UNITED NATIONS IS WORKING SMARTER AND HARDER, UNITED STATES TELLS ASSEMBLY, SAYING SECRETARY-GENERAL COULD ADVANCE TO NEXT STAGE OF REFORM19981125 Assembly Urges Nations of Zone of Peace and Cooperation of South Atlantic to Regulate Maritime Transport of Radioactive and Toxic Waste
The United Nations was working smarter and harder and the many measures taken together had enabled the Secretary-General to advance the next stage of reform, the representative of the United States told the General Assembly this morning as its continued its debate on United Nations reform: measures and proposals and revitalization of the work of the Assembly.
He said that the Organization's revitalization work had strengthened its efficiency, noting that from 1994 to 1995 the budget was down $100 million and staffing had been rationalized down 14 per cent, to about 8,700 posts. Addressing the revitalization of the work of the Assembly, he said additional measures could include a review of the current main committee structure and analysis of the extent to which the Assembly's expert bodies worked together. Expanding non-governmental (NGO) access to the Assembly, its main committee and its special sessions would enrich the Organization's spirit and more accurately reflect the principles of "We the Peoples".
The representative of New Zealand said the Secretary-General's report on the status of implementation of reform measures was something of an unsatisfactory hodge-podge of bits and pieces from here and there. It failed to provide the necessary overview of his reform package. Although some of the achievements had been referred to in the report, there was virtually no qualitative analysis of the implementation of the programme for reform or the indication of planning for the coming year. The result-based budgeting idea was not discussed, either.
During consideration of the zone of peace and cooperation in the South Atlantic, the Assembly called on Member States of the zone to continue efforts to achieve regulation of maritime transport of radioactive and toxic waste, while taking into account the interests of coastal States.
The Assembly took that action this morning by adopting a resolution, as introduced and orally amended by the representative of Argentina, by a
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recorded vote of 126 in favour to none against and 1 abstention (United States) (see voting annex).
The Assembly, while reaffirming its willingness to contribute by all the means at its disposal to an effective and lasting peace in Angola, urged the international community and all relevant organizations to fulfil pledges to provide assistance to facilitate the demobilization and social reintegration of ex-combatants, the demining process, the resettlement of displaced persons and the reconstruction of the Angolan economy in order to consolidate the gains in the peace process.
It also urged the parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and States that had offered their good offices to bring hostilities to an end and to spare no effort in negotiations toward a lasting peace. During discussion on that topic, several speakers cited the need for strengthening peace and security, resolving disputes, good governance, promoting trade between Latin American and African States, and enhancing cooperation in combatting drug trafficking. Several Member States expressed the view that a nuclear-free-weapon zone would contribute to peace and security in the South Atlantic.
The President of the Assembly informed delegations that the General Committee would meet on 1 December at 9 a.m. to consider a request for the inclusion of an additional item on the agenda of the current session of the Assembly and to take up the question of the allocation of a new item or armed aggression against the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Uruguay, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Namibia, Benin, United Kingdom, France, Austria (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Philippines, Canada, Egypt, Russian Federation, and Algeria.
Statements in explanation of vote were made by the representatives of the United States and France.
The Assembly will meet again this afternoon to continue its consideration of United Nations reform measures and proposals.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly meets this morning to begin its considerations of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic; strengthening of the United Nations System; and revitalization of the work of the General Assembly. It was also to continue review of United Nations reform measures and proposals.
South Atlantic Zone of Peace
The Assembly has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic (document A/53/488) containing replies from Argentina, Brazil, Panama, United Kingdom and Uruguay and six entities of the United Nations system: the Department of Public Information (DPI); the Department of Economic and Social Affairs: the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Bank and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
According to the report, Argentina points out that the colonial status of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich islands affects its territorial integrity. Despite good relations between Argentina and the United Kingdom, efforts by Argentina to promote dialogue and a peaceful solution to the question, its commitment to respecting the way of life of the inhabitants of the Malvinas/Falkland islands and the many calls by the international community for a negotiated solution, negotiations towards the ending the sovereignty dispute have not been restarted. Within that context, Argentina states its belief that solving this problem would make it possible to consolidate long-lasting stability and cooperation in the South Atlantic.
The Government of the United Kingdom draws the Secretary-General's attention to the developments in Anglo-Argentine relations which have contributed to the lessening of tension in the South-West Atlantic. Cooperation continues in the forum of the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission, which addresses the conservation fish stock; and the South-West Atlantic Hydrocarbons Commission where, in particular, progress is being made with arrangements for the joint development of hydrocarbons in a special cooperation area set up by the United Kingdom and Argentina.
The Government of Brazil reports that there are three main areas to be further developed within the context of the zone: denuclearization of the region; protection of the marine environment; and cooperation to fight drug trafficking.
