6 October 1998


6 October 1998

Press Release


19981006 Addressing Special Commemorative Meeting, President of Botswana Says Framers of Charter Entrenched Imperfections Limiting Peacekeeping Ability

Although the pendulum appeared to have swung away from support for United Nations peacekeeping, history would see it as one of the Organization's most important contributions to international peace and security, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly this morning during a special commemorative meeting marking the fiftieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping.

While peacekeeping was not the answer to all conflicts, nor had it prevented the recurrence of genocide, the Secretary-General said that during a half-century of service, peacekeepers had saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Too much remained to be done and too many innocents continued to die for the Organization to think about leaving the field now. Above all, he said, peacekeeping gave time and space for conflict resolution: it gave peace a chance.

Also this morning, Assembly President Didier Opertti (Uruguay) noting recent changes in peacekeeping operations, said they were now being applied to certain internal conflicts situations, and no longer was parties' prior consent essential. Also, the rule of not opening fire except in self-defence was becoming more flexible, due to the increased need to protect displaced civilian populations and ensure the delivery of emergency supplies.

Festus Mogae, President of Botswana, told the Assembly that the framers of the Charter had entrenched certain imperfections into the Organization which had seriously encumbered its efficiency and effectiveness in the area of conflict resolution. "So long as the Organization remains the creation of the nation-state system with built-in self-interest," he said, "the Organization could not be expected to perform differently". However, its delivery system could certainly be improved to acceptable levels.

At the close of the commemoration, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, the Declaration on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of United Nations Peacekeeping. In so doing, Member States paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who had participated in peacekeeping missions and the some 1,500 who had lost their lives in the service of peace. They reiterated support for efforts to promote the safety and security of United Nations peacekeeping personnel, while affirming their commitment to support peacekeepers in successfully implementing the tasks entrusted to them.

Statements were made by the representative of Nepal, on behalf of the Asian States; the representative of South Africa, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement; Dominican Republic, for the Latin American and Caribbean States; Poland, for the Group of Eastern European States; Andorra, for the Western European and Other States; and Nigeria, for the African States. The representative of the United States spoke on behalf of the host country.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to consider the implementation of commitments made at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development.

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Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to hold a special commemorative meeting as the United Nations observes 50 years of peacekeeping operations. The Organization will pay tribute at Headquarters to all peacekeepers -- military and civilian -- who have served since 1948, and especially those who have died while serving under the United Nations flag. During the commemoration, the Secretary-General will present the first Dag Hammarskjöld Medals to the families of three United Nations officials who lost their lives while pursuing peace missions. The Dag Hammarskjöld Medal is a new honour, established by a resolution of the Security Council in July 1997.

Statements will made by the President of the General Assembly; the Secretary-General; the Chairmen of the five regional groups; and a representative of the host country.

The Assembly is also expected to adopt a draft resolution containing a declaration marking the fiftieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping (document 4/53/L.5). By the terms of the draft declaration, the Assembly would pay tribute to hundreds of thousands of men and women who have served in United Nations peacekeeping mission and welcomed the establishment of the Medal as a tribute to those who lost their lives serving the cause of peace. Members States would also reiterate support for all efforts to promote the safety and security of United Nations peacekeeping personnel. They would affirm their commitment and willingness to provide full support to the Organization's peacekeepers to ensure that they are able to successfully fulfil the tasks entrusted to them.

The sponsors of the text are Argentina, Canada, Egypt, Japan, Nigeria and Poland.

Following the Assembly commemoration, a presentation ceremony will be held during which the first Medal will be presented to the family of Dag Hammarskjöld -- the second United Nations Secretary-General, for whom the prize is named -- who lost his life in a plane crash on 18 September 1961 while on a mission to bring an end to the fighting in the Congo. Next to be honoured will be Commandant René de Labarrière, the first peacekeeper to lose his life in a United Nations peacekeeping operation. A French officer serving as a Military Observer in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine, Commandant de Labarrière was killed by a landmine on 6 July 1948. The third Medal will be received by the family of Count Folke Bernadotte, United Nations Mediator in Palestine, who was assassinated on 17 September 1948 in Jerusalem, while seeking a negotiated settlement to the Palestine problem.

Statements during Commemorative Meeting

FESTUS MOGAE, President of Botswana, told the Assembly that the Organization's promise made over 50 years ago to save succeeding generations

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from the scourge of war had not materialized. Present-day man, like his predecessors in history, had failed to unlearn the ways of war or, rather, acquire the skills to live with one another like good neighbours. The framers of the Charter entrenched certain imperfections into the Organization which had seriously encumbered its efficiency and effectiveness in the area of conflict resolution. "So long as this Organization remains the creation of the nation-State system with inbuilt self-interest, it cannot be expected to perform differently, but we can certainly improve its delivery system to acceptable levels", he said.

