Fifty-eighth General Assembly
56th & 57th Meetings (AM & PM)
SPEAKERS IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALL FOR UNIVERSALIZATION OF ANTI-LANDMINE
CONVENTION, INCREASED SUPPORT FOR DEMINING ACTIVITIES
Assembly Also Adopts Text on Global Road Safety Crisis
As preparations for the First Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention, set for 29 November to 3 December 2004 in Nairobi, Kenya, were beginning to take shape, many delegations today stressed the need for the treaty’s further universalization, as well as for continued support for demining activities.
As the General Assembly began its consideration of assistance in mine action, Andrew Shore, Coordinator of the Mine Action Team in Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said that the 1997 Convention Prohibiting the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Landmines and Their Destruction, adopted in Ottawa, Canada, remained the definitive international framework for ensuring that the human tragedy caused by landmines was truly and permanently addressed. It was seen as a model of the remarkable success achieved when governments, civil society and multilateral institutions worked towards a common cause.
But he noted, “Clearly, the job is not yet done.” Some 200 million landmines remained in stockpiles globally; 15 States were still listed as producers of the weapons; four States openly acknowledged using landmines last year; and the development of countless communities was restricted by mines which remained in the ground in over 80 countries. Moreover, it was estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 people still fell victim to the indiscriminate weapons each year. There was still an urgent humanitarian imperative to search for innovative ways to promote wider understanding and address the problem.
Pointing out that Africa had some of the most mine-affected countries in the world, Kenya’s representative said the availability of adequate funds was indispensable to hasten demining activities, currently proceeding at a snail’s pace in most countries. The $28 million made available to 16 mine-affected countries by donor countries and other partners was insufficient for envisaged activities. It was crucial for the United Nations Mine Action Service to attract adequate resources and to ensure their rational utilization.
At current rates, he added, demining would continue for many years, if not generations, to come. For the poor, mine-affected countries, that would mean continued casualties and denial of access to large tracts of land, which were indispensable to national development.
Also today, the Assembly began its consideration of support by the United Nations system for the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies. Luvsan Erdenechuluun, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and President of the Fifth International Review Conference of New or Restored Democracies, reported on that meeting, held in his country from 10 to 12 September. The discussion had focused on strengthening democratic governance and cooperation with civil society, challenges to opportunities for democracy, and partnership and participation in poverty reduction and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Among the issues highlighted by delegates addressing the Assembly today were the promotion of civic participation and citizen education, the fight against corruption, and the need to allow and encourage broad participation by a variety of political parties, movements and groups. The need to respect different forms and paces of democratization was also stressed. And, as noted by Malaysia’s representative, the situation in Iraq had demonstrated that imposing democracy by force was not an easy task.
At the outset of today’s meeting, the Assembly adopted, by consensus, a resolution on the global road safety crisis. By its terms, the Assembly decided to hold a plenary meeting on 14 April 2004 in connection with World Health Day and the launching of the “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention”. It also requested the Department of Public Information (DPI) to organize a meeting of experts, the private sector, relevant non-governmental organizations, members of civil society and other interested parties, including the media, on the morning of 15 April 2004, to raise awareness and exchange information on best practices.
In other action, the Assembly adopted a resolution on the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic, by which it called on all States to cooperate in the promotion of the objectives established in the declaration of that zone and refrain from any action inconsistent with those objectives, and welcomed Benin’s offer to host the sixth meeting of the States members of the zone.
Also today, the Assembly selected Japan to propose a candidate to fill the vacancy on the Joint Inspection Unit left by the expiration of the term of office of Sumihiro Kuyama (Japan) on 31 December 2004. The candidate would, upon his election to the 11-member body, serve for a five-year period, beginning 1 January 2005.
The representatives of Argentina, Nigeria, Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Peru, Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine, Japan, Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Belarus, New Zealand, Libya, Nicaragua (on behalf of the Central American States), Qatar, Benin, Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group), Nicaragua (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Yemen, Philippines, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Cuba also spoke during today’s discussions.
Also addressing the Assembly was the Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh and the Minister of Health of Pakistan.
The representatives of Israel and Lebanon spoke in right of reply.
The Assembly’s General Committee will meet on Thursday, 6 November, in the morning. The Assembly will meet again in plenary immediately after that meeting to conclude its consideration of assistance in mine action and support for efforts to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.
The General Assembly met today to conclude its consideration of the global road safety crisis and take action on a related draft resolution.
It was also expected to consider the following items: the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic; assistance in mine action; the appointment of a member of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU); and support by the United Nations system for the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.
By the terms of the draft resolution on global road safety crisis (document A/58/L.3/Rev.1), the Assembly would decide to hold a plenary meeting of the Assembly on 14 April 2004 in connection with World Health Day and the launching of the “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention” to increase awareness of the magnitude of the road traffic injury problem at a high level. It would also request the Department of Public Information (DPI) to organize a meeting of experts, the private sector, relevant non-governmental organizations (NGOs), members of civil society and other interested parties, including the media, on the morning of 15 April 2004, in connection with the plenary meeting, to raise awareness and exchange information on best practices.
In addition, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit a report to it at its sixtieth session on the progress made in improving global road safety and the issues referred to in the present draft resolution.
Also before the Assembly is the report of the Secretary-General on the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic (document A/58/265), which contains replies and communications from three governments and five organizations and United Nations bodies on the implementation of the declaration of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic. The three Governments are Argentina, Mexico and the Sudan; and the five organizations are the Department of Disarmament Affairs, the DPI, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
While reaffirming the importance of the purpose of the zone as the basis for the development of cooperation among the countries of the region, Argentina also believed that it is necessary to renew and strengthen its content. The objectives of peace and cooperation for which the zone was established will be attained only when the institutions of representative democracy are fully operative and when respect for human rights and fundamental freedom is attained in the countries of the region. Additionally, it also believes that the zone represents an appropriate forum for providing those nations which so request with the tools for cooperation in the peaceful settlement of conflicts.
In its reply, Mexico similarly expresses support for efforts to consolidate the zone in the belief that such zones also promote disarmament, non-proliferation, implementation of confidence-building measures, socio-economic development and protection of the environment. Greater cooperation and dialogue among the various zones of peace will help to achieve specific common objectives, such as denuclearization, eradication of the illicit trade in small and light weapons, preservation of seas and oceans and the combating of drug trafficking, illegal fishing, and other forms of transnational organized crime.
The Sudan similarly restated its commitment to abide and to implement all pertinent resolutions on the matter. To that end, the Sudan had taken measures to enforce existing laws and promulgate new regulations with a view to consolidating its efforts to combat trafficking in small arms and drugs; exchange of experiences and promotion of cooperation and coordination with its neighbours.
The Department of Disarmament Affairs in its response outlined the progress made since the submission of the last report on the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic, noting that several states in the region had signed, acceded to or ratified multilateral disarmament treaties and conventions. The DPI similarly highlighted the activities carried out by the United Nations information centres in the South Atlantic region in support of the zone of peace; including seminars, panels, press conferences, interviews, videoconferences, radio programmes and workshops on peacekeeping, disarmament and humanitarian assistance, among others.
The related draft resolution (document A/58/L.12) would have the Assembly call on all States to cooperate in the promotion of the objectives established in the declaration of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic and to refrain from any action inconsistent with those objectives. It would also welcome the offer by Benin to host the sixth meeting of the States members of the zone and request the relevant organizations, organs and bodies of the United Nations system to render all appropriate assistance that States members of the zone may seek in their joint efforts to implement the declaration of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic.