The Panamanian Government says that it is pursuing a policy of peace and harmony in its international relations, as a signatory to all conventions on
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disarmament including conventional, chemical, bacteriological and nuclear weapons. Panama firmly believes in the protection of the environment -- coastal and marine resources in general -- and supports any measures that the United Nations may take to strengthen those objectives.
The Government of Uruguay states that countries of the zone have experienced major changes which have been related mainly to the strengthening of democratic processes, the consolidation of free market economies and the active participation of the private sector and NGOs in all these processes. Uruguay has been actively involved in some of the processes of political stabilization in the region and has participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Angola and Liberia.
Conveying activities by the United Nations system, the Secretary-General says the work of the Department of Social Affairs is mainly in the form of indirect measures to promote the development and stability of the countries that border on the South Atlantic, in both South America and Africa. That support is attained through a range of projects that deal with aspects such as: economic management; poverty eradication;, economic and social reform; post-conflict reconstruction; and peace-building measures.
The Secretary-General says ECLAC activities in the zone are primarily related to its role under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to enhance the goals of the zone and to prevent the illegal traffic of dangerous products and waste. The UNESCO undertakes a series of national programmes in the zone that seek to build a culture of peace based on principles established in the Organization's Charter. It does this by furthering education for: peace; human rights; democracy; the elimination of discrimination and violence; and the promotion of reconciliation. The Secretary-General reports that UNCTAD, at the request of the Angolan Government, is developing technical cooperation projects for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Angola's economy, focusing in particular on the development of the commodity sector and trade expansion.
By the terms of the related draft (document A/53/41 and Corr.1) the Assembly would view with concern the present armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and would stress the need to respect the territorial integrity of that country. It would also urge the parties to the conflict and the States that have offered their good offices to bring hostilities to an end and to spare no effort in the negotiations leading to the restoration of peace.
The Assembly would also reaffirm its willingness to contribute, by all means at its disposal, to an effective and lasting peace in Angola. By the terms of the text, the Assembly would also urge the international community and all relevant international and private organizations to fulfil their pledges to provide assistance to facilitate demobilization and social
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reintegration of ex-combatants, the demining process, the resettlement of displaced persons and the reconstruction of the Angolan economy in order to consolidate the gains in the peace process.
The Assembly would also call upon member States of the zone to continue efforts towards the achievement of appropriate regulation of maritime transport of radioactive and toxic wastes, taking into account the interests of coastal states, and in accordance with the regulations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It would also view with concern the increase in drug trafficking and related crimes, including drug abuse, and would call upon Member States of the zone to promote regional cooperation to combat all aspects of the problems of drug related offences.
The Assembly would also recognize the need to strengthen the coordination of humanitarian assistance by States members of the zone, so as to ensure a timely and effective response.
Co-sponsors of the draft are: Angola, Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo and Uruguay.
Strengthening United Nations and Revitalization of General Assembly
The Assembly also would review the Secretary-General's report on strengthening the United Nations system (document A/53/170), reviewing arrangements and practices for the interaction of NGOs in all the activities of the United Nations. It also reviews the legal and financial implications of modifications in the current arrangements for participation of NGOs in all areas of the United Nations system and the question of the participation of NGOs from all regions.
The Secretary-General notes that from the 41 NGOs granted consultative status by the Economic and Social Council in 1948, the number of NGOs in consultative status had grown to over 1,350. Consultative status with the Council remains at the core of the formal relationship between the United Nations and NGOs. While no such arrangement has been established by the Assembly, continues the Secretary-General, what has evolved is a certain degree of informal participation by NGOs in the work of the Assembly's main committees and several of its subsidiary bodies.
In 1996, a thorough review of previous arrangements with NGOs was conducted by the Economic and Social Council, which then adopted resolution 1996/31, establishing three categories of status for NGOs. Those NGOs which were granted consultative status acquired certain rights and
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responsibilities, including the right to place items on the agenda of the Council and its subsidiary bodies; designating observers to sit at public meetings on matters within their field of competence; submitting written statements to be published as United Nations documents; and making oral presentations during certain meetings of the Council. NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC must report every four years on their activities.
The Secretary-General goes on to say that NGOs have also participated very actively in special sessions of the Assembly and with the Secretariat. The majority of funds, agencies and programmes have received a clear mandate from their governing bodies to work with NGOs, and have developed a wide range of mechanisms to do so.
The Secretary-General states that worthy of mention is the unique example of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the first programme of the Organization's system to include NGO representatives on its governing body as full participants, rather than observers. He also notes that over the last decade, arrangements for consultation with NGOs have been revised, improved and extended across the United Nations system, allowing NGOs to significantly shape the international development and political debates.
