Fifty-sixth General Assembly
57th Meeting (PM)
TERRORISM MUST BE ADDRESSED IN PARALLEL WITH POVERTY, UNDERDEVELOPMENT,
INEQUALITY, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD, AS GENERAL DEBATE CONCLUDES
Forty-one Heads of State and Government
Among 188 Speakers Heard in Assembly’s Week-long Debate
The general debate had been held in a most extraordinary setting in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September, the President of the General Assembly, Han Seung-soo (Republic of Korea), said as the Assembly concluded its general debate this afternoon.
He said that, almost without exception, speakers highlighted the need for concerted common action to combat terrorism, expressing their support of Assembly resolution 56/1 and Security Council resolutions 1368 and 1373. A number of delegations also underscored their support for the current military campaign in Afghanistan, and many expressed the view that a broad-based post-Taliban government should be established, representing all the Afghan people. It had been stressed that terrorism could only be eliminated if conditions creating a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, such as poverty and marginalization, were removed. Some delegations had said that any definition of terrorism must distinguish between acts of terrorism and acts in the exercise of the legitimate right to self-determination and defence against foreign occupation.
The broad consensus on addressing terrorism went hand in hand with a recognition of the need to deal in parallel with the many concerns that had already been on the United Nations agenda, he continued, including the fight against poverty, underdevelopment, inequality, disease, and other economic and social problems. It was widely agreed that the international community should proceed expeditiously with implementing the Millennium Declaration. Many speakers drew attention to the role of the United Nations as a focal point of multilateralism. Emphasis was placed on the central position of the Assembly and the need for continuing reform of the Organization.
Concern was expressed that, as the impact of the economic slowdown is most acutely felt by developing countries, issues, such as the continuing lack of full access to the markets of developed countries for products from the developing countries, insufficient and declining official development assistance volumes, unsatisfactory levels of foreign direct investment, and unsustainable debt levels, must be urgently addressed. The threat of HIV/AIDS was also a focus of concern. Several speakers welcomed the adoption, by the thirty-seventh summit of the Organization of African Unity, of the New Partnership for African Development.
During the general debate, which started on Saturday morning, 10 November, the Assembly heard from 188 speakers, including 41 heads of State and government, two vice-presidents, nine deputy prime ministers and 96 ministers for foreign affairs. The Secretary-General spoke at the opening of the debate. Saudi Arabia and Kiribati declined to speak. The debate, scheduled for 25 September to
5 October, had been postponed because of the 11 September terrorist attacks against the host country and host city. During the general debate, heads of delegations may state the views of their governments on any item before the Assembly.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia asked if there was some way to speed up the reform of the Organization to better deal with the prevailing situation. The common goal was to increase the transparency and efficiency of the Council. In the confrontational context of the cold war, the veto had been a means for the great Powers to protect their interests. Even then, a light-handed use of the veto resulted in condemnation by the international community. By now, the sense of trust among Council members had grown immensely, and a limitation on the use of the veto would be an appropriate reflection of this improved atmosphere. The composition of the Council, which still reflected the power relationships current in 1945, was another issue that cried out for resolution.
The representative of Australia said his country, a tolerant multicultural society, was increasingly a target for illegal immigration, assisted by individuals and criminal syndicates engaged in the crime of people smuggling. There was a need for coordinated, comprehensive approaches to address the issue in all its aspects. Root causes of that problem, as well as humanitarian and other needs of displaced persons in countries of first asylum, needed to be addressed, and transit and destination countries needed to cooperate more effectively.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Guinea Bissau and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea also addressed the Assembly, as did the representatives of Latvia and Georgia.
The representatives of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Cyprus and Eritrea exercised the right of reply.
The Assembly will meet again Monday, 19 November, at 10 a.m., to start its consideration of follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit.
The General Assembly met this afternoon, expecting to conclude its general debate.
GINTS JEGERMANIS (Latvia): We must act on all levels to succeed in the fight against terrorism. Today the need for international cooperation has reached a new dimension, and joint international action is needed to eliminate terrorism. My country fully shares the position of the European Union that our efforts in fighting international terrorism must be redoubled. In defending the world from terrorism, the international community must also do its utmost to spare the innocent people of Afghanistan from further suffering. Latvia fully supports Special Representative Brahimi, as well as all other parties in their efforts to bring about a fully inclusive political system in Afghanistan.
