|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
19th (resumed) & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES HIGH-LEVEL DIALOGUE ON INTERRELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING;
PRESIDENT SAYS, ‘THERE IS MUCH MORE THAT UNITES US THAN DIVIDES US’
Also Takes Up Secretary-General’s Report on Work of Organization
“It is clear that there is much more that unites us than divides us,” General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said today as he wrapped up the world body’s first ever dialogue on interfaith and intercultural understanding with a call on Member States to go home and spread the message in their communities and neighbourhoods that no matter what religion, creed or culture, “the human family shares a common yearning for peace, prosperity and happiness”.
“Open and sustained dialogue, respect for freedom of expression and religious belief, are fundamental to our endeavour to promote a culture of peace,” said Mr. Karim, summing up the Assembly’s High-Level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding for Cooperation and Peace, which opened last Thursday as a two day meeting, but due to the interest of some 80 delegations, spilled over into a third day.
Mr. Karim, of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said that without exception, all speakers during the dialogue recognized that interfaith and intercultural understanding formed the bedrock of social well-being, stability and prosperity. Extremists and terrorists who furthered their political interests by misrepresenting religion were denounced by all. As well as spreading violence, those groups and individuals also spread ignorance and misunderstanding, he added.
Many speakers also noted that intolerance, disrespect and extremism were on the rise and linked this to unresolved international conflicts and social and economic injustice. In that regard, a number of participants called on the international community to do more to find sustainable solutions to conflicts in the Middle East, Darfur, Iraq and Kosovo, noting that lasting peace could be achieved by promoting better intercultural and interfaith understanding.
“We all need to acknowledge and respect the pluralism of views and beliefs that exist […] we should all become examples of tolerance and mutual understanding in our daily lives,” he said, urging Member States to “go forth and strive to build a new culture of international relations based on human rights and security, mutual cooperation and respect for international law”.
Those values were enshrined in the Organization’s founding Charter, and, if fully implemented, would establish a new culture of international relations based on peace, tolerance and mutual respect. While the United Nations was an excellent forum for dialogue, it must not stop there. “If we want to promote this dialogue we should go back and spread the message in our communities and neighbourhoods throughout the world,” he said, noting that the success of such dialogue rested not only on Governments, but on the active involvement of the private sector, civil society, faith groups, non-governmental organizations and the media.
He said that representatives of these groups, who had participated in two informal panel discussions with Member States last Thursday, had highlighted practical measures to advance interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation including adapting school curricula and teacher training to emphasize multicultural knowledge and awareness, increasing global student exchange programmes, and promoting respectful and inclusive dialogue, especially for minority communities.
In other business, today the Assembly kicked off its substantive work for the sixty-second session by beginning its annual review of the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization. Among the more than 20 delegations taking the floor, Pakistan’s representative was concerned that the United Nations was unable to effectively address today’s complex challenges or to exploit opportunities. To realize the Organization’s potential, States must reconcile their conflicting visions of its purpose and functions.
“The United Nations is not an instrument for serving the unilateral interests of any power; rather it is a vehicle for promoting multilateral cooperation,” he said. From a small and medium State perspective, the uneven treatment of issues, which catered to the interests of big powers, was a shortcoming. That inequality was evident in the field of peace and security, particularly in the Middle East, where the views of most Members were not reflected in Security Council decisions or Secretariat pronouncements.
It was also seen in the omission from the Secretary-General’s annual report of reference to the volatile region of South Asia, and in the approach to disarmament and non-proliferation issues, he said. To ensure equity, it was essential to rebalance the Security Council and General Assembly powers. The Council should restrict its role to maintaining peace and security. Its work must be transparent, and composition made more representative of United Nations wider membership. Finally, he said the Secretariat could not discharge its additional responsibilities under a “zero growth” approach to the Organization’s budget. “The resources provided to the United Nations should be commensurate with its mandate, not the other way around,” he asserted.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Portugal’s representative stressed his delegation’s commitment to developing countries in the implementation of their national development strategies. To that end, the Union had taken effective measures to reach its donor commitment based on the principles of shared responsibility and partnership. It had surpassed its previous targets of official development assistance and had set new ambitious targets for 2010 and 2015.
“As important as increasing the volume of aid,” he added, “is making sure that it is more effective.” Developing countries needed to ensure high levels of governance, adopt ambitious development strategies, and create environments for pro-poor economic growth where the private sector could flourish. The commitments made to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) were positive developments towards that goal. The development and implementation of inclusive country-led strategies was also pivotal in combating the global scourge of HIV/AIDS.
Turning to peace and security, he restated the “unquestionable interconnection between development and security”, and underlined the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations, as well as among international players. Though the European Union had often expressed disappointment at the lack of progress on disarmament and non-proliferation, it was pleased with the progress made over the past year. He appealed to all Member States to build on those positive -- “albeit modest” -- developments with a view to revitalizing the international disarmament agenda.
At the same time, Uganda’s representative was troubled that the international community was not living up to its commitments to address many of the pressing challenges of the day. “It is our hope that making promises will not grow into a fashionable industry,” he said. It was better to not make promises at all, instead of making them with false timelines. Fortunately, Uganda was on track to meet many development goals, including universal education, eradication of extreme poverty and fighting HIV/AIDS. With more assistance, his Government could be sure of achieving those Goals by 2015.
In terms of special needs for Africa, he said poverty elimination should be the main focus. The international community should move from “rhetoric and lamentations to action”, beginning with the implementation of the “quick-impact initiatives” agreed upon at the 2005 World Summit. Though the Office of the Special Adviser for Africa was created to deal specifically with NEPAD, the special needs of Africa went well beyond that narrow mandate.
There was, therefore, the need to devise an institutional architecture that would adequately address the special needs of Africa, including NEPAD. Any new institutional framework should work with the Office of the Special Adviser to eliminate inefficiencies and the scattering of limited resources. He added that peacekeeping in Africa should be expanded beyond the traditional approach of peacekeeping to include “peacemaking”, as well.
Speaking at the final meeting of the High Level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace were the Representatives of India, Cyprus, Iran, Mauritania, Cameroon and Malta, as well as Observers for the Council of Europe, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the League of Arab States.
Taking the floor to address the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization were the representatives of Ethiopia, Egypt, Colombia, the United States, Iceland, Russian Federation, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, Peru, Cuba, Uganda, Japan, India, Vietnam, Australia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Malaysia, South Africa and San Marino.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, 9 October, to continue its consideration of the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization.
The General Assembly met this morning to conclude its High-Level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and to take up the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization.
The report of the Secretary General on the work of the Organization (Document A/62/1), United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon’s first annual report, outlines a number of goals, including streamlining the Organization’s administration, improving communication between Member States and successfully implementing past resolutions and initiatives. In the report, Mr. Ban emphasizes that the peoples of the world had called on the United Nations “to do more –- in more spheres of activity, in more locations, in more challenging circumstances –- than at any point in the Organization’s history”.
The report touches on five main areas of emphasis: development, which includes meeting the Millennium Development Goals; peace and security; human rights, the rule of law and humanitarian affairs; strengthening the United Nations; and global constituencies. It includes summaries of recent work conducted on each topic, as well as ways in which the United Nations could improve its services. Overall, it calls for a “renewed, revitalized and more responsive United Nations” to meet the needs of the world.
On development, the Secretary General said that the year 2007 marks the midpoint between the adoption of the Millennium Declaration and the 2015 deadline for achieving the related Goals. Evidence indicates that, despite uneven progress, the Goals remain achievable if countries meet existing commitments. However, to accomplish the Goals and the challenges presented by climate change and the drain on national capacity and resources from HIV/AIDS, action must be taken without delay. Africa remains a priority, as it suffers more than its share of the destitution caused by poverty, disease and violent conflict, and lags behind the rest of the developing world in achieving the Goals.
Elaborating on both health and climate change, the Secretary-General said ensuring universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS by 2010 remains critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halting, and beginning to reverse, the spread of HIV by 2015. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is active in over 50 countries and has established five regional technical support facilities. Regarding climate change, he said his near term focus is the next Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia. A breakthrough there is needed to reach agreement and launch a process towards a more comprehensive global response to climate change for the years after 2012. Acting now could cost as little as 0.1 per cent of global gross domestic product annually over the next 30 years. In closing he said, “The way we address climate change will define the global legacy our era will leave to future generations.”
In the area of peace and security, heavy demands were placed on the United Nations in the past year. The Middle East was perhaps the greatest test of the Organization’s conflict prevention capabilities. The United Nations worked diligently to foster regional engagement, while promoting a comprehensive, peaceful settlement. The Organization took a positive step forward in Sudan with the creation of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur. Positive developments had also taken place in Nepal, Western Sahara, and Uganda thanks to diverse United Nations initiatives. The management of post-conflict transitional phases in Kosovo, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Timor-Leste also comprised a critical aspect of peacekeeping operations.
The Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund, and the Peacebuilding Support Office achieved significant success, but the report said more needed to be done. The threat of terrorism remains a pressing issue. However, the United Nations has produced a unique tool: the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The Task Force implementing the Strategy has already produced results. In establishing the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the United Nations stepped up its work on disarmament and non-proliferation, which has been mired in deadlock for several years. Progress was now within reach though major challenges in strengthening multilateral norms for disarmament and arms regulation lay ahead.
The international community has made considerable progress in advancing human rights standards. However, the United Nations must continue to dedicate its energies to the challenge of implementing them. Regarding the rule of law, in order to better manage the work of the diverse set of institutions under it, the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group was established as a means to ensure that programmes are carried in a coherent manner and remain commensurate with the need of those requesting the support. The Group is undertaking initiatives to identify areas of synergy and the General Assembly has before it reforms put forward through the Secretariat to strengthen the United Nations internal justice system.
On human rights, it has been a momentous year with the inauguration of the Human Rights Council and milestones have been reached. In its first year, the Council adopted a code of conduct for the mandate holders to bring greater clarity and consistency to its work. In its second year, the United Nations expects the Council to assess individual mandates and identify protection gaps where the system can be strengthened. Also, implementation of a package of reforms, including the establishment of a universal periodic review mechanism by which the Council can monitor human rights in all countries, must take place.
Although the past year brought about the scaling down of several large and complex electoral operations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, the volume of technical electoral assistance to Member States continued to increase, mainly through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The United Nations Democracy Fund has begun to make its mark, funding 122 projects out of 1,300 proposals, with a major focus on the participation of youth and women in decision-making. However, efforts to expand democratic governance still face challenges, especially in placing women and indigenous people in top leadership positions.
Finally, over the past year, numerous crises across the globe underlined the need for more predictable and effective humanitarian response. Two issues warrant particular attention: improving the protection of civilians and increasing the global investment in disaster risk reduction and response preparedness given the impact of climate change. Efforts to reinforce the United Nations humanitarian system should continue to proceed through the Central Emergency Response Fund, which improves the speed and certainty of funding, as well as training and other efforts to bolster the humanitarian coordinator system. Demands for humanitarian assistance -– and the challenges involved in providing it -- will likely grow in the coming years and Member States must increase their contributions accordingly.
On strengthening the United Nations system, the Secretary-General states that the Organization faced a growing array of new challenges, including humanitarian crises, human rights violations, armed conflicts and important health and environmental concerns. Seldom has the United Nations been called upon to do so much for so many. He vows to breathe new life and inject renewed confidence into a strengthened United Nations firmly anchored in the twenty-first century, and which is effective, efficient, coherent and accountable.
Among other things, he says that he is committed to strengthening the accountability framework that Member States have requested and which he had identified as a priority. To that end, he will revive the full range of internal tools such as the Management Performance Board and the Management Committee, which Member States have welcomed as a means of strengthening the accountability framework. These mechanisms are also good vehicles for building a greater sense of awareness, sensitivity and across-the-board managerial commitment to accountability. These are all critical components for ensuring adequate institutional follow-up to the recommendations of the oversight bodies and for keeping the momentum of the reform on track, he says.
On the issue of global constituencies, the report states that over the past year, cooperation with civil society and the private sector continued to develop in response to complex political, economic, social, humanitarian, human rights and environmental challenges.
The report also describes United Nations engagement with civil society on various issues over the past year, highlighting that in the follow-up to three interactive hearings on AIDS, least developed countries and migration and development, civil society took part in informal thematic debates hosted by the sixty-first General Assembly President.
Civil society also participated in the newly created annual ministerial review of the Economic and Social Council and Development Cooperation Forum round tables in July, while non-governmental organizations were engaged in the review process of the 2006 “United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects”. In the field, civil society plays a critical role in the operational activities of many United Nations entities. The World Food Programme alone saw an increase in civil society partners to 4,255 in 2006 from 2,274 a year earlier.
On private sector cooperation, the report states that partnership is increasingly viewed as an effective way to advance United Nations priorities, particularly in philanthropy and in the application of universal values in business operations. Common goals such as building markets and ensuring social inclusion have resulted in unprecedented openness. In the past year, the Global Compact Leaders Summit, which brought together 1,000 leaders from all sectors, demonstrated how corporate responsibility and cross-sector cooperation contribute to United Nations goals. Challenges remained, however, including ensuring that experiences are shared across the system and that staff capacity is increased to engage with the private sector. The Organization must continue to explore ways to maximize its engagement with businesses and improve its accountability.
In conclusion, the report states the United Nation faces a range of pressing global issues, including poverty, global health, peacebuilding, terrorism, climate change, human rights violations and disarmament. These issues are daunting, but not insurmountable. The coming year will be decisive in putting the Organization on the path to addressing them.
High Level Dialogue
RUCHI GHANASHAYAM, Chairperson of delegation of India, speaking about the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, said India had a long tradition of supporting a plurality of beliefs and it was, therefore, not surprising that all major religions could be found in her country. Such openness was reflected in the number of India’s largest minority, the 150 million Muslims who represented the world’s second-largest Muslim population. Respect for all religions and cultures was more than just a part of India’s inheritance; it had been long regarded as an “article of faith” by India’s freedom struggle leaders. That struggle led to the creation of a secular and democratic India, and today’s leaders remained firmly committed to intercultural coexistence.
Interreligious understanding could be promoted by fostering a culture of inclusiveness, she continued, adding that nations that provided equal opportunity to their citizens were particularly well placed to do so. Education and development also acted as barriers to extremism and fundamentalism. India had made strides with education, and other parts of South Asia should replicate its efforts. She called on States to unambiguously reject extremism and violence. Today’s debate could contribute positively to other international efforts only if it proceeded without politicization.
ANDREAS D. MAVROYIANNIS ( Cyprus) said that the primary objective of the High-Level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding should be to integrate that understanding with the objectives of the United Nations itself. He supported all initiatives that contributed to the codification of collective values without any one culture or religion submerging any other or seeking cultural homogeneity. Only through dialogue could overlapping areas in beliefs, attitudes and habits be identified without compromising unique elements of individual cultures. Those common values could serve universal objectives, such as the protection of human rights and the prevention of cultural misunderstandings that could threaten peace and security, and other tasks central to the Organization’s mission.
Essential to achieving the enumerated goals was unconditional respect for the other’s views, “regardless of our agreement with them”, he said. Further, he said, “This kind of respect entails also the desire for knowledge of the other, the integration of an international perspective in education and media, the dissemination of accurate information for cultures and religions, and ultimately the awareness of the complexity and historical depth of notions that may initially appear to be incompatible with our own.” Diversity was inherent to human nature. The current dialogue could enhance individual and collective freedom, respect for human rights and both economic and political development.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said Iran concurred with the view that a mistaken perception of religion, which resulted in a failure to acknowledge its vibrant role in the individual and social life of humankind, constituted a “dark spot” in contemporary history. Without a doubt, human society needed a new and deeper understanding of religion in order to awake sleeping consciences and remove ambiguities and misperceptions created by ill-intended attempts to tarnish the image of divine religions.
Peace, solidarity and compassion comprised the principal teachings of Islam and other divine religions, he continued. Islam also promoted and attached great importance to dialogue, tolerance and coexistence. Attempts to attribute hatred, terrorism and extremism to Islam were a despicable ploy to taint the true face of Islam and its divine values.
At the present time, a unilateral approach to international issues remained a “bitter reality”, he said, and clearly, such an approach did not seek peace. It trampled on international law and abused international organizations to achieve its goals. In the view of Iran, an exchange of opinions aimed at challenging a hostile approach of certain powers should figure prominently among the United Nations’ priorities. Iran emphasized the imperative of using the capacity of all existing initiatives to foster dialogue among religions, cultures and civilizations and called for the design of certain mechanisms to complement those working programmes and action plan.
MOHAMED OULD TOLBA ( Mauritania) noted that the world had become a small, interdependent village. Such a situation meant that the international “family” must work together and make use of dialogue to serve humankind. Mauritania, which was committed to the Muslim faith, urged all to stay away from violence. Promoting justice was the shortest way to fostering peace and security.