Turning to the issue of "a growing operational partnership", the Secretary-General notes that as NGOs' role as implementing partners, clients, advocates or funding sources for United Nations programmes increases, the need arises to provide flexible but clear guidelines to the Organization's officials who deal with NGOs. Citing the constraints which limit United Nations collaboration with NGOs, he identifies: the sheer number of organizations and their diversity; occasional organizational weaknesses; the fragility of certain grass-roots organizations; divergent positions among NGOs and between them and Governments; and the overdependence on external financing which can sometimes undermine the sustainability and even independence of NGOs.
Addressing the participation of NGOs from all regions, the Secretary- General says that as the United Nations continues to decentralize its activities, and as efforts by programmes, funds and agencies are increasingly defined at the country level, the participation of local and national NGOs is likely to expand in the future. While the policy of many United Nations agencies is to work with NGOs wherever possible, efforts to promote participation by such entities from developing countries in the Organization's activities must first concentrate on facilitating the emergence of such organizations and on building their capacity to work effectively with the United Nations.
To enhance the participation of NGOs in the United Nations system, the Secretary-General states that the Organization must attempt not only to draw a composite picture of the NGO community, but also to provide staff with tools
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to deal with the fast growing number of such bodies. The NGO sections or liaison offices are frequently understaffed and sometimes ill-equipped to service large groups of NGOs. The Secretary-General says that he will encourage all departments, programmes and funds of the system to ensure that these sections are appropriately staffed and are allocated the necessary logistical and financial resources.
The Secretary-General states that if NGOs are to continue making a meaningful contribution of the work of the United Nations, it is crucial that their access to information and documentation be secured in a timely and appropriate manner. The Organization's efforts in this area are described in section IV of the report. Due to the financial and legal constraints of the Organization, however, NGO demands for prompt and comprehensive information cannot always be adequately satisfied. Member States may wish to consider a number of measures which could remedy the situation.
United Nations Reform
Under its agenda item on United Nations reform, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General's report on environment and human settlements (document A/53/463) was prepared in response to action 12 of the Secretary- General's report entitled "Renewing the United Nations: a programme for reform" (A/51/950). In that report, it was provided that the Secretary- General, in consultation with governments, the Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) would develop new measures for strengthening and restructuring the two organizations and make recommendations to the Assembly.
In order to initiate the process of preparing those recommendations, the Secretary-General established the Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements, under the chairmanship of the Executive Director of UNEP. Its terms of reference included: a review of current structures and arrangements through which the Organization carries out its environmental activities; an evaluation of the efficacy of those arrangements; and recommendations for the changes and improvements required to optimize the Organization's and UNEP's environmental work and their effectiveness. (For details, see Press Release GA/9511.)
The Assembly also had before it the report on the status of implementation of actions described in the report of the Secretary-General entitled "Renewing the United Nations: a programme for reform" (document A/53/676). The report was prepared by the Secretary-General after considering the views and comments expressed by Member States in implementing the various reform initiatives. While actions on many areas have already produced positive results within the Secretariat and in its relations with the programmes and funds, the consideration of several other questions will
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continue to be dealt with by the Assembly at its current session. (For details, see Press Release GA/9511.)
By decisions taken during its fifty-second session, the Assembly deferred consideration of three proposals of the Secretary-General to the fifty-third session. Before the Assembly was the Secretary-General's note on a new concept of trusteeship (document A/52/849). In his report (A/51/950), the Secretary-General proposed that the Trusteeship Council be reconstituted as the forum through which Member States exercise their collective trusteeship for the integrity of the global environment and common areas, such as the oceans, atmosphere and outer space. He also proposed that the Council served to link the Organization and civil society in addressing those areas of global concern, which required the active contribution of public, private and voluntary sectors. The note indicates that the Task Force on the environmental and human settlement areas would have the opportunity to elaborate further on the proposal for a new concept of trusteeship.
The Secretary-General's note on a Millennium Assembly, the United Nations System (Special Commission) and a Millennium Forum (document A/52/850) contains his elaborations concerning the General Assembly session in the year 2000. He recommends that the Assembly's fifty-fifth session be designated the Millennium Assembly, and that a high-level segment, called the Millennium Summit, be devoted to in-depth consideration of the theme "the United Nations in the twenty-first century". The integration of the Summit into the Assembly's regular session would facilitate the participation of heads of State and government, while maximizing continuity in the Assembly's normal programme of work. (For details see Press Release GA/9511 issued today.)
Also before the Assembly is the Secretary-General's note on time limits of new initiatives ("sunset" provisions) (document A/52/851 and Corr.1 and Add.1). The idea of specific time limits, or "sunset" provisions, is intended to provide a specific time horizon for mandates, whereupon their continuation would require explicit renewal by the Assembly. The purpose of sunset provisions is to strengthen the role and capacity of the Organization, by focusing its efforts only on activities that have continuing relevance, usefulness and effectiveness. (For details see Press Release GA/9511 issued today.)