Latvia attaches great importance to the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, especially in relation to issues of human rights, fundamental freedoms, rights of the child, conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy. We consider that the follow-up process to the Millennium Summit should be an integral part of the United Nations’ work. International relations in the twenty-first century must be based on the values and principles of the Declaration.
This year, Latvia is celebrating a decade since it joined the United Nations as a free and independent country. The accession of Latvia to the Organization demonstrated its commitment to rejoin the international community, and take an active part in international events. During the past 10 years, Latvia has come a long way in its development in a variety of realms. Its foreign policy is rooted in the observance of international law, the development of human rights and democracy, and the protection of universally accepted human values. The top priorities of Latvian foreign policy continue to be accession to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Foreign policy priorities also include good neighbourly relations, bilateral cooperation, as well as active participation in international organizations.
JOHN DAUTH (Australia): We all have a deep interest in a stable, secure, viable and democratic East Timor. But much more needs to be done. East Timor remains vulnerable, and the United Nations’ role is not complete. We need, after independence, an integrated United Nations mission of civilians, police and peacekeepers, under a single Security Council mandate, funded from United Nations assessed contributions. Australia, therefore, welcomes the Security Council President’s statement on 31 October endorsing the Secretary-General’s recommendations for a United Nations successor mission in East Timor. We look forward to working with others over the coming months to set a solid and sensible mandate for a successor mission.
Cooperative relations between East Timor and Indonesia are key to resolving East Timor’s longer-standing issues. Australia welcomes progress by the Indonesian Government to resolve the situation in refugee camps in West Timor and we urge continued efforts to ensure security and to facilitate the safe return of refugees. Australia will continue to support East Timor generously, and we have an agreement to share resources from the Timor Sea. We are helping to reduce poverty in East Timor. We are also building East Timorese capacity to govern peacefully and democratically.
Australia has a proud history as a major country of migration. We are, as a result of over a century of planned and managed legal migration, a tolerant multicultural society. Regrettably, Australia is also increasingly a favoured target for illegal migration, assisted by individuals and criminal syndicates engaged in the pernicious crime of people smuggling. People smugglers are primarily organized crime syndicates. They exploit their victims and they find their clients among people who have experienced conflict or persecution, economic downturn or extreme environmental breakdown. We need coordinated, comprehensive approaches, and concerted international action to address all its aspects. Root causes need to be addressed, and the humanitarian and other needs of displaced persons in countries of first asylum need to be addressed. Transit and destination countries need to cooperate more effectively.
ALI SAID ABDELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea: Mankind entered the new millennium optimistically, but it has not yet mustered the collective will to translate vision into reality or words into deeds. Immense poverty in the midst of massive wealth continues, as does deprivation, despite enormous scientific advances. Human rights are wilfully violated, while mutual hatred and hostility manifest. Yet, a collective address of the forces being unleashed can turn globalization into an effective tool to establish an equitable relationship between rich and poor and to promote sustainable development for their mutual benefit. A new cooperative mechanism must be established immediately, however, to increase the capacity of poor nations to participate meaningfully in the global economy.
Globalization has had a severely negative impact on African countries. It has deepened marginalization and deprived Africans of the benefits of the global economy. Africa suffers most from extreme poverty, recurrent famine, rampant disease and conflict. The year 2000 was an auspicious year with encouraging signs in the Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many others, including Ethiopia.
Primary responsibility for resolving conflict lies with the people and leaders of the countries. Regional assistance is appreciated if it is based solely on the interests of the people concerned. In the Horn of Africa, a zone of conflict for four decades, the revitalization of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) is closely linked to regional security and prosperity through its engagement in peacemaking, conflict resolution and coordination of cooperative efforts. Peace in Somalia is vital for security, commerce and economic relations in the region. And while the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea has made progress, key provisions of the peace agreement remain unimplemented because Ethiopia has failed to comply with its obligations.
