‘IDYLLIC’ ISOLATION ALSO BANE OF OUR EXISTENCE, LEADERS OF SMALL ISLAND STATES EMPHASIZE, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DEBATE

GA/10262
24 September 2004

‘IDYLLIC’ ISOLATION ALSO BANE OF OUR EXISTENCE, LEADERS OF SMALL ISLAND STATES EMPHASIZE, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DEBATE

24/09/2004
Press Release
GA/10262

Fifth-ninth General Assembly

Plenary

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)


‘IDYLLIC’ ISOLATION ALSO BANE OF OUR EXISTENCE, LEADERS OF SMALL ISLAND STATES


EMPHASIZE, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONTINUES DEBATE


Hurricanes Have Hammered Home Long-standing Need

For Special, Differential Treatment for Beleaguered Nations, Delegates Told


Refuting the popular cliché that portrayed their countries as white-beached, palm-treed paradises, the political leaders of the many island nations stating their cases in the United Nations General Assembly today emphasized that the “idyllic” isolation that made them so enchanting to outsiders often crippled their ability to develop self-reliant economies, deter terrorism and aggression and protect against the whims of Mother Nature.


As the world body wrapped up the first week of its annual high-level debate, the top officials reflected upon the destruction wrought by the string of deadly hurricanes that had pummelled the Caribbean region in recent weeks, urging global respect for their priorities –- which should be universally valued, creation of a more enabling international economic environment, and reduction of the harmful pollution and accompanying climate change, which jeopardized their very existence.


Every challenge affecting small island States -– climate change, natural disasters, waste management, tourism, energy, transport, biodiversity and use of coastal and marine resources –- could be resolved if the international community would increase resources for their sustainable development, declared Fradique Bandeira de Melo de Menezes, President of Sao Tome and Principe.


He stressed that his own country found its very existence threatened by global warming -– its shorelines eroding and its national territory sinking into the sea.  In order for the country not to end up as a tiny volcanic peak sticking up above the waves, with the last of its people clinging to the only land left unclaimed by the rising sea, the Kyoto Protocol must be implemented by all and for the benefit of all, he added.


Crystallizing the immediacy of the threat, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, detailed the cataclysmic destruction wrought by Hurricane Ivan, pointing out that Grenada had been transformed –- in a matter of hours –- from a modern, well run, middle-income developing country into a storm-wrecked, destitute land, bereft of a functioning government or economic institutions.  Ivan had spoken eloquently, to hammer home the point that small island States had been trying to make for years:  they needed special and differential treatment.


Many island nations had historically benefited from such special treatment in the economic sphere, noted Laisenia Qarase, Prime Minister of Fiji, as a result of their development partnership with the European Union.  However, entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), with its insistence on free and open trade, would mean a massive loss in export earnings for those countries.  Many small island developing States –- already disadvantaged by their size, distance from export markets and regular devastation by natural disasters –- now faced serious uncertainty with regard to their future economic prospects.


Lamentably, the United Nations was routinely sidelined in international trade and development processes, agreed Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister for Labour of Antigua and Barbuda.  Instead, the economic agenda had been set by organizations such as the WTO and the Bretton Woods institutions, which were not responsive enough to the special needs of island States.  Super-Power intervention in traditional banana and sugar trading arrangements had been no less devastating –- and even farther-reaching –- than Hurricane Ivan’s savage demolition of Grenada.  Above all, the policy of penalizing small States that achieved a measure of economic success must cease, he concluded.  Only in the area of development funding was “graduation” rewarded with punishment.


Breaking ranks with those lauding the capacity of the United Nations to level the playing field, Felipe Perez Roque, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, noted that every year the Organization went through the same ritual.  “We attend the general debate knowing beforehand that the clamour for justice and peace will be ignored one again.”  Social justice and development would not be offered to small States on a platter, but must be seized from “those who deny us justice today, because they underpin their wealth and arrogance on the disdain for our grief”.


After the aggression on Iraq, the United Nations was living through its worst moment, he declared.  “It languishes, it pales, it pants, it feigns, but it does not work.”  Yet, newly appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, addressing the United Nations for the first time, said that, although some countries had objected to the way Saddam Hussein had been removed, and to the war, that should not halt cooperation to help his country move forward.  The Security Council had legitimized Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and had even urged the international community to support it.  “We need more assistance from our neighbours and the international community as a whole to meet our objectives and the needs of the Iraqi people”, he said.


Also addressing the Assembly today were the Presidents of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Azerbaijan and Cape Verde.


The Prime Ministers of Dominica, Tuvalu, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago also made statements today, as did the Deputy Prime Ministers of Bahrain and Luxembourg and the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Iran, Egypt, Norway, Liechtenstein, Saint Lucia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Yemen, Belgium, Venezuela, Poland, Iceland, Ecuador and Angola.


Haiti’s representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply, while the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines spoke on a point of order.


The General Assembly will continue its general debate at 10 a.m. on Monday, 27 September.


Background


The General Assembly met today to continue its general debate.


Statements


FRADIQUE BANDEIRA DE MELO DE MENEZES, President of Sao Tome and Principe, noting that small island States would soon meet in Mauritius to assess progress in the Barbados Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), said that implementation had thus far been mixed.  Yet all the challenges that affected small island States -– climate change, natural and environmental disasters, waste management, tourism, energy, transport, biodiversity, coastal and marine resources –- could be resolved if the international community were to increase resources to support the sustainable development of small island States.


As an island nation, Sao Tome and Principe found its very existence threatened by global warming, he stressed.  The islands’ shorelines were eroding, its national territory sinking into the sea.  For his country not to end up as a tiny volcanic peak sticking up above the waves with the last of its people clinging to the land left unclaimed by the rising sea, the Kyoto Protocol must be implemented by all and for the benefit of all.


Turning to the regional context, he said his Government continued to implement the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a strategy by which peace, good governance, security and development would be achieved.  However, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases and remedying the inequitable distribution in the benefits of globalization would continue to require the support and assistance of the international community.  Overall, there must be a return to multilateralism within the framework of the United Nations if the international community was going to keep the hope of peace and development alive.


Worldwide, terrorism had wrought destruction, he continued, while the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction constituted a source of grave concern.  All must work to ensure the universality of the non-proliferation treaties, while opening all installations to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


Emphasizing the need to further democratize the United Nations, he called for expansion of permanent membership on the Security Council.  He also expressed support for the Organization’s activities in support of newly-independent Timor-Leste, for the extension of United Nations membership to the Republic of China (Taiwan) and for lifting the economic embargo against Cuba.  His own country was working hard to consolidate democracy and create a solid basis for development.  Following last year’s coup, a National Forum had been organized to bring together all segments of society to exchange views and make recommendations to avoid further instability.


BRANKO CRVENKOVSKI, President of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said that it was important to increase the membership of the Security Council and to renew and strengthen the role of the Economic and Social Council.  Terrorism continued to take innocent lives and preoccupy global public opinion, making it necessary to further consolidate the global anti-terrorist coalition led by the United Nations.  His country had ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.  The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remained one of the major threats to peace and security, and was closely related to terrorism.


The suppression of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and the full prohibition of anti-infantry mines, was an important issue as well, he said.  Last year, his country had collected those weapons and would continue to do so, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  It had also destroyed mine stockpiles and was working on the de-mining of affected regions.  Turning to current conflicts, he said the situation in Darfur, and the humanitarian tragedy there, required decisive action.  He called for further and urgent action on that matter.  The Middle East continued to keep the world in suspense, and he supported the conviction that the Road Map was the only way to reach a solution for Palestine and Israel.


