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H.E. Mr. Karel De Gucht, Minister for Foreign Affairs

27 September 2008

Statement Summary

KAREL DE GUCHT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said that, in the last year, there had been unprecedented challenge, and there was now a major crisis of confidence undermining financial markets.  The “phantom” of a global recession had added to other challenges of global food prices, increased energy prices, climate change, terrorism and danger of nuclear proliferation.  Indeed, the world was growing increasingly multipolar.

Against the backdrop of the Olympic Games in China, the Russian Federation and Georgia had become involved in conflict, which carried powerful repercussions for Europe, he continued.  The consequences were far-reaching, and it was only through close cooperation and enhanced multilateralism that the world could respond to such challenges.  “Like it or not, we’re in a situation of mutual dependence,” he said.

On the financial crisis, he said that, if stabilization could be achieved, that would benefit entrepreneurs, consumers and citizens alike, including in the least developed countries that were least equipped to deal with the credit situation.  The crisis reached far beyond any single country’s ability to handle it.  The drafting of discipline standards was needed, notably for short selling.

Belgium believed in globalization and free trade, he said, noting that, in recent decades, the world had achieved remarkable development.  However, wealth sharing remained unequal, and the European Union had taken steps to address that situation.  In that context, he appealed for embarking on the task with energy and conviction.

He said new economies must take their “due place” in the world, noting that Brazil, China and South Africa needed exchanges that were open and equitable, in order to develop at the pace they deserved.  Political will was needed to restart the Doha trade talks, and solutions must be found to the food crisis, increased energy prices and climate change.

At the heart of his concern was sustainable development, he said, and it was crucial to successfully conclude in 2009 the world agreement on climate change.  The Millennium Development Goals should guide States’ efforts, while the follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus should see developed countries do more.  In that context, he reiterated Belgium’s firm intention to fulfil its pledge to commit 0.7 per cent of its GDP to development assistance by 2010.  That was a shared responsibility, and he would actively continue to promote good governance.

On use of natural resources, he said illegal exploitation could lead to conflict, and States must combat that.   Belgium had organized a Security Council debate on that issue.  As a Security Council member, Belgium believed that increased international cooperation was needed, and he regretted that there had been a “turning inwards” vis-à-vis sovereignty concerns.  Sovereignty must be respected.  However, responsibilities must be taken seriously, notably with regard to national populations.  Sovereignty did not give States a carte blanche for behaviour contradicting United Nations values.  Too often, sovereignty prevented the global community from acting to prevent deteriorating situations, for example in Myanmar and Darfur.  There was a responsibility to protect, which could be undertaken through humanitarian instruments, or peacekeeping missions.

On combating impunity, he actively supported developing international criminal law for the gravest of crimes, noting that, two years ago, Belgium had begun its mandate in the Security Council, and was pleased at the progress made in managing crisis and expanding peacekeeping operations.  He called for a strengthened mandate of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), and welcomed the effort of regional organizations, such as the European Union’s involvement in Chad.

[Source: GA/10757]