghanistan forward by keeping three essential points in mind. First, Afghans must own the process and make decisions as they struggled through the current challenges with sustained international support. They were starting reconstruction, “not from zero, but from below zero, from deep minuses after years of conflict and destruction”. Against that background, the Government and people were commendable. Afghan ownership had played an essential part so far. That element should be encouraged and strengthened, in line with the Afghanistan Compact, with both Afghanistan and the international community honouring their commitments.
Further, he said, the security situation must be addressed. While primary responsibility for ensuring security rested with the Afghans themselves, the urgent need for outside assistance in that area required that the international community make that support available. For its part, Japan had hosted a Second Tokyo Conference on Consolidation of Peace in Afghanistan in July, and it had extended about $1.1 billion in official development assistance (ODA) to cover security sector reform, among others. Just last month, Japan had decided to extend the duration of the activities of its Maritime Self-Defence Force in the Indian Ocean.
Finally, he said, Afghanistan’s reconstruction would benefit the entire region and, therefore, regional cooperation should be encouraged. Japan had invited Afghanistan to participate in the second Foreign Ministers’ meeting, which had been held in June as part of the “ Central Asia plus Japan Dialogue”. Japan was also supporting key infrastructure projects in transportation, which would affect Afghanistan’s neighbours, and it had extended more than $11 million for counter-narcotics measures and training in border and customs control.
NED SIEGEL ( United States) said that adoption of the resolution by consensus would demonstrate the support of the international community for its joint endeavour in Afghanistan. The resolution would further reaffirm the international community’s resolve to address the threat to security and stability of Afghanistan posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups.
He said that the United States was both the largest donor and largest troop contributor to Afghanistan. His Government reaffirmed its commitment to work with the United Nations, ISAF partners, and the Afghan Government towards security, democracy, and prosperity in Afghanistan.
Drawing attention to the recently concluded Second Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, which India had co-hosted in New Delhi, NIRUPAM SEN ( India) paid tribute to the courage and perseverance of the Afghan people and the foresight of their leadership. At the same time, intensified and international efforts to deal with the problem of the resurgent Taliban, Al-Qaida insurrection and their nexus with drug traffickers, was essential. On that note, an important regional and international duty remained to act firmly to eliminate, not only the agents of terror themselves, but to stop their backers, prevent incitement of terror and interdict the sources providing terrorist groups with arms and financing.
Referring again to the recent Regional Conference, he said that the New Delhi Declaration that followed had outlined a number of useful suggestions for the countries of the region. Those related to coordinating policies for exploiting shared resources, like water, agriculture and energy; developing capacity-building programmes; expanding trade and transport linkages; and developing policies to counter narcotics cultivation and drug smuggling, to name a few.
His delegation reiterated its unwavering commitment to assist in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, he said. More than $600 million in financial assistance had been extended to both help fund infrastructure projects and to strengthen the national budget process. However, there was also the need to transcend funding by providing Afghan people with the tools to help themselves, through training programmes and appropriate technologies.
BAKI ILKIN (Turkey), aligning his delegation with the statement made by Finland on behalf of the European Union, said that while progress achieved by the Afghan people had been commendable, the international community must continue to act with full resolve to contribute to the creation of a democratic, secure, and stable Afghanistan. Expressing full support for the Compact, he noted that the increase in drug trafficking and the worsening of the security situation, in the south and east of the country, required immediate attention.
Turkey remained determined to stand by the Afghan people, he continued. After leading ISAF twice in the past three years, his Government still maintained a large contingent in Afghanistan, as part of the NATO forces. It had also recently launched a provincial reconstruction team in a province north of Kabul.
KIRSTY GRAHAM ( New Zealand), heralding the elections of the presidency and national assembly and the inauguration of democratic institutions as major achievements in Afghanistan’s path to stable democracy, said security and economic development were key to securing the legitimacy of the Afghan Government. Improved stability and governance were evidence of a base for economic revival, and New Zealand acknowledged the value of local mechanisms in regional solutions.
