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H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President

23 September 2008

Statement Summary

VALDAS ADAMKUS, President of Lithuania, said the United Nations could not be a “passive observer” if and when universal values and international law were under threat.  The world needed United Nations leadership, but the Organization had not stepped up.  In some cases, it had even become paralyzed as some States hid behind technicalities or the shield of national sovereignty.  The Organization could not continue with business as usual but had to reform and take a bigger role in areas that determined the future.  Those included energy, information security and the fight against terrorism and fundamentalism.

He said that 17 years ago, when Lithuania gained its independence and joined the United Nations after 50 years of Soviet occupation, it was said that others would never again decide the future of other nations.  But Lithuania and other nations of the former Soviet Union were still fighting the “revisionism seeping down from the Kremlin towers” -- blatant claims that there was no occupation of the Baltic States and no Holodomor in Ukraine, where millions of people were starved to death by a ruthless dictator.

Today was the commemoration of the Day of Genocide of Lithuanian Jews, a powerful reminder of the vulnerability of freedom.  It also taught a lesson.  Sincere efforts to admit to past crimes helped nations reconcile and contributed to the building of a peaceful, secure and stable region.  If the United Nations were to be reformed in a meaningful way, the experiences of the European nations after the end of the Second World War and at the end of the Cold War should receive a closer look.

Continuing, he said that interaction and cooperation between regional organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe should be the foundation for security and stability in Europe.  New calls to revise the institutional structure of European security were troubling.  International commitments should be honoured instead.  Security based on cooperation should remain the basic principle of international relations as a whole.  The philosophy of the “balance of power” growing popular in some capitals had no place in contemporary Europe.

Because security was indivisible, he said, it was in the international community’s interest for the United Nations to play a greater role in strengthening preventive diplomacy and making work the principle of “responsibility to protect”.  The Organization must also be more responsive to emerging threats such as unreliable energy supplies, fundamentalism and cyber attacks.

Whether the world was unipolar, bipolar or multipolar, he said human life and human rights should be made a priority.  That way, a viable architecture could be created among states based on trust, openness and respect for human rights.  But had efforts to build such an architecture been evident in the Georgia-Russia conflict?  “No.  Instead, there were renewed attempts to divide the world into zones of influence or privileged interests, which should be unacceptable to the international community,” he declared.

“Division and exclusion are bad remedies for conflict resolution,” he said.  Conflict resolution in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and elsewhere should be the responsibility of the international community and international institutions.  Commitments to value-based policies must also be honoured, as Lithuania had done, to have become today a consolidated democracy with a strong reformed economy that was an active contributor to international peacekeeping missions from the Balkans to Afghanistan.  The universal principals behind the United Nations should be the guiding light to the world for the future.

[Source: GA/10749]