His nation, he said, was part of the multinational forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He stressed the importance of implementing Security Council resolution 1546, which endorsed the restoration of sovereignty to Iraq and provided the core framework for political transformation and democratization of that State.  He hoped that the Iraqi authorities would do their utmost to find three Macedonian citizens that had disappeared.  Turning to the Millennium Development Goals, he said they remained a key challenge for the Organization.  It was clear that decisive steps were necessary to mobilize political will, resources and reforms to fulfil the Goals by 2015, and to give particular attention to Africa, where the situation remained alarming.


He went on to say that the rule of law and respect for human rights was the best instrument to prevent conflicts and a prerequisite to peace and prosperity.  Good neighbourly relations were one of his nation’s top foreign policy priorities, and his delegation would propose the adoption of a resolution on stability and development in South Eastern Europe.  His country was cooperating on numerous regional activities, and in the framework of the Euro Atlantic integration process.  Yet, despite considerable progress, all sources of potential instability had not been eliminated.  Macedonia was paying particular attention to the developments in Kosovo, and gave full support to the United Nations policy of “standards before status”, whose goal was to establish a true multi-ethnic community, improved security and rule of law.  He expected to begin soon the process of demarcation of the border with Kosovo, and added that any decision on future status must not result in destabilization in the region.


ILHAM ALIYEV, President of Azerbaijan, said his country, one of the active members of the global coalition against international terrorism, faithfully cooperated bilaterally and within multilateral frameworks to suppress that evil.  Azerbaijan was among those countries that had suffered from the consequences of armed conflicts on its territory.  In reality, those conflicts were interlinked and there was no other choice than to face them in concert.  There should be no room for any double standards.  Drawing attention to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and the 1993 Security Council resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884 in that regard, he said those resolutions had confirmed the Nagorno-Karabakh region as part of Azerbaijan, but had not been implemented.


He said that Armenia, ignoring the resolutions, had launched an “outrageous policy” of massive illegal settlement of Armenian people in the occupied Azerbaijani territories, a blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  As a result of Armenia’s “ethnic cleansing” policy, more than one million Azerbaijan’s had become refugees and internally displaced persons.  Moreover, the territories had become a “grey zone” -- out of control of the Azerbaijan Government and free from any international monitoring –- that was being used for drug trafficking, arms transfers, smuggling and harbouring terrorists.  Armenian aggressors and Nagorno-Karabakh separatists were also exploiting natural resources in the occupied territories, trying to engage overseas companies in the illegal business.


The process of trying to achieve a political settlement within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) “Minsk Group” for the last 12 years had yielded no results, he said.  Under the current passive attitude of the United Nations and the OSCE, and without strong pressure from the international community, Armenia would not move from its aggressive stance.  Armenia’s aim was not to find a solution, but to prolong negotiations in order to impose a fait accompli-based settlement.  “From this high podium, I wish to stress that the settlement may be based only on international law and democracy, not on ethnic cleansing and de-facto annexation of territory of a sovereign State”, he said, adding that he expected a more responsive United Nations strategy for that “forgotten humanitarian crisis”.


His country was fully committed to the objectives of poverty eradication and promotion of good governance, he continued.  It was contributing to the development of trans-regional cooperation and promoted transportation and communications networks, including oil and gas pipelines.  Those projects would ensure predictable access for exports of landlocked countries to world markets.  Turning to reform of the Organization, he said the inability of the Security Council to cope with problems was obvious.  A new Security Council should be more representative, responsible and democratic.  The pressing issue was to elaborate viable mechanisms for the implementation of Council resolutions.


RALPH GONSALVES, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the peoples of the Caribbean and the southern United States were still traumatized by the devastation caused by this season’s series of deadly hurricanes and tropical storms.  Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Cuba and other Caribbean countries, including his own, had been severely affected.  Saint Vincent’s nearest neighbour, Grenada, had suffered cataclysmic destruction and had declared a “state of emergency” in the wake of the storms.  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had joined other countries in the region to reach out to Grenada, but the magnitude of the devastation threatened to overwhelm their capacity to meet the island nation’s acute needs.


Put simply, on 7 September, Grenada slid from modern, well-run, middle income developing country to storm-wrecked, destitute land, bereft of a functioning government or economic institutions in the span of a few hours.  Helping alleviate those grave conditions had become an international responsibility, he said, reiterating the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) call for the urgent convening of an international conference to address the matter, including on Grenada’s reconstruction.


Ironically, the tragedy wrought by hurricane Ivan had “spoken eloquently”, hammering home for the wider international community the point the small island developing States (SIDS) had been trying to make clear for years:  small islands needed special and differential treatment, among other things, because of their vulnerability to natural disasters.  Aware that most of them could be reduced to rubble at a stroke, Caribbean countries were giving the highest priority to preparations for the international review of the Barbados Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States, set for Mauritius next January.  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines would urge the international community in that regard to take urgent action to address problems such as global warming and climate change, which, if left unchecked, could lead to worldwide human, ecological and economic calamity.


He went on to spotlight the region’s other major crisis over the past year:  Haiti’s collapse into chaos, violence and anarchy.  The CARICOM had seen Haiti’s elected head of State removed in circumstances “which brought no credit” to the Western hemisphere.  The Community remained troubled by the “controversial interruption” of the democratic process, which took place in Port-au-Prince on 28 February.  He added that CARICOM had come before the Security Council three days before Haiti’s collapse with a resolution aimed at shoring up the country’s Constitution and mobilization of resources that would help avert a humanitarian disaster.  That text had been “noted” but “politely ignored”.  And the rest was history.  Nevertheless, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were eager to help the people of Haiti, he said, but before it engaged the so-called “interim government”, it wanted to see irrefutable evidence on the ground of advances in democracy and freedom, and credible guarantees of free and fair elections.


LAISENIA QARASE, Prime Minister of Fiji, said Member States must strengthen their joint resolve to oppose terror everywhere.  At this critical juncture, the United Nations must mobilize all its experience, skill and power to create concord among nations in order to combat modern threats such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ozone-depleting pollution, other environmental hazards, and HIV/AIDS.  Overall, the Organization must resist all forms of external interference that undermined the sovereign right of its Member States to determine their own destiny.  However, when intervention for peace was mandated, Fiji stood ready to contribute its part, considering it an honour to serve the cause of peace under the flags of organizations such as the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum.


Regionally, Fiji was working through the Pacific Islands Forum to pool resources and efforts for the strengthening of collective interests, he said.  A cooperative approach to social and economic development for the advancement of trade, investment and tourism was envisaged, as was a common front to protect the Oceanic heritage as a treasure for all humanity.  For example, although the region had the world’s largest remaining sustainable tuna fishery, more than 95 per cent of the value of mid-Pacific tuna went to distant-water fishing nations.  Thus, the islands had brought into effect the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Convention.


On a wider basis, he noted that Fiji and other island nations of the Pacific had also benefited from a development partnership with the European Union.  However, their forthcoming entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), with its insistence on free and open trade, would mean a massive loss in export earnings for those countries, in spite of the urgent and comprehensive reforms that had been undertaken.  Moreover, the hurdles erected by the WTO had been made even more imposing by the loss of competitive margins due to the withdrawal of the Generalized System of Preferences.  Many small island developing States –- already disadvantaged by their size, distance from export markets and the regular devastation of natural disaster –- now faced serious uncertainty with regard to their future economic prospects.  The upcoming review of the Barbados Programme of Action must lead to new international assistance commitments for disadvantaged small islands, and the Kyoto Protocol must be implemented.


