( General Debate )

New York, 12 November 2001

Unofficial translation



Mr. President,

I am pleased to begin with extending to you and through you to your friendly country, the Republic of Korea, the warmest of congratulations on your election to the presidency of the 56th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I wish you all success in undertaking your tasks during the session. I would also like to express our sincere thanks to your predecessor, Mr. Hard Holkieri, for the ability and efficiency with which he conducted the work of this August Assembly during the past session.

I am also pleased on behalf of my country to renew our sincere congratulations to the Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan on his unanimous reelection to continue his noble mission. We congratulate him and the United Nations as well on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. This award reflects the confidence of countries in him, and the appreciation and recognition of his active and effective role, which he continues to play since assuming the leadership of the Organization.

That our Organization has received the Nobel award is a cause for us all to feel proud. It also signifies the special prestige of the UN while it deals with the challenges facing humanity. It is also a reflection of a belief in the ability of the organization to influence international affairs. This award must prompt us to support the organization and to strengthen its capacities in all fields.

Mr. President,

This session takes place at a time when the world is concerned about the consequences of the atrocious, terrorist acts, which struck the United States on the 11th of September 2001. We renew our condolences to the American people and the families of the victims in this difficult time. Tunisia, which strongly condemned these acts, called for sparing the innocent civilians in Afghanistan the horrors of war and destruction. It expresses its deep felt sorrow and pain at the damage inflicted on the defenseless Afghan civilians and emphasizes the need to make sure not to expose them to danger. We also express our serious concern at the critical human situation of the Afghani population and refugees. This situation requires concerted efforts by the international community to provide assistance to the Afghani people.

States were unanimous, through resolutions adopted recently by the Security Council and the General Assembly, in the fight against terrorism, on the necessity to fight this scourge with all firmness. They stressed their condemnation of these terrorist acts and stated their intention to adopt the necessary measures to fight the scourge.

Since the 80s, Tunisia has warned against the dangers of terrorism. It called then for adopting the necessary measures at the national, regional and international levels to fight this phenomenon with all means. We reiterate today what we said before. It is important to develop cooperation among states to fight terrorism and all those who are accomplices or perpetrators of terrorist acts. This should also apply to those who received court sentences for terrorist acts perpetrated in their countries of origin or away from those countries. This must take place without double standards in this respect, particularly as far as granting of political asylum or residency are concerned. Tunisia's belief in the necessity of adopting such measures has spared it the presence of elements of extremism or terrorism on its territory.

To develop international cooperation in this field, we will need to enhance the approved legal norms. This can be done through a comprehensive international treaty that would allow for an appropriate and comprehensive plan of action. In the same vein, Tunisia supports the holding of an international conference against terrorism.

The conference will identify the legal framework and the machinery needed to protect the international community from the dangers of this scourge.

In Tunisia's view, fighting terrorism and its eventual elimination requires the adoption of a comprehensive approach, which will make of prevention and the causes of this phenomenon the basis for the methodology of international efforts in this respect. It is also necessary to examine the international circumstances, which influence and cause the increase in terrorism. This will allow us to find the right treatment to stop the spread of this phenomenon and its existence. In this context, it is imperative that we deal with all causes that lead to a feeling of injustice, the absence. of justice, deprivation and marginalization. This will prevent suspicious parties from exploiting these feelings to feed terrorism. There is no doubt that- the United Nations and especially the General Assembly have an effective role in clarifying this vision.

Mr. President,

Any comprehensive approach, which aims to fight terrorism must stress the interdependence and interaction between stability, security and peace on the one hand, and development and progress on the other.

The Millennium Summit, which grouped the most important assembly of Heads of State and Government in the history of our Organization, and provided a unique opportunity to discuss the state of international affairs from all aspects, stressed that linkage. It stressed the necessity to formulate an international strategy and implementation plans to achieve the desired objectives specified by the leaders, for the next millennium, on that occasion.

Hence, our current session becomes especially important, as it provides an opportunity, a year later, to take stock of the principles, and objectives approved in the Millennium Summit. It also provides an opportunity to develop our common efforts based on these principles and objectives. These included a common, cooperative and consensual approach in tackling the problems of our world, be it international peace and security or the questions of development and the eradication of poverty.

Solidarity, then, becomes inevitability in today's world in dealing with the different challenges faced by humanity. In this context, President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali of  Tunisia clarified before several regional fora, in the Millennium Summit and in the Security Council summit the importance of solidarity in dealing with poverty, which represents one of the causes of tension and crisis in our societies.

We believe that we cannot guarantee stability and security in the world without eliminating all forms of poverty, marginalization and alienation. In this context, President Ben Ali launched his appeal to establish a World Fund for Solidarity, the eradication of poverty and the promotion of social development in the world's most impoverished regions. The Fund will be a machinery, which can help the international community achieve the objective of the millennium summit of halving poverty by 2015. In its last regular session and under the review of the first UN decade to combat poverty, the General Assembly welcomed that initiative and invited the Secretary General to undertake consultations on this issue.

