H.E. Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner

Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs

of the Republic of Austria


the Fifty-Sixth Session of the

United Nations General Assembly


New York, 12 November 2001


Mr. President,

Let me at the outset congratulate you on your election to this high office. While assuring you of my delegation’s full cooperation and support, I am confident that under your guidance and leadership – which you have already proven in the first days of your new function - this Session of the General Assembly will contribute to strengthen global cooperation and its indispensable platform, the United Nations, in the coming months.

I should also like to take this opportunity to reiterate my very best wishes to the Secretary-General on his appointment to a second term of office. Furthermore, I would like to congratulate him very warmly on being awarded, jointly with the United Nations, the Nobel Peace Prize - an honor and recognition he truly deserves for his leadership, dedication and courage in the service of our Organization. This award also signals the recognition and encouragement for the United Nations and all those who are committed to its mission, not least for the United Nations staff members.

Mr. President,

Allow me to also express here our thanks to your predecessor, H. E. Harri Holkeri, for the many efforts he undertook not only in conducting the day-to-day business but also with regard to revitalizing the United Nations, in particular with regard to the General Assembly.

My distinguished colleague, the Foreign Minister of Belgium, has already addressed this Assembly on behalf of the European Union. Austria fully endorses his remarks.

Mr. President,

Two months have passed now since the heinous terrorist attacks of 11 September.

While we are still in shock about the loss of thousands of innocent lives we have, however, also been encouraged by the resolve of the community of nations’ collective response, here in the General Assembly and in the Security Council.

This unanimous strong reaction gives us hope that today our nations are ready to move over a threshold leaving behind a world of deadly divisions and entering a genuine global community.

There are some good signs to that effect:

One, during the past weeks, we have witnessed new astonishing political – maybe even geopolitical – alignments which, if followed through, are comparable to other watershed events of historic proportions.

Two, the menace of an unprecedented, devastating terrorism is compelling us to take a fresh look at the root causes of much that is unacceptable in our world, according to our own standards – but which we have been tolerating or at least living with, quite contrary to our declared principles. I refer to abject levels of poverty, inequality, injustice.

These are at the origin of the many conflicts around the globe. Some of them are particularly dangerous, providing breeding grounds for global terrorism or serving as pretext for terrorists. It would be irresponsible if we – the international community – did not engage in renewed efforts to find solutions to these regional conflicts, be it in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in the Caucasus, in the Balkans – but also in the area around the Great Lakes, which has seen so much human suffering.

The European Union – on a continent marked by centuries of war – has developed its model of conflict resolution. It holds in three words: cooperation, partnership, integration. The European Union is engaged in a welcome policy of extending this zone of peace. We hope that the enlarged Union – planned to become a Union of 28 and later more – will be able to contribute more effectively to peace and stability in the world.

Under the present circumstances Austria’s priorities outside Europe are the Middle East and Central Asia, not least because these areas have a direct bearing on the fight against terrorism in its present phase.

The Middle East conflict has been on our agenda without interruption since the time of the creation of the United Nations. There is no doubt that we have a special obligation to contribute to a just and viable solution. A heightened sense of responsibility is felt, when on the one hand violence escalates, but on the other – as I see it – new opportunities have emerged. Austria is of the opinion that major concerted efforts should be undertaken so that negotiations can resume on the basis of the Security Council resolutions without delay. Only sincere negotiations and a sincere renunciation of violence can bring a rapprochement of the two parties and finally peace.

Afghanistan is a reminder of a conflict neglected too long. Now, there is a new dimension unfolding. We are forced to act. The humanitarian tragedy is obvious. In this context Central Asia deserves increased attention, for example in view of assistance for the maintenance of stability and concertation aiming at the necessary reconstruction of Afghanistan.

A word as to the Balkans, a neighboring region to my country: It must not be neglected, although new dangers emerge elsewhere. In the Western Balkans there is progress – especially in Zagreb, in Belgrade, in Tirana, in Sarajevo – but overall stability and economic recovery are not yet assured. Extremists have not yet disarmed. We have to keep up a high profile of international commitment.

