ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXT ON BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA; TAKES UP SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM19991216
The General Assembly this morning demanded that all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina facilitate the full implementation of all aspects of the New York Declaration, adopted on 15 November -- in particular, the Principles on the Establishment of a State Border Service -- in a timely manner.
[In that Declaration, the joint Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed to important steps for moving forward the process to fully implement the Peace Agreement, including improved military cooperation, steps to improve the functioning of common State institutions, including the creation of a Permanent Secretariat for the Joint Presidency under one roof, the establishment of a joint commission on refugee returns and the creation of a single national passport.]
Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a text on Bosnia and Herzegovina in which it insisted upon the need to surrender all indictees to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for trial. It also demanded that all parties fulfill their obligations to hand over to the Tribunal all indicted persons in territories under their control. The Assembly also stressed the importance of establishing, strengthening and expanding throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, free and pluralistic media. It further deplored any action that sought to intimidate or restrict the freedom of the media and condemned violent acts of intimidation against journalists.
Further by the text, the Assembly stressed the need for a more comprehensive approach to economic reform, which should contribute to a more homogeneous development of the economy and trade in the two entities and across the inter-entity boundary line. It also stressed the importance of establishing an economic programme which should include the creation of a framework for private-sector development, including privatization and improvement of foreign investment conditions, the restructuring of banking and capital markets, the reform of the financial system and adequate social protection.
Following its consideration of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Assembly took up the subject of reform of the Security Council. The President of the Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), said Council reform was without doubt the most ambitious course of action that Member States had embraced and sustained for the past six years. That vision for change and rebirth had been sustained in spite of the vagaries of multilateral negotiations as well as the vexing problem of policy.General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9688 81st Meeting (AM) 16 December 1999
He said some delegations had expressed reservations on holding this meeting of the Assembly. He believed the debate would be useful for everyone. There was much to be gained by providing Member States with another opportunity to debate the issue of Council reform in the Assembly without preconceived prescriptions, conditions or preferences.
India's representative said what was essential for the success of negotiations was investment of political will, which was not yet in evidence in the measure required. "Should we be aspiring to a utopian solution or are we prepared to accept a less than ideal solution that could take into account current global realities and yet provide the Council with the balance and expansion that it so vitally and urgently requires?" he asked.
Libya's representative said the privilege of the veto was often misused to serve the narrow self interests of those who enjoyed its power. The victors of 1945 had given themselves special privileges. The United Nations had changed since then. The majority of today's Member States had not been Members in 1945 and had no say now in what five States had arrogated to themselves. This situation led to one imperative -- the veto must be abolished. There was no sense in reform once that privilege was retained and remained the preserve of a few, he added.
Italy's representative said many fundamental questions on the issue of enlargement of the Council, remained unanswered. Some claimed that there was wide support for expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories. Yet, what was truly meant by expansion in both categories? New fixed or new rotating permanent seats? How many seats would go to each regional group? As Europe became economically and politically more integrated, the idea of a European Union presence in the Council was steadily gaining ground in many quarters. Should not that new reality be accounted for in the reform? he asked.
Statements on Bosnia and Herzegovina were made by the representatives of Slovenia, Egypt, Ukraine and Norway. Statements on the reform of the Security Council were also made by the representatives of Lithuania, Ireland, South Africa, Belgium, Singapore, New Zealand, Algeria, Japan, Argentina and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The Assembly will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council.
Programme of Work
The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It had before it a related draft resolution (document A/54/L.63/Rev.1) and report of the Secretary-General on the fall of Srebrenica (document A/54/549) (for background, see Press Release GA/9687, dated 15 December). It will also begin its consideration of the question of equitable representation on, and increase in the membership of, the Security Council and related matters.
Statements on Bosnia and Herzegovina
SAMUEL ZBOGAR (Slovenia) said the United Nations should ensure that past mistakes in Srebernica and other safe areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not repeated in any part of the world. The international community should intervene when there was imminent danger of a humanitarian catastrophe.
