by H.E. Leonid D. Kuchma,
President of Ukraine,
at the general debate of the 58th session
of the United Nations General Assembly

24 September 2003
New York

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset I would like to congratulate His Excellency Mr. Julian Hunte on his election to the high post of President of the 58th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Let me also pay tribute to His Excellency Mr. Julian Hunte's predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Jan Kavan, for his highly professional and fruitful work at the helm of the General Assembly.

Three years ago here in the United Nations Headquarters we solemnly adopted the Millennium Declaration, which embodied our hopes and expectations for living in a more secure and just world.

However, shortly thereafter the world had to face new daunting challenges.

The tragic events of 11 September 2001, unfortunately, were not final in the sequence of horrible acts of terror.

Just last month, on the 19th of August, the United Nations suffered irreversible losses in Iraq.

With the feeling of deep sorrow I bow my head in memory of the United Nations staff who lost their lives. We lost excellent, talented and dedicated people, and among them the Head of the United Nations Mission in Iraq, outstanding Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello.

It's a sad and disturbing fact that during the recent years United Nations staff has been facing growing insecurity. This makes it all the more urgent for all members of the international community to fully comply with the relevant international treaties and, first of all, with the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

As one of the initiators of the elaboration of this Convention, Ukraine decisively calls upon all States that have not yet done so to accede to the treaty.

Our country joined the anti-terrorist coalition since the very beginning and has made a significant contribution to its activities.

We are determined to remain in the ranks of the coalition until international terrorism as a global threat can be taken off the world's agenda.
However, I believe that today not all has been done to prevent terrorist activities.

First of all, I have in mind effective measures to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Ukraine unreservedly stands for comprehensive strengthening of the system of universal international treaties aimed at preventing nuclear threat.

Mr. President,

Effective response to new challenges requires urgent actions in reforming the United Nations and, first of all, its Security Council.

I am confident that further delay in the long-overdue reforms can result in a serious crisis of confidence for the United Nations.

We cannot let it happen.

There can be no viable alternative to the United Nations as a singular global organization.

As for the task of reforming the United Nations, however, we must admit that today there are more questions than answers.

Mr. President,

In this context, the experience of successful reforms of United Nations activities in the maintenance of peace and conflict prevention can serve as a good example for all of us.

In many situations of armed conflicts the United Nations now acts flexibly, rapidly and effectively.

I am pleased to note that over the past several years Ukraine has been holding one of the leading positions among the countries contributing troops to the United Nations peacekeeping operations.

I believe that it is conflict prevention that should become pivotal in the philosophy of United Nations work in the new millennium. Ukraine fully supports the Secretary-General's efforts aimed at strengthening this component of United Nations activities. In my address at the Millennium Summit I stressed the need for the international community to elaborate a comprehensive strategy on conflict prevention.

In my opinion, peacekeeping operations with preventive mandate of the United Nations Security Council could become one of the key instruments of such a system.

There is also a need to further develop and improve the principles and mechanisms of application of international sanctions aimed at curbing the supply of weapons to zones of conflict.

Mr. President,

Touching upon the situation in Iraq, I would like to express confidence that the tragic losses in Baghdad will not diminish the international community's commitment to the cause of providing support to the Iraqi people for renewal of their country.

The sense of common responsibility for the destiny of long-suffering Iraqi nation, for peace and security in that region, proved to be the imperative that guided our decision to dispatch a military contingent to the Persian Gulf.

I hope that the adoption by the Security Council of resolution on establishment of international forces for maintenance of peace and security in Iraq under the aegis of the United Nations will enable as many countries as possible to join these efforts.

After many months of sliding into the abyss there appeared a real historical opportunity for achieving peace in the Middle East.

Last May, the United Nations International Meeting in Support of Middle East Peace was held in Kyiv on the initiative of Ukraine. It in effect became the first international forum where the "Road Map" put forward by the Quartet gained support of a large number of United Nations Member States.

We sincerely hope that the process of resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace dialogue will not be blocked by obstacles created by the current controversies.

Mr. President,

Ukraine shares the concern expressed in the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration that the international community is not paying sufficient attention to the solution of acute problems of global development, such as poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, environment pollution, etc.

Despite repeated declarations, primarily by the developed countries, of their readiness to increase the volume of financial and other assistance to tackle the issues of sustainable development, the actual efforts taken are not sufficient for timely attainment of the goals set forth in the Millennium Declaration.

Mr. President,

In this context I would like to remind that Ukraine has made a tangible contribution towards a peaceful and safe world in the 21St century by renouncing its nuclear arsenal, one of the most powerful on the planet, and by decommissioning the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Assuming the burden of large-scale work to transform the territory of the catastrophe into an ecologically safe zone and to solve unprecedented economic, social and humanitarian problems we counted on the understanding and support of the whole world community.

Today, welcoming the work of this Organization and its Member States on the implementation of the United Nations strategy on Chernobyl I wish to express hope that more decisive steps will be taken in support of our efforts.

I am confident that a resolution on this question to be adopted at the current session of the General Assembly will provide an additional impetus to our cooperation on the Chernobyl issue.

Finally, one other matter to which I would like to draw the attention of the participants of this meeting.

70 years ago the totalitarian Soviet regime engineered an artificial famine in Ukraine, which claimed the lives of 7 to 10 million of our compatriots.

Unfortunately, back in 1933 the world did not respond to our tragedy. The international community believed the cynical propaganda of the Soviet Union, which was selling bread abroad while in Ukraine the hunger was killing 17 people a-minute.

From this podium I would like to call upon all of you to support Ukraine's initiative that the United Nations pay tribute to the memory of those who perished.

We do not want to settle scores with the past.

We just want that as many people as possible learn about our tragedy and that this knowledge help us avoid similar catastrophes in the future.

Mr. President,

As the Secretary-General has recently rightly stated, thanks to the achievements of the past century the present world has become "a world of increasing openness and freedom; of growing mutual confidence; above all, a world of hope".

Today we demonstrate the ability to take concerted and responsible actions in the face of complex challenges and global threats.

In this I see the main guarantee that we will be able to achieve the noble goals, which were solemnly proclaimed in the Millennium Declaration three years ago.

Thank you.