Islam was a faith of peace and harmony, he continued, and it was regrettable that the faith had been described as a cause of terrorism. The blasphemous cartoons against Prophet Mohammed had prompted him to use today’s dialogue as a way to show respect to all faiths. He stressed that peaceful education should be incorporated into schools. His Government respected all religions and believed that coexistence among them would promote peace and security. Mauritanian scholars contributed to the dialogue in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU ( Cameroon) said the world paid a heavy price for its lack of interreligious and intercultural understanding and dialogue. Ignorance and intolerance were the root causes of terrorism, religious fanaticism and religious fundamentalism. Though the creation of an ongoing dialogue between religions was not a new idea, interest in it grew after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Regrettably, in the aftermath of those events, some drew the conclusion that humanity had entered a new era of conflict where different civilizations, cultures and religions were, by nature, destined to fight each other for domination. Such a theory, however, was dangerous as it bred a culture of conflict and fear. The current debate was much more constructive and could bring nations to the heart of the matter, which was that civilizations needed to listen to each other, to accept each other and to accept the diversity in the world.
He added that nations needed to reinforce their capacity for mutual understanding, not just between religions and cultures but also in other arenas. Rich countries should listen to poor countries to create a more just distribution of wealth, and all countries should listen to the voices of the past to avoid the repetition of previous atrocities. Religious institutions, educational systems, media, and social science mechanisms would need to be part of any overall programme for the global integration of the values of peace, tolerance and dialogue. However, individuals played the greatest role in building understanding between cultures and civilizations. A culture of peace would find fertile ground for growth in “the heart of the man of peace” and would blossom in his hands. Cameroon was the perfect example of such a growth, as it was currently “a multi-ethnic nation but a single nation, a multicultural nation but a single nation, a multireligious nation but a single nation”. Indeed, the country’s identity was shaped by its diversity. Peace should be built and rebuilt every day and was the work of every moment. Constant dialogue on a global level would ensure that no storm of passions would wipe away that culture of peace. It was his belief that civilizations and cultures could indeed live together and all Member States held the responsibility to protect and promote the unity of humanity.
ELENA MOLARONI, Coordinator for Intercultural Dialogue of the Council of Europe, said societies worldwide had to meet the challenges of growing cultural diversity that was rooted in history and enhanced by the effects of globalization. Europe was taking steps to adapt its societies, because intercultural dialogue would not succeed if the origins of discrimination and marginalization were not addressed. “We are resolved to ensure that our diversity becomes a source of mutual enrichment instead of conflict,” he said. Intercultural dialogue and understanding, together with pluralism and tolerance, were essential tools for mastering that challenge –- tools that public authorities must learn to use well.
A robust consensus on creating trust and basing policies on common values was demonstrated by the Council of Europe’s instrument, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the forthcoming publication of the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue, she said. Like other public authorities, the Council of Europe must remain neutral in cultural and religious matters, but the Council was encouraging religious communities to engage in dialogue and promote human rights, democracy and rule of law. In partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Council has agreed to set up the Faro Open Platform, an inter-institutional framework for cooperation in the area of intercultural dialogue, and was ready to contribute substantially to the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in 2008.
FIAMMA ARDITI MANZO of the observer delegation of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta said that in an increasingly diverse world, it was crucial that social policies encourage religious and cultural interactions in a free and respectful environment. Different peoples and cultures could exist side by side in peace, only if they shared “fundamental ethical criteria”, in particular the right to life and the dignity of the human person. She said that cultural and religious interactions would not survive unless every single human being was respected. This belief motivated the Order of Malta to hold onto its Christian origin “firmly and positively”, while reaching out “in service and membership” to peoples of other religious, cultural and ethnic identities.
Referring to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, she said the Catholic Church was engaged, together with other Christian churches, in a constant struggle for the promotion of human rights and religious freedom, because of its belief in the eminent dignity of the human being and the interpersonal solidarity based on universal fraternity. In general, the international community had shown continuous interest in recent decades in protecting human rights and fundamental liberties, in documents including the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Final Act of the Conference on European Security and Cooperation.
She said the Catholic Church, together with the other major world religions, had an interest in closing the social gap between the rich and the poor. The emphasis on “change from the bottom up” was shared by Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, whose work on cultural understanding she referenced. In order for religious and cultural interactions to bear fruit, she said, it was necessary to have “the awareness that religion is a choice that improves the quality of our lives, not a weapon against our brothers”. At the same time, in order for the objectives of this dialogue to be achieved, it would be necessary for public and private organizations to dedicate themselves to be “at the service of the dignity and destiny of humanity”. Education was an invaluable tool for helping individuals to carry out their obligations to themselves and to society, for which reason the Order of Malta commended the work of UNESCO. Understanding others, and training youths from all social backgrounds, was vital for producing men and women who were cultured and open minded.
MICHAEL SCHULZ, Observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said there was a clear need for the debate and for action at national and local levels. For the IFRC’s part, its network made no distinction based on religious or other difference, and aimed to ensure that all people were joined in a common endeavour to work for peace in an environment free from discrimination.
But, he said in recent years there has been a sharp growth in rhetoric, and in come cases action, based on fundamentalist beliefs. The IFRC had also seen in some communities misunderstandings about the nature of its work. Concerned by those dangerous trends, the IFRC hosted a “specialist think-tank” with national representatives and high-level experts in religious dialogue. Four key discussion points were that organizations and their programmes had to be inclusive and representative of all members of the community; that dialogue needed to be accompanied by action; that there was a need for high-level engagement with Government; and that existing guidelines were adequate to guide humanitarian action. An early opportunity to assess the way partnerships could be built would be at the thirtieth International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, to be held in Geneva 26 to 29 November, under the slogan “Together for Humanity”. Today’s United Nations initiative was important. He was pleased to see that the Secretary-General had recently appointed former President Sampaio of Portugal as his High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. He promised the continued commitment of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in tackling those crucial issues.
YAHYA MAHMASSANI, Chairman of the Observer delegation of the League of Arab States, said promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue required removing barriers among humans and making good use of globalization for both present and future generations. Efforts to promote understanding among all religions and civilizations required the participation of States, the private sector and civil society organizations, using United Nations initiatives as a foundation, especially the Alliance of Civilizations. The Arab world supported that effort and had hopes for its plan of action, whose activities would bring cultures together.
Dialogue also required the recognition of cultural diversity at national and international levels, he said, as that was essential for cultural and religious identity. Genuine partnership between the United Nations and regional organizations meant that dialogue must be conducted as part of a comprehensive strategy. Such dialogue was more urgent that ever before. Today’s complex circumstances had prompted nations to develop new international relations based on mutual respect and to “face up” to “doctrines of dominance”.
His delegation gave the utmost importance to a dialogue for peace, particularly as problems continued to cast a shadow over peace and security, he said. That issue must be kept on the international agenda. To ensure positive dialogue, countries must address each other on the basis of equality and respect in order to eliminate stereotypes. Such equality would help ensure a better future for all.
Statement by General Assembly President
Wrapping up the debate on interfaith and intercultural dialogue, Assembly President SRGJAN KERIM, of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said the discussions, which began last Thursday, had been stimulating, particularly the interactive panels, which had featured participation of representatives from civil society, non-governmental organizations, faith groups and the private sector. Collectively, the international community must now strive to build a new culture of international relations based on human rights and security, mutual cooperation, and respect for international law.
“This dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation for peace is an important avenue to achieve this goal,” he said, stressing that the Assembly’s recent adoption of the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been an important step in recognizing the inherent value of human diversity.
He reminded delegations that, throughout the debate, it was clear that sincere dialogue was an extraordinary tool to promote inclusiveness. During this session and beyond, Member States should demonstrate the sincere willingness to tolerate all views, to search for common ground and “avoid using platforms such as this for political purposes”.
Turning to the substance of the debate, he said that globalization had brought everyone closer together and had made everyone aware of religious and cultural diversities. “It has also exposed the differences between us. One consequence of this has been to ‘exoticize’ difference; another has been the exploitation of religion for political ends, often with violent consequences,” he said, adding that one participant had noted that, unless religions were part of the solution, they would continue to be part of the problem.
He said that, without exception, all speakers during the dialogue recognized that interfaith and intercultural understanding formed the bedrock of our social well-being, stability and prosperity. Diversity was an inherent part of human civilization. “Programmes to establish uniformity around a particular ideology, religious or otherwise, have all failed,” he asserted.
Further, the debate had heard many examples of different religious communities that have lived in harmony over the centuries. Many also noted that intolerance, disrespect and extremism were on the rise and linked this to unresolved international conflicts, as well as social and economic injustice. In that regard, he said that a number of participants called on the international community to do more to find sustainable solutions to conflicts in the Middle East, Darfur, Iraq, and Kosovo, noting that lasting peace could be achieved by promoting better intercultural and interfaith understanding. Others had also called for the full and timely implementation of the Millennium Goals, and the strengthening of human rights institutions.
