PERMANENT MISSION OF THE PRINCIPALITY OF LIECHTENSTEIN TO THE UNITED NATIONS
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR. ERNST WALCH
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE PRINCIPALITY OF LIECHTENSTEIN
TO THE FIFTY-EIGTH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK, 29 SEPTEMBER 2003
Let me first pay tribute to the commitment and the courage of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Sergio Vieira de Mello and all the United Nations staff members who lost their lives in the unprecedented attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad. 19 August is engraved in the consciousness of the international community and in the annals of the United Nations. We were forced to face a fact that we have not tackled with the necessary determination in the past: The vulnerability of UN staff worldwide. While legal protection can certainly not prevent an attack such as the one of 19 August, we must nevertheless provide the best possible protection in this respect. We therefore hope that the General Assembly will take the necessary measures to make the United Nations Convention on the safety of UN personnel more effective.
The process that led to this engagement of the United Nations in Iraq constituted a major crisis for the existing mechanisms dealing with threats to international peace and security, first and foremost the Security Council. This organization is subject to and dependent on the political will of its Member States. Its distinctive quality lies in the fact that it provides legitimacy in accordance with international law. This outstanding quality it must not lose, and we are all challenged to stand up for this core function of the United Nations, which is a good part of its raison d'étre in today's world. The crisis the United Nations has gone through in connection with the action taken against Iraq will not simply be overcome by adopting a pragmatic approach in dealing with the aftermath thereof. We welcome the ongoing discussions in the Security Council on a stronger and more meaningful role of the United Nations in Iraq. At the same time, there must also be a recognition that international law continues to be the foundation for our actions in dealing with problems of international peace and security and that the rule of law needs to be applied both at the national and at the international level.
As any other State, in particular small States, Liechtenstein attaches the highest possible priority to the rule of international law, expressed inter alia in our commitment to the International Criminal Court, and international relations that are based on rules derived from international legal standards. The United Nations, as the core body for drafting and adopting those standards, must continue to play its role in defending and upholding them. It is more obvious than ever that the Security Council is facing a particular challenge in this respect. While discussions in the media, in the academic world and in think-tanks after the military action against Iraq invariably have focused on the theme of the need for quick and effective Security Council reform, this sense of urgency was lost on the Open-Ended Working Group of Security Council reform - the very body that has the competence to make decisions on such reform. After ten years of debate on this issue, we all appreciate the difficulties attached to this issue, and they are indeed big. However, these difficulties are no sufficient justification for our failure to resolve an issue that everybody agrees is a major obstacle for the effective functioning of the organization as a whole. It was therefore rather disturbing to see the Open-ended Working Group continue engaging in business as usual, while the world - the world we are supposed to represent after all - unanimously called for effective and comprehensive reform. The composition of the Council is clearly a reflection of a geopolitical reality that has ceased to exist a long time ago and enlargement thus continues to be an indispensable element of a meaningful reform of the Council. At the same time, there is also a clear need to address other issues, such as the mechanisms for decision-making and in particular the implementation on Security Council resolutions - whether adopted under chapter VI or VII - and issues of legality. We hope that the initiative the Secretary-General presented last week will contribute to making the main organ that is at the center of the world's attention a more effective and representative body.
While the work on Security Council reform has been tardy, and unsatisfactory overall, it has nevertheless produced some important and positive results. The Council has opened up to the membership as a whole and increasingly engaged in open debates - both on thematic and on other issues of concern to the membership as a whole. Liechtenstein welcomes this development and has participated in many of those debates. This increased openness of the Council, however, does not resolve the issue of its accountability. The effectiveness and credibility of the Council will be much enhanced if it bases its decision-making on a dialogue with the States on whose behalf it acts. In the recent past, the Council has both made decisions that were controversial and such that were of unprecedented reach. Some of the measures taken in connection with financial sanctions impact immediately on the lives of individuals who have no means of bringing their grievances stemming from such decisions to the attention of the Council. Since the Council makes its decisions on behalf of the entire membership and since their implementation is mandatory for all Member States, there should be ways for all Member States to express the concerns they might have with regard to such decisions. The appropriate body for such discussions is obviously the General Assembly, the only main organ of the organization of universal membership.
When educating people about the United Nations, we keep stumbling upon one issue: The need to explain that the United Nations is not identical with the Security Council. The fact that the Council is seized with the most burning issues and the most pressing international crises is only one part of the explanation for this fact. The flip side that we must no longer ignore is the increasingly futile struggle of the General Assembly to play its rightful role in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. An overburdened agenda, sterile debates, an overflow of documentation and the routine adoption of resolutions, that are but a rehash of past resolutions, have a combined devastating effect on the relevance of this body. The General Assembly is today paralyzed to a point that keeps it from dealing with the politically crucial issues and from acting in a quick and flexible manner. A good illustration is the resolution in which the General Assembly condemned the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad. Even though everybody shared the shock and dismay about this vicious attack, it took the General Assembly almost a month to adopt the said resolution. The current state of the Assembly sadly plays into the hands of its detractors. Presiding over the General Assembly is a very difficult task, Mr. President. If you are able to lead this Assembly out of its established routine to pay lip service to the reform of the General Assembly and to initiate the radical reform this body so desperately needs, you will have created a lasting legacy.
Much has been said about the crisis in which the United Nations finds itself after this difficult year. However, every crisis is an opportunity, and I hope that the Assembly will take up its work in this spirit. Very rarely over the past few years has the public interest in the United Nations been bigger than over the past twelve months. We must ensure that the peoples of the world continue turning to the United Nations as the place where established rules are upheld, new challenges are tackled and effective and responsible action is taken collectively.
I thank you, Mr. President.