ADOPTING CONSENSUS TEXT ON SPORT FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT, GENERAL ASSEMBLY INVITES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO INTEGRATE SPORT INTO DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

3 November 2006
GA/10527

ADOPTING CONSENSUS TEXT ON SPORT FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT, GENERAL ASSEMBLY INVITES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO INTEGRATE SPORT INTO DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

3 November 2006
General Assembly
GA/10527
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Plenary

47th & 48th Meetings (AM & PM)


ADOPTING CONSENSUS TEXT ON SPORT FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT, GENERAL ASSEMBLY


INVITES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO INTEGRATE SPORT INTO DEVELOPMENT AGENDA


Drafts Tabled on Inter-Religious Dialogue, Return of Cultural Property,

Culture of Peace Decade; Annual ECOSOC Report Also Presented, in Day-Long Debate


Recognizing that sports and physical education presented opportunities for solidarity and cooperation in promoting tolerance, a culture of peace, and social and gender equality, the United Nations General Assembly today invited its Member States to join sports organizations, the world media and civil society in a global effort to support sport-based initiatives, which would help foster peace, cultural exchange and the attainment of globally agreed development goals.


Adopting a consensus resolution, the 192-member Assembly invited the international community to promote greater action towards integrating sport for development in the global development agenda, chiefly by working from Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s action plan, which served as an initial road map for a three-year period to expand and strengthen partnerships, sport for development and peace programmes and projects, as well as advocacy and communications activities.


Among other things, that plan, which is included in the Secretary-General’s report on “Sport for Development and Peace: the way forward” (document A/61/373), calls for the development of a global framework to strengthen a common vision, define priorities and further raise awareness to promote and mainstream easily replicable sport for development and peace policies.  It also calls for promoting innovative funding mechanisms and voluntary arrangements, including the engagement of sport organizations, civil society, athletes and the private sector.


Action on that text capped the Assembly’s joint consideration of the world community’s efforts to promote sport for peace and development, ensure a culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations and religions, and advance efforts to ensure the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.  The day-long meeting kicked off with a presentation and review of the annual report on the work of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  The Assembly decided to postpone consideration of the role of the United Nations in promoting a new global human order, which had also been scheduled for today.


Setting the stage for the debate, Assembly Vice President Abdullah Al-Murad of Kuwait called sports a “world language”, which could break down barriers between peoples and societies.  Moreover, since the world still faced conflict and intolerance in many corners, the United Nations global campaign to promote sport for development, and the dialogue among cultures was becoming crucial to the quest for peace and justice for all.  Towards that goal, he endorsed the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and called on Member States to support its stewardship of the world’s cultural heritage.


The debate was highlighted throughout by the introduction of a number of draft resolutions, to be acted on later, which touched on each topic. The Philippines’ representative, introducing a text also on behalf of Pakistan, on promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace, declared that the world -- particularly various faith communities, their leaders and other stakeholders –- was closely watching how the United Nations dealt with the culture of peace from the prism of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and cooperation.


The representative of Morocco said that the day’s discussion provided an opportunity to debate with those who spoke of a “clash of civilizations” and to tell them that such a concept was “politically incorrect and philosophically suspect”.  Morocco, with its mixed roots and its understanding of Islam, believed in reaching out to other cultures and enriching its own through open debate.  With that in mind, Morocco had endorsed the initiative of the Secretary-General’s Alliance of Civilizations, which sought to create an international project that would explore relations between the Christian and the Arab-Muslim worlds.


At the same time, Finland’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, stressed that there was no point in drawing up strategies for exchange between societies unless those were firmly based on free and spontaneous participation.  Freedom of religion, for instance, meant more than simply the absence of prohibition -- it meant creating appropriate conditions to practice religion without discrimination.  Governments must provide the proper framework for freedom of expression, where full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were of central importance.  Increased participation of women and young persons in such dialogue would also be beneficial.


Introducing the draft on return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin, Greece’s representative said that, the removal of such property, particularly illegally, “rips out the nation’s heart and obliterates its past”.  One had only to consider the intentional destruction of unique works of art, as had occurred in Afghanistan under the previous regime, to be reminded that such losses could never be redeemed.  Cooperation was the most appropriate way to address those complex issues, particularly the adverse effects of major political upheavals and armed conflicts, which traditionally provided fertile ground for the loss, destruction, removal or illicit movement of cultural property.


The Assembly began its work today with the presentation of the annual report on the work of ECOSOC by that body’s President, Ali Hachani of Tunisia.  He said that his experience had shown him the Council’s potential in meeting many of the international community’s critical concerns.  The profile, the convening power, the consensus-building that had been the trademark of United Nations conferences of the last decade-and-a-half could be captured in ECOSOC.  Moreover, the consultative status that ECOSOC offered to the community of non-governmental organizations was another unique feature of that charter organ, and a feature that should be strengthened.


In order to fully implement ECOSOC’s old and new functions, it was important to support them with sufficient funding and to give the Bureau the means to carry out its duties, he stressed.  Hopefully, ongoing consultations on ECOSOC reform would soon be completed and lead to the adoption of a resolution on strengthening the body.  He said a more substantive and interactive relationship was developing between the Assembly and the Council.  That relationship should help provide the global community with meaningful and practical orientation towards implementing the United Nations’ development agenda.  In that process, key new functions given to ECOSOC must play a central role and enable it to serve as the bridge between policy-making and implementation in the area of social and economic development.


Mr. Hachani had also introduced the resolution on sport for peace and development, saying that, throughout the world, sport was recognized as an important component of a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle.  He urged all States to implement the text, and to contribute to the work of the United Nations Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace.


In other business, the representative of Bangladesh introduced the draft resolution on the International Decade for culture and peace and non-violence for children of the world, 2001-2010.


Also participating in the joint debate today were the representatives of Iceland, Russian Federation, Belarus, Cuba, Sudan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Japan, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Switzerland, Qatar, India, Monaco, Chile, Norway, Italy and Austria.


The Observers for the Holy See and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also spoke.


The Assembly will reconvene Tuesday, 7 November to resume voting on the Latin America and Caribbean regional candidate for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council.  It is also expected to continue voting to fill one remaining vacancy on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).


Background


The General Assembly met this morning to consider the report of the Economic and Social Council, as well as reports on the 2006 United Nations Population Award, restitution of cultural property to countries of origin, a culture of peace, and sport for development and peace.  The Assembly was also expected to take up resolutions related to those items.


The 2006 Economic and Social Council report before the Assembly (document A/61/3 and Rev.1), details the Council’s work for the year, as well as a separate report on revised estimates resulting from resolutions and decisions adopted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resumed organizational session (document E/2006/99).  Among matters to be brought to the Assembly’s attention are Council resolutions related to enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); strengthening coordination of humanitarian assistance; follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society and review of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development; smoke-free United Nations premises; economic and social repercussions of Israeli occupation; proclamation of an International Year of Forests; and international cooperation on actions against kidnapping.


The report also outlines the proceedings of the April High-Level Meeting with the Council and the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  It says the July high-level segment focused on the creation of an environment conducive to productive employment and its impact on sustainable development.


Describing the operational activities segment and the Council’s work on international development cooperation, the report also details its work in the coordination segment, which focused on sustained economic growth for social development, including the eradication of poverty and hunger.  The humanitarian affairs segment focused on special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, while the general segment covered the full range of the Council’s work.