“Extremists and terrorists who further their political interests by misrepresenting religion were denounced by all,” he said, adding that, as well as spreading violence, those groups and individuals also spread ignorance and misunderstanding. Similarly, several delegations had also noted the conflation of ethnic identity and national identity or citizenship as a tool used to spread instability for political ends. The prominent role of mass media had been acknowledged as an essential element in promoting greater interreligious and intercultural understanding.
He said that he had been honoured to open the interactive hearing of the General Assembly, which allowed for an open discussion with distinguished representatives of civil society, including non-governmental organizations, academia, foundations and the private sector. The focus on programmes for youth, media and education, as well as innovative partnerships with the United Nations, coincided with many of the views expressed by Member States. Recommendations such as adapting school curricula and teacher training to emphasize multicultural knowledge and awareness were stressed, as well as increasing opportunities for international student exchange programmes.
“It is clear that there is much more that unites us than divides us,” he said, stressing that no matter what religion, creed or culture, the human family shared a common yearning for peace, prosperity and happiness. “Open and sustained dialogue, respect for freedom of expression and religious belief, are fundamental to our endeavor to promote a culture of peace,” he said, adding that “religion is, and should be, a source of inspiration to achieve these goals.” “No religion has a superior claim to truth. We all need to acknowledge and respect the pluralism of views and beliefs that exist.”
Those values were enshrined in the Organization’s founding Charter, and if fully implemented, would establish a new culture of international relations based on peace, tolerance and mutual respect. He said that, while the United Nations was an excellent forum for dialogue, “We must not stop here.” “If we want to promote this dialogue we should go back and spread the message in our communities and neighbourhoods throughout the world,” he said, adding that “we should all become examples of tolerance and mutual understanding in our daily lives”. (end)
DESALEGN ALEMU, head of the delegation of Ethiopia, said the culture of peace had become a priority and the absence of war did not mean peace had been achieved. Peace involved a variety of actors at different levels of society drawing from guidelines set out in the United Nations 2001 – 2010 International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. Without peace, there could be no sustainable and social development, and intercultural dialogue remained critical to the process of achieving the goals. It was the responsibility of all to promote the culture of peace through the accommodation of all religions and societies.
Ethiopia, he continued, had a history of fostering diversity, with more than 80 cultures living in peace, and such diverse religions and Christianity and Islam accommodating each other. Christians and Muslims not only lived in peace, but cohabitated and dined together. The celebration of Ethiopia’s peace presented a unique opportunity to contribute to the advancement of the world in peace by working in cooperation with other nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and make poverty history. Achieving such objectives, without a doubt, remained the number one priority in creating a peaceful world for our children.
Statements on Secretary-General’s Report
MUNIR AKRAM ( Pakistan) said the United Nations had been unable to effectively address today’s complex challenges or to exploit opportunities. To realize its potential, States must reconcile their conflicting visions of its purpose and functions. The United Nations was not an instrument for serving the unilateral interests of any power; rather it was a vehicle for promoting multilateral cooperation. From the perspective of small and medium States, he said the uneven treatment of issues, which catered to the interests of big powers, was a shortcoming. That inequality was evident in the field of peace and security, particularly in the Middle East, where the views of most Members were not reflected in Security Council decisions or Secretariat pronouncements. It was also seen in the omission from the annual report of reference to the volatile region of South Asia, and in the approach to disarmament and non-proliferation issues.
To ensure equity, it was essential to rebalance the Security Council and General Assembly powers, he continued. The Council should restrict its role to maintaining peace and security. Its work must be transparent, and composition more representative of United Nations membership. Pakistan endorsed the idea of an “intermediate approach”. Further, Pakistan hoped to secure wide support for its suggestions to empower the General Assembly.
Taking up conflict prevention, he said there was ample scope to promote solutions through conciliation, mediation, arbitration and good offices, and he supported strengthening the Department of Political Affairs. Also, strengthening the Peacebuilding Commission could help prevention efforts, and Pakistan was disappointed that its full potential remained constrained by defence of Security Council “prerogatives”.
Pakistan was satisfied with the success of United Nations peacekeeping efforts, he said, adding that the Organization could face capacity problems in responding to new demands. The United Nations must remain cautious in committing peacekeepers and not become an instrument for unwanted foreign intervention in State affairs. A greater focus should be placed on economic and social development as a cost-effective approach to preventing conflicts. In that regard, the United Nations role focused on policy formulation, development cooperation and monitoring and implementation of agreed goals.
On human rights, he said the replacement of the Commission for Human Rights with the Human Rights Council had not yet changed the culture of political confrontation. There was hope, however, that the consensus reached on decisions relating to the agenda could lead to a more judicious approach to human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was not an independent entity, he said, and its programme must be approved by the Human Rights Council. The Secretariat also needed review. While his country broadly supported various proposals, it would consider further reforms in procurement, accountability and the administration of justice, among other areas. Finally, the Secretariat could not discharge its additional responsibilities under a “zero growth” approach to the Organization’s budget. The resources provided to the United Nations should be commensurate with its mandate, not the other way around.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) commended the Secretary-General on the clarity and ambition of proposals in his report to the Assembly, and agreed that reform was not an end in itself, but was meant to facilitate the overcoming of obstacles to implementation of agreed goals, particularly of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. He further wished that the report had contained more proposals for social development. Health, education and employment were affected by internal and external factors and needed to be addressed through intervention from the international community. He called for the creation of an international environment conducive to the attainment of the Millennium Goals by developing countries, where trade, debt cancellation and financing for development were key.
Medium income countries were home to the greatest number of poor people and needed economic and social support to achieve their goals nationally and regionally, he said. That required that donor countries realize their commitments, whether those relating to Africa or to fighting disease, especially HIV/AIDS and malaria. It also required implementation of the Secretary-General’s proposal that donors provide information of what aid could be expected through 2010, so that it might be integrated into national budgets and development plans. He stressed the importance for development of mitigating the effects of climate change by implementing the decisions of the 1992 Rio Summit and 2002 Johannesburg Summit, based on the three pillars of sustainable development, and called for openness, transparency and inclusiveness in the decision-making process.
He noted Egypt’s contributions to the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Peace Building Fund, and said the two funds were examples to be emulated of how the international community could jointly serve humanity. Controversial issues must be discussed transparently. He said “the responsibility to protect” should be discussed in terms of how Member States could protect their nationals, not as an invitation to external intervention in a State’s internal affairs. He supported all peacebuilding efforts by the Organization, whether within or between States, but objected to efforts to reform security systems within States as interference in national sovereignty. He also supported decisions taken by the Human Rights Council and opposed criticism of those decisions by the Secretary-General or his Special Representative for Human Rights, while welcoming initiatives for dialogue between civilizations. He particularly welcomed efforts to prevent distortion of religious beliefs, such as linking Islam with terrorism.
On other matters, he spoke of Security Council reform, saying Egypt would consider any proposals that would fulfil the ambitions of the African continent and uphold the Ezulwini consensus. He looked forward to proposals from the Secretary-General that would invigorate the United Nations role in the field of disarmament, so that the “state of freeze” in conventional and nuclear disarmament could be overcome and the illicit spread of small, light weapons might be confronted.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said that even though much progress had been made towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals since 2000, there was still a gap between what had been achieved and what remained to be done towards those objectives, particularly in Africa. While recognizing the Organization’s important work in that region, she stressed that the United Nations also had a role in addressing the needs of middle income countries. Member States must meet their official development assistance obligations and guarantee wider and more equitable access to global markets. Colombia also called on the Organization to step up its efforts to support South-South cooperation.
Turning to other issues, she said that terrorism was a great threat to international peace and security, and called for the full implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted last year and for all Member States to strengthen cooperation and coordination to eliminate the scourge. On the situation in Colombia, she drew attention to the ongoing progress that had followed President Uribe’s implementation of the Democratic Security Policy in 2000. Since that time, law and order had returned to all parts of the country and there had been a significant reduction in the murder rate, and the number of kidnappings had gone from 1,709 five years ago, to 282 last year. Terrorist attacks against infrastructure had also decreased significantly during that time frame.
She said that confidence had retuned to the country, and important social advances had been made, which would lead to the achievement of the Millennium Goals by 2015. Among other things, the unemployment rate had been reduced from 20 per cent to almost 10 per cent in the past five years. Colombia also hoped to achieve full access to basic education and health before 2010, and for poverty -– which had been close to 60 per cent in 2002 -– not to exceed 35 per cent by the end of the decade. She went on to say that the United Nations must continue to strengthen its capacity to support countries’ efforts to eradicate poverty and to achieve sustainable economic growth and long-term development. To achieve that, there needed to be greater coherence and coordination between Governments and national authorities so that the Organization’s field-level activities could become more effective and efficient.
