GENERAL ASSEMBLY DECIDES TO CONVENE SEPTEMBER 2001 SPECIAL SESSION TO REVIEW ACHIEVEMENT OF 1990 WORLD SUMMIT FOR CHILDREN GOALS

7 December 1999
GA/9678

GENERAL ASSEMBLY DECIDES TO CONVENE SEPTEMBER 2001 SPECIAL SESSION TO REVIEW ACHIEVEMENT OF 1990 WORLD SUMMIT FOR CHILDREN GOALS

7 December 1999


Press Release
GA/9678


GENERAL ASSEMBLY DECIDES TO CONVENE SEPTEMBER 2001 SPECIAL SESSION TO REVIEW ACHIEVEMENT OF 1990 WORLD SUMMIT FOR CHILDREN GOALS

19991207

Also Discusses Return, Restitution of Cultural Property; United Nations Cooperation with Organization of African Unity

The General Assembly this morning decided to convene a special session in September 2001 to review the achievement of the goals of the 1990 World Summit for Children at the highest possible level and to invite heads of State and government to participate in it.

The Assembly, acting without a vote on a resolution, the special session also decided to establish an open-ended preparatory committee, also open to States members of the specialized agencies, to address organizational issues and to prepare for the outcome of the special session. The Assembly requested the committee to convene one organizational session from 30 May to 2 June 2000, and to propose to the Assembly its requirements for further meetings in 2001.

The representative of Pakistan, introducing the draft resolution, said eliminating the disparities in the quality of life for children in different regions of the world was a major challenge. There had also been limited progress in reaching such goals as better nutrition, reduced maternal mortality, and basic education. Most countries were hampered by a lack of resources. However, while the close link between the issues of children and development had become apparent, it had also facilitated a new understanding of the plight of children, and prepared ground for new partnerships between governments, non- governmental organizations and international agencies.

Norway's representative said it was the time to analyse the past decade for lessons learned and best practices, as well as for renewing and deepening commitments to realizing the goals of the Children's Summit. The special session in 2001 should not just be a time for looking back. It was even more important to look ahead. "We must develop strategies which facilitate full achievement of the existing goals, as well as attainment of new goals within priority areas", he said.

Also this morning, the Assembly considered the issue of the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin. It decided to defer action, however, on a related draft resolution.

Introducing the draft resolution, Greece's representative said raising public awareness was essential for combating the illicit traffic in cultural

General Assembly Plenary -1a - Press Release GA/9678 72nd Meeting (AM) 7 December 1999

property. Cultural objects were a treasure to be freely cherished and enjoyed by all nations. However, future generations, anywhere in the world, needed to be given the opportunity to see their cultural heritage exhibited in its own birthplace, in a way that was respectful of its origin.

Addressing that issue, the President of the Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), said the time was opportune for reconciliation and healing in Africa. However, such an act of mutual affirmation would never be complete unless the continent’s cultural objects were returned to their rightful owners. Africans were also not pleased that those stolen treasures adorned public museums, libraries, art galleries and private homes in foreign lands. They must be returned, to assuage the pain and anger of future African generations.

The Assembly also took up this morning cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Algeria's representative, introducing a related draft text, expressed concern at the lack of enthusiasm over effective support for peace efforts in Africa. The last resolution on the Democratic Republic of the Congo seemed to reveal the indifference of the Security Council towards Africa. Underscoring that the humanitarian situation in Africa remained chronically unstable, he said that one of the constraints of humanitarian action in Africa was insufficient resources. The continent had received only 40 per cent of the $796 million that had been requested of the global community.

Statements on the return of cultural property were also made this morning by the representatives of Croatia, Ukraine, Cyprus, Libya, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cambodia and Iraq. The representatives of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Russian Federation, United States and Costa Rica spoke on the Children's Summit special session. Finland (on behalf of the European Union) spoke on United Nations cooperation with the OAU.

The Assembly President informed members this morning that the Assembly would take up the second report of the Credentials Committee on Thursday, 9 December, in the morning. The reports of the Sixth Committee (Legal) would also be taken up on the same day, in the afternoon.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 8 December, to continue its consideration of the cooperation between the United Nations and the OAU. It will also begin its consideration of the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, the situation in Central America and the causes of conflict in Africa.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to begin its consideration of the following issues: Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin; follow-up to the World Summit for Children; cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU); strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance; and the situation in Central America.

