27 October 1999
Regional hearings in preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations
Hearing held for the region of the Economic Commission for Europe at Geneva on 7 and 8 July 1999
Note by the Secretary-General
In preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations and the Millennium Summit of the United Nations and at the request of the Secretary-General, regional hearings have been convened by the executive secretaries of the five regional commissions for a representative segment of civil society, with the participation of members of the commissions. The purpose of the hearings was to produce proposals aimed at strengthening the role of the Organization and ensuring its continued relevance in the twenty-first century. A sixth regional hearing will be held for North America.
The report on the hearing for the region of the Economic Commission for Europe, held at Geneva on 7 and 8 July 1999, is transmitted herewith.
Hearing held for the region of the Economic Commission for Europe at Geneva on 7 and 8 July 1999
1. The Hearing for the region of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), held in preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations was convened at Geneva on 7 and 8 July 1999 under the chairmanship of the President of Malta, H.E. Mr. Guido de Marco, with the participation of some 200 representatives of civil society and of Member States. It was organized in four half-day segments dedicated respectively to human rights, sustainable development, peace and disarmament and strengthening the role of the United Nations.
2. The first three segments were moderated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe and the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, respectively. The Chairman of the Hearing presided over the fourth segment on strengthening the role of the United Nations. Five guest panellists per segment, selected on the basis of their expertise or active involvement in a particular field, were invited to present their views, thus introducing the subject before moving on to a general debate. During the debate, 52 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (some on behalf of groups of NGOs) and 12 Member States raised questions, expressed their views and made suggestions.
3. In opening the hearing, President de Marco emphasized the close correlation which existed among the three themes, noting that human rights remained an abstract concept for those who were starving and that economic development remained illusive without peace.
I. Human rights and the challenges of globalization
Racial discrimination, xenophobia, religious hatred and intolerance
4. Discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic or national origin, xenophobia, religious hatred or intolerance is an increasing phenomenon in Europe and was perceived by participants as a potential source of conflict. Xenophobia towards immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees was increasing and there was a rise in religious intolerance towards Muslim communities (Islamophobia) and towards Jewish communities, with a marked increase in anti-Semitic acts both in Eastern and Western Europe. Along with persistent discrimination against minority groups such as Gypsies, new patterns of discrimination were appearing, including multiple discrimination based on compounded discriminatory criteria such as race and gender, race and sexual orientation, race and age, and on the exclusion, segregation or expulsion of people labelled as "illegals".
5. To address these issues, it was suggested that:
(a) Coalitions of local NGOs raise the consciousness of the general public about all major forms of discrimination through campaigns which could induce legislators and policy makers to focus more on these matters;
(b) Governments develop a more effective system of investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crimes in national courts and, where possible, in international tribunals;
(c) Governments implement the rights to rehabilitation and reparation of victims of racial and gender discrimination.
6. Regarding specific remedial action the United Nations should take, it was proposed that:
(a) The Organization increasingly act as a forum for exchanging experiences on the above actions undertaken within countries;
(b) Member States of the United Nations collectively further develop and promote compliance procedures related to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in particular article 14, and work towards a wider acceptance and utilization of such procedures;
(c) The United Nations ensure a broad involvement of the forces in civil society in preparing for the upcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance scheduled to take place in the year 2001.
Extreme poverty as a major denial of human rights
7. Throughout the continent there was a dramatic upsurge in poverty. This was true not only in Eastern Europe where poverty stemmed from less security attached to the labour market and was reflected by deteriorating trends in the health and education sectors, but also in Western Europe where, in some countries, the number of people living below the poverty line had increased by 50 per cent over the past 10 years.
8. This rise in poverty illustrated an inability to translate economic and social rights into action. Despite a clearly identified objective, it was felt that there had been virtually no progress towards achieving this goal.
9. Proposals for remedial action included that:
(a) Local authorities be given primary responsibility to combat poverty and be endowed with adequate financial resources through local taxation. Such a policy does not exempt State authorities from all responsibility in this matter. On the contrary, they should take national measures and actively support local authorities. Ministries of the Interior and Justice should be part of this support in view of their responsibilities for the reinsertion into society of individuals deprived of civil and social status;
(b) Governments further develop an anti-poverty legislative framework on such critical issues as minimum income, professional retraining of the unemployed and access to legal assistance. This legal package should aim at providing the poor with opportunities for income-generating activities and should avoid the undesired effect of creating a more or less permanent status of social assistance;
(c) Governments provide a "civil status" (proper documentation) to everyone, particularly to the homeless and migrant workers.
10. It was proposed that the United Nations provide a forum for NGOs involved in anti-poverty activities, local authorities and Member States to share their experience, coordinate their action and develop anti-poverty strategies.
International trafficking in women and children as a problem linked to poverty and discrimination
11. Networks of trafficking in women had been uncovered in Europe. They tended to involve women from Eastern Europe smuggled into Western Europe, Israel or new destinations such as Turkey. East European women accepted working abroad even when they knew that it would involve work as prostitutes, housekeepers or in sweatshops because that was the only way for them to get to the West and to earn money. Measures undertaken by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Council of Europe or the European Union to tackle this issue did not address the root of the problem, which was poverty. Current legislation reflected a crime-prevention approach which aimed at protecting society from crimes and protecting borders, but which amounted to anti-migration policies which de facto kept women in situations of poverty from new economic opportunities.
12. Therefore, effective action required that:
(a) Governments recognize poverty and lack of opportunities as the root of the problem of international trafficking in women;
(b) Governments, with the active involvement of civil society, develop a human rights approach to this problem, identifying areas where violations occur (labour conditions and, particularly, slavery-like practices; undue impediments to freedom of movement, etc.);
(c) Governments effectively develop and enforce legislation by identifying and punishing those guilty of trafficking.