Statements on Zone of the South Atlantic
FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina), in introducing the draft resolution on the South Atlantic, said he was pleased to see that progress had been made in achieving the objectives set by members of the region. Five high-level meetings had been convened, the last of which was held in Buenos Aires. At that meeting, a final declaration was adopted by nations which formed the zone and, for the first time, a plan of action was established.
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The objectives of the States included strengthening peace and security, resolving pending disputes, good governance, promoting trade between its Latin American and African members, and cooperation in combatting drug trafficking, he said. Regarding the first objective, members believed that a nuclear-free- weapon zone would contribute significantly to peace and security. Also, the problem of illicit arms trafficking and the proliferation of small arms deserved close attention. On the question of peace and security, Argentina and other zone members urged all States to refrain from carrying out actions incompatible with their objectives.
Peace in the zone could only be obtained if democratic institutions were working well, he said. That most members had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was satisfying and it showed their commitment to preserving the area's fisheries. The Convention had the proper framework for protection, but some provisions still had to be complimented. The zone members were also deeply concerned about the dangers in the context of the transport of nuclear waste in the South Atlantic. A regime was needed to deal with that problem.
JORGE PEREZ OTERMIN (Uruguay) said the work of the United Nations as coordinator of efforts of Member States was welcome in the zone of the South Atlantic. In recent years, Uruguay had made the issue of inter-regional cooperation one of its priorities. Uruguay had developed closer relations with African countries, and was the current host of the African and Latin American Institute. Last year, the President of Uruguay had made a trip to Africa to speak to the leaders of that region. Uruguay had also been involved in peacekeeping operations in Africa and in the work to remove antipersonnel landmines.
In October, a plan of action and a Declaration had been adopted which set future policy, including efforts to bring together Latin America and Africa, he said. Water shortages were also addressed, along with cooperation in combating drug trafficking.
PIETER ANDRIES VERMEULEN (South Africa) said that the protection of the fragile environment of the South Atlantic had to be the concern, not only of zone members, but also of everyone who utilized its resources. Issues of peace and security remained a priority for zone members, especially demilitarization and disarmament. Members continued to promote non- proliferation and disarmament, particularly in the field of nuclear weapons and conventional arms. For that reason, at its recent meeting, zone members had reiterated the need for greater cooperation towards making the southern hemisphere free of nuclear weapons, and in addressing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. They also called for greater cooperation in support of international demining efforts.
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Furthermore, the zone members worked to promote economic regeneration to eradicate poverty and to attain sustainable rates of growth and economic development, he said. That would improve the quality of life of millions of its people and help to close the gap between the rich and the poor. The zone had laid a firm foundation for bridging the South Atlantic and finding ways to meet both old and new challenges, so as to make a real difference in the lives of ordinary people. South Africa urged all Member States to support the draft before the Assembly and hoped it would be adopted without a vote.
HENRIQUE VALLE (Brazil) said cooperation in the protection of the marine environment and the conservation of the sea's living resources was an area of great importance. Bilaterally and multilaterally, Brazil was working with its neighbours to finalize the delimitation of the continental shelf under their jurisdiction. Brazil favoured the adoption of new mechanisms on the issue -- within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea -- that would help to prevent environmental accidents and promote the exchange of information and concerted actions in those areas. The fight against drug trafficking was an objective that should be actively pursued in the zone. The countries of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic had formally launched an anti-drug initiative.
Subsequently, he continued, they took their case to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which adopted a resolution on that matter. The countries of the area were also pursuing bilateral agreements among themselves to increase the efficacy of their efforts to fight organized crime. It was essential that the international community, the United Nations system and the international financial institutions continue to assist the zone States in proceeding with objectives. In addition, both sides of the Atlantic could benefit from each other's experiences in the promotion of democratic values, expansions of trade and investment, air and sea links and the intensification of South-South cooperation.
G.S. AKUNWAFOR (Nigeria) said the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic remained a valuable framework for the protection of the interests and aspirations of the coastal States of Africa and Latin America. The objectives of promoting regional peace and security had energized the zone towards the complete denuclearization of the region, protection of the marine environment, promotion of economic cooperation and the fight against drug trafficking. His country had contributed tremendously to joint efforts in those respects.
His delegation, he said, noted with great satisfaction the resolution of some conflicts in the zone, especially with regard to the restoration of peace and democracy in Sierra Leone and in Liberia. They were concerned about the present conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and urged the parties to the conflict, and the mediators, to make every effort to restore peace to that country. His Government noted the positive steps taken by the Government
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of Angola in the implementation of the Lusaka Protocol. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola should submit unreservedly to the peace process embodied by that Protocol.