Return or Restitution of Cultural Property

The Assembly had before it the report of the Secretary-General, which transmits the report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the topic (document A/54/436). It highlights the achievements made by the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in the Case of Illicit Appropriation since its ninth session, held in September 1996, and its tenth session in January 1999. At the tenth session, the request concerning the Parthenon marbles (Greece/United Kingdom) currently in the possession of the British Museum, and the attempt to reach an agreement concerning the sphinx of Boguskoy (Turkey/Germany) currently in a museum in Berlin, were considered. The Government of Namibia also informed the Committee of its intention to intensify negotiations with the German Government for the return of a limestone cross currently in the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

During the same meeting, Member States decided to establish an international fund financed by voluntary contributions from States and private institutions to finance training and education projects. In addition, the question of the return of cultural property displaced during and after the Second World War, and the issue of the illicit traffic of cultural objects from Iraq were considered. The issue of the illicit traffic in the north of Cyprus and cultural property in the occupied regions of Azerbaijan and Afghanistan were also raised.

According to the report, the Committee is in favour of the adoption of an International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property to combat the illicit traffic in such items. Moreover, in order to disseminate information relating to artwork stolen from private institutions, the Interpol General Secretariat is now developing a CD-ROM which would be available by the end of 1999. The report also states that the "Object-ID" international standard intended to simplify and rationalize the description of art objects and antiques with a view to facilitating their recovery in case of theft, constitutes a remarkable contribution to efforts to fight illicit traffic in cultural property. The report also contains an appendix with the recommendations adopted by the Committee.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property (document A/54/L.47) the Assembly would call upon relevant bodies, agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system and other relevant intergovernmental organizations to work in coordination with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), within their mandates and in cooperation with Member States, in order to continue to address the issue of return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin, and to provide appropriate support accordingly. It would also ask the Secretary-General, in collaboration with UNESCO, to continue to develop all possibilities for bringing about the attainment of the objectives of the present resolution and to consider any further initiatives aiming at its implementation.

Follow-up to World Summit for Children

The Assembly had before it a 103-Power draft on a special session of the General Assembly in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children (document A/54/L.51) by which it would decide to continue such a session in September 2001. The Assembly would stress the importance of full participation of the least developed countries in the special session and its preparations, and would invite governments to make appropriate contributions to a trust fund to be established by the Secretary-General. It would also decide to establish an open-ended preparatory committee and, further, would strongly encourage full and effective participation of Member States and would invite the heads of State or government to consider assigning personal representatives to the committee.

Cooperation between United Nations and OAU

The Assembly also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the cooperation with the OAU (document A/54/484) which states that since 1997 the two organizations have expanded and strengthened the framework for cooperation by establishing a regular pattern of information exchange and mutual briefings on key African questions. Also, in 1998, it was decided to hold biennial consultations at the highest level to decide details of the programme that would be implemented during the following two years. The OAU liaison office, established in Addis Ababa in 1998, is responsible for coordinating programme implementation and the Secretariat is currently reviewing the office’s capacity to equip it to meet the increasing challenges of several peace processes in Africa.

The report outlines cooperation in peace and security undertaken by the Organization’s different departments, including the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It also details cooperation in socio-economic development undertaken by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNESCO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), among other United Nations organizations. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) are also engaged in cooperative activities with the OAU.

By terms of a draft resolution on Cooperation between the United Nations and the OAU (document A/54/L.38), sponsored by Algeria, the Assembly would stress that the gravity of the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons and of host countries in Africa requires urgent and increased international assistance. Further, it would emphasize the urgent need to effectively implement the recommendations arising from the mid-term review of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s.

By other terms, the Assembly would urge the United Nations to encourage donor countries, in consultation with the OAU, to provide adequate funding and training for African countries in their efforts to enhance their peacekeeping capabilities to enable those countries to actively participate in peacekeeping operations within the Organization’s framework. It would also urge the Secretary-General, Member States, regional and international organizations, in particular the United Nations system, to support the strengthening of the African Economic Community.

The Assembly would encourage the Organization, through the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, to assist the OAU and its special committee on children and armed conflict in their efforts to ensure the protection and welfare of children affected by conflicts in Africa.

It would also call upon all Member States, regional and international organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations to provide appropriate assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as to the African host countries, and to ensure the security and neutrality of refugee camps and settlements. Further, it would call upon the United Nations organs, particularly the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council to enhance the OAU's involvement in all their activities concerning Africa. It would invite the Organization to intensify assistance to the OAU in strengthening the institutional and operational capacity of its Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution in Africa.

Special Economic Assistance

The Assembly had before it a 36-Power draft resolution on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/54/L.54) by whose terms it would call upon the relevant organizations of the United Nations system, other relevant international organizations, governments and non-governmental organizations to cooperate with the Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator to ensure timely implementation of and follow-up to the agreed conclusions 1999/1 which were adopted at the second humanitarian affairs segment of the Economic and Social Council held during its substantive session of 1999.

