58th General Assembly of the United Nations

23 September, 2003



Mister President,

I present you my sincerest congratulations for your accession to the presidency of the General Assembly. It occurs at a particular, if not painful, moment in the history of our Organization.

Indeed, the past year has gravely challenged the capacities of the United Nations to manage until the very end the crisis in Iraq, a crisis for which it was accountable. It saw the role of international peace and security keeping that this institution, symbol of multilateralism and stability, regards as pre-eminent being put into question.

Yet, it is not our institution's intrinsic capacity that forms the cause of its impotence. It is essentially its members' lack of political determination. We cannot elude for ever this vital debate for a peaceful, more harmonious and more just future eternally. At one point or another, it will become unavoidable to provide this existential question with an answer. How can we make it possible for all Member States of the United Nations to become ready and able to accept the intangible nature of the Security Council's endorsement before engaging in military action?

To make myself perfectly clear, the question that I ask myself stands as follows. What reforms need there to be brought to the Organization's functionings in order to appease the sometimes-legitimate apprehension or reticence of those who, because they assume political responsibilities of a particular nature, refuse to submit their geo-strategic options to the rules of our Organization?

As long as we will remain unable to settle this issue, we will continue to live in uncertainty, if not in impotence. It is not necessary here to plead for a drastic reform of the Organization's institutions, but rather for the rise of a debate that should enable us to overcome misunderstandings, which, due to their numbers ruin the credibility of our shared instrument, and from that to draw conclusions that will help us make the Organization's mechanisms more credible and up to date. The Security Council was founded on the recognition of some of our members' responsibility and particular role. And I fully subscribe to it. But should we not take into account in this new reality, new parameters, such as, for example, the regional dimension, today's geo-political framework, as well as new threats?

This, in no case, is meant to contest the specific weight of some of those involved in international peace and security management. Rather, our concerted support, thanks to the undisputable added value of multilateral dynamics, could help accompany, legitimate and strengthen their approach and their effectiveness. In many cases, this would avoid the taking of unnecessary risks as well as misunderstandings. I think it would be appropriate to grant a seat to the European union as such.

It is this conviction that inspired the position taken by my country in the Iraq crisis. But today is not the moment to lose our breath in debating endlessly about who was right or who was wrong. All had their reasons. One can only respect them for it. At present, it is necessary to contribute to re-establishing stability in Iraq and to insure the country's reconstruction. And that is the responsibility of us all, for it concerns a region neighboring Europe and we cannot, be it only for our own security, tolerate either the worsening of the instability or the persistence of the incontrollable violence that feeds the hatred towards the international community, a resentment that, as history taught us, constitutes the principal breading ground for terrorism.

It is thus necessary to stop the violence in Iraq as quickly as possible. To this end, I share the opinion of the Secretary General and of many among us. It is necessary to restore the management of Iraq to the people of Iraq as quickly as possible. This return to sovereignty, under the watchful eye of the United Nations and of the international community as a whole, is liable to precipitate the salutary shock needed to reverse the current trend. We must convince the Iraqi people that national union, the reestablishment of state authority, economic redress are accessible. This of course does not imply that the international community should demobilize. A strong military force in Iraq will still long be necessary in order to guarantee stability. It is of course up to the United States to assume its management. But it will from now on be necessary for this presence not to be regarded as aiming at occupying the country, but rather as a means of assistance to the reconstruction process in favor of the Iraqi people.

The Security Council's resolution that is presently under debate must create this perspective so as to insure a broad participation by the international community.

The United Nations have a central role to play in coaching the political reconstruction process in Iraq, even if the tragic events of August have shown its risks and delicate nature. However, such a role requires a clear and mandate and sufficient means.

I wish to renew my sincerest condolences to the Secretary General, to the families and to the colleagues, and express my esteem and admiration to all the members of personnel of the United Nations for their involvement, their abnegation and the sacrifices that they consent to with such faithfulness.

Mister President,

The principal security threat is the uncontrollable proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their potential use by states in breach of a minimum of rules of ethic or by certain terrorist movements. This threat is grave. We must face it together, by taking it upon ourselves to each of us assume a fair share of the actions undertaken.

The European union and its Member States currently possess an essential document: that of the European Security Strategy. It must serve to allow us, as Javier Solanas just recently reminded us in Brussels, to define a European reading grid of the challenges facing this world in order to better guarantee the effectiveness of our collective security system. Belgium will actively participate in this endeavor.

We fully share the international community's concerns about the nuclear program of North Korea. We strongly call upon North Korea to abide by its international commitments. We express our gratitude to China for having offered a useful format for discussions.

As for Iran, I trust that through a sustained and constructive dialogue the expectations of the International Community will be met and IAEA requests will be complied with.

