Statement by the Prime Minister of Portugal,

H.E. Jose Manuel Durao Barroso
on the occasion of the general debate of the 58t'' session of
the General Assembly of the United Nations

New York, 23 September 2003
Mr. President
Mr. Secretary-General Distinguished delegates

In September of each year the Member States of the United Nations politically rediscover the Organisation of which they are shareholders and beneficiaries.

The practice of "business as usual" should not mark this session of the General Assembly. The Secretary-General suggested that the Heads of State and Government come to New York to make their contribution towards the strengthening of the United Nations. Portugal, as a committed member of this Organisation, wishes to take part in this debate with a clear objective: to recognise, as does Kofi Annan, that the United Nations is "an indispensable tool", and also to recognise that we must re-examine our practices and our working tools. Inactivity is not an option that this Organisation should contemplate.

Mr. President,

Rethinking the United Nations means, first of all, reaffirming and rethinking its Charter. Maintaining peace and international security will continue to be our main objective. But the reaffirmation of our faith in fundamental rights, in the dignity and worth of human beings, in equality between men and women and in equality between nations, is also part of our vision for the United Nations. As is the determination to promote, together, social progress and better living conditions for our peoples.

These objectives must not be overlooked when, from time to time, the Organisation faces crises of confidence. The Secretary-General is correct in his encouragement to us to persevere. But a positive mental attitude is not enough. It is also essential that we do not ask more of the Organisation than it can provide at any given moment. Otherwise, great expectations will lead to great disappointments.

Realism and pragmatism are necessary, but we must not lose sight of the ambitious objectives that this Organisation is intended to serve. It is time for us to look at the United Nations as a reflection of what we are collectively, and not as a convenient scapegoat to mask, at times, the incapacity that the member states still reveal when we should - but are unable - to act together.

We are also "condemned" to understand, sooner or later, that we are facing common threats which require common responses. At the forefront of these threats is terrorism. In fact, a new type of terrorism, the terrorism of mass destruction that configures a crime against humanity. The terrorism which kills blindly and indiscriminately in New York, in Bali, in Casablanca and in Nairobi, in the name of "non-values" presented as "values" on ideological and religious grounds.

The terrorism which did not spare the United Nations itself, as we so tragically witnessed in Baghdad. The crime which claimed the lives of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his collaborators was an attack on all of the values which the United Nations represents. It was an attack against us all. If there were still lingering doubts or illusions when some thought that terrorism was aimed essentially at some States, they disappeared in Baghdad.

It was not the Iraqi people that murdered Sergio Vieira de Mello. Terrorists are responsible for that crime. It is not the Iraqi people that are opposed to the United Nations presence in their country. Again it is the terrorists. The United Nations should not bow to terrorists.

Mr. President,

Portugal believes that the United Nations should have a central role in the definition of a global strategy for fighting terrorism, largely because maintaining international peace and security depends on the outcome of this fight. It is a fight we must undertake without losing our souls, that is to say, the values on which this Organisation is built. And it is for this reason
that more security is necessary but also more democracy, more dialogue between cultures and civilizations, more development, more and better environmental protection measures and a drastic reduction in poverty.

It is also vital that this fight be undertaken in the name of, and with respect for, our law - International Law. The concept of "rule of law" should have real global resonance. This is why we defend the improvement of the laws in force, namely through the negotiation of a Global Convention on International Terrorism. But we must also bear in mind that International Law will be irrelevant without the imposition, if necessary by force, of its norms.

Mr President,

New challenges and new threats require innovative responses from the United Nations.

It seems blatantly obvious that the composition and decision-making process of the Security Council are obsolete. But changes are also needed in this Assembly, which each year automatically re-approves hundreds of resolutions instead of approving only those which are strictly necessary. As for the Economic and Social Council, the most that can be said is that the external impact of its actions is not perceptible, while the Trusteeship Council is nothing more than a relic devoid of any relevant objective.

In his report on the Implementation of the Millennium Declaration, the Secretary-General focused on this point with particular insight. The proposals he put forward should guide our reflection and joint action. But there is a particularly worrying aspect which we can, and indeed must, act on without delay.

I am referring to the need for the establishment of a real preventive culture by the United Nations in matters of armed conflicts. In this context, we agree with the relevance the Secretary-General attributes to preventive diplomacy, to disarmament and non-proliferation measures, to peace building, to respect for human rights, to good government and to the development agenda.

In the final analysis, we must be fully aware that the usefulness of the United Nations will always be judged as a function of its capacity to avoid and handle conflicts.

