UN more necessary than ever, General Assembly hears during high-level debate

Foreign Minister Phandu T.C. Skelemani of Botswana

29 September 2008 – The principles and the work of the United Nations are needed more than ever as the world confronts an array of major challenges and crises, several countries told the final day of the General Assembly’s annual General Debate today, urging stronger global leadership from individual States and continued UN reform.

The magnitude of such problems as climate change, terrorism, poverty and natural disasters illustrates the need for multilateral strategies and solutions, Botswana’s Foreign Minister Phandu T. C. Skelemani said.

“The United Nations is today more than ever before required to respond effectivThe United Nations is today more than ever before required to respond effectively and swiftly to the complex challenges of the 21st centuryely and swiftly to the complex challenges of the 21st century… Botswana calls upon all Member States to unite in the search for solutions to these problems,” he said.

Mr. Skelemani called on the heads of nations to show better leadership on the biggest global problems, echoing a theme from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his opening speech to the General Debate last Tuesday.

“In our approach to managing relations between States, leaders are called upon to set a higher standard,” he said. “The language which we employ in international fora should neither be belligerent, provocative, nor calculated to shame or humiliate other leaders, and Member States should not host military or rebel groups that operate from their territories against their neighbours.”

Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said the transnational nature of the world’s major problems meant countries had to work together to devise common strategies whether they liked it or not.

“The principles and the work of the United Nations have never been needed more,” he said. “Its principles give us a firm foundation. Continuing reform will give us even stronger tools. What remains to be proven is our collective will to use them.”

Mr. Martin described the UN as “the indispensable framework” for realising the potential of the international community, “as it has shown again and again.”

He urged the UN to continue its efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the set of eight time-bound targets for slashing a host of social and economic ills, all by 2015.

Carsten Staur, Denmark’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said many of today’s biggest challenges – including climate change, the current financial instability, and the dual food and fuel crises – had the potential of both exacerbating existing tensions and conflicts and widening inequalities between rich and poor.

“We need to build on the comparative advantages of the UN, to define global agendas such as climate change, to deal with conflicts and humanitarian crisis, to focus on the special needs of developing countries, and to define and defend global values such as human rights,” he said.

For his part, Ahmed Khaleel, Permanent Representative of Maldives, said the UN remained “the most potent and dependable universal institution today,” despite the many criticisms levelled against it.

“For the past six decades, the United Nations has been a beacon of hope for peoples around the world,” he said. “Its universal character, and the multilateralism that it embodies, hold true to the ideals and virtues upon which it was founded and, without doubt, provide the only framework for solving the world’s greatest challenges, including climate change, sustainable development, human rights and global terrorism.”

Thongloun Sisoulith, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Laos, said in his address to the Assembly that the UN remained the “pre-eminent forum for addressing issues relating to international cooperation for economic development, peace and security, and human rights and the rule of law, based on dialogue, cooperation and consensus-building amongst States.”

But he said the world’s biggest challenges were becoming more and more complex, which meant key UN institutions need to become more robust and effective.

The General Assembly should be strengthened, the Security Council ought to be more democratic and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and other development pillars at the UN should be substantially reinforced, according to Mr. Sisoulith.

In his address, Andrei Stratan, Moldova’s Foreign Minister, called for a much broader role for ECOSOC.

Mr. Stratan said the Council should intensify its cooperation with both governments and international financial, economic and trade institutions so that as many countries as possible can achieve the MDGs.

“Their implementation is still possible in the majority of countries if conjugated actions directed towards concrete results will be established and continuously sustained and developed until the year 2015,” he said.

The Foreign Minister added that ECOSOC should also have an enhanced role in dealing with humanitarian crisis situations and with reconstruction in countries emerging from prolonged conflict.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo said international institutions such as the UN play a critical “civilizing role” in global affairs, particularly in reducing the tensions that emerge between big powers.

“International institutions cannot stop big-power rivalry but can channel it, and ensure that the common interests of the human family are not completely disregarded,” he said.

For his part, Belize’s Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington said the UN should be strengthened to make certain that countries implement the commitments they made at global summits and gatherings.

He urged the UN to devote its energies to convincing affluent States that “the security, development and well-being of all peoples of the world affords the best guarantee for their own safety, security and development, and ultimately their very survival.

“It is our conviction that the adoption of that view by the developed world would prove to be the catalyst for achieving the unity which the world now needs to be able to address successfully the challenges of our day.”

Seyoum Mesfin, Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, backed calls for UN reform, saying it was crucial for the credibility of the Organization and for the future of multilateralism as a guiding principle.

“The UN is the custodian of multilateral diplomacy,” Mr. Mesfin said. “At no time since the Second World War has multilateralism and genuine cooperation been as critical as it is today. This is why we continue to need the UN as never before.”

Nur Uulu Dosbol, Kyrgyzstan’s State Secretary, said the rapid changes taking place in the world meant the work of the UN was more important than ever.

He called for an expansion of the Council, saying the representation should be broader and fairer to ensure the panel can preserve international order.

Venezuela called for strengthening the authority of the General Assembly in matters of international peace and security and reform of the 15-member Security Council.

“Venezuela supports enlarging the Security Council, both in its categories of permanent and non-permanent members, eliminating the anti-democratic mechanism of the veto and improving its work methods so that it becomes more transparent and accessible,” said Ambassador Roy Chaderton Matos, special envoy of President Hugo Chavez.

The need to re-order international relations was echoed in the address by Don Pramudwinai, Chairperson of Thailand’s delegation.

He voiced concern during his address that the global village had become deeply divided along political, economic, social, racial, religious and cultural lines, a cleft he said was neither sustainable nor healthy.

Mr. Pramudwinai stressed that the challenge was to strike the right balance between the individual political culture of a country and a desire to achieve the ideals of democracy.


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