However, he said, the deterioration of the overall security was a real concern, as the upsurge in violence and resurgence of Taliban terrorist activity, particularly in the south, was at an unprecedented level. As a contributor to ISAF, his country called on the Government and its partners to develop the Afghan police and military. Further, it was vital to address the problem of increased opium production and illegal trafficking. New Zealand would continue to support UNAMA and maintain commitments to reconstruction initiatives in Bamyan. He called on international donors to closely coordinate their contributions, in accordance with the Interim Afghan National Development Strategy and the Afghanistan Compact.
MONA JUUL ( Norway) said a nationwide strategy was required, as increasing challenges had illustrated the importance of making better use of resources and enhancing the ability of the Afghan Government to assume ownership of the country’s development. That strategy must include security, humanitarian, development and political dimensions, using the Afghanistan Compact as a road map.
She called for stronger civilian leadership, in order to improve international assistance coordination, as that would speed implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. Also important was to strengthen coordination between capitals and the headquarters of key organizations, and she urged the United Nations to consider appointing a special envoy to maintain continuous dialogue with countries engaged in Afghanistan’s stabilization efforts.
Donors should also better coordinate their work, she said, as reliance on foreign contractors drove up costs and weakened Afghanistan’s ability to develop its own institutions. Capacity-building was important for improving governance, and ministries and local authorities needed expertise. She also urged donors to increase their use of Afghan personnel. Moreover, the Government should reach out to provinces, districts and villages and improve its institutions there. Intensified dialogue between the central Government, local leaders and tribal elders was essential for promoting loyalty. While urging the Government to fight corruption and organized crime, she said a prompt response to the recent appeal for humanitarian assistance was also crucial.
Action on Afghanistan Draft Resolution
Next, the draft resolution on the situation in Afghanistan (document A/61/L.25) was adopted without a vote.
Introduction of Draft
Introducing the draft resolution on commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), MARGARET HUGHES FERRARI (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), said the text (document A/61/L.28) would set aside 26 March 2007 (instead of 25 March, which fell on the weekend) for the international community to mark the two-hundredth anniversary of the day the Imperial British Parliament signed the Act, which abolished the slave trade throughout the British empire. That Act helped chart the course for abolition worldwide, and CARICOM acknowledged and remembered with gratitude those who had led the struggle to end the institution of slavery and the slave trade.
She said that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade represented one of humanity’s lowest points, and resulted in the forced removal, over a period of some five hundred years, of nearly eighteen million people, from Africa to the “New World” of the Americas, including the United States and the Caribbean, as well as Brazil and the Spanish Empire. Those people were enslaved and forced to work mostly on plantations, enriching the European empires of the day. Apart from the misery and suffering of the captured men, women and children, the nefarious institution turned brother against brother, destroying families and whole communities. It also caused untold damage to the countries of West Africa, she added.
“It is painful to recall the way in which the captives were forced into detention and transported as human cargo, packed into the foul holds of ships like mere chattel and taken across the Atlantic to this so-called new world,” she said. It still jolted the conscience to remember that, upon arrival, those people were branded with hot irons to imprint the names of their new owners. It had taken the international community almost two hundred years to acknowledge the institution of slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity. And, to those who had asked “Why bother to re-hash an event that happened so long ago?,” CARICOM would say that to the decedents of those who lived and died during that time, 200 years was not so long ago. “It is our solemn obligation to ensure that their memories are honoured and that their suffering is never forgotten,” she declared.
The resolution, therefore, would have the Assembly express deep concern that it had taken nearly two hundred years to acknowledge slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity, as well as express the view that those institutions should have always been acknowledged as such. And, since the massive relocation of African humanity had wrought permanent damage to “our ancestors and decedents on every continent bordering the Atlantic ocean,” stifling African creativity and gutting production capacities, and indeed becoming the genesis of a dependent relationship with Europe -- the unfortunate affects of which lingered until this day -- the draft would have the Assembly acknowledge that the institution of slavery was at the heart of “profound social and economic inequality, hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, which continue to affect people of African descent today.”
By commemorating the end of the transatlantic slave trade, the Assembly would have the opportunity to do the right thing and bring a measure of closure to a dark past that some would rather forget. “But we of the Caribbean need to remember, in order to know from whence we came,” she concluded, adding, “we need to make sure that our children know of the dark deeds perpetrated in the name of commerce and profit…We must never forget.”