He said Slovenia supported the current peace efforts for Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the creation and functioning of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe, which offered an opportunity for further stabilization and strengthening of peace. It also gave meaning to the notion that Bosnia and Herzegovina was a European country and that practical solutions for its future clearly lay within European integration.
His country also considered demining a particularly pressing problem, and a prerequisite for normalization of life in the country. Successful demining would allow more refugees to return home and restore economic activity there. Slovenia therefore, in March 1998, had set up the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Fund had already established itself as a successful instrument with considerable achievements and potential.
He said that Bosnia and Herzegovinas relations with other successor States of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should be based on the strictest respect for the principle of equality among all five states in order to secure peace and stability in the region. He emphasized the continued interest of the United Nations and the General Assembly in post-conflict peace-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) stated that adoption of the resolution undoubtedly confirmed the role of the Organization, as well as of the Assembly with respect to the crisis in Bosnia. His countrys position on the situation was based on the Accord, which included requirements based on: respect for sovereignty of other States; protection of human rights, including those of refugees and displaced persons; and bringing to justice those persons responsible for war crimes in Bosnia. All parties concerned should therefore cooperate with the Tribunal.
The report had referred to those who had disappeared; that was a dark point in European civilization, he stressed. Also, while recognizing the responsibility of war criminals, the report had clearly indicated that there was also responsibility to be shared among the Security Council, the Western contact group and the Governments that had contributed to the use of force. Flagrant violations of the principles of the Accord had been committed by a number of actors, including by several missions located in the area. Member States and the Secretariat must objectively examine the situation to prevent recurrence of such events.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) called the adoption of the New York Declaration by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Joint Presidency a milestone. If fully implemented, it would substantially promote peace. It would improve military cooperation, including the formation of joint units to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations, and create a single national passport. The implementation of the Final Arbitration on Brcko - a very sensitive issue -- would strengthen unity and become a pilot project for the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He warned, however, that the peace of that country could be in danger unless its economic reconstruction were ensured. To that end, the Sarajevo Stability Pact was of the utmost importance because it provided an opportunity to speed up the economic recovery and overall transformation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ukraine was ready to become involved in the economic programmes that were being carried out. As the Danube riparian State most directly affected by the economic sanctions of the former Yugoslavia and the recent Kosovo crisis, it should be involved in the ongoing process of regional economic reconstruction.
Concluding, he said that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina had left behind a lot of wounds which could not be healed in fours years and although the way ahead was difficult, the people of that country should keep moving towards the fulfillment of the Peace Agreement. The draft resolution was another demonstration of the international communitys commitment to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in this pursuit.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said there were many difficulties in building a unitary, multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina because the country had to confront several challenges at the same time, including reconstruction after a debilitating war, reform of the economic, political and administrative systems and developing a whole new ethos of civil society. The international community must assist in these daunting processes, but the major tasks should be solved by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Norway had encouraged political leaders in the country to work together in order to achieve a coherent and unified central state aparatus where there would be no room for domination, he continued. Principles of democratic pluralism, based on mutual respect for legitimate interests, should govern cooperation within this central structure. The signing of the New York Declaration was a promising step in that regard. Since 1991, Norway had also provided $300 million in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in the Balkans, and been a major contributor of personnel to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
As the Norwegian chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe came to an end, he stressed that his country remained committed to vigorous support for the realization of peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans in general.
The President of the Assembly, THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia) said the following countries were additional sponsors of the text on Bosnia and Herzegovina (document A/54/L.63/Rev.1): Canada, Netherlands, Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Iran.
Action on draft
The Assembly then adopted the draft, with oral revisions without a vote.
