CLOSING DISCUSSION OF CAUSES OF CONFLICTS, PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA, ASSEMBLY HEARS CALLS FOR ADDRESS OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS OF CONTINENT

12 October 1998
GA/9478

CLOSING DISCUSSION OF CAUSES OF CONFLICTS, PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA, ASSEMBLY HEARS CALLS FOR ADDRESS OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS OF CONTINENT

12 October 1998


Press Release
GA/9478


CLOSING DISCUSSION OF CAUSES OF CONFLICTS, PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA, ASSEMBLY HEARS CALLS FOR ADDRESS OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS OF CONTINENT

19981012 Accepts Proposal for Use of Funds Saved through UNCTAD Cost Cutting, Authorizes Committee on Information to Meet in New York During Current Session

Economic conditions exacerbated the tension and conflict in Africa, the representative of Gabon told the General Assembly this afternoon as it closed its discussion of the causes of conflict and the promotion of peace and development in Africa.

Since economic growth and stability had to go hand-in-hand with progress in the social sector, countries must improve social services, provide for basic needs and develop human capital, he said. That involved investment in infrastructure and socio-economic reform which supported productive economic and social sectors. A discussion of the African problem would be fruitless, however, unless the Assembly adopted a plan of action with a follow-up mechanism to implement the Secretary-General's proposals on sustainable peace and development in Africa.

The representative of Zimbabwe said the magnitude of socio-economic problems on the African continent could not be ignored during a discussion of achieving peace, security and stability. Most African countries had come a long way and made significant strides in creating an enabling environment for investment and economic growth. Africa would not be found wanting in the global effort to promote durable peace and sustainable development on the continent. While its problems required African leadership to find solutions, there was much that countries with greater resources could do to make those solutions work.

The representative of Cameroon said the United Nations mission was to take collective steps to prevent conflict. However, therapeutic steps were often stressed instead of preventive actions. Peacekeeping operations were sometimes deployed too late. The United Nations should systematically deploy preventive forces or personal representatives of the Secretary-General when an outbreak of conflict could be expected.

General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

The representative of the Philippines said an important component of any strategy for Africa had to be the protection of civilians in conflict situations. Action must address humanitarian needs, while providing assistance for recovery and reconstruction. Assistance to victims of conflicts was a moral imperative and had to be pursued as a complement to conflict resolution itself. It was, however, not a substitute for political action aimed at conflict resolution.

Also this afternoon, acting on recommendations of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on the use of savings achieved through cost-effective measures adopted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The Assembly endorsed the Secretary-General's proposals for use of the savings on the understanding that the amount to be used should not exceed some $5.5 million and that no precedent would be set.

Also this afternoon, the Assembly authorized the Committee on Information to meet in New York during the main part of the current session. It did that by adopting, without a vote, the recommendation of the Committee on Conferences.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Ethiopia, Indonesia, Uruguay, Tunisia, Eritrea. The observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also spoke.

Statements in exercise of the right of reply were made by the representatives of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 October to consider the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.

The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue reviewing ways to promote peace and development in Africa, and to hear a request from the Committee on Conferences.

For its consideration of the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, the Assembly had before it a Secretary-General's report, (document A/52/871), requested by the Security Council in June 1997. The six-part report offers a realistic analysis of the sources of conflicts in Africa and reasons why they persist. The report also strives to present realistic and achievable recommendations to reduce, if not end, conflicts on the continent.

The Secretary-General suggests three areas for particular attention. First, African nations must demonstrate the will to rely on political, rather than military, responses to problems. Second, Africa must summon the will to take good governance seriously. Third, Africa must enact and adhere to the reforms needed to promote economic growth. In putting forth recommendations to resolve the African problem, the Secretary-General advances responses to key issues such as arms trafficking, sanctions, refugees, "peace-friendly" structural adjustment programmes, development assistance, bilateral debt and trade. (For further details, see Press Release GA/9475 issued 9 October, which also highlights responses and actions by the Council since the report was first issued in April.)

The letter to the Assembly President from the Chairman of the Committee on Conferences (document A/53/298/Add.1) contains a request on behalf of the Committee on Information that the Assembly authorize it to meet in New York during the fifty-third session of the Assembly. The Chairman states he would be grateful if the Assembly would provide the authorization -- required for any meeting of an Assembly subsidiary body at Headquarters during its regular session -- as long as the meeting is accommodated within available facilities and services, and does not affect activities of the Assembly.