The Secretary-General’s report on the ECOSOC’s revised estimates (document A/61/370), for its resumed organizational session and first substantive sessions, says that the estimate of $257,500 could be absorbed within the resources provided by the 2006-2007 programme budget.  That would cover additional costs, related to resolutions on the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society and review of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, and the outcome of the sixth session of the United Nations on Forests.  Requirements for 2008-2009 would be considered in the context of that biennium budget.


A note of the Secretary-General transmits the report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the United Nations Population Award (document A/61/273), which gives two awards, every year, to an individual and to an institution, for their outstanding contributions to population issues.  The report states that a total of 26 nominations were received for the award -- 17 for the individual category and nine for the institutional one.  As at 31 December 2005, the Award’s trust fund had a total balance of $739,231, and interest income for that year was $19,520.  Including the prizes, expenditures totalled $49,007, meaning the interest income fell below expenditures, as in previous years.


The report further states that this year’s individual award went to Halida Hanum Achter, Director-General, Family Planning Association of Bangladesh.  The institutional award went to the Fondation pour la santé reproductive et l’education familiale (FOSREF) in Haiti.  Dr. Achter was selected for her work in epidemiological and clinical research in reproductive health care and family planning in Bangladesh.  FOSREF received the award for its outstanding achievements in the field of reproductive health and the establishment of a network of women health centres.


Another note of the Secretary-General transmits the report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin (document A/61/176).  It covers activity, carried out from 2003 to 2006, in the area of returning cultural property, illicitly removed from countries of origin.  The report states that UNESCO assisted States in promoting and implementing relevant international standard-setting instruments, such as the 1954 Hague Convention for protecting cultural property during armed conflict.  During those first three years, UNESCO also adopted a model export certificate for cultural objects, launched a cultural heritage laws database and took steps to fulfil recommendations adopted by the intergovernmental committee on the matter, at meetings in 2003 and 2005.


The report recommends that States should promptly consider joining the relevant standard-setting instruments, namely, the 1954 Hague Convention, the 1970 UNESCO Convention on prohibiting the illicit traffic in cultural property, the 2001 UNESCO Convention related to underwater cultural heritage and the 1995 International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects.  States should also revise and strengthen national legislation to better protect cultural properties, by addressing such issues as the establishment of ownership and clear sanctions for violations, regulation of archaeological sites, establishment of import and export regimes and establishment of national inventories.


A draft resolution on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin (document A/61/L.15) would have the Assembly call upon the United Nations system to cooperate in continuing to address the issue and provide support for related activities.  States would be urged to introduce effective national and international measures to combat illicit traffic in cultural property, including through special training for police, customs and border personnel.  UNESCO and the General Conference would be requested to continue efforts and to report on implementation of measures, at the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session.


A further note of the Secretary-General transmits the UNESCO Director-General’s report on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010 (document A/61/175).  The report addresses the Decade, an agenda item on promotion of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation for peace, and another item on promotion of religious and cultural understanding, harmony and cooperation.


The report recalls that world leaders at the 2005 World Summit reaffirmed the programme of action for both a Culture of Peace and a Dialogue Among Civilizations.  The leaders had underlined the value of initiatives, including the dialogue on interfaith cooperation, and committed themselves to action at the local, national, regional and international levels.  They had requested the Secretary-General to explore implementation mechanisms and to follow-up on activities, while also welcoming his Alliance of Civilizations initiative.  Leaders had also underscored the concept that sports could foster peace and development and contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding.


Actions taken to implement the Programme are then outlined in the report, in sections related to education; sustainable development; human rights; equality between women and men; democratic participation; understanding, tolerance and solidarity; participatory communication and flow of information and knowledge; and finally, international peace and security.  The role of civil society is explored and arrangements for communication and networking are set out.


The report concludes with recommendations for States to ratify UNESCO legal instruments for the protection of cultural heritage, with particular emphasis on capacity-building, training and awareness-building strategies.  States should also increase educational efforts to develop curriculums and related materials that teach tolerance, conflict-resolution, human rights and active citizenship.  They should promote the objectives of the Decade and observe 21 September as the International Day of Peace, with a global ceasefire and absence of violence.  Access to communication and information technologies for marginalized communities should be ensured, and the media is urged to support the global campaign for a culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations.


A draft resolution on promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace (document A/61/L.11) would have the Assembly affirm that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue constituted important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations and the culture of peace.  It would recognize that respect for diversity helped create an environment conduce to exchange of human experience and that all cultures shared common universal values and could enrich humankind.  States would be urged to take all necessary actions to combat acts and incitement to cause harm, based on hatred and intolerance.


Reaffirming the obligation to promote and protect the rights of minorities, the Assembly would reaffirm the role of the media in creating the environment for exchange and call for a common platform of a media ethic to foster healthy freedom of expression.  It would support initiatives, at the regional and national levels, toward that goal.


Further, by the draft, the Assembly would affirm that the United Nations system, including the Assembly and the Human Rights Council, would devise a global strategy to promote universal respect for religion and culture.  A high-level dialogue would be held in 2007, and a coming year would be declared the year of dialogue among religions and cultures, with a unit, established within the Secretariat, to ensure coordination and coherence in addressing the promotion of the dialogue.


The final report of the Secretary-General before the Assembly is on Sport for Development and Peace:  the way forward (document A/61/373).  It reviews the achievements of the 2005 International Year of Sport and Physical Education, with regard to the broad range of activities and initiatives the United Nations carried out worldwide, under the leadership of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace.  The report highlights the role sports can play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and also emphasizes the importance of non-governmental organizations and the private sector in moving forward sport and physical education, as tools for promoting education, health, development and peace.


Sport is a stronger partner in development, as a result of the Year, the report states.  The Year gave impetus to efforts to mainstream sport into existing development peace programmes, by offering innovate approaches, in combination with existing efforts to accomplish specific targets, in areas such as poverty reduction, education and gender equality.  Many countries now recognize “sport for all” as a national priority, while sport and physical education are recognized as international priorities.  Countries have increased involvement in sports and physical education projects that contribute to education, health, development and peace, while also playing a role in improving public health.


A significant achievement, during the Year, was the unanimous adoption of the International Convention against Doping in Sport, by the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005, the report continues.  Sport is also now more widely recognized for its potential as a universal language for bridging social, religious, ethnic and gender divides.  Sport has also proven to contribute to a powerful synergy for raising public awareness and mobilizing resources, including for relief efforts in response to natural disasters, such as the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.  In short, the Year was a springboard for launching new programmes and strengthening existing ones, in using sport to advance developing goals.


The report reviews those measures guided by the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace, with UNESCO as the lead agency.  The Special Adviser presented his final report on the Year in April 2006, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.  A book on the Year will be launched during the Assembly’s current session.


The Secretary-General ends his report by recommending that the Special Adviser continue his leadership role in fostering partnership between the world of sport and the development community.  States are urged to contribute to the Office, and actors are encouraged to generate support, in terms of priorities and resources.  Finally, the Special Adviser is encouraged to collect and publicize information on sports, as well as to support the United Nations system in operational activities to use sports as a tool for development and peace.


