22 September 2011

In Year of Clarion Calls for Reform in Middle East, North Africa, World Leaders in General Assembly Urged ‘Not to Lose Our Nerve’ in Supporting New Freedoms

22 September 2011
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly


15th, 16th & 18thMeetings (AM, PM & Night)

In Year of Clarion Calls for Reform in Middle East, North Africa, World Leaders

in General Assembly Urged ‘Not to Lose Our Nerve’ in Supporting New Freedoms

Speakers Ask Organization to Heed Opportunity Presented by Momentous Social,

Political Convulsions to ‘Speak Out and Act’, Stand Up against Persecuting Regimes

In a year of clarion calls for reform in the Middle East and North Africa that truly reflected peoples’ aspirations, the United Nations must not miss the “massive” opportunity presented by the so-called Arab Spring to act, whether by providing aid to famine-stricken countries, helping to mediate crises or standing up to regimes that persecuted their people, world leaders said today as the General Assembly moved into day two of its annual general debate.

Several of the day’s nearly 30 speakers argued that the momentous social and political convulsions in those regions were yet another step in the transition of countries towards the empowerment of individuals and societies.  On that journey, many said, the United Nations should exemplify the ideal that peace prevail over conflict and that human conscience win out over “simple self interest”.  The road to finding solutions always led to the United Nations or its specialized agencies. 

Describing a case in point, Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire, took the Assembly floor for the first time to convey his deep gratitude to the United Nations for its help in settling the recent crisis in his country.  Indeed, the Assembly’s theme of “the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes” reflected the importance of placing the 193-member body at the heart of dispute resolution.

He said Côte d’Ivoire was committed to reinforcing the security of its territory through ongoing discussions within the framework of the Tripartite Agreement it had signed with Liberia, Ghana, Guinea and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  That accord sought to ensure the return of Ivorian refugees and protection of Ivorian borders from armed troop movements.  He expressed hope his country would one day be “reconciled with itself and other nations” and operate on the basis of republican values.

Likewise, Demetris Christofias, President of Cyprus, was optimistic that ongoing negotiations, held under United Nations auspices and aimed at uniting the Greek and Turkish communities on the island, would yield a breakthrough if commitments made in the presence of the Secretary-General were upheld.  He recalled his Government’s proposal to restore the city of Famagusta to its rightful inhabitants, as called for under Security Council 550 (1984), under United Nations administration.  Doing so would increase trust and lead to the “unfreezing” of negotiating chapters in Turkey’s European Union accession process.

Agreeing that the United Nations played a vital role in authorizing international action, David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, cited its decision to give a green light to intervention in Libya as one that prevented the town of Benghazi from joining Srebrenica and Rwanda in history’s roll call of massacres the world failed to prevent.  “You can sign every human rights declaration in the world, but if you stand by and watch people being slaughtered in their own country… then what are those signatures really worth?” he asked.

People in the Arab world had made their aspirations clear, he said.  They wanted transparent and accountable Government, consistent rule of law and the chance to shape their economies as citizens with rights.  While what was right for Libya would not necessarily be right everywhere, the international community had found its voice in that country.  “We must not now lose our nerve,” he insisted, underlining the need to speak out and act as necessary to support those seeking new freedoms.  It was time for the United Nations to stand up against regimes that persecuted their people.

Others took a different view.  Robert G. Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, cautioned that Member States must not manipulate the United Nations Charter to serve particular ambitions.  Whatever political disturbances might have first occurred in Benghazi, the process of mediation and peaceful negotiations had never been given full play.  “It was deliberately and blatantly excluded from shedding positive influence over developments,” he said.  There was now a disgraceful scramble by some North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries for Libyan oil, revealing the real motive behind their illegal bombings.

In a similar vein, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey, echoing the comments of many, said the biggest impediment to the realization of United Nations ideals was the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict remained unsettled for the sake of political balance.  Israel had violated 89 legally-binding Security Council resolutions and numerous General Assembly texts.  Yet, the United Nations had taken no steps to end the humanitarian crisis nor imposed any sanctions on Israel.  The “newly flourishing political geography” in the Middle East required it to put pressure on Israel to show that it was not above the law.

Moreover, the United Nations remained helpless in the face of massive famine in Somalia, he said.  It was impossible to describe the scale of suffering he had seen there.  Tens of thousands of children had died due to the lack of bread or water while the ongoing civil war had wiped out all resources and livelihoods.  Somalis were gradually being “dragged to death before the eyes of the world” and the international community was watching “as if it were a movie”.  It must urgently address the situation, and while doing so, look into the shameful history that had led the country into such dire straits.

Offering one way forward on that issue, Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya, said that as a first step, the international community must enhance the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by providing the resources to extend its coverage and control.

More broadly, world leaders emphasized that to live up to its potential the United Nations must reform from within:  democratize the Security Council, revitalize the General Assembly and generally come up with a “new way of working”.

Also speaking today were the Presidents of the United Republic of Tanzania, Chile, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Georgia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Lithuania, Suriname, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Palau, Chad, Croatia and Costa Rica.

The King of Bahrain also spoke.

Also addressing the Assembly were the Prime Minister of Kuwait and the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Australia and Afghanistan.

The President of the European Council also delivered remarks.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9:00 a.m. Friday, 23 September, to continue its general debate.


The General Assembly met today to continue the general debate of its sixty-sixth session.


DEMETRIS CHRISTOFIAS, President of Cyprus, said the last six months had seen changes in the Middle East and North Africa, where popular movements aimed at carrying out fundamental reforms reflected peoples’ aspirations, and he expressed hope for their peaceful realization.  The global community should offer support while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Member States involved.  Turning to his country, he said Cyprus was suffering from the illegal 1974 Turkish invasion and ongoing occupation.  Indeed, the Cyprus problem was one of invasion and occupation, and the violation of both international law and human rights.  His Government wished to achieve a peaceful solution through negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots under United Nations auspices and on the basis of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.

By way of background, he said direct negotiations between the leaders of those communities were resumed in September 2008, an effort that focused on a transition from a unitary State into a federated one with political equality, as defined in Security Council resolutions — “one State with a single international personality”.  The negotiations were Cypriot-led and owned, as agreed with the Secretary-General, and excluded arbitration and artificial timeframes.

“We aim to achieve a mutually agreed solution,” he said, which would bring an end to the occupation, unify people and create the conditions for lasting peace.  An important aspect to be settled was the issue of missing persons.  Turkey must fulfil its obligations stemming from the European Court of Human Rights, especially with regard to opening the archives of its army to determine the fate of missing persons.  In the first two years of negotiations, convergences had been reached on various aspects of the Cyprus problem, but lately, the Turkish Cypriot side was backtracking from those convergences.  That change had drawn on Turkey’s “provocative” policies in the region.

In recent years, Cyprus had started exploration and potential extraction of hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone, which had been preceded by efforts to delimit that area with its neighbours within the framework of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  “We anticipate this effort will lead to new energy sources for Europe,” and the shared benefit of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.  Reassuring Turkish Cypriots that, regardless of the circumstances, they would benefit from such a find, he said unfortunately, his Government’s efforts to exercise its sovereign rights to exploit marine wealth had been met by Turkish naval manoeuvres, which posed complications for the region.

Turkey also had concluded an illegal agreement in the occupied area of Cyprus, and he condemned that illegal act.  Rather than taking a constructive stance, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership were trying to create tension and an illegal fait accompli.  That behaviour had come amid Turkey’s efforts to start a new chapter in its European Union accession negotiations.  Expressing gratitude to some permanent and non-permanent Security Council members and the European Union for their defence of Cyprus sovereign rights, he called on the United Nations to impress upon the Turkish leadership that any threat to or violation of Cyprus’ sovereignty would not be tolerated.

He expressed his Government’s commitment to finding a solution within the agreed process as soon as possible, saying he would work to strengthen cooperation between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.  Indeed, rapprochement was integral to his Government’s policy.  In that context, he urged restoring the city of Famagusta to its rightful residents, as it was still uninhabited because of the Turkish occupation.  His proposal included the use of a port, which would increase trust between the two communities and lead to an “unfreezing” of some chapters in Turkey’s European Union accession process.  However, Turkey refused to implement Security Council resolution 550 (1984).  The only way to reach a solution was by upholding commitments taken in the presence of the Secretary-General.  Negotiations must be carried out without backtracking.

Turning to the dispute in the Middle East, he said it was vital to resume the peace process on the basis of principles outlined in United Nations resolutions.  Israelis and Palestinians alike deserved a peaceful, stable future within the framework of two independent States.  He supported a free and independent Palestinian State alongside Israel within the 1967 borders.  In other areas, he supported international efforts to end terrorism and the implementation of such measures in the context of convention on international terrorism.  The ongoing global financial crisis recalled the need for a new economic model, with an emphasis on the fair distribution of social goods, such as education.  Priority must also be given to unemployment, crime and marginalization, all of which caused social tensions.

JAKAYA MRISHO KIKWETE, President of United Republic of Tanzania, said through the 50 years of its independence, his country had always believed that mediation, conflict prevention and pacific settlements of disputes were the best means for resolving conflicts.  Over the years, it had contributed to mediation efforts, along with decolonization initiatives in Africa.  Only Western Sahara remained outstanding, and he hoped the United Nations would expedite the process so that the Saharans could determine their future.  He also supported Palestine’s quest for an independent homeland, and called for the end of embargoes on Cuba.  “The people of these two countries have suffered far too long,” he said.  “It is time their burdens are eased from their shoulders.”  The United Republic of Tanzania would also never tire in its efforts to establish the United States of Africa, knowing that would be a gradual process and regional economic integration would be its foundation and building blocks.