Mr. President,

Combating terrorism is, of course, not a single-dimensional task. It requires cooperation on many fronts.

·    I see the United Nations as playing a key role in this regard. This requires a clarification and coordination of tasks within the United Nations system, so as to ensure the necessary synergy.

·    There is also a role for regional cooperation. To give you an example: A so called “Regional Security Partnership” was established between Austria and some of her neighbours, candidates for EU membership, across boundaries which for half a century had divided Europe.

·    Overall, we must address the long-term societal development at a local, national and global level and the capacities required to build a universally shared political culture based on respect of human rights, human dignity, including of the plurality of identities at all levels of society.

Let me elaborate on the UN role:

Time has certainly come to significantly strengthen the United Nations’ capabilities and programmes in combating and preventing terrorism. The complexity of the challenge requires an inter-sectoral and inter-institutional cooperation. We have to enable the principal organs of the Organization, including their specialized subsidiary organs, such as the Security Council’s Committee on Terrorism, the General Assembly’s ad-hoc Committee on Terrorism as well as ECOSOC’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the appropriate Secretariat units to perform the tasks that are now urgently needed.

The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will hold a special meeting on terrorism in the context of the Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice on 15 November 2001. Just one week prior to the terrorist attacks of 11 September Plans of Action for the implementation of the Vienna Declaration had been adopted; they will play an important role in the system-wide response to international terrorism including a comprehensive set of recommendations for both national and international action. These recommendations stress once more the relationship existing between terrorism on the one hand and crime including transnational organized crime and illicit drug trafficking on the other.

The United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention and its Terrorism Prevention Branch has received a focused mandate, which should serve as a solid basis for enhancing the capabilities of the United Nations in the prevention of terrorism. To this end the human and financial resources should be strengthened accordingly.

Needless to say, the challenge of terrorism requires the full support on the part of each and every Government. Ratification of the various international legal instruments as well as the conclusion of negotiations concerning a Comprehensive International Convention against Terrorism are of fundamental importance. The Terrorism Prevention Branch of the United Nations should also get immediately active in providing, where requested, concrete assistance to member states in implementing national legislation required by Security Council Resolution 1373 as well as to national capacity-building.

Several items on our Global Agenda have reminded us of the fundamental importance of the individual citizen and of society in economic, social, cultural and institutional development. Increasingly, we have understood the strategic role of the basic principles and values in our societies upon which the future of mankind is based. Our rejection of terrorism must be absolute. At the same time, we need to strengthen our networks and skills for dialogue, cross-identification and solidarity.

We do need a globally shared political culture that is based on the respect for global diversity, which finds its only limits in the right to diversity of others. We must never allow fanaticism, violence and terrorism to undermine the fabric on which peace and security are built. Now, more than ever, we have to redouble our efforts in the development of our societies based on plurality and trust among peoples and cultures.

In this context the Secretary-General’s efforts to promote Dialogue among Civilizations – an initiative of President Khatami – can have enormous significance. Austria had the pleasure of inviting the Secretary-Generals’ Group of Eminent Persons for their first meeting in Vienna and was honored by the Secretary-General personally participating in last summer’s “Salzburg Dialogue among Civilizations”. Austria’s commitment to dialogue has found its expression in a series of inter-religious encounters, especially between Christianity and Islam, over the past ten years. These encounters served for identifying common values and for projecting these into the wider communities.

For us such Dialogue has the core objective of developing societies’ capacities in preventing hatred, disintegration and politically motivated violence against fellow citizens.

Austria’s efforts have also focused on another element of societal development. Long-term strategies of terrorism prevention require a globally shared culture of Human Rights. Let me mention briefly the growing cooperation between qualified regional institutions for Human Rights Education and Learning in Africa, South-Asia and the Far East and Pacific, Europe and Latin America. The proclamation of Human Rights Cities in all of these regions might merit specific attention by the appropriate organs of the United Nations including by the Commission on Human Settlements.