Ideally, the United Nations should have developed machinery to address and avert conflict situations before they actually occurred, he said. However, the ideal and the real did not often dovetail. Preventive diplomacy should quickly be succeeded by robust peacekeeping as soon as conflict situations stalled through dialogue. The African experience in peacekeeping had been slightly different. In most cases, conflicts on the continent had smouldered to calamitous proportions due to international inertia, or perhaps due to African fatigue. African States were willing to bear their fair share of peacekeeping operations on the continent, but they certainly lacked logistics and financial wherewithal. African problems, he noted, were problems of the international community and the Organization. Conflicts should not be shirked for political expediency in any part of the world, and African conflicts could not be left for them alone to solve.

The International Criminal Court, he went on to say, would hopefully help to ensure that perpetrators of acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and other inhuman acts would not go unpunished. It should serve as a deterrent and as a statement that the international community would no longer tolerate such diabolic acts. Human rights abuses had been responsible for the bulk of the horrendous conflicts throughout this violent century. Human rights institutions should, therefore, be empowered to deal with violators with the full force of the law.

Globalization and economic liberalization had also accentuated the imbalances in international economic relations, he said. The problem was further compounded by the fact that official development assistance (ODA) had fallen to unprecedented low levels. The majority of African countries had instituted economic reforms to achieve development, including sound macroeconomic policies, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights. They had also taken serious measures to introduce budgetary reforms, remove restrictions on current payments, and restrain credit and monetary expansion. Over the past few years, Africa's economic performance had been on an upward trend. In 1997, about half of African countries posted annual economic growth rates of more than 5 per cent. The continent, however, still needed active support and assistance from the international community.

A new type of partnership with the developed world was necessary to increase trade and the continent's share of global prosperity, he said. The new initiative adopted by the Bretton Woods institutions to reduce the

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multilateral debt of the heavily indebted poor countries was a welcomed development, though its implementation had been very disappointing. Botswana's development strategy focused on employment creation and poverty alleviation. It had taken measures to create a favourable climate for investment and the encouragement of small and medium enterprises.

He expressed concern over the recent army mutiny in Lesotho and the attempt to overthrow its democratically elected Government, he said. It was alarming because of the wider implications it had for subregional peace and security in southern Africa. In response to an appeal for intervention by the Government of Lesotho, members of the Botswana Defence Force and the South African Defense Force of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) entered Lesotho on 21 September to help restore law and order. That action had conformed strictly to the purposes and principles of the Charter, as well as the relevant resolutions of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which condemned the overthrow of legitimate governments by the military. The forces would remain in Lesotho for as long as necessary to restore peace and security. He also stated that the SADC had concluded that Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), had no intention of meeting its obligations under the Lusaka Protocol outlining a peace process in Angola. Mr. Savimbi should be held personally responsible for war crimes his movement had committed and continued to commit even after the signing of a peace agreement. President Mogae expressed hope that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would soon resume its process of national reconciliation.

DIDIER OPERTTI (Uruguay), President of the General Assembly, reviewing the history of United Nations peacekeeping, said that in recent years the world had witnessed an extension of the field of application of peacekeeping operations to certain internal conflicts. The requirement of the parties' prior consent was no longer essential. Mandates for the operations had been considerably broadened to include certain political, institutional and administrative aspects of situations, he said. The rule of not opening fire except in self-defence was made more flexible to deal with the need to protect displaced civilian populations or ensure the delivery of emergency supplies. The number of peacekeeping intervention undertaken by coalitions and or actions directed by regional organizations had increased.

A number of failures in peacekeeping operations had elicited severe criticism, he said. It had been pointed out that there was a need to establish more precise mandates and provide those operations with sufficient means and resources. That premise made it essential for Member States to comply fully and punctually with their financial obligations.

On a more general and substantive plane, a considerable number of countries still had reservations about the flexibility and expansion of the scope of peacekeeping, he continued. Those countries invoked the fundamental principle, enshrined in Article 2 of the Charter, prohibiting intervention in the internal affairs of States. There existed a clear consensus that they should be strengthened as an effective tool for maintaining and enforcing

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peace and effectively contributing to the ideal of a world where human rights were respected and the duty of humanitarian assistance prevailed.

The Member States whose representatives had gathered today understood that peace and the values just mentioned represented the existential principle of the United Nations, he said. On behalf of those gathered here, he wished to recognize the pioneers of the peacekeeping operations and all who had participated. He also paid tribute to the memory of the heroic officials, soldiers and civilians who had paid with their lives.

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that, from the start, peacekeeping had been an improvisation. It proved that the United Nations was not a static organization, but a dynamic and innovative one. It had shown its ability to adapt to circumstances, to find ways around obstacles and to make itself relevant to the actual problems at hand.