KAIRE MBUENDE (Namibia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the slave trade was a horrific and brutal chapter in Africa’s history, which had robbed the continent of millions of able-bodied citizens. Forced to leave their motherlands, many of them had perished during the long journey, or had suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of their masters and brutal system.
He said that slavery was appropriately called a crime against humanity. Commemorating the abolition of the slave trade on 26 Marchserved as a reminder to the international community of the past and dedicated the world to a more humane future. Slavery should never be repeated again in any form, he added.
The year 1807 had seen the abolition of the slave trade, he said. That had also marked the triumph of the human spirit and the will for freedom. Reiterating support for draft resolution “L. 28”, he paid tribute to all those from Africa and of African origin in the Caribbean and the Americas.
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that his delegation unreservedly condemned slavery and servitude in all its forms and manifestations and urged the international community to increase its vigilance and take all necessary measures to eliminate such practices.
He said that the forced transportation of millions of Africans to the Americas as slaves continued to have a grave impact on the lives of the slaves’ descendents in his part of the world. The legacy of that nefarious trade was still manifested in many ways, including through economic and social inequalities, social exclusion and discrimination based on race.
The Rio Group supported the initiative of CARICOM to commemorate the two-hundredth Anniversary of the Abolition of the transatlantic Slave Trade on 26 March 2007, he said. That date represented a significant milestone, while also giving pause to honour the memory of slaves, who, although subjected to the most barbaric and inhumane conditions, never lost the will to be free and live in dignity.
HEIDI SCHRODERUS-FOX (Finland) on behalf of the European Union said that her delegation had been pleased to join consensus on the text and would strongly reiterate the position outlined in the Durban Declaration that “slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity, not only because of their abhorrent barbarism, but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially because of their negation of the essence of the victims…” The European Union, as others, wanted to consider the complex historical, social and legal issues related to slavery, in a full and transparent manner.
However, she said, her delegation remained convinced that those issues were best addressed within the framework of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. As the Union stated at the time of the 2001 World Conference against Racism, nothing in the Declaration or action plan could affect the general legal principle, which precluded the retrospective application of international law in matters of State responsibility. Likewise, those documents could not impose obligations, liability, or a right to compensation, on anyone. That remained true of the resolution just approved.
RAYMOND O. WOLFE (Jamaica) said that the historic draft resolution would have the Assembly recognize that both the slave trade and slavery were among the worst violations of human rights in human history, bearing in mind their scale and duration. The Durban Declaration, the outcome of the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, referred to slavery and the slave trade as “appalling tragedies…especially in their negation of the essence of the victims” and not only declared slavery a crime against humanity, but stated that it should have always been considered as such.
He said it was critical, therefore, that during today’s solemn debate on the matter, that the Assembly recognize that the horrific “Middle Passage” -- the very essence of the transatlantic Stave trade –- had been responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans, who perished as a result of torture, malnutrition, disease, and resistance. Historians had estimated that, by the time the institution of slavery was dismantled -- hundreds of years after it began -- for every African that arrived on a plantation in the Americas, twice as many Africans died during the “Middle Passage”.
Jamaica and other CARICOM countries would be fully involved in activities to commemorate the two-hundredth anniversary of the end of slavery. Beyond symbolic gestures, all should emphasize that the legacy of slavery and the slave trade was not just important to Africa and the Caribbean. Their consequences should rightly stir the conscience of the international community, especially taking into account slavery’s continued political, social and economic impacts.
ALLISON BOOKER ( Bahamas) said the adoption of the resolution would be a historic occasion in its attempt to build a bridge spanning 200 years across the seas and lands of Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean. The 110-plus co-sponsors called for the entire international community to reaffirm, recall and acknowledge the human rights abuses and violations suffered by millions of ancestors in the motherland of Africa. The call was long overdue and was not meant to lament the past, but rather to look to the future, so that lip service would no longer be the response to ongoing scourges of human rights abuses and violations, which still challenged the Organization more than 60 years after its founding.
She said that the practice of slavery still existed in one form or another. There was no rest until everyone was free and no one was a victim of trafficking, but could enjoy all rights in full, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 2001 World Conference against racism was to be commended for declaring slavery and the slave trade a crime against humanity, but the annual draft resolution on global efforts to totally eliminate racism and related phenomena had again failed to come before the Assembly for a vote. What message was that sending to the millions of victims of rights abuses looking to the United Nations for hope? Concern for language must not overshadow that important issue.