A draft resolution on sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace (document A/61/L.12) would have the Assembly invite States, the United Nations system and relevant others to further continue developing a global framework to strengthen a common vision, define priorities and raise awareness to promote and mainstream sport for development and peace.  States would also be encouraged to promote innovative funding mechanisms and multi-stakeholder arrangements, as well as to promote common evaluating and monitoring tools, indicators and benchmarks.  The Secretary-General would be encouraged to maintain the Special Adviser’s mandate, and States would be invited to provide voluntary contributions to the Office.


Introduction of Report of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)


ALI HACHANI, President, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), highlighting the Council’s work during the past year, said it had focused, largely, on developing a global partnership for development -- exemplified with the meetings with Bretton Woods institutions -– and on promoting employment and decent work, and searching for ways to translate economic growth into effective social development.  ECOSOC’s work on the operational activities for development was of special significance this year, with the Council evaluating how far the United Nations development system had gone in implementing the Assembly’s guidance, during the last triennial comprehensive policy review.  In 2007, expectations were high, given the unprecedented focus on the United Nations role in development cooperation and on the need for greater coherence and impact in its work.


On humanitarian policy issues, the Council gave strong support to the reform agenda and made several proposals for dividing the work of the ECOSOC and the General Assembly, he said.  The Council was vested with the authority to promote an integrated approach to peace and development, and he suggested the Assembly draw upon the Council’s work in the area of preventing armed conflict, by promoting poverty eradication, sustainable development and human rights.  The Council was consolidating and coordinating its method of work, and encouraging its commissions and subsidiary bodies to examine their operational methods.


On other issues, with the agreement to extend ECOSOC’s Ad Hoc Advisory Groups on Guinea-Bissau and Haiti, he said that the Council had wanted to ensure that lessons learnt, by the Council, could benefit the future work of the Peacebuilding Commission.  It had also adopted a resolution to promote youth employment, as a strategy for development and collective security.  As a follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society and to strengthen the United Nations role in this issue, the Council had set up new tasks, which had included multi-stakeholder engagements with the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development.


Emphasizing the role that the 2005 World Summit had bestowed upon the Council, he said that reviewing and monitoring the United Nations development would be an important element in the Council’s work, in the next few years.  The annual ministerial-level substantive review and the high-level biennial development cooperation forum set the tone for defining future priorities.  However, he wondered whether the agendas of both the Assembly and the Council, responded adequately to the priorities set in the United Nations development agenda.  He looked forward to the high-level panel report, which would give more coherence to the work of the United Nations.  The ECOSOC could effectively address issues in a comprehensive manner, with the participation of a significant number of stakeholders, and it was important to continue to support the Council’s functions with sufficient funding.


He said his experience as ECOSOC President had shown him the Council’s potential in meeting many of the international community’s critical concerns.  The profile, the convening power and the consensus-building that had been the trademark of the United Nations conference of the last decade and a half, could be captured in the ECOSOC.  That inclusive spirit of United Nations international conferences, actually permeated this year’s Council session, especially the high-level segment, and clearly showed that the ECOSOC could effectively address cross-cutting issues in a comprehensive manner.  The consultative status that the ECOSOC offered to the community of non-governmental organizations was another unique feature of that charter organ, and a feature that should be strengthened.


In order to fully operationalize the ECOSOC’s old and new functions, it was important to support them with sufficient funding and to give the Bureau the means to carry out its duties, he stressed.  The adoption of the resolution on the follow-up to the development outcome of the World Summit had been an important development.  Hopefully, the ongoing consultations on ECOSOC would soon be completed and lead to the adoption of a resolution on strengthening the ECOSOC.  Those two resolutions would service as guiding posts in efforts to accelerate implementation.


He said that a more substantive and interactive relationship was developing between the Assembly and the Council.  That relationship should help in providing meaningful and practical orientation to the international community in implementing the United Nations development agenda.  In that process, key new functions, given to the ECOSOC, must play a central role and enable the Council to serve as the bridge between policy-making and its implementation in the area of social and economic development.


JARL-HAKAN ROSENGREN ( Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that ECOSOC’s 2006 substantive session had been productive and that the outcomes from the high-level, coordination, humanitarian and operational segments had been finalized.  Specifically, on the high-level segment –- creating an environment at the national and international levels conducive to generating full and productive employment -- the European Union saw the vital importance of including the social dimension of globalization and the fundamental principles and rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue into the ministerial declaration.


He went on to say that strengthening the coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance, at all levels, had been another important topic discussed during the substantive session, and the European Union looked forward to such enhancements.  It saw the “cluster leadership” method as a useful approach.  The Union also attached great importance to the Council’s revitalization, as outlined in the 2005 World Summit outcome text, and hoped that negotiations on a draft resolution on ECOSOC reform would pick up speed, so that the ECOSOC could continue its work with reformed functions, by its next substantive session.


HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) laid out his views on the report of the Economic and Social Council, and, in particular, expressed his support for the theme of decent work for all.  In the context of work, he noted the importance of promoting gender equality, adding that there was a long way to go to ensure equal opportunity for women.  It was vital, meanwhile, to sustain development, leading to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.  Work still needed to be accomplished to learn how to translate economic growth into effective social development.


Furthermore, he said, it remained important for the ECOSOC to work with countries, in the areas of long-term sustainable development in post-conflict situations.  For the future role of the ECOSOC, it was crucial that overlap and duplication of work be avoided.  The ECOSOC should closely follow the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, and prepare the ground for a long-term foundation of the economies concerned.  Coordination remained essential to ECOSOC functions, and he expressed the hope that the outcome of the high-level panel would strengthen ECOSOC’s work in all areas.


NIKOLAY V. CHULKOV ( Russian Federation) thanked the President of the Economic and Social Council for a detailed report and said the Council was fully recognized, by Member States, as the principal body, where issues of social and economic matters were discussed.  The role given to the Council, to oversee and coordinate all United Nations economic and social activities, clearly set the path to follow in the future.  His country believed that the Council’s discussions, this year, on the issues of sustainable development, employment for all, and the right of workers, had set future comprehensive guidelines for the United Nations work.  The three-tiered structure for operational activities had set clear divisions in the agenda of both the Assembly and the ECOSOC.


He said his country was an active member of the Economic Council of Europe (ECE), which had worked to establish better accountability and transparency among European States.  Similarly, the Russian Federation had worked with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), where it had introduced a proposal to set up a new transportation, energy, and communication centre for the region.  His country approved the cooperation developed between the international financial institutions and the ECOSOC, and suggested further high-level meetings with those institutions and with the Bretton Woods institutions.


SERGEI RACHKOV ( Belarus) laid out his views on the report of the Economic and Social Council, expressing support for that body’s work.  He urged Member States and the United Nations to provide full support to their necessary functions.  ECOSOC’s contribution was essential to global development worldwide, and it was necessary to strengthen the coordination machinery between the United Nations and the ECOSOC, to realize the full potential of their work.  The ECOSOC needed to become an international forum to support development.  Belarus supported that approach and wanted to become a member of the ECOSOC to help it achieve those goals.


Furthermore, he said that Belarus felt optimistic about the work accomplished by the ECOSOC, and did not agree with delegations that there was duplication between it and the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) of the General Assembly.  During the past year, the Council achieved important strides towards combating human trafficking and promoting science and technology for development.  It had also played an irreplaceable role in assessing the report of the high-level panel for development, environment and humanitarian needs.  Now, the task of the Member States was to create the ideal working conditions for the ECOSOC, and Belarus believed that support for the Council must be commensurate with the role and tasks assigned to it.