The Assembly would also emphasize the importance of discussion of humanitarian policies and activities in the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. It would invite the latter to continue to consider ways to further enhance the humanitarian affairs segment of future sessions of the Council. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to submit to it, early in the year 2000, concrete proposals on how to enhance the functioning and utilization of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund, including as necessary, amendments to its terms of reference.

By the terms of a 30-Power draft resolution on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and rehabilitation in Tajikistan (document A/54/L.49), the Assembly would welcome the efforts aimed at achieving peace and national reconciliation in Tajikistan. It would encourage the parties to ensure the full implementation of the General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord, and would also encourage the Commission on National Reconciliation to continue efforts, particularly those aimed at the institution of broad dialogue among the various political forces in the country in the interests of restoration and strengthening of civil accord in the country. It would also recognize that comprehensive international support is still essential in ensuring that Tajikistan continue on the path to peace and national reconciliation.

The Assembly would encourage Member States and others concerned to continue assistance to alleviate the urgent humanitarian needs of Tajikistan and to offer support to that country for its rehabilitation and reconstruction. It would call upon the Secretary-General to re-evaluate in 2000, all the humanitarian assistance activities in order to address longer-term developmental needs. It would urge the parties to ensure security and freedom of movement of humanitarian personnel, and the United Nations and its associated personnel, as well as the safety and security of their premises, equipment and supplies. The Secretary-General would also be asked to continue to give special attention, in the dialogue with the multilateral lending institutions, to the humanitarian implications of their adjustment programmes in Tajikistan.

By the terms of a draft sponsored by India and Cameroon on special assistance for the economic recovery and reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/54/L.53), the Assembly would call for the full implementation of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by all its signatories. It would also call upon all parties concerned in the region to create the conditions necessary for the speedy and peaceful resolution of the crisis and urges all parties to engage in a process of political dialogue and negotiation without delay.

The Assembly would encourage the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to pursue sound macroeconomic policies and to promote good governance and the rule of law and would urge the Government and the people of that country to exert all efforts for economic recovery and reconstruction, despite the ongoing armed conflict. It would renew its invitation to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with the United Nations system and other organizations in addressing the need for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The Assembly would also reaffirm the need for respect for the provisions of international humanitarian law, in particular the safety of humanitarian personnel, and safe and unhindered access to all affected populations. It would renew its urgent appeal to the executive boards of the United Nations funds and programmes to continue to keep under consideration the special needs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Assembly would also invite governments to continue providing support to that country and to respond, in a timely manner, to the United Nations consolidated appeal for the Great Lakes region for the year 2000.

By the text, the Assembly would also ask the Secretary-General: to continue to consult urgently with regional leaders, in coordination with the Secretary-General of the OAU, about ways to bring about a peaceful and durable solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; to continue to consult with the regional leaders in coordination with the Secretary-General of the OAU in order to convene, when appropriate, an international conference on peace, security and development in the Great Lakes region to address the problems of the region in a comprehensive manner; and to keep under review the economic situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to promote the participation in and support for a programme of financial and material assistance to that country.

By the terms of a draft resolution on assistance for the reconstruction and development of Djibouti (document A/54/L.56), the Assembly would declare its solidarity with the Government and people of Djibouti, who continue to face the critical challenges due to scarcity of natural resources, harsh climactic conditions and the continuing critical situation in the Horn of Africa. It would note with concern the cyclical drought phenomenon in the country, including the current severe drought that is causing a major humanitarian disaster to tens of thousands of people, and would request the international community to respond urgently to the appeal launched by the Government of the country. The Assembly would encourage that Government to continue its serious efforts towards the consolidation of democracy.

By further terms of the text, the Assembly would consider that the process of demobilization, reintegration and employment of demobilized soldiers is essential not only for national rehabilitation but also for the success of agreements with international financial institutions and for the consolidation of peace, and that it requires substantial resources that exceed the capacity of the country. It would also ask the Secretary-General to continue, in close cooperation with the Government of Djibouti, his efforts to mobilize resources for an effective programme of financial, technical and material assistance to Djibouti.

The text is sponsored by Algeria, Angola, Djibouti, France, India, Italy, Morocco, Namibia and Sudan.

By the terms of a 20-Power draft resolution on assistance for humanitarian relief and the economic and social rehabilitation of Somalia (document A/54/L.57), the Assembly would emphasize the principle that the Somali people have the primary responsibility for their own development and for the sustainability of rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance programmes. It would reaffirm the importance it attaches to the creation of workable arrangements for collaboration between the United Nations system and its partner organization with their Somali counterparts for the effective execution of rehabilitation and development activities in those parts of the country where peace and security prevail.