Ethiopia has obstructed the functional establishment of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and has continued deportations. Its surprising claim that Eritrea is mobilizing troops is meant to hide a plan to subvert the peace process by provoking hostilities. Eritrea is now a victim of terrorist elements organized, financed, trained and armed by the Ethiopian Government, often joined by Ethiopian troops in crimes against civilians. The international community should condemn these acts and demand that the activity cease. The United Nations presence should continue because it plays a crucial role in maintaining peace and security, promoting and protecting human rights and promoting development and social progress.
ANTONIETA ROSA GOMES, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Guinea-Bissau: This first General Assembly of the twenty-first century represents a historical challenge for building new international relations, described in the Millennium Declaration. The year has seen the realization of some important international conferences, including the recent Third World Conference against Racism in Durban. The Final Declaration has qualified slavery as a crime against humanity. It has also launched an appeal to reverse the consequences of slavery, recognizing that historical injustices contribute to poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion, economic disparity and insecurity.
Despite that historic perspective, the present session of the General Assembly takes place in a moment of deep disquiet due to the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. It was for the purpose of repressing terrorism that Guinea-Bissau became party to the 1999 Convention on terrorism of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The subregional organizations are finding political solutions to conflicts across the world, including in Sierra Leone, Angola, East Timor and the Middle East, with support from the United Nations. The embargoes imposed on certain countries, including Cuba, should be subject to dialogue by virtue of their highly negative repercussions affecting unprotected populations.
The overall global economic situation is also of concern after the events of 11 September since its negative impact is most strongly felt in the least developed countries. As the universal conscience with the mission to generate north-south dialogue, the United Nations should make its first priority the fulfilment of developing country needs. The action programmes from the conferences and meetings of the past decade should be implemented to produce sustainable development and protect the environment. Additionally, the United Nations system should address the marked decline in foreign aid and the slump in commodity export prices such as the cashew nut, the major export of Guinea-Bissau.
Guinea-Bissau is rebuilding with the assistance of development partners. The programme for reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure and for national reconciliation is progressing. The international community is requested to reinforce its support of Guinea-Bissau. It is asked to actively participate in next year’s round table on assistance to Guinea Bissau.
TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia: After the terrorist attacks of 11 September, we were all confronted with a common threat, and many existing disputes became insignificant. It is of utmost importance that we maintain that unity and reinforce it with concrete actions. Terrorism is the ultimate challenge to our common values, and our struggle against it has only begun. The destruction and elimination of terrorist networks is a time-consuming task, for which there are no instant solutions. The United Nations does, however, have effective measures at its disposal to fight terrorism –- international conventions and sanctions that can be applied to hamper terrorist activities.
The reform processes launched over the past few years in the United Nations are also appropriate for dealing with current problems. But is there some way we can speed up these reforms to better deal with the prevailing situation? It is also important for Members to realistically assess how high a level of development they have achieved, and refrain from accepting aid in favour of those who need it most. This is the flip side of development –- as one rises out of poverty and underdevelopment, one should also become more responsible, acknowledging that obligations rise along with living standards.
We must ensure that our efforts to solve urgent problems confronting us do not become entangled in the deficiencies of the Security Council. We all know very well what these are, and our common goal is quite clear –- to increase the transparency and efficiency of the Council. In the confrontational context of the cold war, the veto was a means for the great Powers to protect their interests. Even then, a light-handed use of the veto resulted in condemnation by the international community. By now, the sense of trust among Council members has grown immensely, and a limitation on the use of the veto would be an appropriate reflection of this improved atmosphere.
The composition of the Council, which still reflects the power relationships current in 1945, is another issue that cries out for resolution. From the inception of the United Nations until just a decade ago, the people of my country were afforded only rare glimpses of the goings-on at the Organization through tears in the fabric of the Iron Curtain. When we finally re-established our independence in 1991, we emerged onto the international arena only to discover that the Council, judging by its composition, was still stuck back in 1945. The contributors to stability in the world have, in the course of half a century, changed fundamentally. We need not fear opening a discussion on whether the moral and legal reasoning underlying Council membership in the wake of the Second World War is still appropriate for the post-cold-war era.