BASILIO A. GUTIERREZ GARCIA (Cuba) expressed dismay that, a year after reaching agreement at the 2005 World Summit for a more effective Economic and Social Council as the principal organ for coordination, political review and recommendation of the issues related to economic and social development, Member States were still engaged in a long and complicated negotiation process on the Council’s future.  The work of ECOSOC should be carried out in accordance with the matters agreed to in resolutions of the General Assembly.


He said that, while Cuba endorsed the objective of improving ECOSOC’s efficiency and continued to uphold the Council’s role as a principal organ of the United Nations, it opposed any attempt to weaken and limit ECOSOC’s decision-making power.  However, as ECOSOC continued to work on issues of development, ideas related to new issues should not be implemented to the detriment of ECOSOC’s current functions.  Furthermore, special ECOSOC meetings that were convened to address humanitarian emergencies should be relevant and not become an additional burden for the Member States, especially during sessions of the General Assembly Committees.


Introduction of Draft on Cultural Property


Introducing the draft resolution on return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin (document A/61/L.15), ADAMANTIOS VASSILAKIS (Greece) said that, in recent years, the international community had become increasingly sensitive to the issue and had demonstrated its willingness to facilitate the restitution of cultural property illicitly removed from its country of origin.  Such removal, particularly as a result of illicit trade, ran counter to all the principles “culture” was supposed to promote.  Indeed, it was a grave loss to the countries and peoples concerned:  it “rips out the nation’s heart and obliterates its past,” he said.


One had only to consider the intentional destruction of unique works of art, as had occurred in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, in order to be reminded that such losses could never be redeemed because those treasures could never be brought back, he said.  “It is only the restitution of cultural property, taken illicitly from its place of origin, that will restore any damage caused to cultural heritage,” he said.  It was critically important, therefore, for Member States to actively cooperate to help resolve such issues.  Cooperation was also the most appropriate way to address the adverse effects of major political upheavals and armed conflicts, which had traditionally provided fertile ground for the loss, destruction, removal or illicit movement of cultural property.


Turning to the draft resolution, on which action would be taken at a later stage, he said that the text attempted to highlight the work being led by, and done in conjunction with, UNESCO, which was uniquely mandated with the stewardship of the world’s cultural resources.  The text noted important developments, including UNESCO’s recent launch of a Cultural Heritage Laws database, as well as its elaboration of a model export certificate for cultural objects.  Both of those instruments had proved to be extremely useful tools in the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property.


As for the impact of increased international attention to that issue on Greece itself, he said that he was pleased to inform the Assembly of the recent return, from the University of Heidelberg, of a fragment from the Parthenon’s north frieze.  “This gesture has a symbolic value:  it constituted the first step towards the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures,” he declared, adding that the New Acropolis Museum was nearing completion and the “Parthenon Marbles” -- reunified and presented in their natural historical environment -- would be its centrepiece.  Further, closer collaboration with other museums had thus far led to the return, from the Los Angeles-based J. Paul Getty Museum, of a gravestone from the Boeotia region of ancient Greece, as well as the return of a fragment of a marble relief from the island of Thassos.


Statement on Return of Cultural Property


KHALID ABBAS AHMED (Sudan) called on all nations to adopt standards in the important area of protecting a nation’s cultural heritage and to register with the UNESCO database, which he said should be made available in all the official United Nations languages, including Arabic.  States should also adopt the UNESCO model export certificate and sign onto the various standard-setting instruments, such as the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law Convention, related to stolen or illegally exported cultural property.


Overall, he said, the United Nations should make greater efforts to ensure that a country’s cultural heritage was protected, including by elaborating a legal mechanism towards that goal.  A tribunal should also be established to punish those who had looted treasures, such as at the Parthenon and the Sphinx.  Every element of cooperation must be used to end the impunity with which some of the world’s greatest treasures had been stolen from their rightful owners, and such actions should be prevented in the future, through information exchange and use of the UNESCO database and Interpol resources.  The disastrous destruction of Iraq’s cultural property at the peak of supposed civilization was all the more shocking, as that had occurred under the eyes of the entire international community.  Any property looted from there must be registered as soon as it showed up anywhere.


AMID AL BAYATI ( Iraq) called for cooperation in an area where much too little had been done.  He recalled that his country was well-known to be a cradle of civilization, with a culture that reached back more than 4,000 years.  The plunder of his country had been carried out by professional criminals, even after the Security Council had called for the return of Iraq’s plundered cultural objects and despite all that UNESCO and the Intergovernmental Committee had done to prevent that.


MULUGETA ZEWDIE ( Ethiopia) said that, despite its firm commitment to protect cultural properties, Ethiopia had vast amounts of cultural resources abroad that had not yet been returned.  It had taken tangible steps, at the national and international levels, to address the return or restitution of cultural property.  Those included endorsing the “Heritage Research and Protection Proclamation” to prevent items from being illegally exported or trafficked out of the country; putting in place an apparatus of systematic inventory and registration of cultural property through establishment of a database of cultural legislation; setting up customs control mechanisms and making the general public aware of heritage values.


He said that Ethiopia had been exerting its utmost effort for the return of confiscated cultural property through diplomatic negotiations, court processes, purchasing and other means.  Currently, Ethiopia had embarked on an effort to return its heritages taken by British soldiers in 1875, by establishing a committee of eminent personalities, intellectuals and foreign friends of Ethiopia.  The country was eagerly awaiting the return of many cultural properties exported illegally through different means, including more than 2,700 parchments now in Europe, Asia, America and Canada.  He called upon the international community and the Governments of the countries concerned to cooperate in the immediate restoration of Ethiopia’s heritages.  In particular, he urged the United Kingdom to return items confiscated during the Meqdela War, without delay.  Ethiopia was constructing a stockroom for the returned heritages and a museum with a laboratory.  Hopefully, the international community would respond positively and quickly to assist in the accomplishment of that project.


ANDREAS D. MAVROYIANNIS ( Cyprus) expressed support for the draft resolution introduced by the representative of Greece on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.  He noted that the work in that regard was extremely important for many cultures.  Cyprus was deeply engaged in efforts in that field, as it was a country that had been looted of many of its treasures.  Important legal steps had been taken towards returning cultural properties to their countries; however, Member States needed to focus more on implementation of those steps.  The international community should enforce the draft resolution, in order to achieve progress towards its aims.


Introduction of Drafts


LAURA L. BAJA (Philippines) said that the recent rise in the number of initiatives on interfaith, intercultural and intercivilizational dialogue and cooperation, evidenced by several international, interregional, regional and national events had represented a growing global interest in the sustained implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace, as well as the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations.


Speaking also on behalf of Pakistan, he introduced the draft resolution on the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace (document A/61/L.l1), noting that the two countries had consolidated the updating of their respective resolutions under the agenda item on Culture of Peace, not only in response to the need to streamline the Assembly’s work, but more importantly, to highlight the intertwined dimensions of religions and cultures in promoting a culture of peace.  The world, in particular the faith communities, their leaders and other stakeholders, was watching how Member States addressed the culture of peace from the prism of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and cooperation.  He hoped that the draft could be adopted at an early opportunity to allow forward movement on concrete measures, particularly those mentioned in operative paragraphs 7 to 12.


IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY ( Bangladesh) said that his country had been born from a bloody conflict, and, therefore, saw great value in the principles of tolerance, respect for diversity, democracy and understanding.  So far, it had contributed more than 58,000 peacekeepers to 37 United Nations peacekeeping operations in the maintenance of international peace and security, and was willing to do more, if called upon.  Bangladesh also believed that gender mainstreaming was imperative for social stability and peace, since women’s empowerment tended to marginalize extremist thought and action in the community.  With the awarding of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to micro-credit pioneer, Professor Yunus of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh had clearly demonstrated the linkage between poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and peace, and Bangladesh stood ready to share with others the country’s best practices in that field.


Believing that a culture of peace was important during a time of misunderstanding and intolerance, he then introduced the draft resolution on International Decade for culture and peace and non-violence for children of the world, 2001-2010 (document A/61/L.16).  The resolution, based on that of last year, but with some additional elements, would welcome the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and encourage it to promote a culture of peace.


KLAUS TORNUDD (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted with satisfaction that efforts to foster a culture of peace had permeated the activities of a large number of United Nations bodies and that the objectives of the International Decade for Culture and Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World had been actively furthered by civil society.  Indeed, declarations had no value if their substance was not felt in the lives of ordinary people, and the youth were no exception.  Hopefully, too, recommendations made by the Director-General of UNESCO would inspire Member States to enhance their efforts in human rights education, and UNESCO would continue monitoring those activities.


He said the European Union stood ready to take up culture and peace every two years, rather than annually, if other Member States also agreed.  Specific subjects under the heading of “culture and peace”, however, could be taken up as the need arose, such as consideration of the report of the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations, due at the sixty-fifth session, or that of the high-level group of eminent persons on the Alliance of Civilizations, expected later this month.  Broadening the understanding between civilizations to counter incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism and intolerance, as called for in Security Council resolution 1624 (2005), should also continue apace.


However, there was no point in drawing up strategies for exchange between societies unless those were firmly based on free and spontaneous participation in that debate, he said.  Indeed, Governments must provide the proper framework for freedom of expression, where full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were of central importance.  Freedom of religion, for instance, meant more than simply the absence of prohibition; it also included creating appropriate conditions for the practice of religion without discrimination.  Increased participation of women and young persons in such dialogue would also be beneficial.


YERZHAN KAZYKHANOV ( Kazakhstan) said that the emergence of new challenges and threats to humankind, particularly the rise of religious extremism, made the need for dialogue among cultures and religions more urgent.  Historically, the territory of Kazakhstan had been a meeting place for a variety of different religions and civilizations.  Its population was made up of more than 130 ethnic groups and 46 religious denominations.  A balanced internal policy had encouraged dialogue between those cultures.  The Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan –- a unique and effective mechanism to pursue a policy towards integration of ethnic groups –- was established in 1995.  It worked to ensure the revival of national cultures, languages and traditions, strengthen interethnic unity and work out State policy in the area of interethnic relations.


He said that the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in 2003 in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana, had become the country’s tangible contribution to the strengthening and broadening of interfaith dialogue.  A month ago, a second Congress had completed its deliberations and adopted a Declaration to Enhance the Role and Responsibility of Religious Leaders in the Strengthening of International Security.  The Congress had become an important contribution to peace, accord and broader dialogue among religions and was turning into a credible permanent international forum.


His delegation had proposed declaring one of the coming years as “The United Nations Year of Dialogue among Religions and Cultures”, he noted.  Kazakhstan had also supported and had co-sponsored the draft resolution entitled “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for Children of the World 2001-2010.”


ABDULLAH JASSMIN ABDULLAH ALKASHWANI ( United Arab Emirates) said that dominance of a culture of violence and war prevented settlement of conflicts and led to increase in violence and tension in regions.  Conflicts fostered hatred and revenge among generations and wasted natural and human resources.  Therefore, the United Arab Emirates supported a culture of peace.  Those issues required the international community to think seriously about how to promote a culture of peace, instead of war.  The United Arab Emirates believed in preventing conflicts through dialogue and it approved the need to convene comprehensive, multilateral talks.


However, he said that three important points must be met in order to constructively promote a culture of peace.  One, the international community must demonstrate political will, in order to find peace and just solutions for cases of occupation and domination, in particular on the Palestinian question, which had led to many wars and acts of violence.  Two, the international community must commit to sustainable human development and global development and equality and social justice following the end of conflicts.  Lastly, a culture of peace must include a transformation of attitudes, in particular among extremist groups, which believed in the power of militias and nuclear weapons to achieve self-serving ambitions, in disregard of the negative consequences for their actions.


MOHAMED ABDELSATTAR M. ELBADRI ( Egypt) said the culture of peace was a profound humanitarian principle for all levels of society: the individual, society, the State and international relations.  That culture, a foundation for peace and international relations, would not be attained through selective implementation.  As a result of globalization, international relations were now characterized by a sharp rise in different patterns of interaction among States, which presented opportunities for cooperation, complementarities and fulfilment of mutual interests.


He said the challenge today was to turn the diversity of cultures, religions, traditions and customs into assets, as well as to avoid using them as means for dissention, splits and conflicts at the international level.  The means to achieve that noble aim could be found in the different declarations and resolutions already adopted.  It was noteworthy, however, that the enthusiasm shown at the adoption phase had not been the same as at the implementation phase.


An important pillar of the culture of peace was the dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions, he said.  The United Nations initiative of the “International Agenda for the Dialogue among Civilizations”, however, had not been implemented.  Dialogue was the main instrument for interaction between peoples and dialogue among civilizations was primarily achieved through mutual respect for each other’s cultures.  Such a dialogue should not be politicized, and double standards should be avoided.  Today’s challenge of enhancing relations between States, through the application of the culture of peace and the dialogue among civilizations, called for a third initiative, namely a “culture of respect”, which should be implemented in parallel with the culture of civilization.


TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan) said it was important to find effective ways for the United Nations system, Member States and civil society to further strengthen the global framework to promote a culture of peace.  His delegation believed that, in order to maintain a sustainable peace, it was essential to protect people from critical threats to human life and livelihood and to ensure that people lived with dignity, which was why his country strongly promoted the concept of “human security”.


He said that issues related to education and dialogue among civilizations were of particular concern to Japan.  Recognizing that basic education was a fundamental human right and that investment in education should be the basis for nation-building, Japan had provided $4.7 billion in official development assistance (ODA) to the educational sector.  In 2005, the Prime Minister had proposed a “decade of education for sustainable development,” which the country was working towards, in partnership with UNESCO.  Japan also had undertaken a series of efforts to deepen understanding among cultures and civilizations, including by hosting the World Civilization Forum in July 2005 and sponsoring dialogues, such as the “Japan-Middle East Cultural Exchanges and Dialogue Mission.”   Japan was determined to redouble its efforts to bring about a culture of peace, he said.


When the Assembly continued this afternoon, AKRAM ZAKI ( Pakistan), also speaking about the culture of peace, said his country supported international commitments that promoted tolerance and peace, especially in today’s inter-connected world.  Increased connectivity between world cultures had promoted better knowledge among people around the world, but it had also reinforced stereotypes and deepened differences and alienation, which were often displayed in anti-religious manifestations.  Endorsing the Assembly’s strong commitment to promoting dialogue and understanding among civilizations, cultures and religions, he noted that the United Nations Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief had indicated that intolerance between religious communities was encouraged by governmental bodies and negative media reports.  He urged the Assembly and the Human Rights Council to work towards stopping religious defamation. 