The Assembly also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on assistance in mine action (documents A/58/260 and Add.1), which focuses on progress achieved in implementing the six strategic goals and 48 related objectives enumerated in the report. It states that progress has been achieved in six specific areas. Namely, increased information and improved technology, improved capacity to respond to emergencies, sustained efforts to build national mine-action capacity, significant improvements in quality management, successful mobilization and increased advocacy in support of relevant legal instruments. It also recommends specific action to enhance the quality of mine-action work by the United Nations.
The report concludes that the formal review in early 2003 of the United Nations mine-action strategy for the period 2001-2005 confirmed several important observations. Firstly, the strategy has provided valuable direction and guidance for all United Nations entities involved in its implementation and has fostered coordination and accountability across the mine-action community. Secondly, the strategy review process revealed a considerable degree of consensus among United Nations partners on a set of fundamental principles that underpin their common endeavours, including the commitment to integrate a development perspective into mine-action planning, to emphasize the role of mine-affected communities when determining mine-action priorities and to address gender concerns in the design, implementation and evaluation of mine-action programmes. Thirdly, the review offered an opportunity to review, modify and clarify a number of strategic objectives in the light of practical experience.
Mine action has been more systematically integrated into humanitarian and development planning and operations over the past year, at the national and also the international levels. The presence of mines and unexploded ordnance often poses serious constraints to development. Although donors continue to fund mine action primarily from humanitarian or emergency budget lines, there is increasing recognition of the importance of supporting mine action from development and reconstruction budgets as well. The report states this is particularly important in the area of victim assistance, for example, a long-term concern for which funds are almost always inadequate.
The report also offers several recommendations. Among them, the Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Mine Action should continuously monitor implementation of the United Nations mine action strategy for the period 2001-2005 and report annually to the Assembly on progress made and challenges encountered.
The note by the Secretary-General on the appointment of a member of the Joint Inspection Unit (document A/58/108) states that since Sumihiro Kuyama’s term of office expires on 31 December 2004, the Assembly will appoint one person to fill the resulting vacancy. The person appointed to the 11-member JIU will serve for a five-year period, beginning 1 January 2005. Persons selected for the Unit are chosen from among members of national supervision or inspection bodies, or from among persons of a similar competence on the basis of their special experience in national or international administrative and financial matters, including management issues.
The report by the Secretary-General on support by the United Nations system of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies (document A/58/392) provides an analytical overview of the assistance given by the United Nations system in recent years in the area of democracy and governance. Over the past decade, the Organization has seen an increase in its support for new and restored democracies in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia, many of which are nations emerging from civil war and conflict.
The Assembly had invited the Secretary-General, Member States, relevant specialized agencies and bodies, to support and collaborate in the holding of the Fifth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies. The Conference, held in September of this year, adopted by consensus a final report, Declaration and Plan of Action that outlines benchmarks for democratic Government and committed participating Member States to implement comprehensive plans in that regard at the national, international and regional levels.
According to the report, if the Conference is to be more institutionalized, a new support structure is needed. Follow-up action has not been as effective as it should be, and it needs substantive and logistical strengthening. Concerning the democracy assistance the United Nations is providing, there is still more to be done to make the work of the Organization more integrated and effective. The United Nations needs to improve the focus and coherence of its activities in democratization. Despite the fact that democratic Government differs from country to country, a more coherent approach to democratization is needed, one which requires a global dialogue on common challenges and practices of governance. International cooperation also needs to be strengthened, along with the tools to carry out the work in that field.
Action on Drafts
The Assembly began its work today with the adoption, by consensus, of the resolution on global road safety crisis (document A/58/L.3/Rev.1).
Statements on South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Cooperation
LUIS E. CAPPAGLI (Argentina), introducing the draft resolution on the zone of peace and cooperation and speaking on behalf of the members of the zone, recalled that the zone had been established 18 years ago to create an innovative mechanism for ongoing consultations on issues of mutual interest and to develop closer, more active and dynamic relations between its members. The zone was the sole interregional forum that grouped together States of South America and Africa. Since its establishment, progress had been made in achieving the objectives set forth in 1985, including for economic and social development, environmental protection, preservation of marine and living resources and the preservation of international peace and security.
Argentina, he said, held that the zone’s objectives would only be fully attained when the institutions of representative democracy were fully operative and when respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms was obtained in the countries of all members. Upon assuming responsibility for the coordination of the zone’s Permanent Committee in 1998, his country had proposed a series of actions and initiatives, aimed at making further progress based on the Final Declaration and Plan of Action adopted at the zone’s Fifth Ministerial Meeting, held at Buenos Aires in 1998. As one of the zone’s objectives was the peaceful and negotiated resolution of disputes, he called on all members and non-members to peacefully resolve their disputes in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and relevant resolutions of the Organization. He also welcomed Benin’s offer to host the zone’s Sixth Ministerial Meeting in 2004.
S.A. ADEKANYE (Nigeria) described the initiative by the 24 nations from the two shores of the South Atlantic to create a zone of peace and cooperation as a landmark achievement in the sphere of multilateral efforts to promote regional peace, international security and cooperation. It established a valuable framework for cooperation, whose objectives –- complete denuclearization of the region, protection of the marine environment, and promotion of economic cooperation, trade and investment, as well as the fight against drug trafficking –- remained valid today.
To illustrate its commitment to the pursuit of those objectives, Nigeria in 2001 ratified or acceded to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Mine Ban Convention. Similarly, in consultation with member States of the zone, Nigeria was actively seeking the required number of ratifications for the entry into force of the Pelindaba Treaty and a draft resolution to that effect was being presented to the current session of the Assembly. He was gratified to note that with the ratification of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Treaty of Tlatelolco by Cuba last year all member States of the zone were now irrevocably committed to a nuclear-weapon-free South Atlantic. He was concerned, however, with the continued incidence of transboundary movement of wastes and transportation of radioactive materials that could constitute a threat to marine life of coastal States and the ecosystem of the entire region.
The latest challenge to peace and security in the zone was the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons, which fuelled conflicts and hampered peace, security and development in the countries of the zone. Out of the conviction that corruption constituted one of the largest obstacles to development, he said his country had placed the issue of an international legally binding instrument to control corruption on the global agenda in 1999. For Nigeria, tracing and repatriating funds of illicit origin to their countries of origin was crucial. Thus, he urged all States within the zone, and all Member States, to sign the Convention against Corruption adopted by the Assembly last week.
Statementson Mine Action
ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, praised the bravery and dedication of de-miners, affected communities and all those involved in worldwide mine action. Their efforts to free the world from anti-personnel landmines and unexploded ordnance needed broad support from the international community. That was particularly true since current estimates revealed landmine casualties in some 70 countries in 2001-2002, with 15,000 to 20,000 estimated new victims a year. Appallingly, some 70 per cent of the reported casualties were civilians, routinely women and children, often long after conflict had ended.
Furthermore, anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordnance had severe economic and social consequences, he continued. The mutilation of victims placed a heavy burden on afflicted countries, which were generally already struggling to rebuild their societies and overcome severe financial constraints. Moreover, anti-personnel landmines continued to prevent large numbers of refugees from returning to their homes, and thus, severely hampered post-conflict reconstruction, economic recovery, social restoration and development. All that had led the members of the European Union to be among the first to condemn the indiscriminate character of the weapons, to recognize the unbearable suffering that they caused and to take concrete action to curtail it.