From this rostrum, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all the parties, which responded to this proposal and undertook consultations. with the Secretary General. I would also be remiss if I did not mention the efforts made by the Secretary general to prepare a positive report, which we hope will be the basis in this session for giving life to this fund. We have repeatedly affirmed that this fund will not be a redundant structure among UN bodies concerned with fighting poverty; it will, instead, complement, their efforts. It will provide a means of financing through  voluntary contributions by individuals, institutions or societies, in addition to governments. These contributions will be deposited in an account, which. will be administered by UNDP.

Mr. President,

There is no doubt that bolstering the basis of international peace and security is primarily a task entrusted to the Security Council, which demonstrated in the last few weeks special effectiveness regarding recent developments. We hope that this important body will continue to play its role with the same effectiveness to find solutions for all international problems.

From this perspective, the developments in the Middle East must take priority within the questions before the Council. This is particularly important in view of the continuing instability in the region, because of Israel's persistence in continuing its policy of occupation, its use of brute force and all weapons against the defenseless Palestinian people and its national authority, and in violation of all international norms, laws and conventions.

From this rostrum, Tunisia calls upon the Security Council, and especially its permanent members, to assume an effective role, which would prevent the Middle East from failing into a bottomless abyss of conflict. It must force Israel to abide by international legality and adopt all urgent measures to protect the Palestinian people.

Tunisia reaffirms its initiative, which calls for the protection of the Palestinian people by sending international forces to the area.

Within the context of the vital importance of finding a solution for the just cause of the Palestinian people in settling the conflict in the Middle East, and the establishment of peace for the good of all the peoples and the countries of the region, Tunisia finds a cause for optimism in the positive positions on recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State, particularly by President George W. Bush of the United States, the main sponsor of the peace process.

Tunisia affirms that there is no better choice today than the achievement of a just, permanent and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. A peace which guarantees the restoration of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, foremost among which is its right to an independent, sovereign State, with Jerusalem as its Capital. A peace, which will end Israel's occupation of the Syrian Golan and the remaining occupied parts of South Lebanon in implementation of Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 425 and resolution 252 on Jerusalem, as well as relevant General Assembly resolutions and based on the principle of "land for peace."

Among the forms of instability in the world as well is the prolongation of some causes of tension such as the keeping in place of firm sanctions against a number of countries, particularly in the Arab region. The application of these measures and their consequent negative effects on civilians prompted a reconsideration of the way they work. The debate inside and: outside the UN yielded new scenarios, which-affirm the need to reconsider the imposition of sanctions to spare peoples their impact. The  sanctions should be directed at particular objects and for specific time periods:

In this context we have to address the question of Lockerby. We renew our call for an immediate and final lifting of sanctions imposed on our sisterly Libyan Jamahiriya in the wake of its responsible and positive response in the question of Lockerby. This will enable all our countries to dedicate themselves to an integrated development and unity desired by all our peoples.

In this respect, I cannot but address the situation of Iraq which is subjected to a regime of sanctions and blockade, which caused its people and still cause them severe human suffering. In this regard, Tunisia expresses the hope that a consensus will be achieved among all countries, particularly permanent members of the Council, to consider the resolutions adopted to enforce sanctions against Iraq in a way that will take into account humanitarian considerations and the circumstances of the Iraqi people. This reconsideration will permit the lifting of the blockade of this country and conclude the outstanding questions including the missing from Kuwait and other countries.

Mr. President,

Tunisia has been keen on developing its bilateral relations and its cooperation with all countries, regional and international groupings, in order to ensure positive and fruitful interaction with all, and to keep pace with regional and international developments.

From this perspective, Tunisia seeks, through the initiatives of its President, H.E.M. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to strengthen its relations with the countries of the Arab Maghreb Union, and to develop and rationalize common action. This is done through the revitalization of the structures and institutions of the Union, which represents an inevitable strategic option that reflects the will and awareness of the people of the region of the need to ensure the integration of our countries, given their history, civilization, interdependence and common destiny.

Tunisia is also working to strengthen consultation and co-operation, within the euro-mediterranean sphere, on the basis of equality, mutual respect, the protection of the interests of all parties, and respect for their respective specificities. The goal is to ensure development in solidarity in both Mediterranean banks, in the interest of security and stability in the region.

Within our comprehensive approach, African concerns and aspirations were given due importance. This is the reflection of our African identity, as well as our profound relations with our African brothers and the outstanding co-operation and solidarity, which Tunisia enjoys with the other African States.

True to its commitment, Tunisia has taken a keen interest in ensuring a new start to, the African Continent, by adhering to and supporting the newly born African Union  This is in addition to the establishment of a tripartite co-operation with many countries and regional groupings aimed at contributing to Africa development.
Tunisia has been continuously calling for the need for priority to be given to Africa in international programmes for development We also call today for the provision of support to the African initiative, known as "New Partnerships for Africa Development". This initiative aims at revitalizing the African economies and promoting the developmental processes in our countries, through modernizing infrastructure, improving human resources and eradicating poverty.

We reaffirm our determination to discharge our responsibility in contributing effectively to the implementation of the initiative's objectives, through our efforts, experiences and expertise. We remain confident that the success of this initiative will open new promising horizons before our countries and will guarantee the requirements of security and stability in our Continent.