Turning to the protection of marine life and other sea resources, he said there was need for better coordination and exchange of information among the zone's members, for monitoring and combating illegal fishing. The zone was conscious of the danger which the proliferation of small arms posed to the peace and security of the region. The draft resolution on that item had included all that was relevant to the zone, and his delegation commended it to the General Assembly for adoption without a vote.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the importance of the objectives of the zone of peace and cooperation in the South Atlantic was more obvious than ever before. Members of the zone had accepted peace as one of their goals. The zone was also associated with economic, humanitarian and environmental matters.
Nuclear proliferation was yet another security issue that humankind would face in the next millennium, he said. International treaties were creating denuclearized zones in large areas of the world, and he called on countries of the zone to follow that example. His country subscribed to the principles of the plan of action and the final declaration of the meeting of member States of the zone, which was held in October. That served as evidence of the seriousness with which the members of the zone took their responsibilities. He expressed confidence that today's draft would receive overwhelming support. He hoped the next ministerial meeting would provide the opportunity to consolidate present achievements and determine future course of action.
FASSASSI A. YACOUBOU (Benin) said his delegation attached great importance to the Zone of Peace and Cooperation of the South Atlantic which was a special area of cooperation and development most useful for the African and Latin American countries in the Zone. The relevant treaties would make the denuclearization of the Southern Hemisphere easier.
As part of the effort for peace and development, countries of the Zone should take urgent and sufficient steps to stem the flow of small and light arms, he said. He welcomed initiatives to combat the illicit flow of weapons, munitions and explosives. All such initiatives should help to restore and consolidate peace in the Zone. Peace was essential for a genuine climate of cooperation. The Zone was an important framework for bringing together peoples who shared both sides of the South Atlantic.
He said the wealth of the seas should be protected and used judiciously. The Zone should create a legal and institutional framework that would enable economic protagonists to meet and establish a dynamic system of benefit to
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countries on both sides of the Atlantic. He hoped that the resolution would be adopted by consensus.
Action on Draft
Mr. PETRELLA (Argentina) said that before action on the draft text, he wanted to refer to a minor technical correction to the text, by which operative paragraph 17 should read as follows: "calls upon the Member States to continue their efforts towards the achievement of appropriate regulations of maritime transport of radioactive and toxic wastes, taking into account the interests of coastal States, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the regulations of the International Maritime Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency". The technical correction had been made to account for the suggestions of some friendly countries interested in the zone.
KATHERINE SMITH (United Kingdom) said she would like to have a clarification of the exact wording of the oral amendment.
Mr. PETRELLA (Argentina) then clarified the exact wording, and repeated the orally revised operative paragraph 17.
HENRI ZIPPER DE FABIANI (France) said the re-wording was not the one which he understood had been agreed on during informal consultations on the technical amendment to the paragraph. He asked that it be looked at again with the delegations concerned.
DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay), President of the Assembly, suspended the meeting for 5 minutes.
Mr. PETRELLA (Argentina) said there was a correction in operative paragraph 10, contained in the corrigendum to the draft text. The last line should read "continued progress being made in the observance of human rights in the country". The words "towards full" should be deleted. He then read out operative paragraph 17 again.
The Assembly adopted the draft text, as orally amended, by a recorded vote of 126 in favour, to none against, with one abstention (United States) (see Annex).
Mr. ZIPPER DE FABIANI (France), speaking in explanation of vote, said France had voted in favour of the resolution and fully supported the paragraphs on Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. He recalled France's reservations on the zone of peace in general, bearing in mind the problems of geographical limitation and the respect for international law, law of the sea and the law of airspace. The zone of peace could not be compared to a nuclear-free-weapon zone.
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CLAYBORNE PELL (United States), speaking after the vote, said he had abstained due to his belief that international zones should be created through international forums and not through United Nations resolutions.
Strengthening United Nations System
IRWIN BELK (United States) said that the Organization's revitalization work had strengthened its efficiency, noting that from 1994 to 1995 the budget was down $100 million and staffing had been rationalized down 14 per cent, to about 8,700 posts. The many measures taken together had enabled the Secretary-General to advance the "Track II" reform package currently under consideration. All told, the Organization was working smarter and harder.
The revitalization of the Assembly's work was an ongoing duty for all interested in turning goals into reality, he said. He noted the general debate had been completed in two weeks, instead of the traditional three. The remaining session's work programme had been effectively organized. The main committees also appeared to be accomplishing their duties in record time. Additional revitalization efforts could include: reviewing the current main committee structure, as several years had passed since their portfolios were regrouped; and analyzing the extent to which the Assembly's expert bodies worked together.
He went on to say that the effective participation of civil society had been recognized as part of the foundation for sustainable development. Expanding NGO access to the Assembly, to its main committees and in its special sessions would enrich the Organization's spirit and more accurately reflect the principles expressed in: "We the Peoples". The United Nations, once a leader in collaboration with NGOs, now lagged behind. It needed to enlist them as partners to advance its goals. Their contributions at the national and international levels should be fully recognized. He called for increased NGO involvement in project participation, such as that occurring at the World Bank.