Concluding, she expressed condolences for the recent death in Jamaica of the Chairman of the Bahamas National Cultural Development Commission, who had been spearheading plans for the 2007 commemoration. Her country planned to hold a series of commemorative events, including a festival of the arts, which would re-establish the common link and heritage between countries impacted by slavery; that devastating tragedy and crime against humanity.
LEO MERORES (Haiti), aligning himself with the statement made by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on behalf of CARICOM, said that, though it had taken 200 years to recognize slavery as a crime, the stigma related to it persisted. Descendents of the those huddled masses had waited two centuries, and today, the General Assembly was ready to adopt the draft because an overwhelming voice of reason had been heard. The resolution represented a start of a new type of contract; one which would serve as a compass for the future.
Further, he said, the slave trade had been horrendous, and the cries of millions of wasted lives demanded justice. Slavery was an example of the most serious violation of human rights, and increased vigilance was required to ensure that it did not recur. In conclusion, he welcomed the adoption of “L. 28” and hoped for its consensus adoption. He reiterated that all men were born equal and remained so before the law.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said he was speaking on behalf of his CARICOM friends to advocate his strongly-felt view that the resolution should receive the broadest possible support. Also commending the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on slavery, he called for the preservation of all personal accounts of the slavery experience to serve as the only reliable basis for an authentic version of history; slavery destroyed dignity and the only way to regain the lost dignity was to recollect the events and repair whatever had caused the damage.
He said that the preambular paragraphs of the resolution recounted the horrible conditions and level of indignity and injustice that had been suffered by millions of forebears for 300 years. The preambular paragraphs also spoke of remedies for that injustice and injury. Effective remedies were those that could balance out the gross inequities that had resulted from the injuries suffered. The way forward on the question of reparations was quite straightforward. The Caribbean countries were rich in resources, and yet were among the poorest countries in terms of income. The societies of the Caribbean must be helped into the global economic mainstream by developing their own natural resources and enabling them to have a fair share of those resources.
ILEANA NUNEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) said that the transatlantic slave trade was one of the most sordid chapters of modern history. Some 1.3 million Africans had arrived in Cuba, most of them from the sub-Saharan Africa. Several ethnic groups had subsequently given birth to the Cuban nationality, essentially a mix of Hispanic and African cultures.
She said that, while many were purporting to ignore, justify or delete that sad chapter of world history, such an attempt made draft resolution “L. 28” ever more important. Those who had amassed huge fortunes at the expense of slaves’ sweat and blood, and plunged nations into the consequences of one-crop economies, could not wash their hands of their gloomy past. Amid the present neoliberal globalization, the rich, who were yesterday’s rich, became ever richer, while colonized nations remained doomed to exclusion and impoverishment.
Despite a tight blockade and slandering campaigns, Cuba would carry on its cooperation programmes with the African, Caribbean and other third-world nations, as part of a joint effort to reverse the consequences of slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism, she pledged.
RICHARD MILLER ( United States) said his country was only 30 years old when the transatlantic slave trade was abolished. The United States had outlawed the importation of slaves in 1807, but the fight to rid the country of the heinous practice would not end until the American Civil War, the bloodiest conflict ever on American home soil. Those who died to abolish slavery in practice on the ground deserved recognition for their dedication to justice. As a multicultural society, the United States placed great importance on protecting the rights of all and fighting the ugly remnants of racist attitudes and actions. He supported the resolution wholeheartedly, but he could not support the language on reparations or compensation, even in a preambular paragraph. A more open and understanding posture on the part of sponsors would have been more in keeping with the spirit of the text.
Nevertheless, he said the value of the resolution was to serve as a reminder that slavery was not over, and plenty of people were still held in servitude. Trafficking was the modern version of the slave trade and turning a blind eye to that practice was to be as culpable as those who had tolerated slavery for 300 years before its abolition. The resolution was a call to action. Trafficking must be stopped in a march towards justice, which had begun with the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The text was a statement declaring that never again would a human being be treated as a commodity.
NATHANIEL BARNES ( Liberia) said that it was mind boggling that the world community had taken so long in grappling with the idea of commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, a calamity that had raped the African continent of valuable human resources and laid the bedrock for its continued underdevelopment and dependency.