We are aware that there is a direct relationship between the internal negation of Human Rights on the one hand and a culture of violence that eventually may project its effects not only internally but also internationally and even globally. In view of accelerated globalization and worldwide economic, cultural and information relations we may have to take pro-active measures to strengthen our shared basic believes and political values through education and learning processes. The current United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education might offer opportunities for appropriate initiatives, also in response to the horror of a global terrorism scenario.

In this context we have to give greater recognition to the role of women in providing human security and human development in all our societies. This recognition is due in particular in crisis areas where women have not only sustained most of the victimization of intra-societal violence, but have also assured the survival of the neediest.

An example in point is Afghanistan and Afghani society. 85 % of refugees and internally displaced persons are women and children. In fact, those who are often depicted as the weakest element in society had to bear the brunt of violence and repression. As we design our programmes for reconstructing a post-terrorist Afghanistan, we must conceive of programmes by which women, in particular those now in refugee camps, are enabled to contribute their share in a governance of development, peace and cooperation. This is essential for a society that wishes to overcome the scars of decades of conflict and war.

I concretely suggest, therefore, that programmes be implemented immediately that, through education and training, would empower women, in particular those in refugee camps, to assume public responsibility in the reconstruction of their country.

The media bear an increasingly important responsibility in shaping societies’ value structures and capabilities. As Austria’s Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel said in his statement before the General Assembly on the International Year for the Dialogue among Civilizations, Austria is taking an initiative in the context of the partnership between the European Union and the Mediterranean countries that will focus on the special role and responsibility of the media in this partnership and in the societal development towards accepting and benefiting from the plurality of cultures and identities in this region.

In concluding, I should like to make a few comments on other very important developments with regard to items on our Global Agenda:

The sustainable use of our local, national, regional and global natural resources endowment continues to be of front-line importance. The recent study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis on the projected dramatic reduction of agricultural productivity over the next 50 years due to climate change of between 45 % and 55 % in Africa, India, Southern China and Latin America reminds us that the processes of long-term global change need as much action as our activities in coping with crisis and combating criminal terrorism. The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg will need not only a technical but also a political focus with an appropriate resolve for our shared global development can be articulated.

One specific area where newly shared policies and institutional support may be required, is the integration of energy-policies into the global sustainable development agenda. The Commission on Sustainable Development at its 9th session and the Third UN Conference on the LDCs recognized the strong connection between energy policy interventions and poverty reduction. Energy considerations should therefore be fully integrated into the implementation of the Millennium Declaration. Vienna, hosting four prominent international organizations in the field of global energy policies – UNIDO, IAEA, OPEC and IIASA - could offer, with Austria’s support, a framework for developing an innovative platform in this regard. I look forward to exploring this issue further with interested partners.

With many developing regions having to cope with the difficult and often precarious management of mountain resources we should take advantage of the International Year of the Mountains in 2002 for new initiatives in exchanging experience and for new programmes of cooperation.

Finally, we are still working on implementing our resolve to strengthen the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in accomplishing its important tasks. The ECOSOC-reform paper by UN-DESA contains, I think, very valuable contributions to our ongoing debate. As Austria has already suggested years ago, a coordination and an integration of the UN-system’s reporting in economic and social affairs and the preparation of a comprehensive “state of the world” report by the Secretary-General would not only facilitate but would significantly enhance ECOSOC’s role in policy formulation in this field.

When coping with the dynamic processes of global change in the economic sector we have to put the human being back into the center of our policies. New efforts have to be undertaken to internalize the multiple dimensions and costs of globalization. In this context let me especially welcome the Secretary-General’s initiative of a new partnership with the Global Business community, inviting it to share in the responsibility for what is happening in global public space.

All the concerns I am addressing in this statement have a common focus: understanding the human being as an actor, a perpetrator, a victim and a partner, in other words as the basic paradigm of global development. This is why human development, human rights and human security are the coordinates from where we have to address both the current crises and our long-term development objectives.

Thank you for your attention.