HANS PETER MANZ (Austria) spoke on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Regarding the interaction of NGOs, the European Union would like increased importance to be given to the participation of civil society in the work of the Organization, not least with a view to the preparations for the Millennium Assembly. It favoured closer cooperation with NGOs and civil society, and wished to ensure that NGOs could have a greater input in the Organization's work.
With regard to the opening and closing dates of regular sessions, the European Union recognized the need for the Assembly to take a decision that would allow those dates to be established automatically, he said. In doing
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so, it should draw on the experience of the current regular session, the first organized according to the consensus reached in the Assembly's working group on the strengthening of the United Nations system. The European Union would like to see the interim measure -- to open the regular session one week earlier -- made permanent. It also felt that the new pattern of electing the Chairmen of the main committees met Assembly requirements well and should be reviewed again at the fifty-eighth session. The Union also proposed that consideration of the two items being discussed (Revitalizing the General Assembly and Strengthening the United Nations) be merged into item 30, United Nations reform. That would allow further consideration of the remaining issues, while contributing a little to streamlining the Assembly's agenda.
FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) said that the revitalization of the Assembly was a key element in the reform process, both internally and in terms of greater interaction with other principle United Nations organs, in particular, the Security Council. As mandated by the Charter, the Assembly also had a key role to play in the maintenance of international peace and security that must be asserted. To function as intended by the Organization's founding fathers, the Assembly should promote democracy, not only within nations, but also among nations. That effort necessitated an open and transparent reform process. Issues concerning the organization of its work in regular sessions remained pending and needed to be addressed.
Modifying the current organizational arrangements for enhanced NGO participation throughout the system might have legal and financial implications and had not been adequately addressed, he noted. Nor had the question of their participation from all regions, particularly developing ones, been adequately considered. The report, however, contained some interesting recommendations for enhancing the participation of NGOs from developing countries, in particular, the establishment of a trust fund. The report would have benefited from the inclusion of their views. It would be useful for the Secretariat to undertake wider consultations among Member States, NGOs and other interested actors in an expanded or revised report.
DREWAN LYNNE MCVEY (Canada) said that the report of the Secretary-General on the interaction with the NGOs constituted an important step in providing much-needed information and analysis on the process of follow-up to the 1996 recommendations of the Economic and Social Council, which were presented upon completion of its comprehensive review of consultative arrangements between NGOs and itself. Particularly interesting were recommendations for appointment of liaison officers to share best practices and experiences in order to promote coherence and efficiency and to ensure proper implementation of existing mandates and rules. Also, the proposal for consideration of the establishment of a trust fund to facilitate
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the participation of NGOs from developing and least developed countries, as well as countries in transition, merited further study. Her delegation recognized that the task set before the Secretary-General had not been simple and that, given more time, the report would have been more comprehensive. Canada intended to conduct wide consultations on the best course of action in the process of follow-up.
J.D. CHINADE (Nigeria) said the United Nations needed to ensure its primary objective, namely: the address of the development issue and responding to the needs of developing countries. Essential to the reform process, the Organization needed to review and update its interaction with NGOs and civil society. That issue should be considered through open and transparent procedures, with the participation of all delegations.
The emergence of non-State actors, as exemplified by NGOs, was a feature of the changing international environment, he said, noting the increasingly important role they played in shaping sustainable growth and supporting the well-being of people. Their involvement in development activities at the grassroots level had been critical in the pursuit of poverty alleviation, capacity building and resource transfers from developed to developing countries. Their operational competence, flexibility and knowledge of local conditions made them valuable partners in humanitarian and development programmes. In addition to expanding international cooperation to the grassroots, they had raised new issues and provided expert advice.
Like in all human institutions, some were over-zealous in pushing issues of particular interest. Others demonstrated institutional weakness; some were affected and frustrated by divergent views among and between them and Governments, especially in developing countries. At the local level, their sometimes over-dependence on foreign donors even posed justifiable threats to national security interests.
The number of NGOs granted different categories of consultative status by the Economic and Social Council had increased over the years, he said. However, their numbers from developing countries were small. That imbalance must be addressed and their participation in the Organization's policy-making process must be facilitated. Such participation would help them establish useful networks with northern counterparts and would contribute to their capacity-building efforts. The NGO access to information and documents should be guaranteed, subject to budget limitations.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said it was clear from the Secretary- General's report that the Organization still lacked the appropriate standards, legal and institutional framework to contribute to the image and nature of its relationship with NGOs. There was also mixed interpretation on the relationship between the United Nations, its agencies and NGOs. What was the process that involved NGOs? Was it cooperation, participation, interaction or
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simply involved those bodies just being there? he asked. The report of the Secretary-General also did not deal with the important legal and financial implications that arose from the changing participation of NGOs.