While noting that the primary responsibility for dealing with landmines and unexploded ordnance in affected countries lay with national authorities, he stressed that the acquisition of institutional and technical means needed to tackle the problem was often hindered by lack of resources. And that was where the United Nations and its Mine-Action Service could contribute by promoting an integrated approach based on humanitarian assistance and development strategies. The implementation of the six strategic goals of the 2001-2005 United Nations Mine-Action Strategy had been particularly important. Among them had been increased data through the electronic mine information network, ongoing support for relevant research and development activities, and testing of the United Nations Operational Framework for Rapid Response in Iraq.
He was convinced that effective mine action required, as a necessary pre-condition, a comprehensive and balanced approach combining mine clearance, stockpile destruction, victim assistance, capacity-building and mine-risk education. An adequate level of international funding should be maintained, as should efforts to promote local ownership of humanitarian mine action. The appalling effects of landmines and unexploded ordnance on civilians needed to be met with strong financial support and broad commitment to the relevant international multilateral humanitarian framework. For its part, the European Community’s commitment would remain unwavering. It had pledged some 240 million euros towards mine-action services for 2002-2009. It had also adopted the European Community Mine-Action Strategy for 2002-2004.
PAUL DUCLOS (Peru) said he had observed the emergence in recent years of a true determination to eradicate anti-personnel landmines. The resulting efforts had placed those landmines at the top of the international agenda and helped to consolidate recognition that they constituted an affront to the principles and norms of human rights. In an effort to make the eradication of mines a priority at the regional and national levels, a regional seminar had been held in Lima, Peru, in August 2003, organized by the Governments of Peru and Canada, as well as the Organization of American States (OAS). The seminar had provided an excellent opportunity for the formulation of a balance sheet of progress made towards the eradication of landmines in the Western hemisphere.
Anti-personnel Landmines, as a weapon of destruction, had been used in almost all inter-State and civil conflicts, resulting in thousands of victims, he added. His own country had not been immune to that plague. Efforts had been undertaken to demine along the country’s northern border, in conjunction with the Government of Ecuador, and more than 36,500 mines had been removed. Innovative programmes had also been established on technical aspects of humanitarian demining. On the education front, there had been progress in training, awareness-raising and monitoring. The anti-mine organization, CONTRAMINAS, had been established to promote State policy on landmines. There had also been progress on a bill to punish conduct that flouted the Ottawa Convention.
Throughout all efforts, he said, it was essential to keep people at the core of anti-mine efforts, including through the provision of assistance in areas such as prevention, physical and psychological rehabilitation and social and economic reintegration. To progress in those areas, however, greater financial and technical assistance from other States was needed. Peru would continue to work for its ultimate objective -- the complete eradication of landmines.
JOHAN LØVALD (Norway) highlighted three main principles he believed were important in addressing properly the problems of anti-personnel mines. First, sensible resource utilization required that States were committed to the obligation of the Mine Ban Convention. Second, to make better use of those resources, mine action needed to be coordinated at the country level. Third, mine action needed to be further integrated into the broader development agenda. For Norway, the Mine Ban Convention represented the primary framework for mine action, as it held provisions not only for a total ban on anti-personnel mines, but also on international cooperation and assistance in mine action.
The inter-sessional work programme of the Convention constituted an important arena for discussions related to mine action, he said. Within that framework, his country was coordinating the work of a Resource Mobilization Contact Group, which aimed to promote adequate funding for mine action and the best utilization of resources available for mine action. He acknowledged the role of the United Nations in mine action, noting that the Organization’s implementing agencies continued to include mine action in their regular activities when that was relevant. The best possible utilization of resources available for mine action could only be achieved if efforts were properly coordinated at the field level.
SUE KNOWLES (Australia) said that universalization of the Ottawa Convention was a primary goal for her Government, which would continue to work at encouraging States not party to the regime to take steps towards accession. It was pleasing to see that donor funding of mine action had increased by more than 30 per cent in the past year. Furthermore, good progress had been made in stockpile destruction in the past year, with 18 countries reporting the completion of the destruction of their landmine stockpiles. Those diminishing stockpiles constituted concrete steps towards reducing the potential use of mines in times of conflict and unrest.
Her Government, she said, had spent $A 88 million on mine-action activities since January 1996, and fully expected to meet its pledge of $A 100 million by December 2005. Australia’s mine-action assistance had been focused on building indigenous capacity for mine clearance, assisting landmine victims and promoting mine awareness. And while the majority of its humanitarian demining activity had been focused on the countries of its region -– for example, in 2002-2003, more than $A 5.4 million had been provided to Cambodia alone –- it had also contributed $A 1.5 million to demining activities in Iraq and $A 2.5 million to Afghanistan, through the United Nations Mine Action Service.
PIERRE HELG (Switzerland) said the entry into force of legal instruments, such as the Ottawa Convention and the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, had made it possible to achieve significant progress for the protection of civil populations in conflict areas. However, there was still a need to make progress in universalizing the ban on the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines and to facilitate the destruction of such weapons. In that context, those States that had not yet done so were urged to accede to relevant conventions and protocol as soon as possible. Only the concerted efforts of international organizations, experts and populations directly affected could lead to success in eliminating the problem of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Moreover, as universalization played a key role in efforts to free the world from the terrible affliction of landmines, all relevant factors must be taken into account, including the use of landmines by non-State actors.
Mines killed, maimed and caused terrible suffering, he added. They hampered reconstruction and the cultivation of land and complicated the task of peace missions, afflicting particularly the poorest countries, which were unable to clear all mines from their land without external aid. In view of that situation, Switzerland would continue to contribute approximately $10 million per year for humanitarian demining and the organization of measures against mines on a national or local basis. Those demining projects were closely coordinated with the Confederation’s peace-building, humanitarian aid and development aid measures. Switzerland continued to stress the need to ensure there was no contradiction between measures taken against landmines and unexploded ordnance and development priorities.
Efforts made in the fight against landmines, he continued, should take advantage of the Human Security Network’s work. The Network, consisting of
13 countries -– including Switzerland -- considered assistance to victims, as well as the fight against HIV/AIDS and child soldiers, as its priorities. Moreover, his country had become the centre of international mine action, having hosted two conferences of the States parties to the Ottawa Convention and several inter-sessional meetings, among other initiatives.
ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said various United Nations mine-action efforts and strategies under way had provided a valuable framework for affected countries and the wider international community to make headway against those horrible weapons. It was particularly important for initiatives to emphasize the sharing and enhancement of information technology, emergency response programmes, and building national capacities. Such an effective response to the appalling effects of landmines should also include, among other things, mine-action education, as well as marking and identifying affected areas particularly those near civilian areas.
He said the United Nations played an important role in coordinating international policies. For its part, Tunisia had been among the first to become party to the International Convention on the Prohibition, Use, Stockpiling and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Land Mines and Their Destruction. It was determined to pursue its efforts towards the total elimination of landmines and encouraged all States to participate in the upcoming inter-sessional meeting of the States parties to the Convention in Geneva.
Tunisia continued to suffer the aftermath of the Second World War, he said, with many areas infested with anti-personnel landmines and unexploded ordnance, some of which were buried so deeply that they could not be detected with traditional equipment. An inter-agency exploration and assessment mission had been undertaken in some regions of the country earlier this year. National authorities, joined by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, had discovered and destroyed some 2,000 landmines, bringing the total number for the year to some 17,000. He added that a national committee for follow-up of the implementation of the Convention had also been established, and had brought together the heads of all government ministries to address the issue.
