GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON UNIVERSITY FOR PEACE; HEARS INTRODUCTION OF TEXTS RELATED TO SITUATION IN CENTRAL AMERICA

18 November 1999
GA/9660

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON UNIVERSITY FOR PEACE; HEARS INTRODUCTION OF TEXTS RELATED TO SITUATION IN CENTRAL AMERICA

18 November 1999


Press Release
GA/9660


GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON UNIVERSITY FOR PEACE; HEARS INTRODUCTION OF TEXTS RELATED TO SITUATION IN CENTRAL AMERICA

19991118

The General Assembly this morning asked the Secretary-General to consider using the services of the University for Peace in his conflict-resolution and peace-building efforts and invited Member States, intergovernmental bodies, non-governmental organizations and interested individuals to contribute directly to the Trust Fund for Peace or to the budget of the University.

The Assembly took that action without a vote as it adopted a resolution, as orally amended by the representative of Costa Rica, who introduced the draft, by terms of which it also invited Member States to accede to the international Agreement for the Establishment of the University, thereby demonstrating their support for an educational institution devoted to the promotion of a universal culture of peace. Further, Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations were invited to celebrate "One Day in Peace", on 1 January 2000.

The University for Peace was established in December 1980 by Assembly resolution 35/55 to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace and with the aim of promoting, among all human beings, the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. It also aims to stimulate cooperation among people and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress. The University's headquarters are in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The speaker from Bangladesh said the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace adopted by the General Assembly last September (resolution 53/243) could provide useful guidance and substantive input in the elaboration of the future programme and course contents of the University. That document should be included in the existing Master's degree course in human rights and education for peace. He also expressed concern about the University's financial situation and the fact that resource constraints had curtailed its activities.

In other business this morning, the Assembly took up the situation in Central America and the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA). While two related draft resolutions were introduced by the representatives of Colombia and Mexico respectively, action on the texts was postponed to consider the financial implications associated with them.

General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9660 56th Meeting (AM) 18 November 1999

As many speakers this morning acknowledged the solidarity of the international community, the United Nations and other organizations in providing support to Central American countries, the representative of Honduras drew attention to the fact that all those countries now had more pluralistic political regimes. Democracy, the rule of law, sustainable development and human rights were all common features. The support of the United Nations in peacekeeping operations had been critical in fashioning a region of peace, freedom and development, while the various missions were essential for the aspirations of the region, he stressed.

The representative of Guatemala said the presence of MINUGUA had been crucial to the satisfactory development of the peace process, which had achieved remarkable advances. However, as reflected in the resolution before the Assembly, much remained to be done. Some of the significant obligations that were brought into effect in the last three years had not been fulfilled, and other undertakings would not be fulfilled until the year 2000.

Overall, United Nations’ involvement in Central America had been a resounding success and doing without the presence and good offices of the Organization would be unthinkable, he said. The Organization had, at all times, acted without any particular agenda, guided only by the fundamental ethical principles of its Charter. It was, therefore, fitting that it should continue in the region until peace was fully consolidated.

Statements were also made today by the representatives of Finland, Norway, India, Venezuela, Japan, United States, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, Republic of Korea, Argentina and Haiti.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to consider "Assistance in mine action".

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to take up its agenda item on the situation in Central America: procedures for the establishment of a firm and lasting peace and progress in fashioning a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development, as well as its item on the University for Peace. It had before it reports of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central America, the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), and on the University of Peace, as well as related draft resolutions.

Situation in Central America

The report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central America (document A/54/311) reviews progress made in the 1987 Esquipulas agreement, in which the Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua agreed to initiate processes of democratization and national dialogue, bring about ceasefires, and promote free and fair elections. While concentrating on the five signatories, the report also makes reference to Panama and Belize, in accordance with the new Central American agenda and the composition of Central American summit meetings.

The Secretary-General states that, in the presentation of their joint resolution regarding the situation in Central America, the Presidents had reminded the United Nations of the resounding success of the peace process in the twelfth year since Esquipulas, noting the consolidation of more pluralistic and participatory political regimes and the gradual development of a democratic culture and respect for human rights.

The Secretary-General notes that the reconstruction and transformation process following Hurricane Mitch -- the worst natural disaster to strike the region in more than a century -- dominated the regional agenda during the past year. The hurricane had left more than 9,000 dead and affected 7 million people in the region, including 77 per cent of the Honduran population and 19 per cent of Nicaraguans. After assessing the hurricane's impact at an emergency meeting on 9 November 1998 in El Salvador, the Central American Presidents called on the international community to support the efforts of the region.