He said the Secretary-General's report also drew attention to the weak participation by NGOs from the South. While his delegation welcomed the proposal of the Secretary-General to establish a trust fund to support that participation, it felt that an information programme to identify the concept of participation would be more useful. It could also serve to identify the purposes and principles of the United Nations. One of the major constraints lay with the sheer number of organizations, and the dependence on external financing -- that could undermine the sustainability of NGOs.
ALEXANDRE V. ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said that the idea of enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and NGOs was making headway. The report of the Secretary-General clearly demonstrated that the success of cooperation resulted from the clear-cut rules and regulations on coordination of NGOs and United Nations activities. Russia believed that it was necessary to continue that process and to improve the existing machinery of consultations with NGOs.
Enhanced partnership must be carried out in strict observance of the United Nations Charter, he said. It was also necessary to ensure the principle of equitable geographic representation of NGOs from different regions. Many NGOs found themselves territorially removed from the United Nations, but that should not prevent them from being consulted on various problems. It also seemed appropriate to strengthen involvement of particular non-governmental organizations in United Nations activities. In conclusion, he emphasized the correctness of the Secretary-General's thesis regarding financial and legal implications of enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and NGOs, which needed further study and consideration.
United Nations Reform
Mr. MANZ (Austria) spoke on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Iceland. He said that the Millennium Assembly should be used to address the Organization's role in the twenty-first century by focusing on a few clearly defined areas in which the United Nations could make a real difference. While the European Union had not yet finalized its proposals for specific themes, it preferred to give priority to the economic and social areas. It must be ensured that the Assembly did not overshadow the Special Sessions, also due to take place in the year 2000. The European Union proposed that the process begin in informal meetings of the Plenary chaired by the Assembly President. A first meeting in that format would be welcomed before the end of the current session.
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Regarding environment and human settlement, structural integration of the environmental dimension in all United Nations policies and activities had to be further promoted at all levels, he said. The recommendations of the Task Force were a significant step in that direction. The Union welcomed, in principle, the establishment of an environmental management group as a means to better coordinate and integrate environmental issues and aspects within the United Nations system. However, due consideration had to be given to the compatibility with existing United Nations coordination mechanisms such as the United Nations Development Group and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) to ensure full complementarity with the work of those bodies and avoid unnecessary overlapping and duplication.
The Union welcomed the idea of a joint financial strategy, provided that it was flexible enough to respond to emerging problems, he said. In developing that strategy, the outcome of similar exercises in other funds and programmes had to be taken into account. To attain an adequate, stable and predictable financial basis and to attract funds from a larger number of donors, the proposals presented to the governing bodies should be wide-ranging and address a broader spectrum of elements than those contained the recommendation of the Task Force. The financial implications of those proposals should be made clear before they could be properly considered.
He said that with regard to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the increasing importance of global environmental issues that concerned all countries seemed to merit increased participation at the ministerial level at Governing Council meetings. However, the proposed universal membership of the UNEP Governing Council did not seem to be a step in the right direction as it would make the decision making more difficult and reduce the Council's efficiency. The major objectives of any reform of the intergovernmental structure had to be to ensure an effective and efficient governance of UNEP, to establish a forum for meaningful policy debates on environmental issues, and to attract ministerial level participation.
The Union saw a need for continuous substantial reform regarding the United Nations Centner for Human Settlements, particularly with regard to its administrative and financial management, he said. It also stressed the importance of a strong involvement of local authorities and of private sector and NGO representatives as key players in the management of urban settlements in the work of the Habitat. Lastly, further thought would have to be given to the better integration of environmental issues at all levels in the whole United Nations system and to the issue of financing of global environmental issues.
REGINA MENTHA (United States) said that she would limit her statement to reform in environment and human settlements. Her Government welcomed the report of the Task Force on that subject which had identified areas where economies, synergies and additional focus could be achieved.
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Welcoming the internal reform of the organizations in Nairobi, which had assumed responsibility for administrative services for UNEP and Habitat, she said it's prospects for significant savings could be applied to programme activities. The strategic review of UNEP's monitoring and assessment programmes, as well as the creation of an environment management group, were positive initiatives. Noting that some Task Force recommendations required the action of the Assembly, she said that others were within the purview of the Secretary-General. Should he decide to create an environmental management group, its mandate and reporting responsibilities needed to be clearly set forth, with useful results demonstrated within a reasonable time frame.
Addressing recommendations related to the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, she said the United States supported finding solutions to the Centner's financial and management problems. It further supported greater coordination between the UNEP, the Organization's office in Nairobi and the Centre, as well as the approach to implement those recommendations. Those efforts should add impetus to the Centre's ability to provide leadership on sustainable development in urban areas and on urban environment issues.