Committee on Conferences

Before continuing with its consideration of the causes of conflict in Africa, the Assembly adopted the recommendation of the Committee on Conferences by which the Assembly authorized the Committee on Information to meet in New York during the main part of its fifty-third session.

Statements

DURI MOHAMMED (Ethiopia) said the source of the present conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea was not just a simple bilateral dispute. It was also the result of aggression committed by Eritrea, which constituted a flagrant violation of international law and the principle enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and that of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

General Assembly Plenary - 3 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

The primary responsibility to resolve conflicts in Africa and elsewhere rested in the hands of the parties directly involved, he continued. The international community, particularly the United Nations system, and relevant regional and subregional organizations, also had a pivotal role to play, not only in facilitating or complementing the efforts of concerned parties, but also in ensuring respect for the norms and principles of international law, especially when flagrantly violated. Inaction by the international community and appeasement of such violations would only encourage intransigence and set a dangerous precedent with far-reaching consequences for peace and stability.

Respect for rules and norms of international humanitarian law by all parties to a conflict was not an option, but an imperative, he said. Humanitarian response and international actions needed to be undertaken in a coordinated and timely manner and with strict adherence to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and universality. It was important that all actors involved in humanitarian activities, including the United Nations system, respect those principles and avoid roles contrary to their mandate. To succeed in building frameworks for enduring peace and stability in Africa, the international community must form genuine partnership with the African countries to strengthen the continent's social and economic foundations. Globalization must be responsive and sensitive to the situation of the world's weakest economies. That had to be done through increased and carefully targeted official development assistance (ODA); the opening markets for commodities of export interest to Africa; the converting of official bilateral debts owed by the poorest African countries into grants; and improving the access of people living in poverty to productive opportunities.

HAZARIN POHAN (Indonesia) welcomed the efforts of the United Nations, the OAU and subregional organizations to resolve disputes in Africa through dialogue and negotiations. Clearly, conflicts on that continent were not amenable to military solution. It was pertinent that the Security Council had affirmed its intention to take steps consistent with its responsibilities under the Charter and called for the strengthening of Africa's capacity to participate in all aspects of peacekeeping and for increased cooperation in that field.

The international community must work together with the African countries to strengthen the continent's economic and social foundations, he said. Indonesia had supported the United Nations Special New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s and participated in bilateral cooperation projects with a number of African countries. It had also demonstrated its support for African development during its chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement.

MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said that the report of the Secretary-General provided lucid analysis and useful recommendations aimed at reducing poverty and promoting peace and development in Africa. Dialogue, cooperation and seeking consensus were a better way to preserve peace than

General Assembly Plenary - 4 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

recourse to weapons. Africa expected the international community to support its capacity-building, and to intervene and provide mechanisms to settle disputes. Constructive support was also needed for the process of democratization to succeed.

The mission of the United Nations was to take collective steps to prevent threats to peace, he said. Therapeutic steps were often stressed instead of preventive actions. That could be said about peacekeeping operations, which sometimes were deployed too late. Cameroon believed that the United Nations should decide to systematically deploy preventive forces when an outbreak of conflict could be expected. Personal representatives of the Secretary-General should be sent to areas of possible conflict.

It was a matter of urgency to seek consensus on means to address the illegal transfer of small weapons, he continued. A United Nations conference to consider all aspects of that issue would be useful. Prevention of conflicts naturally meant developing a culture of peace. Training programmes and assistance on the part of the international community were welcomed. Non-military threats to peace and security resulted from economic instability. Poverty was a threat to peace. A holistic view of security should be adopted by the Security Council to attack problems of Africa. He welcomed the convening of the high-level round table to be held this week on the problem of African debt. The working methods and functioning of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank should be re-examined and adjusted to alleviate the financial problems of Africa.

MACHIVENYIKA TOBIAS MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe) said, as the ways and means of achieving peace, security and stability were being explored, the magnitude of the socio-economic problems confronting the African continent could not be ignored. Zimbabwe strongly supported the priorities highlighted by the Secretary-General during an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in September. Those priorities included: an increase in the volume and quality of ODA; the consideration of converting all remaining official bilateral debt owed by poor countries into grants; the liberalization of access to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative; the easing of access conditions for African exports; and the encouragement of investment in Africa, which had largely been marginalized in the process of globalization. He acknowledged those governments and development partners who had converted bilateral debt owed by the poorest African countries into grants and increased their development budgets.