ROOSEVELT SKERRIT, Prime Minister of Dominica, said Dominica firmly believed that the United Nations continued to be the global institution most suited to the pursuit and coordination of such global initiatives as the guarantee of human rights, peace and security, as well as social and economic justice.  Multilateral institutions, however, should be reformed if they were to be relevant in the current global dispensation.  Dominica was a small island State and, therefore, looked to the United Nations as the forum in which small countries could ventilate their views and collectively influence the agenda of the Organization in some way.  However, a clear set of principles that addressed the idiosyncratic features of small island States, when they functioned as economic units, was yet to be discerned.


Highlighting a ruling by the World Trade Organization that he said destroyed the banana industry, which he called the “backbone” of the economy of Dominica, as well as a decision by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that adversely impacted the country’s offshore banking sector, he called for a new global economic order that was balanced and sensitive to the interests of its weakest members.  Dominica and other small island developing States attached great importance to the international review of the Barbados Programme of Action in January 2005.  He hoped it would galvanize greater commitment from the international community toward provision of additional resources critical for advancing the implementation of obligations under the next phase of the Plan of Action.


Recounting several natural disasters that occurred this year in several islands, he said his Government believed that an insurance fund should be established under the aegis of the United Nations, so that States whose economies had been damaged by such disasters could access insurance payments.  Participation in such an insurance scheme should not be charitable, he said, and each MemberState should be required to pay a premium that was affordable for that country, and which could be used to repair damage done, especially in cases where the productive sector of a country’s economy had been reduced to paralysis.


MAATIA TOAFA, Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, said he strongly believed that to maintain its legitimacy and relevance, the United Nations needed to reassess its roles and functions so as to better reflect the reality of today’s world.  Tuvalu would, therefore, support ongoing reforms in the work of the United Nations, particularly the increase in the number of both permanent and non-permanent seats in the Security Council.  Expansion should be considered on the basis of responsible contribution to international development and peace, and his country would support the allocation of a permanent seat to Japan.  More equitable representation of developing countries in the non-permanent membership of the Council, he added, was vital and long overdue.


Tuvalu was fully committed to joining the fight against international terrorism, but would need the assistance of the United Nations and the international community to help it fulfil the requirements, particularly on reporting, of Security Council resolutions and of the international anti-terrorism conventions.  There was also an urgent need for assistance from the international community, such as that provided under the Global Fund on HIV/AIDS, to combat the threats of the epidemic.  There was a genuine need for the United Nations and the international community to better recognize the special and unique case of small island developing States, and their aspirations to participate more equitably in a globalized world.


In terms of natural resources, he continued, the Pacific Ocean surrounding the islands provided a vital source of livelihoods and development.  However, he was concerned with the threats of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and pollution to the oceans from waste, particularly the trans-shipment of highly radioactive and toxic materials in the region.  The people of Tuvalu also lived in constant fear of the adverse impacts of climate change and sea level rise, a threat that was no different than a “slow and insidious form of terrorism”.  He accorded significant importance to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, as they provided the most appropriate global framework to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  He was also deeply concerned by the failure and lack of leadership on the part of industrialized countries in the implementation of commitments, and in the ratification and enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol.  The more serious consequences of not acting now, as was already being witnessed the world over, would be felt everywhere.


WINSTON BALDWIN SPENCER, Prime Minister and Minister of Labour of Antigua and Barbuda, said the fundamental purpose of the United Nations was to ensure a level playing field in the arena in which small nations, as well as large, engaged one another.  Yet, globalization had made casualties –- not beneficiaries –- of many small States, as had been acknowledged in the Millennium Declaration.  The voices of the five permanent members of the Security Council continued to outweigh those of all other Member States.  Moreover, the United Nations had effectively been marginalized on Iraq, in defiance of the strongly expressed, rational concerns of the general membership.  In the face of overwhelming empirical evidence that size and might often came into play without subtlety or apology, the Organization’s overarching mission must be to defy the status quo and work unrelentingly to transform the world.


Lamentably, the United Nations was also routinely sidelined in international trade and development processes, he added.  Instead, the agenda was directed by organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which were insufficiently responsive to the special needs of small Caribbean States.  Super-power intervention in traditional banana and sugar trading arrangements between Europe and the Caribbean had been no less devastating –- and certainly farther reaching –- than Hurricane Ivan’s savage demolition of Grenada.


There must be an end to the policy of penalizing small States that achieved a measure of success in guiding their economies to growth and better living standards, he continued.  Only in the area of development funding was “graduation” rewarded with punishment.  Small developing States would never be insulated against external shocks; they suffered inordinately from financing the security infrastructure to combat terrorism, organized crime and narcotics trafficking.  For example, although considered relatively affluent among members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, his country had been experiencing sustained decline.  It had accumulated crippling debt and disturbing levels of unemployment.  The United Nations must stand by the tenets of the Millennium Declaration; if affirmative action was not to be proffered, then small States must at least be spared the punitive suspension of those facilities enabling them to move forward.


SHAIKH MOHAMMED BIN MUBARAK AL-KHALIFA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said the idea of reforming the United Nations, including the Organization’s philosophy of collective security, was “ambitious,” but not impossible, and had indeed become necessary, since so many of the global challenges of the day –- promoting fundamental rights, protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development, for instance -- were socially, politically and economically linked.  The international community must respond with innovation, practicality and collective determination that would ensure democratic international relations and maintain the spirit of the Charter.


The United Nations had inherited “weighty problems” in the twenty-first century, including the spread of terrorism and other serious impediments to the safety and security and sustainable development of nations.  The Organization must change with the times and become more flexible, particularly with so many nations in danger of falling short of the Millennium Declaration’s near-term goals.  It must also increase its effectiveness in the international arena by revitalizing its programmes.  To that end, there was a consensus that revitalization initiatives should centre on reform of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, as well as the Assembly.


He went on to say that it was clear that the demand for social and political reform and democratisation of states had also a critical element of contemporary international policy, for both developing and developed countries.  Bahrain had been hailed for its efforts to build democracy.  It also condemned terrorism and terrorist acts throughout the world, and expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia for its support of regional measures to overcome those criminal actions, “which contradict the principles and tenets of Islam”.


He said that Israel continued to ignore international law and had increased its “oppressive measures” in the occupied territories against the Palestinian people.  Indeed, the ongoing construction of a so-called separation barrier in Gaza and the West Bank consolidated the occupation and settlements and extinguished hopes for an independent PalestinianState.  The international community must take a stand in the face of such actions, particularly in the wake of the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and decision of the General Assembly condemning the wall’s construction.  The international community must use the opinion to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, including the Syrian Golan Heights and the Lebanese Sheba Farms.


The situation in Iraq was also troubling, he said.  The dangers of violence and insecurity threatened to engulf Iraq, despite efforts to maintain peace there, including the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, and the establishment of an interim government.  The road ahead was fraught with obstacles and difficulties, particularly ensuring the strong and broad national Iraqi consensus and garnering the requisite international support, which would save the country from slipping further into the violence and terrorism that continued to take the lives of many Iraqi civilians, as well as those of other nationalities.  The immediate future demanded that the international community play a vital and effective role, under the aegis of the United Nations.  Finally, he called on Iran to make serious efforts to resolve issues regarding the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, which belonged to brotherly United Arab Emirates, through serious bilateral negotiations.


