General debate of the fifty-sixth regular session of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, November 15, 2001

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 Mr. President,

The Republic of Panama is especially pleased with your election as President of this 56th Session of the General Assembly, and assures you of its resolute cooperation in addressing the delicate tasks before us.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express the great satisfaction of the Government of Panama in seeing the well-deserved honor of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Kofi Annan, and to our Organization itself.

Mr. President,

We are attending this forum today still in shock over the unspeakable terrorist acts committed on September 11 in New York, in Washington D.C. and in Pennsylvania. These are crimes against humanity that will never be forgotten. In homage to the thousands of innocent victims of these senseless attacks, the United Nations must take whatever steps are necessary to legitimize all the multilateral efforts that will be required in the future to eradicate the scourge of international terrorism.
The Republic of Panama, as a member of this Organization, respects and complies with the mandates that flow from it. Therefore, we are pleased to declare unequivocally in this forum that all the resources within our means will be devoted to fulfilling the responsibilities that fall upon us in the struggle against terrorism.

We also wish to demonstrate our support for the Security Council Committee on Terrorism that was constituted by virtue of Resolution 1373 (2001) and is chaired by His Excellency the Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, with whom we shall maintain standing communication.

Mr. President,

The Government of Panama, under the leadership of President Mireya Moscoso, is resolved to apply vigorously the provisions contained in all United Nations instruments dealing with international terrorism. For these purposes, we shall shortly be submitting to the Legislative Assembly the four United Nations instruments pending ratification by our country, together with the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, of December 1999, which we have just signed here. As well, we shall move as quickly as possible to ratify the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court.

 In addition to the common efforts that we are bound to make against terrorism under the many conventions of the United Nations and resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, as they relate to terrorist activities, we respectfully request that we attempt to resolve the differences of opinion that arose here during last July's conference on the problem of massive and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. It is generally recognized that the final beneficiaries of this deadly traffic are not only those insurgent elements that are sponsored at times by other nations, but also well-known terrorist groups. Therefore, Panama reiterates the position it put forward during that conference, that no state should claim the right to promote this deadly traffic by citing its national interest. It is essential to reassert this point, Mr. President, in light of recent events.

The Republic of Panama is particularly concerned at the social, political and economic implications of illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, and hereby declares its intention to sponsor an American convention on the issue, in order to structure a legal framework that will allow countries of the Hemisphere to suppress this traffic and thereby to strengthen regional security.

Mr. President,

We are caught up in a whirl of bloody events that are dragging us ever closer to a generalized conflagration. The States represented here, by joining this Organization, have accepted a formal commitment to foster peace, to promote human rights, to provide food, health and education to our people, to preserve the environment, and to promote political, economic and social development in general.

Yet if this commitment is to bear any real fruit, we must regain the concurrence of those States that, through sheer fanaticism, particularly in the Middle East, have been unable to reconcile themselves with the purposes and principles of the United Nations. My country considers that the intolerance and intransigence demonstrated in that part of the world are the ugly offspring of ancient grudges and injustices that are obvious to all, and that constitute flagrant violations of the Charter of this Organization.
The Republic of Panama has repeatedly spoken out to urge the parties in conflict to abandon the use of force, to re-establish cooperation in the area of security in that part of the world, and to take steps to restore mutual confidence such as will permit a return to the peace process, based on the standards of International Law.

 In recent weeks, the international community has witnessed with deep sadness the resurgence of violence in that region. Given the degree of brutality evident in the Middle East, Panama believes that the United Nations must energetically reinforce its mediation role, in order to put a stop to the unfortunate bloodshed that has so distressed the international community for decades.

In particular, Panama calls upon the Security Council to take a more active role in efforts underway to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Report, which seeks to overcome violence through constructive dialogue and mutual concessions.

The indispensable element here, Mr. President, is to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own sovereign State, and the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security.

Mr. President,

We must marshal our best efforts and our most outstanding human resources, and dedicate them to the reconciliation of all humanity. The Republic of Panama will commit itself tenaciously to this task, and will always invoke the peaceful settlement of conflicts through dialogue, rejecting violence as a means of settling domestic or international disputes.

As other examples of situations that produce unnecessary friction, and that can be resolved through dialogue, we may cite the right to self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara, the claims of the Argentine Republic to the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, and the right of the Republic of China in Taiwan to be represented within the United Nations system, until the internal situation of the Chinese people is resolved.

Mr. President,

Panama defends human rights without reservation, and will never accept acts that violate those rights, no matter where they occur and no matter what circumstances may be adduced in an attempt to justify them.