SOLOMON KARANJA (Kenya) said the availability of adequate funds was indispensable for mine action. While some $28 million had been made available by donor countries and other partners to 16 mine-affected countries, that amount was not enough for the envisaged activities. Thus, it was crucial for the United Nations Mine Action Service to attract adequate resources and to ensure their rational utilization.
He stressed that demining and the provision of assistance to landmine survivors were probably the most challenging of the humanitarian dimensions of the Ottawa Convention. Clearing mines had proved to be a most tedious and costly affair. Ongoing demining work was proceeding at snail's pace in most mine-affected countries. At that rate, demining would continue for many more years, if not generations, to come. For those countries, many of which were poor, that would mean continued denial of access to large tracts of land, an indispensable resource for national development. Slow demining also inevitably meant more casualties. While a number of countries and organizations had regularly provided assistance to demining efforts, he stressed that the current level of assistance was inadequate. It was imperative that those countries that were able to, but were not yet doing so, urgently made their contribution.
He pointed out that Africa had some of the most mine-affected countries in the world. Left on their own, they were unlikely to live up to their obligations, notably, completion of demining within the deadlines set by the Convention, in addition to providing adequate care to landmine survivors. In that regard, assistance in mine action should be substantially addressed at the Review Conference to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 29 October to 3 December 2004. The outcome of that Conference should include a clear strategy on an enhanced framework for assistance to mine–affected countries.
VICTOR KRYZHANIVSKY (Ukraine) called for the continuation of efforts by the United Nations to foster the establishment of mine-action capacities in nations where unexploded ordnance and stockpiles constituted a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the local population. It was important that national mine-action strategies were set up with a view to ensuring effective decision-making about short-, medium- and long-term priorities. National and international support to mine action must be sustainable and must encourage and support national initiatives and institutions. While important progress had been made in mine action, the number of nations and areas that required and requested assistance continued to increase. The prohibition of use, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines should become the ultimate goal of the international community.
Every year, Ukrainian specialists neutralized tens of thousands of pieces of ammunition and unexploded ordnance. This year, Ukraine completed the first significant destruction project, which allowed his nation to destroy 40,000 landmines of different types. The Government committed itself to ridding the country of 6 million landmines in its stockpiles. The responsibility for addressing the problem of landmines and unexploded ordnance rested with the authorities of mine-affected countries. However, he believed that when national resources were lacking, the suffering caused by anti-personnel landmines and unexploded ordnance needed to be addressed within a humanitarian and development framework. The United Nations should play an important role in that regard.
Action on Draft
The Assembly suspended its consideration of assistance in mine action momentarily, and adopted, by consensus, the resolution on the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic (document A/58/L.12).
Continuation of Debate
TOSHIRO OZAWA (Japan) believed that, in many post-conflict situations, addressing the landmine problem was a precondition for consolidating peace and commencing with reconstruction. With regard to the conceptual framework of “human security”, it went without saying that mine action promoted human security. His Government was working actively, together with civil society and the international community, to achieve the objectives of the “Zero Victims Initiative”. Progress in information technology and resource mobilization was particularly appreciated, as his Government had emphasized on several occasions that a more systematic approach was desirable in order for mine-action activities to be conducted as effectively and efficiently as possible.
While more needed to be done, including striving to further achieve the goal of “Zero Victims”, the progress achieved to date provided hope and confidence. Victim assistance and mine awareness were important and, in that regard, Japan was making efforts to prevent any increase in the number of landmine victims and to provide assistance to those already victimized. He expressed concern about the situation in Iraq, particularly as it related to the threat of mines and unexploded ordnance, especially since United Nations-assisted operations were largely suspended due to security constraints. His Government was exploring the possibility of supporting programmes related to mine-risk education, mine-awareness campaigns, and a mine and unexploded ordnance survey, through the Voluntary Trust Fund of the Mine Action Service.
ANDREW SHORE, Coordinator of the Mine Action Team, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada, said that the Ottawa Convention, approaching the fifth anniversary of its entry into force, remained the definitive international framework for ensuring that the human tragedy caused by landmines was truly and permanently addressed. It was also a model of the remarkable success that could be achieved when governments, civil society and multilateral institutions worked towards a common cause. Support for the Convention, which now counted 141 States parties, continued to grow. Considerable resources were being deployed to clear more valuable land and assist victims, and, most importantly, casualty rates were continuing to drop.
“But clearly, the job is not yet done, he said, when there were still some 200 million stockpiles globally; 15 States were still listed as producers of the weapons; four United Nations Member States openly acknowledged using landmines last year; and the development of countless communities was restricted by mines which remained in the ground in over 80 countries. Some 15,000 to 20,000 people still fell victim to the indiscriminate weapons each year. So there was still an urgent need to address the humanitarian imperative, he reiterated, stressing that the international community should continue to search for innovative ways to address the problem and to promote a wider understanding of mine-action norms.
The Secretary-General’s recent review of the 2001-2005 Mine Action Strategy had been a concrete step forward in that it had taken into account new challenges that had emerged and set new timetables, he said. Canada supported that initiative, as well as the United Nations view that mine action in severely mine-affected countries was a precondition for sustainable development. It was clear that the presence of such weapons presented a major obstacle to post-conflict recovery, peace and security.
Mine action must, therefore, be an integral component of national development and poverty-reduction strategies for mine-affected States, he stated. It was also crucial for Member States to acknowledge the critical role mine action had to play in advancing the world body’s broader purposes of peace, security and development in many parts of the world. In the spirit of shared responsibility, it was essential for all States to participate actively in the First Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention, set to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 29 November to 3 December 2004. It was fitting that the Conference was being held on the world’s most mine-affected continent. It would be necessary for all stakeholders to coordinate their various interests during the run-up to the Conference, so that all could arrive prepared to collectively reaffirm their commitments to meet the remaining challenges head on.
LEW KWANG-CHUL (Republic of Korea) implored Member States not to lose sight of the formidable challenges they faced on the issue of landmines, despite the laudable progress made so far. Landmines continued to pose a deadly threat to innocent civilians in conflict and post-conflict areas, not only claiming lives, but also impeding socio-economic development, reconstruction and humanitarian aid efforts. He was pleased by the rapid response framework that was designed to bolster emergency-response capabilities, and put into effect in Iraq in early 2003. In that regard, he commended the collaborative efforts of United Nations bodies in conjunction with non-governmental organizations to deploy a mine-action coordination team to Iraq, and hoped the team’s work would have a positive impact.
Similarly, he noted the significant progress made by the Mine-Action Programme for Afghanistan. Not only had that Programme doubled in size in response to the increasing need for mine-action involvement in humanitarian, development and reconstruction initiatives, but it had made improvements in its operating procedures and outreach activities. It had also cleared a substantial number of high priority mine-affected areas. Additionally, he welcomed the advances made in mine action in other conflict areas, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Lebanon. Success in mine action depended on close cooperation among all stakeholders, which was indispensable not only in coordinating activities and sharing best practices, but also in mobilizing resources.
To that end, he stressed the importance of the central coordinating role of the United Nations in generating synergy among diverse actors. One of the prerequisites for effective mine action was a substantial resource base. With that in mind, his country had provided support to various United Nations-led mine-assistance programmes.
IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) said that anti-personnel landmines -- discreet killers, which awaited their victims sometimes for centuries -- were a universal humanitarian tragedy, which not only caused countless deaths and injuries, but also impeded economic and social development for many countries. In his own country, there were perhaps more that 450,000 landmines scattered along the “Blue Line” over an area estimated at more than 100 kilometres. Some 80 per cent of those weapons had been planted by Israel.
The demining process in Lebanon adhered to the initiatives set out in the United Nations Mine Action Strategy. Indeed, the world body had done much to assist with demining in southern Lebanon, with the Secretary-General calling the matter a “source of great concern”. Donors -– including the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and others -– had provided resources and technical assistance. The United Arab Emirates had contributed some
$50 million and had cooperated in the founding of the Centre for Coordinating Mine Action in South Lebanon. That Centre employed over 300 demining experts and had led a forestation initiative, which aimed to plant a tree for every land mine removed and destroyed.
He went on to say that NGOs and other international agencies had helped guide mine-risk education initiatives in Lebanon. Further, the Centre published periodic reports on what had been accomplished and what challenges remained. The Centre, he added was expected to launch its Web site shortly. All those actions had led to some 60,000 mines being cleared, a significant drop in deaths, and the return of valuable lands to owners during the past year. Still, there was a need to hold Israel responsible for removing mines it planted in Lebanon, as well as Lebanon’s demining costs.
VLADIMIR PAVLOVICH (Belarus) said that the international community stood at an important juncture in the Ottawa process. In one year’s time, Kenya would host the first Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Landmines, which would provide the opportunity to take stock of what had been achieved so far and to introduce mechanisms ensuring the broader universality of the Convention.
He said his country had acceded to the Ottawa Convention on 3 September 2003. A thorough analysis of the document’s provisions and relevant international commitments had been undertaken at the national level, which led to the conclusion that Belarus would need substantial financial and technical resources to carry out the destruction of its stockpiles of more than 4 million landmines -– its unwanted heritage from the Soviet Union. In that context, he appealed to governments, international agencies and NGOs to assist his country in its stockpile elimination efforts. In accordance with the Ottawa Convention’s requirement that stockpiles be destroyed within a four-year period, Belarus had destroyed more than 22,000 landmines last year and another 100,000 this year.
His country welcomed the Ottawa Convention’s mechanism for international cooperation and financial and technological assistance in demining and destruction of stocks of landmines between its participants. He also welcomed the positive and important role played by NGOs in the international movement to ban landmines and supported the Landmine Monitor project, which was a unique civil society-control mechanism to ensure all States’ compliance with existing international arrangements.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) believed that further work needed to be carried out on establishing firmer estimates on the extent of the mine problem globally. For its part, New Zealand had focused, where possible, on capacity-building within the affected community as one way of assisting mine-affected countries in the long term. Mine action should be part of a comprehensive strategy towards reconstruction and development in the aftermath of conflict. The Ottawa Convention continued to be a successful and constructive forum for mine action. He called on those States outside the Convention to respect the now firmly established norm against the use of landmines and join the Convention without delay.
He said that States parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) would arrive at a critical juncture this month, when the possibility of achieving a legally binding instrument on addressing the humanitarian impact of explosive remnants of war and a mandate for anti-vehicle mines would be explored. The credibility of the CCW forum would be on the line at the meeting, as the death and injury toll wreaked by explosive remnants of war and anti-vehicle mines was well known. The proposal for an instrument on explosive remnants of war had the potential to assist mine-clearance operations to carry out their work more expeditiously and effectively, and to prevent casualties and injuries from such remnants. That potential would only be realized through a legally binding instrument, which unambiguously set out the obligations on States parties to firmly establish a strong standard on clearance and underlined the importance of measures to protect civilians.
MUHAMMAD NASIR KHAN, Minister for Health of Pakistan, said the nature and scope of the landmine problem was enormous; almost 40 per cent of Member States confronted it and its victims were mostly innocent civilians, women and children, during and after conflicts. According to the latest figures, an estimated 110 million landmines were scattered over 70 countries. That situation required that immediate remedial measures be taken. In his own region, Afghanistan had to cope with over 10 million landmines that caused hundreds of casualties every month. It also had to deal with the problem of unexploded ordnance.
It was encouraging to witness today greater realization of the need to address the problems posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance, he said, pointing to the successes reflected in the report of the Secretary-General regarding greater awareness, improved capacity to respond to emergencies, capacity-building, and enhanced resource mobilization. However, there was also continued need for immediate and concerted action in four areas, including increasing the programme outreach of the United Nations Mine Action Service through the electronic and print media; increasing the participation of national authorities in the Mine Action Programme by providing equipment and training to local peoples; increasing the availability of modern demining technologies to affected countries; and supplementing those demining operations with rehabilitation programmes.
Committed to humanity’s peace and prosperity, his country was not just the largest troop contributor to United Nations-led peacekeeping operations, but had actively contributed to demining operations in Kuwait, Cambodia, Angola, Bosnia and Western Sahara. Assistance for demining operations had also been extended to Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Moreover, his country enjoyed a unique record in having cleared all minefields after the three wars in South Asia; there had never been a humanitarian situation caused by the use of Pakistan’s mines.
JUMA AMER (Libya) said the United Nations system played a central role in helping countries put an end to the indiscriminate and damaging effects of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Libya supported the Organization’s call for all nations to comply with international instruments on landmines, particularly the Ottawa Convention. Still, Libya had made some reservations to the Convention, as the treaty ignored the responsibility colonial countries, which had planted landmines in the North African region and in other areas. In that regard, recent meetings of the Non-Aligned Movement and other regional groups had stressed the need to deal with the deadly remnants of the Second World War, and had called on countries responsible for planting anti-personnel landmines to pay compensation for their removal and provide maps.
He went on to say that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Axis forces had planted numerous mines in North Africa, which had killed and wounded thousands. The presence of such landmines, even after half a century, were affecting socio-economic growth and development, particularly as some lands were unusable and workers in unmarked fields were often killed or handicapped. Libya was one of the countries that had yet to receive maps to help with that problem. It had, however, entered into an agreement with Italy and both parties had signed a declaration to work together on mine clearance and destruction. Libya hoped that the United Kingdom, Germany and others would follow Italy’s lead and respond to its request to help authorities put and end to the problem and compensate the people for their losses.
MARIO H. CASTELLÓN DUARTE (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of the Central American States, said that each of the countries on whose behalf he spoke were States parties to the Ottawa Convention. It remained the international community’s responsibility to ensure that Convention’s universality. None of the countries he spoke for had produced or transported mines into their countries since their accession. Moreover, demining was an important issue for all of them, since, even after deactivation, landmines posed a threat to the civilian population by making it impossible to cultivate land, preventing regional development, restricting job opportunities, and entailing great public health costs.
In his region, Costa Rica had been declared a mine-free zone in 2002, he said. Participants in the conflict in Nicaragua had originally planted the mines in that country during the 1980s; Costa Rica never had any landmine stockpiles. Also, El Salvador had been declared landmine-free. Yet, due to accidents taking place since that declaration, 30 areas suspected of containing unexploded ordnances had been identified. Participants in the Nicaragua conflict had also planted mines all along the border between that country and Honduras. And while demining had been scheduled to conclude in 2002, technical problems made that impossible. However, the final demining project had been begun in the spring of 2003 and Honduras had been declared mine-free. In his own country, landmine stockpiles had been destroyed some time ago.