He said that it was through multilateralism that nations and peoples could be brought together to shape their present and future, guaranteeing peace and development.  The United Nations was as relevant today as it was 66 years ago, however, reform of multilateral institutions was needed to overcome governance deficits and make the Organization more representative of developing countries.  United Nations Security Council reforms should be expedited to include developing countries, he said, noting that no progress was being made now.  Development was a core function of the United Nations, but good intentions had been stymied by countries not meeting their official development assistance (ODA) commitments of contributing 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP).  He appealed to those countries to keep their promises.

Support was especially needed now, he continued, as growth in African countries declined sharply from the recorded average 6 per cent before the financial crisis.  Democracy was on the march in Africa and the Arab Spring capped it all.  In addition, peace was reigning almost all over the continent, except Somalia.  “All that Africa needs most is continued support to build the institutions of democracy and governance, as well as building economies and overcoming some serious challenges,” he said.  Among such challenges, food security and piracy activity demanded serious attention and international support.

HAMAD BIN ISSA AL KHALIFA, King of Bahrain, said that the world was entering a new era of important changes, in which the growth of modern means of communication had led to rapid transformation, such as that which was taking place in the Arab region.  Bahrain itself had undertaken reforms more than a decade ago to satisfy the demands of its people for freedom, democracy and political participation.  Reform had also aimed to provide decent living conditions, security and tranquillity, equality, equal opportunities for empowerment to achieve justice, and sustainable development for all.  In all its modernization endeavours, Bahrain had taken the approach of dialogue.  Building on the consensus of its people around the principles of the National Action Charter of 2001, it had initiated a dialogue process involving all sectors and components of its population.

Today, he continued, the international community was offered a “propitious opportunity” to do justice to the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate aspirations by recognizing their independent Palestinian State on their own national territory, with East Jerusalem as the capital.  That move would put an end to the era of bitter Arab-Israeli conflict, subjected to a complete Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories to the lines of June 1967 in Palestine, the occupied Syrian Golan and the occupied territories in southern Lebanon.

Additionally, he said, the issue of the three occupied United Arab Emirates’ islands should be resolved through direct referral to the International Court of Justice.  Bahrain also supported the maintenance of security, stability and unity in Yemen, the preservation of unity in the Moroccan territory, and the resolution of the issue of the Moroccan Sahara, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

His country had contributed to and participated in the Group of Friends of Libya and the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, and it had shared the “heartfelt pain” of the American people caused by the reprehensible terrorist attack of 9/11, he said.  Bahrain would remain faithful to the United Nations for its historic role in its sovereignty and for its judiciary for ending inter-State disputes worldwide in support of stability and development.  Arabs-Muslims, Christians, Jews and followers of other religions and beliefs could only co-exist in a “civil State” based on tolerance.  Bahrain’s experience — which was characterized by openness — made it a “deeply-rooted” symbol of peaceful cooperation and a “cultural and spiritual centre” of the Arabian Gulf region.

It was imperative for all Member States to cooperate on a number of issues, including addressing climate change, international health, drought, poverty alleviation, disarmament, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and combating terrorism, he said.  Those were necessary components for addressing the important challenges facing humanity and for creating a new world defined by security, peace and progress.

ALASSANE OUATTARA, President of C ôte d’Ivoire, taking the floor for the first time in that capacity, thanked countries that had expressed faith in his nation’s struggle for democracy during a painful electoral crisis.  Conveying deep gratitude to the United Nations for its help in settling the Ivorian crisis, he said the Assembly’s theme of “the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes” reflected the importance of placing the Organization at the heart of crisis resolution.  The global body was tasked with using negotiation as a means for peacefully settling disputes, which required the determination of all Member States to seek negotiated settlements to ongoing and future crises — subregionally, regionally and internationally.

Recognizing South Sudan as the 193rd United Nations Member State, he said history had shown the virtue of negotiation in conflict resolution, seen in the end of apartheid and the “modest” progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.  Recalling that the father of Côte d’Ivoire, Félix Houphouet-Boigny, had taken a pragmatic approach to conflict settlement through dialogue, he said he was ready to tirelessly do the same.  “This is an absolute prerequisite for any social and economic development throughout the world,” he declared.

Peace would not be possible without a more balanced economic development, he said.  However, strong economic growth alone would not be enough to ensure stability and security; it must be accompanied by transparent access to employment, especially for young people, as well as justice, and he urged adoption of a new development model that took into account environmental constraints.  “Such a challenge cannot be met unless we work together,” he stressed.  Further, crises in energy, food and environment showed that progress was fragile, and joint efforts must be undertaken in the multilateral context to find effective solutions.

In the Horn of African, people were suffering from famine caused by drought, and in light of such humanitarian tragedies, the commitment of all Member States was essential, he said.  International peace and security was a major concern:  terrorism, cross-border crime, and trafficking in people and drugs all threatened Africa.  The United Nations had a role to play in enhancing international solidarity, which was essential in the search for solutions.  Sufficient resources must be mobilized for research and development in farming, renewable energy and sustainable development, while military spending must be substantially reduced.

On other matters, he said discussions were under way within the framework of the tripartite agreement signed by Liberia, Ghana, Guinea and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  That accord sought to ensure the rapid return of Ivorian refugees from those countries and protect Ivorian borders from armed troop movements and the trafficking of drugs and precious metals.  Côte d’Ivoire’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict also showed its commitment to combating violence.

Describing the outcome of social and political conflict in his country, he said democracy today was based on the promise of the rule of law and a society that respected human rights.  “Living together is the cornerstone of my Government’s programme,” he said, noting that reconciliation was a priority.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission aimed to establish dialogue among all levels of society and re-establish the country’s social fabric.  Also, his Government was working to rebuild the country.  The emergency programme, launched in March, had led to favourable outcomes, especially for people in Abidjan.  It also was working to improve basic social services, especially health, education and electricity supply.

The holding of parliamentary elections before year’s end also would allow enhanced social justice, with United Nations support.  With that, he expressed hope Côte d’Ivoire would be a country “reconciled with itself and other nations”, which operated on the basis of republican values, respected the independence of its judiciary and worked to combat impunity.  Closing on that note of hope, he called for the United Nations ongoing involvement in seeking collective solutions to bring about a better world.  “ Côte d’Ivoire is the friend of all and the enemy of no one,” he declared.

SEBASTIAN PIÑERA ECHEÑIQUE, President of Chile, said everyone shared similar challenges and opportunities alongside the same desire for peace, freedom, justice and prosperity for peoples and nations.  Now everyone was facing a new world — the offspring of a knowledge, technology and information revolution that presented new risks, challenges and opportunities.  Addressing the consequences required concerted action.  The world must urgently reposition itself and rethink the structures of organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other global and regional bodies.  The new revolution, like the agricultural or industrial revolutions before it, would be generous towards some and bypass others, depending on the degree of unity.

He said his country had been unable to get on the “industrial revolution bandwagon” and, as a result, was part of an underdeveloped region, with many living in poverty.  Together, nations had a great responsibility to ensure that the benefits of the revolution of knowledge reached all, and not ultimately favoured some to the detriment of others.  Such efforts could only be effective through promoting and expanding freedom to create real equality of opportunity for all.  For its part, Chile had extended efforts in many spheres, including negotiating for Security Council reform to make it more representative of the new world order and signing free-trade agreements with 58 countries, representing 80 per cent of the world’s population.  Chile also recognized the Palestinian State, hoping soon to welcome it to this Organization, and it had strengthened South-South and triangular cooperation in the area of social welfare.

What was needed now, he suggested, was the building of development pillars, investment in science and technology, promotion of innovations and entrepreneurship and building of flexible societies able to adapt to change.  The race for development must be won in the classroom, as education was the “mother of all battles” and, unfortunately, in many cases, also the Achilles heel of emerging countries.  Recently, Chilean students had demonstrated in favour of quality education for all, a mission shared by the Government.  He invited all Latin American nations and Governments to join Chile in celebrating a strategic partnership that would ensure a quality education for all.

Regarding the President of Bolivia’s reference yesterday to its claim to obtain sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean through Chilean territory, he said there were no territorial issues pending, and that Chile had always been, and would always remain, willing to dialogue with Bolivia.

He said that everyone here had the right and duty to speak and act in defence of the interests of respective nations and peoples, but he could not ignore the fact that, in order to be fruitful, acting in those interests required work on the many things that united, rather than divided us.  “When all is said and done, whether we like it or not, the risks and storm clouds looming on the horizon, the challenges and opportunities that we shall encounter, and the responses and solutions that we shall have to implement are the same or are so interlinked that it is difficult to see where the responsibility of each member of this Organization ends and where the responsibility of others begins.”  Even though each one acting alone could move faster, history unfailingly showed that it was only when acting together could the world succeed and excel in its endeavours.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, President of Iran, stressed that most nations were unhappy with the current international circumstances, and that — despite general aspirations to promote peace, progress and fraternity — wars, mass murder widespread poverty and socio-economic and political crises continued to infringe upon the rights and sovereignty of nations.  Approximately 3 billion people lived on less than $2.5 per day, and 40 per cent of the poorest in the world shared only 5 per cent of its income.  The root cause of the world’s current problems must be sought in the prevailing international order and the way the world was governed, he said, asking a series of questions about the “arrogant slave masters and colonial Powers” that dominated global decision-making.  Among those, he asked who had imposed colonialism around the globe, and who had imposed terror and mass murder on Palestinian people and on countries in the Middle East region.

He asked, among other questions, who had used the “mysterious September 11 incident” as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, killing, injuring and displacing millions of people.  Whose military spending exceeded $1,000 billion dollars annually — more than the military budgets of all countries in the world combined?  Who dominated the policy-making establishments of the world’s economy, as well as the Security Council, which was ostensibly responsible for safeguarding international security?  “Do these arrogant Powers really have the competence and ability to run or govern the world?”, he asked.  “Can the flower of democracy bloom from [North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s] missiles, bombs and guns?”