Most African countries had come a long way and made significant and very demanding strides to create an enabling environment for investment and economic growth, he said. Africa could not be found wanting in the global effort to promote durable peace and sustainable development on the continent. The solution of Africa's problems required African leadership. Nonetheless,

General Assembly Plenary - 5 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

there was much that countries with greater resources could do to make those solutions work.

DENIS DANGUE REWAKA (Gabon) said, since the Security Council's first consideration in April of the Secretary-General's report, it set up a working group to consider the Secretary-General's recommendations and to draw up a framework for the implementation of the agreed upon recommendations. Gabon stressed that the basic principle of democracy had to be abided by in Africa. It was vital for the peoples themselves to take charge of their development. Regarding sustainable development, he concurred with the Secretary-General that the need for economic growth had to go hand-in-hand with progress in the social sector. Countries had to stress improvements in social services, providing basic needs and building human capital. That involved investment in infrastructure and socio-economic reform for productive economic and social sectors.

A recent study stated that Africa was a profitable region for investment, he said. For some years development assistance had declined with adverse effects in many African countries. Donor countries had to fulfil commitments undertaken. Gabon could not overstress that an increase in financial resources for Africa's development would help lead to solving Africa's debt problem. While he hailed the HIPC Debt Initiative of the Bretton Woods institutions, it was regrettable to note that the number of beneficiaries of that initiative was still restricted. Economic conditions only exacerbated tension and conflict in the region. Discussion of the issue would be fruitless if the Assembly failed to adopt a plan of action with a follow-up mechanism for the implementation of the Secretary-General's proposals.

JULIO BENITEZ SAENZ (Uruguay) said Uruguay was willing to cooperate with Africa to ensure its security and well-being. Uruguay had contributed personnel to a number of peacekeeping operations, and had suffered some loss of life. However, that was not the only aspect binding Uruguay to Africa.

All developing countries should have equal access to international markets, he continued. That was a prerequisite for growth. Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean all found agriculture an important aspect of their sustainable development. Thus, all developing nations had to work in concert, within the framework of multilateral organizations, to secure growth of the agricultural sector and prevent detrimental international policy regarding the export of agricultural products. Developing countries could compete in a free market, but not with the treasuries of industrialized countries. Together with other South American and African countries, Uruguay had created an African-Latin-American institute to promote political agreement between those regions and to exchange experiences in the fields of trade, education and agriculture. Political and economic cooperation between the developing countries would help guarantee peace and security.

General Assembly Plenary - 6 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

FELIPE H. MABILANGAN (Philippines) said an important component of any strategy for Africa had to be the protection of civilians in situations of conflict. He endorsed the Secretary-General's proposal for zones of peace for children; joined the call for stopping the use of children as combatants; and reiterated appeal to all parties of conflicts to respect existing universal humanitarian principles. Action must address humanitarian needs, provide assistance for recovery, and lead to reconstruction. Providing assistance to the victims of conflict was a moral imperative and had to be pursued as a complement to action directed at the resolution of the conflict itself. It was not a substitute for political action aimed at conflict resolution. Political action was a necessary step towards full recovery, rehabilitation and development. Thus, it was critical that humanitarian assistance be properly coordinated with the concerned countries themselves.

Economic foundations for sustainable development of the African countries must be strengthened, he continued. It was crucial that there be no disruption or reduction in the provision of external resources to the African countries. Also, United Nations development cooperation must be adequately funded and supported by the donor community. It was impossible to expect the African countries to achieve sustained economic growth and development without the required resources for development. The Philippines fully endorsed the call of the Secretary-General for definitive action by the international community on the question of Africa's debt. He also joined the call for special efforts by developed countries to ensure access for competitive African goods and commodities. Finally, eliminating trade barriers to African products should be high on the agenda of the major industrialized countries.

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said that security problems on the continent used up human resources that could be used for the development of Africa. Ethnic tension was not new to Africa and the role of the United Nations was crucial to help meet the needs of those conflict situations. Cooperation between the Organization and the OAU was vital to preventing, managing and settling conflicts. Conflict prevention should be at the centre of peace and sustainable development in Africa. To that end, the idea of a partnership between the United Nations and OAU to provide equipment and resources was welcomed, although the Council had primary responsibility in that area. The continuing development of that initiative should take into account guidelines outlined by the OAU.

