Statement by
H.E. Mr. Stjepan Mesie
President of the
Republic of Croatia
General Assembly
Fifty-Eighth Session

General Debate

United Nations, New York
September 23, 2003

Mr. President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Rarely has the world's attention been so focused on the United Nations, rarely has so much been expected of this organization. The question now being asked throughout the world is: Is the United Nations experiencing the deepest crisis in its history and does it still play a fundamental role in international relations?

Today, at the beginning of the 21St century, the main reason for the existence of our organization is the same as it was 60 years ago: to maintain world peace, reached at the cost of millions of lives; and to constantly contribute to the well-being of mankind all over the world.

We are living in a world where no one can go it alone, without the help of others, however big and powerful they may be; global solutions require the concerted and united efforts of all countries and all the inhabitants of our planet.

Our organization, the "United Nations", is a joint effort by the world community that is persistently searching for solutions to the ever-growing problems of our time. I emphasize the phrase "our organization", for sometimes it seems that we expect the UN administration alone to solve our problems. We tend to forget that the United Nations is not some abstract institution with a will of its own, one we depend on, but that the United Nations is the will of each and every one of its 191 member states: we alone are responsible for the will, the decisions, the work and activities of the United Nations.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the United Nations needs to be reformed. In this connection Croatia welcomes and fully supports the Secretary-General's September Report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration. When we are discussing our organization's reform, especially that of the Security Council, but also of the General Assembly, we must be aware that this is a matter of our own political will and readiness to accept change.

Unfortunately, and this should be openly stated, so far there has not been enough political will to pass from debates on the subject to actual reform. Croatia is convinced that the reform of the Security Council is necessary and should no longer be put off. In fact, we ourselves decided in the Millennium Declaration that we "would intensify joint efforts for achieving comprehensive reforms of the Security Council in all its aspects". We have an opportunity to do this already at this session of the General Assembly.

Croatia has never been a member of the Security Council. However, in the 1990's Croatia acquired considerable experience in the work of this organ, and experienced its good points and shortcomings, its importance and true scope. Therefore, unless it adapts itself to the new realities in international relations, the Council will not be able to maintain its credibility and authority in all parts of the world. What is required is the adherence to the principle of equitable representation of all United Nations members in the Security Council.

Croatia is prepared to further intensify its activities as an active promoter of regional and world peace. With this in mind Croatia has presented its candidacy for membership in the Security Council for the 2008/2009 mandate. Croatia's membership in the Security Council would represent a great tribute to my country and recognition for all that has been achieved in bringing peace to South-Eastern Europe, which has found the strength after many years of war to embrace the path of good neighborly relations.

The fight against international terrorism is high on Croatia's list of priorities. Two years following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA, we stand firmly by our American allies and all those who refuse to accept terror, fanaticism and killing as a means of resolving problems between peoples and countries. Our collective duties to maintain international peace and security, which stem from the UN Charter, provide an international framework for a decisive response to terrorism in the 21st century.

Croatia participates with its forces in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan, aware of the fact that concerted action by all democratic countries is the best response to terrorism. The fight against terrorism requires not only action by the democratic coalition on a global level, but also that of each of its members on the national and regional levels. Equally important is that we intensify our activities to assist countries lagging behind in economic development and other areas. Inequality, injustice and ignorance are fertile breeding grounds for the seed of terrorism.

Croatia is still dealing with the consequences of the war imposed on it and does not have the economic resources to participate as a donor in the action for the reconstruction of Iraq. However, Croatia stands ready to offer its wealth of experience in post-war reconstruction, especially on construction work, as well as the knowledge and operative capacities required for dealing with post-war confidence building, for strengthening the country's stability, normalization of life, and the healing of wounds left by the war in the tissue of civil society. I am thinking in particular of the knowledge and experience acquired in civil police training and work.

Events in the Middle East confirm that greater courage is required for reaching compromise and ensuring coexistence than for waging battles, and Croatia knows that all too well. We are also well aware of the importance of timely resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly, which in substance must be finely tuned to meet the challenges and needs of the peace process, keeping abreast of realities in the field and encouraging a greatly needed agreement. We hope that in its forthcoming work the General Assembly will take this into account when passing new resolutions on the Middle East.

The importance of UN peacekeeping operations has been recognized on many occasions. The mandate and character of peace-keeping operations have been significantly transformed from operations aimed primarily at disengaging warring parties into complex missions for building democratic systems, protecting and promoting human rights, strengthening civil society, and establishing the groundwork for the sustainable development of independent states.