By using their imperialistic media network, they threatened anyone who questioned the Holocaust and the 11 September event with sanctions and military action, he said.  Last year, when the need to form a fact-finding team to undertake an investigation concerning the “hidden elements” involved in the 11 September incident had been raised, Iran had come under pressure and threat by the United States’ Government.  Instead of assigning a fact-finding team, they had killed the main perpetrator and thrown his body into the sea.  It would have been reasonable, he stressed, to bring that perpetrator to trial.  Meanwhile, the United States viewed Zionism as a sacred notion and ideology, condemning any question about it as an “unforgivable sin”, while endorsing and allowing sacrilege and insult against the beliefs of other religions.

Real freedom, justice, dignity, well-being and lasting security were the rights of all nations, he continued.  However, those values could be achieved neither by reliance on the current inefficient system of world governance, nor through the invasion of the world by arrogant powers and the gun barrels of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces.  Instead, they must be realized through independence and recognition of others’ rights, and through harmony and cooperation.  All those who had tried to introduce reforms while preserving the existing norms and tendencies had failed.  The valuable efforts of the non-aligned movement and its Group of 15, and the Group of 77 developing countries and China had failed to bring about fundamental changes.  Efforts, therefore, must be made with a firm resolve and through collective cooperation to map out a new plan.

There was no other way than the shared and collective management of the world, he said.  Member States should not allow the United Nations, which was a reflection of the collective will and shared inspiration of the community of nations, to deviate from its main course and “play into the hands of world Powers”.  That Organization had been created to make possible the effective participation of all nations in international decision-making process.  However, the current composition of the Security Council was unjust and inequitable.  Changes, including the restructuring of the United Nations, were the basic demands of nations, and must be addressed by the General Assembly.  He reiterated a proposal, made during the last session, to designate the current decade as a “decade of shared and collective global management”.

The world was witnessing, in Islamic lands, in Asia, Europe and the Americas, movements that were expanding the pursuit of the realization of justice, freedom, and the creation of a better tomorrow.  “Today, nations have been awakened,” he concluded, asking States to salute the bright future that awaited humankind.

ROZA OTUNBAEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, said major changes faced the world today, including the ongoing financial crisis and the crises in North Africa and the Middle East.  One year ago, her country had transitioned to a parliamentary form of government.  Now Kyrgyzstan was reforming its judicial system and would, next month, hold presidential elections.  The effort it had made towards democracy was now at the centre of world attention, and there was no place for a division according to religious, cultural or other lines.  She invited Member States to send observers to Kyrgyzstan for the upcoming elections, emphasising that the path from dictatorship to democracy was a long process.  She added that billions of dollars had been taken out of her country, and dictators should face consequences and not find asylum abroad.

She said that establishing peace and enhancing governmental power now depended on the pace and methods used to address social and economic problems.  Among those means was mediation for conflict resolution, which should include women, who were responsible for establishing peaceful social life.  Women effectively imposed peace, as was the case in her country, where women were present in many professions and represented one third of Parliament’s members.

On other topics, she was concerned about the drop in international attention to the issues of climate change.  Concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, Kyrgyzstan had joined the appeal made by the Secretary-General to Israel and Palestine to return to the negotiating table.  The two must become good neighbours, with both enjoying peace and security.  Kyrgyzstan had put forward its bid for a Security Council non-permanent member for the coming term, in its support for the broadest representation of Member States on that body.  She concluded by focusing on youth, saying that young people should be supported during the current historical changes and technological progress, as they were their country’s present and future.

SHEIKH NASSER AL-MOHAMMAD AL-AHMAD AL-SABAH, Prime Minister of Kuwait, said the role of the United Nations had broadened, now encompassing humanitarian aid, most recently in the Horn of Africa.  The United Nations ever-increasing importance had necessitated improving and strengthening its capabilities, and steps were needed to reform its major bodies, including the Security Council.  All Member States had a responsibility to support the Organization; its power, ultimately, was but a reflection of the support of its members for its noble objectives.

On peace and security, he said, the Middle East was of great concern.  The legitimate demands for implementing serious and prompt political, economic and social reforms must be heeded.  In that regard, Kuwait supported dialogue and a rejection of violence.  The country also believed in mutual respect among neighbouring nations, and in that, called on Iran to take “serious and real” confidence-building measures represented by adherence to resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to dispel fears and doubts surrounding its nuclear programme.

Noting the fiftieth anniversary this year of Kuwait’s independence, he said that also marked the twentieth anniversary of its liberation from Iraqi occupation.  That was one of the most outstanding successes of the United Nations in its endeavours to deter aggression and remove its effects.  However, after six decades, the United Nations was still unable to find a solution to the Palestinian question and putting an end to Israeli occupation of Arab territories.  The international community was required to continue its efforts to pressure Israel to enable Palestinian people to obtain their right to self-determination.  He renewed his country’s full commitment and support to the Palestinian Authority’s bid to obtain membership in the United Nations as an independent and full Member State.

He said developing and least developed countries suffered the most from the economic crisis, which had caused a deceleration of economic growth, a decrease in export volume, and a rise in unemployment.  The price of foods and basic commodities had also risen.  The international community must forge ahead in restructuring the international financial institutions to, among other things, be more representative and fair to the countries that needed their support.  There was a dire need for a just and balanced global trade system that bridged the enormous gap between States, as well as to assist poor economies in integrating into the global economic system.  ODA pledges also must be honoured.  Despite the fact that Kuwait was a developing country, it had provided $15 billion since its independence for humanitarian and development assistance in more than 100 countries.

The United Nations, he concluded, had been able to unite the world’s visions, guide its endeavours and mobilize its resources and potential to consolidate joint work to combat corruption, strengthen the rule of law and good governance, respect human rights, and empower women.  He looked forward to a more effective international role within the context of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative to intensify dialogue between various civilizations, religions and cultures, disseminate the values of tolerance, moderation and mutual respect, as well as reject the expressions of violence and extremism, which undermined and reduced chances of working together to spread the culture of peace and reach the noble principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.

DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, addressing the Assembly for the first time, said last week he had been in Tripoli and Benghazi, where he had witnessed the hunger of a people eager to get on with writing a new chapter of freedom and democracy for their country.  “This has been the most dramatic episode of what has been called the Arab Spring,” he said, arguing that such events showed that the United Nations required a new way of working.  The Arab Spring was a massive opportunity to spread peace, prosperity, democracy and security, “but only if we really seize it”.  Events had presented a challenge to Europe to reform its aid strategy; to the African Union to meet opportunities of this century with the same courage that had won its liberation in the past; to Israelis and Palestinians to take bold steps to come to the table for peace; to Iran and Syria to give their peoples the freedoms they deserved; and to the United Nations.

“You can sign every human rights declaration in the world, but if you stand by and watch people being slaughtered in their own country, when you could act, then what are those signatures really worth?”, he wondered.  The people of the Arab world had made their aspirations clear:  they wanted transparency and accountability of Government; fair, consistent rule of law; the chance for a job; the freedom to communicate and the opportunity to participate in shaping their economies as citizens with rights.  There would be “wrong turns” along the way, not least where people had inherited sectarian divisions, weak political parties and politics distorted by the false choice between repression and Islamist extremism.

But, such developments created an opportunity for people who had long been sold short by their Governments, he said.  Just as help had been given in 1989 to those who torn down the Berlin wall, so now was there a duty, as people in the Middle East and North Africa had given voice to their hopes for democratic societies.  At the same time, he cautioned against thinking that, because people in the region wanted democracy, they wanted it in the same way.  A template could not be imposed.

He went on to say that participatory government involved more than voting.  The Assembly had heard from the President of Iran, who did not remind delegates that he led a country where there were elections, but where freedom of speech was repressed, accountability of free media was avoided, and those who argued for a better future were detained and tortured.  “We should never pretend that democracyis enough,” he said.  Libyans had liberated themselves.  All had shown courage in driving out [Muammar al-]Qadhafi.  The United Nations had played a vital role in authorizing international action, and in doing so, prevented Benghazi from joining Srebrenica and Rwanda in history's roll call of massacres the world failed to prevent.

Outlining challenges ahead, he said the economies in that region had underperformed, pointing to nations dependent on oil revenues that had failed to diversify or connect themselves to the wider world.  Less than 4 per cent of North African trade was in the region and the promise of economic reform had not been fulfilled.  It was up to the people to determine the future, and he urged them not to reject something they had never had:  an open, fair and transparent market economy.  The need for their economic success was vital, as 60 per cent of people were under age 25, and 50 million jobs must be created by 2020 to keep pace with the population.  And those jobs should not just be for men:  “You cannot build inclusive political systems if you lock out women,” he said.

While what was right for Libya would not necessarily be right everywhere, the international community had found its voice in that country.  “We must not now lose our nerve,” he said, underlining the need to speak out — and act as necessary — to support those seeking new freedoms.  It was time to ensure that the billions of euros spent in the region annually were used to support reform that met peoples’ aspirations, and it was time to stop denying the people of the region fair access to European markets, particularly in agriculture.  The United Nations must stand up against regimes that persecuted their people.  There was a need for reform in Yemen.  In Syria, the Security Council must adopt a resolution threatening tough sanctions.

The voice of the African Union was vital, too, he said, especially in pressing the world to meet its aid commitments.  A key part of the Arab Spring was for Palestinians to have a viable State of their own, alongside a safe and secure Israel.  He strongly supported that.  But no resolution could substitute for the political will necessary to bring about peace.  That would come when Palestinians and Israelis talked, made compromises, built trust and agreed.  The international community’s role must be to support that, notably by defeating those who embraced violence, and by stopping settlement growth.