The Secretary-General states that, in response to a request of the Central American governments submitted to the General Assembly in 1996, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had launched a new programme of subregional cooperation which concentrated on peace, democratic governance, economic and social development and sustainable development of the environment, and also included specific national components.

The Secretary-General observes that the Central American Governments and their peoples continue to advance the cause of lasting peace, human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law, but warns that the difficulties they still faced should not be under-estimated, particularly in reconciling the imperatives of economic growth, stability and equity.

However, the Secretary-General notes with satisfaction the commitment of the Central American governments and the international community to pursue economic growth and sustainable development by building on the foundation of the political and human rights agenda, which is the inheritance of the Esquipulas agreement. He cites the international community's willingness to reduce the crushing weight of external debt significantly and to provide emergency and long-term aid to help create the conditions for reconstruction and sustainable transformation.

By the terms of a draft resolution on the situation in Central America (document A/54/L.24/Rev.1), the Assembly would recognize the need to closely follow the situation in Central America in order to support national and regional efforts to overcome the underlying causes that have led to armed conflicts, avoid setbacks, consolidate peace and democratization in the area, and promote the objectives of the Alliance for Sustainable Development of Central America, especially in the transitional period for overcoming the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch and other natural disasters. It would emphasize the importance of the global frame of reference and the establishment of national and regional development priorities as the basis for promoting the effective, consistent and sustainable progress of the Central American peoples, and for providing international cooperation in accordance with the new circumstances in and outside the region.

While it would welcome the progress achieved in implementing the Guatemala Peace Agreements, the Assembly would call upon all parties to take further measures to implement the commitments in the Agreements, and would urge all sectors of society to combine efforts to consolidate peace. It would ask the Secretary-General, the United Nations and the international community to continue to support and verify in Guatemala the implementation of all the peace agreements signed under United Nations auspices, compliance with which is an essential condition for a firm and lasting peace in that country. The Assembly would call upon the international community, the United Nations and other international organizations to provide generous and effective cooperation, with a view to improving the competence and efficiency of the Central American Integration System in the fulfilment of its mandate.

Further by the text, the Assembly would encourage the Central American governments to continue to carry out their responsibilities by fully implementing the commitments assumed under national, regional and international agreements. It would also ask the Secretary-General to continue to lend his full support to the initiatives and activities of the Central American governments, particularly their efforts to consolidate peace and democracy.

The co-sponsors of the text are Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) (document A/54/355) presents the state of implementation of the third phase (1998 to 2000) of the Agreement on the Implementation, Compliance and Verification Timetable for the Peace Agreements (see document A/51/796-S/1997/114, annex 1). The report also outlines proposals for changes in the structure of the Mission and offers observations on the contribution made by MINUGUA in maintaining the peace process in Guatemala’s political agenda.

The package of agreements, signed by the Government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) in December 1996, includes detailed commitments on political, legislative, social, economic, agrarian, ethnic, military and public security issues that had been consolidated into a comprehensive peace agenda. The first and second phases covered establishment of commissions for reform of the justice and electoral systems, emphasized social and productive investment, public administration reform and the restructuring of public security and national defence, among other initiatives. The third phase covers further developments in the implementation of the outcome of the various commissions, and promotion of broad administrative and legislative reform.

The report notes that in August 1998 the General Assembly had called on the parties to the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and the peace agreement, particularly those contained in the third phase, to fully implement the commitments they had made (see resolution A/53/93). The Assembly had also called on the parties and all sectors of the Guatemalan society to remain committed to those goals, particularly during the electoral period in November 1999.

The Secretary-General says that, in its ninth periodic report on compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and the human rights aspects of the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, MINUGUA had indicated that the positive evolution in the country’s human rights situation had suffered a marked deterioration between July 1997 and December 1998. Serious violations, such as extrajudicial executions, threats and torture, had occurred, as well as an increase of social conflicts due to problems relating to freedom of association and labour issues, and lynching and the phenomenon known as “social cleansing”.