13. At the level of the United Nations, it was proposed that Member States reinforce the Organization's capacity to combat transnational organized crime, and specifically that related to the smuggling of migrants and trafficking of human beings.
Relevance of a United Nations-business partnership for the promotion of human rights
14. It was recognized that private sector development alone would not solve development problems and that the objectives of the private sector were different from those of the United Nations. Nevertheless, the point was made that the competitiveness of the private sector was not fundamentally incompatible with human rights. In a number of cases partnerships with business could even be an open, effective and legitimate way to support human rights by promoting responsible business practices. Examples included partnerships by which enterprises provided skills to groups facing discrimination in labour markets and trained their staff to be more sensitive about respect for human rights in the workplace.
15. As concerned United Nations action, more efforts should be made to stress the common agenda of the two actors on issues of standards, stability, transparency and sound development. Realistic expectations must be set for such a partnership, and the United Nations should bear in mind that business could not be expected to play a policy role or to be a substitute for the financial obligations of Governments.
Strengthening human rights within the United Nations
16. The need for effective prevention, implementation and compliance was repeatedly stressed throughout the debate as was the necessity of a more active partnership with NGOs. These points, which were common to the three segments, are elaborated on in Part IV below.
17. Related to the above, the High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed vigorously that priority should indeed be given to the implementation of the now comprehensive body of principles, norms and conventions in the field of human rights. She also spoke about the importance of "informal" alliances with NGOs which, in view of their networks of information and efficiency in lobbying, could complement the work of the United Nations and in some instances compensate for its failures.
18. The emergence of a "double standard" within the United Nations human rights system, whereby human rights violations in Sierra Leone and other countries were not pursued with the same dedication as violations occurring in Kosovo, represented a serious problem for many participants in view of the potentially debilitating effect on the credibility of the United Nations and its effectiveness. This issue, which relates to external intervention in a sovereign State, was taken up again in the debate relating to peace and disarmament. It is also further elaborated in Part IV.
19. A number of participants stressed that increasing the resources available to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would help to improve the human rights situation across the board. A representative of an ECE member State noted that since the creation of the Office in 1994, the percentage of the United Nations budget dedicated to human rights had been consistently low. Both panellists and NGO representatives spoke about allocating "sensible resources" for human rights.
20. From an institutional point of view, participants also noted that the Security Council did not take matters of human rights sufficiently into consideration during its deliberations. They suggested that the human rights implications of its resolutions be systematically reviewed and debated by the Council prior to taking its decisions.
21. The debate concluded with the observation that human rights would dominate the agenda of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.
II. Sustainable development: reconciling economic efficiency, society and the environment
22. Noting that the process of globalization could not be reversed and that the merit of market economies was not put into question, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, acting in his capacity as Moderator, invited the participants to examine how these phenomena could lead to progress and benefit for all. Indeed, it has always been recognized that there were market failures and, as it was developing today, globalization entailed serious risks of marginalization for individuals as well as for entire countries and regions. In addition, the strong competition associated with it relegated the environment to a secondary priority.
23. He also observed that in economic matters, the United Nations had, by and large, failed to remain in the forefront of macroeconomic strategic planning. While it had played a leading role in these matters in the 1960s and continued to raise pertinent issues and to provide interesting ideas, the United Nations had been overtaken by the Bretton Woods institutions. The United Nations of the twenty-first century needed to strengthen its capacities for economic analysis and research, as well as its capacities to make itself heard on macroeconomic matters and to become the premier forum for discussion of an equitable organization of the world economy.
Globalization: its challenges to sustainable economic and social development as well as to the environment
24. The challenge was to combine the needs of mankind and the needs of nature, the needs of today and the needs of tomorrow. This was addressed by the United Nations through the global conferences. But the forces at play did not support the conclusions of these conferences. The globalized economy, in its own legitimate interest, strove to utilize the least expensive means of production and transport, creating a new division of labour and more demand for long distance transport. Governments, vulnerable to the threats of withdrawal from transnational companies and to political pressure from voters who were not prepared to change their lifestyles, had difficulty in maintaining social standards and affording the initial cost of moving to environmentally friendly technologies and behaviours.
25. These challenges called for a holistic approach, as the social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects of development were interdependent, and for more creative international cooperation based on internal democracy, fair external relations and the will to act at the appropriate level depending on the nature of the problem. To this end it was proposed that:
(a) Each actor, whether citizen, NGO, enterprise, State or international organization, respect a holistic and integrated approach and to take into consideration the interdependency of the political, social, economic, cultural and environmental factors of development;
(b) The principle of subsidiarity be applied which suggested that depending on their nature, problems should be tackled at the most appropriate political and administrative level. Global problems required global oversight and coordination on a multilateral basis. However, where regional, national and local interventions might prove more effective, decision-making should take place at that level;
(c) The United Nations serve as the framework for political, economic, cultural, environmental and moral dialogue and that full use be made of the regional commissions which were the natural link between global and national concerns. (In a related way, it was also suggested that better use be made of financial institutions such as the regional development banks.);
(d) Practical methods of work be utilized by all concerned. For example, despite the fact that there was no global energy agency in the United Nations system, progress had been made to promote awareness about sustainable energy. The methods used (evaluating needs, adopting concrete measures anticipating what Governments should do and holding the debate in a forum where all actors could be included) could be replicated and usefully applied to other sectors such as transport or water.
The role of NGOs in promoting sustainable development and the environment
26. Globalization had changed the balance of power among the various actors operating on the international scene. Participants acknowledged the effectiveness of existing international mechanisms for consultation with NGOs (the regional hearing was a case in point) and for coordinating their action (the NGO Management Committee in the Commission for Sustainable Development, created in 1992, was singled out as an example of such an effective mechanism). Nevertheless, having proved their effectiveness, NGOs were now demanding a clear upgrading of their status and closer association in the negotiating, implementation and monitoring stages of the activities of the United Nations.
