Forum of Small States
Opening remark by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan,
President-elect of the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
9 September 2002


Ambassador Mahbubani, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and privilege for me to address the Forum of Small States today, just a day before the opening of the 57th UN General Assembly, over which I will have the pleasure to preside. I would like to thank you, especially Your Excellency Ambassador Mahbubani, for your kind invitation. It gives me the invaluable opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts about the work of the upcoming UN General Assembly. However, I sincerely hope to hear also some comments and suggestions from you, which will help me to ascertain better the opinion of member countries. It is certainly impossible to fulfil the wishes of everybody but I am convinced that everybody's ideas might be interesting and inspiring, regardless of the size of the country he or she represents.

I myself come from a relatively small country. I am thus rather familiar with the problems small countries face in global competition. However, I also know that this is exactly the reason why these countries, more than any other, need well functioning international organisations based on mutual understanding and cooperation. The United Nations based on sovereign equality of its members shall always play the principal role in this regard. I will in the course of my presidency undoubtedly try to make the General Assembly an equally comfortable home for everybody.

My predecessor spoke before this distinguished audience a year ago, only a day before this beautiful city, the seat of the United Nations, the chief peace-promoting organisation in the world, was hit by the horrific terrorist attack of September 11. It deeply shocked all peace loving people in the world and I think I would not exaggerate claiming that the world has awakened that day into the new reality. Who would imagine before that the greatest superpower in the world could be in this way attacked in one of its most sensitive spots? Nevertheless, what used to be hardly imaginable became a sad fact.

I am aware that this unfortunate moment was since reflected in the work of the United Nations. Who else than eyewitnesses of this terrorist act could better lead the global community in its counterattack against international terrorism? In this respect, I highly commend the work of the Counter-terrorism Committee that greatly contributed to the implementation of the historic Security Council resolution 1373. However, I think that our work has not been completed yet. We still lack the General Convention, including, for example, a definition of international terrorism. I would like to see this problem soon resolved and I am prepared to participate actively in all the UN efforts in this regard.

We should also continue our work in the area of conflict prevention. We may be pleased that some conflicts, which were for months or years providing juicy headlines for the world's media, seem to have come to their end. The situation in the Balkans and as well recent development of several years-long conflicts in Africa seem to be rather promising. However, despite some good news, the world is not by far a peaceful place yet. Recent experience proved that the UN has at its disposal instruments, which can be used to prevent the eruption of conflicts, namely preventive diplomacy, preventive deployment and preventive disarmament and they should be always used to prevent the unnecessary pain and suffering of innocent victims. The far-reaching recommendations of the Secretary General's Report on Prevention of Armed Conflicts are indeed very inspirational. Building on the efforts of my distinguished predecessor, I intend therefore to facilitate discussion, which would ultimately result in a resolution on armed conflict prevention.

Another issue on which I want to focus my attention, is follow up of the recent important UN Conferences, mainly the Millennium Summit, the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Outputs of these conferences clearly demonstrated, that the UN is a flexible organisation, able to cope with the new challenges in the accelerating globalisation and environmental degradation. Unfortunately, some of the challenges are not new at all. Especially underdevelopment and poverty, which have been well known issues for decades.

The Millennium Declaration, despite being a relatively short document, very clearly determines development goals, which the international community should accomplish in the years to come. Some of the development goals like to halve the number of people who suffer from hunger or people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water by the year 2015 and other goals having much to do with very basic human dignity, are actually rather ambitious.

Another important document, which I intend to often refer to, is the Monterrey Consensus. While the Millennium Declaration clearly stated the main goals, the Monterrey Consensus, to a large extent, suggested how to accomplish them. On top of that, I believe that the way in which the consensus in Monterrey was reached is equally important as the final document itself. The close involvement of various stakeholders proved to be very fruitful and it was mirrored also in the often-quoted last part of the Monterrey Consensus called "Staying engaged". I perceive especially the very close collaboration with the Breton-Woods institutions as a real break-through and I would make every effort to assure that momentum in this respect would not be lost.

It is probably still too soon to assess the recently concluded World Summit on Sustainable Development. Nevertheless it might be said already now that this summit has reminded us once again that the concept of sustainable development should become a key element of the overarching framework for all UN activities. It will not be easy to translate this general concept into concrete steps, but I will certainly try to help this process.

The United Nations attracted during the time of its existence thousands of top diplomats from all over the world and we can be proud that we have inherited a well-functioning body capable of solving the questions for which it was founded. Despite this, every man-made mechanism sometimes needs adjustments to be able to cope better with the challenges of the day. I want therefore to continue the work of my distinguished predecessors on UN reform, particularly on revitalization of the General Assembly. I have already discussed this issue with some delegations and I was rather encouraged by interest in this issue. I clearly felt that not only continuous reform of the General Assembly but also visible progress on Security Council enlargement and reform are expected. I am well aware that the latter, especially, is rather a contentious issue but I feel that the time has already come to deliver at least certain progress even in this difficult subject.

I intend to make our session of the General Assembly more interactive and more effective by means of streamlining our agenda and organizing panel discussions etc. I also want to organise regular meetings between the presidents of the Security Council, the General Assembly and ECOSOC and meetings with the chairmen of all main committees and I will continue with the already established practice of regular monthly meetings with the chairs of the five regional groups. I am sure there will be many occasions to meet also members of your group and I hope that these meeting will be mutually useful.

I have certainly not explicitly mentioned all the important issues, which will be dealt with in the upcoming session of the General Assembly. It does not mean I will not pay appropriate attention to them. I want to be open to all proposals, initiatives and concerns. I believe that the General Assembly as the most representative organ of the United Nations, must remain a truly member-driven body. I will work hard to ensure this. Nevertheless I also will try to ensure that the General Assembly is not only a comfortable home for everybody, as I said a few minutes ago, but that it is also able to solve the crucial problems of the world of the 21st century. Nothing less is expected from us. I count on your support and collaboration.

Thank you for your attention


 


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