As a region, Central America had always worked together to achieve the common objective of demining as part of a strategy to eradicate that threat from the region entirely, he continued. The region desired that all future generations of the world live free from the plague of anti-personnel landmines, and appealed to those States not party to the Ottawa Convention to adhere to it.
Rights of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said he was taking the floor to clarify inaccuracies in the statement given by Lebanon. On 24 May 2000, Israel had withdrawn all its forces from Lebanon in compliance with Security Council resolution 425. Five days later, liaison officers from the Israeli Defence Forces had held a series of meetings with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) senior command, during which it had transferred detailed maps previously used by the Defence Forces regarding the location of minefields and areas suspected of containing mines and other explosive devices in southern Lebanon. UNIFIL’s senior command had signed official acknowledgements of that transfer. Israel remained willing to assist with further clarifications on the information it had transferred. Its willingness to cooperate in the clearance of landmines had been demonstrated elsewhere in the world, including in Angola and Jordan.
Southern Lebanon had served as breeding ground for terrorist activity for many years, he added, in which respect booby traps and mines had been laid by many groups and individuals. The locations of those mines and booby traps had never been recorded, and they continued to pose a threat to civilian populations. However, according to international law, it was Lebanon’s responsibility to establish effective authority over southern Lebanon. Clearly, its failure to do so with respect to minefields endangered civilian populations in the area.
Israel had, about one month ago, detected a cluster of mines on Lebanese territory, adjacent to the border fence in the central Galilee sector. Out of respect for Lebanese sovereignty, Israeli forces had refrained from crossing the “Blue Line” to remove those mines, but had informed the UNIFIL command of their existence. However, the mines were still there, preventing free movement on the Israeli side of the border and making it difficult to protect Israeli civilians from the terrorist threat that continued to emanate from Lebanese territory.
The representative of Lebanon said he wanted to advise the representative of Israel to read the rules on the exercise of the right of reply, which stated that one must actually reply to what another delegation had said. He had not mentioned the issues referred to by the representative of Israel. Israel should refrain from wasting the time of the Assembly on additional points.
If Israel’s claim of having turned over all information regarding mines was true, he asked why the Security Council, in resolution 1496, requested that maps on mines be presented to Lebanon. The representative of Israel should present himself to the Security Council and ask the Council why Israel had been asked to hand over all maps of mines in Lebanon.
Also, he continued, the representative of Israel had announced his readiness to cooperate on the question of mines. With current information, it would take seven years to eliminate all mines in Lebanon without Israel’s complete divulgence of information. Before Israel started programmes aimed at demining in Africa, it should fulfil its responsibilities for demining in its own region. Once having committed an act, a State should be responsible for rectifying it.
The representative of Israel referred to his previous statement in right of reply and said that the information transferred on mines and explosive devices included all information on those devices placed by Israel in response to the terrorist activity emanating from Lebanon. The question of the maps had not even been mentioned in the latest UNIFIL report.
The representative of Lebanon said he would quote United Nations documents to the contrary. The representative of Israel had said the report of the Secretary-General made no mention of the question of maps on mines. However, the Secretary-General had said in his report that “the presence of a large number of minefields in the theatre of operation of UNIFIL in Lebanon remained the source of greatest concern”.
At the outset of its afternoon session, the Assembly took up appointments to fill vacancies in subsidiary organs and other appointments, in which context it was to select one country to propose the candidate to fill the vacancy in the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), left by the expiration of the term of office of Sumihiro Kuyama (Japan) on 31 December 2004.
During informal consultations, two candidates to fill the vacancy in the JIU had emerged. The Assembly was instructed, thus, to select one country from among the Asian States, which would be requested to propose the candidate to fill the vacancy in the JIU.
The meeting was suspended at 3:25 p.m. and resumed at 3:45 p.m.
The result of the balloting was, as follows:
Number of ballot papers: 185
Number of invalid ballots: 2
Number of valid ballots: 183
Number of members voting: 183
Required majority: 92
Number of votes obtained:
The Assembly, thus, selected Japan as the country to propose a candidate to fill the vacancy left by the expiration of the term of office of Sumihiro Kuyama (Japan) on 31 December 2004.
Statements on New or Restored Democracies
LUVSAN ERDENECHULUUN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and President of the Fifth International Review Conference of New or Restored Democracies, presented his report on that meeting, which had been held in Mongolia from 10 to 12 September. He said that a record 119 States, with over 30 represented by ministers or other top officials, had participated in the gathering. It had, indeed, been important for Mongolia to host the important conference in the heart of Asia, where empires were born, where unprecedented social experiments had taken place, and “ where we see now the emergence of a new global commitment to democracy and good governance”.
The main theme of the Conference had been “Democracy, Good Governance and Civil Society”, and its agenda reflected the most pressing issues of democracy around the world. Discussion focused on strengthening democratic governance and cooperation with civil society, challenges to opportunities for democracy, and partnership and participation in poverty reduction and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Some 70 heads of delegation spoke in plenary and discussed ways to promote democracy and good governance. They also identified the manifold challenges facing democracy at both national and international levels and the ways and means to address them.
He went on to say that the Conference also focused on a number of substantive issues, including democratic political and electoral systems, the threat of electoral fundamentalism, and the improvement of constitutional arrangements. Delegations had been unanimous in their belief that democracy should not be taken for granted and that the principle itself could be wholly strengthened through broad inclusive discussion, political will and solidarity. They also noted that democratic reforms were a continuous process with no “one-size-fits-all” solutions. At the same time, relevant norms, particularly those concerning human rights and fundamental freedoms, served as essential guidelines to be respected by all democracies.
The main thread that ran through the Conference had been the need for better quality democracy, its entrenchment, and the internalization of a democratic culture, he continued. Delegations, therefore, concentrated on ways to make governance more effective and participatory, more transparent and just, more responsive and responsible. The Conference adopted two outcome documents -- the Ulaanbaatar Declaration and Plan of Action. Those outcomes would guide the Conference’s activities in the coming years. The Declaration set out key principles, including ensuring that democratic societies were just and responsible, that they promote and protect rights and freedoms, and that they show solidarity towards others. That Action Plan was geared mainly towards strengthening the follow-up mechanism to promote and implement the measures endorsed by the Conference. It specifically referred to developing national plans to strengthen democracy.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said that there was no single universal model of democratic practices in the world, but rather there were many common features to which democratic States subscribed, most of which were rooted in political participation, decision-making and public freedoms. Based on that belief, Qatar had embarked on major efforts to achieve social, political and economic objectives through the establishment of democracy, the reform of the economy and “a quiet” transformation to a modern and democratic State. That transformation included in all its aspects the modern State’s responsibility for the welfare of its people.
The first step was the abolition of the Ministry of Information and Culture in an effort to enhance the role of a free press, and the implementation of many United Nations human rights conventions and protocols to which the country had acceded. Also, among the other key steps was the holding of free municipal elections in March 1999, in which women ran and voted on an equal footing with men. Moreover, the country had embarked since 2000 on a new democratic political experiment based on popular participation in public affairs through elected bodies and councils, and the establishment of forums for freedom of expression. All those steps culminated in the drafting and preparation of the new constitution, which guaranteed personal freedom and equal opportunity of the Qataris and preserved private property. The constitution had also created a climate that accommodated all kinds of expression, broadened the scope for freedom of the press and publishing, and allowed freedom of religion, worship and belief for all.
