"LINE IN THE SAND"
Mr. J.J. VAN AARTSEN
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
TO THE 56TH SESSION
OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK 13 NOVEMBER 2001
Check against delivery
Mr. President, distinguished delegates,
How can anyone stand on the smoking ashes of 'ground zero' and not be awash in disbelief, anger, and frustration? How can anyone escape the enormity of what happened in September - or not feel compassion for all those who have lost someone dear to them? At ground zero we not only witness death and destruction, but also see how American values have come under siege. Shared values. That is why the people I represent, now stand squarely behind the United States.
No matter how deeply moved, we must look beyond our anger and frustration. Through our tears we should discover opportunity. Through our bitterness, necessity. We must turn compassion into solidarity - turn solidarity into common action. We need a plan. In sum, we must turn to the United Nations!
The reaction by the UN from the beginning of this crisis has been prompt and responsible. As we meet this week, we must try and keep the momentum. And that is precisely what we are doing. There is something I have sensed in the first few days of this general debate - determination! Determination to use the UN to the fullest, on many different fronts, as a centre of gravity for our common actions. Common action for confronting a global threat. Common action to maintain the international order.
The law first
on that common action, what have we learned so far?
One. That the law must be firmly in place.
There is a wealth of legal rules to guide us in these difficult times, and more of them are on the way. A striking example of innovative rule-making was presented by the Security Council. Binding under Chapter VII, resolution 1373 takes action not in regard to a specific threat or breach of the peace, not against a particular Member State, but action to confront a phenomenon, a threat to our human values and economic interests, action against unidentified enemies. By writing new law, the Council has broken new ground. Even more so, as it has set up the Counter Terrorism Committee to monitor the implementation of its decision.
Jointly with our partners in the European Union we are taking the implementation of 1373 very seriously. One aspect is especially important to us: promoting ratification of all of the various anti-terrorism conventions and monitoring compliance. My country has some expertise to offer, and will gladly share it. Meanwhile, an overarching convention against terrorism is in the works. That's good. But we are getting bogged down over a definition of terrorism. That's bad. Don't forget it took us twenty years to produce a fairly useless definition of aggression. The world can't wait that long. Besides: when terrorism stares you in the face, you'll know it.
In addition to rule-making, the real challenge lies in implementation.
There, we should try harder. One example. Just before the summer we lost
the momentum in fighting biological warfare, and therefore bio-terrorism
as well. The world is a scary place. Anthrax is only one motive for retrieving
that momentum. Let us resume our efforts to turn the Biological Weapons
Convention into an instrument that can really make a difference.
Mr. President, the need for stepping up security is immediate, comprehensive and self-evident. In the aftermath of September 11 nobody would deny it. But we need to be concerned with the down-side of security as well. Parts of our value system may come under pressure when governments seek to bolster public safety: human rights and fundamental freedoms.
As private citizens we must be ready to make concessions and, yes, we'll be forced to relinquish some freedom from intrusion in our private lives, and from disruption of our public lives. But we cannot be expected either to live in a neverending state of siege. Wherever we have to strike a balance, we have to do so wisely. Already long ago, we've drawn a line we cannot step beyond: we cannot detract from basic principles of human rights. They are the true measures of our evolution and our civilisation. We look the other way, we lose the moral highground. We compromise, we lose out to those who besiege us.
What's being put to the test here is our own value system. Core notion
of that system is tolerance. Tolerance, however, must come from all sides.
Tolerance is not the equivalent of giving in to intolerance. It doesn't
imply you bend at the slightest pressure. Tolerance also means you stand
up and are counted. That you draw a line in the sand when your basic values
Mr. President, that's lesson number one.
Lesson number two. There are 'black holes' in the international order. Failing states. We knew they were there all along, but we've never been quite sure how to deal with them.
Why should we care about failing states? For several reasons. Look at the avalanche of drugs, drug-money, weapons, and war-lords spilling out of Afghanistan. Look at the blood diamonds streaming out of Africa. Think of how failing states attract parasites; how they turn into breeding grounds for terrorism, a haven for international crime. Think of peace and security, too; how faltering countries become a liability to their own people; how they flaunt the rules of the game and become a liability to the whole neighbourhood.
How do we deal with failing states? That question has never been answered in a systematic manner. Any answer begins by recognising among the Member States of this Organisation that failing states are a problem. Indeed, it may turn out to be the most pernicious problem of the new century. From there we need to build a strategy, and do so together, in the framework of this Organisation.