With that in mind, he proposed three items for consideration by the Assembly: that the Human Rights Council condemn religious intolerance and the defamation of religions, particularly in the terms of linking Islam with violence and terrorism; that it hold a high-level event to promote racial and religious tolerance; and, following the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, that Member States develop a global strategy to address the issue of religious intolerance and introduce a legal instrument that would combat the defamation of religion.  Pakistan, in collaboration with the Philippines would introduce a draft resolution to promote respect for the diversity of cultures and religious, and he urged all Member States to endorse it. 


MOHAMED ALDAI ALI (Sudan), sharing his views on the report on the culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world, commended progress in some areas, but also noted some impediments.  Peace was a major objective for the United Nations and UNESCO, but remained a complicated task because of economic and strategic changes in the world today.  The culture of peace brought about democracy, security and disarmament, and developed international cohesion based on global values.  Peace was based on justice and human rights, and was a means of construction and stability.


He said that the present generation in the Sudan had been raised on peace, and it rejected war.  Peace had become the strategic cornerstone of development and progress in the country.  The Sudan had made great strides in working towards peace.  For example, in 2005, the Government signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which had halted the bloodshed.  Furthermore, the Sudan had concentrated efforts to make the Agreement a reality, and since the signing of the Abuja peace agreement for Darfur, the Government had worked hard to secure adherence by all the parties to ensure that peace and stability would prevail.  The Sudan toiled to make the culture of peace a reality in daily life, and it worked to resettle displaced refugees into their homeland and reintegrate ex-combatants into civilian life.  The Sudan would continue to bring about a peaceful solution for Darfur, and the Government would work on putting the established mechanisms in the peace agreements in place.


HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said that, midway through the International Decade, the international community should reflect on its progress in realizing a culture of peace.  If peace was taken to mean creating a society free from violence, then Malaysia had achieved some of those goals, in that it had created a stable and prosperous nation, despite the different beliefs, religions and ethnicities of its people.  But on the Programme of Action’s sixth action area -- advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity -- the international community was still far from achieving its aims. 


A year ago, for instance, the world had been rocked by discontent and anger, following the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, a sacred figure central to the Islamic faith, he recalled, wondering if any lessons had been learned from that episode, or whether it had all been in vain.  Indeed, the free flow of goods, services and labour taking place today had also opened a Pandora’s Box of ideas -- where beliefs and cultures intertwined and mixed, at times, explosively.  The General Assembly should meditate on the words found in the preamble to the charter of UNESCO: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”


ZHANG DAN ( China), commenting on the draft resolution on a culture of peace, said that history had taught that dialogue was conducive to promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes and establishing a family of nations working in harmonious coexistence.  Recently, it had become more important to promote that culture and avoid equating terrorism with any specific civilization or religion.  China believed in “agreeing with disagreements”; if other countries maintained that perspective, they would keep friendly relations with their neighbours.  Adoption of the decade’s declaration and the culture of peace agenda had been a sign that the international community was paying increasing attention to that dialogue.


On the draft resolution promoting the return or restitution of cultural property, she said her Government had always attached great importance to the protection of cultural heritage.  It had acceded to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.  The Chinese Government had also introduced national laws protecting cultural relics, and it had designated a day in June every year as Cultural Heritage Day, with the aim of raising awareness among the general public.  China would continue to participate in UNESCO’s activities, geared towards the return of cultural properties to their countries of origin. 


HAMID CHABAR ( Morocco) said the current debate before the Assembly was an opportunity for the international community to assess the initiatives taken so far on the promotion of a culture of peace and the development of a dialogue between civilizations and religions.  It also provided the occasion to debate with those who spoke of a clash of civilizations, and tell them that such a concept was politically incorrect and philosophically suspect.  Morocco, with its mixed roots and its understanding of Islam, believed in reaching out to other cultures and enriching its own through an open debate.  His country greeted the efforts of UNESCO, to promote dialogue and coexistence between different civilizations and religions, in order to prevent conflict.


With that in mind, he said Morocco had endorsed the initiative of the Alliance of Civilizations, introduced by the Secretary-General, which sought to create an international project that would explore relations between the Christian and the Arab-Muslim worlds.  It could not be ignored, that dissemination of knowledge was better implemented through the promotion of economic development and cultural exchanges among nations, as well as through respect for human rights and by reaching out to marginalized communities.  Education was one of the most important ways to tackle cultural misunderstanding today, and Morocco had introduced human rights courses and training that would diminish the digital divide in its entire school system.  In the same vein, it continued to promote professional and cultural exchanges with professionals from sub-Saharan Africa.


Increasing awareness of cultural values was the most effective way to preserve a sense of identity, he said, calling on the international community to do more in the area of education, to promote cultural and religious tolerance.  Similarly, the international community should harmonize its efforts to give access to technology to people worldwide because, through technology, tolerance and cooperation could more effectively be disseminated.  His delegation endorsed the draft resolution introduced by the Philippines and Pakistan on protecting religion from defamation, and it also endorsed the draft text tabled by Bangladesh, aimed at promoting a culture of peace. 


ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY ( Indonesia) said his delegation attached great importance to the promotion of the culture of peace.  It was an important approach in dealing with prejudice, intolerance and xenophobia, and vital for the achievement of sustainable peace.  The UNESCO programme to promote the culture of peace through education should be expanded, with the active involvement of civil society and other stakeholders.  Despite the proliferation of intercultural, intercivilization and interfaith initiatives, the world was still beset by violence, hatred, discrimination, ignorance and poverty.  Endeavours should be stepped up to meet the challenges ahead.


He said that Indonesia, a heterogeneous country, firmly believed in promoting dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions.  It had taken specific steps in education, culture, media, religion and society to promote peace, compassion and tolerance.  The role of the media in developing better understanding should be supported, although -– as the cartoon controversy had demonstrated -– the media could do great harm, too.  In collaboration with Norway, Indonesia had hosted a global media dialogue in Bali last September.  An international conference of Islamic scholars in Jakarta last June had produced a programme of action to promote Islam as a religion of moderation and tolerance.  Indonesia had also hosted the World Peace Forum, from 14 to 16 August. 


In today’s global multicultural environment, dialogue should be encouraged; the acknowledgement of global multiculturalism should also be reflected in respect for the sovereign integrity of all nations and the continued commitment of developed countries to assist developing countries.


GEORGINA CHABAU (Cuba) said that six decades after the creation of the United Nations, a few countries with a monopoly on economic, technical and political power, continued to uphold an international order that made them ever richer and the majority of countries ever poorer, more exploited and more dependent.  The current economic and social situation threatened the very existence of mankind.  One sixth of the world’s population survived on less than a dollar a day, and nearly one half barely survived with less than two dollars.  A half million infants lived in extreme poverty, and 1 million under the age of 5 died annually from preventable diseases.  More than 100 million children could not attend school, and 850 million people were hungry.