The Secretary-General states that, in accordance with the terms of the Agreement on the Establishment of the Commission to Clarify Past Human Rights Violations and Acts of Violence That Have Caused the Guatemalan Population to Suffer (document A/48/954-S/1994/751), the Commission for Historical Clarification, in February 1998, handed over a report accounting for over 42,000 victims. The Commission also estimated that the number of people who had disappeared or been killed as a result of the fratricidal confrontation reached a total of over 200,000.

Although implementation of the Peace Agreements had suffered difficulties in 1999, the Secretary-General points out that there have been significant achievements in two areas. Regarding the first, the status of women, the Women’s Forum has become the main instrument for the empowerment of women all over the country. The establishment of the Office for the Defence of Indigenous Women in August 1999 also represents a step forward in improving protection of the rights of women, as well as indigenous rights.

The second area, the repatriation programme, brought to a close in June 1999, saw the return of some 43,000 persons since 1984, the Secretary-General states. He further notes that a ceremony held in Mexico in July marked the completion of an important component of the Agreement on Resettlement of the Population Groups Uprooted by the Armed Conflict. The 22,000 refugees who still remain in Mexico have been offered the possibility of naturalization. The socio-economic reintegration of the returnees and the internally displaced population still needed to be accomplished.

The Secretary-General states that a detailed analysis of progress made in implementing the Peace Agreements since the adoption of resolution 53/93 will be presented in his fourth verification report to the Assembly, covering the period July 1998 to August 1999. In view of the slowdown in implementation of the peace agreements, the parties and the Commission to Follow Up the Implementation of the Peace Agreements had agreed to focus efforts on fiscal policy, the agrarian situation, the justice system and constitutional reforms.

The Secretary-General says progress has been made in the areas of fiscal policy and the agrarian situation. Regarding the other areas, in October 1998, the Guatemalan Congress had adopted a package of constitutional reforms that was put to national referendum in May 1999. However, the electorate did not ratify it. That failure, the Secretary-General notes, does not imply the interruption of the implementation process; rather, it creates additional difficulties in important areas like military and justice reform. However, the Government has expressed its determination to continue with the peace process, and many organizations and sectors of civil society have stressed the need to press on with the agenda of democratization.

The Secretary-General states that the Follow-up Commission will draft a detailed timetable for 2000 when the new Government takes office in January 2000. It will also have to decide whether some commitments must be rescheduled beyond that time. With regards to commitments for the third phase, military, judicial, electoral and fiscal reforms that require verification by MINUGUA are still outstanding.

He recommends that the General Assembly authorize the renewal of MINUGUA’s mandate until 31 December 2000.

By a related draft on MINUGUA (document A/54/L.27), the Assembly would authorize the renewal of the mandate of the Mission from 1 January to 31 December 2000.

The Assembly would take note with satisfaction progress made in implementing the peace agreements, in particular, the finalization of the programme for the repatriation of Guatemalan refugees in Mexico, compliance with spending targets included in the agreements, increased deployment of the new National Civil Police, the approval by Congress of the new Land Trust Fund, and the establishment of the Office for the Defence of Indigenous Women.

By other terms, it would note that, while there had been significant achievements in implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights, important shortcomings persist, and it would call on the Government to redouble efforts in promoting human rights, taking into account the recommendations of MINUGUA, and to do its utmost in investigating the murder of Monsignor Juan José Gerardi Conedera.

By other terms, the Assembly would encourage the Government to implement its decision to adopt a new military doctrine and disband the current Presidential Military Staff. It would also encourage the parties and all sectors of Guatemalan society to continue efforts to achieve the goals of the peace agreements. It would welcome the commitment by the presidential candidates of the major political parties to implement the peace agreements, and their support for the extension of the mandate of MINUGUA.

The Assembly would also underscore that key reforms remain outstanding, including the fiscal, judicial, military and electoral reforms, and would stress the critical importance of continued compliance with the peace agreements in 2000.

The draft is co-sponsored by Colombia, Mexico, Norway, Spain, United States and Venezuela.

Also before the Assembly is a report on the University for Peace (document A/54/312), which focuses on the future prospects for the University for Peace and the vigorous actions taken to revitalize the institution by the Secretary- General, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the host Government, Costa Rica, since 1997 and especially in 1999. The University was established in December 1980, pursuant to resolution 35/55 of the General Assembly, to provide an international institution of higher education with the aim of promoting the spirit of understanding, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.