The Assembly would urge all States and intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations concerned to continue the further implementation of its resolution 47/160 in order to assist the Somali people in embarking on the rehabilitation of basic socio-economic services, as well as institution-building aimed at the restoration of civil administration at the local level in all those parts of the country where peace and security prevail. It would appeal to all the Somali parties concerned to seek peaceful means for resolving differences and to redouble their efforts to achieve national reconciliation that allows for transition from relief to reconstruction and development.

Further, the Assembly would call upon all parties in Somalia to fully respect the security and safety of personnel of the United Nations and its specialized agencies and of non-governmental organizations, and to guarantee their complete freedom of movement throughout the country. The Assembly would also call upon the Secretary-General to continue to mobilize international humanitarian, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance for Somalia. It would also call upon the international community to provide continued and increased assistance in response to the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance for Somali covering the period from October 1999 to December 2000.

By the terms of a 35-Power text on international cooperation to mitigate the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster (A/54/L.22/Rev.1), the Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to continue his efforts in the implementation of the relevant Assembly resolutions and, through existing coordination mechanisms, in particular the United Nations Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl, to continue to maintain close cooperation with the Organization's agency, as well as with regional and other relevant organizations, in order to encourage the regular exchange of information, cooperation and coordination of multilateral and bilateral efforts in those areas, while implementing programmes and specific projects, in the framework of relevant agreements and arrangements.

The Assembly would invite States, particularly donors, relevant multilateral financial institutions and other concerned parties of the international community, including non-governmental organizations, to continue to provide support to the ongoing efforts made by Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine to mitigate the consequences of the disaster and to pay special attention to the United Nations Appeal for International Cooperation on Chernobyl, launched in April this year. It would emphasize the importance of full cooperation and assistance by the authorities of the affected countries in facilitating the work of humanitarian organizations to mitigate the humanitarian consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe.

By the text, the Assembly would urge the United Nations Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl to continue his efforts aimed at strengthening international cooperation to overcome the health, social, economic, and ecological consequences of the disaster in the most affected areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, based on the inter-agency programme of international assistance to areas affected by the catastrophe. It would also call upon the Secretary-General to continue the regular exchange of information with the countries concerned, relevant organizations and bodies of the United Nations system in order to enhance world public awareness of the consequences of such disasters.

By the terms of a 61-Power draft resolution on participation of volunteers, "White Helmets", in United Nations activities in the field of humanitarian relief (document A/54/L.34/Rev.1), the Assembly would encourage voluntary national and regional actions aimed at making available to the United Nations system, national volunteers corps such as the White Helmets on a stand-by basis, in order to provide specialized human and technical resources for emergency relief and rehabilitation. The Assembly would call upon Member States to promote the facilitation of cooperative actions between the United Nations system and civil society, through national volunteer corps, in order to strengthen the Organization’s capacities for early and effective response to humanitarian agencies. It would also invite them to make commensurate financial resources available through the special financing window of the Special Voluntary Fund of the United Nations Volunteers.

The Assembly would encourage Member States to identify and support their respective national focal points for the White Helmets in order to continue providing the United Nations system with an accessible global network of rapid response facilities in the case of humanitarian emergencies. It would invite Member States, international financial institutions, regional organizations and the United Nations system to consider ways and means to ensure the integration of the White Helmets initiative into their programme activities, particularly those related to humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. It would also invite the Secretary-General to further consider the potential use of White Helmets as a resource for preventing and mitigating the effects of emergencies and post-conflict humanitarian emergencies and, in this context, to maintain an adequate structure for the White Helmets liaison functions.

By the terms of a draft resolution on the United Nations Unification Mission in Guatemala (A/54/L.27), the Assembly would encourage the parties and all sectors of Guatemalan society to continue efforts to achieve the goals of the peace agreements, in particular the observance of human rights including the rights of indigenous peoples, equitable development, participation and national reconciliation. It would also stress the role of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA)as a key instrument in the consolidation of peace, promotion of the observance of human rights and building confidence in the implementation of the peace agreements. It would decide to authorize the renewal of the mandate of the Mission from 1 January to 31 December 2000.

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

According to the report of the Fifth Committee (A/54/651), the Committee considered the statement by the Secretary-General on the programme budget implications of the draft resolution on the Guatemala Mission. It decided to inform the General Assembly that, should it adopt the draft resolution, the requirements of $27,694,300 will be charged against the provision of $90,387,200 for special political missions.

Statements on Cultural Property

THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, said the time was opportune for reconciliation and healing in Africa. However, such an act of mutual affirmation would never be complete unless the continent’s sacred relics, icons, artworks and other priceless cultural objects were returned to their rightful owners. Also, Africans were not pleased that those stolen treasures adorned public museums, libraries, art galleries and private homes in foreign lands. They must be returned, to assuage the pain and anger of future African generations.

