THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF SPAIN
HE MR. JOSEP PIQUÉ
AT THE FIFTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK, 12 NOVEMBER 2001
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I would like to congratulate you on your election as President of this 56th United Nations General Assembly. Likewise, I would like to congratulate the Organization itself and its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, on having been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Annan's re-election guarantees the continuous leadership of someone who has enormously contributed to strengthening the prestige of the United Nations and its role in the world.
I also want to emphasize my full support to the words expressed
by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium on behalf of the Presidency
of the European Union.
The horror of the terrorist attacks of September 11th has shocked the world. We were all attacked on that day - all of us who defend freedom, tolerance and respect for the dignity of human beings. Spain knows fully well the cruelty of terrorism, and the grief that it can cause. Therefore, Spain, its government and citizens are in complete solidarity with the American people, the families of the victims, and with this city of New York, which is also our city - the city of the United Nations.
After September 11th we cannot continue acting in the same way. The political paradigm, which had provided the coordinates to guide us until that moment, has now been modified. The paradigm has changed, and now the political culture must also change: terrorism cannot continue to be regarded as an inevitable evil for our peoples, but as a mortal enemy of them all. There can be neither excuses nor pretexts; this is the time to demonstrate the political will of everybody to take effective measures for international cooperation against terrorism which Spain has been promoting for years to take a qualitative leap forward.
Since September 11th, an important international consensus has taken shape on the need to confront terrorism. This shows that terrorism has nothing to do with the differences between North and South or East and West, nor with a supposed conflict between civilizations. Many Islamic countries are among its main victims. It does have to do, however, with the difference between those who commit these kinds of acts or give them their support, and those who consider them to be atrocities and violations of the most elementary principles of human co-existence, which are common to all the great civilizations.
The United Nations Organization has risen to the occasion. Its action has been effective and quick, demonstrating that the Organization is indispensable at the birth of the new millennium. Resolution 1373 made it possible for a coalition of wills to emerge, in which Spain is included, in order to respond to the attacks. Resolution 1373 expresses the determination of the international community to maintain the concerted action against terrorism for as long as it is necessary. Against terrorism, without adjectives. Against the terrorists themselves, and also against those who provide any type of support, active or passive, to them.
Progress has also taken place in the negotiation of a General Convention against International Terrorism, overcoming some of the obstacles that were blocking the negotiation for years. We must make an effort to eliminate the problems that are still pending, now that we are close to reaching an agreement. The goal must be to draw up an operative and effective instrument against terrorism that cannot be paralyzed by never-ending discussions of a political rather than a legal nature. The subject is of pivotal importance. The actual credibility of the United Nations is at stake. We are before a historical opportunity, and it would be a shame if we squander it.
To the cynicism and disdain for elementary human values, terrorists often add a shameless opportunism in order to manipulate particular situations to their advantage. These are situations that undoubtedly require a solution on account of their intrinsic nature without any relation to terrorist practices. We must all work together to find that solution. These situations involve structural problems such as poverty and the marginalization in which many millions of people live in all over the world. They also have to do with regional conflicts, such as the Middle East conflict where there is an urgent need to stop the blind cycle of violence and return to the negotiating table. If the political will exists, a negotiation is possible. Madrid, Oslo, and the advances in Camp David and Taba prove this. There exists no alternative to the Peace Process, and at the end of the road, the State of Israel and the Palestinian State will coexist peacefully within secure borders.
Terrorist attacks against innocent civilians generate alarm among our peoples, but they are not the only cause for uncertainty at the beginning of the new millennium.
When the political and ideological confrontations that had defined the second half of the 20th century were largely overcome, other types of conflicts surfaced with force. These tend to be not international but rather internal conflicts and are therefore difficult to address with the instruments of traditional diplomacy. Some have given rise to serious humanitarian crises that have agitated our peoples.
At a time in which we have decoded the human genome, and the advances of biotechnology give rise to new dilemmas, millions of people remain living in extreme poverty conditions with less than one dollar per day to cover all their needs.
While we assist to the interconnecting of economies worldwide and send information instantly to any corner of the Earth, we see how globalisation distributes its benefits unequally, and in some cases, contributes to the widening of the breach between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, and the haves and the have-nots.
These situations generate uncertainty, but they also generate a demand for solutions. Our peoples turn to us - governments and international organizations - and they ask us to act, especially to the United Nations. Its global vision, its universal composition, and its vocation to defend the interests of Humanity as a whole give it a unique legitimacy before our citizens.
In order to not disappoint these expectations, the United Nations must face the challenge of its modernization, following the path marked by the Millennium Summit. My country has also undergone a significant process of modernization in recent years, enabling it to become fully incorporated into international life. Spain has been able to break away from past inertia and seek new solutions to its new problems. It has done so without renouncing to its identity as a bridge between different cultures and regions of the world. That is the perspective from which my country backs the process of reform and modernization of the Organization. It will continue to do so from the Presidency of the European Union, which it will hold during the first half of next year.
Globalization is responsible for much of the current uncertainty facing the processes of change. The United Nations, which thinks globally, is the natural forum for managing globalization.
Apart from terrorism, effective instruments must be developed to combat drugs and transnational organized crime. This year progress must be made in the preparation of a Convention against corruption.
One of the key instruments of international relations in the new millennium is the International Criminal Court. Spain has been involved from the start in the fight against the culture of impunity regarding the most heinous crimes. It now seems more imperative than ever that the Court start to act soon. The world's different legal systems must be duly represented in it, because globalization does not mean homogenization. No country must be marginalized from this historic process so it can contribute to the Court its own viewpoint regarding international criminal justice.
Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation require a greater attention on behalf of the international community. Progress in the destruction and prohibition of anti-personnel mines after the Ottawa Convention and the results of the Action Programme of the United Nations Conference on Small and Light Arms are encouraging.