Statements on Security Council reform
Mr. GURIRAB (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, said that reform of the Council was without a doubt the most ambitious course of action that Member States had embraced and sustained for the past six years. That vision for change and rebirth had been sustained in spite of the vagaries of multilateral negotiations and vexing problems of policy. He did not believe that Member States were quite ready for concentrated negotiations on reform of the Council, or for a final package deal. For now, consultations would continue. He emphasized the imperative need for consultations among the Presidents of the Council and the Assembly and the Secretary-General.
He said some delegations had expressed reservations on holding this meeting of the Assembly, but he believed the debate would be useful for everyone. There was much to be gained by providing Member States with another opportunity to debate the issue of Council reform in the Assembly without preconceived prescriptions, conditions or preferences. The United Nations stood at an historical crossroads and was called upon to face the new millennium in unity, confidence and renewed determination. He appealed to all delegations to use today's opportunity to offer constructive ideas and insights that would help to move the process forward for the good of all. Also, the meeting of the Working Group, planned for early 2000, must deal only with the substance and matters directly related to it and avoid at all costs another general debate, he stressed. (For a full text of the Presidents remarks, see Press Release GA/SM/143, issued today.)
OSKARAS JUSYS (Lithuania) said the dilemma of the Security Councils enlargement had been presented as one of equitable representation versus efficiency. Such a characterization was wrong; there was no contradiction between representativity and efficiency. On the contrary, the correlation between the two was positive. Proper enlargement of the Security Council would enhance its efficiency. In fact, a correctly and fairly balanced membership would confer greater legitimacy on the Council, enhancing its authority and the respect accorded to it worldwide.
Lithuania had identified areas of achievable compromises and offered possible solutions having to do with the enlargement of both categories of membership, the size of the Security Council, a review mechanism, regional rotation, the veto and everything else. It supported enlargement of the Council to around 24 members, with expansion of both categories to allow for new permanent seats for industrialized and developing countries. It called for further and constant democratization and transparentization of the Security Council's methods of work, along with curtailment and eventual abolition of the veto.
Regarding veto, he said there were at least three reasons why veto should be abolished, such as the fact that it was undemocratic in principle under all circumstances, it had been abused and used in cases irrelevant to the maintenance of international peace and security, and it had hardly helped the peace worldwide. Veto was not only the main stumbling block in the reform but also affected the reform process itself.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said there were substantial differences among members of the working group on key issues that affected the national interests of States. It would be difficult to negotiate a comprehensive package until a political understanding was reached on how to address those issues. The inability to make progress on the more complex issues suggested a lack of momentum on the part of members. He urged delegations to respond to the questions presented by the working group, to give it a fuller appreciation of their concerns and priorities.
When the working group reconvened in the new year, it should focus on developing a package of measures around which general agreement could form, he said. However, success in that endeavour would require an understanding how the more intransigent issues, such as the veto question, were tackled. That question overshadowed the way in which the Council reached decisions and had absorbed much of the working groups time. Ireland firmly believe that unless there were some restriction on the use or threat of the veto reform of the Council would be incomplete and justifiably open to public criticism; nonetheless, attention could be usefully turned to those matters on which agreement could be more easily reached.
He said there was broad agreement on periodic review of council as an integral part of any reform package. It could be a useful confidence-building measure that could facilitate consensus in other areas. The Councils innovations for making its proceedings more transparent and encouraging broader participation should also be incorporated. The number of open debates in the Council had increased dramatically, but some had been of mixed value. It was, for example rather impolite to non-members for pre-negotiated Presidential statements to be adopted by the Council on the same day as an open debate, as they would have been agreed without taking into account the views presented by the non-members. The past year had seen erosion of the Councils authority and diminution of its unique role in maintaining peace and security. Expansion of its size would not remedy those trends but if it were coupled with reform of the decision-making machinery, the danger of their recurrence would be greatly reduced.
DUMISANI S.KUMALO (South Africa) said democracy required equal opportunity for representation and participation. It was for that reason that the Council should be an institution that had the courage to exercise consistency and political will to work towards a democratic system of international relations. In some parts of the world, especially in Africa, the Council was seen as a disinterested and immovable body that was only roused to action when conflicts around the world became so brutal and bloody that they could not escape the attention of the selective world media.