He stated that the return of priceless African art and icons was equally applicable to the cultural treasures that had been illegally exported from other countries throughout the centuries. The lapse of time did not diminish ownership or the need for restitution. The UNESCO report, which described activities to that end, was testimony to worldwide efforts to accomplish the return of those objects. Further, it cited measures under way to establish a code of ethics for dealers, among other recommendations. He endorsed those efforts, as the cultural objects of a people formed an integral part of defining their identity, personality and expression.

ELIAS GOUNARIS (Greece) introduced the draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (document A/54/L.47). He said raising public awareness was essential for combating the illicit traffic in cultural property. The document under consideration contained, in full compliance with existing working methods of the United Nations, a new element: the electronic transmission of information concerning stolen cultural property and the linking of existing databases and identification systems on the issue.

Cultural objects were a treasure to be freely cherished and enjoyed by all nations, he continued. However, future generations, anywhere in the world, needed to fully appraise and value their cultural heritage, and be given the opportunity to see it exhibited at its own birthplace, in a way that was respectful of its origin. Therefore, the continuous cooperation between Member States, the transparency of information and the open exchange of views between parties concerned, were all essential elements in addressing and, he hoped, achieving a satisfactory solution to the issue. He added that the Marshall Islands, China, Peru and Algeria had become co-sponsors of the text.

IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said that throughout history his country had repeatedly fallen victim to appropriation of its cultural property. That was why, shortly after independence, it had acceded to international instruments for the protection of historical monuments and cultural heritage, such as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. That, however, had not protected it from wanton destruction and pillage of its monuments and cultural artifacts. According to independent reports, more cultural artifacts had been destroyed in the first seven months of the Croatia war than during the entire duration of the Second World War in the former Yugoslavia. He said that Croatia was particularly sensitive to the issues of return of cultural property taken away from Vukovar and the Dubrovnik area.

Despite his country’s bitter experience, there had been some progress in preventing the appropriation of cultural property. A series of important international norms had been adopted, though it was clear that in both national and international armed conflicts, adherence to and implementation of the Hague Convention were either partial or impossible. In response to that situation, a diplomatic conference was convened to adopt the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention. Croatia welcomed the Second Protocol as an important development, and was one of the 20 signatories involved in revising the Hague Convention during meetings convened by UNESCO. The Second Protocol further improved the protective powers of the Convention.

He said Croatia also supported the initiative which encouraged Member States to draw up systematic inventories of their cultural property, in cooperation with UNESCO. The possible adoption of an international professional code of ethics for dealers in cultural objects would be conducive to regulating the illicit, yet lucrative, passage of cultural property into private collections. The onus was on the international community to show real commitment that would enable Member States to ensure that the threat of extinction of their cultural heritage did not become a reality.

VOLODYMYR KROKHMAL (Ukraine) said he attached significance to the issue, as numerous valuable pieces of his country’s cultural property had been removed from its territory, dispersed throughout the world and were now inaccessible to it. Development of statehood, spiritual revival, increased historical and national self-consciousness urgently required that access. Therefore, Ukraine was ready to start an open and constructive dialogue with all interested parties and was prepared to address each case appropriately.

A solution could only be found on the basis of international law, he continued. It was necessary to bring restitution in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions. He believed that there was a need to establish, under UNESCO, a special fund for promoting the restitution of cultural heritage. That organization could also contribute to establishing an international cultural order to facilitate dialogue between nations. His Government had proposed that an international year of preservation, protection and restitution of cultural heritage be proclaimed. That would present a unique opportunity to reaffirm commitment to cooperation and achieve progress in the area.

SOTOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) said the entry into force of the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects was welcome. Regarding the question of the Parthenon Marbles, he said they constituted a special case in the issue of restitution of cultural property to countries of origin. They were an integral part of one of the major monuments of civilization that had survived for more than two and a half millennia. Efforts for their return to Greece should therefore be intensified.

Combating illicit trafficking in cultural property was a task that required perseverance and multifaceted efforts. One of the major areas in that direction was the exchange of information and the compiling of inventories. Another area of cooperation which had to be extended was that of collaboration between police forces, museum staff and customs officers. Moreover, Cyprus welcomed the adoption, on a national level, of several codes of ethics relating to the acquisition of property.

Many artifacts from Cyprus had become objects of illicit traffic, especially those removed illegally from the territory of the island currently outside the Government’s control. The plundering of the cultural heritage of Cyprus had been so widespread that it had led to a decision by the United States last April to impose an emergency import restriction on Byzantine ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material from Cyprus, unless such material was accompanied by an export permit issued by the Government of Cyprus.