On humanitarian assistance, she said that such matters must be considered comprehensively and must be guided by the principles of impartiality, neutrality and humanity. Such assistance must also contribute to strengthening relevant local capacities, repairing the torn social fabric of an affected population and developing structures that will allow moving from an emergency to a development phase. Finally, Colombia agreed with the Organization’s current intense focus on global warming, and with the notion that the United Nations was best placed to take measures that would strengthen the international community’s adaptation and mitigations strategies. The international community must take advantage of the current political will to push for agreements for the post-Kyoto Protocol period, based on the principle of shared and differentiated responsibilities.
JOAO SALGUEIRO ( Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and vowed to continue to support developing countries in the implementation of their national development strategies. To that end, the Union had taken effective measures to reach its donor commitment based on the principles of shared responsibility and partnership. It had surpassed its previous targets of official development assistance and had set new ambitious targets for 2010 and 2015. “As important as increasing the volume of aid,” he added, “is making sure that it is more effective.” Developing countries needed to ensure high levels of governance, adopt ambitious development strategies, and create environments for pro-poor economic growth where the private sector could flourish. The commitments made to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) were positive developments towards that goal. The development and implementation of inclusive country-led strategies was also pivotal in combating the global scourge of HIV/AIDS.
Climate change was another top priority for the Union. He said the United Nations should be at the centre of global efforts to tackle climate change. The High Level Event on Climate Change in September provided international momentum going into the negotiations in Bali in December, and should help create a global and comprehensive agreement on a post-Kyoto framework. Major emitters had the responsibility for the major effort on climate change. Developed countries needed to commit to binding absolute emission reductions, while developing countries, in particular the major emerging economies, should reduce emission growth as soon as possible. Global warming should be held to no more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels and adaptation and mitigation strategies should be integrated into strategies for poverty eradication in order to reach sustainable development goals.
Turning to peace and security, he restated the “unquestionable interconnection between development and security”, and underlined the importance of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations, as well as among international players. The Secretary-General’s initiative of building strategic partnerships to consolidate peace and the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission were positive steps towards further progress. The adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy was also a positive achievement that should be fully implemented as soon as possible. Though the European Union had often expressed disappointment at the lack of progress on disarmament and non-proliferation, it was pleased with the progress made over the past year. He appealed to all Member States to build on those positive -- “albeit modest” -- developments with a view to revitalizing the international disarmament agenda. Specifically, on the subject of Iran, he underlined the European Union’s commitment to the comprehensive package proposed to Iran in June 2006.
He said the United Nations had made progress in addressing human rights in its work with the adoption of the institutional building package by the Human Rights Council. More should be done, though, and he suggested the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the opportune time for the implementation and mainstreaming of United Nations human rights work, including at the field level. Rule of law at national and international levels needed strengthening, as did the international community’s cooperation with the International Criminal Court. On humanitarian reform, he called for advancement through improved coordination capacity and more predictable funding. Though the Union was alarmed by the humanitarian and security situations in Sudan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sri Lanka, it supported collective efforts to improve the effectiveness of the international humanitarian response.
Finally, on the subject of United Nations reform, he welcomed progress already made while calling for further reforms on administration of justice, information and communications technology, procurement, and human resources. The budget for 2008-2009 should enable the United Nations to deliver meaningful results in all its activities within a reasonable envelope. He welcomed the ongoing revitalization of the General Assembly and the restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and stressed the need for a Gender Entity post at the Under-Secretary-General level. The United Nations could only do its job properly in partnership with others and strengthening relationships with civil society, the private sector, and national parliaments would help the Organization achieve its goals.
ROBERT HAGEN (United States), recalling that his country had embraced the Millennium Declaration with great hope for the future, said his Government was committed to aligning national development assistance strategies with the Declaration’s timeline. Although there was more to do, States could be proud of progress made: the number of people living on less than $1 per day was falling, while the number of people with safe access to drinking water was rising. More children had access to education, and that access was increasingly equal among boys and girls. Child mortality and hunger rates were falling. To address HIV/AIDS, the United States had launched the United States President’s emergency plan for AIDS relief.
Noting the report’s reference to strong Government leadership in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, he said the United States had responded with assistance programmes. Through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the United States had signed contracts with 14 countries, and talks continued with other nations. Recalling that perpetual optimism was a force multiplier, he said the United States remained optimistic, and embraced United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s call to action.
However, he said it was important to stay focused on global goals. In its evaluation of work, the report had used performance indicators that had not been ratified. Further, it highlighted failures against indicators that were “not our own”. He explained that plans must be owned by every State, as each had different priorities and needs. Donor assistance was catalytic and based on self-help.
In the Millennium Declaration, he said, countries had asked the Secretary-General to issue periodic reports, not create and expand numerical targets. There was no doubt that States had yet to fulfil aspirations, and expanding the scope of previously agreed Goals would not help maintain consensus. He called for a renewed commitment to achieving the Goals, as they would become sustainable only when associated with increased country ownership and capacity. He urged delegates to make the Goals a hallmark of this “young millennium”.
HJÁLMAR HANNESSON ( Iceland) said global warming had already devastated the lives of millions, and the ways in which the Member States addressed the issue, particularly during December’s Bali meeting, would be a test of their commitment to the values of the United Nations. The poorest developing countries, which were usually the least responsible for causing climate change, had a proclivity for being the hardest hit, and the international community had to focus on their needs as it fought the global threat of climate change. Adaptation to it should also remain an integral part of attaining the Millennium Development Goals.
Continuing on development, he said official development assistance played a vital role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Iceland’s official development assistance had doubled over the past four years, and the country aimed to be among the top contributors, as increased aid effectiveness remained central to development results. Iceland supported the follow-up on the Report of the High-Level Panel on System-wide Coherence, which would make the United Nations more effective with delivering results on the Millennium Development Goals. Iceland especially endorsed the Panel’s recommendations concerning gender, whose mainstreaming needed addressing in a more systemic manner, and encouraged the establishment of a new post of Under-Secretary-General to strengthen the United Nations’ performance in the field of gender.
Turning to other issues, he said the fight against HIV/AIDS remained a priority, and that the United Nations should take the lead in addressing it. United Nations peacekeeping was also imperative, and though activity had increased in that field, millions still experienced an assault on their personal security. Implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy would take an important step in ensuring peace and safety among the world’s peoples. Finally, as a small island state without its own military, Iceland felt deeply concerned about disarmament. Despite the continued efforts of the majority of Member States, very little progress had been achieved. “Our failures in this area pose a threat to peace and security,” he said. “Now is the time to renew our efforts.”
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that the multitude of problems facing the world could only be solved through collective efforts. The expansion of the terrorist threat, weapons of mass destruction and the stagnation of disarmament required the Organization more then ever. As a permanent member of the Security Council, his Government intended to continue contributing to the implementation of the strategy of resolving conflicts on the basis of political and diplomatic efforts. Also, the disarmament agenda should be pursued on the basis of coordinated collective efforts, with the United Nations playing a more effective role. He singled out as priorities the questions of the prevention of an arms race in space and the use of information technologies for military purposes, as well as prevention of weapons of mass destruction possession by non-State actors. It was also necessary, he added, to further strive to encourage preventive multilateral diplomacy. Towards that end, it was important to strengthen the United Nations as a whole, through its adaptation to the world’s reality, on the basis of the widest possible agreement among Member States.
Continuing, he noted the Secretary-General’s appeal for progress in reaching a historic agreement on the newly-formulated concept of “the responsibility to protect”, which currently only existed in skeletal form. In elaborating the substantive part of that concept, a balanced, non-confrontational approach was needed, taking into account the interests of the international community as a whole, based on the norms of international law. The implementation of the responsibility to protect in the name and in the interests of the international community should be based on the decisions taken in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
The report of the Secretary General, he continued, highlighted the need to eradicate the global terrorist threat, and he supported addressing it through the Report of the Counter-terrorism Implementation Task Force. In that connection, he noted, as an oversight, that the activities of the Security Council had not been included in that review. He shared the view that it was necessary to involve the private sector and civil society in those efforts. In that connection, he noted growing support for Russia’s initiative within the framework of the Group of Eight on the strengthening of the anti-terrorist partnership between States and the business sector. He also agreed that it was necessary to improve representation of regional civil society organizations within the United Nations, first of all the non-governmental structures of the South. He also cautioned against politicizing United Nations work in the humanitarian sector, calling for careful consideration of the sensitive issues of humanitarian security personnel and their access to the populations in need.