The need to protect the environment is real, and the solutions cannot be postponed. The Kyoto Protocol offers some answers to this problem. Those who do not accept Kyoto will have to propose a better solution. Meanwhile, its ratification is the only practical measure in this field. That is why we welcome the agreement reached in Marrakech which is a step in the right direction.
New conflicts require new solutions. We must deal with all the stages of a particular conflict through a comprehensive treatment that includes efforts to prevent its causes, to keep the peace when a crisis erupts, to maintain that peace, and to begin economic and institutional reconstruction once the crisis has been overcome. For example, this idea inspires the efforts of my country in cooperation with the Russian Federation in the de-mining project in Southern Lebanon. It also motivates the efforts towards the strengthening of African capabilities to prevent and settle conflicts, of which Spain is an active participant. For that reason Spain has welcomed with great satisfaction the birth of the African Union at the Lusaka Summit as well as the New African Initiative that was adopted there.
This approach must also be applied to international action in support of the Afghan people, whose situation is particularly dire. It is urgent to help them to meet their basic humanitarian needs, especially in sight of the coming of winter. This international action, to which Spain is contributing, must also include clear support for the economic and institutional reconstruction of the country. The future of Afghanistan is something that only the Afghan people can decide. Nevertheless, the international community must support the Afghan people in order for them to establish a stable government and to maintain normal relations with their neighbors and the rest of the world. In this task, the United Nations must play a key role.
The new diplomatic instruments that we need must pay special attention
to humanitarian affairs. The need to protect the rights of refugees and
internally displaced persons, the access to humanitarian assistance by
affected populations, the situation of children in armed conflicts, in
addition to the security problem of United Nations personnel and Associated
personnel, all require effective solutions. If there are States which fail
to meet their responsibilities in this area, it will be necessary to unremittingly
point to their attitude until it changes.
Peacekeeping is an essential instrument in this comprehensive approach to dealing with conflicts. This General Assembly must take concrete steps to implement the Brahimi report on Peacekeeping Operations by increasing the effectives of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in the Secretariat, improving the participation of the troop contributing countries in the decision-making process, and reinforcing civil police operations, in which Spain has played an active role.
None of this will be enough if the Peacekeeping Operations do not receive clear and adequate mandates, backed with the firm political support of the Security Council. Otherwise, it will not be possible to send United Nations units to places in which they may have to use force. No-one is prepared to risk the lives of their soldiers to defend empty words.
All of this brings us to the need to conclude the reform of the
Security Council. We need a more representative, more democratic,
more effective and more transparent Security Council. Spain, which
is a candidate for non-permanent membership of the Security Council in
the elections to be held at the 57th General Assembly, will strive, if
elected, to increase the quantity and quality of the consultations with
non-member States, especially with those most affected by the issues being
debated by the Council.
Human rights and fundamental freedoms – such as civil and political rights as well as economic and social rights- are the birthright of all Humanity and not just of a particular group of States. Violating them provokes a rejection today which did nor exist before. It is necessary to continue to strengthen our agreement on these points, incorporating the concerns of all.
It is therefore important that the Durban Conference was able to adopt a final document. Spain, as the rest of the European Union, upheld to the end its commitment to the objectives of the Conference. That shows that we are capable these days of addressing the most sensitive issues. We must take advantage of the agreement reached at Durban to continue to make progress in this field.
Along the same lines, my country will organize in the next few
days in Madrid, in collaboration with the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
an International Consultative Conference on School Education in relation
with Freedom of Religion or Beliefs, Tolerance and Non-discrimination.
I cannot fail to refer to the question of Gibraltar. As it has already been communicated to the Secretary General, the United Kingdom and Spain agreed, last July 26th in London, to relaunch their talks within the framework of the Brussels Declaration, issuing to this end a communiqué, in which they underline their political will to overcome all of their differences over Gibraltar and to conclude these talks promptly and successfully for the benefit of all the parties involved. Likewise, they invited the Chief Minister of Gibraltar to participate in ministerial meetings within the framework of this process.
The problem of development is a central aspect to the activities of the Organization. The Millennium Declaration constitutes the basic framework for these activities and must be implemented in its entirety. This General Assembly must put into practice an effective monitoring mechanism of the Declaration.
Spain is also working to define new fields for development cooperation:
* Spain is a pioneer in the development of micro credits, which constitute a particularly suitable instrument for the development of less-advanced countries.
* Spain organized in Las Palmas this year a High-Level Meeting on Tourism and Development in Less Developed Countries. In this way, Spain has wished to place its extensive experience in this field at the service of tourism development of the Less Developed Countries, some of which, such as the small island States, have comparative advantages in this field.
* Next April, Spain will organize the Second World Assembly on Aging, thus responding to the need to pay special attention to vulnerable populations, the most likely to suffer the highest rates of poverty. The eradication of poverty is the primary objective of both the Millennium Declaration and Spanish policy for development cooperation.
* If there exists a population that is vulnerable by definition,
it is people who are ill. The General Assembly Special Session
on AIDS and other infectious diseases highlighted the urgency of halting
their advancement. Spain will make a major contribution to the Global
Fund for the Fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which has been
created for this purpose.
The United Nations will not be able to accomplish all these tasks if it does not have the necessary resources to do so. The budget for the coming two-year period will be discussed at this General Assembly. The effort to impose budgetary discipline must continue, but rigid positions that prevent the Organization from facing up to its responsibilities should be avoided.
And this is something that the United Nations cannot do - today
less than ever. Unique legitimacy also means unique responsibility.
The United Nations will be judged in this new millennium on its effectiveness
in addressing the new problems facing it, on its ability to transform uncertainties
into solutions, insecurity into confidence, and fear into hope.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.