This complexity and the frequent overlapping of mandates require a high degree of expertise in various areas: from holding democratic elections and developing judicial systems to establishing police and military forces that meet international standards and basic international legal regulations. The United Nations is the only global institution that can respond to the challenges of simultaneously establishing regional stability, introducing post-war reconstruction and building a democratic society.

The UN has taken a high toll in its peace efforts. I would like to take this occasion to once again express Croatia's condolences for the victims of the recent barbaric attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad, and to re-emphasize that such attacks make us even more firm in our belief that the development of collective security systems and global solidarity must be continued.

At the moment Croatia is participating in five UN peace-keeping missions - in Ethiopia and Eritrea, India and Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and in Western Sahara. We are determined to further intensify our participation in UN peace-keeping missions in line with our physical and financial capabilities; regarding the composition and number of troops deployed as well as the theaters of operations. Croatia feels that as a country that received UN peace-keeping forces at a time when its sovereignty and territorial integrity were attacked and as a country which hosted one of the UN's most extensive operations, it now has a moral obligation to contribute this experience to securing peace and prosperity in other parts of the world.

I would particularly like to stress the importance of closer cooperation between the Security Council and troop contributing countries. We welcome the positive changes that have so far occurred in this respect. It is also important to ensure the necessary exchange of views between the Security Council and the countries on whose territory the peacekeeping operations are being conducted - this is not only a question of due respect of those countries' sovereignty, but it is also a way of acquiring full insight into its needs and priorities.

I also believe that there is the need for the establishment of closer links and better coordination in the work of the UN's main bodies, especially between the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council. The ECOSOC and its functional commissions dispose with exceptional knowledge and experience important for the building of post-conflict societies, something we were able to see for ourselves last year when Croatia presided over this body. The establishment of working groups for Guinea Bissau and for Burundi were steps in the right direction, and we hope that this experience will be used to further the involvement of ECOSOC in processes of maintaining and building peace.

The Millennium Declaration, this joint vision of all UN members for a more just and better world, is a beacon we must follow. Not only must we follow it, but we must ensure that its goals are fully implemented. In this context, Croatia would like to see the ECOSOC play a greater role in the general implementation of the Millennium Declaration. Therefore, Croatia supports the idea that a high-level dialogue on the achievement of goals set out in the Millennium Declaration takes place at the next General Assembly session.

As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Croatia supports the universal ratification of international instruments in the field of human rights. The Commission should continue unhindered in its activities while carrying out its mandate. In an effort to promote and protect the human rights of all people, Croatia is devoting special attention to the human rights of women, children, refugees, disabled persons, and to the human rights of members of national minorities.

Although much has been done in the past period to improve the position of women in society and promote principles of gender equality, the international community still has an obligation to intensify efforts to prevent all forms of violence against women, and must try to include women in decision-making processes, ensuring empowerment of women at all levels. Against this background I am proud to say that Croatia has provided the first woman participant in the UN military observer mission in India and Pakistan.

Apart from terrorism, one of the biggest security threats in the world is the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty is, we believe, particularly important in ensuring that the goal of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament is attained. We are concerned by the fact that since the Treaty was opened for signature and ratification seven years ago, it has still not come into effect. The universal character of this Treaty is of great significance and we call on all states that have not acceded to the Treaty to do so as soon as possible.

Croatia welcomes the efforts of the Secretary-General and the United Nations to raise the level of awareness throughout the world of the importance of the rule of law and of acceding to international instruments in this area. As a member state of the Rome Statute, Croatia has actively participated in the pioneering endeavor of setting up a new international order symbolized by the International Criminal Court, which has rightly been termed the sublimate of "our collective conscience".

Croatia is firmly set on the path of accession to the European Union. Croatia, whose strategic national goal is to join the European Union, remains dedicated to the continual promotion of friendly relations with all its neighbors, to the policy of open borders allowing the flow of people, goods and services, but also that of keeping its borders firmly closed to all forms of trans-national crime and illegal migrations.

Croatia will continue to actively participate in regional, European and worldwide initiatives and organizations, respecting all its international obligations. For us the United Nations remains a central point for resolving problems that can be found in international relations and for promoting the interests of mankind. I am certain that this year's General Assembly session will reconfirm the importance of the United Nations and open a new chapter in our organization's activities in building peace and security.

Thank you!