The proposals for reform, the report states, were guided by the conviction that the role of the University for Peace and the need to implement its mandate were stronger than ever. Recent upheavals that had resulted in high human costs had demonstrated the importance of preventing and resolving conflicts. There was an urgent need to develop a “culture of peace” which will reinforce within societies the belief that common values, interests and attitudes were far greater than the differences that bring about conflict.

Peace is not a static concept, the report stresses, particularly when the status quo encourages inequities, injustices and tyranny. Despite unprecedented wealth and opportunity in the world today, these inequities and imbalances continue to deprive the majority of the world’s population of these benefits. Redressing these imbalances and inequities is the prerequisite to sustained and sustainable peace.

It was against such a background that the mission of the University for Peace should be pursued, the report states. The University’s programmes and capacities should be strengthened and extended in order for it to fulfil the purpose of the institution. The report describes the University's constitutional status as unique within the United Nations family because it receives no financing from the United Nations budget. It must, instead, seek financing on a voluntary basis. In addition to the main campus in San José, there is a World Center for Research and Information on Peace in Montevideo, Uruguay, as well as programme representatives in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Chile, Ecuador, Italy and Peru.

The report goes on to outline the steps that have been taken by the Secretary-General, with the support and advice of the UNESCO Director-General and encouragement and support of the Government of Costa Rica, to revitalize and internationalize the University for Peace. These include: a newly reconstituted Council – its governing body -- with entirely new members, which met in Paris on March 29, 1999; and an elected President of the Council, Maurice Strong of Canada, who has assumed the additional responsibility of Rector until a new Rector is appointed. The Council also elected Elizabeth Odio, Vice-President of Costa Rica, as Vice-President of the Council. A second Costa Rican nominee, Ambassador Sonia Picado, was also appointed to the Council.

A thorough review of the University’s existing programmes, capacities and facilities has been initiated by the new administration, in order to develop a new long-term strategy. However, the report states that one of the most serious impediments to the University's ability to fulfil its mission has been the disorderly state of its administrative, personnel and accounting practices and the lack of oversight and accountability. Financial constraints had also resulted in the Council not meeting since 1994, until it finally met in March 1999. In addition, no audited financial statements had been prepared since 1993.

An independent audit to bring the financial statements of the University up to date and an extensive review of all current programmes, relationships and practices have now been commissioned by the new administration. But, the report acknowledges that, despite these measures, it will take some time to fully implement changes which will meet the highest international professional standards.

The report concludes that the University for Peace is a useful vehicle for developing and demonstrating new modes of private/public partnerships which serves and supports the peace and security mission of the United Nations. It further reiterates that the University is the only institution established by the United Nations specifically to undertake work in the area of peace and security. It, therefore, calls on Member States to give the University for Peace the political and financial support it needs to make it an effective institution.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the University for Peace (document A/54/L.30), the Assembly would take note with appreciation of the report of the Secretary-General submitted pursuant to resolution 52/9 of 4 November 1997, on ways of strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and the University for Peace.

The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to consider using the services of the University for Peace in his conflict-resolution, peace-building efforts.

The Assembly would invite Member States, intergovernmental bodies, non- governmental organizations (NGOs) and interested individuals to contribute directly to the Trust Fund for Peace or to the budget of the University; and would also invite Member States to accede to the international Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace, thereby demonstrating their support for an educational institution devoted to the promotion of a universal culture of peace.

The text is sponsored by: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Ireland, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Situation in Central America

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) introduced the draft resolution on the situation in Central America (document A/54/L.24 Rev.1). He said the peace enjoyed today in Central America was the fruit of an arduous process which had reflected the attitudes and feelings of the people of that region. Peace was vital and provided the legitimacy to build a democracy. The time had come to pay tribute to the governments and people of Central America for their efforts to promote lasting peace, human rights, the rule of law and sustainable development.

He said Hurricane Mitch, however, had consequences that imperiled the progress which had been made. Nevertheless, that phenomenon had had a positive impact as regarded the international community, which had reacted in solidarity. He appealed to all actors to avoid the risk of jeopardizing the progress that had been made in Central America. He also stressed that the difficulties encountered by Central American governments must not be underestimated.

ANGEL EDMUNDO ORELLANA MERCADO (Honduras), on behalf of the Central American countries, said sponsorship of the text attested to the solidarity that had always been extended to his region. The people and governments of Central America, assisted by this Organization and others, had established a lasting peace in the region. All the Central American countries now had more pluralistic political regimes. Democracy, the rule of law, sustainable development and human rights were all common features. The support of the United Nations in peacekeeping operations had been critical in fashioning a region of peace, freedom and development. The various missions were essential for the aspirations of the region.

