MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Mr. JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER
MAKING MULTILATERALISM WORK'
session of the UN General Assembly)
YORK, 26 SEPTEMBER 2003
Mr. President, Excellencies,
ladies and gentlemen,
The deaths of Sergio Vieira
de Mello and his colleagues leave a terrible void. The loss of so many
dedicated servants of the United Nations at its headquarters in Baghdad
fills us with shock, grief and concern. This atrocity and the other murderous
attacks we have seen in the past two years are chilling evidence that
terrorists are ruthlessly targeting the civilised world. Terrorism is
a direct threat to us all, to humanity as a whole.
Weapons of mass destruction are the other direct threat: an even worse threat if such weapons were to fall into the hands of terrorists.
In addition to these direct
threats to peace and security, we are faced with, in the words of Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, "soft threats": poverty and hunger, environmental
degradation and "diseases of mass destruction" like HIV/AIDS,
malaria and tuberculosis.
What all these threats have
in common is that they do not stop at national borders. Their often lethal
consequences affect groups of countries, whole continents or even the
entire planet. The only way to tackle them is by collective action. Enforcement
and implementation are key!
But do we have the capacity
to take such action? Is the existing multilateral system, its institutions
and rules, capable of responding to the "hard threats" and "soft
threats" we are facing? I doubt it. Take the growing danger of the
proliferation of nuclear weapons. Can we allow a few countries to reject
the rules agreed to by 187 other countries? Can we run the risk of countries
turning into suppliers of nuclear arms to terrorist organisations? No,
we cannot. And if today's rules cannot avert states putting humanity at
risk, we must tighten those rules. And we must be ready to collectively
I therefore welcome President
Bush's proposal for a binding Security Council resolution, tightening
up the non-proliferation rules. I suggest that we build on existing export
control regimes and make them universal and legally binding. This approach
would be in line with the successful example of UN Security Council Resolution
1373, containing binding obligations for states to take action against
terrorism. Other elements in a more forceful multilateral system are:
greater attention to conflict prevention, better use of sanctions ("smart
sanctions"), an upgrading of the International Atomic Energy Agency's
inspections regime and, as suggested by President Chirac, a permanent
instrument for inspections at the disposal of the Security Council.
More robust multilateral action
is also needed in our dealings with "failed states". I am encouraged
by the increased willingness of the international community to take more
determined action. Liberia is a test case. The Brahimi-report has shown
us the right direction. Peacekeeping operations can only be effective
if they are based on a strong mandate, fully implemented on the ground
and fully backed by the key-players in the Security Council. The P-5 bear
a special responsibility for global peace and security: "noblesse
The UN is now also at the centre
of the debate about Iraq. Let us put our past differences on Iraq behind
us. It is crucial now that the international community support the Iraqi
people in their reconstruction efforts. I trust that the Security Council
will reach agreement, as soon as possible, on what we all want. In other
words: stabilisation, security and transfer of sovereignty to a legitimate
Iraqi government. This will also allow the UN and the other multilateral
institutions to make their indispensable contribution to a better future
for the Iraqi people.
And speaking of human rights:
there is no doubt that terrorism itself ranks as one of the most serious
threats to democracy and the enjoyment of human rights. Terrorists seek
to destroy democracy, freedom and tolerance. If we sacrifice those universal
values in the struggle against terrorists, we play into their hands. If
I may speak for a moment as Chairman-in-Office of the Organisation for
Security and Co-operation in Europe, I can assure you that our experience
shows that policies aimed at promoting human rights, the rule of law and
good governance can reinforce each other as parts of a more comprehensive
security strategy. The International Criminal Court is another example
of how to ensure that international norms are upheld in cases where national
governments fail to do so.
On the trafficking of human
beings, women and children in particular, I share the concerns expressed
by President Bush. He was right to draw a comparison with slavery. For
the OSCE, the threat posed by the international trafficking of drugs,
The legitimacy of the decisions of the Security Council is questioned, because the composition of the Council no longer reflects today's geopolitical realities. However, expansion is not a solution in itself. Effectiveness can easily fall victim to the quest for legitimacy. Crucial for restored legitimacy is better interaction between the members of the Council and the UN membership at large. Members of the Council should represent relevant and broad sections of world opinion.
I agree with the Secretary-General: we need to take a hard look at the existing architecture of international institutions. Many other organisations I know well, such as the OSCE, the EU and NATO (and I hope to get to know the last organisation even better in the near future), are in the process of redefining their roles in drastically changed circumstances. The UN cannot be left behind. Interaction between the UN on the one hand and regional organisations on the other hand, such as the OSCE, the EU and NATO, is growing. I feel that there is considerable scope for intensifying that interaction, as is indeed foreseen in the Charter.
As the Italian Presidency of
the European Union illustrated in its intervention here some days ago,
the UN can count on the European Union in the quest for robust multilateralism.
As a Member State of the Union, the Netherlands fully endorses the Presidency's
statement. The European Union's new emphasis on countering the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction in its common foreign and security policy
is an example of how we want to be in the vanguard of our common efforts.
Let me now focus on the General Assembly. Take the example of how the Assembly deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let us connect the GA to reality. Instead of dealing with 23 resolutions, shouldn't we try to find our strength in a more focused central message, supported by all? A message that calls upon both Israel and the Palestinians to put an end to the bloodshed and violence and to immediately implement the Road Map as the only viable way to long-lasting peace. The European Union will continue to do all it can, together with its partners in the Quartet, to help Palestinians and Israelis reach that destination. And I hope that this Assembly can contribute.
The Assembly should be made
more effective. I need not repeat what you all know about overlapping
or hardly relevant agenda items, about repetitive debates and resolutions
and about the prevalence of the lowest common denominator. As a contribution
to improvement, my country tabled the Greentree report, the result of
a seminar involving representatives from a wide circle of countries. The
Greentree report aims at restoring the General Assembly to its rightful
place as the centre stage for world wide deliberations on our common problems.
We are certain that in that endeavour, we will be able to count on your
leadership and wisdom, Mr. President.
My government wholeheartedly
supports the decision of the Secretary-General to establish a panel of
eminent persons. We look forward to his recommendations for next year's
session of the Assembly. Meanwhile we should not sit back and wait. It
is upon us, Member States, to engage now in the debate on the pertinent
reform questions the Secretary-General has put to us.
In order to defuse the threats
we face and to leave a better world for future generations, we need to
do more than talk. We must act and we must act together. We need clear
rules and strong institutions. Institutions that ensure that the rules
of the multilateral game are respected, strengthened and enforced. We
need a multilateral system with teeth, we need a multilateral system that
Thank you, Mr. President.