The evolution of peacekeeping had been neither smooth nor simple, he said. Often, the expectations placed on peacekeepers had outstripped the resources given to them, and the demands made of them had cruelly ignored realities on the ground. Over the years, there had been some unmistakable successes, such as Namibia, Mozambique and El Salvador, but there had also been some seemingly intractable stalemates, such as Cyprus and the Middle East. And in some places -- Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia -- the United Nations had found itself standing by, while the most appalling crimes were committed. Sometimes peace had to be made -- or enforced -- before it could be kept.

"We are not here today to declare victory", he said. "We cannot claim that peacekeeping has been the answer to every conflict; still less, alas, that it has prevented the recurrence of genocide." However, the United Nations could claim proudly that the "blue helmets" had saved tens of thousands of lives. Although in recent times the pendulum appeared to have swung away from support for the United Nations peacekeeping, he believed that history would see it as one of the Organization's most important and lasting contributions to international peace and security.

He said that the mission of United Nations peacekeeping must continue. Too much remained to be done, and too many innocents were continuing to die for the Organization to think about leaving the field now. Peacekeeping could even be used, as had been shown in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, to help prevent a conflict from breaking out in the first place. Above all, it gave time and space for conflict resolution: it gave peace a chance.

NARENDRA BIKRAM SHAH (Nepal), speaking as Chairman of the Asian Group, paid tribute to more than 1,500 peacekeepers from the Group who had lost their lives in the service of the United Nations. He also expressed gratitude to the 14,500 military and civilian police personnel currently serving in the Organization's 17 peacekeeping missions. He added that it was an honour to welcome to the General Assembly Hall the first recipients of the newly

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instituted Dag Hammarskjöld Medal, as well as former Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar, Secretariat and field staff of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and former peacekeepers.

Peacekeeping was a unique United Nations concept under which troops were deployed not for war, but to provide a foundation for peace, he continued. In its primary role in the maintenance of international peace and security, peacekeeping would remain one of the essential tools of the Organization. Fifty years after the mandating of the first peacekeeping operation, peacekeeping continued to adapt to changing needs. He expressed satisfaction over the efforts to strengthen the Organization's capacity to respond swiftly to peacekeeping demands and to improve the overall management of peacekeeping missions.

EUGENIUSZ WYZNER (Poland), speaking as Chairman of the Group of Eastern European States, said the initiative to adopt the Declaration to pay special tribute to peacekeepers reflected the commitment of the Group to the ideals enshrined in the Charter. It was also a measure of the Group's strong commitment to the Organization's peacekeeping activities. The Eastern European States had consistently been among the leading troop contributors, and their national contingents today constituted more than 12 per cent of the total military strength of the Organization's peacekeeping operations. Having accomplished so much since its inception, United Nations peacekeeping, in order to remain relevant and useful, was bound to further evolve. What was being dealt with today was, sometimes, quite distant from the original concept of peacekeeping.

He said a distinct change seemed to be under way, which would lead to the wider participation of United Nations peacekeeping in post-conflict peace- building. Much remained to be done to prepare "blue helmets" to shoulder that kind of responsibility. Also, the negative experiences of peacekeeping should never be forgotten when preparing for future operations. "We strongly believe that measures must be taken to prevent vicious, deliberate assaults on the soldiers sent by the United Nations to assist others in containing and resolving conflicts and to provide both military and civilian personnel with adequate protection." One of those measures should be the early entry into force of the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

For many people, the presence of peacekeeping soldiers generated hope and the conviction that they were not being abandoned to war and atrocities, he said. The Security Council had given mandates to 750,000 soldiers, and 1,580 of them had made the ultimate sacrifice for participating in "our common endeavours" to maintain peace and security. "We bow our heads in a tribute to their memory", he added.

CRISTINA AGUIAR (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, said that the countries in her region were participating in 12 current peacekeeping operations and had contributed staff

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for more than forty years, which allowed her to reaffirm that the region had been a net contributor to such operations, sending more troops than it received. Also, the countries of her region attached great importance to the processes of preventive diplomacy, demonstrated through participation in such initiatives as the Friends of the Secretary-General for Guatemala (Mexico and Colombia) and the Friends of the Secretary-General for Haiti (Argentina, Chile and Venezuela).

Regarding troop contribution, there was no difference between small and large countries, he said. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had showed solidarity in the mission in Haiti, and the experience of Latin America and the Caribbean in peacekeeping was growing day by day. The degree of transparency in the Security Council regarding peacekeeping operations had increased and she welcomed that process, an outcome of proposals originating from the countries in her region. In conclusion, she expressed her appreciation and paid homage to all the men and women who had sacrificed their lives to serve the Organization.