27. The issue of the participation of NGOs in the development process was addressed in the context of countries in transition. It was pointed out that NGOs had made valuable contributions: they provided human resources and expertise for development purposes; they provided new sources of employment in countries plagued by a "brain-drain" phenomenon through the creation of scientific research groups and the development of new projects; they filled the gap where Governments had been unable to continue to implement projects, particularly in matters of environmental protection as well as of social and community development; and they developed networks and provided the impetus for subregional and regional cooperation. It was thus recognized that the dynamism of civil society was a major characteristic of the transition process and a key condition for its success.
Globalization and economic development: a view from Central Europe on the role of the United Nations
28. While many countries turned to the United Nations for assistance in combating the negative consequences of globalization, the Central European countries were turning to the United Nations for assistance in joining the globalization bandwagon. In those countries, joining the globalized economy was perceived as a ticket to modernization and the main concern was explicitly to avoid entering the process with second-class status. It was thus apparent that, depending on the country and public opinion, there was no unified perception of how the United Nations should address the globalization issue.
Sustainable development and democracy
29. Participants from Central and Eastern Europe stressed the importance of democracy for lasting economic development. Economic development was no longer driven by the production of raw materials but by knowledge and the ability to organize people around constantly changing tasks. Yet knowledge could only be shared if people communicated with each other and this could only happen in a climate of freedom. Thus the need for democracy, human rights and the rule of law which provided the political stability and social solidarity necessary for economic growth. It was for the United Nations to promote these principles. In this regard, the plea, mentioned in the segment on human rights and elaborated in Part IV, to give high priority to implementation of conventions, norms and standards was reiterated.
"Sustainable development and a new financial architecture"
30. In the view of the participants, there was a clear need to make the international economic and financial system more stable and equitable. Governments and international financial institutions had not yet devised clear strategies for regulating global markets while public opinion gave high priority to the reform of the international financial system.
31. In this regard, it was proposed that:
(a) The reform of financial markets, which were at present characterized by their lack of transparency and excessive volatility, should aim at promoting transactions linked to legitimate trade and real investment purposes while deterring speculative transactions;
(b) National Governments should adopt regulations to reduce the power of speculative funds and control the inflows and outflows of short-term capital;
(c) At a global level, the international community should agree on rules to regulate financial markets and players. A system of monitoring of short-term capital movements should be instituted;
(d) A tax on financial transactions such as that proposed by economist James Tobin should be introduced, the proceeds of which would be earmarked for addressing global challenges such as poverty eradication or environmental protection.
32. Regarding the macroeconomic dimension of this reform, participants noted that the division of labour at the international level clearly promoted organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the Group of Seven and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation for Development (OECD) to the detriment of the United Nations, a situation which did not meet their approval. Along these lines, it was proposed that:
(a) A more active role be given to the United Nations in redesigning the framework of the international economic system as it was felt that the United Nations presented the best guarantees in terms of democratic decision-making;
(b) Key macroeconomic issues be placed on the agenda of the Millennium Assembly.
III. Peace and disarmament: facing up to new types of conflicts
33. The third session of the hearing, dedicated to peace and disarmament, was held against the background of the Kosovo conflict. Many of the issues debated should thus be viewed in this light.
34. The Moderator, the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, noted that globalization as a factor of change had started when Columbus discovered America and that since then, a new "civilizational paradigm" had developed under the tremendous impulse of scientific and technological progress. He underlined the need to re-establish the central role of the United Nations in matters of peace and security. On disarmament matters, he did not share the prevailing mood of pessimism but mentioned that it was necessary for the Conference to devise a new agenda integrating the concept of "arms regulation" and for the United Nations to take action accordingly.
Upcoming challenges to peace in the twenty-first century
35. While recognizing the importance of globalization in the economic sphere, participants thought that the next threats to peace were more likely to come from ethnic tensions which, in turn, could lead to fragmentation of existing States.
36. If current secessionist claims based on ethnic considerations were to materialize, it could lead, according to one speaker, to the existence of more than 2,000 independent States. In fact, more than 90 per cent of States were pluriethnic. Therefore, it was necessary to avoid ethnic differences causing tension and division.
37. To this end, it was proposed that:
(a) Political scientists give consideration to new types of constitutions on the premise that territorial sovereignty could become obsolete;
(b) Governments give priority to the management of the diversity of their communities and receive assistance from the international community for this purpose. Adequate and fair management of pluriethnic communities could have prevented violence in Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and the Middle East.
38. The number of ethnic conflicts exceeded the current capacity of the United Nations to solve such conflicts. Therefore, based on the principle of subsidiarity and the motto that "the United Nations should do what it alone can do", it was proposed that:
(a) The United Nations should assess with regional organizations their capacity for addressing these conflicts individually and together;
(b) The United Nations should retain its role as setter of fundamental standards for such issues as pluralism, rights, constitution-making, governance, conflict management and external intervention.
The role of the United Nations and of regional organizations
39. The precedent set by the intervention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Kosovo was a source of great concern to all participants. It raised the following issues:
(a) There was an urgent need for the United Nations to re-establish its primacy in these matters. President de Marco eloquently made the point that "any dilution of the primacy of the United Nations is, in essence, a threat to individual nations";
(b) Who should authorize such an intervention, and on the basis of what criteria should the decision to intervene take place;
(c) The primary role of the United Nations in international operations involving the use of force is stated in the Charter. Therefore, any such operation must remain within the limits of the Charter which provides the criteria for intervention and gives the Security Council the sole authority to decide upon the appropriateness of an intervention and the modalities for such intervention;
(d) Cooperation with regional organizations in matters of peace and security. Although participants willingly endorsed the principle of such cooperation (see the paragraph on subsidiarity above), they stressed the fact that interventions by regional organizations derived their legitimacy from the Charter. Action should thus be taken in accordance therewith. As an example, a panellist indicated that the OSCE considered itself as emanating from Chapter VIII of the Charter. However, at present there still appeared to be some confusion and regional organizations sometimes viewed themselves as competitors of the United Nations. There must be a hierarchy and clear decisions as to who could intervene and at what stage.