Turning to United Nations reform, he noted that his Government shared the view of the Secretary General that system-wide coherence was needed in the organization, as well as transparency and a higher level of efficiency and responsibility on all levels. However, that reform should not lead to the unjustified inflation of the Organization’s budget and staff.
SERGEI RACHKOV ( Belarus) said that the main conclusion of the Secretary-General’s report was that the international community needed to redouble its efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals. Belarus shared the Secretary-General’s concern that several countries and regions were off track to meet those objectives, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where no country was receiving the promised resources to implement the relevant national development strategies. Stressing that, currently, development assistance was too project driven and unpredictable, he appealed to every donor nation to provide recipient countries with timelines for aid increases, so that countries could plan their budgets and macroeconomic frameworks accordingly.
He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s focus on climate change and said that, with the current price hike and race to acquire energy resources, developing counties and transition economies should receive assistance to help them better address their energy needs. The United Nations must quickly work out practical arrangements for the transfer and distribution of technologies regarding alternative and renewable energy sources on a global scale. Turning to the “deadlocked” global disarmament agenda –- now at a “dangerous stage” because the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) had become a source of confrontation rather than partnership -- he said that nuclear weapons States must make concrete and practical steps towards nuclear disarmament. Achieving a new balance between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation obligations would help create an environment conducive to progress in other areas where disarmament efforts had stalled, including conventional weapons control.
Moving on to human rights, he said that with the upcoming anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights fast approaching, it was time to find ways to make progress on fundamental human rights issue that had somehow fallen through the “political” cracks. Here he recalled that the Assembly at its last session had adopted a resolution on the “promotion of equitable and mutually respectful dialogue on human rights”. He also invited the Secretary-General, in his next report, to include a section on human trafficking, which had not been taken up in the current overview of the Organization’s work.
Further, the Assembly’s resolution on “improving coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons” had requested the Secretary-General to create a relevant inter-agency group to coordinate such efforts among the United Nations, Governments and non-governmental organizations. To jump start that initiative, he called for a thematic debate on the subject during the current session. Finally, he called on delegations to press for further revitalization of the Assembly, especially towards restoring the Charter-mandated balance of responsibility between it and the Security Council, during the current session.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) commended the Secretary-General for his efforts to build a better world. Referring to the report, he said States were asking the United Nations to achieve more in circumstances that were more challenging than at any other point in history. The world was undergoing profound changes, and the international community had agreed on the need to seek solutions through multilateral means.
He said the Millennium Development Goals provided a common framework for achieving universal development, a common aspiration. The world was faced with an arduous task, particularly in Africa, and it was essential for the United Nations to take urgent actions to meet the special needs of the continent. He appreciated the work of the African Steering Group on the Millennium Development Goals, and supported the establishment of mechanisms to assess progress. He said climate change could only be addressed through sustainable development in all countries, and he hoped the upcoming Bali conference would yield positive results. It was also in all nations’ interest to offer developing countries technologies for clean development.
On conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding, he said the United Nations played an important role, and he welcomed the Secretariat’s efforts to better position itself. He also welcomed the Peacebuilding Commission’s progress and hoped it would bring tangible results to countries on the basis of sovereignty and respect for their needs.
A global anti-terrorism strategy should be implemented as soon as possible, he continued. On the Middle East, he said peaceful coexistence between Israel and an independent Palestine was the only viable way to establish a comprehensive, just and lasting solution the problem, and he called on the United Nations to play a greater role in the region. On the situation in Darfur, he stressed the need for multidisciplinary action to find a lasting solution, adding that China looked forward to the Tripoli negotiations. On the future status of Kosovo, he hoped Serbia and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo would expand their areas of consensus through patient negotiations. It was undesirable to impose a timeline. On proliferation, he stressed the importance of diplomacy, noting that China was against nuclear weapons proliferation.
The United Nations must keep up with the times and take action on reform, he said, and the widest possible consensus must be sought in that regard. Decisions made at the 2005 World Summit must be followed-up and priority must be given to development. Revival of the General Assembly and reform of the Security Council were important, and China expected both bodies to enhance their functions. Moreover, the role of developing countries in those bodies should be given greater play. The Human Rights Council, working on the basis of impartiality, could play a constructive role in promoting dialogue. Upholding multilateralism was a must for all countries, he concluded, and China was ready to help create a strong United Nations.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan), noting that the United Nations had taken bold steps in the areas of security, peacekeeping and development, among others, said she was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s belief that the Organization not shrink from such challenges. On development, she recalled that, at the 2005 World Summit, all Governments had committed to implementing comprehensive national development strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and her country was committed to its obligations. This year marked the tenth anniversary of the “Kazakhstan-2030” development strategy, and her Government’s objective was to join the top 50 most competitive global economies in the next decade.
On HIV/AIDS, she said equal partnership between developing and developed countries -– and among international and local non-governmental organizations –- was essential. Regarding climate change, Kazakhstan shared the view that overcoming the challenge would contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. She attached great importance to international discussions of the post-Kyoto regime, fully supporting the upcoming talks in Bali.
Turning to conflict prevention, she said Kazakhstan firmly supported United Nations peacekeeping activities and efforts to increase capacity. The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, initiated by her country, had worked towards establishing a continental arrangement of preventive diplomacy in Asia. She also appreciated the establishment of a United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia. To combat terrorism, she supported practical measures to strengthen security mechanisms and improve legal instruments to improve coordination. Kazakhstan attached great importance to establishing an international legal basis to allow for quick response to terror attacks. She expected the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to be finalized as soon as possible. It was also important to strengthen regional and subregional cooperation, and Kazakhstan appreciated the efforts of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, among other associations.
On disarmament issues, she shared high expectations that the Conference on Disarmament would achieve a breakthrough in multilateral disarmament diplomacy, as the conclusion of a fissile materials cut-off treaty was essential for both nuclear disarmament and preventing nuclear weapons proliferation. She also supported efforts by the Russian Federation and China to establish a legally binding instrument on preventing an arms race in outer space and the use of force against space objects. On United Nations reform, she said the Security Council should be enlarged and its work reformed to increase transparency. The General Assembly should play a central role as the main decision-making body. She stressed that success in the areas of security, development and human rights would be assured only through support from all members of the international community.
KIM HYN CHONG ( Republic of Korea) said globalization was creating an ever more complex web of interrelations, which created new risks and opportunities. As the world’s sole universal organization, only the United Nations had the authority and legitimacy to tackle those risks and embrace those opportunities. In order to do so effectively, the United Nations should adapt to the changing circumstances of the time and continue to implement ongoing reforms. In the area of peace and security, he reminded the Assembly that there could be no development without peace and no peace without development. In operational terms, that meant finding ways to bridge parochial boundaries at the institutional level.
He said the Peacebuilding Commission was a much-needed tool for coordinating peacebuilding efforts and should play a meaningful role in preventing conflict and helping war-torn societies transition from uncertainty to prosperity. A coordinated response was also necessary to counter terrorism and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. Specifically, in regards to the nuclear issue of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said the matter required immediate international attention to build on the momentum of the six-party talks and the historic Summit Meeting held recently in Pyongyang.
The Millennium Development Goals had become the shared framework for development, he said, and more needed to be done to ensure their full implementation. His Government was committed to tripling its official development assistance by 2015. Climate change was an issue closely related to development and should thus be urgently addressed by the international community. Momentum from the recent High-Level Event on Climate Change should help towards the adoption of a road map to a post-2012 regime of realistic, tangible solutions to those pressing global concerns. Touching on the question of human rights, he said the newly established Human Rights Council should live up to the high expectations of Member States and its working methods must be flexible enough to ensure real progress in the promotion of human rights. On the question of United Nations reform, he expressed support for a more representative, accountable, transparent and efficient Security Council. He stressed, however, that any reform should have the support of more than the legally required two-thirds of Member States. In closing, he said that the Secretary-General had taken the helm at a time when Member States and the people of the world were asking the United Nations to do more than at any point in its history. “Our demands and expectations should be high and we should give the Secretary-General the support and flexibility he needs to lead this Organization effectively in carrying out the mandates we set for it,” he said.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ BASAGOITIA ( Peru) said a renewed multilateral commitment was needed to deal with issues such as climate change, poverty, armed conflict and humanitarian aid. United Nations reform would allow the Organization to more effectively play a leading role in managing those issues. That reform should encompass three main areas: system-wide coherence; Security Council reform; and a reform of the Secretariat. The United Nations and the international community should commit to multilateral support for national strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Sharing the benefits of globalization to help raise the standard of living across the world would also help enrich the concept of citizenship and lead to a consolidation of the democratic system.