He said the conversion of peacekeeping operations to verification missions attested to efforts to build peace in the region. Civilian power had been expanded and efforts to speed up justice at the civilian level had improved greatly. There had also been significant economic progress, including regional economic cooperative agreements, a number of summits and trade integration. Systematic advances, however, had been threatened by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. In the year since that went, the peoples and governments had devoted great efforts to rebuilding and transforming the region.

GUSTAVO ALBIN (Mexico) introduced the draft resolution entitled "United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala” (document A/54/L.27). He said the following countries had also become co-sponsors of the text: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden and Uruguay . To align the Spanish text with the English version, he made an oral amendment to operative paragraph 9.

He said Guatemala was approaching the new millennium with a new face -- that of a people seeking peace, the establishment of new and better policies and hope for a future of greater prosperity. There was satisfaction with the peace process which was largely the result of the efforts of the people of Guatemala. The Assembly was now faced with a fresh opportunity to ratify its support and solidarity for the peace process in that country. The sponsoring countries, therefore, hoped the text would command unanimous support today.

GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said it was significant that, throughout the campaign leading to the first round of elections held in Guatemala 12 days ago, every political party had expressed full support for the implementation of the Peace Agreements and the continued presence of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA). This was not surprising because MINUGUA had become an integral part of the Peace Agreements.

Although MINUGUA, which had become operational at the end of 1994, had had its problems because of the delicacy and complexity of its mandate, he believed that its work had been conducted in an exemplary manner. Its mandate included verification, the exercise of good offices or facilitation, the provision of advisory services and technical support, as well as public information functions.

The presence of MINUGUA had been crucial to the satisfactory development of the peace process which had achieved remarkable advances, he continued. The transparent and participatory manner in which the general elections whose final outcome would be decided in a run-off on December 26 had been held, was only one of the signs of the strides made in the consolidation of a pluralistic democracy.

However, he added, that much remained to be done and this was reflected in the draft resolution before the General Assembly. Some of the significant obligations that were brought into effect in the last three years had not been fulfilled, and other undertakings would not be fulfilled until the year 2000.

Overall, United Nations’ involvement in Central America had been a resounding success and doing without the presence and good offices of the Organization would be unthinkable, he said. The Organization had, at all times, acted without any particular agenda, guided only by the fundamental ethical principles of its Charter. It was, therefore, fitting that it should continue in the region until peace was fully consolidated. MARJATTA RASI (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta, said the Stockholm Conference held in May had created a solid foundation for cooperation in the countries hit by Hurricane Mitch. The European Union continued to contribute to the efforts of the Central American countries in making the processes of peace and democracy irreversible. It also supported full respect for human rights and basic freedoms, development of the most vulnerable sections of the population, and consolidating regional integration.

Political support had always been complemented by substantial assistance in the humanitarian field, as well as in development and economic cooperation, she said. Throughout the times of war, the European Union had been the principal aid donor to Central American refugees, displaced and repatriated persons. Despite the achievements reached in the field of human rights, there were still many problems, particularly in the functioning of the judicial system, poverty and violence.

She called for a rapid solution to the institutional problems of Nicaragua. Turning to Guatemala, she said progress made in the status of women and repatriation was welcome. However, much remained to be done, particularly in the fields of human rights, equal opportunities for the indigenous population, reform of the judicial system, fiscal and legal reform, and reconciliation based on truth. Moreover, serious law-and-order problems continued to imperil citizens’ security.

Regarding the situation in El Salvador, she said that, despite advances made in the implementation of the 1992 peace agreements, certain obstacles remained, including the rural settlements programme and the problems faced by relatives of deceased combatants who had not appeared in the original 1993 census. She called for further progress regarding the respect, protection, and promotion of human rights.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said transforming the peace agreements in Guatemala into a reality was challenging. In the middle of the year, the attempt to reform the country’s Constitution had run aground. His delegation believed that the people of Guatemala would consider why that important step had not been achieved at that time and trusted that further progress would be made. Norway supported the implementation of the peace agreements in Guatemala and was one of the main contributors to MINUGUA.