40. Participants expressed a need to clarify commonly used concepts, the meaning of which had drastically changed. These included:
(a) "Peace", which should no longer be understood as the mere absence of war;
(b) "Security", which should be common, comprehensive and human-centred;
(c) "Sovereignty", which was not absolute but limited by the international commitments of States;
(d) "Self-determination", which should not be considered as the automatic right to secession;
(e) "Non-interference", which did not give Governments a licence to violate universal principles of international law with total impunity;
(f) "Disarmament", which was yielding ground to the broader concept of "arms regulation", a term which more aptly reflected a process rather than an ultimate goal.
Peace promotion and conflict prevention
41. A number of participants stressed the need to develop an approach to peace promotion in all countries which would integrate democratic institutions which legitimized those who retained power, respect for law and order and economic welfare with social equity. To advance the cause of peace it was proposed that:
(a) The United Nations adopt a "Declaration on the Right of Humanity to Peace";
(b) All countries promote a culture of peace by converting ministries of defence into ministries for peace, and war colleges into peace academies. To highlight peace is to give it priority;
(c) Governments promote peace education as part of all formal and informal education. More generally, the glorification of militarism should be replaced with models of active non-violence.
42. With regard to conflict prevention, the role of civil society was underlined; the examples were cited of the Russian Federation and South Africa where such a role had been determinant for a non-violent transition to democracy. Therefore, it was proposed that:
(a) Governments demonstrate their political will to react rapidly to early warnings and to support those groups in the civil society and political parties which opposed racist and extreme nationalistic movements;
(b) Local community-based groups be supported in their preventive initiatives.
Conflict management and resolution
43. It was proposed that the United Nations:
(a) Create a standing United Nations Peace Force readily available for interventions;
(b) Set up a special organ for conflict-handling in the form of an independent institute providing practical advice on conflict-solving through third-party consultants;
(c) Develop a multi-track approach to conflict management including aid, mediation, external pressures and military interventions;
(d) Advocate the participation of women in conflict resolution at decision-making levels.
44. Participants viewed the disarmament activities of the United Nations as slowing down, particularly in the field of nuclear disarmament. Efforts currently made to modernize anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defence systems were perceived as undermining the 1972 ABM Treaty.
45. In order to give a new impetus to disarmament matters it was proposed:
(a) To convene the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament;
(b) To make use of a programme, set up several years ago in Canberra to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the world, which incorporated concrete proposals which were still pertinent today;
(c) To encourage regional non-proliferation efforts. Participants highlighted the positive example created by several countries (Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan) that succeeded in becoming non-nuclear-weapon States. Such efforts would be of particular significance in South-East Asia, the Korean peninsula and the Middle East;
(d) To strengthen coordination between vertical disarmament (reduction in arsenals) and horizontal disarmament (controlling proliferation).
Strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and NGOs
46. Participants believed that perhaps more than in any other field, NGOs had demonstrated their effectiveness in matters of peace and security, as illustrated by the now-textbook case of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (the "Landmine Treaty").
47. It was proposed that the United Nations:
(a) Support their advocacy role. The "Appeal for Peace" put out by a very large number of NGOs gathered at The Hague last May was cited as an example for follow-up action;
(b) Make better use of its capacity to alert the international community of impending conflicts;
(c) Rely more on the capacity of NGOs to provide independent information in conflict situations (an asset which the international criminal courts could also draw more upon) and to protect the civilian population in wartime. An International Humanitarian Network was being established to prepare concrete proposals in this respect to be submitted to the Millennium Assembly.
IV. Strengthening the role of the United Nations
48. The concluding segment of the ECE regional Hearing focused on the theme "Strengthening the role of the United Nations". It involved the active participation of President de Marco, Mr. Berthelot, Mr. Petrovsky, Mr. van Boven and Mrs. Dahl.
49. The concluding debate confirmed what had emerged during the three thematic sessions, i.e. that civil society was extremely attached to the values of the United Nations and believed that they should benefit all individuals and all countries equally. Therefore, civil society was becoming increasingly concerned that the United Nations principles and norms were all too often not respected, that double standards were applied, that the United Nations was bypassed in key decisions and actions undertaken in contradiction of the Charter. Participants considered that the United Nations was losing credibility and were concerned about the consequences this would have for themselves and their children.
50. Therefore, the recommendations which emanated from the debate aimed at restoring the credibility of the United Nations and allowing civil society to participate actively in its work. The restoration of the credibility of the United Nations started with the application of equal treatment in similar circumstances. Credibility involved the effective implementation of decisions, principles and norms adopted by Governments in all entities of the United Nations, and that implied human, military and financial resources. The participation of civil society through parliaments or NGOs was also seen as a way to improve the efficiency of the United Nations and make Governments accountable for their compliance with United Nations principles and norms.
Restoring the credibility of the United Nations: avoiding double standards
51. Two examples of double standards were mentioned. The first was in the field of economics and concerned not the United Nations but rather the World Trade Organization where the United States and the EU, through agricultural subsidies and the abuse of anti-dumping measures, applied practices which they did not tolerate from other countries. The second was in the field of human rights where, for example, violations in Sierra Leone were not pursued with the same dedication as were violations occurring in Kosovo. Participants considered that these types of double standards were increasing and pointed out their debilitating effect on the credibility of the United Nations and its effectiveness.