The difficulty for the Council was that it had been initially organized with the stated intention of dealing with post-World War II inter-state conflicts, he said. In the past decade, the Council had found itself compelled to deal with post-cold war intra-state conflicts. As that new form of threat to global security and international peace and stability increased, a reformed Council would have to accommodate the new demands placed on it and be able to adapt itself to the new realities in the new millennium.
South Africa supported the well-known African Group position that a legitimate Security Council must be more regionally representative and must include at least two African permanent members, he went on. Moreover, the new members of a reformed Council should share the same rights and privileges as current ones. In addition, more openness with regard to the Councils actual decision-making process would be welcome. Far too many informal meetings were still held behind closed doors. The Councils Provisional Rules of Procedure were necessary for the smooth functioning of the Council. However, the rules should not remain provisional, and the procedures should make the work of the Council more transparent.
ANDRE ADAM (Belgium) said the foundation already existed for building the reform process, as countries had already expressed their positions in debates in earlier sessions of the Assembly, particularly during the last one. He felt that it would be useless to reconvene the working group to hold a general debate and suggested that the consultations that the President was presently holding be pursued and further extended so that the Group could immediately consider specific issues.
He said that the institution of the Security Council was in danger of losing respect, as well as authority, if it did not reform in accordance with present day requirements. There were issues that many Member States considered very pressing. The issue of the veto was a good example, as permanent members of the Council had the right to use the veto indefinitely. Legally that was true, but it was politically untenable. Other reforms that could be more easily realized were transparency and publicity. The Councils work should also be done without preconceived notions and exclusivity, he added.
FOO CHI HSIA (Singapore) suggested that the open-ended working group should spend its seventh year in a strategic pause during which members would re-charge their energy, clear their minds and return to the discussion of Security Council reform with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. This suggestion did not mean that Singapore underrated the considerable achievements of the working group, which had led to several remarkable improvements in the transparency and working methods of the Security Council. Improvements in the Councils working methods would increase the legitimacy of its decisions; and legitimacy of the Council was important for small States like Singapore.
On the issue of the veto, she said that while her country understood the wish of some States to see it abolished, it agreed with the suggestion by the Foreign Minister of Germany that a State should be called on to explain to the General Assembly why it was vetoing a resolution. This would make it more difficult for a State to use the veto. She believed unbridled rights, especially one as powerful as the veto, would only lead to anarchy.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said the positive influence of discussions in the working group could not be overlooked and the debate that accompanied its endeavors to find general agreement on a possible package of reforms had its own intrinsic value. He would be disturbed by any suggestion that debates in the group be limited or restricted, as general discussion of the issues regarding reform had been a valuable component of its deliberations.
On the issue of representation, he said that, so far, deliberations had focussed mainly on the need for greater representation by developing countries to better reflect present membership. Also, some of the larger financial contributors who were not permanent members might feel that they deserved more regular or even permanent representation.
He noted that the Charter addressed the issue of equitable geographical distribution in selecting Member States to serve on the Council. The means to achieve that was unclear as regional groupings continued to reflect the political geography of the 1960s. Small countries that could make an excellent contribution were often shut out, especially in cases where a political bloc inside a regional group might coordinate closely on electoral matters. Reconfiguration of the regional groups might be a key to overall Security Council reform.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the current question had many implications since it affected one of the central organs of the United Nations. Intense negotiations of the working group this year had demonstrated a convergence of views on the working methods of the Council, and divergences on the size and membership of the Council and on the right of veto. Regarding the improvement of transparency of the work of the Council, advances had been made. The Council had taken measures, inspired by the Working Group, which had improved the credibility of its functioning. Efforts made in that regard were, however, insufficient. The fact that the Council met in secret to discuss vital issues without the participation of countries involved in the matter constituted a concern. A reform of working methods was therefore needed to enable those whose contributions were necessary to be consulted and involved.