GUMA IBRAHIM AMER (Libya) said the issue of cultural property was an important priority to many States because they were part of a people's history, a symbol of its traditions and civilizations, and was therefore of great importance. For five centuries, Libya's cultural property had been stolen by various groups. Colonialism had also opened the way for that orchestrated campaign of theft. Hundreds of pottery pieces, gold and bronze coins as well as many other artifacts had been stolen over the years.

He commended the efforts and achievements of UNESCO in raising awareness of the issue and assisting States in the return of artifacts. However, progress in that field had been limited, despite the fact that attempts to get such artifacts returned to their countries of origin had started 25 years ago. The States that now possessed those artifacts had not made serious efforts to implement the relevant Hague Convention. That revealed the true intentions of those who claimed to be leaders of modern civilization. Their thoughts still belonged to a time that encouraged the theft of other nations' property.

He concluded by saying that Libya was determined to retrieve all its works of art, artifacts and jewellery, and in that regard had signed an agreement with Italy, which had agreed to return the famous Venus Virgin to Libya, to conduct a survey to find out which Libyan artifacts were in Italy, and to start returning them. Libya valued that positive response from the Italian Government, and hoped other States would follow suit: the acquisition of other States' cultural property was stealing, and could never be acceptable.

KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said preservation of cultural property was the fundamental right of every nation. Such property was a national treasure. However, many developing countries under colonial rule had lost numerous cultural items as a result of looting and destruction by colonial Powers, and now faced serious problems in determining the evolution of national traditions and the systemic development of national cultures. His country, which was under Japanese rule in the early twentieth century, was no exception. Nevertheless, great efforts had been made by developing countries to regain their national cultural property.

The question of preservation and protection of cultural property had only recently become a subject of discussion for the international community, he said. It was commendable that the United Nations, UNESCO and other relevant organizations had striven to facilitate the return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin. It was also an inescapable international obligation of those countries that plundered and destroyed other nations' cultural properties in the past to return or restitute such items. However, resolutions regarding return or restitution, adopted by the Assembly on many occasions, were far from being implemented satisfactorily. That was because certain countries deliberately continued to turn their faces away from the return of illicitly plundered cultural articles to countries of origin.

Japan, he said, had neither returned nor restored the numerous cultural items of his country that it pillaged and destroyed in the past. Worse still, it even refused to recognize its responsibility for its past wrongdoings. Countries like that should demonstrate their will to return or restore cultural property in conformity with the will and demand of the international community.

OUCH BORITH (Cambodia) said plundering and illicit trafficking of art works had been a grave problem of the twentieth century, particularly for his country and others that had an ancient civilization. Earlier this year, more than 100 Khmer sculptures dating back to the twelfth century had been stolen from one of his country’s principal temples. The archaeological site of Angkor that extended for some 200 square kilometres had been one of the areas most affected by consistent plundering. That tendency had been encouraged by the fact that demand remained high, and collectors were willing to pay very large sums for rare items. To combat the practice of pillaging, many measures had been taken, including regulatory measures and cooperation with INTERPOL.

He stated that every people had its cultural, national and historical identity. Illicit plundering and systematic trafficking were detrimental both to the victims and to universal culture and civilization, since they could result in historical falsification. Cambodia fully intended to recover its stolen cultural property, and supported UNESCO’s efforts to achieve that goal. He appreciated the efforts of other organizations in assisting the restitution and return of his country’s cultural property. In 1996, a dealer in London had officially restored several pieces of his private collection to the Cambodian Government, and in 1997, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art had returned a head of Siva during a ceremony in Phnom Penh. Also, last November Thai authorities had restored more that 100 objects that belonged to Khmer temples.

MOHAMMED AL-HUMAIMIDI (Iraq) said the importance given to the item under consideration reflected the recognition by the international community of its duty to restore cultural property to countries of origin. Removing cultural property from its original locations deprived countries of origin of their humanitarian and cultural heritage, while the return or restitution of artifacts, works of art and other treasures would redress the balance.

He said Iraq’s cultural role of Iraq had endured over the years; the country was a depository of the treasures of civilization. For that reason, Iraq had become the first victim of thievery. Many foreign museums were packed with Iraqi treasures and art works. Moreover, the bombardments of Iraq had led to partial or total destruction of many cultural landmarks. Bombs had damaged many archaeological sites. In addition to that, sanctions and external interference had led to the smuggling of many artifacts. That constituted a crime against human heritage.

Many states had refused to return Iraqi art works, he said. The international community should therefore focus on forcing the return of stolen antiquities. The efforts of UNESCO to raise public awareness of the problem were welcome. Moreover, it was important to provide technical assistance to countries that were victims of the illicit traffic in cultural objects.

Action on Draft

The President of the General-Assembly informed Member States that, at the request of the sponsors, action on draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin would be taken up at a later date to be announced.

