H.E. Dr. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz
Minister for Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of Poland

at the Fifty-Eight Session
of the General Assembly of the United Nations
New York, 25 September 2003

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

At the outset let me express my highest tribute to the memory of the outstanding personalities, whose tragic loss is a blow to the international community that is absolutely beyond repair.

The assassination of Anna Lindh, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, has demonstrated again the risk involved in the noble dedication to public service in a world exposed to senseless acts of violence and has filled the people all over the world with the deepest sorrow.

The death of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his staff members came as a shock to the international community. The question is: why was he killed? This horrible act of terror seems to be highly symbolic as - in the words of the Secretary-General - it directly challenges the vision of global solidarity and collective security rooted in the Charter of the United Nations. Sadly, this is the context in which we must address the concerns on our agendas, both domestically and internationally.

Mr. President,

Last year, while addressing this Assembly, I put forward the proposal to prepare a New Act for the United Nations at the dawn of the 21" century. I was persuaded then, as I am now, that such a document could give a fresh impetus to the principles and mechanisms of the United Nations in the changing world. It should entail elaboration of a new catalogue of norms of international conduct in the face of security threats and global challenges of today.

The developments on the international scene since I put forward that initiative have strengthened my belief that the United Nations would only benefit from a new strong political signal reconfirming its role as a beacon of stability and reliable instrument for managing change.

I believe that the best way to create proper conditions for-unconstrained debate on the future of the UN is to engage outstanding public figures of international stature in an informal setting. I suggested at the time that a Group of Eminent Personalities be charged with the task of producing an outline of the document, which would then be submitted for assessment by Member States. The composition of the Group should, on the one hand, ensure its independence, appropriate intellectual format and knowledge of international affairs, and on the other, excellent moral standing and political weight to guarantee the highest rank of the document designed to serve as an inspiration to member states. Thus, an essentially intellectual exercise initiated outside the institutional framework of the United Nations could be transformed into a political process, culminating in the adoption of the New Act by the General Assembly.

Mr. President,

I remain deeply convinced that despite the rapid changes in international environment precipitated especially after 9/11, the UN today - almost sixty years since its foundation - should retain a central role as a mechanism for resolving global problems and a guarantor of international legitimacy.

It is a great source of satisfaction for me that the Polish initiative corresponds to the thinking of the Secretary-General and to his efforts to increase the effectiveness of the United Nations and to safeguard the position of the Organization as the most important institution of international security and cooperation. I wholeheartedly support his views on the need for review and possibly a radical reform of the international security architecture, as reflected in his latest report on the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, as well as his timely proposals voiced at the outset of our debate. Indeed, we can no longer safely assume that our current multilateral rules and institutions have a sufficient capacity to confront the array of old and new threats to peace and security.

Since I presented my proposal last September, we have consulted the idea extensively with government representatives of a number of countries. A rich volume of suggestions and comments has been collected, invaluable in developing the initiative. In the consultation process we were encouraged by the shared view of many countries on the need to adapt the United Nations to current challenges.

Taking into account the initial outcome of the consultations we have produced a Memorandum of the Government of the Republic of Poland, in which we have sketched a proposed outline of the mandate of the Group of Sages.

The initiative as reflected in the Memorandum is in effect an invitation to a conceptual and holistic reflection upon the nature of changes in the international system and on the most desirable vision of a new, more effective international order. It deals with questions posed by a whole spectrum of present-day challenges, including security risks related to globalization and the emergence of non-state actors, development gap and international solidarity, governance and subsidiarity.

The novel character of today's challenges calls 'for a new thinking and an innovative approach. It is true that protracted regional conflicts still remain a source of instability of the most serious kind. Yet, along with those traditional threats, today's security environment has been increasingly dominated by a combination of new threats of a more diverse and unpredictable nature. They originate mostly within state borders rather than in relations between them, notably in the failing and failed states unable to control their own territories, and they are often posed by non-state actors.

To use the Secretary-General's terminology, today's threats are both "hard" and "soft" and they tend to reinforce one another. We are confronted with terrorism of global reach, motivated by extremist ideology and unconstrained in its readiness to inflict massive casualties. We are facing growing risks of proliferation of deadly weapons and spread of organized crime often accompanying state failure. These "hard" challenges are compounded by chronic underdevelopment in many parts of the world. "Soft" threats such as widespread poverty, deprivation, hunger, malnutrition and rampant infectious diseases take their tragic toll on the populations living in countries of poor economic growth. These are usually found in regions where development is often thwarted by bad governance and violent internal conflicts that result in large-scale humanitarian crises, massive abuse of human rights, political and social disruption and ultimately the collapse of state systems.