He stressed the importance of extending the Mission's mandate to coincide with the implementation of the peace agreements and supported that extension until 31 December 2000. The people and Government of Guatemala were at a crucial stage of the peace process, he noted. He urged the people to stand united behind the necessary changes to achieve the goals of the agreements and to make that a national task, regardless of political or socio-cultural affiliation.

BASUDEB ACHARIA (India) said that his country’s interaction with Central American countries was manifested in many areas, including high technology and information technology. India had received 120 nationals of El Salvador for a nine-month training course on software development.

The consolidation of the democratic process in the region was welcome, he said. However, in his report, the Secretary-General had noted troubling cases of threats to members of the judiciary. Central America was not alone in facing those challenges to democratically elected governments by terrorists and criminals, fomented by external forces. The international community would need to act to ensure effective action against terrorists and criminal elements which sought to destabilize democratically elected governments.

He welcomed the growth of the economies of the Central American region, since economic and social development were essential elements of democracy. In that respect, the international community must support economic growth and development in the region. He expressed his support for the proposals of the Secretary-General that debt relief should not come at the expense of official development assistance (ODA) and that debt repayment by the poorest countries should never take precedence over the fulfilment of human needs. Moreover, an equitable and supportive economic environment was essential for the growth and development of all developing countries, especially the Central American ones. Concluding, he expressed his concern about the proposal to link debt relief and official assistance with urgently needed public spending for poverty alleviation and strengthening of public institutions that aspired to guarantee respect for human rights, democratic governance, transparency, and the rule of law.

CARLOS BIVERO (Venezuela) congratulated the governments of the Central American countries for their continued determination to rebuild their societies, despite the difficulties of continued conflicts, as well as natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch. They deserved the support and admiration of the international community.

Venezuela was inspired by the vision and leadership shown by the Presidents of Central America in achieving compromise and national reconciliation, which had resulted in a peaceful region. He congratulated the United Nations on the leading role that MINUGUA had played in this regard.

He reiterated his country’s commitment to continue to contribute to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the region based on its capacities and capabilities to do so. He noted that after the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch, Venezuela had taken part in the Consultative Group for the reconstruction and transformation of Central America in 1998 in Washington and had made financial contributions to development projects in the affected areas.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) welcomed the presidential election held in Guatemala on 7 November with its high voter turnout. He hoped that the second ballot, scheduled for 26 December, would also be conducted in a fair and peaceful manner. The contribution to peace played by MINUGUA and progress achieved in the democratization process in El Salvador were also welcome.

Peace and democracy could not be fully consolidated unless it was supported by development efforts, he said. Central American countries still faced enormous challenges, such as the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of social justice and respect for human rights. Japan was concerned that the efforts towards democratization, economic liberalization and poverty alleviation had been curtailed in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. Japan had announced in Stockholm in May this year that by the end of 1999 it would disburse $300 million to the four Central American countries affected by the storm to support their reconstruction efforts. Japan had almost fulfilled that pledge.

PHILIP McLEAN (United States) said that, although his country did not see MINUGUA as a permanent mission, it believed that as the implementation of the peace accords was at a crucial juncture and with a new government due to take office in January, it was appropriate to extend the Mission. The MINUGUA had so far played an integral role in encouraging peace and national harmony in Guatemala in accordance with the 1996 Peace Accords. It had also promoted human rights, strengthened the democratic process, and helped give voice to many sectors of Guatemalan society which had previously had none, and it continued to promote positive legislative and administrative reforms.

He said that by extending the mandate to the end of 2000, MINUGUA would be able to work with the new Government in its first crucial year in office in encouraging it to continue the peace process and to fully implement the peace accords. He believed that this would help to solidify the progress MINUGUA and the Guatemalan people had made.

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) stated that the free and open elections that had recently been held in Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama demonstrated the high degree of institutional maturity that had been achieved in the region. Considerable difficulties lay ahead, and a sustained and determined effort was required to ensure success of the peace agreements, particularly in fostering and protecting human rights, equality of opportunities, judicial and fiscal reform, and modernizing agriculture. The first step was the consolidation of peace and ending the culture of violence. He welcomed the initiative of the "Encounter of Peace" held in Guatemala, as well of the work of the Commission of Elucidation of the Historical Past that sought to mobilize public opinion on promoting peace.