Climate change was a major threat, he said, and it was necessary to promote ecologically sustainable development with “shared but differentiated responsibility”. The United Nations should strengthen national, regional and international capacities to deal with the increasing number of natural disasters and their effects. His country was particularly vulnerable to those threats and he, therefore, encouraged the strengthening of mechanisms, such as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which assisted countries in responding to disasters. Human rights mechanisms, such as the Human Rights Council, should be strengthened, as well, to better protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of all.
In the area of peace and security, he said the United Nations should deepen its strategic alliances with regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union and the African Union. He supported the creation of a multilateral rapid reaction force within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in order to more effectively respond to international conflicts. He added that humanitarian assistance and post-conflict management should be accorded due importance as well. The establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund were positive developments towards better international coordination on peacebuilding. His Government also proposed a more coordinated action on cross border drug trafficking, landmines, and illegal trafficking of small arms and other weapons. In closing, he reiterated his Government’s belief that the United Nations was the ideal forum to deepen cooperation and establish binding standards on global issues. Indeed, to be most effective, it should go beyond interstate relationships to include civil society and the private sector as well.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba) said development must be a high priority in the agenda of the United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals, as the Secretary-General made clear in his report, must be a priority. Seven years ago, the Millennium Declaration committed Member States to work towards very modest and insufficient goals. In spite of it, the undeniable reality was that the international community had not moved any closer to those goals. The cancellation of external debt would allow devoting more than $400 billion to development. Should agricultural subsidies be eliminated, an additional $300 billion would be available. Honouring the commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of the gross domestic product to official development assistance instead of 0.3 per cent would produce $141 billion.
An economic system that destroyed the environment could not be sustained, as 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded, he continued. Phenomena such as global warming, sea level rise and deforestation posed dire threats to life. The international community must act fast, and the developed countries, responsible for 76 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, had the moral obligation to take the lead.
Today, he said, the world, now more than ever, needed the United Nations, but it needed a reformed United Nations that served the interests of all nations equally. However, the current international order, unjust and deeply unequal, could not be succeeded by a more primitive one based on reinterpreting the Charter and international law. The United Nations needed to strengthen the General Assembly’s leading role, as it was the only organ where all countries had a voice and vote. The United Nations could also not delay reform of the Security Council. The current Council did not reflect the reality of today’s world, and was neither democratic, nor equitable. Finally, on the new Human Rights Council, he said the United Nations needed to ensure it embodied the principle that human rights were universal, indivisible and interdependent. Cuba would oppose any attempt to make the new organ an inquisitional tribunal against the countries of the South, ensuring impunity to flagrant, mass and systematic violations of human rights by the most powerful.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) praised the Secretary-General’s efforts to make the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals a priority. To achieve those Goals, the international community should make good on commitments already made at different international forums. “It is our hope that making promises will not grow into a fashionable industry,” he said. It was better to not make promises at all instead of making them with false timelines. Fortunately, Uganda was on track to meet many development goals, including universal education, eradication of extreme poverty and fighting HIV/AIDS. With more assistance, his Government could be sure of achieving those Goals by 2015.
In terms of special needs for Africa, he said poverty elimination should be the main focus. The international community should move from “rhetoric and lamentations to action”, beginning with the implementation of the “quick-impact initiatives” agreed upon at the 2005 World Summit. Though the Office of the Special Adviser for Africa was created to deal specifically with NEPAD, the special needs of Africa went well beyond that narrow mandate. There was, therefore, the need to devise an institutional architecture that would adequately address the special needs of Africa, including NEPAD. Any new institutional framework should work with the Office of the Special Adviser to eliminate inefficiencies and the scattering of limited resources. He added that peacekeeping in Africa should be expanded beyond the traditional approach of peacekeeping to include “peacemaking” as well.
Finally, touching on the subject of climate change, he said it was both an environmental issue and a developmental issue. As such, his Government was considering mainstreaming issues of climate change into poverty reduction strategies and looked forward to a successful outcome to the conference in Bali.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said climate change affected everyone on the planet. His country, for its part, had proposed a long-term vision for building a low-carbon society and had called for a post-2012 framework that included all major emitters of greenhouse gases. His Government was determined to take a leadership role through hosting the Group of Eight summit next July.
African development was also a priority area for Japan, he continued. For Africa to become a vibrant continent -– one of hope and opportunity -– the international community needed to prevent, consolidate and resolve conflict, while enhancing and sustaining economic growth. Japan would host the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in May 2008. With the theme of “Vibrant Africa”, Japan believed, through African ownership and a true partnership with international actors, Africa could achieve peace and prosperity. Japan also welcomed the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur.
Continuing on the topic of peace and security, he said it was essential for the international community to ensure a seamless and integrated effort to fulfil tasks ranging from resolving conflicts and providing humanitarian assistance to helping recovery and reconstruction. Additionally, human dignity and human rights needed to be universally respected and safeguarded. Therefore, the authorities’ use of force in Myanmar against the peaceful demonstrators, which brought about casualties, including the death of a Japanese citizen, was extremely regrettable. Japan called on the United Nations, in close cooperation with Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to promote national reconciliation and democratization.
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, he said, presented another challenge that required the undivided attention of humankind, as did nuclear disarmament and counter-terrorism. As the only country that had suffered nuclear devastation, Japan would submit another draft resolution at this session to lay out concrete measures towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the Japanese government would make every effort to continue its activities in the Indian Ocean to combat terrorism under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1776. Japan also called for an early conclusion of the negotiations on the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
Finally, Member States needed to enhance the United Nations to deal with new challenges and deliver more, he said. For the Security Council to meet its expectations, members needed to make it more representative and effective, as well as expand all memberships. Overall, the United Nations had to work more coherently and effectively in its humanitarian efforts, as well as modernize its management and programmes.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said global statistics told a grim story, especially if examined in a disaggregated manner. While the number of people living on under $1 per day had improved in Asia, the overall situation remained static or only marginally improved. The maternal mortality ratio in sub-Saharan Africa showed a huge gap to that in developed countries, and the incidence of tuberculosis, while improved in Asia, had doubled in sub-Saharan Africa. Since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of trade talks, the annual loss to sub-Saharan Africa was $1.2 billion, whereas gains of $350 billion had been seen for developed countries. The most important questions today centred on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and the United Nations role in doing so.
While official development assistance commitments of 0.7 per cent had been mentioned in the report, there had been no reference to delivery on those commitments, he said. The average official development assistance commitment was 0.3 per cent of gross domestic product. While the report underscored that HIV/AIDS had largely prevented achievement of the Goals, he said the opposite was also true -- that progress on HIV/AIDS had not been achieved because economic development had not progressed. Progress could not be left to the Bretton Woods institutions, he asserted, noting that economists had warned the Goals were in danger of becoming a form of “welfare colonialism”. Africa was being given antiquated structures and mosquito nets, instead of tools for ensuring its economic development.
To address that situation, he called for political will in the Economic and Social Council and an audit of the Bretton Woods institutions. He further noted that posts had been created for issues that were of no interest to developing countries, which had shocked the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). The financial system today was to be expected, as it stemmed from such a paradigm. Today’s economy was a casino economy in which distribution was controlled by the ruler table. The United Nations could take a key role in creating a financial system that would lead to predictable financial flows.
On climate change, he said it was critical to ensure the flow of technology and resources to developing countries. On peace and security, he said Nepal was indeed a success story; however, it was important for the United Nations not to prolong its mandate without the country’s consent. Concerning disarmament, he said the issue must be advanced in a way that subsumed arms control and non-proliferation. India hoped to present a proposal on the issue. On United Nations reform, he said the General Assembly could not be revitalized through a mechanical process, but rather by taking important political decisions. On the Security Council, he urged that the intermediate approach not take place prior to intergovernmental negotiations. India and other developing States had tabled a resolution on 11 September, which argued for a quick start to the negotiation process.
LE LUONG MINH ( Vietnam) noted with satisfaction the progress made on the implementation of the Millennium Goals, but shared a concern that progress had been uneven and the level of human deprivation was still too high. It was alarming that, at the halfway mark, some countries were not on track to meet even a single development goal. Achieving the Goals would benefit all stakeholders, but progress should be led and managed nationally, since national ownership was the key factor in determining success at the country level. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s assurance that the United Nations prioritized the strengthening of national capacity. His Government would continue to support collective action on the three areas of United Nations activity for the implementation of the Millennium Goals, namely HIV/AIDS, the special needs of Africa, and climate change.