Follow-up to World Summit for Children

INAM-UL-HAQUE (Pakistan), introducing draft resolution A/54/L.51, said the 1990 World Summit for Children had brought issues relating to children to the forefront of human consciousness, and its Plan of Action had stipulated that its goals should be achieved by 2000. Progress had been made, but much remained to be done. One of the major challenges was a need to eliminate significant disparities in the conditions and quality of life of children in different regions of the world. The pace had been painfully slow in some regions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which accounted for three quarters of all under-five deaths. There had also been limited progress in reading goals such as better nutrition, reduced maternal mortality, and basic education, particularly for the girl child.

Most countries had made efforts to reach those targets, he stated, but were hampered by a lack of resources. The close link between the issues of children and development had become apparent during the decade. The heavy debt burden of developing countries had also been a factor, and without its alleviation there was little likelihood that national policies could be fully implemented or that the Summit’s goals could be reached in the near future. However, it had also facilitated new understanding of the plight of children, and prepared ground for new partnerships between governments, non-governmental organizations and international agencies on the issue. The draft resolution emphasized the need for renewed commitment to agreed targets, and set the agenda and time frame for future action for children’s welfare.

He added that, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Brazil, Eritrea, Gabon, India, Israel, Madagascar, Monaco, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates had joined as co-sponsors. The United States, included in the original list, was not a co-sponsor of the draft.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said his country was implementing the objectives of its national plan of action for children, adopted in July 1991. That plan targeted health, economy, water, sanitation and legal questions, thus linking Senegal’s efforts to UNICEF’s campaign to establish programmes and projects involving children, youth and women. Child and youth cultural programmes had been established as well as libraries, Koranic schools, and advocacy and support programmes for non-governmental organizations working for children. Senegal’s national plan had also achieved an 80 per cent increase in vaccine coverage, a 95 per cent reduction in the measles mortality rate, the elimination of vitamin deficiency; and programmes to combat diarrhea by oral rehydration. An increase in school attendance from 58 to 60 per cent for boys and to 42 per cent for girls was one of many achievements of Senegal’s national plan. The country also considered the reduction of infant mortality to be an absolute priority, and supported UNICEF in its efforts to reduce the impact of armed conflict on children.

He warned that the 1990s had been difficult for developing countries, especially African countries, which had endured the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. They had also encountered obstacles to gaining access for their exports on the world market, and suffered the effects of numerous armed conflicts, leading to an increase in humanitarian crises. Although the main responsibility for overcoming those problems lay with national governments, he stressed the important and irreplaceable role of the United Nations and the international community in mobilizing resources to support the efforts of poor countries.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said national experience should guide international actions. For that reason, he proposed to review some steps taken by his country to help children. Alongside signing and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Burkina Faso had established a national committee to coordinate all activities for promoting the development of children. Moreover, new crimes against children, in particular regarding female genital mutilation, were now covered by the legal code.

The question of child health was a great concern. The situation had not greatly improved since the Convention on the Rights of the Child; a negative situation partly attributable to malaria and malnutrition. That caused high mortality rates among children. Moreover, the devastating effects of AIDS were a major problem. The Government was trying to combat the spread of AIDS through information, education and communication directed to youth and women.

The increase in the number of schools and rising school attendance, particularly for girls, were welcome. In that context, he said, much had been done to help protect children -- but much remained to be done, particularly in developing countries.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said much had been achieved for children during the last decade. The most noteworthy accomplishment was growing global awareness and acceptance of the fact that they had rights. However, it should be clear that attaining the goals set for the year 2000 would be a very difficult task. The global economic crises, the debt burden of developing countries, decrease in official development assistance (ODA), increase in conflicts and instability, and the spread of HIV/AIDS, were all factors that drained resources away from children. In addition, lack of political will, of necessary capacity, and of coordination among relevant players had been contributing factors.

He said this was the time to analyse the past decade for lessons learned and best practices, and also for renewing and deepening commitments to realizing the goals of the 1995 Copenhagen World Social Summit. While world leaders must again take a stand, they could not do it alone. Civil society, the international community and children must all be willing to work together. He therefore called for renewed commitment to poverty eradication. The special session of the Assembly in 2001, which would review and appraise the achievement of the Summit's goals, should not just be a time for looking back. It was even more important to look ahead. "We must develop strategies which facilitate full achievement of the existing goals as well as attainment of new goals within priority areas."

NIKOLAI V. TCHOULKOV (Russian Federation) said his country had undertaken fundamental changes to protect the rights of children under its new socio- economic realities. That consistent effort, including formulation of a National Plan of Action, had reversed negative trends and reduced child mortality. Decisions of the 1990 World Summit for Children guided the Russian Federation’s activities in the interests of children, so a special Assembly session to review implementation of its recommendations was important. The special session should evaluate progress over the decade, including lessons learned, and analyse factors impeding that progress.