International support was necessary for social and economic change, he continued. Improved living conditions for the population was a fundamental pillar for lasting peace and democracy. The devastating impact of last year's hurricane had worsened the economic vulnerability of Central American countries. In a recent joint Declaration, the Presidents of the Central American countries had expressed their resolve to deal with crucial issues like the human rights of migrants, drug trafficking and regional economic integration -- that was indicative of their determination to deal with the challenges ahead.

He noted that Brazil had been participating in efforts to bring peace and prosperity to Central America by providing police units and liaison officers to MINUGUA, as well as being involved in the Mission that was presently undertaking demining in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, among other activities. Also, Brazil’s President had tabled before the country's Congress, a proposal to cancel Nicaragua’s and El Salvador’s sovereign debt to Brazil.

MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) thanked all the men and women of MINUGUA for their valuable work under difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. The Mission continued to play a valuable role in support of the Guatemala peace process, and was an important indicator of the international community’s willingness to support the desire of the Guatemalan people for a just and sustainable peace.

He suggested that, as MINUGUA retained characteristics and components, such as civilian police, which were essentially derived from peacekeeping, it was important for the sake of continuity that a reporting mechanism be established with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The Mission could also draw on the Department’s considerable expertise to ensure that the civilian police were utilized in a way that maximized their contribution to peace in Guatemala.

He said it was also essential that MINUGUA police were given a clearly defined role to assist in human rights verification. As a police contributor to the Mission, Canada wished to ensure that international police were able to offer useful training in such areas as community-based policing and respect for human rights.

Finally, he said that Canada hoped to examine ways in which to improve the administration of MINUGUA in order to ensure that the Mission operated in an efficient and cost-effective manner. In this regard, Canada would like to discuss with other Member States the establishment of the position of Chief Administrator with overall budgetary authority.

ANA MARIA RAMIREZ (Argentina) said the issue of Central America was closely bound to the history of her country. When the conflict that had begun in 1987 had been overcome, the society had embarked on a process of recovery and democracy had been restored. In just a few years, those countries had been able to use the republican system in its successful recovery. Although such a process usually required generations of effort, Central America had demonstrated that wounds could be healed in one generation.

She said that in 1998 the hurricane had destroyed many lives and disrupted the equilibrium of the society. That tragedy had been a heavy blow to the process of recovery and sustainable development. Aid had had to be diverted from that process to deflect the effects of the hurricane. The countries of Central America were still affected by their dependence on commodities, use of subsidies and tariff restrictions. To further aid in their recovery, they hoped that their products would be given direct access to international markets. They also hoped they could benefit from debt-forgiveness programmes.

JORGE PEREZ OTERMIN (Uruguay) said it was 16 years since the issue of Central America had been discussed by the General Assembly. Since then, there had been many political, economic and social changes in the region. While this dynamic transformation was due to the efforts of people and governments of the region, the peacekeeping and verification missions of the United Nations had also played an important role.

As a contributor to peacekeeping missions, Uruguay supported MINUGUA, whose mandate was to ensure full compliance with the Peace Agreements, he continued. His country had been pleased to witness the process of cooperation and integration among the Central American governments. Peace and stability had finally prevailed in the region.

He warned, however, that there could be no peace without development. It was, therefore, important that the international community work with the Central American governments to achieve sustained development.

INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said his country continued to support implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreements, which had since made advances. Spain hoped that the momentum the Agreements had been gaining would continue in the future through the elections and the eventual return of democracy. The MINUGUA was essential to the process, and Spain was proud to be one of the main contributors to that Mission.

On the issue of the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch, he said the conference that had been held last May had established the basis for recovery from that disaster. He urged the Central American countries, as well as the donor nations, to honour their respective commitments to economic recovery and the peace process. Also, Spain had joined in, and shared the efforts of, the European Union to cooperate with the countries of Central America.

LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada) then informed the Assembly that action on the two drafts would be taken at a later date to allow for consideration of the budget implications associated with those texts.

University for Peace

In introducing the resolution on the University for Peace (document A/54/L.30), NURY VARGAS (Costa Rica) said the University had been created in 1980 for the primary purpose of achieving world peace through education. It was guided by the United Nations Charter, as well as by its own constituent Charter.

Peace, education, communication and human rights formed the core of the University’s programmes, she continued, as these were elements that had a direct or indirect impact on peace. The institution also studied such topics as communications, international relations, the quality of life and the environment and their direct or indirect effect on world peace. The University had worked with dedication to develop its programmes and activities in order to fulfil its mandate.