52. In a world of instant communication and extreme imbalance of media coverage of events in certain areas, lengthy procedures of multilateral diplomacy represented a major drawback. With the Kosovo precedent in mind, people were sensitive to the argument put forward by the proponents of a NATO intervention without the authorization of the Security Council: "If we had to wait for a United Nations resolution, the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo would have been exterminated". Enhancing the ability of the Security Council to provide timely responses to crises would thus seem high on the agenda for strengthening the United Nations.
53. Proposals for the reform of the Security Council revolved either around the issue of enlarged membership or around the issue of the abolition of the right of veto of the permanent members. Recognizing, however, the adverse effect such proposals were likely to have on the effectiveness of the decision-making process in the Security Council, participants expressed an interest in the ideas suggested by President de Marco, who proposed that two vetoes be required to block a resolution. Alternatively, he suggested that votes be weighted as they were at present in the institutions of the European Union.
54. However beyond the eventual reform of the Security Council, participants considered that the highest priority for the United Nations was to solve the problem of conflicting principles (non-interference in the internal matters of sovereign States versus the common responsibility of the international community to react to gross and massive violations of human rights in any given country, to name but one example).
55. On this fundamental issue of conflicting principles, it was proposed that:
Governments authorize the Secretary-General to create an advisory body of eminent personalities which would be entitled to provide a neutral appreciation as to the criteria for assessing the hierarchy of the principles at stake and, on this basis, to present recommendations in specific cases.
Effective implementation of decisions, principles and norms
56. For the Security Council to take timely and correct decisions is one thing; for them to be implemented is quite another. To avoid delays which worsen the situation and have a very high human toll, it was proposed that:
(a) The United Nations establish a permanent force for emergency response to crises situations;
(b) Governments maintain in their own army a standing military force for the United Nations to draw upon when intervention is required.
57. Apart from the effective implementation of the decisions of the Security Council, one overriding concern dominated the debate during the three segments. The United Nations must develop its capacities for implementation and further develop mechanisms to entice Member States to comply with the commitments made at an international level.
58. Statements such as "we have gone as far as we can go in concepts, principles, conventions and norms; we must move to implementation", or "we need to close the gap between United Nations norms and their implementation" set the general tone. The inability to translate commitments into action and to provide more effective follow-up and monitoring procedures on the implementation of norms was repeatedly highlighted.
59. The first step is for Member States to comply with commitments which they themselves had entered into. Participants stressed the need for more accountability and "good governance" on the part of Member States.
60. To that end it was suggested that:
(a) The United Nations give priority to effective implementation and launch an international decade of implementation;
(b) NGOs mobilize public opinion for holding Governments accountable for compliance with the commitments taken within the United Nations framework.
Development of a preventive approach in all main United Nations fields of activities
61. Participants stressed that while prevention was more traditionally understood in the context of United Nations peacekeeping activities, it should not be confined to this area. There is room for a more pro-active approach to the promotion of human rights and the fight against poverty. That called for further mainstreaming the outstanding cross-cutting fields in all United Nations activities including through the development of early-warning mechanisms and preventive action.
Providing the United Nations with the appropriate means
62. Some suggestions to implement effectively the decisions of the Security Council are reflected in paragraph 61. The will of Governments was necessary to implement conventions, norms and standards. However, the United Nations also had a responsibility to exercise monitoring and to provide assistance. For the United Nations to be able to do this, it should have resources commensurate with its role. Participants judged the actual United Nations budget as "ridiculously low". Participants underlined the risk of a vicious circle by which lack of resources would decrease the efficiency of the Organization, thereby further affecting its credibility and giving arguments to certain Member States for advocating additional budget cuts.
Democratizing the United Nations institutions
63. The General Assembly was characterized during the hearing as the institution of the United Nations "where all countries were permanent members". Participants expressed their desire to see the General Assembly function more along the lines of a national parliament and alluded to the need to bring "more parliamentary democracy" to the United Nations. In this perspective, it was repeatedly said that:
(a) The General Assembly should not be limited to one session a year as is currently the case, but should sit year round in three different sessions;
(b) The General Assembly's agenda should be reduced and further prioritized;
(c) All United Nations consultations and debates should be issue-based and result-oriented.
Involving civil society in the work of the United Nations
64. The participation of civil society in the activities of the United Nations was a leitmotiv of the three thematic segments and of the concluding one. Its past contribution was acknowledged and it was recognized that without it several major achievements of the Organization would not have materialized (e.g. the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the "landmine treaty", the International Criminal Court, the ECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters). It was considered necessary to secure compliance with commitments made by Governments, to improve the relevance of the recommendations as well as the assistance provided by the United Nations, and to cope with the situation created by globalization whereby the role of States in national and international matters was being reduced relative to the role of local authorities, NGOs and enterprises.
65. To increase the participation of civil society through parliaments, local authorities or NGOs, it was recommended that:
(a) The United Nations enter into strategic alliances and partnerships with new actors on the international stage, including NGOs, parliamentarians, local authorities and the business community. Such partnerships should not be limited to alliances with NGOs holding consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. The United Nations should cooperate with regional, national and even local NGOs as pertinent. This could be done on an issue-specific basis and through the setting up of ad hoc groupings of NGOs around the issues addressed;
(b) Ad hoc intersectoral working groups within the United Nations, with the participation of NGOs, be created at the special sessions of the General Assembly;
(c) NGOs be given further access to United Nations information sources, in particular to United Nations databases and to the United Nations Optical Disk System;
(d) The United Nations develop partnerships taking into account the changing weights and roles of the various actors involved in its activity: the State, NGOs within the civil society, parliamentarians, the private sector and local authorities;
(e) The United Nations create a "Civil Society Forum" or a "People's Assembly" for NGOs enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council;
(f) Government representatives accept that the United Nations associate more such NGOs with the negotiating process as well as with the implementation stage.