The Russian Federation deeply regretted that the draft presented today was not the result of transparent and open consultations, he said. Moreover, his country’s proposed amendments to the draft and its suggestion that consultations be held on them, was ignored. The amendments were substantive and some related questions, on the holding of two preparatory sessions in 2000 and more meetings in 2001, had not been answered. He would not oppose the adoption of the draft, if the Assembly so desired, but wished to express disappointment that such an important matter was not discussed openly. That was not a good start to the preparatory process, nor to its participatory character.

The PRESIDENT announced that Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania and Syria had joined as co-sponsors of the draft.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on the follow-up to the World Summit for Children (document A/54/L.51) without a vote.

Explanation of Vote after the Vote

Mr. ORTIQUE (United States) said that the World Summit for Children would itself be a valuable opportunity to reinvigorate collective efforts on behalf of the world’s children. Turning to the interpretation of the third preambular paragraph, he said it was nothing more than an indication of the support by many nations for the basic principles underlying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States was joining consensus on that resolution. It would continue to work with other nations to support the rights and the well-being of the world’s children.

EMILIA CASTRO DE BARISH (Costa Rica) urged the parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that had not yet replied to the Secretary-General’s questionnaire concerning the amendment to increase the number of members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child from 10 to 18, to reply as soon as possible. The amendment was adopted without a vote at a meeting on 12 December 1995 of the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention, which indicated that there was consensus for the amendment. In order for the amendment to be adopted, the Secretary-General needed a response from 126 Member States, yet thus far only 64 replies had been received.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria), also speaking on behalf of the OAU, introduced draft resolution A/54/L.38. He said that the cooperation between the United Nations and the OAU transcended traditional intergovernmental collaboration. That cooperation had included conflict prevention and peacekeeping, particularly in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Organization had also been making incessant efforts to deploy military observers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, the two organizations needed to continue joint efforts in the case of Ethiopia and Eritrea. He expressed concern at the lack of enthusiasm for peace efforts undertaken on the African continent. The last resolution on the Democratic Republic of the Congo seemed to reveal the indifference of the Security Council towards Africa and its selective approach to security crisis, invariably to Africa's detriment.

Turning to another dimension of cooperation -– social and economic development –- he said the efforts of Africans in the fight against poverty and for economic recovery had been handicapped by the unfavourable circumstances in which the majority of African countries found themselves. It was paradoxical that in a continent where two people out of five lived in poverty, there were indications that contributions from the international community had been plunging. In Africa, sizeable financial resources, instead of being devoted to development projects, were being paid to alleviate its debt burdens. He noted that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had played a principal role and made Africa a priority in developing its programmes. Consequently, that body must not succumb to ambiguity or preconditions, but must remain the principal organ in the fight against poverty.

The humanitarian situation in Africa remained chronically unstable in parts of the continent, and the constant flow of refugees occupied a significant part of cooperative activities, he stated. The reform process must therefore respect competence of each of the organs involved. One of the constraints of humanitarian action in Africa was insufficient resources. The continent had received only 40 per cent of the $796 million that had been requested of the global community. The situation in Angola, in the Great Lakes region, in Guinea, as well as in other parts of Africa required urgent attention.

MARJATTA RASI (Finland), on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the Security Council's renewed commitment to contribute to conflict resolution in Africa. The Union looked forward to further Council activity in improving its ability to prevent conflicts and to make its responses to conflicts more efficient and effective. While stressing the Council's primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, it was essential that African countries and regional organizations played a leading role in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa. A number of concrete measures had been taken to strengthen African political will, ownership and capacity to focus on the prevention of violent conflicts.

The European Union was ready to assist in building capacities for conflict prevention in Africa, particularly through the OAU and African subregional organizations, she said. It attached great importance to its regular contacts and dialogue with African regional and subregional organizations and worked to enhance its dialogue, with, among others, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Cooperation between the European Union and the Southern African Development Community had continued to progress and a comprehensive dialogue had been established in various areas of cooperation.

She said the Union would contribute towards operational, non-military expenditure to enable the Joint Military Commission to deploy its observers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during a six-month period. A reference amount of 1.2 million euros would be channelled through the OAU. The Union was deeply dismayed by the resumption of civil war in Angola last December, for which the responsibility lay primarily with the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), under the leadership of Jonas Savimbi. The European Union condemned the targeting of civilian populations, including refugees and humanitarian organizations, and reiterated that both sides had an obligation to respect the rights of civilians and to stop using non-combatants in the pursuit of military objectives.

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For information media. Not an official record.