Without economic development on the continent, there could be no lasting improvement of Africa's social situation, he said. Economic restructuring involved a multidimensional approach, improving financial management, modernization of taxation systems and privatization. Countries of the South should provide technology transfers and other services through forums to increase development cooperation. He further called for more aggressive ODA and debt relief to spur private sector investment, including foreign investment. His country welcomed the idea to cancel the external debt of Africa.

General Assembly Plenary - 7 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

HAILE MENKERIOS (Eritrea) said overcoming the legacy of colonialism had proven difficult for African peoples and governments and had been compounded by an unequal relationship with the economically developed countries. That did not excuse Africa's part in continuing its marginalization. During more than 30 years since decolonization in most of Africa, corrupt, dictatorial and inept regimes had failed the African people. That reality had affected international attitudes and responses to the continent. Any change in the existing attitude could only come about as a result of positive changes in Africa itself.

Root causes of conflicts were associated with past ills, economic deprivation, and famines and other human disasters, he said. Despite the above-mentioned setbacks, Africa's continental and regional capacity to work concertedly for peace and economic development had increased. Positive change in Africa could be seen in the development of democratic institutions and the increase in human resource capacity. Although that process could be expected to continue, the speed with which it could grow depended on many crucial factors. Each country must strengthen democratic institutions, adopt and implement self-reliant strategies, eliminate corruption, ensure democratic participation of the populations and foster regional cooperation. The international community must support those goals through increased investment and opening of international markets for mutual benefits.

The unresolved border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia would remain until Ethiopian troops withdrew from Eritrea's territory, he added. Infiltration beyond Eritrea's borders, which were internationally settled during the colonial period, was a violation of it's sovereignty. He invited the Ethiopian delegate to end the violence and find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

SYLVIE JUNOD, observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), noting Africa was the main area for its activities, said the ICRC maintained 19 operational and regional delegations and some 3,000 staff on the continent. Those efforts accounted for more than half of its budget. The ICRC's work with victims of conflicts would be inconceivable without the permanent dialogue maintained by the United Nations and the OAU. Close cooperation had been indispensable for gaining a better understanding of the contexts in which the ICRC operated, and had further enhanced its efficiency through an increased network of contacts.

Of great importance to the ICRC was the continued delivery of truly humanitarian assistance to conflict victims, she said. Such humanitarian action prepared the ground for reconstruction and created the necessary conditions for sustainable development. It noted a sharp decline in the level of adherence to humanitarian norms in crisis situations. In view of the atrocities being committed against civilians, especially against women and children, restoring respect for the universal humanitarian principles was absolutely essential. A new dimension aggravating the situation was the

General Assembly Plenary - 8 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

"privatization" of war: the appearance of forces depending on private groups or individuals over whom state authorities had little or no influence.

The challenge before the international community was to revive human values, especially among the young in Africa, she said. African legislative reform must ensure that anyone violating international humanitarian law would be prosecuted. Lasting solutions to conflicts, she added, could only be obtained if political, social and economic factors were taken into account. The ICRC had noted with increasing concern the tendency shown by certain States to use humanitarian responses instead of taking political, or even military, action, when forceful action was justified within the framework of relevant international instruments. It was necessary to create a strategic approach to conflict resolution, involving political, military and humanitarian players.

Action on Fifth Committee Draft

Acting on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on the use of savings achieved by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). By that action, the Assembly endorsed the Secretary-General's proposals for the use of the savings resulting from improved cost-effectiveness achieved by UNCTAD, on the understanding that the amount to be used should not exceed some $5.5 million and that no precedent would be set.

The Assembly decided that about $1.1 million would be used to fund attendance at expert meetings of the UNCTAD, and special consideration would be given to the needs of developing countries. The Assembly, noting a lack of clear information on the savings, requested the Secretary-General to submit more comprehensive information to the Assembly at its next session.