BAN KI-MOON, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, said his nation had not been spared from heinous terrorist attacks, having lost a Korean victim in Iraq this year.  There was no justification for such brutality and cruel disregard for human life.  Iraq remained the most pressing security concern, and the Organization had a wealth of experience to offer that nation in the process of its political normalization and national rehabilitation.  In adherence to Security Council resolutions, his country was in the process of dispatching 3,600 troops to the multinational force in Iraq.


Terrorism lent renewed urgency to common endeavours to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, he said.  In particular, the revelations about a nuclear black market network in Asia this year had awakened the international community to the danger of those weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.  He called on the international community to work to close the loopholes in the existing non-proliferation regime, and, against that backdrop, his Government supported Security Council resolution 1540 on non-proliferation.  With regard to reported discoveries about past scientific experiments involving nuclear materials in his country, he explained that those experiments had been isolated, laboratory-scale research activities conducted by a few scientists for “purely experimental purposes”.  His Government had been providing full cooperation to the IAEA to review and verify that declaration.


His country, he said, had no intention to develop nuclear weapons, and firmly maintained nuclear transparency.  It would faithfully abide by norms set out in agreements on nuclear non-proliferation and would continue to expand the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Regarding North Korea, his Government had been actively engaged in efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue through the Six-Party Talks process, and hoped that a fourth round of talks would be held as soon as possible.  Poverty was at the top of the list of the world’s problems, he noted, as large numbers of people languished in abject poverty, presenting a serious block to the achievement of peace and prosperity.  The gap between the Millennium Development Goals and tangible progress remained wide.


Turning to the issue of human rights, he said his Government supported global action to strengthen human rights and democracy around the world.  It supported efforts to reach out to people in distress, and to provide assistance to refugees and others displaced by conflicts and natural disasters.  He shared the concern over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and called on the implementation of Resolution 1564 to bring peace and stability to the area.  To overcome the scourge of AIDS, it was vital to strengthen global assistance mechanisms.  The World Health Organization’s aim to provide anti-retroviral treatment to 3 million infected people by 2005 was a timely initiative.


GEORGE YEO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, said that throughout the world, governments, corporations and individuals were allocating vast amounts of resources to combat terrorism, and that Beslan and Jakarta served as reminders that the war against terrorism was a long struggle.  Fighting terrorism required worldwide cooperation, as well as a deeper understanding of why terrorists were prepared to sacrifice their own lives to take the lives of others, including innocent children.  The greatest evil, he said, was committed out of a sense of self-righteousness and perversion, such as when Al-Qaida carried out its actions in the name of Islam.


Untrammelled economic competition, he said, could also lead to grave injustice.  Without rules, “ruthless economic competition will return us to the jungle”, and without the World Trade Organization (WTO), globalization could become a means through which the strong dominated the weak around the world.  Global organizations such as the United Nations and the WTO, he continued, gave hope that this century could be better than previous ones, and rules were needed that put limits on competitiveness in the political and economic arenas.  As the world was growing smaller, he added, a sense of interdependence grew, and problems such as global warming, epidemics and terrorism could only be overcome if everyone worked together.  The problem of Palestine, for example, could not be solved without the participation of the larger global community.


The international community, he continued, should also not allow the deteriorating relationship across the Taiwan Strait to “get out of control”.  The push toward independence by certain groups in Taiwan, he said, was most dangerous because it would lead to war with mainland China and bring in other countries, putting the stability of the entire Asia-Pacific region at stake.  Even when the United Nations had no legal authority to enforce its wishes, its views carried moral weight, he continued.  It was important that the Security Council, which possessed the power to pass resolutions binding on all Member States, be reformed and enlarged to reflect the reality of the current international environment, not that of 60 years ago.


What was profoundly needed, he went on to say, was a respect for plurality in the world, one that was built on a common substrate that defined people as civilized human beings in the twenty-first century.  In this century, more layers must be added to what was shared in common, but upon that shared substrate, diversity must not only be accepted, but encouraged.  Without diversity, the ability to respond to new challenges would be weakened.


KAMAL KHARRAZI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said the world faced the formidable challenge of two distinct, yet interconnected, faces of extremism:  the violence and terrorism of non-State actors and the unbridled militarism of States.  The former had led to increasing insecurity and the latter to increasing lawlessness.  Lawless militarism by the powerful had given rise to increased violence and terrorism, but was also marketed as their panacea.  Thus, while fighting relentlessly against extremism’s first face, in a collective and all-inclusive manner, the international community must also muster the courage to guard against its latter face and remain within the confines of law among nations.


The brute and unsanctioned use of military force to achieve some political, albeit desirable, goals had been clearly demonstrated by the illegal attack on Iraq, he said.  Although, Iran had benefited greatly from Saddam Hussein’s removal, it must, on principle, regard the action as “fruit of the forbidden tree”.  Having shown that it would not celebrate the achievement of a desirable goal through illegal means that glorified military power, the international community must find a way to liberate itself from the vicious cycle whereby the increasing lawlessness of States constituted a grave danger to security, undermining the collective ability to contain terrorism and violence and offsetting efforts to promote justice, equality, freedom, dignity and prosperity for all.  Having arrived at the present situation in Iraq, the way forward was now to condemn all acts of violence and terrorism; to promote security, unity, territorial integrity and political independence; and to ensure the speedy withdrawal of foreign forces.


The international community must also act resolutely regarding the existence and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he added.  As the only victim in recent years, of their unbridled use, Iran felt strongly the absolute imperative to eradicate all such weapons, and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons as an interim measure.  Disarmament and non-proliferation treaties must be applied in a universal, comprehensive and nondiscriminatory manner.  Thus, while insisting on its right to technology for peaceful purposes, Iran would leave no stone unturned in providing assurances of its peaceful intentions.  Moreover, the country had been at the forefront of efforts to establish a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, an initiative which had been systematically obstructed by Israel.  It was time for the international community to show its resolve and compel Israel to disarm.


Finally, lamenting the continued gross violations of human rights under the Israeli occupation, he reiterated that a durable peace in Palestine would only be possible if based on justice, the end of occupation, restoration of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, the right of return and the establishment of a State with Al-Quds al Sharif as its capital.  In Afghanistan, significant progress had been made in public administration, fiscal management and social development, but continued attacks on humanitarian personnel and drug trafficking continued to undermine the electoral process and remained a source of concern.


PEDRO VERONA RODRIGUES PIRES, President of Cape Verde, said the economic and developmental problems confronting small island States, such as his, were unique problems and, as such, called for similarly unique attention.  On behalf of small island developing States, he appealed for the support of the international community if success was to be assured.  He said respect for international law among nations was vital in the search for a common response to common problems, and condemned the use of terrorism as a means of settling disputes.  It was for that reason that he believed the struggle for peace could not be halted, and thus why the United Nations should work tirelessly towards resolving problems peacefully.


He said nations, especially small developing nations, while making concerted efforts to improve their conditions, were still confronted with the problem of hunger and poverty.  Success in the war against hunger and poverty, he asserted, would have a positive effect in those countries, as well as for an improvement in the human condition in the world, as whole.