Mr. President,

In the face of those new realities confronting the international community we need to forge consensus on the conceptual and political framework for the United Nations to operate in the forthcoming decades. In this context I need to stress that my initiative is not intended to revise or change the UN Charter, which should remain the basis of international relations. Instead, the New Political Act should place the UN Charter in the context of the ongoing transformations of the international environment It should provide a new conceptual framework and political interpretation of the Charter, adapting the United Nations to the present-day realities and regulating Organization's activities in the areas, which are not covered by the Charter. It should accomplish that goal by redefining UN objectives, identifying new tasks and specifying operational modalities of the Organization.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration has been a clear manifestation of the ability of the Organization to take up new tasks and confront the most pressing challenges. We need to spare no effort to increase the UN capacity to achieve the goals set out in that landmark document and I believe that the New Act could add a political impulse to the continuous work to fully implement the Declaration. Yet, our experience in the post-cold war era had brought to the fore not just the problems of UN capacity, but the lack of clarity and consensus on certain principles essential for effective action in the new security environment.

It is my serious concern that the lack of agreed common interpretation of many terms and principles, which are of fundamental character in the international domain, may lead to chaos in international relations. The New Act for the United Nations - while taking into account the current changes in the international order - should therefore reflect the relations between numerous principles and the international conditions dominated by non-traditional threats. It should examine for example the questions related to issues such as respect for human rights and the principle of state sovereignty, right of self-determination and territorial integrity, conflicts and crisis management and the principle of non-interference in internal affairs. It should also address the possibility of inscribing the newly emerged concepts, such as human security and responsibility of states to protect the vulnerable into the conceptual basis of the international system.

Mr. President,

The painful reality of the United Nations is that the Organization is torn by deep divisions. They limit its effectiveness and occasionally even call into question its ability to act. The basic question is, therefore, how to restore to the UN a sense of unity and cohesion embodied in the very name of the Organization. How to prevent cases of paralysis of the UN management of the international security? And how to adjust the operating principles of the Organization in a way so as to enable the countries which are able and willing to respond adequately to new threats to act within the institutional framework of the United Nations?

In my view this difficult goal will be unattainable without reaffirmation of the United Nations as the community of shared values and shared goals. Such reaffirmation could reintegrate the Organization and infuse it with a new sense of purpose. Hence, at the core of my initiative there is a need for a profound reflection on the values and principles that bind the international community together and define the behaviour of states towards each other, towards other actors on the international scene as well as towards their citizens.

Let me reiterate once again that Poland strongly supports the Secretary-General's intention to establish a High-Level Panel of Eminent Personalities to examine the role of collective action in countering current security challenges and to review the operation of major UN organs with a view to recommending necessary reforms. This idea is in perfect conformity with my initiative. I believe that the body of thought, which we collected in the course of last year, reflected both in the Memorandum of the Polish Government and the responses of leading experts and scholars, may provide a good starting point and a useful contribution to the work of the Panel. I wish to declare a strong commitment of my country to assure the successful outcome of the Secretary-General's initiative. I intend to convey the collection of the aforementioned comments of eminent intellectuals on the future of the UN for the Panel's consideration.

Mr. President,

The war against the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein has painfully exposed the challenges related to the principles and practice of multilateral action and has revealed the unresolved dilemmas in this domain, which - in my view - should be addressed in the New Political Act for the United Nations. For the time being, though, the international community must focus its attention on the situation on the ground. I believe that the UN should be a key the transition in post-war Iraq to the rule of law, democracy and independence. The huge task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq should be assisted by the entire international community. We must work out arrangements which will help Iraq assume, as soon as possible, its due, dignified, place among the nations of the world. For its part, Poland remains committed to the stabilization effort in Iraq. Our participation in that endeavour is guided by the need to create the conditions for the Iraqi people to determine freely their own future and to begin a new chapter in the history of this great nation, leading it to development and prosperity.

Mr. President,

On Monday, September 29th the United Nations' Convention against Transnational Organized Crime would enter into force. I remain only proud that the idea put forward by Poland during the World Ministerial Conference on Organized Transnational Crime, held in Naples in November 1994, transformed - with the broad support of the international community - into a binding UN Convention.

Thank you Mr. President.