While some had argued that reform threatened stability, the opposite was true:  reform was the basis for stability, and authoritarianism threatened it.  With that, he said political and economic reform in the Middle East was vital for defeating Al-Qaida.  Terrorist activity must be met with a strong and resolute security response.  Al-Qaida and its offshoots must know they had no safe hiding places.

HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, President of the European Council, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the world had changed in the past year — in some ways that were worrying, and others “for the better”.  The Union saw hope in the fact that millions of people had recently climbed out of poverty in Asia, Latin America and Africa, transitioning from “emerging economies” to “emerged societies”.  It was hopeful that South Sudan, the United Nations newest Member State, had transitioned to independence.  And there was new hope, most of all, thanks to the will of the people in Northern Africa and the Middle East to take the road of democracy.  “We have seen the defeat of repression,” even if the fighting was not yet over.  The Union saw the Arab Spring as one of the most momentous political developments since the end of the cold war, and it hoped it would blossom.  It was assisting Arab revolutionaries with financial resources, market access to Union countries, mobility among those countries, and assistance for State- and nation-building.

Referring to the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 1973 (2011), he said that European Union leaders, together with others, facing the risk of a “bloodbath in Benghazi”, had acted swiftly and with determination, both diplomatically and militarily.  The “principle to responsibility to protect” had been put into action, and now there was a “responsibility to assist” Libya’s Transitional National Council — which today sat in the Libya seat in the General Assembly Hall — with the political transition, and the reconciliation and the reconstruction of a united country.  The Arab Spring taught several lessons.  When the horrific terrorist attacks in New York were committed a decade ago, many had feared the start of an era of religious hatred.  But, instead of extremism or a so-called clash of civilizations, the recent movements had been a fight for freedom and justice.  Those should remain the overriding objectives for the future.

Despite hope, however, there was also reason for worry, he said.  The European Union worried about the “brutal and ongoing repression” of its own people by the Syrian regime, and about the famine in Somalia.  It was concerned about wars and conflict, the safety of nuclear reactors, nuclear proliferation and the behaviour of the Iranian and North Korean leadership, as well as about climate change.  In the face of those concerns, he asked, “are we doing what we should be doing?”  The Union had taken up its responsibility to act.  It did so with means and money, with manpower — in the form of development workers, soldiers, policemen, and others, with a “sense of global common good”, and with expertise in mediation.

The Union’s position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was well known:  it included references to the 1967 borders with territorial swaps acceptable to both parties, he continued.  Moreover, the Union was financially supporting the State-building process by the Palestinian Authority.  “Now is the time for dialogue,” he stressed.  “There are political risks, but you need to take them,” he said of both parties, warning that “history is a severe judge for short-sightedness”; over time, it only rewarded political courage and statesmanship.  From the European experience, “a lasting compromise is grounded in mutual sacrifice and trust.”

Turning to climate change, he stressed that current efforts were insufficient.  “More needs to be done in words and deeds,” he said, starting at the Durban Conference on climate.  Europe was sticking to its commitments — delivering on emissions targets — and it invited the rest of the industrialized countries to do the same.  “Green growth” must be a rallying cry in countries big and small, rich and poor.  Europe was ready to help the most vulnerable nations, he added.

The “Eurozone” was now facing a sovereign debt crisis, but European leaders were taking decisions, individually and jointly, to bring the storm to rest, he said.  It did not just feel responsible for its own economies, but for the world economy, as well.  Europe would continue to do what was needed to safeguard the financial stability of the Eurozone by working on governance, fiscal discipline and financial integration.  It likewise expected the other major economies to take responsibility for their internal challenges.  “Each has to bring its own house in order,” he stressed, be it by bringing down its public debt, by stimulating domestic demand, or by aligning exchange rates to economic fundamentals.  In a world becoming increasingly globalized, Europe’s 500 million citizens continued to reject isolation.  “This world is our world.  It belongs to us all,” he declared.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, Prime Minister of Turkey, said that the international community and the United Nations were being “tested” in an unprecedented way.  The United Nations did not demonstrate the kind of leadership necessary to help mankind prevail over its concerns for the future; instead of remaining under the control and leadership of certain countries, the Organization should urgently reform itself.  He had seen this need first-hand during a recent visit to Somalia.  There, he had witnessed how the United Nations and the international community, in general, had remained helpless in the face of a massive tragedy.  “This is a shame for the international community,” which must stop watching the famine in Somalia unfold “as if it were a movie” and, instead, act with great urgency.  The long and shameful colonial history that had led to Somalia’s current situation also must be examined.  “This is the tip of a great iceberg,” he said of the famine.  No one could speak of freedom and democracy while that crisis went unaddressed.

He said his country had launched a comprehensive aid campaign for Somalia and had collected some $300 million in donations, even as its official humanitarian assistance to the country surpassed $30 million.  It had also held a donor conference that had resulted in millions being raised.  Furthermore, by reopening its Embassy in Mogadishu, Turkey had also shown the world that claims of security concerns were no excuse for a failure to take action.  While some political progress had given hope for the future, the civil war gripping Somalia for so long must end; with that change, the world would become a safer place.

The United Nations should be the personification of the ideal that peace prevailed over conflict and that human conscience, rather than simple self-interest, prevailed, he said.  The greatest impediment to the realization of that ideal remained the Arab-Israeli conflict.  The fact that it remained unsettled, for the sake of political balance, was the greatest blow to the ideals of the Organization.  Israel had violated 89 legally-binding Security Council resolutions, as well as numerous General Assembly texts.  Noting that the United Nations had not taken steps to end the humanitarian crisis affecting the Palestinian people, he pointed out that it had imposed sanctions in other conflicts around the world — why not in the case of Palestine?  The international community must act urgently to heal the “bleeding wound” that was the ongoing Middle East conflict.

In that vein, no sanctions had been placed on Israel, which used phosphate bombs and had atomic bombs, whereas the possible emergence of a “whiff” of such activity elsewhere in the region would be prevented.  In fact, the fault for the conflict lay with the Israeli Government, which continued to build new barriers to peace and to use disproportionate force.  The ongoing blockade of Gaza persisted, despite the calls of the international community and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — which forbade the isolation of a people, such as in Gaza.  Real security for Israel could only be achieved through a lasting peace; nothing else would substitute.  Today, the “newly flourishing political geography” in the Middle East meant that Israel would not be able to carry on in a state of conflict.  Turkey deemed it necessary for the United Nations to put pressure on Israel to achieve peace and show it that it was not above the law.

Recognizing the just demands of the Palestinian people to a State, and allowing them to take their place at the United Nations, was foremost among the path towards peace, he continued.  Turkey’s support for the State of Palestine was unconditional; it would continue to work actively towards that goal, as well as towards the lifting of the illegal blockade imposed on Gaza.  When an attack by Israel had taken place in international waters, Turkey could not remain silent.  Its reaction to Israel had been a reflection of its position on Gaza; otherwise Turkey had never strayed from its principle of friendship and cooperation with any country, including Israel.  However, in the case of the flotilla incident, Israel must apologize, pay compensation to the families of those who had been killed and lift the Gaza blockade without delay.  Turkey’s position would not change until those demands were met.  “We do not have a problem with the people of Israel,” he stressed, but with the aggressive policies of the Israeli Government.

He said that from the start of the recent movements in the Middle East, Turkey had called for the world to “lend an ear”.  It was essential that the free will of the people was recognized.  “Times have changed”; the era of Governments that did not meet the demands if its people, that did not consider justice above all else, had come to an end.  That call had been echoed throughout Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, providing hope for the future.  But, still, other countries remained oppressed.  The situation in Syria, for example, was a cause for grave concern.  The actions of the leadership there were unacceptable.  “Friends always speak the truth, no matter how difficult that might be,” he said of Turkey’s relationship with its neighbour.  As the Syrian leadership continued to ignore those calls, Turkey would continue to support the demands of the Syrian people.  It further expected the international community to do the same.

In the case of Libya, the fact that “ Libya belongs to the Libyans” must be respected, he said.  As the democracy was built, it was crucial to release Libya’s assets that currently existed in other countries, allowing the country to stand on its own two feet.  He urged States to implement Security Council resolution 2009 (2011) and to allow the Libyan people to determine their own future.  A resolution also must be found to the conflict in Cyprus.  The United Nations plan, put forward in 2004, had shown that the Greek Cypriot side did not have the necessary political will to end the conflict.  The Turkish Cypriot side, on the other hand, remained willing to resolve the crisis by the end of the year, enabling a united Cyprus to join the European Union without delay.  Cyprus would defend that timetable, but if the “intransigent” attitude of the Greek Cypriot side did not change, the Turkish Cypriot fate could not be permitted to remain uncertain forever.  Meanwhile, the occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region must end without delay.

Turkey had shown leadership through its Security Council membership in 2010, and it would continue to do so if it were elected to a non-permanent seat for the period 2015-2016, he noted.  Security, development and respect for human rights were parts of the same whole, and Turkey would always work towards those ideals.

BRONISŁAW KOMOROWSKI, President of Poland, said this meeting was an opportunity to reflect on how to deal with challenges facing humanity.  As a country that had become a symbol of positive changes, Poland used to be a nation of a devastated economy, impoverished society and uncertain of its borders and place in Europe.  Now, Poland was a democracy with a dynamic economy that saw growth during the financial crisis and was now building good-neighbourly relations under a foreign policy that remained based on solidarity with nations that aspired to democracy and respect for human rights.  “We stand ready to share our experience,” he said, noting this approach relating to the societies of Eastern Europe.  That applied also to Arab States, which had taken up a similar challenge.