She said that the underdevelopment and poverty were a result of the conquering, colonizing, enslaving and plunder of territories in the vast part of the world by former “metropolises”, the emergency of imperialism and the bloody wars for global redistribution.  None of the current situation served the interests of humanity; an order that marginalized 80 per cent of the world population could not be sustained.  Multilateralism and multilaterally agreed solutions in line with the Charter were the only acceptable way to address international problems.  Cuba’s contribution was based on a comprehensive international cooperative programme selflessly implemented in the areas of sports, health and education, through thousands of Cuban specialists and technicians, who provided support services in many countries, despite the tight blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, about which most United Nations members would make declarations on 8 November.


Archbishop CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the Holy See had always expressed confidence in the United Nations as a privileged forum for nations to work in concert for the promotion of peace.  At the start of this year, Pope Benedict XVI, in his message entitled “In Truth, Peace,” had underlined the inseparable bond between peace and truth.  Peace was the idea of the dignity of every human person intimately linked to the transcendent; it would be attained once it had been understood, and put into practice as the realization of that shared truth, in mutual respect of cultural diversities.


He said that the lack of the basic “truth of peace” at the cultural level had undoubtedly produced devastating effects through the years, and today, there were still cultures and mentalities that denied that it existed.  International terrorism was the most dramatic example.  Its criminal designs rested on false cultural roots that denied the existence of a link between truth and human life.  Such roots were identifiable in nihilism and in fanatical fundamentalism.  The causes of the lack of peace could not be reduced to those of a social or political nature; they could be explained by deeper motivations of a cultural, ideological, philosophical and even religious nature.  It was essential for national and international peace policies to be formulated that would embrace the truth of peace and shun lies as an acceptable system of relations or tolerance.


MICHAEL SCHULZ, observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the Federation attached importance to a much stronger effort by Governments, international organizations and civil society on the subject of culture and peace.  More than five years into the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, the need for concerted action had probably never been greater.  The IFRC’s member societies wanted to know what the major actors had been doing to promote tolerance and respect for diversity.


He cited the efforts of some IFRC member societies in undertaking early outreach work and the training of peacebuilders as examples of action taking place with the full involvement of communities.  Such an approach was especially important in countries where migration had brought together people of different cultures, ethnicities, traditions and beliefs.  The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had an important role to play, and a range of opportunities existed in linking national societies to national human rights institutions.  With its bridging role, the IFRC had been using its membership in the six main international youth organizations to stress the role of youth in finding and implementing solutions.  With preparations underway for its thirtieth international conference in Geneva next year, the IFRC looked forward to a strong and positive outcome from the debate on culture and peace.


Introduction of Draft Resolution on Sport for Peace and Development


Mr. HACHANI (TUNISIA), introducing the draft resolution, document A/61/L.12, said that sports were a universally understood essential common language for the exercise of both body and mind.  Throughout the world, sport was recognized as an important component of a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle.  For that reason, the unanimous adoption of the International Convention against Doping in Sport by the UNESCO General Conference in October 2005 had been a very welcome development.  All States should adopt the Convention and take all measures to ensure that the practice stopped, since it not only destroyed athletes’ bodies, but also the spirit of the activity itself.  All States should also implement the resolution before the Assembly, and contribute to the work of the Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace.


SALMAN JASEM ALZAABI ( United Arab Emirates) welcomed the efforts of the United Nations to improve the quality of sports events, create an environment conducive to the achievement of development plans and improve the quality of educational, cultural and health-related services for all.  Her delegation stressed the importance of extending financial, economic and moral assistance to developing countries, particularly to the smallest and poorest countries and those affected by war and conflict.  The United Arab Emirates also highlighted the importance of reaching an international consensus on a code of good practice for sport, and for developing strategic partnership programmes to disseminate the ethics of human conduct and the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Such programmes would also help to support natural disaster response programmes and in combating violence, terrorism, crime and illicit trade in drugs, she said.


She said her Government had allocated substantial funding to sports-related activities and programmes, incorporating them into social, environmental and health programmes.  With Government support, an increasing number of sports clubs had been established, in accordance with international standards, making a significant contribution to promoting sports among the youth of both sexes, especially among persons with special needs.  Her delegation believed that the Olympic Truce could be an effective tool for ending wars and conflicts, and it urged the United Nations and relevant regional organizations to intensify joint efforts aimed at reviving that tradition.  The United Arab Emirates also looked forward to an international consensus on an anti-doping convention to prevent the abuse of drugs in all sports activities. 


PETER MAURER ( Switzerland) paid tribute to the Secretary-General, his Special Adviser for Sport for Development and Peace, and the teams in Geneva and New York for tirelessly promoting education, health, development and peace through sport.  Indeed, the Office’s International Year of Sport and Physical Education 2005 had been a testimony to the numerous initiatives aimed at making a difference through sport and play, while the Magglingen Call to Action -- an outcome of the December 2005 Conference on Sport and Development –- had been a milestone on the path to worldwide partnership on sport and development.


He encouraged global investment in the use of sport for development and peace.  Indeed, Switzerland was convinced that sport was a “formidable vector” to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes were called on to integrate the use of sport as an instrument in their own work, under the guidance of the Special Adviser.


FAISAL ABDULLA HAMAD AL-HENZAB ( Qatar) commended the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace, and supported the draft resolution, and advancement of the theme at the global level.  He said that the 2005 United Nations International Year of Sport and Physical Education had highlighted the linkages between sport and peace.  Qatar supported United Nations actions to introduce sports for peace, and, at the national level, the Government had taken steps to develop sports programmes, in particular by introducing sports into the educational system, among other steps.


He said that integrating sports into the everyday environment needed to be a priority for all nations, because sports taught skills and values, and helped to develop a sense of community and common purpose.  Furthermore, the skills learned in sports were similar to those needed for peacebuilding; they involved working together towards a shared goal.  In order to develop sports for peace, the international community should consider sport and physical education as a priority sector, viewing sports in relation to human rights, as a way to overcome disabilities, racism and disadvantages.  Sports also promoted intercultural dialogue.  Finally, partnerships should be established between local Olympic committees and the United Nations.


MUFTI MOHAMMED SAYEED ( India) said that, despite resource constraints, his country had made efforts to broaden its sports base and provide a modern sports infrastructure.  His Government had encouraged the national sports federations to function more effectively and was seeking the active involvement of business and industry in sports promotion.  India also encouraged international cooperation in the field of sports and physical education, and several initiatives in recent decades had sought to promote sports, including a rural sports programme and a sports scholarship scheme. 


He said his delegation encouraged the United Nations system to promote sport for development and peace and to monitor and evaluate its activities in that regard.  India took note of the Secretary-General’s suggestion to Member States to maximize the positive impact of sports.  His country recognized the positive value of sport as an instrument that could bring people together in a neutral setting, as evidenced by the advent of “cricket diplomacy” in the region.


ABDULAZIZ HASSAN SALEH ( Sudan) said his country had established a new ministry for sports and youth to integrate relevant athletic groups and clubs, as well as to accelerate the training of teachers and coaches throughout the country.  Sports had always been particularly significant on the African continent.  The African Association for Soccer (CAFRA) had been one of the first groups to punish South Africa for apartheid.  The African Olympic Organization had also been influential in promoting development along with goodwill on the continent, as well as in increasing education and awareness about pandemics and other health issues.  Placing social issues into the context of sports was a good way to bring attention to them.