The University had tried to live up to the challenge of devising programmes and activities which disseminated and promoted education as a way of achieving peace in a violent world, she added. She expressed gratitude to the Secretary- General for outlining the varied programmes and activities of the institution and the difficulties it had encountered in their implementation.

She said it was important to address the questions of financial and political support, as well as revitalization of the University, and appreciated the measures that had been taken in order to achieve this. For 19 years, the institution had carried out work in peace settlements, consensus-building, conflict-resolution and the international training of indigenous leaders. Its agreement had been signed by 33 countries and had received financial support from Spain, Italy, Denmark, Canada, Sweden, the Central American governments, Uruguay, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies.

She said that in 1997 the World Center for Research and Information for Peace had been set up in Montevideo. In the new millennium, the Center would devise programmes which would directly relate to the principles of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child whose tenth anniversary had been celebrated recently.

She hoped that the draft resolution before the Assembly would be adopted without a vote as in previous years. She then orally amended preambular paragraph 15 to read, as follows: Considering that by its resolution 52/15 of 20th November 1997, the General Assembly declared the Year 2000 as “International Year for the Culture of Peace”, its initiation should be “One Day in Peace, January 1, 2000”.

She then amended operative paragraph 5 to record, as follows: Invites Member States, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and all the people of the world to celebrate “One day in Peace, January 1, 2000”.

She concluded by stating that the University for Peace was helping the world to achieve peace, unite families and establish brotherhood between populations.

SUH DAE-WON (Republic of Korea) said, despite the unique character of the University for Peace and its noble aspirations, it had experienced reduced activities in the past few years. However, it was presently undergoing revitalization, an accomplishment that was linked to the reform of the Organization.

There must be a new vision to ensure peace, as it could not just be equated with the absence of violence, but must concern the elimination of the root cause of conflicts, he continued. The current programmes of the University had fulfilled the global mission that had been entrusted to it by the United Nations, and he was pleased that prospective programmes had taken a step further to address peace realistically and comprehensively. He concurred with the initiative to appoint as Fellows people of exceptional experience in the area of peace negotiations.

The University would be more successful if it would establish virtual academic networks with other academic institutions, through student exchange programmes, faculties and credits, tele-conferencing and the Internet, he said. It would also be worthwhile to create incentives to channel private contributions for its support.

Ms. RAMIREZ (Argentina) said that there was a need to build a culture of peace based on mankind’s profound convictions, which could replace the culture of violence and war. In that regard, the role of the University for Peace could aid in fostering comprehension, tolerance and peace. Moreover, it could significantly contribute to the international community. She called upon Member States, international organizations and non- governmental organizations (NGOs) to contribute to the Trust Fund for Peace or to the budget of the University. In doing so, States would help the University for Peace to disseminate the values it fostered and to create programmes for the building of peace.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) supported the amendments made by Costa Rica to the draft resolution on the University for Peace. That University could make effective contributions to the cause of peace and well-being of humanity. In that context, he welcomed the change that had been envisaged in the University’s programme by the inclusion of areas such as environment, economic development, democracy and the role of the media. The University should be able to attract people from all over the world and to demonstrate its relevance to individuals, to societies and to nations in different parts of the world.

The United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace adopted by the General Assembly last September, resolution A/53/243, had the potential of providing useful guidance and substantive input to the elaboration of the future programme and course contents of the University. Each of the nine sections of the Programme of Action might constitute an area of study which would provide useful inputs to decision-making and action towards preventing conflicts. The document on the culture of peace should be included in the existing Master's degree course in human rights and education for peace. He then expressed his concern about the University’s financial situation and the fact that resource constraints had curtailed its activities.

AZAD BELFORT (Haiti) said the report had touched on a critical element in the dynamics of the relationships between States. At the heart of the problems of poverty and war was a world governed by narrow realism, and that was always destructive. It was in that context that the University was essential. Haiti was pleased to note the inclusion of courses in the curriculum that incurred spiritual and ethical values that could serve as guidelines in the quest for peace.

The concept of the defence of peace must first be built in the minds of men, he noted. The General Assembly must take measures to make the University a genuine bastion of peace that would ensure the reduction of wars and poverty.

Action on Draft

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution, as orally revised, without a vote.

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For information media. Not an official record.