Of those nations, he said:  “We wish them luck, perseverance and courage, not only to fight for change, but also to conduct dialogue and communicate with all those who can take part of this process.  From our Polish experience, we know that sometimes the inability to communicate and reach compromises, and to overcome internal divisions — the inability to openness and dialogue with those who just recently were seen as enemies — hindered progress and is the cause of failures of movements initiating major changes.”

As the country currently holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union, Poland had seen in the region arch enemies become friends, as the number of countries opting for cooperation over conflict had been steadily growing.  The Union had introduced a new quality to international life on a global scale, stabilizing its surroundings, and becoming an inspirational role model in various regions of the world.  The European Union was participating in shaping a better world order, better for everyone.  He was convinced the Union would emerge from the financial crisis stronger than before.  On a global scale, the challenges were considerable, he said, drawing attention to terrorism and the “war” to defeat it.  The scourge undermined trust and threatened international stability.  The gaps between rich and poor had widened, and climate change, trade and non-proliferation negotiations were stalled.  The Middle East process also had not advanced.

However, there were good grounds for optimism, including economic growth in underdeveloped regions and the responsible attitudes of Governments to prevent the economic crisis from becoming as widespread as the 1929 Great Depression.  Openness and interdependence, and not protectionism or economic nationalism, had prevailed.  And, the Arab Spring, regardless of the dramatic events accompanying the process, was yet another step in the transition of countries towards democracy and the empowerment of individuals and societies.

He said that the road to reaching solutions to key global problems had always led to the United Nations or its specialized agencies.  The main tasks were development, security and human rights.  The United Nations must ensure effective aid for the poor.  As the world faced a new paradigm of global economic exchange, a global equilibrium required States with high export surpluses over imports to switch to growth, stimulated by internal consumption.  Domestic demand had saved Poland from the 2008 economic crisis, he said, adding that “if we fail to balance the relationship between these two groups of economies, export-oriented and easily importing, new turbulences await.  Developing countries must increasingly take responsibility for the global economy.”  The United Nations and entities not related to it, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), must assist in the evolution of that paradigm.

The issue of international security in its broader and narrower meaning required a new approach, he said.  Poland was concerned about a possible return to an arms race and increased military spending.  He fully supported the reform of the Conference on Disarmament.  Regarding the broad sense of security, he said the United Nations had been, and must remain, the main forum and instrument of international mediation.  The Polish Round Table of 1989 helped to transform part of Europe, and that approach would be useful in the Arab Spring process, particularly in Syria, a country of great Islamic culture and traditions.  Mediation was an irreplaceable way to a lasting and just peace, a notion that applied also to solving difficult problems in relations between Israel and its neighbours, and with the Palestinian Authority.  He urged the Secretary-General to actively use that means of building trust and peace between peoples, cultures and different social groups.  A spirit of solidarity should permeate the Organization.

MWAI KIBAKI, President of Kenya, said this session of the General Assembly offered opportunities to promote mediation as a tool for conflict management and peaceful settlement of disputes.  The role of regional organizations — the African Union, the East African Community and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) — was increasingly important, including in the continued search for global peace and security.  IGAD was at the forefront to peace efforts for Somalia and Sudan, and he was pleased Kenya’s role in both situations remained crucial.  He welcomed South Sudan to the community of nations, saying that that success story exemplified the potential of regional organizations “to resolve complex and deep rooted conflicts”.

The recent improvement in the security situation in Mogadishu, Somalia gave a lot of optimism, he said, urging the Organization and international community to seize the moment to support IGAD and the Transitional Federal Government in efforts to restore lasting peace and stability there.  As a first step, the international community must enhance the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), providing it the necessary resources to extend its coverage and control.  “In addition, we must support the [Transitional Federal Government] in the implementation of the Kampala Accord that spells out a range of political processes necessary for the attainment of sustainable peace and development in Somalia,” he said.

He said the complex challenge of climate change continued to manifest itself in the Horn of Africa; as the Assembly was aware, the region was currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, resulting in a severe crisis affecting more than 12 million people.  Increased environmental stress, loss of livelihoods and intense competition for scarce resources, had sometimes led to armed conflict among neighbouring communities.  “This reality calls on us to enhance the regional capacity for early warning systems and adequate response arrangements,” he said.

The scale of climate change called for sustained action, and Kenya hoped the “COP 17” meeting in Durban would deliver African expectations for adaptation measures.  Kenya believed international organizations working on the environment should be streamlined and given sufficient support.  In that, the transformation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) into a specialized agency was critically important.  On the issue of Palestine, he called for realization of the two-State solution, in which Palestine’s 1967 borders were upheld, while the peace and security of Israel was guaranteed.  He added his hope that Palestine be welcomed into the community of nations “with full membership in the United Nations”.

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, President of Georgia, expressing surprise that no one had mentioned that this year marked the twentieth anniversary since the collapse of the Soviet Union, said that that event had heralded a new era of international relations, which some even called the end of history.  Ten years later, however, September 11 had reminded everyone that the world was still a battlefield, and earlier this year, upheavals in the Arab world again proved that there was never an end to history.  Indeed, the “highest heaven and the deepest abyss” were once again in conflict.

Calling the Soviet Union’s end a new beginning in which countries like his were confronted by both the best and the worst, he said those experiencing the best were quickly integrated into the European Union and NATO.  Others, like Georgia, were left to far worse prospects, including becoming a failed State.  The divergent paths facing the former countries of the Soviet sphere were exemplified by Vaclav Havel on one side, and Slobodan Milosevic on the other — men who embraced freedom and men who erected physical and mental walls.

He said that the Russian Federation’s military currently occupied 20 per cent of Georgia’s sovereign territory, in violation of international law.  Displaced persons were denied the right to return to their houses because a foreign leader in Moscow had decided their home was no longer theirs.  While Georgia continued to renounce the option of the use of force to rectify that situation, one year after it first made that pledge, the Russian Federation had not responded.  It seemed that, while the cold war was over, brutal diktats were still used over Ukraine, Belarus and others, and the old Soviet habit of manipulating ethnic hatred was still at work.  Nonetheless, Georgia was responding to military build-up by strengthening its infrastructure for the future.

Evoking Eastern Europe’s colour revolutions, as well as the recent Arab Spring, he said none of those events would have been possible if the Soviet Union still existed.  Indeed, following a breathtaking act of desperation in Tunisia, the world had been turned upside down.  Although such historical eruptions as the Arab Spring always came as a surprise, they were the best, most definitive answer to the attacks of September 11.  Stranded in a geopolitical hole and left as a failed State, Georgia had discovered the lesson that would now apply to North Africa and the Middle East:  that the real revolution took place only once the television cameras left.

Georgia, he said, had engaged in a permanent process of reform with real benchmarks.  Among results of that reform, Georgia had made the greatest progress of any country on one international transparency index:  it was now ranked by the World Bank as one of the easiest places in the world to do business.  Other surveys singled out Georgia’s institution-building efforts, including its progress in curbing corruption.  The double anniversaries of the Soviet Union’s fall and September 11 “continue to confront us with the central question:  How can we assure that the new spaces opening in the world […] were filled by peace rather violence, by tolerance rather than extremism, by freedom rather than slavery.”

LEONEL FERNÁNDEZ REYNA, President of the Dominican Republic, said soon after the terrorist attacks on New York a decade ago, the war in Afghanistan had begun, producing a larger number of victims than those killed in the 2001 attacks.  Later, Iraq was occupied, spurring controversy in international public opinion and contributing to more violence, victims, suffering and destruction.  The lesson to be learned was that there must be a collective effort to eliminate terrorism as an inhumane practice, as well as the economic, social, political, cultural, ideological and religious causes behind it, and promote a world that was more open, tolerant, respectful and willing to engage in dialogue.

He said that the global financial crisis also shook the world, with international capital markets making demands for States to pay debts that had been created, to a large extent, to save financial institutions from collapse in the first place.  As a result, Governments had agreed to severe austerity measures, decreasing citizens’ quality of life, leading to social unrest through protest movements that eroded the Governments’ legitimacy and support base.  Resources were needed to save the international financial system, stabilize the world economy, and return to levels of growth and prosperity, and those funds were available, in some of the $4 trillion circulating daily in financial transactions in capital markets, which remained untaxed.  A tax of 5 per cent on those transactions would generate $20 billion per day, which would solve problems related to some countries’ sovereign debt, with enough left over for investing, thus allowing a rapid recovery from the current financial and economic world crisis.  Another option would be to find the $10 trillion in reported tax havens.

The crisis continued, however, with citizens becoming indignant at their worsening living conditions; social demonstrations were multiplying; and Governments were threatened with chaos and uncertainty, he said.  He highlighted the financial speculation of the price of food and oil, about which his country was submitting a draft resolution to the General Assembly.  Rising food and oil prices, from 2006 to 2008, had seen a soy increase of 107 per cent, corn of 125 per cent, rice of 127 per cent and wheat of 136 per cent.  As a result of those increases, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that an additional 150 million people had gone hungry worldwide.  For the first time, the number of people without access to basic food supplies had risen above 1 billion, one sixth of the global population.

He said that oil prices experienced the same price rises, from $12 per barrel in 1998 to $147 per barrel in July 2008, sinking rapidly to $37 per barrel at the end of 2008.  As for what had caused that absurd price drop, he cited explanations from population growth to increased demands from emerging economies.  “There have been circumstances in which some of those factors have influenced prices,” he said, “but there has been an effort to minimize the importance of a new element in international markets:  financial speculation in futures markets for commodities.”

His country considered the need to propose regulating measures to guarantee market transparency and price stability, he said.  It was essential to set limits on the volume of transactions in futures markets by the participants, such as insurance companies, investment banks and pension funds, which were in no way involved in the physical handling of the product, as well as to increase deposit guarantees supplied in futures contracts as a disincentive to speculative transactions that contributed to price volatility.  The objective of the resolution was simple:  getting the United Nations General Assembly to declare, for the sake of the human race, that food could not be considered a financial asset.  “Food must be used only to guarantee the survival of the human race on the face of the Earth,” he concluded.