66. As a counterpart to the greater involvement of NGOs, it was felt necessary that NGOs themselves needed to improve their transparency, their representation and their accountability.
V. Concluding remarks by President de Marco
67. The President prefaced his remarks by emphasizing that a chairman's conclusion should not be a statement which summarized what was said. Rather, it was for the Chairman to draw conclusions based on his interpretation of the totality of all statements as an integrated whole. In other words, the whole was more than the sum of its parts. The debate on the United Nations in the twenty-first century must be seen in that light, and it was necessary to draw upon both the micro and macro approaches which were expressed during the hearing.
68. Starting with the obvious, the President stressed that there was no abstract notion of the United Nations -- it was very real and had the power, the means and the effectiveness that its Member States wanted it to have. That being the case, it was not a question of assigning guilt to the United Nations: if there was a mea culpa, it needed, more often than not, to be expressed by Member States. Provided that Member States believed in the United Nations and wanted it to be credible, effective, and to live up to its Charter, it was useful to discuss the United Nations of the twenty-first century. That put responsibility on all, primarily on Governments, which carried the main burden of what the United Nations will be.
69. Parliaments had great responsibilities in a democracy but Governments, in democratic regimes, had the support of the majority of the people. While Governments were therefore entitled to speak for the people, parliaments needed to have a more active role in the workings of the United Nations. Citing as primary examples the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the parliamentary segment of the OSCE, as well as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the President concluded that it would be wise for a role to be defined for parliamentarians in the United Nations of the twenty-first century, taking fully into account that in democracies it was Governments that were called upon to make decisions. As the General Assembly was an organ where Governments of Member States were represented, one has to assume that the decisions taken were taken by Governments who represented the people and who were accountable for their decisions.
70. The President stressed the importance of the principle of accountability in the United Nations. While an individual parliamentarian might be accountable to his or her constituency, the elected Government was accountable as a whole to the people. Thus, while the inclusion of a segment for parliamentarians in the workings of the United Nations was important it was necessary to keep in mind that the General Assembly was there to decide and to vote and that in the General Assembly the elected Governments must have the role which had been given them by the Charter.
71. Referring to the proposal for a civil society forum, the President voiced the view that this should be studied further as it deserved inclusion in the context of a twenty-first century United Nations. If the United Nations was not only to be the expression of Governments and parliamentarians but also to enjoy wider support, serious consideration had to be given as to how -- whether in the form of a civil society forum or otherwise -- to involve NGOs and utilize their experience and their micro approach to issues, both of which would contribute to a new United Nations.
72. The President expressed the satisfaction of all present that human rights was assuming the importance it deserved in the agenda of the United Nations. The decolonization process and the abolition of apartheid represented two of the major achievements of the United Nations in its first 50 years, and were fundamentally important from the point of view of human rights and their observance.
73. The President observed that a major issue which had been highlighted during the hearing related to the infringement of human rights in a massive way in a given Member State. Does this give rise to international action against the State concerned? Seeking an answer, the President noted that impassioned appeals concerning Afghanistan had been made during the Hearing; had the Hearing been in Africa, similar pleas would have been made about Sierra Leone, Burundi and other countries.
74. The President also recalled that before Kosovo, United Nations observers had witnessed brutal killings in Srebrenica. They had done nothing. They could do nothing. The inability of the United Nations to safeguard human life in spite of its presence was a source of concern. The precedent which had emerged in Kosovo in military action taken by a group of Member States outside the limits stated by the Charter of the United Nations was also a source of concern.
75. The President emphasized the need to be aware of the lessons of history and to recognize that the United Nations was dealing with a major issue of principle. It was passing through a period of transition, moving through a tunnel, not yet reaching the end. How, asked the President, will the United Nations respond to massive infringements of human rights? The United Nations needed the courage to be true to itself and to realize that this was a major issue which needed to be faced with responsibility. Srebrenica could not be repeated. The Charter needed to be observed. These two important points had to be recognized and it was for diplomats, Governments and peoples to strive for a solution in all humility.
76. The President stated that the Charter was a shield against aggression. The Charter provided the limits to and basis for military action. The Security Council was mandated by the Charter as the organ responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Recent developments, particularly in Kosovo, had demonstrated the need for reflection. Whereas in the General Assembly all members were permanent members, in the Security Council there were different categories of membership. Permanent membership in the Security Council was the result of historical circumstances but also due to the global responsibilities which such members had. Problems arose when owing to the veto the Council was unable to act in the interest of its primary responsibility in the maintenance of international peace and security. It was important to emphasize that the Security Council was the primary organ authorized to initiate the use of force under the terms of the Charter, ensuring that its ability to act remained paramount.
77. The President noted that proposals had been put forward with respect to the veto. Some had proposed the requirement of a double veto to effectively block any resolution. The President proposed that another system could be envisaged which balanced both the need to recognize the global responsibility of some States but at the same time the guarantee that the Council would be able to act. He suggested a system of weighted voting similar to that found in other institutions and organs such as the European Union. The President expressed the view that this question was generating considerable reflection within the context of ensuring the Security Council's effectiveness in the twenty-first century.
78. Referring to the General Assembly, the President stated his view that it should meet throughout the year, taking up major segments of concern such as peace and disarmament, human rights and sustainable development. The fact that the Main Committees remained active was not enough -- the Assembly must also be engaged on a continuous basis.
79. Turning to the issue of poverty, the President expressed his dismay at the fact that "we live in a world where nearly a billion people, a sixth of humanity, are functionally illiterate, where food rots and people starve". This is the challenge for the United Nations of the twenty-first century. Agreeing with one speaker, the President emphasized that removal of poverty was not an act of charity but an investment in the future. This in turn related to what should be a changing role for the Trusteeship Council. Citing the noble concept of common law, the concept of trust, the President proposed a new role for the Trusteeship Council: the safeguarding of the common heritage of mankind, the safeguarding of peoples in their own countries where a complete breakdown of the structures of State had occurred, the safeguarding of starving peoples.