Reaffirming his country’s hope to host the next International Conference of New or Restored Democracies, he appealed to Member States to support that request. Their affirmative response, he explained, would be an encouraging step to Qatar and its people in their efforts to consolidate democratic ideals both in the country and the region. Qatar, as a new democracy, had affirmed at all international forums its total commitment to both its political responsibility and national interests, as well as stressed its consistency in pursuing a clear foreign policy that respected the sovereignty, independence and national interests of other States.
JOËL W. ADECHI (Benin) said the accession of a growing number of countries to the ideals of democracy had become an essential characteristic of the world that emerged at the end of the 1980s. The series of international conferences on new or restored democracies was the expression of the support given by the United Nations system to those countries, which allowed them to measure progress made.
From Manila to Ulaanbaatar, he noted, the conferences had made considerable headway in dealing with crucial issues. When held in Benin three years ago, the main theme of discussion had been “peace, security, democracy and development”. As Asia took the torch, the theme had evolved to include “democracy, good governance and civil society”. Moreover, at Ulaanbaatar, one had seen continued attachment to democracy.
The debates undertaken at that time, he added, had underscored threats to the rule of law and democracy challenging States, including international terrorism, transnational crime, corruption, unemployment and poverty. All those could only be dealt with through the sustained mobilization of all national and international stakeholders. Moreover, the importance of civil society as an essential pillar of the democratic edifice had been affirmed.
MARCO BALAREZO (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that in the “Cusco Consensus” this past May, the Group’s heads of State had approved a series of measures aiming to promote democratic governance and the strengthening of the rule of law. Those principles were based on current forward progress in the region and constituted important guidelines that were applied in all global democracies. At that time, the Rio Group declared to press ahead with its continuing efforts to reform its States in order to promote civic participation, combat corruption, and strengthen public authorities. The leaders had also paid special attention to political parties, movements and groups.
He said that the member States of the Rio Group agreed to, among other things, deepen and provide a platform for their development through the promotion of laws that called on the participation of political parties, movements and groups, and to encourage financial transparency and promote internal democracy. They also pledged to promote equal opportunities in their management and support political training programmes, particularly for women, youth, ethnic groups and marginalized populations. Finally, he said that the Presidents of the States members of the Group had agreed on the need to establish innovative financial mechanisms to strengthen democratic governance and contribute to overcoming poverty, by raising new resources for productive investment and generating decent employment.
Mr. MANTOVANI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the outcome of the Fifth International Conference on New or Restored Democracies had reaffirmed the growing support for strengthening democracy in all regions of the world as a system of government based on the rule of law, which allowed free expression of political opinions, which guaranteed the independence of the judiciary and the media, and promoted human security. Many challenges to democracy, including poverty, international terrorism, transnational crime, HIV/AIDS and the blatant disregard of human rights, had been addressed. At the same time, it had been agreed that effectively fighting such threats must be accomplished without eroding human rights or resorting to repression, as democracy and the protection of human rights were inseparable.
Peace and security also depended on the spread and consolidation of democracy, he added. While a well coordinated United Nations policy could help to achieve peaceful solutions to global conflicts, it was also essential to promote conditions that would enable democracy to take root where it had never before existed, and where it had been eliminated by war, dictatorship or the breakdown of civil society, as well as to shore up democracy in countries in transition.
Recognizing the essential nature of regional cooperation as a tool of democracy and human rights promotion, he attached great importance to the international community’s efforts to devise and implement assistance and education programmes for democracy. Democracy must be built on the basis of universally acknowledged rules and practices. Neighbouring countries that had already reached satisfactory standards of democracy could make important contributions to those countries building new domestic democratic institutions.
ISMAIL MUSTAPHA (Malaysia) said that the current international landscape had been swept by the “winds of change and uncertainty”, not least by the prospect of another country, Iraq, and its people moving towards democracy. However, Iraq had shown the world that trying to impose democracy “by force” was not an easy task. However, the United Nations, while being recognized as having an important role in promoting and consolidating democracy in Iraq, had not been able to play that role effectively because of the security situation on the ground.
Malaysia had learnt that democracy must be viewed as a means of achieving social justice and equity, and not just as an end in itself. He stressed that one of the pillars of a democratic system was the different roles played by the three branches of government, as well as other actors, including the media and civil societies. The international community must do more to ensure that an enabling environment was created for new and restored democracies to progress further, in terms of both their political and socio-economic development. Democracy cost money and, as a result, resources should be devoted to programmes geared towards building national capacities, rather than merely on monitoring and administrative activities. Additionally, the importance that was accorded to promoting democracy at the national level must be equally matched by ensuring democracy at the international level.
MICHAEL OYUGI (Kenya) said the United Nations had increased its support for new and restored democracies in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Many of those nations had emerged from civil war and other conflicts, and the increase in support was commendable. For peace, stability and sustainable development to flourish, good governance was a prerequisite. Kenya had taken on that challenge seriously. The December 2002 elections were an indication of the country’s resolve for a free, democratic country. Every citizen of Kenya was given an opportunity to determine his or her government, strong evidence that Africa could embrace democracy.
Kenya believed in good neighbourliness and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. It was a member of many organizations, including the East African Community. It was also the first nation to accede to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Peer Review Mechanism, whose goal was to get African leaders to subject their governments to examination by other Africans in areas of peace, security, democracy and economic corporate management.
At the national level, Kenya was committed and had the political will to fight corruption, he stated, adding that the head of State was personally leading the Government’s efforts in the fight against corruption. To that end, the Government had enacted into law the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act 2003, which provided for the prevention, investigation and punishment for matters related to corruption. In addition, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Advisory Board was recently commissioned to advise the Government on issues relating to corruption and to supervise the work of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission. Further, his nation had passed into law the Public Officer Ethics Act 2003, which sought to advance the ethics of public officers by providing for a Code of Conduct and Ethics for Public Officers. Lastly, Kenya supported the Organization’s peacekeeping missions, and was the sixth major contributor of troops to United Nations peacekeeping efforts around the world.
SHAMSHER CHOWDHURY, Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh, said that one of the most profound changes in the post-cold war era had been the overwhelming option by more and more societies and peoples for a democratic form of governance. However, the greatest challenge to the consolidation of those new or restored democracies was not political, but the lack of international support to sustain their socio-economic development and overcome the downside of globalization. A paradigm shift in institutional and behavioural patterns to inculcate a culture of democratic politics and practices were vital for their success.
Equally important was sustained socio-economic empowerment of their peoples, capacity-building for market liberalization, and buttressing trade as the engine of growth, he noted. Today, Bangladesh was in the midst of major societal transformation in which democracy, freedom, pluralism and liberalism were ethos close to every Bangladeshi heart and an integral part of its political culture. His was a democratic society that promoted genuine freedom of human thought and speech, and fostered partnership between the Government and civil society. He added that “hard terrors” such as terrorism, extremism and intolerance could threaten the fragile security and sovereignty of those new democracies. Equally destabilizing could be “soft terrors” such as hunger, disease, privation and environmental degradation.
The twin challenges posed by globalization and international terrorism seriously undermined the efforts of countries to enjoy the fruits of their democracy and liberty. While globalization offered significant opportunities, it also gave rise to inequities, diminishing market access, economic stagnation, and a negative impact on human rights. Terrorism, on the other hand, threatened democracy, human rights and social harmony and bred hatred. The survival of democracy in the new or restored democracies, therefore, would largely depend on their ability to provide their peoples with a secure and prosperous environment, where they could fully enjoy their freedom without any discrimination and deprivation. In that regard, as many of the nascent democracies marched ahead on the path of peace, stability and development, he hoped that critically needed international support would be forthcoming to complement their national efforts.