To this very clear position we would also add, as an inherent part of human rights, our sincere commitment to the universal campaign to protect the rights of the child and to combat HIV / AIDS. On this last issue, Panama believes that if this campaign is to be successful, no one can decline economic and social responsibility with respect to this terrible affliction, and we must also promote sound community planning at the local and provincial level in order to prevent this and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Human rights are clearly defined in the political and civil fields, as well as in the economic, social and cultural areas. Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, much progress has been achieved in promoting them. Yet the brave declarations of that time are now being challenged by inequities in the process of globalization and financing for development, by unbearable foreign debts, and by the indiscriminate destruction of the environment.

All of these factors lie at the root of extreme poverty, and they call for joint commitment and partnership on the part of the wealthier nations. We firmly believe that the eradication of poverty and of inequality will prevent the erosion of human rights, and will defuse the social upheavals that produce violence and the loss of political, social and economic rights of the world's inhabitants.

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 represented a tremendous effort to make world development sustainable. The most important outcome of that conference was the adoption of Agenda 21, which covers in great detail the issues of poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy, as well as those relating to the progressive destruction of ecosystems. As well, Agenda 21 brings us to focus our attention on the financial resources needed to foster sustainable development at the national level, and to generate a workable system of measuring it. This is an ongoing and important task that we must not overlook.

Mr. President,

We are now approaching the upcoming United Nations Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002. We believe that this conference offers us a magnificent opportunity to reduce the gap that persists between the rich countries of the north and the poor countries of the south, at both the conceptual and the practical levels.

In the course of the Preparatory Committee meetings for this Conference that have been held over the last few months, divergent ideas of great weight have been put forward, and they must be reconciled. As a result of those differences, it is pessimistically predicted that it will be impossible to come up with a concrete plan of action in Monterrey.

On the contrary, I think that, recognizing the objections of those who bear the risk in providing finance, it is urgent to review our arguments to ensure that, with creativity and a sense of responsibility, the issue of financing for development can take on parameters more in keeping with the realities of today's world.
These realities, Mr. President, are pressing indeed, and include, among other things, the need for developing countries to receive financing at reduced interest rates, to attack the external debt problem vigorously, to design measures to increase the depressed prices for our raw materials and other export products, and to achieve consensus on mechanisms to forestall financial crises.

Mr. President,

Following these lines of thought, and believing that they are of interest to this General Assembly, we would like to mention that in June of this year the countries of Central America and the United States of America signed a joint declaration under the Alliance for Sustainable Development (ALIDES). This alliance, which is a regional strategy to make the Central American isthmus a zone of peace, freedom, democracy and development, includes among its general objectives the sustainable management of biodiversity, the strengthening and modernization of institutional structures, the promotion of trade and the mitigation of natural disasters.

Specifically, ALIDES is pursuing regional economic integration, and the effective insertion of Central America into the international economy. It seeks to harmonize macroeconomic policies and modernize infrastructure in the fields of energy, transport and telecommunications; to create biological corridors, watersheds and protected areas; to consolidate democracy and the rule of Law within the region; to raise the levels of education, health and security for the inhabitants of Central America, and to restore and preserve national values.

This determination of Central America to achieve development has been reinforced with the launching of the Puebla-Panama Plan. We have created thereby a regional mechanism for continuous and ongoing consultation in order to put in place a comprehensive long-term strategy. The Plan, which had its origin in southeastern Mexico, and which will involve indigenous communities, villages, nongovernmental organizations, private business and governments, seeks to enlist civil society in the process of raising the level of human and social development for our people.

Mr. President,

While we are making great efforts to overcome the social problems facing some of our regions, within the U.N. we continue to debate structural problems that in a sense constrain the capacity of many of our countries to influence the management of the Organization. Among the many debates about reforming the United Nations, we would like to refer to the one that took place last October 30th concerning item 49 of the General Assembly Agenda, entitled "The Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and related matters". Last year the delegation of Panama, both at the Millennium Summit and in this General Assembly, supported the long-standing aspiration to reform the Security Council. We have stated, and I reiterate today, our agreement that its composition must be more equitable and representative, but that to achieve this fundamental objective it is essential for the permanent members to accept the fact that the power structure of 1945 no longer exists. Today, given the new and vital interdependence of all nations of the world, there is a real opportunity to distance ourselves from obsessions that now have no place in the structure of our Organization.

Mr. President,

To conclude, let me reiterate our conviction that, as was demonstrated in the wake of the horrendous terrorist acts of September 11, the legitimacy and effectiveness of future actions by the Security Council will depend on a perception by all member States that there is no unilateral dictating, and that we will no longer be shunted aside when decisions are taken on issues that affect us all. It is in this direction that we must guide our efforts.

Thank you very much, Mr. President