JULI MINOVES-TRIQUELL (Andorra), speaking on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, said that more than 500,000 people had participated in the peacekeeping missions during their half-century history. They had devoted themselves to the ideals of peace and progress, and it was fitting to pay tribute today to all of them. Their courage had saved many lives and prevented many wars. He expressed sincere gratitude to their efforts and recalled more than 1,500 human beings who had given their lives during peacekeeping operations. Their ultimate sacrifice was a reminder of human altruism and of human willingness to fight the destructive forces of armed conflicts. The Medals that were to be given today were a tribute to those who were committed to the maintenance of peace.

During the 50 years of peacekeeping operations, Member States of his region had made available troops and resources to those operations, he continued. Now, with many conflicts revitalized, it was important that peacekeeping continued and progressed. It was also important to guarantee safety to the members of peacekeeping operations in the field. Agents of peace, recipients of Nobel Peace Prizes should be respected.

PETER BURLEIGH (United States), speaking for the Host Country, said that after two World Wars and centuries of conflict, the idea of soldiers used in the service of peace had opened a new chapter in international affairs. For more than five decades, United Nations peacekeepers had prevented wars, saved lives and inspired hope across the globe. It was a noble record unparalleled in history. He paid tribute to those peacekeepers who had lost their lives in service. Their efforts and sacrifices had not been in vain. They had fallen so that others could live in peace and to honour the promise to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

As the international community commemorated 50 years of peacekeeping, it should not forget the continuing missions and daily sacrifices of the

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Organization's peacekeepers in the field today, he said. Daily, they quietly pursued peace. "Our commemoration must not end today, for there is much unfinished work", he added. Let the international community honour its fallen peacekeepers with deeds, not words, by continuing efforts -- both here and in the field -- to improve peacekeeping.

PIETER VERMEULEN (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said there was need for a comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping. That matter received prominent attention at the Non-Aligned Summit meeting held in Durban, South Africa, last month.

"When we look back at 50 years of United Nations peacekeeping, let us remind ourselves that durable peace is ultimately dependent on the elimination of the causes of conflict in all its facets", he said. Peacekeeping was a support tool in the maintenance of international peace and security. The responsibility of peacekeeping must be shared by all. In that regard, the Non-Aligned Movement wanted to stress once more, the need for regular and institutionalized consultations between troop-contributing countries and the Security Council.

He said contemporary peace-building was increasingly multi-dimensional and required a more effective approach to coordinating core military tasks with humanitarian assistance. As the Non-Aligned Movement had stated in the past, dealing with the challenges posed by the multi-dimensional nature of peacekeeping would still require "of us the ability to differentiate between peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance". That differentiation also needed to be extended to cover civilian policing, a role which was increasingly crucial. He recalled the need to develop agreed guidelines for civilian police personnel in United Nations peacekeeping operations. The problems must be resolved of delays in the reimbursement of troop costs and contingent owned equipment leases which had caused hardship to all troop and equipment-contributing countries.

IBRAHIM A. GAMBARI (Nigeria), Chairman of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, on behalf of the African States, said there could be no peace without fundamental freedom. Human rights could not be exercised in an atmosphere of national chaos and conflict. In ascribing the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace to the Security Council, the Charter of the United Nations also demanded that its Member States, establish and maintain the essence of the peace. That essence was the promotion and protection of the political, economic, social, cultural and social rights of the individual, the community, and of society as a whole.

He said that while African States had been major beneficiaries of United Nations peacekeeping, they had also made significant contributions to such international efforts. Since 1993, the OAU had played an increasing role in the resolution of conflict on its continent. The OAU conflict prevention mechanism was the African response to the United Nations An Agenda for Peace. It was also a clear acceptance on the part of OAU members of their

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responsibility to participate in the maintenance of international peace and security. Cooperation in the area of international peacekeeping between the United Nations and the OAU should be enhanced for the benefit of Africa and the world.

Action on Draft

Mr. GAMBARI (Nigeria), Chairman of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, introduced the draft resolution, which contains, in an annex, a Declaration on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of United Nations Peacekeeping. He said that, at a time when peacekeeping faced great challenges and played a crucial role in the maintenance of international peace and security, the Special Committee believed it was most fitting that the anniversary should be marked through the adoption of a formal Declaration.

Through the Declaration, initiated by Ukraine and drafted and supported by the Special Committee, the Assembly would pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who had, in the past 50 years, served under the United Nations flag and in almost 50 operations around the world. It would also honour the memory of more than 1,500 peacekeepers who had laid down their lives in the cause of peace, and would welcome the establishment by the Security Council of the Dag Hammarskjold Medal. Above all, it would affirm the Organization's commitment to provide full support to United Nations peacekeepers.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

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For information media. Not an official record.