ABDUL-DAYEM M.S. MUBAREZ (Yemen) said the Fifth International Conference on New or Restored Democracies had shown the depth of commitment to strengthening democracy. Its outcomes provided a framework to measure progress made and provided an outline for future work. Proud of his country’s achievements in building democracy, he said that the media had reflected those advances. The discussion at Ulaanbaatar had focused on the challenges that democratizing States continued to face and reaffirmed democracy as a means of achieving peace, social progress and development.
Today’s newly established democracies faced different challenges, he reaffirmed. Among other things, they faced the challenge of developing at the global level. In that regard, the participation of all should be encouraged and all feelings of injustice and marginalization eliminated. That was the means by which international terrorism and other global threats could be countered. Moreover, democracy was a factor in healthy relations between States. It was also important to create a regional forum bringing together civil society organizations and guaranteeing the exchange of ideas within a region that had similar historical and cultural ties.
EDUARDO J. SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said the System had achieved considerable momentum during the past five years. The Fifth Conference, recently held in Mongolia, had adopted a “charter” of recommendations on democracy, good governance and civic participation. It also called for compliance with international norms and human rights law in the furtherance of democracy.
The Ulaanbaatar Declaration also reiterated the condemnation of all acts of terrorism and recommended intensifying international efforts to combat the scourge. Democracy must be a source of unity, not division, he said. And while there was no single democratic model or ideal, every nation had the responsibility, nevertheless, to ensure that international norms were upheld and that democracy was achieved and maintained in accordance with the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He emphasized the importance of assistance from the United Nations system, as well as donor countries, to countries attempting to restore and maintain their democracies. Democracy must be a tool for the reduction of poverty, and he urged all States to work towards the achievement of the goals of the Millennium Declaration. The effects of globalization on democracy and citizenship in developing countries also concerned his delegation. All nations must seek to develop a new regulatory framework for economic relations that allowed smaller countries to participate in a fair and equitable manner and allowed the generation of the resources required to strengthen structures aiming to uphold democracy.
LESLIE B. GATAN (Philippines) said the topic under discussion had always been of particular importance to his country, not just because it had organized and hosted the First International Conference, but because of the recognition that the lack of external support for new and restored democracies aggravated the continuing threats they faced. For that reason, the participation of 119 States and a number of United Nations agencies and non-governmental groups in the Fifth Conference was heartening. The extent of participation attested to the growing importance placed on the promotion and consolidation of new and restored democracies by the international community.
The origin of the consultative process among new or restored democracies had been precipitated by the need to share experiences in the management of governments with fledgling democracies, theretofore inexperienced in the democratic process. However, as the process had progressed, it had been realized that self-help was insufficient to ensuring long-term stability. As demonstrated in Ulaanbaatar, the involvement of non-governmental partners, including civil society, international parliamentarians, donor governments and the United Nations system, was vital.
MANOP MEKPRAYOONTHONG (Thailand) said that it would be beneficial for countries to share their best practices to enrich the democratization process. The innovations of the Parliamentarian Forum and the interactive civil society forum were highly constructive, especially in promoting greater understanding and partnership among governments, parliaments and civil society. Democracy was the only means to achieving the well-being of people, and a consolidated democracy would render direct impact on the promotion of human rights and human security. Good governance was an essential ingredient in laying down the foundation for democratic societies. As such, the Thai Government had placed a strong emphasis on the “Outside-In” approach in all of its policy formulation and implementation. That approach was citizen-centred, integrating the wishes of people “outside” the Government into policies and their implementation.
At the international level, Thailand was actively involved in the promotion of a strong democracy, based on a pluralistic political system, by playing host to the Second International Conference of Asian Political Parties in 2002. The Conference brought together government and opposition parties from most Asian nations to share views, experiences and best practices. Thailand attached great importance to the Declaration and the Plan of Action, which were adopted by consensus during the Fifth International Conference. The promotion of democratization and good governance would reinforce national efforts in social and economic development, and contribute to international peace, security and stability. It was, therefore, critical that all parties concerned devoted particular attention and efforts to following up on what was agreed to by consensus at the Fifth International Conference.
YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said peace, democracy and development were fundamentally linked, and that the respect of human rights, equality between men and women and the fight against all forms of discrimination were inalienable elements of democracy. There was no alternative to democracy if the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were to be maintained. The broad participation in the Ulaanbaatar Conference had demonstrated the global commitment to promoting the democratization process at the national, regional and international levels. It was also clear evidence of the aspirations of all stakeholders to an international order, based on the principles of the United Nations Charter.
He went on to say that in the 12 years of Kazakhstan’s independence, some dramatic changes had taken place. Accomplishments in the economic and political arenas determined the current state of the country, as well as its future. But the greatest accomplishment had been the change of attitude among the people who have now embraced democratic reforms and have put their trust in those reforms and become their most active promoters. Unlike many other countries where democracy had been built on the basis of a developed civil society, Kazakhstan was building, all at once, democracy, civil society and the State. Along with economic reforms, it had also been changing its political system.
He said that Kazakhstan had now been implementing a democratization programme to ensure full respect of human rights and personal freedoms and prevent any form of discrimination. A conference to draft proposals on further democratization and development of civil society had contributed to the deepening of democratic processes in the country. Kazakhstan would be able to achieve all its strategic objectives towards prosperity through joint and well focused efforts, based on continued dialogue between all its citizens.
ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said the movement in support of new or restored democracies had matured. Its primary benefit was its acceptance of multiple views, which differentiated it from other processes of dubious nature. Among the important issues discussed at Ulaanbaatar had been the threat to democracy posed by unilateralism and the oligarchical, political control of information disseminated through the media. The movement of new and restored democracies could provide the opportunity to exchange views and support efforts for the consolidation of democracy, as long as the plurality of views and the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations were respected.
At the international level, there had been a strong attempt to establish a single pattern of democracy, he said. However, it was not possible to defend the superiority of the so-called “bourgeois democracy”. At the current moment, there was an attempt to condemn and punish all those dissenting from that dogma. In those attempts to restrict civil and political rights under democracy, some had forgotten that democracy was government of, by and for the people. The people should be daily involved in decision-making at all levels. Democracy could not exist without human solidarity: as sovereignty resided in the people, without national independence there could be no sovereignty.
Democracy, he continued, should not defend the strongest and richest to the detriment of those in need. Moreover, it did not require the existence of a multiparty system -- there were many cases where political parties abounded, but abstention was the main form of participation. Within the industrialized and rich world, many citizens called into question the form of liberalized democracy some wished to impose, as they had little input in the processes of that system. They felt that model was elitist and that the parties and politicians were of poor calibre and did not fulfil their promises. Growing concern about the infringement of a large number of civil and political rights under the aegis of fighting terrorism had also been expressed.
His own country was proud to have a profoundly popular and participative democracy, he said, without political parties as proxies. Political institutionalization in his country had taken place on the basis of the broadest participation of the people -- all citizens over the age of 16 had the right to vote, and, thus, to be elected. The nomination of candidates was made in public assemblies instead of by political parties, and there were no defamatory political campaigns, only open, transparent discussion and the open counting of votes. All those elected were elected by the majority, and all organs of authority were elected and held accountable for their actions. Finally, he noted, there had historically been as much as 95 per cent participation in elections.
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