HIS EXCELLENCY MR. MONIE R. CAPTAN
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
TO THE 56TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK NOVEMBER 14, 2001
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Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honored to participate in this historic session on behalf of His
Excellency Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor, President of the
Republic of Liberia, and to share with you his contribution to this debate.
I am pleased to congratulate you on your election as President of the
56th General Assembly of the United Nations. We wish
to assure Your Excellency of the full cooperation of the Liberian delegation.
May I also take this opportunity to acknowledge the outgoing President,
Mr. Harri Holkeri of Finland for the very able manner
in which he conducted the 55th Session of the General Assembly.
In the same token, I would like to congratulate our distinguished Secretary-General,
Mr. Kofi Annan, for his re-election, as
Secretary-General of the United Nations, and for his distinguished recognition in being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize which,
no doubt, is a result of his vision, commitment and the efficient manner in which he has, and continues to lead our organization.
On September 11, 2001, not very far from this place, which is dedicated
to the maintenance of international peace and
security, the world was confronted with a kind of terrorism, which now renders all of us vulnerable. This terrorism is not
confined to any one group of people, nor is it confined to any one geographical location, or to any particular ethnic or religious
group. Because of its transnational nature, the world must come together, and in a coordinated and collective manner,
construct new models in answer to the scourge of terrorism. We must act without delay, and without unnecessary debate. We
must act with determination and urgency.
The problem of terrorism today requires that our organization, the United
Nations, should take the lead in coordinating and
consolidating international efforts to tackle the new challenges of terrorism. The United Nations should serve as a catalyst for
these efforts, and not another bureaucratic web of inaction and prolonged debate. The United Nations is today the subject of
terrorist threats, this institution that humanity has charged with the responsibility of global peace and security. We must match
our words with deeds, we must respond to this scourge.
My Government reiterates its condemnation in the strongest terms, of
the barbaric and heinous acts of terrorism perpetrated
against the United States leading to unimaginable and enormous loss of lives and massive destruction in New York, Washington
DC, and Pennsylvania. My Government has made concrete offers to the United States Government and the international
coalition, and has taken strong measures in keeping with UN Resolution 1373 (2001).
UNITED NATIONS REFORMS
I wish to now proceed to issue of reform of the United Nations. I believe,
the rest of you, that reform implies change
towards a more positive condition. And I presume that when we speak of the United Nations, we speak of nations that have
come together with a common interest to achieve a common objective. In essence, when we speak of reform, we must accept
that the conditions under which our nations have come together with common interest to achieve a common objective are no
longer palatable and requires change. The questions that many of us continue to debate regard what changes we want, and how
to achieve those changes.
However, I must interject a fundamental question as to whether the conditions,
practices and tradition exist for a positive
change, assuming we mean positive for the collective good. In bringing about any positive change for a collective good, a "level
playing field" must exist in which the interest of the whole will freely manifest itself in the change. A "level playing field" should
consist of the following conditions: transparency, freedom, fairness, and democratic practices.
By transparency, we must assume a condition in which the operation and
decision making process within the United Nations
and its specialized agencies is open, i.e., the Security Council should not deliberate in secrecy as was the case during the
pre-World War II years in which secret diplomacy and alliance formations characterized the period.
By freedom, we must assume that members of the United Nations can take
decisions in the absence of threats, coercion, fear
By fairness, we must assume that decisions cannot be taken in contradiction
to universal moral imperatives or to the detriment
of the statehood of a member. Sanctions with adverse socio-economic and humanitarian consequences should not constitute
political tools available to a few members.
By democratic practices, we must assume that decision- making will be
reflective of the will of the majority and not of a few;
that all members will have an equal say and equal participation.
Unfortunately, the contrary of these pre-conditions constitute the status
quo today with regard to the functioning of the United
Nations. How can we then assume the possibility of reform in the absence of a "level playing field"?
Reform can only be meaningful in the context of the alteration of the
spirit of the Charter. That, as I have suggested, would
assume the presence of a level playing field," However, we must all admit that the concept of reform has gained currency only
because of an attempt to admit emerging powers into the elite group of permanent members of the Security Council. Such an
attempt has provoked an outcry against the privilege of the few and the challenge is how to admit these emerging powers
without disrupting the existing allocation of privilege. Privilege is never surrendered; it is only shared when the political structures
Reform will not occur within the United Nations until structural changes
take place in the distribution of power where more
non-traditional powers emerge. It would therefore be an exercise in futility to expect concrete reforms in the United Nations
without structural pressures. And, what we assume to be reform is essentially an adjustment occasioned by structural pressures.
This adjustment would be limited to accommodating the new emerging powers,
while appeasing the less powerful states with
participation without power. The conferral of the right of veto will mark this distinction. The meaning of a permanent seat will no
longer be synonymous with the right of veto.
For the less powerful, the struggle will not be about power, but participation
by affiliation, a sort of status club. Prestige is a
preoccupation of the national character, which, despite its superficiality, will be pursued by states seeking to distinguish
themselves from the crowd. Hence, the focus of the less powerful will be to join the club, and not the pursuit of the more
important goal of integration, which is the only answer for the conversion of the less powerful into emerging powers that would
compel adjustment through structural pressures. Debate is not the mechanism of change.
Individual, less powerful states, can only hope to emerge as powerful
states through a process of integration within regional
groupings where power in its entire composite is integrated into a common power capability. This would require integration of
economic, military, technological, human resource, political, and social resources into an integrated regional capacity. It is only
when this objective is achieved will the structure of the international political system yield to adjustment.
