22 May 2008


22 May 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The international community should direct its focus to the role of multilateralism in crisis avoidance, Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, keynote speaker at the General Assembly’s first-ever thematic debate on human security, said today.

At a Headquarters press conference with Srgjan Kerim, President of the General Assembly, Prince El-Hassan said international focus should not be limited to the United Nations.  “If regional political bodies cannot be established, regional human security networks can.  If we can’t talk politics, let us at least talk humanity.”

He noted that, in 1985, the report Winning the Human Race, produced with the participation of 28 nationalities, had been presented to the General Assembly with a call for a new independent humanitarian order.  Among the recommendations for crisis avoidance, it stressed the importance of creating a tsunami early-warning system which would include a seismic network, estimated at that time to have a cost equivalent to that of a squadron of jet fighters.  Unfortunately, that recommendation had never been taken up and, today, with 150,000 people killed and more than two million displaced, the question was whether the international community would be able to respond in a coordinated manner.

The same report, in discussing disaster and human security, had also recommended that the United Nations designate a central coordinating body to apply the full potential of the international network to natural disasters, he said.  The disaster in Myanmar, which had been the subject of concern among the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the last few days, was an opportunity for the international community to develop the theme of humanitarian intervention.

Earlier, Mr. Kerim reported that speakers in the Assembly’s debate on human security had stressed the critical importance of that subject in the global challenges of today, including climate change, food security, the current food crisis, and natural catastrophes such as the recent ones in Myanmar and China.

He said the debate had been convened to provide Member States with the opportunity to discuss the concept of human security and see how it could be developed.  It was also looking at the implications of human security and examining ways in which the United Nations system and its three intertwined pillars -– development, human rights and security -– functioned from the human security point of view.

Noting that human security was covered in the United Nations Charter, he said the organization of today’s debate had started in a framework called “the Friends of Human Security in the United Nations”.  There was also a Human Security Network, which, although outside the Organization, enabled Member States to cooperate and display their human security-related activities.

In response to a question about when the international community should intervene in a country, Prince El-Hassan said he would like to see a situation where an interdenominational peace corps could intervene to improve the lot of victims, such as those in Darfur, in exercise of the “responsibility to protect”.

He said he was part of the Global Integrity Group, which was working towards a global referendum on the global commons, to be held in 2010.  “Global commons” referred to the intersection between society and nature, under which, if there was a continuation of drought in Africa’s Sahel region, for instance, intervention in a humanitarian context would not only be justified, it would be demanded by the international community.

On human security in Iraq, he said that, from 1991 to 2001, no real thinking had been done with regard to winning the peace.  Instead, the entire focus had been on winning the war.  Consequently, there were currently some one million Iraqi migrants or refugees in Jordan.  Among them, those aged between 10 and 15 years were the “ticking time bombs” of tomorrow.  The international humanitarian community’s lack of interest in the human security of Iraq seemed out of line with the stated aim of the military intervention -- to improve the quality of life.

He called for the establishment of a cohesion fund and a citizens’ charter in the Middle East, warning that, without them, any further disaster in the region could result in a ripple effect of bitterness and hatred, leading to more recruits for the “hatred industry”, particularly among the children.

Asked for his opinion about establishing a “people’s assembly” at the United Nations to parallel the present General Assembly, Mr. Kerim pointed out that, under the Charter, the United Nations was an organization of States and, as such, an intergovernmental organization.  Whatever else came about by way of complementary actions to build up that system, including through other stakeholders, could only enrich it and raise the level and quality of its work.  However, entering into a discussion about the need for a parallel assembly was not something he could go along with, since he had a mandate from Member States to protect their rights and dignity.

Prince El-Hassan added that what was required today was a coalition for global commons.  Recently, an appeal had been launched in Morocco for the drafting of a citizens’ charter.  Citizens of the world could sit on their hands and allow fanatics to take over or they could get up and do something in the context of giving globalization a cosmopolitan and convivial face.  The time had come to promote the regional commons and that required a moral majority in the regions, particularly the Middle East, to contribute to a social charter or a citizens’ charter.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.