OLLANTA HUMALA TASSO, President of Peru, said his Government had come into office just a few weeks ago.  Through the ballot box, the people of Peru had given their support to a great transformation, which would harness the prosperity of the last 10 years for a more socially inclusive life for all Peruvians.  In other words, it would turn money into quality of life.  Underscoring the State’s responsibility for tracing the path of transformation through policy and politics, he said the State must, above all, answer the people’s interests.  To that end, it must be vigilant in defending the rights of all its citizens, particularly indigenous peoples.  The new Government would safeguard its people without regard to race or ethnicity.  In addition, it remained committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Warning that extreme interpretations of some values could lead the world to greater confrontations without advances in liberty or equality, he urged the international community to strengthen fraternity as the path to peace.  In that context, he added his voice in support of the Palestinians.  He further underlined the need for providing social services and equal opportunities for all Peruvians, highlighting, in particular, access to decent employment and health and education services.  In addition, his Government was negotiating with the business sector to allow for greater respect of natural resources.  It had also promulgated a law on consultations to allow for indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making processes that involved them.  As such, Peru was meeting its obligations under the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 169.

In its efforts to fight drug trafficking, the Peruvian Government gave equal importance to reducing both supply and demand, he said.  States had a duty to work in a firm and coordinated way to address all links in the criminal chain.  The production of the coca leaf provided income for thousands of people without other viable employment options, and it was critical that impoverished farmers be offered alternative employment options.  Greater intelligence and financing were needed in order to detect money laundering.  Effective controls over precursors were also required.  He noted that Peru would convene, in the second quarter of 2012, a high-level meeting on those issues to define specific measures.

Among other important issues, he noted that his Government had called on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to recognize the heritage of the Peruvian Government.  He called for fairer and more dignified treatment of migrant workers and immigrants, who were contributing to the economies of both their origin and destination.  The Peruvian Government was giving priority to the needs of the most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly.  It also sought the further empowerment of women and was committed to implementing the Durban action programme.  Underlining the need to address climate change, he appealed for greater international cooperation, as well as an increase in the level of financial and technical assistance given to protect against and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Latin American countries were learning how to overcome their chronic vulnerability in the face of economic crises, he said.  Having decided to work together to enhance the economic underpinnings of their countries, they had set up the South American Economy and Finance Council.  That commitment to integration was not simply rhetorical, but was a path to development, peace and reconciliation.  In that context, he called for an end to the blockade of Cuba.  Finally, he reaffirmed Peru’s full support to reforming the Security Council by enlarging its membership and for reforming the Economic and Social Council.

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITĖ, President of Lithuania, said that 20 years ago, Lithuania had rejoined the community of sovereign states and become a member of the United Nations.  That peaceful transition, State-building and reform had made the country stronger and more determined.  History had taught that an honest broker was the key to solving almost any problem, and in recent years, Lithuania had invested in its capacity to become such a broker.  Having just concluded its chairmanship of the Community of Democracies, it was now proud to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

She said she was confident that Lithuania’s commitment to effective multilateralism and international cooperation made it a deserving candidate for non-permanent membership of the Security Council.  “We are ready and determined to run for the Security Council’s non-permanent seat for the 2014-15 period.”  She similarly assured delegations that her country would “do its utmost to contribute effectively and wisely to the work and principles of the United Nations in any of its bodies.”

A few months ago, women leaders from all parts of the world met in Vilnius to share their experiences on enhancing democracy, confirming her belief that women’s involvement remained very low in addressing common problems and concerns.   Lithuania, therefore, strongly welcomed the resolution on peace mediation proposed by Finland and Turkey, adopted by the General Assembly, which advocated a stronger role for women in peace mediation.  “The full involvement of women in conflict resolution, peace talks and decisions on reconstruction is essential,” she said, adding that the same applied to protection of women in conflict situations as defined in thehistoric Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).

She said that the Secretary General’s call for a stronger connection between nuclear safety and nuclear security was especially appreciated.  It was a common responsibility to create strict legal international imperatives for nuclear energy, without any compromises on safety and security, and she called for an ambitious nuclear safety action plan to be approved at the ongoing General Conference in Vienna.  “Each and every nuclear power plant, its site, nuclear technology, and even the ability of the personnel to ensure safety maintenance should be subjected to stress tests.  Last but not least, information about all existing and planned nuclear projects must be absolutely transparent and open to public access,” she said.

ROBERT GABRIEL MUGABE, President of Zimbabwe, said the theme of this year’s General Assembly was most apt, and that Member States were duty-bound to the principles of the Charter.  “We must not be guilty of manipulating that Charter to serve our particular or sectional designs and ambitions,” he said.  “We cannot honestly say this is the position today in regard to the NATO states versus Libya.  Whatever political disturbances might have first occurred in Bengazi, the process of mediation and peaceful negotiations was never given full play.  It was deliberately and blatantly excluded from shedding positive influence over developments.”

He said that bilateral hatreds and quarrels or ulterior motives must not creep into considerations of threats to peace and security or the principle of responsibility to protect.  The African Union would spare no energies complementing the Organization so that peace returned to Libya, but to selectively and arbitrarily apply the responsibility to protect merely undermined its general acceptability.  There was now a disgraceful scramble by some NATO countries for Libyan oil, indicating that the real motive for “blatant illegal, brutal and callous” bombing sorties was to control and own the country’s abundant fuel resources.

“When we in Zimbabwe sought to redress the ills of colonialism and racism by fully acquiring our natural resources, mainly our land and minerals, we were, and still are, subjected to unparalleled vilification and pernicious economic sanctions, the false reasons alleged being violations of the rule of law, human rights and democracy,” he said.  Zimbabwe’s people condemned those illegal sanctions, and thanked the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union for demanding their immediate removal.  Africans were also concerned about the International Criminal Court, which seemed to exist only for alleged offenders of the developing world, the majority of them Africans.  Leaders of powerful Western States guilty of international crimes were routinely ignored, thereby eroding the Court’s credibility.

Africa cannot remain the only region without permanent membership in the Security Council, he said, also urging reform of the international financial architecture to enable timely response to the real needs of the most vulnerable, developing countries.  Zimbabwe also fully supported Palestine’s right to statehood and membership in the Organization.  “The UN must become credible by welcoming into its blossom all those whose right to attain sovereign independence and freedom from occupation and colonialism is legitimate.  Similarly, the tormented people of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic must not be forgotten.  We call for immediate progress in the engagements for a solution to their long-running saga,” he said.

DESIRÉ DELANO BOUTERSE, President of Suriname, said the perils of AIDS, malaria and non-communicable diseases, terrorism threats, climate change and the vulnerability of women and youth were among the reasons to deepen cooperation and strengthen international institutions.  Achieving social justice for all represented the most basic humanitarian challenge.  “We must stand united behind the collective goal to preserve our world for current and future generations,” he said.  For Suriname, with its low-lying coastline of fertile farming soil, climate change meant vulnerable exposure to rising sea levels, which could devastate its ability to produce food.  It was important, for countries such as Suriname, for the international community to honour its commitments and realize a speedy implementation of the Cancun agreements on the Special Climate Change Fund and the Adaptation Fund.  He called on all parties to reach agreement in Durban.

He said his country stood at a crossroads regarding sustainable development.  He resolved to promote investment-friendly environments, with prudent fiscal and monetary policies aimed at securing macroeconomic stability.  The main objectives of Suriname’s development strategy included further developing the mining sector, moving away from a commodity-based economy and investing in human capital as its most important resource.  International cooperation would complement national development policies.  He affirmed support for the regional Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).  He was pleased with the latter’s decision for a complete restructuring of the international financial system.  “The time has come to bring an end to the practice of decision-making by only a few, with disastrous consequences for the majority of the peoples of the world,” he said.

The theme of mediation was timely, since it could and should become one of the most effective instruments in international conflict resolution, he said.  Failure to recognize and apply the principles of equity and justice in international relations had resulted in unacceptable situations, including poverty, criminality and environmental destruction.  Acts of war and intervention also persisted.  Armed conflicts were sometimes preceded by a Security Council mandate, with disregard for the consequences of destruction, loss of lives and human suffering.  He drew urgent attention to Article 33, Chapter 6 of the United Nations Charter, which had not been fully applied, resulting in an unnecessary continuation of violence on the African continent.

Meanwhile, he said, Somalia was suffering a severe famine, taking thousands of lives, begging the world to wonder if the architects of the acts of war on that same continent, under the pretext of protecting human rights, could have better used those precious resources in the fight against famine.  Furthermore, the Security Council should be a forum for dialogue and actions, and should not be permitted to bypass the efforts of regional institutions, which aimed to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Turning to other areas of grave concern, he called upon the international community to honour its pledges to support the Haitian people.  He then reaffirmed the right of Palestinians to self-determination, including the right to an independent State.  Suriname also was concerned about the embargoes against Cuba, calling on Member States to reject any future blockades.  “We must ensure that unity and justice reign among all nations,” he concluded.

ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, said that his country firmly believed in the link between peace and security on one hand, and development and democracy on the other.  Because the people of Gabon lived in peace with their neighbours and the world, they were able to achieve new development objectives.  Indeed, that link was the foundation of the vision for the future development of Gabon, which he had proposed upon taking office.  Currently, Gabon was making progress on building its strategic infrastructure and was advancing the industrialization of its natural resources, starting with wood, manganese and natural gas.  It also intended to develop its agricultural sector, which was critical to the country’s food security.  Furthermore, the Government was working on a daily basis to implement its commitment to sustainable development through its “green Gabon” initiative.

