2 September 1999
LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN REGION HEARING FOR MILLENNIUM ASSEMBLY OPENS IN SANTIAGO
SANTIAGO, 1 September (ECLAC) -- As the international scene becomes more difficult and complex, so "the United Nations, with all its limitations, is being transformed into the sole worldwide actor capable of confronting the problems of cooperation and global conflict", said Juan Gabriel Valdes, Foreign Minister of Chile, today at the opening ceremony of the regional hearing on "The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century: a Viewpoint from Latin America and the Caribbean", convened by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) at its Santiago headquarters today and tomorrow.
Mr. Valdes said the hearing was of "great interest" for the Government of Chile. The ideas and proposals being put forward for the renewal of the United Nations embody "the hope of many of us of raising the profile of the United Nations", he added.
Moncef Khane, Special Assistant to the Coordinator of Preparations for the Millennium Summit (the fifty-fifth General Assembly session, to be held next year), explained that this is the fourth regional hearing to be held so far, following others in Western Asia, Africa and Europe. A fifth will take place on 9 and 10 September for the Asia-Pacific region. For his part, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, emphasized the growing consensus being reached that the agenda of the United Nations for the twenty-first century must "reflect the common aspiration of promoting development and peace as the basis for a new political and economic international order".
The hearing, which is being attended by representatives of civil society, representatives of member States of the ECLAC region, intellectuals, opinion leaders, and representatives of NGOs. Its purpose, through dialogue and informed reflection carried out jointly with representatives of civil society, is to seek guidance for the United Nations on the challenges facing the Organization in the new century.
These meetings have been organized at the initiative of Secretary General Kofi Annan and in full cooperation with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions concerned, to provide a forum for discussing the issues expected to be before the Millennium Assembly. The Secretary-General will draw upon the outcome of the hearings in the preparation of his report on the Assembly, to be issued by March 2000.
The first round table, held this morning, discussed the United Nations role in the protection and promotion of human rights in the coming century.
Speakers underlined that all such rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. They agreed on the importance of civil society's role in protecting and promoting human rights. Also, the duty of States to guarantee and protect these rights was stressed, as well as the need for them to ratify United Nations agreements and treaties. A call was also made for the ratification and implementation of international human rights instruments.
The participants argued that the United Nations must ensure that these international instruments are put into practice and must implement verification mechanisms in each of its Member States. They also stated that access to economic, social and cultural rights is essential for the full expression of political and civil rights, calling for new rights and duties to be established for the next millennium. The United Nations should perfect its vision and its mission in the human rights field, through greater cooperation between its various organizations and agencies, they added.
The President of the session was Ronalth Ochaeta, of the Interamerican Institute for Human Rights (IIHR), and panellists included Luis Demetrio Valentini, Bishop of Jales, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Susana Chiarotti, of the Latin American Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM); Maria Emma Mejia, former Foreign Minister of Colombia; and Jose Vargas, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of Consumers International. Final comments were made by Simeon Sampson, Chairman, Caribbean Rights.