As a nation that traced its birth from the aftermath of the indignity and cruelty, which characterized the slave trade, Liberia remained a vivid reminder of the indomitable spirit of Africans and those of African descent, he said. Adoption of the draft resolution before the Assembly was the least the world body could do in memory of the dead, as well as in support of those who continued to be affected by the consequences of slave trade.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), aligning himself with the European Union’s statements, called the transatlantic slave trade one of the most inhumane enterprises in history. The 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act had provided the basis for the abolition of slavery within the Empire, 25 years later. Recalling the Act’s two-hundredth anniversary on 26 March 2007, would mark that passage as a critical step for the United Kingdom into a more just, moral place. The British Government would commemorate that crucial turning point with activities throughout 2007. Welcoming the adoption of the resolution and the planned United Nations commemorative day, he looked forward to working with CARICOM members and others to prepare events that would reflect that day’s importance.
He added that the two-hundredth anniversary held enormous importance for those countries whose people had suffered from the transatlantic slave trade. The bicentenary provided an opportunity to pay tribute to the moral conviction of those who had campaigned for slavery’s abolition and to confront the fact that contemporary forms of slavery persisted today. Recalling the words of British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce in 1807 that “you may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know”, he urged States that had not yet done so to accede to the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.
NICOLAS CHIBAEFF ( France) said he supported the resolution and the commemoration wholeheartedly. His own country was taking steps at the national level as part of the commemoration. A memorial would be set up in Nantes, which had been a centre of the transatlantic slave trade for a long time. In the spirit of the Durban Declaration, which had characterized slavery as a crime against humanity, on 10 May 2001, that day would be an annual day of commemoration in France and the principle of slavery as a crime against humanity would be mainstreamed, including in textbooks and school curriculum. It was in that spirit that France supported the resolution.
FRANK MAJOOR ( Netherlands) said he also supported the resolution wholeheartedly, but the text, itself, ran into the same problem as the text had in Durban. The language raised serious legal issues with regard to State responsibility and the inapplicability of legal sanctions or imposition of reparations retroactively to a time when the actions in question were not illegal. Since Durban, however, a number of measures had been taken at a national level with regard to educating the public on the hideous character of the period in which slavery had been allowed to continue.
K. BHAGWAT-SINGH, Permanent Observer of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization to the United Nations, said that his delegation was specifically concerned with related issues, such as human trafficking, child labour, bigotry, slavery of poverty, and the plight of the downtrodden and oppressed people in many member States. Hopefully, the General Assembly would broaden its scope to include those issues.
He said that the anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade could not be celebrated without keeping in mind those still suffering under the yoke of present-day slavery in its various forms. In fact, the memory of those who carried slavery’s burden would be best honoured by working to erase it, in all its manifestations, he added.
Action on Draft
The Assembly then took up the draft on commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade (document A/61/L.28).
The Secretariat read out a statement of programme budget implications, stating that the estimated requirements for the year 2007 as a result of adoption of the draft being adopted would amount to $303,900. No provisions had been made under the programme budget for the 2006-2007 biennium, but the Secretariat intended to accommodate the requirements with the Public Information appropriation. Any additional requirements would be reported in the context of the second performance report for the biennium.
The Assembly adopted the draft without a vote, as orally amended earlier in the meeting by the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, on behalf of the Caribbean Community.
Statement after action as a co-sponsor of the draft, the representative of Canada repeated the position of her country already stated on previous occasions. Under international law, there was no remedy for actions that were not illegal at the time they occurred. Endorsement of the resolution should be viewed as her country’s enthusiastic support for marking the end of a very repugnant period in human history. The support was further underscored by Canada’s well-known special relationship with the CARICOM, she said.
Action on Committee Reports
The Assembly next took up the report of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), containing a resolution on the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the operations of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (document A/61/427).
Speaking in explanation of position before action, the representatives of Monaco and Germany said they regretted not having become co-sponsors of that draft.
The draft was then adopted without a vote.
Finally, the Assembly took up the report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), containing a single resolution on renovation of the Secretary-General’s residence (document A/61/592), which it also adopted without a vote.
* *** *For information media • not an official record