Rights of Reply

Speaking in exercise of his right of reply, FESSEHA YIMER (Ethiopia) said that the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa was a very important topic. Conflicts in Africa really existed, and the current conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea was a reality. Ethiopia had been subjected to unprovoked aggression on the part of Eritrea. The representative of Eritrea had presented the usual litany about the character of the conflict. He had said that it was a border conflict. The reason for the conflict was not the border dispute, but aggression committed by one Member State against another, in violation of the Charter. Ethiopia was a victim of aggression. The aggressor had tried to present itself as a victim in today's statement.

Since 12 May, there had been attempts to solve the problem, he continued, although Ethiopia had never responded to the aggression in kind. A

General Assembly Plenary - 9 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

Committee of the OAU had submitted a report and none of its members had ever indicated that Ethiopia had been an aggressor. In fact, it was clear to everybody who the real aggressor was. Today's ploy was very familiar: the aggressor was trying to present himself as a victim.

The border conflict could be solved only through peaceful means. If somebody used force to solve a border dispute, the victim had the right to reverse the aggression. Concrete proposals had been submitted for the resolution of the conflict, but Ethiopia was not going to reward the aggressor, because that was not a path to peace. Ethiopia had never refused a dialogue with Eritrea, but it would engage in dialogue only after the aggression had been reversed. The best course of action would be to accept the suggestions of the third parties, i.e. to return to the status quo before the conflict. Those proposals were supported by the OAU and the Security Council. The OAU had outlined its own process within the framework of its committee on the matter. He called for a reversal of aggression and then the negotiation of a peaceful resolution to the crisis. His country would never succumb to aggression.

Also speaking in right of reply, Mr. MENKERIOS (Eritrea) said he hated to turn the Assembly into a court where declarations were made to an audience which did not have direct access to the truth. He wanted to take the representative of Ethiopia at his word. Instead of repeating the position of his country, he wanted to challenge the Ethiopian Government to agree to an independent investigation to determine who was the aggressor and who was in whose land.

Once again, Ethiopia had misrepresented facts, he said. There had been attempts in the past at reconciliation where political recommendations had been made. Investigation on the ground should take place before concrete proposals could be made. There had been no finalization of recommendations from the OAU. If there had, there would be no reason for the Heads of State of Africa to send a committee to examine the situation on the ground. The Heads of State had just invited the Heads of State of Ethiopia and Eritrea to come to Ouagadougou, where the findings of the OAU committee were to be presented. It was irrational to continue to insist that there had been recommendations which everybody, but Eritrea, had accepted. Eritrea was ready to cooperate with peace efforts by the OAU and African countries. The process was continuing, and he hoped that the Government of Ethiopia was also ready to continue with the process.

Mr. YIMER (Ethiopia) said that his opponent had at least referred to the facilitation efforts and to the OAU committee, as well as to their proposals from the Heads of State of the OAU. That was an improvement. The representative of Eritrea had said that the General Assembly did not have access to the truth. The truth was contained in documents available to the Member States. It was not hard to find. Independent investigation had already been done by the OAU committee, which had submitted its report to the

General Assembly Plenary - 10 - Press Release GA/9478 36th Meeting (PM) 12 October 1998

member governments. He hoped it would not be an independent investigation by the Eritrean Government. There was a process, which had not been concluded, but there had been an investigation and conclusions drawn by third parties. The improvement was evident in the statement by Eritrea, but when it came to concrete actions, the Eritrean Government was not doing anything. Ethiopia was prepared to go all the way to solve the problem peacefully, but the aggressor should not be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his aggression.

Mr. MENKERIOS (Eritrea) drew the Assembly's attention to the fact that he had just heard a threat of the use of force, which had continuously been made by Ethiopia. That country had insisted that either Eritrea retreat from the land clearly within its borders, or force would be used. That was the crux of the matter from the outset. Eritrea rejected the use of force and was prepared for a peaceful solution. It was cooperating with the attempts of the OAU to present a report, but there were no finalized reports from the OAU. The Heads of State still had neither come out with their finalized report, nor given their recommendations.

Eritrea had guns pointed at its head: Ethiopia was threatening to evict Eritreans from their land, he said. Eritrea had been saying that in the interest of peace it was ready to demilitarize the disputed areas on both sides. An international monitoring body should supervise peaceful demarkation of the entire border after the demilitarization. Eritrea had a right and a duty to defend itself. Reliance on the use of force, threats and intimidation by Ethiopia were not creating a peaceful atmosphere.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.