Statement by the
Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs
H. E. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
First of all, let me tell you how happy I am about this week's decision of our 14 EU partners to lift the measures implemented on 31st of January against Austria. This is a victory of reason and it is also a victory for Europe.
In the last seven and a half months a very difficult time, I must say the United Nations have stood by us. Austria treasures this support. The UN have had confidence in our firm commitment to universal standards and values. The report of the "three wise men", Martti Ahtisaari, Marcelino Oreja and Jochen Frowein comes to the same conclusion. Austria will continue its role as an active, reliable and constructive member state of the UN.
Austria expects to fully resume its formal and informal work within the European Union. This is absolutely crucial in view of the important projects that lie ahead of us: First, the reform of the institutions of the European Union. Second, the enlargement of the Union, a matter of great importance and a historic responsibility. An enlarged Union will bolster European stability and prosperity. Its benefits will reach beyond Europe. Austria as a country in the heart of Europe will fully support and, in its own interest, accelerate the process of enlargement.
Since this 55th session of the General Assembly coincides with the turn of the Millennium, we ought to undertake a broader examination of today's world. We ought to design policies of a long- term nature.
All too often we have to cope with contradictions when making day-to-day politics and when rapidly responding to crises on the one hand and when addressing sustainable societal development on the other. A great number of our decisions taken today do have important implications for future policy options. Generations to come will have to bear the cost and they will enjoy the benefits of our policies.
It is in this context that I wish to pay tribute to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, for his clairvoyance and leadership. His Millennium Report embraces a balanced analysis of the challenges the international community faces today and it offers concrete, accomplishable and far-sighted recommendations. Austria welcomes this roadmap for the future course of UN activities and will follow its guidelines.
Furthermore, Austria supports the timely initiative of the Secretary-General to mandate a comprehensive review of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects. Since the environment for complex peace operations has become more challenging than ever before, Austria, as a major troop contributor, welcomes the report and the recommendations drawn up by a group of experts under the leadership of Mr. Brahimi. We are ready to support their implementation.
As Chairperson-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, I wish to outline a number of major achievements of the OSCE during this year. The OSCE serves as the primary forum for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in my region. This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act.
This truly historic document initiated the ,Helsinki process" from which we still draw valid lessons for our common efforts to achieve freedom from fear", to use this vivid notion from the report of the Secretary-General. Security and stability through co-operation and the effective protection of human rights within each country have a direct bearing on international peace and security. The fundamental significance of democracy, human rights and strong civil societies has been affirmed in the Charter for European Security adopted by the OSCE participating States last year in Istanbul.
The OSCE has proved to be a flexible institution adjusting itself to the far-reaching changes in the political landscape of Europe after the fall of the "Iron Curtain". Over the past decade it has evolved into a vibrant organisation with a network of as many as 20 field operations.
Not only in South Eastern Europe and Central Asia, on which I will elaborate later on, but also in other parts of the OSCE area, we have been able to achieve concrete results in our continuing efforts for peace and stability. As to conflict prevention, I would like to mention the successful observation mission of the OSCE at the border between Georgia and the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation. We can also register some positive developments concerning the political solution of so-called "frozen conflicts" in Georgia as well as in Moldova; conflicts which are often outside the spotlight of the broader public attention, but nevertheless have a highly destabilising impact on the region and beyond. Through my frequent travels as Chairperson-in-Office, I wish to enhance the political awareness regarding these unresolved or potential conflicts and security risks. Unresolved and a matter of great concern remains the conflict situation in Chechnya.
Let me mention an achievement in the institutional field: An important step in enhancing the civilian crisis management capability of the OSCE was set with the establishment of the Rapid Expert Assistance and Co-operation Teams (REACT), a programme which should speed up the deployment of highly trained civilian experts to the field.
What are the specific challenges the OSCE is currently facing in the prevention, settlement and management of conflicts?
In South-Eastern Europe the work of the Organisation focuses on post-crisis rehabilitation and, in particular, on the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law and civil society. The promotion of free and fair elections plays a key role in achieving these goals. The OSCE is tasked with organising local elections in Kosovo at the end of October this year and only two weeks thereafter of general elections in BosniaHerzegovina. In Kosovo, the OSCE has been involved in the complex task of civil and voter registration which resulted in more than one million registrations. I note with regret that the Kosovo Serbs did not participate in the registration process and that Belgrade would not allow the registration of Kosovo Serbs in Serbia. The OSCE, however, will continue its efforts to bring about active participation of the Kosovo Serbs in the democratic political life. We will not lose sight of our common goal of a pluri-ethnic Kosovo.
Kosovo is an excellent example for the new quality of the co-operation between the United Nations and the OSCE as a distinct component within the overall framework of the United Nations Interim Administration.
A central goal of Austria's Chairmanship of the OSCE is to give equal attention both to current and often long-standing conflicts as well as to potential security risks. In the pursuit of this policy we sustain the explicit goal of the OSCE to create a common security space.
This implies a strong focus on the Caucasus region and on Central Asia. The OSCE effectively contributes to the alleviation of the suffering of the civilian population in this region, the promotion of the political dialogue between warring parties and the monitoring of post-conflict arrangements through observer missions.
Conflict prevention is key to the work of the OSCE in Central Asia. During my most recent visit to the region I obtained a first hand impression of its security problems. In addition to the destabilising effects of the precarious situation in Afghanistan, the Central Asian region faces manifold transnational threats such as terrorism, organised crime, illegal arms and drug trafficking, the degradation of the environment, as well as violent extremism and religious fundamentalism.