PETER P. CHKHEIDZE (Georgia): Ominous threats we have been talking about for so long have become real. Georgia, a country that, over the past decade, has suffered tremendously from different manifestations of terrorism, is an active participant in the campaign against terror. Time is ripe for increased cooperation of all the States and peoples of good will in this fight against terror. In our region, we have increased opportunities for cooperation. There is, however, a threat of confrontation and a danger of renewed fighting. In the past two years, rapid development in Georgia has been countered by the absence of progress in the peace process in Abkhazia, Georgia. It is time to put an end to the spiritual and physical suffering of Georgian, Abkhaz and other nationalities, who have been forced from their homes and lands by the tragedy of war.
The time has come to duly react to the ethnic cleansing carried out in Abkhazia, Georgia. The separatists, with the help of outside forces, expelled about 300,000 people from their places of residence. The inalienable right of people to live in their homeland is still flagrantly abused. On numerous occasions, Georgia has expressed its deep concern regarding the presence of uncontrolled regions within the territories of a sovereign State, ruled by de facto separatist regimes. The consequence of such regimes is totally unacceptable. The tragedy of the loss of a United Nations helicopter over Abkhazia is one such heartbreaking example.
I would like to bring your attention to the danger of the large-scale provocation Georgia is facing today. I am referring to the violation of Georgia’s airspace and the bombing of its territory. Such attacks have taken place before, as well. Despite our protests, no adequate reaction was forthcoming. These acts are an infringement on our sovereignty and an attempt to subvert the peace process. It is unacceptable that some States use the noble cause of fighting terrorism as a disguise to reassert influence in the post-Soviet space. We reiterate our commitment to the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia. My Government is ready to grant Abkhazia the widest type of autonomy practised in the world today.
Rights of Reply
ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo): At a time when the Security Council is supporting the peace process in the Democratic Republic, Rwanda is the only country that has not withdrawn its forces. In defiance of the international community, it has strengthened its occupation forces and has even opened fire on innocent by-standers. Rwanda continues to masquerade as a nation interested in peace, but it is well known that extra judicial disappearances and human rights violations continue, and that it is trying to destabilize the region.
In truth, Rwanda’s presence in the Democratic Republic has a mercantile purpose centred on competition with neighbours. Its aim was to dismember countries in the region for the purpose of economic and ethnic superiority in numerous areas rich in a range of precious commodities such as diamonds and gold. The Lusaka Agreement is a road map allowing a way out from the strife that has plagued the region. It was notable that all belligerents, except Rwanda, have left the Democratic Republic.
ABDUL MEJID HUSSEIN (Ethiopia): Ethiopia has only one strategic enemy and Eritrea is not it. The enemy is poverty and backwardness, and we want to use all our resources to fight poverty. But we can’t do this if we have a neighbour whose leadership is unable to build a State with all its responsibilities. Eritrea wants to cover up its problems by externalizing them, but we are determined not to give it that chance.
Let us cite one of two points which brought about the ceasefire. Ethiopia signed an agreement last March; Eritrea has not done so. Ethiopia has allowed the United Nations mission free movement in both countries, but Eritrea has not.
Although the TSZ is established, it is not functional because, under the agreement, Eritrea was allowed to have police and militia -- armed groups of farmers to protect their villages. Ethiopia has said that regular forces in the thousands are in the TSZ. The Zone was established to separate the forces, but they are not separate. The other side continued to put people in dangerous situations by arming and taking conscripts, but our side has demobilized 64,000 troops. The other side has added forces, so that 10 per cent of the population is under arms; this is not "a group of armed men going for a picnic".
On the issue of Ethiopia submitting information on minefields, we have submitted all we have. We cannot give what we don’t have. The United Nations has accepted what the other party has said about this. Finally, Ethiopia wants peace to concentrate on alleviating poverty. We were doing this before the invasion, during the conflict and since the end of conflict. This year alone, we registered 8.5 per cent growth of gross domestic product (GDP). We hope the other party will heed our advice that we should concentrate on alleviating poverty and work on the peace process, not just pay lip service to it.
SOTIRIOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus): The Turkish Foreign Minister had not hesitated once again to engage in the well-known rhetoric of threats and misrepresentation. The Foreign Minister had referred to the so-called realities on the ground and misrepresented President Clerides.