Reiterating his country’s commitment to peace and security in Africa and internationally, he noted that it currently held a non-permanent seat on the Security Council and had chaired the Council in June.  Gabon supported the Council’s actions on Côte d’Ivoire and believed the international community must now support the efforts of the country’s new authorities in national reconciliation and reconstruction.  His Government had also recognized the National Transitional Council and rejoiced at Libya’s return to the African Union.  Noting that Gabon had supported the adoption of Council resolution 1973 (2011), which was necessary to prevent a bloodbath in Benghazi, he said it was important that Libya emerge from the conflict and engage in national reconciliation with support from the international community.

Welcoming South Sudan as the newest member of the United Nations, he urged Sudan and South Sudan to find solutions to all post-referendum issues.  It was also critical to find a way to get aid to the people of Somalia.  Turning to the Palestinian issue, which he said affected the entire global community, he expressed the desire to see a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel, soon.  He hoped that the mediation efforts of the Arab League would, with urgency, reach a peaceful and democratic settlement.

He went on to stress that any future Security Council reform must ensure that Africa had a permanent seat.  That was part and parcel of the aspirations for genuine democracy of global political and economic governance.  Expressing his country’s commitment to protecting the environment and combating global warming, he said it subscribed to the modern ways of protecting its tropical forests and its immense ecological wealth.  At the same time, it was closely following the efforts to delineate the limits of the continental shelf.  As developing countries struggled with limited resources to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it was clear that a new global partnership for development was needed to ensure lasting economic growth.  In that context, aid must be accompanied by more direct investment and fair and equitable trade.

Turning to the Assembly’s current theme, he said mediation formed one of the bases of Gabon’s approach to neighbourly relations, while the peaceful settlement of conflict was part of its obligations under several international conventions and agreements to which it was party.  However, Gabon recognized that mediation had its limits, and as new forms of conflict emerged, his Government believed close attention must be paid as to how to resolve them.  Finally, he stressed that women must be included in mediation efforts.

JOSEPH KABILA KABANGE, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, said now was a key period for his country, breaking a spiral of violence and instability that had characterized it over recent decades, committing its people to a lasting democratic culture.  Despite the challenges of the electoral process, everything was being done to hold transparent elections in a climate of calm.  Peace and security in his country had been recovered, and now the role of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) should be adapted beyond the strict format of peacekeeping to assist in the efforts of an economic re-launch.

Many challenges remained, he said, but his country was determined to meet them.  The military, police, judiciary and penitentiary systems needed reform to further ensure the security of the citizens and to stabilize the country.  An organized return of displaced people and refugees was also needed, as well as the demobilization of child soldiers, effective control of natural resources and consolidation of good relations with neighbouring countries.  After many years of conflict, countries in the region had concluded that war exacerbated problems more than solved them.  He hailed South Sudan’s new membership in the United Nations, conveying to its citizens his fervent desires for their peace, happiness and prosperity.

He said the Organization had responded to several challenges, justifying its creation at the end of the Second World War, but it needed to adapt to current realities, maintain efficacy and bolster confidence among Member States.  To do that, it must revitalize the General Assembly, reform the Security Council and strengthen the role of the Economic and Social Council.  That required a spirit of compromise and solidarity in the interest of all countries.  The Organization must also properly address the fight against impunity and human rights violations.

The Israeli-Palestinian question was another major concern for the Organization, which needed to find a legitimate solution, bearing in mind the interests and security of both parties for a fair and lasting settlement, he said.  He also called for increased cooperation with the African Union in conflict management, in order to reduce hot spots in the continent.  “I have focused my remarks today on the need to strengthen peace.  This is the essential pre-condition for all progress,” he said.  But, the United Nations still had enormous work to do in other areas by committing sincerely to renewing and strengthening the multilateral system.

JOHNSON TORIBIONG, President of Palau, focused his remarks on what he termed three pernicious types of “transboundary harms”:  the state of the global fisheries; nuclear radiation; and climate change.  On the first, his country, which for thousands of years had lived in remoteness and isolation by respecting the environment and managing its natural resources for the benefit of every generation, today found itself the innocent victim of transboundary harm as forces beyond its control, and not of its own making, ravaged the oceans, damaging the land and reefs, and threatened Palau’s very survival.  Though the country did its best to act responsibly and sustainably, there was only so much that it could do on its own to protect itself.  Palau relied on partners, the international system and the international rule of law to provide a remedy.

He said that, although Palau’s fish were among the most valuable in the world, they were in danger as distant boats did not respect the country’s borders, laws or traditions.  They came in “great numbers” for tuna in the Western and Central Pacific region, where Palau was located and took the region’s tuna “for pennies on the dollar”; and also hunted, finned and sold sharks for a tiny fraction of what tourists would spend to see those sharks alive in Palau.  “Like the ocean’s currents, efforts to protect the marine environment must flow across boundaries.  “It takes international cooperation to protect our marine resources,” he said.  Palau and other Pacific small island developing States had undertaken innovative measures to ensure the continued viability of their stocks.  They had limited purse seine fishing, agreed to close the donut holes between their jurisdictions and implemented a “vessel day scheme”.  Global fisheries should be sustainable; and reckless practices that harmed fisheries and threatened food security had to stop, he asserted.

Turning to his second, particularly insidious, transboundary harm, he expressed fear that this year, nuclear radiation in unknown amounts could have entered Palau’s territory.  As someone who had been involved in writing his country’s Constitution, which banned the presence of any nuclear material in the territory, he was proud that Palau had been the first in the world to make such a prohibition.  But, he lamented that the law of the land would not protect the country and its people from potential radiation coming from outside its borders.  “We fear the possibility that someday our fish may be unsafe to eat and that our water may be unsafe to drink,” he said, calling for redoubled efforts to eliminate the threat of nuclear radiation.

On his third transboundary harm, climate change, he said that even as he spoke, people were suffering from its impacts.  As corals died, shores eroded and waters rose, and people felt helpless — and hopeless.  No solution was in sight for that man-made problem.  He further regretted that, even as the world neared the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change next year, little progress had been made, and the world was still without a binding agreement, while sea levels had risen and emissions continued unabated.  However, even with all those obstacles hampering progress, he declared leaders of the Pacific States would not be deterred.

With that in mind, Palau and the Marshall Islands would call on the General Assembly to seek, on an urgent basis, pursuant to Article 96 of the Charter, an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the responsibilities of States under international law to ensure that activities carried out under their jurisdiction or control that emitted greenhouse gases did not damage other States.  “We should find our guidance in the international rule of law.  Nations must respect fellow nations.  Whether from destructive fishing practices, nuclear radiation or excessive emissions, nations must work together and cease to cause transboundary harm,” he declared.

IDRISS DEBY ITNO, President of Chad, welcomed mediation for the peaceful settlement of conflicts as the theme for the general debate, which aligned with his country’s own visions for an egalitarian world.  Chad had participated at the highest level in the Doha accords between the Sudanese Government and its armed opposition in Darfur and called for the entire international community to support those efforts to achieve peace in the country.

Expressing concern over increasing tensions and upheavals around the world, including the events known as the Arab Spring, he urged that solutions be found through reconciliation and forgiveness.  Drawing attention to the long lines of refugees, he said Chad was well aware of their harsh reality and suffering since it had welcomed 100,000 from the Central African Republic and 200,000 from Sudan, in addition to the 180,000 Chadian internally displaced persons.  Moreover, since the drawdown of United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), the Chadian Government had assumed responsibility for protecting those refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as the humanitarian organizations supporting them.  To that end, it had created the “Détachment intégré de sécurité” (DIS), which was a special national force dedicated to that purpose.

He went on to say that Chad desired for Libya to once again find peace.  It supported the National Transitional Council’s efforts to that end.  However, his Government was concerned with the fate of the 100,000 Chadians still trapped in Libya and urged that commitments to protect them be honoured.

Underlining the effects of the economic, energy and food crises, he said they were impacting the ability of developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  For its part, Chad had lived through decades of external attacks and would be unable to achieve the Goals without support from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative.  Moreover, the events unfolding in the Horn of Africa were an invitation for the international community to consider vital humanitarian questions in the most vulnerable ecological zones, where support was greatly needed.  He also noted that Chad, in October 2010, had organized the Eighth World Forum on Sustainable Development with the theme of saving Lake Chad.  The action plans emerging from that meeting needed the international community’s support, he said.

Continuing, he said there was a need for international consensus regarding the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.  For his Government, that meant that a State of Palestine must live side by side with Israel, and he called for all peace-loving countries to commit themselves to that goal. 

Turning to United Nations reform, he said the African people had too frequently been marginalized by the international systems of the past.  Among other things, that had prevented them from playing their full role on the international stage.  In that context, he stressed that the United Nations must be reformed on an accelerated basis in light of the legitimate claims of the African people.  More specifically, that meant they should hold a permanent seat on the Security Council and be given the right to the veto.

IVO JOSIPOVIĆ, President of Croatia, said that current challenges — whether they were the fall of autocratic regimes, nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism, ongoing global financial uncertainty or climate change — required the international community to stand firmly united and to offer sound solutions on the basis of solidarity and respect for the rights of all people.  “Our responses must not remain just words.  We need to translate them into concrete actions, aimed at advancing democracy, enhancing development and human rights.”  Such responses should also promote social justice and the rule of law at all levels.

Turning to the theme of the general debate, he said the role of mediation in resolving disputes by peaceful means had been rightly recognized as an efficient and cost-effective tool at the disposal of the United Nations to deploy in its work for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Indeed, political issues were often at the heart of crises, so the importance of early engagement and preventive diplomacy was vital, especially when the Organization’s peacekeeping architecture was under pressure.