80. In concluding, President de Marco called upon the participants to understand that to invest in the United Nations was not simply to invest in an idea; rather, it was to invest in the future of our children. By thinking about tomorrow, while learning from the mistakes of yesterday and today, a better future was possible.
Hearing for the region of the Economic Commission for Europe, held in preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations
Programme of workWednesday, 7 July 1999
|9.45-10 a.m.||Opening statements
Mr. Yves Berthelot, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Europe
Mr. Miles Stoby, Assistant Secretary-General, Coordinator of preparations for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations
H. E. Mr. Guido de Marco, President of Malta
|10 a.m.-1 p.m.|| Human rights segment
Moderator: Ms. Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
|10-11 a.m.|| Panel discussion
Mr. Theodoor van Boven, Professor, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University, Netherlands
Ms. Anne-Marie Lizin, Senator, Brussels and independent expert of the Commission on Human Rights on human rights and extreme poverty
Mr. Anders. B. Johnsson, Secretary-General, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Geneva
Ms. Barbara Limanovska, Executive Director, National Women Information Centre, Warsaw
Mr. Robert Davies, Chief Executive, The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
|11 a.m.-1 p.m.||Open debate with invited representatives of civil society and member States|
|3-6 p.m.||Sustainable development segment
Moderator: Mr. Yves Berthelot, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Europe
|3-4 p.m.||Panel discussion
H. E. Ms. Birgitta Dahl, Speaker of Parliament, Stockholm
Ms. Marina Ponti, Mani Tese, Milan, Italy
Ms. Vlasta Stepova, Vice-President, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Prague
Ms. Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, Director, Institute of Public Affairs, Warsaw
Ms. Victoria Elias, ECO-ACCORD, Moscow
|4-6 p.m.||Open debate with invited representatives of civil society and Member States|
Thursday, 8 July 1999
|10 a.m.-1 p.m.|| Peace and disarmament segment
Moderator: Mr. Vladimir Petrovsky, Secretary-General, Conference on Disarmament
|10-11 a.m.|| Panel discussion
Ms. Mari Fitzduff, Director, Institute for Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Ms. Maj Brit Theorin, Chairperson, International Council of Parliamentarians for Global Action, New York
Ms. Eugenia Piza-López, International Alert, London
Mr. Vladimir Lukin, Chairman, International Affairs Committee, State Duma, Moscow
Mr. Adam Daniel Rotfeld, Director, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Stockholm
|11 a.m.-1 p.m.||Open debate with invited representatives of civil society and member States|
|3-6 p.m.|| Conclusions: strengthening the United Nations
Annex IIHearing for the region of the European Economic Commission, held in preparation for the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations, Geneva, 7 and 8 July 1999 List of participants A. Members of the Commission
|Albania|| Margarita Gega
Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Austria|| Irene Freudenschuss
Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations Office at Vienna
|Belarus|| Vladimir Ponkratenko
Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Belgium|| Machteld Fostier
Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Belgium to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Canada|| Leonard Beaulne
United Nations Department
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
|Cyprus|| Petros Kestoras
Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Cyprus to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Denmark|| Eva Grambye
Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Estonia|| Malle Talvet
Permanent Mission of Estonia to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Finland|| Hanna Rinkineva-Heikkilä
Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|France|| Philippe Petit
Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Germany|| Christa Wolf
Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Greece|| Dionyssios Coundoureas
Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Hungary|| Zoltán Varga
Permanent Mission of Hungary to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Iceland|| Haukur Olafsson
Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Italy|| Giuseppe Calvetta
Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Malta|| Jacqueline Aquilina
Permanent Mission of Malta to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Netherlands|| Jacob Waslander
Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Norway|| Ingrid Mollested
Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Portugal|| António Pereira Botao
Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Slovenia|| Gregor Zore
Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Sweden|| Anne Dismorr
Counsellor (Human Rights)
Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Switzerland|| Dominique Petter
Counsellor (Human Rights)
Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the International Organizations at Geneva
The former Yugoslav
Permanent Mission of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the United Nations
|Turkey|| Elif Çomodlu-Ülgen
Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Ukraine|| Mykola Maimeskul
Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva
United Kingdom of
Great Britain and
| Greg Toulmin
Head, Department for International Development
Charles J. R. Moore
United States of
| John D. Long|
Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations Office at Geneva
B. States not members of the Commission
|Angola|| Leovigildo Da Costa e Silva
Chargé d'affaires a.i.