The OSCE is well placed to support the Central Asian states in their common efforts to deal effectively with these multiple challenges to their security. It acts as a political catalyst supporting the efforts of other, specialised international actors. The international conference jointly prepared by the OSCE Chairmanship and the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention on the issues of drugs, organised crime and terrorism to be held in Tashkent on 19 and 20 October is only one example.
I can not but re emphasise the importance of the human dimension in the work of the OSCE. In the course of this year we have focused our work on a number of abhorrent facets of civil unrest, such as children in armed conflicts, the proliferation of small arms and the trafficking in human beings, in particular of women and girls. It is in this context that I would like to highlight the recent adoption of a comprehensive Action Plan for Gender Issues which will guide the OSCE in its commitment to advance equality between women and men and to protect the human rights of women and girls in the region.
If we analyse the profound changes that have occurred in the recent past, we note that the individual citizen has gained in prominence, not only as an actor in our democratic societies with growing responsibilities in relation to the social, environmental and economic sustainability of our development, but also as a victim of new threats to security.
It is noteworthy that the United Nations, the Group of Eight and the OSCE have increasingly moved action against terrorism, drug abuse and crime to the top of their agendas.
I am pleased to point out that the negotiations of a convention against transnational organised crime, which were held at the LIN headquarters in Vienna over the last two years, lead to a successful outcome in the course of this summer. We are confident that the three additional protocols on trafficking in and smuggling of persons as well as on trafficking in firearms will be concluded this fall. Austria will strive for a rapid entry into force and implementation of these important legal instruments. We are pleased that the UN Center for International Crime Prevention will serve as the Secretariat for the Conference of the Parties. I would like to stress that my country is ready to join forces with our partners in the developing world to counter organised crime in all its facets.
Thanks to the Human Development Reports of the UNDP, our understanding of development has shifted from macro-economic statistics to a more human-centered concept, defining development as a process of broadening the spectrum of choice both of the individual human being and of society at large.
I am pleased that the Human Development Report of this year underlines the inter-relatedness between human development and human rights.
In short, the report concludes that human development is an essential precondition for the realisation of human rights. Human rights, in return, are an essential prerequisite for comprehensive human development.
If, however, we accept that most challenges to human security have a human rights dimension, we may wish to take a new, more operational look at the promotion and protection of human rights. How can we make our human rights regimes more effective in our societies? The Secretary- General has shown us the path to follow and I would like -to quote his words: "it is the poison of ignorance, all too frequently, that lies at the heart of human rights violations. Knowledge provides an antidote." Ultimately, it will be the citizens themselves who, through better knowledge, will become the owners of their human rights.
It is in this context that I would like to point out the initiative taken by all women ministers for foreign affairs present at the opening of the 55th -General, Assembly: We jointly launched an appeal to our fellow leaders in order to energise our common fight against the global scourge of HIV/AIDS, a scourge which increasingly affects women and girls. Our efforts to counter the HIV/AIDS pandemic have to be multi-faceted: They have to encompass access to adequate medical care, drugs and social protection. They have to encompass information and services available to girls and women to help them understand their sexual and reproductive rights in order to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. This should be combined with the education of young men to respect women's self determination and to share responsibility with women in matters of health, sexuality and reproduction.
The United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education spanning the period of 1995-2005 was unanimously adopted by this Assembly at its 49th session. We have reached its mid-term and might therefore wish to give it new momentum. We clearly came to understand that human rights education and learning serve as strategies for development on the one hand and as preventive tools for human security on the other.
Following an initiative taken by Austria in the framework of the ,Human Security Network" of foreign ministers, an International Workshop on Human Security and Human Rights Education was convened in Graz, Austria, earlier this year.
Experts from all continents called for human rights education and learning as a common endeavour of governmental, inter-govern mental and non-govern mental institutions. They concluded that human rights education should go beyond formal education so as to encompass all forms of learning and different modes of socialisation. Innovative human rights education must be participatory and operational, creative and empowering. It must address all levels of society. All citizens, in particular all persons in positions of leadership, must regard human rights standards as a yardstick when making their decisions. In this context, let me applaud the initiatives taken in Africa, South-Asia, Latin America and Europe to have municipalities proclaim themselves as ,Human Rights Cities". I am pleased to announce from this rostrum that the city of Graz will be the first "Human Rights City" in Europe.
While we affirm the universality of our human rights, human rights education and learning will have to be rooted in the rich cultural plurality of the world. In the diversity of learning processes we will better comprehend the common humanity we all share.
Why, will you ask, do I raise the issue of human rights education and learning at the General Assembly of the United Nations? It is because I am convinced that in this strategic triangle with human security and human development, human rights are of a profoundly political significance for the direction we take in our development.
As the acquisition of any political culture takes time, our efforts must be long-term and comprehensive. At the same time, there is a sense of urgency.
This is why I appeal to you to give our efforts in area a new momentum , provide it with new energy and direction. Lately, civil society has pleaded for more political leadership in this field. We should be ready to respond and develop new structures of partnership with civil society and with the institutions already active in the field at national, regional and international levels.
Mr. President, Excellencies, my dear colleagues,
The global house of human rights has to be built every day. It has to be built by everyone and it has to be owned by everyone. Only then will it be a house of prosperity, a house of freedom and a house of peace.
Thank you for your attention.