He called for a united front against HIV/AIDS and other pandemic illnesses.  Mankind had the resources to attain its goals.  Further, he hailed the “genuine commitment” of the African Union to confront the continent’s many problems.  But, he explained that success in that regard could not be guaranteed without the support of the international community.  Peace was not merely the absence of war; it required a strategy for peace-building.  Peace and stability within States, likewise, called for unifying policies and programmes that met the legitimate aspirations of the people.


Continuing, Mr. Pires noted that a huge movement towards democratization was under way all over the world.  However, democratization alone was not enough to guarantee peace and security as there could be no freedom without dignity.  There were still tenuous vestiges of inequity, such as racism, economic inequities and others, that still hindered attainment of that freedom.  He also pointed to imbalances in power, and said that the international community should seek better balances among States.  Further, it was important that tolerance and respect for cultural diversity among communities was reflected in relations among States.  On reform of the Organization, he said there was a need to move forward with reform of the United Nations, in particular, the Security Council.  Only then could there be fair and equitable representation in the affairs of mankind.


TUILA’EPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Samoa, condemning all acts of terrorism, said his country would continue to support the anti-terrorism campaign.  At the annual Pacific Islands Forum Summit hosted by Samoa last month, the Pacific leaders had addressed the dangers posed to their region by terrorism, transnational crime, illicit drugs and the spread of small arms.  The Pacific Islands Forum had consequently strengthened cooperation in counter-terrorism measures and emphasized national efforts and regional cooperation in combating transnational organized crime.  Samoa, deploring the violence that had killed so many people in Iraq and the circumstances that had brought it about, fully supported the re-establishment of Iraqi sovereignty and prayed for the success of a credible election process to create a government with a popular mandate.


Turning to conflicts in the Pacific region, he said the Pacific Islands Forum was committed to collective mechanisms to help regional governments recover from national conflicts and crises.  The success of those arrangements was already evident in the Solomon Islands, as well as in Bougainville, where elections for an autonomous government were scheduled for the end of the year.  The Forum had also provided police to the United Nations peacekeeping missions in Timor-Leste and Liberia.  The appropriate United Nations bodies should explore innovative ways to help small States continue their efforts to contribute to the Organization’s security and peace initiatives.  Samoa also called on the United Nations system and the international community to provide the necessary support for the development programmes of small island developing States.  Furthermore, World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations should take into full account the vulnerabilities of small island developing States with regard to special treatment for small economies.


PATRICK MANNING, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said his country had launched a national strategic development plan, Vision 2020, to turn it into a technologically driven, knowledge-based and globally competitive developed nation by 2020 or sooner.  Its development was intertwined with that of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), its second largest export market.  Since 1996, Trinidad and Tobago had provided CARICOM with $1.4 billion in capital market activities, direct foreign investment, debt relief and direct assistance.  In 2003, it had provided $505 million in loans and had recently set up a grant facility for poverty-eradication projects.


Still, a friendlier international economic environment was needed for Caribbean economies to develop and benefit from globalization, he continued, stressing the need for softer trade agreements and increased inward financial flows in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals and to prevent shortages in capital, housing, education and health care.


Turning to the crisis in Haiti, he supported the recent decision by the Economic and Social Council to set up an ad hoc advisory group on Haiti for long-term aid.  Trinidad and Tobago was providing direct financial aid and other assistance to Haiti, as well as to other CARICOM countries whose economies and infrastructure had been ravaged by hurricanes.  Urging the international community and donor agencies to do their part, he added that the January 2005 international meeting in Mauritius to review implementation of the Barbados Plan of Action must comprehensively address new and emerging threats to sustainable development in small island developing States.


AYAD ALLAWI, Prime Minister of Iraq, said the actions that had brought down Saddam Hussein’s regime had produced a change for the betterment of his country and the world.  Terrorists and extremists were, however, still trying to target the dream of the Iraqi people for peace, as well as destroy its civilization and culture.  He appealed to the General Assembly to help his country defeat those elements.  Saddam’s regime had brutalized and traumatized the Iraqi people and driven many from the country.  He had also soiled relations among Iraqis by sowing divisions based on race and religion for three decades.  To date, 262 mass graves had been discovered and more would continue to be found, proving the corruption and brutality of Saddam’s regime.


Iraq, however, was now a country that respected laws, human rights and freedoms, he stated.  The new Government also gave its people their due respect within a framework shaped by democratic freedoms.  Elections would be held in January 2005 and his Government was committed to adhering to the deadline despite the obvious complexities.  Those elections were vital to improving the security situation of Iraq.  Yet, there was still a tiny minority of extremists who hated democracy, did not want the country to succeed and sought to deprive Iraqis of their rights.  Those terrorists even included foreigners who had infiltrated from neighbouring countries.  They were not freedom fighters and they did not intend to liberate Iraq, but instead to destroy the dreams and aspirations of the Iraqi people.  They also wanted to destroy physical infrastructure and prevent economic growth.


He said the most important priority was to defeat the terrorists by hunting them down and bringing them to justice, as well as restoring economic progress and the rule of law.  In that respect, Iraq appealed to its neighbours and the international community for help.  Some countries had objected to the way Saddam Hussein had been removed and the war.  That was their right.  But that should not now stop cooperation to help Iraq move forward.  The Security Council had legitimized the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country and had even urged the international community to support it.  “We need more assistance from our neighbours and the international community as whole to meet our objectives and the needs of the Iraqi people”, he said.  Nevertheless, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would train Iraq’s security forces, and he welcomed that development along with the various forms of cooperation with regional organizations and the European Union.  He stressed the importance of making sure that Iraq’s national borders were strengthened to stop infiltrators coming into his country.  Again, he appealed for assistance now, rather than next year to do that.  He also called for more security to protect the United Nations mission in Iraq.

The problem of foreign debt was a serious obstacle to Iraq’ recovery, he stated.  His country owed billions of dollars that was beyond its capability to repay.  It was also a burden on Iraqi people that had been put on them by wars and other issues that were not of their making.  He appealed to debtor nations for generosity, because without that it would not be possible to rebuild Iraq.  He also asked donor countries that had pledged financial assistance to fulfil their obligations, so that his country could leave the past behind and finance development projects for the future.  He welcomed the United Nations assistance team that had been dispatched to help prepare for the January 2005 elections and looked forward to the return of all United Nations agencies in the future.  He also paid tribute to the United Nations workers who lost their lives in the attack in Baghdad last year.


JEAN ASSELBORN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, said international order could only be guaranteed and maintained by adherence to international law.  The path of negotiation and the Road Map were the only viable means to the resolution of the Middle East impasse, a position reaffirmed by the Quartet’s meeting yesterday.  Similarly, the political, economic and social reintegration and reconstruction of Iraq had to be founded on the same principles.  The Security Council had a vital role to play in the maintenance of peace and security, crisis management and other areas.


He said the fight against terrorism could not be won solely by military means, adding that more peaceful methods were needed.  Also, the disturbing news from Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regarding those countries’ nuclear capabilities needed to be fully clarified.  Reliance on the shared quest for common solutions to common problems must be fully adhered to by all.  Luxembourg would continue to support peaceful conflict-resolution mechanisms within the framework of multilateralism.  The country continued to support the Kosovo multinational stabilization force (KFOR) in that regard.


Emphasizing that development should remain the focus of the international community, he called for stepped-up efforts in that direction, particularly because many countries, especially in Africa, continued to be severely affected by poverty, hunger and disease.  They required the firm commitment and increased support of the international community if the set goals were to be realized, especially in the fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  It was critical to maintain a multilateral consensus based on a combination of official development assistance (ODA), enhanced good governance and the rule of law.