In the implementation of this mission, the fundamental role lies with the Security Council, which has, over the years, authorised various peacekeeping operations. The overall result has been positive. Portugal has contributed significantly to these operations and remains available to continue to collaborate with the United Nations.

But conditions on the ground are not always clear-cut, nor is it always possible to separate what is and what is not a conflict, and what would justify or not an intervention by the Security Council. And there is an immense grey area which can be perilous in pre-conflict and post-conflict situations.

We must also create the tools for dealing with countries and situations which do not need support in terms of security, namely through a peace operation. The intervention of the United Nations at the critical phase of a conflict, followed by a premature withdrawal, may well end in failure, which will basically lead to the waste of investments made by the international community up to that point.

This assessment recommends, for example, that the United Nations continue to monitor closely the situation in East Timor. It is a country whose democratic institutions are still in the consolidation phase - without a tradition of self-government - and which has made uncommonly rapid progress in several areas, but is still in need of our help and attention. If we in fact want East Timor to be a real "success story" for the United Nations, it is important to give the people of East Timor time to consolidate their institutions.

In other cases, however, in which a peace operation is not yet justified, the fragility of the State institutions, the enormous lack of basic services and development which has not taken off, a strong presence by the United Nations, coordinated on the ground by the Secretary-General, is advisable.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention the frequently overlooked Guinea-Bissau, which once more requires our attention. This is a country which, having avoided falling into a destructive spiral, as has happened in so many countries in the region, is still fighting to recover. It must be helped, not ignored. They are a people who can and should, and indeed deserve, to be helped by the international community. For this reason, we support the efforts by the Secretary-General on behalf of democracy and development as well as the original contribution given by the Economic and Social Council.

Mr. President,

Under the present conditions the Security Council does not take into account all of the factors involved in prevention: security, nation building, development - each one follows an independent path.

There is one other factor to add: the Council is fully absorbed with the management of more pressing matters on the international agenda, revealing a notorious lack of attention to some countries in pre- or postconflict situations.

We believe there is a solid case for advocating the creation of a new institutional mechanism, a new Commission, with a mandate to routinely monitor cases of prevention of conflict and of the creation of conditions for peace and development. In conjunction with the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, which would both preserve the respective areas of competence, this commission could identify and deal with the most pressing needs. It would also draw up, for each of the countries in situations of risk, integrated strategies allying the objectives of security, reinforcement of institutions (namely in the justice and administration sectors) and economic and social development. Obviously, this commission would need to be closely linked with the Bretton Woods institutions and with the United Nations agencies to make the Organisation's action more effective in matters of prevention of conflicts.

While other decisions of greater importance are being prepared, we can, and should, begin here.

Mr. President,

It is not enough for the United Nations to affirm its relevance. It is also absolutely indispensable that the Organisation be seen as relevant by the Member States and that these act accordingly. The credibility of this Organisation, or that of any one of its organs, must not be questioned, otherwise its functioning and effectiveness may be severely compromised.

Iraq is undoubtedly the case that requires from us all, in particular from the members of the Security Council, a careful evaluation of the capacity for action of this Organization. A collective "turn of the page" is necessary since there is no valid alternative to a policy that will enable the Iraqi people to freely define their system of government and political leadership as well as maintain the country's political and territorial integrity. To build a democratic society on the ruins of one of the most violent dictatorships of the past century is a challenge the international community should not evade. And it's a task that demands much realism over the difficulties one must face.

Precisely because of that, we have always been in favour of a progressive insertion of the United Nations in Iraq's stabilization process with a corresponding gradual transfer of power to Iraqi representatives. And we also encourage the Security Council to come to a rapid understanding on this matter. On our part, we are already taking concrete steps, including in the security field, to support all of those that are already assisting locally the Iraqi people to live in freedom.

Mr. President,

A larger commitment of the international community is also indispensable so that the Middle East Peace Process can resume. The Road Map cannot be archived, and it's up to us to demand from all interested parties a proactive attitude. Also in this case we should not be indifferent to the legitimate desires for liberty and self-determination of the Palestinian people. Israel and Palestine will have to coexist in peace and in security, inside recognized borders and without artificial divisions. But here also terrorism, which only benefits the enemies of peace, must be condemned without ambiguity.

Mr. President,

Great challenges generate great opportunities. It is up to us, the Members of the United Nations, to create the conditions which will allow this Organisation to function in accordance with its potential, as well as with the ideas which were an integral part of its creation. Portugal stands ready to give its contribution.