What are we aiming at? How ambitious are we? Can we get in early to prevent failing states from failing? Are there any early warning signals to look out for? If we do see those signals, do we have the means to act? And the political will? Once states are failing, do we try and 'fix' them? Do we settle for ending the fighting, wherever fighting is going on? Or do we limit ourselves to humanitarian aid? These are all good questions.
My belief is that outside intervention only goes so far. I don't believe
that massive injections of aid are the right answer to failing states.
For one thing, donors are reluctant to poor money down a black hole. But
more importantly: the solution should not come from the outside, but from
the inside. Even in the poorest country we will find well-educated citizens
just as committed to building better lives for their children as in the
rest of the world. They need a helping hand; a helping hand in building
good governance, a viable civil society. Yet, ownership is paramount. Failing
states, too, have the capacity to fix themselves - indeed, only if they
do fix themselves will they no longer be failing. Our role should be to
help galvanise and enable those capacities.
Mr. President, lesson number three. The UN should be doing the right things.
Consensus is growing that in post-Taliban Afghanistan, the UN should play a central role. I rush to underscore that. But a central role in what?
For make no mistake: once the bombing stops, the odds are still overwhelming. The country is not only rugged and ruined, but also the size of Central-Europe, packed with landmines. Factional fighting is bound to continue. The UN can do a lot, but we need to take care against sending the UN on a mission impossible. Instead of calling on the UN where it is weak, let us call on the UN where it is strong.
Take governance, a major worry to all of us. Much as we seek to avoid it, a political vacuum is a realistic prospect, given that tribal conflict in Afghanistan is as old as the country's history. Afghans are a proud people. Hostility to outside intervention is strong. The country needs to be governed from within. We may be looking both for a broad-based interim government and a stable permanent structure. Without rushing to elections, we need to be satisfied that such a political settlement is being supported by the population. In the process, the UN might play a central role as a catalyst and as an adviser, but not as a governor. Afghanistan is not East Timor. It is important, too, that any settlement is supported also by the neighbouring states, and carried by a Security Council resolution.
Security. In the absence of a functional national army, transitional military arrangements are essential. They are essential to help create a secure environment enabling reconstruction to begin and refugees to return home. Choosing the right format is critical. A classical UN peacekeeping operation may not be a good idea, certainly not for the country as a whole. Supplying peacekeepers is still voluntary. Realistically, troop levels needed for a country this size would almost certainly not be attained. Bosnia has taught us the hard lesson of what price we pay when we send in a UN force below par. We should be careful to avoid another Somalia. Different formats for security arrangements are possible, and we should reflect on them at large. In a previous incarnation, Ambassador Brahimi has offered us a wide spectrum of lessons learned on UN peacekeeping. We should take them to heart. Now, as the Special Representative, we should give him all the support he needs.
Mine clearance. Afghanistan has more landmines than any other country in the world. Literally, the country cannot possibly get back on its feet as long as those mines are there. We have got to get rid of them. The UN can help us do that. We must pay the bills.
Reconstruction. We should capitalise on where the United Nations is uniquely positioned either to deploy operations in the field or to co-ordinate those of others. Let us not limit our view to the part of the UN here in New York, but broaden it to the entire UN system - Dumbarton Oaks and Bretton Woods. We need to bring the full weight of that system to bear on the future of Afghanistan. I am talking of WHO and UNHCR, of FAO and the Drug Programme, of ILO and the World Food Programme, of UNDP and the World Bank. No need to set up a whole new mechanism. The Afghanistan Support Group is fully entrenched and we should use it.
Especially now, caught at a cross-fire, the Afghan people are not to be envied. Their plight will not be over once the guns are silent. Food stocks, health care, housing, utilities, schooling, agriculture - the list is a long one. But all of us need to push it. We may not be part of the problem of Afghanistan, but we must be part of the solution.
Yet, again: reconstruction cannot be imposed upon a nation. Here, too,
a sustainable recovery needs to come from within. All the men, and especially
the women of Afghanistan must once again become the makers of their own
fate and future. The answer lies with them.
Mr. President, distinguished delegates,
The UN is not'an ineffective acronym', as a misguided message on the
Internet will have you believe. To global issues, multilateral co-operation
is the only answer. Multilateralism is solidarity, worked into a plan.
As I said, the reaction by the UN system, in the aftermath of September
11, has been prompt and responsible. In order to maintain that level of
performance, we the Member States will have to show the stamina, support
and commitment to make it happen. Our track record is not impeccable. The
UN can go not faster than we will let it. Which means we have to make it
work. Which means we have to provide it with all the resources, and the
political will, to give it the push and punch we need.
Thank you, Mr. President.