He said there was a need to ensure that the United Nations was opened up even more if the new issues and new challenges facing the world today were to be fully met.  Matters of peace and security, as well as those of development, should be managed together in a spirit of multilateralism.  While that goal was vital, the risks were equally significant, and unity was needed to chart a new course that would allow the international community to move forward together.  Only by closing ranks would the United Nations remain a vital centre for the maintenance of international peace and security.


AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, repeated a call for the convening of an international conference on terrorism under the auspices of the United Nations in order to find ways to combat terrorism more effectively and collectively.  The General Assembly should establish an open-ended working group to consider proposals to improve the Organization’s efforts to combat terrorism.  Regional preparatory meetings should be convened to catalogue regional needs and identify areas of cooperation with the aim of adopting a draft comprehensive framework convention to combat terrorism at a high-level international meeting.


He criticized the international community for applying “double standards” in addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- turning a blind eye to the continued stockpiling of nuclear capabilities by one party in the Middle East, while imposing a strict non-proliferation regime on other countries, among them, all the Arab States.  In addition, the continued suffering of the Palestinian people had been met with an “inexplicable international silence”, while Israel continued to build a separation wall on Palestinian lands, even though an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice had declared the wall’s construction illegal.  Israel’s intended withdrawal from the Gaza Strip could be significant, but it must take place as an integral part of the Road Map.


Calling on the United Nations to continue its pivotal role in assisting the people of Iraq to rebuild, he criticized the international community’s response to the humanitarian tragedy in the Darfur region of the Sudan.  “Can we not provide humanitarian assistance and relief to the inhabitants of Darfur without encroaching upon Sudan’s national sovereignty?” he asked.


He also emphasized the need for reform of the Security Council.  As a member of the African Group and working in coordination with the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt was fully committed to the 1997 Harare Declaration, which affirmed Africa’s right to two permanent seats and three non-permanent seats on an expanded Council.  Egypt also noted that its central role in the African, Arab, and Islamic spheres eminently qualified it to assume responsibilities as a permanent member on an expanded Council.


JAN PETERSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said the fight against terrorism must continue to be a top priority for the United Nations and the world community.  The campaign must be carried out in accordance with international law, human rights, democratic values and the rule of law, which were the strongest cards in the fight against terror.


Citing the many challenges facing the United Nations today, he said unified efforts were needed to bring peace and stability to Iraq.  However, functional democracy and constitutional institutions could only be created by the Iraqis themselves.  The international community and the United Nations should facilitate the process, provided that the necessary security was ensured.  In Afghanistan, reconstruction and efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable had been blocked, and there was a continued need for international security forces.  Without security, there could be no progress, and without progress, no security.  There, too, the United Nations must continue to play an important role.


He further appealed to Member States to support the Palestinian Authority.  A viable and well functioning Palestinian Authority was critical to a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  Palestinian leaders must contribute to a peaceful solution by implementing the reforms set out in the Road Map, and the Palestinian Authority had a clear responsibility to fight Palestinian terrorism.


Turning to the crisis in Darfur, he said the targeting of humanitarian personnel in conflict areas constituted grave breaches of international humanitarian law.  While such violence had necessitated a reconsideration of the approach to security, excessively strict security rules would prevent the United Nations from acting effectively on the ground.  Norway welcomed the African Union’s response to the Darfur crisis and stood ready to provide continued support both to the African Union and the United Nations in terms of security and humanitarian relief.


ERNST WALCH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, supported the Secretary-General’s call for adherence to the principles of multilateralism and international law in matters of peace and security, stressing the importance of an in-depth analysis of how the United Nations should address new threats and challenges through new approaches and changes. Liechtenstein welcomed the upcoming report of the High-Level Panel on Global Threats and Challenges and other Member Sates must be poised to expand the existing multilateral architecture as the Panel saw fit.  Collective action was also needed to deal effectively with the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS, poverty and environmental degradation.  He praised the establishment of the International Criminal Court, but warned that long-standing international human rights standards had been dangerously eroding, a trend that must be reversed immediately.


Regarding reform of the Security Council, he said it was not sound for a handful of States to make major decisions.  Liechtenstein supported greater openness and inclusiveness, as well as a strong, dynamic Council with a better system of checks and balances, and remained ready to contribute towards that end.  All Member States should interact with and express their views to the Council regardless of whether or not they were members.  Moreover, there should be a greater, more efficient and effective role for the General Assembly.


JULIAN ROBERT HUNTE, Minister of External Affairs, International Trade, and Civil Aviation of Saint Lucia, said that the world today differed sharply from the one envisaged in the United Nations Charter.  “Instead of a world of peace, security, and economic and social progress, in which human rights, fundamental freedoms and international law are fully respected,” he said, “our world is buffeted by poverty, hunger, the spread of endemic disease, including HIV/AIDS, conflicts, war, terrorism, and other grave problems.”  Meanwhile, the United Nations itself was passing through a period of intense questioning and doubt as to its capacity and relevance, intensified by concern that some of the Organization’s most powerful Member States might turn away from multilateralism.  He said that the Security Council must be reformed, an issue that was discussed during his presidency over the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly.


The developing world appeared to be on a “very long road” to sustainable development, he said, stating that current inconsistencies and inequities in the global trading system had widened the gap between the rich and poor.  Noting that in 2005 there would be a comprehensive review of commitments made in furthering the United Nations development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals, he said there was an obvious disjunction between what had been agreed and what had been done.  “Why is it that we continue to fail the poor, the hungry, the sick, and disenfranchised among us, despite numerous specialized high-level meetings we have convened to address their condition?” he asked.


The particular vulnerabilities of small island developing States, of which Saint Lucia is one, were underscored by the deadly hurricanes that continued to traverse the Caribbean region, he said.  Enumerating the losses suffered across the region, he said that Hurricane Ivan had destroyed 90 per cent of Grenada’s physical infrastructure.  “When a small island developing State loses 90 per cent of its physical infrastructure in the space of a few hours, the challenge to that country is formidable”, he said.  “For Grenada, it is like starting over.”  Saint Lucia called upon the international community to make a commitment to the reconstruction of Grenada, as an urgent matter, and to convene at an early date an international donor conference to mobilize the required resources.


KASSYMZHOMART TOKAEV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the Security Council’s structure was not suitable for dealing with current global realities and that the organ should be expanded to include a wider representation of Asian, African and Latin American States.  Recent alarming developments, particularly the massacre in Beslan, highlighted the urgent need to reform the United Nations.  Also, the “enemy State” clauses in the United Nations Charter were obsolete, and there was a need for the creation of a Council of Regional Organizations under the supervision of the Secretary-General. Kazakhstan supported an early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) since destructive actions on the part of several known States had seriously eroded the Treaty, fuelling the prospect of an uncontrolled spread of weapons of mass destruction, most importantly to terrorists.  Creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia was an important, timely proposal.


Central Asia’s well-being was largely dependent on the normalization of Afghanistan, he continued, expressing his support for the Afghan Government’s efforts towards peace and security, humanitarian relief and socio-economic rehabilitation.  The rapid spread of illicit drugs, illegal migration and religious extremism in the region, coupled with poverty, ecological degradation and scarce water resources, were worrisome and made it a breeding ground for international terrorism.  Kazakhstan was doing its part to build confidence and security in the region.  The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building in Asia, a Kazak initiative, was poised to adopt a catalogue of military, political, economic, cultural and environmental measures.