The right of veto was a controversial issue. That right was not in line with sovereign equality of States, healthy cooperation and the United Nations concern to prevent conflicts. He supported the idea to restrict that right and to eradicate it. The present structure of the Council was obsolete and needed a change, he said. There was also a need to reinforce the Councils credibility through a reform based on sovereign equality of States, and equal geographical representation. An expansion in both would help reinforce the Councils effectiveness, to give more legitimacy to its decisions, and ensure the support of the international community.
Algeria endorsed the position of the Non-Aligned Movement to enlarge the number of the members to at least 11, and the establishment of two rotating permanent seats for Africa. The principle of rotation seemed the most democratic way to ensure a credible representation for Africa.
YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said that it was imperative that both developing and industrialized nations be added to the permanent membership of the Council. It was also important that the non-permanent membership be increased. The Security Council should have a total membership of 24, including five new permanent and four new non-permanent members. Its decision-making process, including the question of the veto, must also be improved to make its activities more effective and accountable. In the light of the recent experiences of Iraq and Kosovo, focus must remain on the various implications the veto could have for the Councils functions. He added that improved working methods and greater transparency of the Councils work were also a necessary part of a comprehensive package of reforms.
ISA AYAD BABAA (Libya) said the present structure of the Security Council did not reflect current facts. An enlarged Council would reflect the membership of the Organization. While he favoured an increase in the non-permanent member category, if there was an increase in the category of permanent members, it should not be at the expense of the countries of the South. He also supported the position which advocated two permanent seats for the African continent. In addition, determining how those seats would be filled should be the responsibility of African countries. He said restructuring the Council should be part and parcel of the resolution to correct imbalances. Addressing the relationships between the Council and other United Nations organs, he said it was strange that the working group had not elaborated a suggestion on how non-members of the Council could attend informal consultations on topics of common interest. Draft resolutions should also be prepared after the views and opinion of other States had been considered. Many consultations took place behind closed doors. While he was not expressing an objection to informal consultations, those consultations should only be held in very exceptional circumstances. However, closed consultations were now the rule rather than the exception. Such a practice could destroy transparency and harm the credibility of the Council. It was also not acceptable that the Council continued to function according to rules of procedure established over 50 years ago.
On the issue of the veto, he objected to the retention of a privilege that ran counter to the principle of equality among sovereign States. That privilege was often misused to serve the narrow self interests of those who enjoyed its power. The veto privilege was granted to States who had more responsibility for international peace and security. The victors of 1945 had given themselves special privileges. The United Nations had changed since then. The majority of today's Member States had not been Members in 1945 and had no say now in what five States arrogated to themselves. This situation led to one imperative -- the veto must be abolished. There was no sense in reform if that privilege was retained and remained the preserve of a few.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the fundamental question to be addressed was whether the Security Council was an essential prerequisite for the better functioning of the Organization. The answer to that was, unequivocally, yes. The Organization had come a long way since discussions had began on the issue. It would therefore be unrealistic and indeed unfair to call deliberations an exercise in futility. National interests on such a vital question might take tome to reconcile. What was essential for the success of negotiations was investment of political will, which was not yet in evidence in the measure required.
"Should we be aspiring to a utopian solution or are we prepared to accept a less than ideal solution that could take into account current global realities and yet provide to the Security Council the balance and expansion that it so vitally and urgently requires"? he asked. A comprehensive package, which would include an expansion of the Council's membership, improvement in its working methods and changes in the process of decision-making, had become imperative.
Any attempt, he continued, to limit that exercise to a piecemeal expansion to the detriment of developing countries would not only further weaken the Council's credibility, but would also nullify the basic need to impart greater democratization and transparency to its work. The impact of the absence of developing countries as permanent members of the Council was seen everywhere. The Non-Aligned Movement, the single largest group of Member States, continued to be underrepresented in the permanent category. While on the one hand the Council had evaded its role or let it be usurped, on the other, there were calls for far greater activism on its part to effectively tackle humanitarian crises. "We have serious reservations over the Council addressing issues beyond its competence", he said. Unless a humanitarian crisis clearly posed a threat to international peace and security, the Council had no role in attempting to resolve it.
