Costa Rica urges UN to work for cuts in military spending to fund development

Foreign Minister Stagno of Costa Rica

2 October 2007 – The Foreign Minister of Costa Rica today urged leaders attending the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate to work for cuts in military spending to fund development objectives.

“Multilateralism is not built on tests of strength,” Bruno Stagno Ugarte declared.

He cited statistics compiled by the Millennium Project which estimated that if the world spent one tenth of its current expenditures on military spending – some $1.2 trillion – “we would have met the targets for 2006 for all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in all countries.” The MDGs are time-bound targets for addressing poverty and other social ills.

“Security does not come from multiplying weapons; history has already proven this too many times,” he said. “Security comes from remedying injustice, easing shortages [and] creating opportunities so that we can have collective prosperity on par with collective security.”

He cited Article 26 of the United Nations Charter, which calls for promoting “the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources” and said it was a “dead letter” that should be brought to life.

The Foreign Minister said the UN must be able to learn from its mistakes. “We do a disservice to the credibility and effectiveness of this Organization if every time we experience a difficult or inconvenient situation we simply produce a report for the archives,” he said.

Nicolás Maduro Moros, Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, urged an overhaul of the UN to enable it to better serve the world’s people.

The creation of a “multipolar world of balance without imperialistic hegemony is urgent, and it is possible,” he said. “This Organization has to be transformed. It has to rebuild itself to be the faithful instrument of a multipolar world,” he added.

He said 17 years of a unipolar world has shown the need to overhaul multilateral organizations so that they can better serve humankind.

He called for the UN to move towards democratization of Security Council through an expansion of both the permanent and non-permanent members. He also advocated strengthening the political role of the Secretary-General and other measures that would enable the UN to “move forward with new mechanisms of dialogue and coexistence towards a world of peace, justice and equality.”

The Foreign Minister of Uruguay, Reinaldo Gargano, urged specific measures to help developing countries, including the elimination of subsidies, to allow them to compete fairly on the international market.

“Developing countries don’t need aid so much as free access to markets,” he declared.

He also emphasized the importance of the economic integration of South America, a region he noted serves as a stabilizing and peaceful force in the world.

While hailing the continent’s natural resources, which should suffice to eliminate poverty, he decried the current “criminal” situation whereby half of South America’s 400 million inhabitants live below the poverty line.

Peru’s Vice Minister Secretary-General of Foreign Affairs, Gonzalo Gutiérrez Reinel, also called for measures to reform the UN. “To reinforce its legitimacy, it is necessary to expedite the procedures and reduce the agenda of the General Assembly,” he said, urging also reform of the Security Council to make it a “more efficient, transparent, legitimate, representative forum with better work methods.”

In addition, he stressed the relevance of the work of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in coordinating cooperation strategies for development and for dealing with emergencies.

Looking to next month’s official launch of the International Year of the Potato, he said, “This celebration is of singular meaning for my country, since the potato is originally from Peru.”

He noted that Peru has great genetic diversity. “The cultivation of the potato was developed since time immemorial by the civilizations that gave rise to the current Peru and is one of the major contributions to the world’s food supply,” he said.

For its part, he said Peru has declared 2008 as the “National Year of the Potato” and has set a calendar of wide-ranging actions to be carried out in conjunction with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

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