FELIPE PEREZ ROQUE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said every year the United Nations went through the same ritual.  “We attend the general debate knowing beforehand that the clamour for justice and peace will be ignored once again.”  There was, however, persistence by developing countries, because they knew they were right and that one day they would achieve social justice and development.  Nevertheless, it would not be offered on a platter, but would have to be seized from “those who deny us justice today, because they underpin their wealth and arrogance on the disdain for our grief”, he said.


He said that after the aggression on Iraq, the United Nations “is living through the worst moment of its already 60 years.  It languishes, it pales, it pants, it feigns, but it does not work”.  United States President George Bush had now handcuffed the Organization, which had been named by Theodore Roosevelt, a former President of that country.  He also called for the withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq.  The lives of over 1,000 American youths had been uselessly sacrificed to serve the spurious interest of a clique of cronies and buddies.  Also, following the death of more than 12,000 Iraqis, it was clear that the only way out for the occupying Power, faced by a rebellious people, was to recognize that it was impossible to subdue them and to withdraw.


For the time being, there could be no valid, real and useful reform of the United Nations.  Any such reform would require the super-Power to relinquish its privileges.  That super-Power would not do that.  The anachronistic privilege of the veto would remain and the Security Council would not be democratized or expanded to include third world countries.  “The General Assembly will continue to be ignored ... at the United Nations there will be more actions driven by the interests imposed by the super-Power and its allies”, he said.  “We, as the non-aligned countries, will have to entrench ourselves in defending the United Nations Charter -– otherwise it will be redrafted with the deletion of every trace of principles such as the sovereign equality of States, non intervention and the non-use or the threat to use force”, he said.


The over 130 underdeveloped countries must, therefore, build a common front for the defence of the interests of their people and their right to development, as well as peace, he said.  There must be a revitalization of the Non-Aligned Movement and a strengthening of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  The modest objectives of the Millennium Summit would not be accomplished and “we will reach the fifth anniversary of the Summit in a worse situation”.  He said impoverishment was growing, rather than declining.  And, at the current pace, reducing by half the 842 million starving people would be achieved by 2215, not 2015 as envisaged.  Based on estimates by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF, universal primary education would be possible after 2100, and again not by 2015.  Also, very little had been done to assist Africa.  African nations did not need foreign advice or models, but financial resources and access to both markets and technologies.


LUIS ERNESTO DERBEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, called on the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council to work as part of a functional system, and not as entities disconnected and sometimes even at odds with their tasks, priorities and methods of work.  The predominance attained by the Security Council had resulted in a growing disregard of the work of other principal organs.  Thus, issues that had been marginalized but reached certain levels of crisis automatically became matters under the responsibility of the Security Council itself.  It should now be acknowledged that the process of reform as a whole, had been dominated, and in fact paralysed, as a result of the debate about Security Council reform.


Underscoring his country’s belief that any process of reform of the Council should be governed by a set of common objectives and criteria applicable to all, he asked why it was that after more than a decade of work, the international community had not succeeded in their efforts to reform the Council.  He stressed that the Security Council should develop a better capacity to prevent the emergence of conflicts, in particular, through building and consolidating national institutions and upholding the rule of law and the respect for human rights.  He was supportive of collective decision-making as the source of the legitimacy and efficacy of all actions in favour of peace and security.  It was for that reason that Mexico backed equitable and balanced regional enlargement of the number of elected members, based on modalities determined within the regional groups.


Further, the creation of new permanent seats would lead to an even greater concentration in the international decision-making process, he stated, adding that it could not be ignored that permanent members already had more influence in that regard than the rest of the membership.  That influence should be restricted, not further encouraged.  He believed that would stimulate a wider participation in the decision-making process, so that more, not less, contributed with their views in the Council.  Thus, Mexico would back an increase in the number of elected members, and an extension of their term, with the option of immediate extension for those States that had demonstrated, through their performance, a strong commitment to the purposes of the Organization, he explained.  As part of that integral vision of reform, he went on, it was critical to strengthen the role of the Economic and Social Council, so that it supported the Council and the Assembly in the decision-making process.  He said, in light of the scope of the challenge of the reform that lay ahead, Mexico was in favour of calling for a general conference, with the aim of updating and strengthening the Organization.


ABUBAKR A. AL-QIRBI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of YEMEN, reaffirmed Yemen’s commitment to fight extremism and terrorism, citing the progress it had made in combating terrorists, including the defeat of a group of rebels in the Sa’dah region of Yemen.  He further stressed Yemen’s conviction that the struggle for national liberation and for ending foreign occupation was a legitimate right under the United Nations Charter, international law and the basic principles of justice and human rights.  Such a struggle, therefore, could not be treated as terrorism.


Noting the widening gap between rich and poor countries, due in part to economic policies that strengthened the dominance of wealthy nations over poor countries, he urged wealthier nations to fulfil their pledges.  He said the recognition of the Group of 8 industrial nations that peace, economic growth and political development were achievable through a process of overall development in the region was a long overdue vision, that required genuine partnership and the abandonment of policies of coercion.  For its part, Yemen was committed to building a better future for its people and had instituted numerous economic and political reforms to broaden popular involvement in governance and to strengthen its partnership with other countries.


Turning to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said the United Nations had failed to put an end to the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and to Israel’s repeated threats to Arab countries.  Yemen’s position regarding the question of Palestine was based on the principles laid out in the Road Map and on the Arab peace initiative, which called for the establishment of a State of Palestine with full sovereignty over its territory and Jerusalem as its capital, Israel’s withdrawal from all Arab territories it occupied in June 1967, and the return of refugees to their homes.  Peace in the Middle East would be elusive as long as Israel was allowed to circumvent United Nations resolutions.  Yemen called on the Security Council to ensure the physical safety of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and to provide protection against Israeli State-sponsored terrorism.


Regarding Iraq, he said it was incumbent upon the United Nations to fulfil its role set forth in relevant resolutions regarding the need to support Iraq with a view to restore peace and stability throughout the country.  The interim Iraqi Government should be enabled to exercise full sovereignty in order to lead Iraq towards holding democratic elections, installing a constitutional government that represented the will of the Iraqi people, and restoring law and order to put an end to the occupation.  The international community must rally to assist the interim Government in Iraq and the national and legislative councils, with a view to safeguarding the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.


KAREL DE GUCHT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said that only dialogue and cooperation could push international initiatives forward, as was evident from the careful building process of the European Union.  Belgium fully supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to reinforce the United Nations system, but believed the Organization should better reflect today’s new international realities.


Leading a list of priority concerns around the globe, the crisis in the Great Lakes region required the sustained commitment of the United Nations, he said.  Belgium would continue to appeal to its European partners for collective and committed involvement in the region, where millions of lives had been lost to the conflict.  It was also essential to guarantee peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the restructuring and integration of the army were an indispensable prerequisites to a successful transition process.  Belgium was currently training close to 300 Congolese soldiers as part of a “Train-the-Trainers” programme, and also attached great importance to the role played by the United Nations troops there.


Belgium had provided significant backing to the organization of elections in Burundi, where the latest political developments were encouraging, he said.  The humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan was also of concern and required the swift establishment of an international commission of inquiry to look into the persecution and systematic massacre of thousands of human beings there.  Finally, Belgium had allocated approximately €17 million to the reconstruction process in Iraq. 