The accession of Cyprus to the European Union involved the European Union and Cyprus only. It has been clearly established by the European Union that no third party could veto the accession of Cyprus to the Union. Furthermore, there were no legal obstacles to Cyprus becoming a member of the European Union. Turkey had violated international law in the region, with its invasion and subsequent occupation, practising the policy of ethnic cleaning along with an array of other human rights violations, in the pursuit of its secessionist goals.
With regard to the letter sent to President Clerides, the President had responded immediately to the idea of a tête-à-tête meeting between the two Presidents. It was President Denktash who had refused the resumption of the process. Cyprus was ready to have direct talks with Turkey in the presence of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, so that the Secretary-General would be aware of the progress and inform the Security Council. So far, there had been no response from President Denktash, but it was hoped that he would display the political will to find a just and lasting solution to this issue.
AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea): Respecting the General Assembly, I will avoid the language used by the representative of Ethiopia. I am not here on a propaganda campaign. Internal affairs also need no repetition since they are documented in public newspapers. It is known that the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) is pleased with the information received from Eritrea regarding landmines. Ethiopia, however, does not want to give information on landmines because it does not want people to return to villages and farms. The issues of militias and demobilization were also handled yesterday. The alternative routes were not deviations, but paths taken by airplanes to hit civilian targets.
Mr. HUSSEIN (Ethiopia): We have already made our points. What we want is to fight poverty. We do not want to make polemics here. We would like to leave judgement up to you and the Assembly here.
Concluding Remarks by Assembly President
HAN SEUNG-SOO (Republic of Korea), President of the General Assembly: The general debate has been held in a most extraordinary setting in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September. The issues we have addressed during the last week were of great importance and urgency. Speakers, almost without exception, highlighted the need for concerted common action to combat terrorism, expressing their support of Assembly resolution 56/1 and Security Council resolutions 1368 and 1373. A number of delegations also underscored their support for the current military campaign in Afghanistan, and many expressed the view that a broad-based post-Taliban government should be established, representing all the Afghan people.
The importance of directly linking the wider goals of the United Nations with the fight against terrorism was also recognized. It has been stressed that terrorism can only be eliminated if conditions creating a fertile breeding ground for terrorism, such as poverty and marginalization, are removed. It was pointed
out that a lack of democracy and persistent violations of human rights could lead to the emergence of terrorist movements, and some saw a link between acts of terrorism and the lack of progress in resolving long-standing disputes, particularly with regard to the Middle East dispute. Some delegations said that any definition of terrorism must distinguish between acts of terrorism and acts in the exercise of the legitimate right to self-determination and defence against foreign occupation. I requested the Sixth Committee (Legal) to expedite its work with a view to conclusion of the pending conventions on international terrorism.
The broad consensus on addressing terrorism went hand in hand with a recognition of the need to deal in parallel with the many concerns that had been on the United Nations agenda before the 11 September events, including the fight against poverty, underdevelopment, inequality, disease, and other economic and social problems. It was widely agreed that the international community should proceed expeditiously with implementing the Millennium Declaration. Many speakers drew attention to the role of the United Nations as a focal point of multilateralism. Emphasis was placed on the central position of the Assembly and the need for continuing reform of the Organization.
Concern was expressed that, as the impact of the economic slowdown is most acutely felt by developing countries, issues, such as the continuing lack of full access to the markets of developed countries for products from the developing countries, insufficient and declining official development assistance volumes, unsatisfactory levels of foreign direct investment, and unsustainable debt levels, must be urgently addressed. The threat of HIV/AIDS was also a focus of concern. Concerning the role of information and communication technologies in an era of globalization, it was widely acknowledged that greater efforts are needed to deal with the digital divide. Several speakers welcomed the adoption, by the thirty-seventh summit of the OAU, of the New Partnership for African Development.
I regret that it is not possible for me to reflect in these short remarks the rich ideas, profound insights and far-reaching visions that have been presented by some of the best minds of our world. I would just like to emphasize that we share a responsibility to maintain and nurture the spirit of commitment and cooperation at the high political level that has been demonstrated in the general debate.
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