He said a Security Council which was unrepresentative and undemocratic could neither preserve international peace and security nor legitimately speak on behalf of the general membership of the Organization. "If we were to agree to an expansion of the Security Council in the non-permanent category only or if we were to make cosmetic changes in its working methods, we would be doing a disservice not only to ourselves but to the Organization as a whole", he said. Instead of addressing the key issues, "we would be skirting them and perpetuating an international system characterized by inequity.
The NAM had argued that expansion and reform of the Council should be integral parts of a common package. Any attempt to promote one at the cost of the other was not only a negation of that position but would also undermine the mandate given by the Assembly to consider all aspects of the increase in the Council's membership and to address other matters related to reform of that body. He also believed that creating a third category of membership based on rotation would not meet the aspirations of developing countries as they would continue to be subjected to a discriminatory regime. India, which had steadfastly contributed to all aspects of the Organization's activities, should be considered as qualified for permanent membership of an expanded Council.
FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said that any real reform of the Security Council should be based on greater transparency and democratic principles. As the Council had established a mandate request for democracy , it should practice what it preached. Argentina supported an open rotation system in which no region would be discriminated against. He disagreed with suggestions that this could lead to unjust situations or that some regions could be under-represented. A new architecture for the Security Council would be more acceptable instead of keeping the same system and simply adding permanent instead of keeping the same system and simply adding seats.
The insistence of some States on maintaining a monopoly and obstructing any reform also left the Organization divided and had a negative impact on its work. He reiterated his countrys agreement with the working group that the issues of the veto, increased membership -- both permanent and non-permanent -- and the working methods of the Security Council should be dealt with as one package. He fully supported a new collective security system based on todays realities and not on past systems.
DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the desire for reform was based on a legitimate need to further democratize the Council and enable it to reflect the current reality following the end of the cold war, as well as the increase of Member States. Also, while the Council had a global mandate, its present composition misrepresented the constituency of the United Nations. Recently, the Councils agenda had predominantly pertained to issues of interest to developing countries. Yet, such countries were underrepresented among its permanent members. Therefore, the overriding objective of reform must be for greater democratization through balance of representation.
He noted that although the working group had not performed well, its work had not been in vain. There was a large majority in favour of expansion. He perceived the mandate of the group was to producing a package for reform, he noted. The issues were intrinsically integrated with none being insurmountable. FRANCESCO PAOLO FULCI (Italy) said that many fundamental questioners the issue of enlargement remained unanswered. Some claimed that there was wide support for expansion in both categories -- permanent and non permanent seats or, to call them by their real names, non-elective and elective seats. Yet, what was truly meant by expansion in both categories -- new fixed or new rotating permanent seats? How many seats would go to each regional group? he asked. As Europe became economically and politically more integrated, the idea of a European Union presence in the Council was steadily gaining ground in many quarters. Should not then that new reality be accounted for in the reform?
He said he understood the reason why Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean sought permanent seats for themselves. The great majority of them were thinking of rotating permanent seats and not fixed ones. Who could honestly disagree with such a legitimate, democratic expectation? he asked. There should be rotating permanent seats for all regional groups, and no additional fixed permanent members. Increasing the number of elective seats by five or six would help alleviate, promptly and considerably, the serious problem of under-representation. The new elective seats should be assigned primarily to those regions that were currently under-represented in the Council.
He said the discussion of the reform should always take place inside the open-ended working group giving everyone a chance to participate. Moreover, the old idea of a comprehensive package that haunted proceedings from time to time was a great concern. Some pieces of such a package remained far, very far from general agreement, especially when it came to permanent membership. Other elements were closer to consensus, such as the Councils working methods and transparency.
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