H.E. Dr. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland
at the Fifty-Seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
New York, 15 September 2002
Please accept my congratulations on your election to the presidency of this distinguished body.
May I also reaffirm the assurances of my highest appreciation and support to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan.
It is with satisfaction that Poland welcomes in our midst the new Member of the United Nations - Switzerland and is looking forward to welcome soon the Republic of East Timor.
Wislawa SZYMBORSKA, a Polish poetess and Nobel Prize winner, wrote the following words dedicated to the victims of September 11:
"They plunged down from heights ablaze (...) For them I can do but two things - depict their f fight and have the last sentence unfinished... "
I believe that every one of us traveling to this brave city shared similar thoughts. We all must have asked ourselves a question - what is being expected of us, where are we today, what obligations are we to fulfill to make sure that such horror will never happen again?
No doubt, September 11 was a wake-up call for all of us. It may have not changed the world but certainly it has fundamentally changed the way we perceive it. Yet again the history has placed with us the responsibility to face the challenge and deliver to the future generations a better and safer world. But than - after all - isn't that really what we are here for?!
Many of my distinguished colleagues have touched upon this issue in recent days. The messages delivered here, just four days ago, by Secretary General Kofi Annan and President George W. Bush are especially significant. In that regard we also share the opinion expressed by a number of other speakers, in particular Prime Minister of Denmark, Mr. Anders F. Rasmussen, speaking in his capacity of the President of the European Union.
Today, United Nations stands at the crossroads, facing a choice that needs to be made. Either we will find internal strength to stand up to the challenge and prove to be more than a mere discussion forum or forever loose the credibility. Once again, as was the case at the onset over half a century ago, we must take the issues of security seriously especially that terrorism has given it a new dimension.
Poland as the founding member of the United Nations will continue to support all efforts aimed at preserving its unique position. We fully agree with what the UN Secretary General said, that we "can only succeed, if we make full use of multinational institutions". We share the position of President Bush, that the United Nations must be effective and successful and that UN resolutions must be enforced. We are convinced that the Security Council must find enough strength in the nearest future to set the course for the decision-making process of the United Nations aimed at concrete actions. This time we are left with very little margin. This is the test that international community has to pass - failure would undermine both the United Nation's integrity and the security of the whole world.
I think the most appropriate motto for my further reflections on the future of the United Nations is contained in the Secretary-General's Millennium Report. He wrote: "If the international community were to create a new United Nations tomorrow, its makeup would be surely different from the one we have ".
It would be highly unfortunate if the Millennium Report, and especially its conclusions relating to the role of the United Nations and the reform of the Organization faded into oblivion. Only the United Nations, given its exceptional legitimacy stemming from the universal character of both its membership and mandate can - and, indeed, ought to - rise to the challenges posed to the international community. But for this to happen, its prerogatives, its rules and the instruments would have to be geared to the needs of today and the threats of tomorrow. This must be done by member states themselves, because, after all, the UN is - and will remain - an intergovernmental organization.
We should consider elaboration of a document, which would be neither a draft revision of the Charter, nor its supplement, nor its enlarged version. What I would like to suggest is that we make an attempt to acknowledge the new reality and try a new road. By no means am I original or precedent-setting: the Atlantic Charter and the New Atlantic Charter, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the 1990 Paris Charter of New Europe have all been there before. In other words, adapting an organization's mandate to make it relevant to the new needs, without actually revising its foundation act, have already been tested.
There is a widespread awareness of some provisions of the United Nations Charter actually becoming a dead letter. That applies to both their substance and the procedural solutions they offer. Some of the Charter's provisions and organs have completed the tasks assigned to them. The de-colonization process made the Trusteeship Council redundant. But the Organization does need new mechanisms to run peacekeeping operations. It is impossible to comprehend why we still keep in place the "clauses on enemy states" while the UN has no regulations to properly address the problems related to its humanitarian interventions. There is a general acceptance of the need for clear lines to be drawn to mark new areas of responsibility for a number of important UN organs.
The values, purposes and principles of the United Nations, enshrined in the Preamble and Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter have not lost their relevance. They have stood the test of time. A document that could be considered as "New Act of the United Nations at the Dawn of the 21st Century" could give a fresh impetus to the principles, organs and mechanisms of the United Nations and make them more responsive to the needs and challenges that have dominated the life of the international community today.
Let me point out four groups of problems that should be tackled - starting with new threats to security:
- The Charter makes reference to threats traditionally raised by states; the Charter's provisions concerning the Security Council, its composition, instruments and the remaining chapters dealing with security are now insufficient - the fact exposed by numerous developments of the recent years, including the September 11th attack and its consequences;
- Then comes acute poverty, evident in many parts of the world, chronic underdevelopment, pandemic diseases, lack of education and medical care, the deepening differences in living conditions and developmental standards - all these being unacceptable and untenable politically and morally;
- Human rights, the rule of law, democracy, good governance and civil society are the third group of problems I have been thinking about;
- The fourth group is made up of sustainable development related themes focusing on the protection of both the human habitat, indispensable for the survival of the human race, and of the common heritage of mankind.
On top of that, the existing UN principles must be expanded or new ones developed for the Organization to pursue its actions in the following three dimensions, namely:
1. manifestations of multilateralism in UN work (reconciling broad representation and necessary collectivism with effectiveness);
2. subsidiarity in UN work to better utilize the means and resources available to UN member states (relation: UN - regional arrangements);
3. getting non-governmental entities (including private capital) involved in UN work in a way which will not detract from the democratic nature of the Organization, will not erode its governmental character or its efficiency while increasing its resources and effectiveness.
I dare to say, that no country, group of countries or regional agencies meeting the Organization's criteria would be capable of taking within its range the totality of problems such an undertaking would have to address.
Subject to appropriate consultations
involving the UN membership and the Secretary General we might wish to establish
a Group of Sages made up of outstanding personalities. The Group would draft
an appropriate document, which would then be assessed and approved by member
states. That document should have a politically binding nature, which would
combine with its legal anchorage in the Charter to provide a platform for the
UN actions over the coming decades.
We should think about the future, and work on its foundations without losing sight of present-day achievements.
The enactment of the statute of the International Criminal Court is one such achievement. It turns a new page in both international relations and international law. It is Poland's desire for the treaty establishing the Court to become one of the most universal documents of its kind. We trust that the existing divergences between respective stands and views can be resolved through dialogue and compromise, according to international law. We have to act so as not to disappoint the hopes and expectations, which the international community places in the Court.
A year ago the whole world has joined together in an unprecedented example of solidarity. Today we are more aware of the source and the character of the threat. We are indeed more capable of dealing with it through providing for the implementation of relevant international instruments, taking steps to control the flow of finances and persons, state borders and the arms trade. Poland has joined the ongoing antiterrorist operation. Our soldiers are now deployed in Afghanistan, alongside their colleagues from other countries, and are doing their utmost to strengthen security there and help raise the country from rubble and ruin inflicted upon it by two decades of war and internal strife.
For us it is a natural obligation that stems from the symbolic signature, which we have placed on the Charter bringing this institution to life. But we cannot avoid asking ourselves a question - are we any closer today to fulfilling the ideals that we have set sail for half a century ago....?
We now have another chance to revitalize solidarity, work together for values that are priceless both to us, and generations to come. Let us all create the axis of good that will bring back the proper meaning to the term we are so proud of - The United Nations.
Thank you, Mr. President.