In the Sudan, he said, the importance given to sports clubs and schools made sports the “unifying pot”, where the country’s diverse social groups came together, in ordinary society as well as in refugee camps.  The Government was also undertaking activities that were peripheral to the issue of sports itself, such as building facilities for the mass media and sponsoring the training of sports writers to spread the culture of peace and combat negative cultural habits.  Sports figures brought attention to a broad range of issues, such as adoption.  The United Nations should sponsor an initiative on building the momentum for sports.


Mr. CHABAR ( Morocco) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on “sport for peace and development” and was particularly pleased with the action plan the report outlined for the next three years.  Physical education was very important in the promotion of tolerance and a culture of peace, and Morocco urged other Member States to provide the necessary resources to the Bureau of Peace and Development in Geneva and New York, so they could adequately complete their mandates.  Morocco had introduced physical education in its educational system and had used it to defeat poverty and exclusion.  His country had, therefore, eagerly participated in the celebrations of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education in 2005, including through the establishment of a national coordinating centre.  Morocco’s interest stemmed from a strong belief that sports played an important role in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.


He said it was important to support the United Nations and its partners in their sports for development programmes, so they could move their initiative from the awareness and promotion stage to one of fuller implementation.  It was important that Member States develop a common vision on sports for peace policies, so sports could really play their role in the service of peace.  Also important was for Member States to introduce sports in national health programmes.  Morocco was a co-author of the resolution A/61/L.12, and he urged its consensus adoption.


LIU ZHENMIN (China), expressing appreciation for the Secretary-General’s proposal to integrate sport into the development agenda and to use it as a tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, said that, in his country, with its huge population, a mutually reinforcing relationship had developed between sport and development.  Eleven years ago, the “Outline of the National Plan on Sport and Fitness for All” had been launched.  Nowadays, there was an increasing awareness of the benefits of sports, resulting in increased participation in sports and fitness activities at the grass-roots level.  Preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games, hosted by China, were in full swing.  Those Olympics could spur the nationwide effort to implement sports for all.


He said that in 2007, the twelfth Special Summer Olympic Games would be held in Shanghai, the first time that they would be held in a developing country.  That would further enhance the development of various activities related to the Special Olympics and promote China’s efforts to safeguard the rights and interests of persons with disabilities.  On 10 November, his delegation would organize a thematic forum at the United Nations Sport Office in New York.  As pointed out in the 2005 World Summit outcome document, “sports can foster peace and development and can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding,” he recalled.


ISABELLE PICO (Monaco) expressed support for the draft resolution and the work done by the Office of Sport for Development and Peace, in particular, the success of the first ever Global Youth Leadership Summit.  Sport transcended generations, cultures and beliefs, and Monaco promoted sports for peace and basic values.  In particular, sports helped to bring attention to the special needs of persons with disabilities and Monaco hosted the Special Olympics every year.


Furthermore, she continued, participation of athletic champions in promoting sports around the world was an exceptional tool because it could involve youth in the goals of the United Nations.   Nationally, Monaco had arranged many sports competitions and initiatives bringing sports and development together.  In 2007, it would host the Olympic game for the small States of Europe.  Hopefully, the games would receive support from the International Olympic Committee and with those events, Monaco could show the benefit of sport for development.


HERALDO MUNOZ ( Chile) said his Government fully supported the draft resolution on sports, as a promoter of development.  It was convinced that sports were an effective vehicle to promote peace and contribute to the creation of a culture of tolerance and dialogue.  He congratulated Tunisia for its work in drafting the sports resolution.  Pleased with the action plan developed by the Secretary-General for the next three years, he said he hoped it would, not only promote a worldwide sports culture, but also take on other challenges, such as incorporating athletes with disabilities and promoting games between residents of less developed and developed nations.


He congratulated the organizers of the United Nations programme of sport for development and peace and the recently concluded global youth summit, which had been held at New York Headquarters.  Much remained to be done, and he was pleased with the establishment of various partnerships at the national and international levels to promote the role of sports.


VLADIMIR ZHEGLOV ( Russian Federation) said that sport was not a battle of war, but an instrument for developing skills of cooperation and understanding among cultures.  Sport was a universal language, and international sporting events could play a big role in developing tolerance towards other cultures and religions.  The 2005 International Year had borne out those results.  The humanitarian values that sport developed in athletes were carried out into the wider culture.


He said his country had undertaken a campaign of advocacy and outreach for a greater than ever involvement of young people in sports.  Important international sporting events had been held in Russia during the past year, including a tournament in women’s soccer.  Russia had also competed in European events in the fields of water polo and ice skating, among others, and it was competing to host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2014.


Supporting sports on the political front could also help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he said.  He was a co-sponsor of the very productive draft resolution before the Assembly and a supporter of the Special Adviser and his Office because sport was a real “ambassador of peace” and a “bridge to understanding between people”, which must be promoted.


JOHAN L. LØVALD ( Norway) said that the momentum created from the International Year of Sport and Physical Education in 2005 had been a good basis for follow-up.  A key aspect, in that regard, would be to strengthen the clear linkage between the opportunity to participate in sport and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the broader goals of sustainable development and peace.  Sport-based initiatives should be among the efforts to achieve the Goals.  Integration and mainstreaming of Sport for Development and Peace in development programmes and policies were also key.  Norway supported the strategy that “sport for all” should be the basis for the systematic use of Sport for Development and Peace.  The most effective way to support “sport for all” was through schools and, thus, sport must be integrated into education plans at all levels. 


He said that the United Nations should promote implementation of partnership initiatives and development projects.  Sport programmes should be initiated to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The follow-up process should be influenced by a gender perspective.  Full implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security was also important.  The vital work done by civil society also deserved emphasis, as well.  In particular, Norway had been proud to support “Right to Play”, an international humanitarian non-governmental organization headed by the Norwegian four-time Olympic gold medallist, Johann Olav Koss, with programmes in nearly 30 countries. 


MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) said there was no doubt that his country supported the new initiative on sports for development and he was especially thankful to the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace in Geneva and New York, for their work.  As a co-author of the draft resolution before the Assembly on sports and development, he said the responsibility was now on the shoulders of Member States, and he urged all to endorse it and help implement it.


He called on Member States to mainstream sport for development in the United Nations’ development programmes, especially in least developed countries.  He urged the Assembly to assign new funding and arrangements to push forward the new sports strategy, and suggested the mobilization of civil society, by attracting the participation of sports organizations, athletes and the private sector.  Challenging Member States to carry forward initiative, he said that what was at stake was the credibility of the United Nations.  Next year, the Assembly would have to show that it had had the vision and the political will to implement the sports for development initiative.


NIKOLAOS FOUGIAS ( Greece) fully supported the Secretary-General’s action plan, and looked forward to developing synergies between Governments, sports-related organizations, and the private sector.  He said the international community was becoming increasingly aware of the unique position of sports to spread the message of peace and foster development, and he thanked the Office of Sport for Development and Peace, as well as the Special Adviser.


NIKOLAUS LUTTEROTTI ( Austria) supported the draft resolution on Sport for Peace and Development.  Sports were a universal language and tool to bring people together, no matter their origin, background or religious beliefs.  Austria strongly believed in the power of sport to contribute to peace and development, and that was also an effective and low-cost instrument to help attain the

Millennium Development Goals.  The momentum reinforced by the United Nations Global Youth Leadership Summit must be kept maintained.


Action on Draft Resolution


The Assembly then took up the draft resolution on sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace (document A/61/L.12), adopting it without a vote.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.