He said, however, that keeping the peace was often not enough.  In countries emerging from conflict, peace needed to be strengthened and consolidated.  Croatia, in a relatively short time, had effectively transitioned from a donor-recipient to a donor-provider.  Today, it was sharing its experiences with countries in the region, well as with others in crisis, where and when its knowledge of post-conflict nation-building could be particularly relevant.  Croatia had shown much enthusiasm six years ago when the United Nations had established the Peacebuilding Commission; that body’s work was not only important, but it was underpinned by a principle on which the European Union had been built.

His Government had closed its accession negotiations with the European Union and expected to become a full member of that regional bloc in 2013, he said.  Once it joined, Croatia would advocate for the bloc’s enlargement “and will not use its outstanding bilateral issues to set conditions for the progress of individual countries in the process of their integration.”  He had had numerous meetings with regional counterparts, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.  Those discussions had dealt with the continuation of the reconciliation process and resolving outstanding issues between the three.  Croatia had pledged technical assistance to the process of integration into the European Union and the need to jointly define regional infrastructure networks and to submit them as regional projects that could be funded through the Union.

He said that his country, as a NATO member, had a keen interest in seeing Southeastern Europe become a region of security, stability and development.  That might not happen overnight, but Croatia firmly believed that with sustained efforts and targeted actions by all politicians and peoples, the region would overcome its misplaced reputation as “an arena of fragmentation [and] bloodshed.” He believed it would become a region known for its good neighbourliness, tolerance and mutual cooperation.

LAURA CHINCHILLA MIRANDA, President of Costa Rica, said that the “intense, stimulating, but still uncertain” political and social movements in the Middle East and North Africa testified to the universal force of democracy as an aspiration, of free expression as an incentive, and of respect for human dignity as the most urgent demand.  From its deepest collective roots, Costa Rica fully identified with democracy, peace and human rights.  However, the disrespect of those values had plunged most of Central America into intense conflicts for almost four decades.

She said her country had contributed decisively to the Esquipulas Peace Accords, which opened the door to reconciliation, but since then, progress had been slow and erratic.  Fifteen years ago, the countries of the region had agreed to the Framework Treaty on Democratic Security.  However, insufficient progress had been made in securing a region of peace, liberty, democracy and development.  Central America had become victim of a new and terrible aggression in the form of transnational organized crime, falling prey to a “malevolent geopolitics” as a result of its location between the world’s largest centres of production and demand.  Costa Rica insisted that the international community — in particular the greatest consumers of drugs and suppliers of arms that materialized the violence — assume complete responsibility for their actions without further delay.

The conference on security in Central America, attended by the Presidents of the region from Mexico to Colombia, “marks a turning point of hope”, she went on.  There, parties had been able to coordinate strategies, and had agreed that there should be a comprehensive approach to violence that included the strengthening of institutions and the rule of law, as well as direct action against crime.  They had also been able to get the attention of the international community and obtain certain promises.  It had yet to be seen if the strategies would transform into efficient actions, or if there was enough will from external partners to drive the work forward.  Resources should not be mere aid, she stressed, noting that “preventive diplomacy” had been called for by the Secretary-General.  “I insist before the world that we cannot wait any longer to act in order to avoid a major tragedy in our region,” she said.  “It is already too late.  Later may be tragic.”

Preventive diplomacy, she said, required political will, and the world had approached a juncture in which that will would be put to the test:  the next arms trade treaty, which Costa Rica had actively supported, must produce a “robust, comprehensive and demanding instrument, capable of controlling the flow of the machines of death that provoke all types of conflicts”.  Last October, Nicaraguan troops and civilians had invaded and occupied parts of Costa Rica, in clear violation of its sovereignty, border treaties and international law.  Thanks in part to urgent orders from the International Court of Justice, they had been forced to leave the country; however, while waiting for the final ruling, Nicaragua had continued its provocations and now threatened other actions.  Costa Rica requested “rapid and timely action” from the United Nations and from the multilateral system in general in order to prevent possible aggressions.

During the past year, Costa Rica had been supported in becoming a member of the Human Rights Council, she noted.  Now, along with other members, it was pushing forward the “United Nations Declaration on Education on Human Rights” initiative, which the Council had approved, and which would soon be presented to the Assembly.  Additionally, Costa Rica recognized the responsibility to protect as a guide for action in cases where other actions were unable to deter the worst aggressions against humanity.  She hoped that the concept, like human security, would be very clearly outlined within the United Nations.

She said her country also supported changes to help the Organization become more efficient, pertinent and relevant, including via improvements to the working methods of the Security Council by means of the “Small Five”, and for a more representative composition of the Organization, according to the guidelines of “United for Consensus”.  As a middle-income country that had achieved high levels of development — but, which still had vulnerabilities related to poverty and other factors — Costa Rica still required international assistance.  In particular, it needed the help of donor countries and the United Nations, especially the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Its relative success should not be penalized, but rather stimulated.

Costa Rica had focused on sustainable development through robust social and environmental policies, she said.  It had clean energy and an economic model low on carbon consumption, with the goal of becoming one of the first carbon-neutral countries in the world.  It had faith in the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting and Rio+20.  However, the lack of progress during the preparatory negotiations was worrying.

KEVIN RUDD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, said that amid dangers to the global economy, taxpayers must no longer be asked to bail out irresponsible major financial institutions.  All major economies should find a credible path to prevent further outbreak of protectionism and conclude Doha, and to seek currency reform, particularly with the appreciation of the Chinese yuan.  It was also crucial to drive global growth through innovative public/private finance for needed infrastructure, use carbon pricing to harvest jobs potential in the green revolution and lift full participation of women and youth.

“Some may ask:  why dwell so extensively on the global economy in an address to the [United Nations] General Assembly?  My answer is simple.  Unless together we can craft a path to sustainable growth, and unless we avoid rolling economic crises and the continuing spectre of global recession, we will cut from underneath us the economic foundations of all that we seek to achieve through the global institutional order,” he said.  Stronger regional institutions as a complement to the Organization were also needed to deal with growing security challenges in Asia, where a damaging strategic miscalculation would undermine global growth.  “What happens in Asia now matters, not only in Asia, but the rest of the world.”

He said Australia stood with the rest of the international community applauding the courage of the citizens in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria seeking what was naturally theirs.  The Syrian regime should heed the lessons of Libya, and he called on Bashar al-Assad to step down and political reform to begin there now.  Sadly, there had been no progress towards peace for the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and if direct negotiations did not conclude matters soon, the rapidly changing politics of the region would make prospects of a lasting settlement remote.

Turning to development issues, he said the challenge had been graphically demonstrated by this year’s devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, which had left more than 12 million people in need of direct humanitarian assistance.  Today, it was clear that the report card for broader efforts to lift a billion people out of poverty by 2015 was poor, with most of the Millennium Development Goals unlikely to be achieved.  Among other things, the international community should get behind both regional and global efforts to meet the strategic need for food.  Saying FAO was failing to fully meet its mandate to the world’s poorest, he stressed that if its new management failed to set clear priorities for the future, Australia would comprehensively review its development funding of the organization.  His Government also believed the $16 billion gap in the global education funding must be closed.  In that regard, it was time to consider developing a new public/private institution with an explicit mandate for school education that exclusively focused on getting nearly 70 million children into school by 2015.

He stressed that any hope of meeting the development challenge was inextricably linked to the health of the planet, and there were ecological limits beyond which humanity should not venture.  Among other things, action to achieve a sustainable, prosperous marine economy — a “blue economy” — was needed.  In addition, the international community would have the opportunity at next year’s Rio+20 to act decisively to protect the planet.  Although so many challenges of historical consequence were before the world community, it had shown in the past year that when action was collective and decisive — as it had been in Security Council resolutions on Libya and Côte d’Ivoire — it could deliver.  However, the United Nations must make its global institutions work or risk becoming a “clanging gong, full of sound and sentiment, but ultimately symbolizing nothing”.

ZALMAI RASSOUL, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, speaking on behalf of President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, said his country was mourning this week’s assassination of former President and Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, a champion of peace.  He also commiserated with people of the United States for their sense of loss rekindled by the recent tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Afghanistan would soon mark 10 years since the end of the Taliban, which brought great access to education and health, as well as development of infrastructure.  But gratitude and pride for those achievements was tempered by the absence of security.

He said that the international fight against terrorism must be reviewed and adjusted.  Ordinary Afghans suffered unspeakable losses while terrorist sanctuaries remained untouched far away.  Indeed, continued credibility of the fight would depend on focusing where terrorism originated.  But military action was not the only solution to the Taliban insurgency.  The offer of reconciliation had been extended to all Afghans in a comprehensive effort to make the political process a more inclusive and acceptable alternative to violence.  “Clearly, without sincere cooperation from regional and international partners, notably the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, this strategy will not succeed,” he said.

It was a crucial year for Afghanistan, as it began the transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans by the end of 2014, from which the country would emerge sovereign, self-reliant and at peace, he said.  That progress depended on the resolve of the people and the continued support of the international community, but it would also require a lengthy comprehensive economic transition.  At the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, later this year, the Afghan Government would call for commitments to the post-2014 period and share its vision to emerge in the next 10 years as a regional hub for trade and transit.

He said his country was also working closely with Turkey towards a regional conference on cooperation in November to boldly address political differences, cooperating in the face of common challenges such as terrorism, extremism and the drug trade.  Developments were also hugely influenced by events in the wider world, and Afghanistan was anxiously watching the situation in the Middle East, particularly developments in Libya, where he urged inclusivity and safeguarding of the unity of the Libyan nation.   Afghanistan also called for an immediate end to the suffering of the people of Palestine and stood firmly behind efforts aimed at their full membership in the United Nations.

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