Addressing the issue of terrorism, he suggested that while military means and security measures would remain necessary, other strategies to address that problem should be sought.  “I plead for a genuine dialogue between the West and the Muslim and Arab world”, he said.  “Not only between the political leaders but also with the spiritual leaders.”


JESUS ARNALDO PEREZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said that since the start of the new millennium, there had been widespread dissent against neo-liberalism and war, with massive protests against the World Trade Organization.  The illegal war on Iraq had strengthened those global protests.  Venezuela supported the belief that peace required greater determination, courage and heroism than war.


Citing a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on the state of Latin American democracy released in March, he said, it revealed that more than half of Latin Americans would prefer a dictatorship over democracy if an authoritarian regime would solve their economic problems.  It was important to give the needy the necessary tools for development.


In that regard, the Combating Hunger and Poverty initiative led by Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva was a wonderful initiative that reflected the common goal to end global poverty and social injustice and to guarantee security and development, he continued.  Food sovereignty must replace food aid.  Venezuela was fostering the development of community-run farm cooperatives and had launched a far-reaching land reform programme.  Regarding initiatives to strengthen the United Nations, Venezuela supported greater participation by the leadership of Southern countries, particularly in the Security Council, and backed Brazil’s bid to become a permanent member.


WŁODZIMIERZ CIMOSZEWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that the present session of the General Assembly should be remembered as a session of reform, laying the foundations for a substantial overhaul of the Organization.  Poland looked forward to the recommendations of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and thanked members of the Panel who came to Warsaw earlier this year to consult with European representatives on the subject of reform.  He hoped that the report of the Warsaw Conference would make a constructive contribution.  Any reform package should include ideas about the reform of United Nations bodies, especially the Security Council.  There was also a pressing need to raise the performance of United Nations bodies in such areas as socio-economics, development, and the environment.  “There is a real danger that the Millennium Goals will not be fulfilled”, he warned, “which would deliver a serious blow to the credibility of the United Nations.”


Reform should not stop at the institutional level, he said, but should encompass the functional and conceptual basis of the Organization.  Predictable threats caused by wars between countries have been replaced by indefinite and unpredictable threats caused by international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and an increasing number of States in distress, which were unable to exercise effective power over their territory and population.  Those new threats cast a different light on the concepts used to regulate international order —- including the non-use of force, sovereignty, legitimacy, and accountability -— and required new political guidelines, he said.  “We need a certain code of conduct”, he concluded, “which will give us sufficient predictability as to how we, as Members of the United Nations, will act on the international scene, when we will employ the United Nations as our instrument of choice, as well as how we will make the best use of its potential.”


GEIR HAARDE, Minister of Finance and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Iceland, said the Security Council must be more representative of current global concerns, particularly the spectre of terrorism, and made more efficient and effective.  It was time that certain countries that had made considerable contributions to the work of the United Nations be given permanent seats on the Security Council.  It was also important to ensure that the Council and the multilateral system overall understood and took into account the issues of smaller States, he said, noting that the Nordic States in the Western European and Other States Group -- Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden -- had endorsed Iceland’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Council in 2009 and 2010.


Sub-Saharan Africa remained a focus of Icelandic bilateral development cooperation, he continued, noting that Iceland was participating with other Nordic countries in the Nordic Africa Initiative.  Iceland was also concerned with the situation in Afghanistan.  It was charged with running the KabulInternationalAirport under the auspices of the International Security Assistance Force led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and would continue to support rebuilding of the country.


PATRICIO ZUQILANDA, Minster for Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, said it was time for the international community and the United Nations to give absolute priority and exert determined political will to tackle the question of civilians in armed conflict.  It was up to the Security Council to act resolutely in such “bloody and inhuman” situations, where the rule of international humanitarian law had vanished.  That 15-nation body must reinforce the protection of civilians in armed conflict in order to prevent the failure of the entire international juridical structure.


He went on to say that Ecuador had been welcoming thousands of refugees from Colombia and other nations who had fled their countries because their lives, freedom and security had been threatened.  Solving the attendant critical humanitarian situation would require the commitment of all countries and global organizations.  Under the principle of shared responsibility, refugee and immigrant destination countries like Ecuador received greater technical and economic support in order to alleviate the social burdens that accompanied the arrival of significant numbers of refugees in border communities, which, in many cases, were already poverty-stricken and lacking basic services.


He urged the international community to stand by its commitments towards the implementation of initiatives within the framework of the 1998 Bi-National Development Plan for Ecuador’s common border with Peru.  Ecuador was facing problems due to the persistent obstacles that developed countries had imposed on the commercial exchange of exportable products, as well as the huge subsidies those countries granted their own products.


Turning to other issues, he said that international migration had become more of a problem in the past decade as deteriorating conditions in developing countries had resulted in increased flows towards industrialized centres.  The human rights of migrants were often ignored and they faced restrictive and unfair policies when they arrived in their new homes.  Ecuador was strongly committed to finding solutions to that huge problem by strictly controlling illegal migration.  All governments, as well as civil society, must try harder to protect migrants and migrant workers.  The international community must make the protection and security of all individuals a global policy objective.


JOÃO BERNARDO DE MIRANDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola, stressed the urgent need for reform of the United Nations, citing the difficulties the Organization has experienced in dealing with situations related to international security.  He said the Security Council should be enlarged in both categories, based on geographical balance, to allow for a more equitable expression of the will of its members.


While the last 50 years had seen important advancements in science and technology that had resulted in an improvement of living conditions, not all countries had shared in those gains.  It was essential to make the eradication of hunger and poverty a priority in the United Nations agenda.  Restrictions to free trade had further contributed to the deterioration of living conditions in developing countries.  Such trade restrictions constituted an assault against moral and humanitarian principles.  Wealthy nations had a moral responsibility to foster a spirit of partnership and contribute to the development of less affluent countries.  In his own country, the task of post-conflict national reconstruction was an extremely difficult task that required the full participation of the international community.


As a country which fought for 40 years for peace and freedom, Angola was gravely concerned about the prevailing instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with whom it shared an extensive border.  The massacres of civilians in Gatumba indicated that, despite significant efforts towards peace in the Democratic Republic, the situation there was still fragile and needed the special attention of the Security Council and the African Union in order to avoid a collapse of the process.  It was critical for all countries neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo to reiterate their respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and to avoid interfering in its internal affairs.  The transitional Government needed the support of the international community, and Angola was willing, within the measure of its possibilities, to supply the necessary assistance towards the consolidation of peace and stability.


Right of Reply


Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Haiti said the statement made earlier in the day by the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, that Haiti’s democratic process had been “interrupted” on 28 February, did not reflect political realities.  He said that the power vacuum created after the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been duly noted by the United Nations and the international community, and that Interim President Boniface Alexandre was leading a government of consensus established to hold free and fair elections in 2005.


He said the Provisional Government was deeply committed to the principles of respect for human rights and human dignity, and was working with the international community to strengthen State institutions, and particularly the judiciary.  He took issue with the criticism by the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines of a judicial decision in Haiti which did not involve the executive branch of government.  He said that such criticism could harm efforts towards political stabilization and could be interpreted as an endorsement of the violence and insecurity that persisted in certain parts of the country.


On a point of order, the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines reserved the right to reply to the Haitian delegate’s statement at a later date.


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For information media. Not an official record.