Permanent Mission of Angola to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|China|| Wang Xianpeng
Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|Pakistan|| Tehmina Janjua
Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva
Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi
|Tunisia|| Raouf Chatty
Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the United Nations Office at Geneva
Birgitta DahlD. United Nations organizations
Speaker of the Swedish Parliament
The Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Institute for Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Anders B. Johnsson
Institute of Public Affairs
National Women Information Centre
Independent expert on the Commission on Human Rights on human rights and extreme poverty
Committee on International Affairs
State Duma of the Russian Federation
Head, Advocacy Department
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Adam Daniel Rotfeld
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Member of the Czech Parliament
Vice-President of the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe
Maj Britt Theorin
Member of the European Parliament
Chairman of the International Council for Global Action
Theodoor van Boven
Professor, Faculty of Law, Department of International and European Law
Sigrit Bilsted PedersenE. Intergovernmental organizations
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
Director, Liaison Office
United Nations Population Fund
Humanitarian Relief Unit and Liaison Office
United Nations Volunteers
United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research
United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research
Regional Director, Europe
International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization
Laurence AddadiF. Non-governmental organizations
Permanent Delegation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to the United Nations Office at Geneva
|General consultative status|
|American Association of Retired Persons||Leigh Bailey|
|Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University|| Marie-Thérèse Klein|
|Caritas Internationalis||Mary Tom|
|Franciscans International|| Allesandra Aula|
|Green Cross International||Bertrand Charrier|
|International Chamber of Commerce||Michaela Eglin|
|International Council on Social Welfare|| Julian Disney|
International Federation of Settlements and|
|Carol R. Lubin|
|International Movement ATD Fourth World||Annelise Oeschger|
|International Organization of Employers||Deborah France|
|Médecins du Monde-International|| Alexandre Kamarotos|
|Rotary International||Gilbert Coutau|
|Society for International Development||Jacqueline Granger|
|Soroptimist International||Nicolis Kalliroli|
|Soroptimist Union of Greece||Tombra Marikeri|
|Women's International Democratic Federation||Sylvie Jan|
|World Conference on Religion and Peace||Kazuhiro Yoshinaga|
|World Economic Forum||Macha Levinson|
|World Veterans Federation||Marek Hagmajer|
|Zonta International||Marie-Claire Seguret|
|Special consultative status|
|All-Russian Society of Disabled People||Alexander Lomakin-Roumiantsev|
|Amnesty International||Isabelle Scherrer|
|Associated Country Women of the World||Mairanne de Szoeczy|
Association for Counselling, Organization, |
Research and Development
|Moulay Ali Alaoui|
Association for the Advancement of|
Psychological Understanding of
| Franziska Haller|
Barbarz Hug Ammitzboel
|Association for the Prevention of Torture||Barbara Bernath|
Association internationale des mouvements|
familiaux de formation rurale
|Azerbaijan Women and Development Centre||Jasmin Zeinal-Zade|
|Baha'i International Community||Diane Alai|
Centre of People's Help "BLAGOVEST" -- |
International Public Charitable Organization
|Counterpart Foundation||Beatrice Silverstein|
|Croatian World Congress||Simun Coric|
|European Women's Lobby||M. A. Leunis|
General Conference of the Seventh-Day |
| John Graz|
|Geneva International Peace Research Bureau|| Gyula Csurgai|
|Il Cenacolo|| Loretta Lorenzini|
|Indian Movement "Tupaj Amerau"||Lazaro Pary Anagua|
International Association of Democratic|
International Association of Jewish Lawyers |
| Daniel Lack|
|International Council of Jewish Women|| Andrée Fahri|
|International Council of Women|| Marise Paschould|
Brigitte Polonovski Vaullair
International Federation of A.C.A.T. -- |
Action of Christians for the Abolition
|International Federation of University Women|| Murielle Joye|
|International Federation Terre des Hommes||Bernadette Baillon|
|International Institute for Humanitarian Law|| Jovan Patronogic|
|International Investment Centre|| Andrei Gueneralov|
International Movement for Fraternal Union|
Among Races and Peoples
| Behrane Ras-Work|
International Organization for the |
Development of Freedom of Education
International Organization of Indigenous|
International Rehabilitation Council for|
|Inuit Circumpolar Conference||Aqqaluk Lynge|
|Public Services International|| Alan Leather|
Romanian Independence Society of|
|Society for Threatened Peoples||Mateo Talbon|
|Susila Dharma International Association||Florianne Syfrig|
|TIYE International||Rita Naloop|
|War Resisters International||Michel Monod|
Women's International League for Peace |
|Women's International Zionist Organization||Alena Lourie|
|Women's World Summit Foundation||Elly Pradervand|
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting|
|World Movement of Mothers||Juliette Sayegh|
World Organization of Former Pupils of|
World Union of Catholic Women's|
|World Vision International||Eric Ram|
|Worldwide Organization for Women Renée||Carol Green|
|Association for World Education||David Littman|
|Association of World Citizens||Rene Wadlow|
Caucasians United for Reparations and|
|Centre for International Environmental Law|| Durwood Zaelke|
European Council of Aids Service|
| Deborah Gleiser|
|Federal Union of European Nationalities||Joseph Komlossy|
|Friedrich Ebert Foundation||Anith Brenneke|
|Institute for Planetary Synthesis||Rudolf Schneider|
|International Confederation of Midwives||Ruth Brauen|
|International Federation for Parent Education||Moncef Guitouni|
International Organization of Experts --|
|Jesús Vázquez Rivera|
|International Peace Association||Michel Joye|
|International Peace Bureau||Colin Archer|
Movement against Racism and for Friendship|
United Nations Association of Great|
Britain and Northern Ireland
World Business Council for Sustainable|
|World Confederation of Teachers||Louis Van Beneden|
|World Islamic Call Society||Mr. and Mrs.Najibullah Tabibi|
|Other non-governmental organizations|
|Association of Interbalkans Women's Societies||Theresa Du Valala|
|Association of Women against Violence||Raquel Cardoso|
|ATS Intercultural Program||Marianne Meyer|
|CEE Network for Gender Issues||Sonja Lokar|
|Centre for Socio-economic Development||Lichia Yiu|
Information Center of the Independent |
|Ingénieurs du Monde||François Ullmann|
|International Association of Women||Erika Bopp|
|International Metalworkers Federation||Anne-Marie Mureau|
International Society for Military Law and the|
Law of War
|Karat Coalition||Kinga Lohmann|
Medical Action for Global Security |
|Romanian Abolitionist Society||Elena Cervinschi|
|Together for Peace Foundation||Maria Pia Fanfani|
|Women's Advocacy Center||Ariana Fullani|
|Women's Center||Silvana Mirija|
|Women's Rights Centre||Urzula Nowakowska|
|World Association of Women||Andy Kingler|
|World Peace Day Association||Jeanne Hrdina|