Saying that UNEP's mandate was extremely broad with limited resources, she said that some of its activities would have to be deferred. As it gained strength as an institution, it would be better able to pursue increased responsibilities and programmes. To the extent that it demonstrated excellence, relevance and cost-effectiveness in its undertakings, it would find its voice as a global environmental authority. Improving its capacity to discern environmental trends and enhancing the scientific underpinning of multilateral environmental agreements, was of high priority to her Government. Turning attention to those recommendations within the Assembly's purview, she said that an annual, ministerial forum, focused on priority environmental issues conducted informally with the support of Governments, could be useful.
LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said environmental issues of the next century were expected to be more inter-disciplinary and cross-sectoral. Thus, it was necessary for the international community to be equipped with more versatile and flexible mechanisms to manage those issues. His delegation welcomed the report of the Secretary-General as a blueprint for addressing environmental and human settlement issues in the twenty-first century. In that context, his country agreed with the basic notion that UNEP should continue to play a central role in managing the global environment.
He said the establishment of an environmental management group, as was recommended by the Secretary-General, could be the most effective means of coping with the increasing complexities of environmental issues. Such a group could provide a forum to coordinate efforts among the top decision-makers of various organs involved in global environmental issues. In recent years, the world had witnessed a proliferation of environmental conventions, leading to the proliferation of secretariats and related conferences, all competing for
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limited funds. The situation had become unmanageable, as it affected the implementation of those conventions themselves. Against that background, his delegation welcomed the Secretary-General's recommendations for coordinating and clustering environmental conventions.
The drafting of an all-embracing convention, he said, could only be viewed as a long-term objective. His delegation believed that the holding of a ministerial global environmental forum and universal membership of the UNEP Governing Council could reinforce environmental awareness and increase political support for the UNEP.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said that his delegation had not been able to give the Secretary-General's report the in-depth study that it deserved, because it had been received in his mission on the day when the debate was scheduled to begin. Overall, the report was something of an unsatisfactory hodge-podge of bits and pieces from here and there. It failed to provide the necessary overview of the Secretary-General's reform package. Although some of the achievements had been referred to in the report, there was virtually no qualitative analysis of the implementation of the programme for reform or the indication of planning for the coming year. The result-based budgeting was not discussed.
There was an immediate need to revitalize the work of the United Nations in the field of the environment and human settlement, he continued. But, New Zealand saw a major problem with the "architecture" of international environment and sustainable development agencies. There seemed to be a serious disjunction between the policy directions agreed at the highest international level and the subsequent implementation of activities important for sustainable development. Part of the problem was due to insufficient communication and cooperation among the governing bodies of different agencies and organizations. The recommendations contained in the report of the Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements would help to refocus the activities of UNEP and Habitat to allow greater coherence in establishing policy settings and implementing them.
New Zealand strongly supported the recommendations on inter-agency linkages, as they would help to stop duplication between the United Nations and other agencies and make more effective use of resources. He particularly supported recommendations regarding UNEP's support to global and regional conventions, on request, on the basis of its information, monitoring and assessment role. It was important to avoid further dispersal of convention secretariats and the resulting inefficiencies and costs. His delegation also wanted to make particular mention of the recommendation that governments make additional efforts to achieve consistency in national positions across the various intergovernmental forums.
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ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that the United Nations he wished to see established would demand the introduction of bolder reforms. More measures to modernize and democratize its working methods were needed to restore the Organization's dual calling. That calling included the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of international cooperation for development.
As stated by the Non-Aligned Movement and the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, it was essential that continued reform of the Organization be part of a transparent intergovernmental process open to all, he said. Any honest evaluation of the working group's efforts showed that it did not encourage adequate consideration of the reform file and take into account the views of all States. Therefore, Algeria favoured the establishment of an ad-hoc working group, chaired by the Assembly President, which would provide a framework with the necessary coherence for discussion. The group could decide which questions it would take up directly and which would be taken up by other committees. The exercise would also have no imposed time limit. Lastly, it would avoid any duplication between its meeting on reform and the meeting of the Assembly.
The Secretary-General's report on environment and human settlements helped to enrich his agenda for reform, he said. The Task Force had submitted recommendations of substance and scope in a short period of time. Their recommendations were important and contained aspects that required some further clarification. The Millennium Assembly should crystallize the aspirations of the entire membership. It would be a good idea to hear Member States view's on the matter. Also, preparations should be dealt with appropriately at the intergovernmental level. In that regard, Algeria favoured the establishment of a separate working group, chaired by the Assembly President, to consider the modalities for the Millennium Assembly. It would have a clear timetable and might later become the preparatory committee.
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General Assembly Plenary Press Release GA/9515 70th Meeting (AM) 25 November 1998
Vote on South Atlantic Zone of Peace
The draft (document A/53/L.41) was adopted by a recorded vote of 126 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention, as follows:
In favour: Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia
Abstaining: United States
Absent: Afghanistan, Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Croatia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mongolia, Mozambique, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe
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