Africa cannot, with all of its potential, continue to stand by and accept
to be condemned to perpetually occupy the position of
the least developed continent. The African culture, heritage, and value system stand the risk of being lost in the sea of normative
ethics based on western values. Africa should not lose the opportunity of the new African Union to achieve meaningful
integration and cooperation within the context of building a powerful African capability that will allow Africans a say in our
common world. This will require a new pragmatism, commitment, vision, cooperation and sacrifice on the part of African
leaders. The United Nations can work for Africa; we should learn from the successes of the power brokers who have made the
United Nations an important instrument of their foreign policy.
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1343 (2001)
Liberia is a small country in West Africa that has suffered seven years
of civil war from 1990 to 1997. During the years of the
civil war, most institutions were destroyed and a major brain drain resulted as many Liberian professionals traveled abroad to
better conditions. The war also resulted in the destruction of basic infrastructure including power generating plants, water plants,
schools, hospitals, airports, bridges, and private property. Over 666,000 Liberians ended up as refugees and over a million as
internally displaced persons. More alarming was the failure of the international community to assist in the reintegration of over
60,000 former combatants who remained unemployed and idle.
In 1997, a constitutionally elected government was inaugurated
with the challenges of restoring a nation that was destroyed by
war. Four years later, the enfant government still faces an unsympathetic international community; it has received no ODA, and
donor assistance for UN agencies and NGO's operating in Liberia has declined over the past four years. The current
unemployment rate is 85%, while 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. According to UNICEF, the illiteracy rate
is estimated at 80%. Half of all school-age children do not attend school. Infant mortality stands at 134/1000 live births.
Disability prevalence in the population is 16.4%, of which 12.7% is war related. The WHO rate for a post-war country is
between 7 -10%. The prevailing causes of disabilities are alarming, with 91.5% acquired due to trauma and diseases. About
21% of urban dwellers and 80% of rural dwellers have no access to safe drinking water. Access to adequate sanitation is
unavailable to approximately 70% of the population. An estimated 8% of the population is reportedly HIV infected.
Since 1999, dissidents have waged war in Lofa County, against the constitutionally
elected government in Liberia, further
exacerbating the already vulnerable humanitarian situation in the country. Death, destruction, displacement of populations, and
an increase in Liberian refugees, have contributed to what the UN agencies call a humanitarian crisis within Liberia.
The Liberian Government's capacity to defend its territorial integrity
has been impaired by a United Nations arms embargo,
despite the right to self-defense as expressed in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. The Security Council has taken no
measures to prevent the ongoing killing of innocent Liberians, especially women and children who are the targets of atrocities
committed in Lofa County by armed dissidents.
This country, a victim of war, poverty, and disease, is today also the
victim of a regime of punitive sanctions imposed by the
United Nations Security Council in its Resolution 1343 (2001). The representative of the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs told the 4405th meeting of the Security Council on November 6th 2001 that the humanitarian situation in
Liberia today is "abysmal". Since the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council, and despite the claim by the Council that
the sanctions would not have any adverse effect on the ordinary people, socio-economic indicators show that the living
condition of the Liberian people have declined dramatically. Available statistics show a direct correlation between the
imposition of sanctions and the decline in the living standards of the Liberian people.
The Security Council has imposed a global travel ban on over 100 Liberians
without any rationalization. My government has
requested the Security Council to make known its criteria for the inclusion of persons subject to the travel ban. This minimal
element of transparency and justice has been denied the Liberian government. Among those subjected to the travel ban are the
sick, invalid, businessmen, wives, and ex-wives. What a frightening, alarming and dangerous precedence the Security Council
has set? Liberia speaks not for itself as it has already been victimized, but for the rest of you who may find similar treatment
meted out against you tomorrow.
I stand impatient for a tomorrow when there will be redress from the
injustice my country suffers; When all of you will no longer
be obliged to enforce unjust sanctions; today, I stand impatient to hear the General Assembly voice its opposition to the
suffering imposed upon Liberian children, women, and elderly. I stand impatient waiting for each and every member of the
Security Council to respect the human rights of my people. I stand impatient for the day when the United Nations will no longer
be an instrument that is used to cause the suffering of innocent people.
The Government of Liberia calls upon the Security Council to lift all
sanctions imposed upon it and bring to an end the suffering
of the Liberian people.
THE QUESTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA
At the 26th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1971,
a major decision was taken which; to date has far
reaching implications. On October 25 th of that year, after two decades of debate, by a vote of 76 in favor, 36 against, and 17
abstentions, and in keeping with General Resolution 2758 (XXVI) the Republic of China was expelled from the world body.
By that decision, a founding member and her population then of 14 million
people were effectively stopped from associating
with the rest of the world. Nothing in the Charter justified such a decision, yet a precedent still unsurpassed was set.
Nevertheless, it is the conviction of the Liberian Government
that the now 23 million peace-loving people of the Republic of
China should be allowed representation and participation in our world body. It is also the hope of the Liberian people that the
Great Chinese people will one day be peacefully reunited under the principles of democracy and human rights.
IN CONCLUDING, Mr. President, permit me to allay the anxieties of all
those who are preoccupied with the situation
subsisting between the members of the Mano River Union. The leaders of the three Mano River Union states have resolved to
put all of their differences aside without returning to the destructive process of apportioning blame. We are a common people,
bound by blood, culture, and language. We are bound by a common destiny that is inextricably linked and capable of
withstanding ephemeral differences. I wholly agree with President Conte of Guinea when he described our quarrel as a family
matter. Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and mothers and fathers have commenced the process of reconciliation
and confidence building in Freetown, Conakry, and Monrovia. So far, a number of significant decisions have been taken at the
level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and the Joint Security Committee. We ask for your support in this process.
I would be remiss if I fail to acknowledge the true fraternal solidarity
and support of the Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS), which has stood the test of all of our challenges and difficulties, and yet remained focused on the objective
of peace. We too will remain focused on the objective of peace.
I THANK YOU.