Belgium will continue to participate in a determined and proactive way in the international efforts that have been initiated two years ago to track down terrorism. In Belgium there is no sanctuary for international terrorism, nor will there ever be. Nevertheless, the fight against terrorism should not be an improper justification for actions that would undermine the quality of our democracy as well as the loafty values of the State of Law.

Furthermore, I do not belong to those who believe that the military option is the exclusive answer, although obviously it should not be excluded. More fundamentally, we need to attack the root causes of a phenomenon, which is often rooted in the feeling of powerlessness or in feelings of real or perceived injustice.

For this reason, Belgium will also continue to support, together with its European partners, the action of the Quartet for the establishment of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In order to achieve the goal of peace, Palestinians need to decide unambiguously to stop tolerating blind violence and, in the same spirit, Israel needs to stop favouring the use of force.

I have the impression that, as difficulties are being piled up, we have fallen back into the traps of Oslo: a small-steps gradualism and a too pronounced sequentialism. The Road Map prescribes parallel progressions in the security, political and economical fields. From each side, we need to obtain bold measures and the acceptance of the risks these imply. There is no alternative for the Road Map. It has not yet been implemented seriously. It is particularly urgent to create a credible verification mechanism.

Mister President,

It is in Africa, particularly in Central Africa, that Belgium commits itself in the most determined way to the restoration of peace and stability. We are encouraged by the successful installation of a transitional Government in Kinshasa associating all parties. Now, state structures have to be restored and good governance introduced in order to allow for the return of foreign aid and investment. The persisting violence in the East of the country needs to be ended.

In this context I wish to mention the remarkable efforts by MONUC, and I'm particularly happy about the success of Operation Artemis. Apart from restoring security in Bunia, this operation has given MONUC the thrust it needed to be able to live up to the challenges of its new mandate.

Now, priority must be given to the preparations of elections in order to grant Congo a new start on a solid basis and to consolidate its restored territorial integrity. Belgium will be present on all levels and in every phase of this process. But I wish to insist on the fact that DRC needs the determined commitment of all the instruments of the International Community. It would be unforgivable not to forge here and now the conditions for a complete stabilisation of the entire region.

We also need to help Rwanda to continue its national reconciliation efforts, which are indispensable in order to guarantee sustainable stability in this fragile country. I am convinced the recent elections will contribute to this goal.

As for Burundi, the implementation of the Arusha Agreements needs to be continued, and the rebels have to be convinced that they should join this process. My country look forward to participate actively in the new mechanism for Burundi established by the ECOSOC. We hope this will help Burundi to break through its isolation within the international community. Finally, my country closely follows the efforts by the United Nations to reactivate the project of a Great Lakes Conference, which should seal the reestablishment of peaceful relations and the development of cross border cooperation between the countries of the region.

Mister President,

The credibility of the United Nations does not solely depend on its willingness and capacity to manage crises. It also depends on its capacity to respond to the expectations of men, women and children all over the world, who are directly or indirectly confronted with imbalances and injustice, whose causes and solutions lie on a global level. Globalisation needs to be mastered, the opportunities it offers need to be valorised and its excesses corrected.

It is clear that this challenge requires fundamental reflection on the architecture of the major instruments of development, according to the analysis of the Secretary General. This exercise demands openness of mind and should not exclude any option from the start. Hasn't the time come to reinforce the capacity of the United Nations to act effectively in this field? I wish to repeat a question that I have raised at the WTO Conference in Cancun. Shouldn't we, for example, create a real Economic and Social Security Council, which should receive its legitimacy and efficiency by law, and which would have the same power in the management of economic, social and environmental policies as the Security Council has on issues of peace? This is my conviction, especially since these fields form the requisite backdrop to achieving peace and stability.

ECOSOC needs to be reformed to in order to restore its operational and decisive role in the organisation of a world based on the universal principles of equity. This goal should lead to broad and balanced synergies between international organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the ILO, which should really become instruments for the same project.

The founding principles of such a concept exist already and are being applied in certain countries, such as in mine. I am referring more specifically to the fundamental labour standards, such as union freedom, prohibition of child labour and forced labour, the right to quality employment and environmental obligations, which are vital for sustainable development. I am also thinking of the necessity to exclude services of general interest from the market sphere.

Mister President,

It seems to me that such an ambition would adequately translate the hope generated by the Millennium Summit. The Millennium Declaration has clearly defined the goals at our level. I am pleased with the decision of the General Assembly to make the five-year review of the Millennium Summit in 2005 into an important event, which I think should be a Summit of Heads of State and Government. This Summit should not only assess the implementation of the Millennium goals, but also the goals of all the major UN Conferences. But the success of that Summit should do more. It should at last lay the foundation for a world in which inequalities between poor and rich countries can be bridged in a sustainable way and in which the confidence which is indispensable for the construction of a safer, more just, more human and more solidary world can blossom.

Thank you Mister President.