Mr. President,

The role of the United Nations in tackling the challenges of development on the one hand and the maintenance of international peace and security on the other cannot be reinforced except through the affirmation of the need to respect the charter of the United Nations with its principles and objectives.

We believe that the role of the General Assembly, in this respect, must be strengthened, by using as a guideline, the recommendations and resolutions of that body, since it reflects the unanimous will of the members of the UN and personifies the concept of democracy in international relations. In this context, we wish to underline the importance of strengthening the relationship between the GA and the Security Council, through closer cooperation and consultation on a permanent and effective basis.

The Security Council occupies a special place in the field of international peace and security. Tunisia, during its term of membership in the council, supported the council's work in the direction of achieving consensus on the various questions on the council's agenda. This was based on our belief that this can only increase the credibility of the council and respect for its authority, which will reflect positively on its effectiveness.

Tunisia launched several special initiatives while it presided over the council in February 2001. These were concerned with promoting peaceful settlement of disputes and urging the parties concerned, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Angola, to abide by peace accords concluded. The initiatives also aimed at making the international community aware of the importance of its political and material backing of the parties to the conflict and helping them to overcome their differences, and concentrating their efforts on reconstruction and development.

During its membership of the council, Tunisia affirmed the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach in tackling different situations of instability and tension in the world; as security cannot be guaranteed except by securing the reasons for progress and development. Based on this, it launched its initiative during its presidency when it proposed the question of "Peace-building: towards a comprehensive approach". An examination of this question led to a unanimity among the members of the council to affirm the interdependence between peace and development and the preventive aspect of this approach. This was in addition to the importance given to the solidarity of the international community in adopting the necessary measures to help the regions, which have been suffering from tension and conflict.

In this context, we would be remiss if we did not address the enhancement of the role of the council within the need to reform it, so that it is more representative. It must also have a fair geographic distribution of the permanent seats so that there is a better balance of interests of different countries, particularly developing countries, in that body.

Mr. President,

One of the more difficult challenges in international peace and security, which still faces mankind, is the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. From this perspective, the elimination of these weapons, including nuclear weapons, represents an utmost priority. It has to be pursued through a comprehensive and permanent program, and efforts that support the renunciation of this type of weapons. In this respect, we have to underline the importance of encouraging the establishment of zones that are free from weapons of mass destructions, especially in the Middle East.

In the area of peace keeping, the capacities of the United Nations remain dependent on the will of states to work together to provide all the necessary conditions for the success of peacekeeping missions. This can be accomplished through good planning of every operation and a strict definition of its mandate, as well as adequate financing for running its activities in the best possible manner. This was called for in the panel that produced the Brahimi report. Here, we would like to underline the importance of increased coordination between the Security Council and troop contributing countries through continued and constructive consultations between the two parties.

Tunisia has participated in several peacekeeping operations in different parts of the world. Our last mission was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Mission that was ably run by Mr. Kamal Morjan, the former special representative of the Secretary general in that country.

Mr. President,

The demands of globalization make it imperative to have more interdependence in order to guarantee prosperity and progress for all. In no other field is that more pronounced than the field of information technology.

Scientific and technological progress contributed to shortening distances and enabled mankind to make progress in many fields. It made new ideas available to many and drew peoples closer to one another. But the fruits of this progress have not benefited all countries. Millions of poor and impoverished people have not seen the positive, rapidly cumulative effect of information and technology.

The widening digital gap between industrialized and developing countries is a cause for concern. We believe that it is necessary to adopt practical steps to enable countries to benefit from technological progress and the information revolution. We believe that cooperation in this field is a must. It is high time that we define the needed measures that can be adopted to enable developing countries to benefit from the wide horizons of the information revolution and rapid economic changes.

In this respect, Tunisia was keen, since the meeting of the International Telecommunications Union in Minneapolis, on hosting the second part of the World Summit of information society, which is due to meet in Tunisia in 2005, while the first part of that will take place in Switzerland in 2003. I would like to express our appreciation to all the countries, which cooperated with us to achieve this. We would also like to extend our thanks to Mr. Yoshio Utsumi, the Secretary general of the ITU for his constructive role in this respect.

We are hopeful that the General Assembly will adopt at its current session a resolution, which will make it possible to prepare for the two parts of the conference. We are hopeful that the work of the conference will be crowned with the founding of an effective, universal information partnership. This partnership will encourage developed countries to provide the developing countries with the necessary assistance to enable them to keep pace with the rapid technological advances and strengthen their access to the information network, bearing in mind the need to preserve the diversity in traditions, and national and regional cultural identity.

Mr. President

Our ability to meet the challenges before us, including the fight against terrorism, depends on our will to direct our efforts towards a common endeavor, based on cooperation, solidarity and in a spirit of tolerance and partnership, which would be in the interest of mankind presently and in the future. The monumental progress achieved by mankind today in economic and technological fields provides humanity with the tools and abilities to make the foundation of progress and development large enough to accommodate all the nations and the peoples represented in this organization. The organization, therefore, remains the ideal framework to achieve these objectives, which we all seek to achieve, within a framework of understanding and interaction among civilizations, and through lofty, human values.