the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy 
Ambassador Renato Ruggiero

to the 56th General Assembly 
of the United Nations

New York, 
11 November 2001

Check against delivery

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Distinguished delegates,

I congratulate you heartily on your election to head the first General Assembly of the new millennium. I am certain that your experience and commitment will permit the achievement of further goals that we all share. I also renew the Italian Government's warmest congratulations to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. His appointment to a second term at the leadership of the United Nations is both welcome and unanimously appreciated.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium addressed the General Assembly yesterday, speaking on behalf of the European Union. Italy fully shares and supports his statement.

Like our Belgian colleague and previous speakers, on this solemn occasion I express once more to the Government and people of the United States our deep solidarity following the appalling terrorists acts perpetrated against them. We share their suffering over the shocking loss of human life and the sorrow of thousands of families.

These acts defy the most basic values of civil coexistence. We condemn them and confirm our full commitment to the fight against international terrorism, a struggle on which the United Nations has conferred full legitimacy. We believe that the United Nations remains the central forum to which we must turn in drafting a comprehensive response to terrorism.

This is why we need strict application of the full range of measures adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council in the days immediately following the September 11th attacks. Resolution 1373, in particular, must be implemented urgently and vigorously. I also hope, that everyone shows the necessary flexibility to allow swift conclusion to the negotiations for the Comprehensive Convention against Terrorism.

On November 7th, by a more than 90% majority the Italian Parliament approved the Government's decision to contribute ground troops, naval units and air units to operations against international terrorism. This confirms my country's awareness that the stakes are high and proves the solidity of our national consensus in facing this challenge. The fight must be conducted in a targeted manner, until the objective has been fully achieved, yet without neglecting humanitarian assistance to the Afghani people,, both within the country and in the refugee camps. But, of course, the problem of the political future of Afghanistan, a problem to be solved only by the Afghani people, must remain the high priority in the agenda of the United Nations, together with the objective of regional stability.

But in crafting a credible, diversified global strategy to eradicate international terrorism, we must also search for solutions to the most delicate regional crises and to the global problems that loom over our lives. These include hunger, poverty, ignorance, inequality, underdevelopment, violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and threats to the environment and health.

At the top of the list of regional crises is the Middle East, an area close to the land and the attentions of Italy. Here we are working both in a national capacity and within the European Union to create, as soon as possible, the conditions for an end to the violence and a true return to negotiations for a comprehensive, lasting peace in the region based, for the Palestinians, on the establishing of a viable and democratic State and an end to the occupation of their territories, and for the Israelis, on the right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.

This framework should also include an ambitious plan for public and private investments as well as inter-regional assistance toward fostering solidarity among the region's states and peoples: a new Marshall Plan like the one adopted to rebuild Europe in the wake of World War II's devastations. Special attention should be paid to the economic and social growth and development of the Palestinian population.

In the Balkans we have noted encouraging progress despite persisting tensions. Our goal there is to prevent destabilizing tendencies and to foster regional cooperation and economic development, also through closer ties with the European Union. 

As for the challenges of globalization, we should first of all make the success of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha a primary objective. In fact, many of the global problems I have listed can be alleviated through a fair functioning of the international market economy and international free trade, both of which should continue to foster inclusiveness and integration, as well as a more equitable and sustainable growth of all countries through agreed rules. This latest WTO round should be the round of growth and development, focusing in particular on the problems of developing and least developed countries.

But to assure a better response to globalization's most problematic aspects, other major objectives must be pursued. And the universal organization with the moral authority to meet this challenge is the United Nations. 

The first objective is the maintenance of international peace and security. Italy's commitment is strong and long-standing. In fact, we are one of the top three contributors of men and resources to UN-led and UN-authorized peace operations. In this light we appreciate the reports that the Secretariat has issued in the past two years, which suggest a vision of peace activity as a single, three-sided concept encompassing conflict prevention, peace-keeping, and post-conflict peace building.

Italy also values the document that the Secretary-General submitted to UN member states on the prevention of armed conflicts, emphasizing the direct connection between safeguarding peace and fighting underdevelopment. In fact, no peace-keeping action can achieve lasting results unless it is coupled with measures to strengthen government institutions, safeguard the human, civil and cultural rights of all communities, and rebuild the economic and social fiber of affected areas.

The second objective is to foster development and eradicate poverty. We must ensure that all the countries of the world benefit from the opportunities created by interdependency and progress, in particular in the areas of information and communication technology. The global UN Conferences of the 1990s laid the groundwork for the definition of poverty as a multidimensional phenomenon. Its characteristics are not just low income and consumption, but also a lack of food, healthcare, schooling and environmental stability. This is a vicious cycle that we must break through coordinated, integrated initiatives. To reverse the downward spiral we must enhance both the material and the human dimension of development.

The Millennium Declaration spells out the objectives to be attained by 2015. Italy is committed to these goals in shaping.its international action and shouldering its responsibilities during the year of its G-8 Presidency. One example was the substantive outreach initiative at the Genoa Summit, involving a meeting with five African Heads of State and the UN Secretary-General to discuss the New African Initiative and launch a global fund for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Finally, we must continue to nurture and strengthen development assistance and reaching the goal of having the most developed countries dedicate 0.7% of their GNP to this pursuit. In this context, debt relief is another essential tool that will free up in developing countries the necessary resources to stimulate their economies, for instance by promoting public investments into health care and schooling. Italy is a leader in this field by virtue of recent laws that allow it to gradually cancel the debt of the poorest countries.

Mr. President,

As I said before, the United Nations has the moral authority to take on today's new challenges. This fact was highlighted by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization as a whole and to the Secretary-General.

However, its structure and procedures must keep pace with the times. Italy believes in the reform of the United Nations, a reform that should affect all its bodies, including the Security Council. In this regard let me reiterate the need for a comprehensive reform that addresses the relevant issues in all their aspects. Such a reform should be designed to produce greater efficiency, legitimacy and transparency. It should also meet general expectations of democracy, universality and inclusiveness.

In addition, to create the conditions for a stable growth of prosperity and security for all humankind, we need more effective governance of globalization. The documents prepared by the Secretariat make great strides in this direction. Now is the time to translate the commitments of the Millennium Declaration into action. Italy will support every initiative undertaken for this purpose.

Never before have we had a better opportunity to solve our problems, yet never before have we faced greater risks. The answer does not lie in denying the reality of interdependence and growing globalization. It lies in our ability to promote better governance of the international system. Never before has the world had so many human, financial and technological resources at its disposal. The answer lies in our hands, in our collective will.

Thank you.