The past year was one of mixed opportunities and challenges for international peace and security, he said. Peacebuilding efforts in Darfur, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Timor-Leste and on the Korean Peninsula had achieved positive results. However, armed conflicts and tensions continued to rise in the Middle East, South Asia, the Balkans and Africa. Other challenges included the unprecedented burden peacekeeping operations were placing on the limited resources of the United Nations and the lack of substantive progress in the fields of disarmament and counter-terrorism. Member States should do more to strengthen peace operations, overcome the deadlock on disarmament, and fully implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. There remained much to be done in the field of human rights as well, including the de-politicization of the Human Rights Council. His Government would continue to participate in efforts to promote and protect human rights, while keeping in mind the principles of objectivity, non-selectivity and respect for national sovereignty.
He said that, even as he spoke at the Assembly, his countrymen were suffering from the consequences of some of the worst flooding in decades, and he welcomed the Secretary-General’s commitment to helping Governments respond to such weather-related disasters. Touching on the subject of United Nations reform, he lobbied for support of the “One UN” pilot programme to ensure its success as one of “the most courageous experiments in the field of operational activities at the country level”. Finally, he expressed his support of the Secretary-General’s recent actions in regards to Myanmar, and asked all concerned parties in the country to exercise restraint and engage in peaceful dialogue with a view towards stabilization of the region.
ROBERT HILL ( Australia) agreed that more was expected of the United Nations, and that the issues facing it today were complex. Nonetheless, it was heartening that States had recognized the value of multilateral diplomacy. He underscored the importance for States to meet their responsibilities of providing adequate funding and political support to the Organization. It could be said that the Secretary-General was ahead of States on the issue of reform, although the Secretariat had tried to spur reform of its gender architecture.
Responsibilities for the United Nations had increased, and he called on the Organization to be more efficient. A rapidly increasing bill would put pressure on States’ ability to pay. Australia met its share of financial responsibility and paid on time. Also relevant to the costs and capital needed for delivering quality programmes was the issue of priority. As it was not possible for the United Nations to accomplish everything asked of it, responsibilities needed to be shared with regional organizations and civil society partners. He urged the Organization to set priorities in its workload and assess who was best placed to assist it in its work. Such efforts would constitute a healthy development in international affairs.
In that context, he commended the Secretary-General for focusing on big issues that demanded mobilization of the international community. The Secretary-General’s emphasis on turning goals into outcomes was commendable, and Australia had referred to the need for such action last year.
As highlighted in Australia’s general debate statement last week, poverty alleviation was the most basic responsibility of nations today, he explained, adding that most countries understood what was necessary to further such efforts. He called for less finger pointing. By welcoming capital investment and opening markets, huge progress could be made. The Millennium Development Goals were simply indicators -- what really was important was “getting there”, he said.
He commended the Secretary-General’s focus on democracy, adding that his country had promoted good governance for a long time. The responsibility to protect was another issue that deserved ongoing attention. With sovereignty came duty, and the failure of nations to protect their citizens from gross abuse sometimes required international attention. “The veil of sovereignty must not shield genocide, for example,” he said. Some States might not recognize that they need help, and the United Nations’ role was vital in that regard. That was why Australia had supported the Organization’s nation-building role and an increased focus on mediation and preventative diplomacy. Such issues demonstrated the important challenges ahead. With political will, countries could move from aspiration to achievement.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said, at the half-way point in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, sub-Saharan Africa lagged in overall performance, but several countries had proved capable in attaining some initiatives with the right combination of resources, leadership and correct strategies. Despite the dedication of the United Nations through the Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group, some worrying trends on achieving the Goals had come about. First, the political commitment to the doubling of resources had declined; this could reverse the little progress already made so far. Secondly, several African countries needed to improve their national strategies to implement the goals. And, finally, the resources devoted to development, especially human ones, were relatively less compared to those of peacekeeping and human rights.
To address climate change, the world needed a new global agreement that went beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expired, he continued. As the United Nations prepared for Bali, it needed a remedial mechanism to address the immediate adverse consequences. In Darfur, the United Nations was already witnessing the links between environmental degradation and conflict. Several other countries had also experienced frequent, severe droughts, unprecedented floods and other devastation. He called upon the General Assembly and international community to position disaster response risk reduction mechanisms in different parts of the continent to help Africa cope with climate change-induced disasters.
The special needs of Africa, ranging from conflict resolution, peacebuilding and development, had been adequately reflected in the Secretary General’s report, he said. However, the need for a coordinated response to those demands required the implementation of NEPAD and a similar synergy at Headquarters level. He called on the Secretary General to strengthen the Office of the Special Advisor for Africa as the logical nerve centre to provide efficient oversight and advise Headquarters of its requests.
Finally, he said the time had come for the United Nations to undertake unprecedented responsibilities in the area of maintaining peace and stability. He encouraged the Department of Political Affairs to dedicate more resources to its mediation unit, to explore more ways of working with regional and civil society initiatives in conflict prevention. He noted that the hybrid force between the African Union and the United Nations was an example of an initiative that strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said that his delegation was among those concerned at the Secretary-General’s assertion that midway to 2015, progress towards achieving the Millennium Goals was uneven. Moreover, while the report mentioned that the Goals were achievable “if existing commitments are met”, Malaysia believed that there was more room for disquiet than optimism, particularly with statistics showing, among other things, that the current lack of progress was occurring at a time when the global economy was experiencing unprecedented growth. He said that Malaysia was also concerned with the international community’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and believed that, apart from efforts already underway, more attention should be devoted to educating people about the disease.
Turning to climate change, he said now that the international community was aware of the gravity and urgency of the situation, delegations needed to ensure success of the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change set for Bali, Indonesia this coming December. “We must recognize that the poorest countries of the world have the least capacity to adapt and should therefore be apportioned the least responsibility to mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said, stressing that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities must prevail.
In addition, national or regional initiatives to deal with global warming must complement, rather than compete with, the negotiations under the Climate Change Convention. He added that a post-2012 agreement should build on the fundamental architecture of the Kyoto Protocol and should, among other things, set absolute emission targets for developed countries and make special provisions for the least developed countries and the small island developing States. On humanitarian affairs, he said the Organization’s guidance on humanitarian response should be further strengthened to help the international community deal promptly with emergencies and natural disasters whenever and wherever they occurred.
He said that the wider international community should step up its efforts to develop a worldwide early warning system for natural and human induced disasters through, among other things, a broad approach that included taking into consideration the agreed framework on the strategy for disaster reduction and putting in place regional standby arrangements for disaster relief and emergency response. On disarmament, he said the accession of India, Pakistan and Israel to the NPT would strengthen the nuclear disarmament regime.
The 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons had emphasized that there was an obligation to pursue the good faith conclusion to negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict, effective international control. To date, there were no indications on the part of the nuclear weapons states in carrying out that obligation. “Our goal should be to achieve general and complete disarmament through the multilateral process, of which the primary concern should be nuclear disarmament,” he said.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said reform of the United Nations system and a renewed commitment by Member States was necessary in order for the Organization to deliver results consistently and effectively. To that end, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand and Chile had submitted a report on management reform to help the United Nations better meet the challenges before it. Reform should include an expansion of the Security Council to include two permanent seats for Africa and other permanent and non-permanent members as well.
Delivering on promises for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals should be a priority, he said. “We are now halfway towards the target set for the achievement of the MDG and still some of the developed nations continue to consistently refuse to implement their commitments that would help alleviate the lives of the poor.” International institutions should make good on their promises, and developed countries should become “true global partners for development”. Overcoming climate change would also contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Goals and the international community should follow through on promises in that field as well. Having played a leading role in creating programmes and agreements on issues like climate change, poverty, and underdevelopment, the United Nations should now focus on the implementation of those agreements. Addressing the problem of major diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS should also be a priority to help achieve development goals.
In addition to poverty and underdevelopment, he said there were other challenges the United Nations needed to meet. Specifically, it should strengthen actions to address human rights violations and the humanitarian situation in Darfur, Sudan, as well as ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Myanmar. He added, “no amount of peacekeepers in any territory can ensure a durable peace unless and until justice based on law prevails”, and expressed support for the strengthening of the International Criminal Court. In closing, he said that the current generation had, unlike any before it, the means to defeat poverty and underdevelopment. “Let it now manifest the will by implementing the decisions and commitments it has made before this organization.”
DANIELE D. BODINI ( San Marino) congratulated the Secretary-General on the work described in his report and said it was now the responsibility of the General Assembly to move that work forward. However, how could the international community respond to global challenges if it could not even respond to the institutional challenge of reform? The General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretariat were all in need of major revitalization and reorientation.
For countries like his own, which had no army and held no weapons of mass destruction, he said the only hope for a solid defence was a strong and credible United Nations. It was, therefore, imperative that Member States address the question of reform within the Organization, in order to more effectively and efficiently meet the challenges of the current world.
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