United Nations General Assembly 58th Session General Debate



Mr. President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The brutal attacks on the UN mission in Baghdad are beyond comprehension. I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

The perpetrators of such crimes must be brought to justice. We must renew our efforts to bolster respect for humanitarian principles. It is unacceptable that UN personnel are unable to conduct humanitarian relief operations without risking their lives. It is unacceptable that UN personnel are denied access to people in distress.

On behalf of the people of Norway, I wish to express my respect and admiration to all UN workers who are doing what they can to help in Iraq and other zones of conflict and danger. Mr. President,

Unless the security needs in Iraq are met, valuable time on the road to political stability, democracy, and economic and social development will be lost. Without a safe and secure environment, the United Nations is unable to help Iraq along that road. I deplore the political assassinations of religious and political leaders in Iraq.

Now we must focus our attention on what is needed to rebuild Iraq. Norway is participating in the international effort to stabilise and rebuild Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

Our aim is to help the people of Iraq regain control of their own destiny. To help them build a future of freedom and justice - and a life in peace with their neighbours.

The United Nations should play a key role in setting the benchmarks and guiding the political process towards the early restoration of Iraq's sovereignty and the transfer of power to an Iraqi government.

But a carefully considered timeframe must be drawn up. We must also make sure that the tasks that we decide for the United Nations in Iraq are realistic and achievable.

Mr. President,

Terrorism is a dark force, which targets the very values and norms upon which the United Nations Charter is based. An overwhelming majority of Member States have joined forces to fight it - and we have taken some important steps together.

We need to strengthen the role of the United Nations in multilateral disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. We need to agree on strong and effective regimes that can provide reliable protection against weapons of mass destruction.

A week ago world leaders and the Secretary-General sat down in New York at the invitation of Norway to discuss ways to fight terrorism and the roots of evil. They voiced their dedication to the fight against terrorism, and their determination to place humanity at the centre of that fight.

Mr. President,

We want a United Nations that reaches out and responds to the concerns of all Member States. And it must reach out and respond to the concerns of all individuals - to the needs of men and women alike. We need a world of equal opportunities, where all the world's human resources - and not only half of them - are put fully to use.

We have a vision of a humane world where people can live in security and dignity, free from poverty and despair. To live up to the ideals enshrined in the Charter, the United Nations must continue to give priority to human rights and fundamental aspects of governance.

A culture of impunity for mass atrocities is incompatible with human dignity and undermines long-term security. The establishment of the International Criminal Court is a historic turning point.

Mr. President,

Fighting terrorism, strengthening human security, working for development and preventing conflict are challenges that are closely related.

In the Millennium Development Goals we have pledged to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and to reduce child mortality by two-thirds. We have pledged to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Norway currently holds the chairmanship of the Commission on Sustainable Development. And we are committed to achieving real progress. It is crucial that developing and developed countries and the private sector all contribute.

Development must be built on a global partnership and on shared responsibilities. Norway remains committed to the Doha development agenda. We are confident that strengthening and making full use of this multilateral framework is the way to go. We will work hard to get the negotiations back on track.

Mr. President,

More often than not, the United Nations only becomes engaged in earnest after armed conflict has broken out. The reasons are many, but they are no excuse for the loss of lives, the human misery and the setbacks in development that are too often the high price of collective inaction.

Too often the main legacy of a civil war is another civil war. Yet there are many things we can do to prevent this from happening.

We can act to prevent economic conflict drivers such as diamonds and other natural resources from fuelling and prolonging conflicts. And we can act to curb the illegal trade in small arms.

By fighting poverty and promoting peace and development, we are making the soundest investment possible in Africa. We will assist the African Union and NEPAD in their endeavours towards economic and social development and political stability in Africa.

Norway will continue working for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa. The peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea is entering a crucial phase. We urge both parties to stand by their commitments and not hesitate now that they stand at the threshold of lasting peace. In Sudan, important progress has just been made. We urge the parties to step up their efforts and reach a final settlement.

Mr. President,

Over the last few years, the United Nations has made considerable progress in peacekeeping. The foundations for a new approach have been laid. Notable results have been achieved in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and East Timor, as well as in reinforcing the capabilities of DPKO and strengthening the UN Standby Arrangement System.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is facing a particularly challenging task. Two years on, much has been achieved, but the situation is still volatile. The safe and secure environment needed for economic growth and full implementation of the Bonn accord is not in place.

Many people are suffering from food shortages and are in need of assistance. Elections are due next year. Women are not yet properly empowered. Unless we can assure nation-wide security, the nationbuilding process in Afghanistan will be at risk. A sustained international presence will be necessary for the foreseeable future.

With NATO in command of ISAF, Norway as NATO member has an additional stake in the building of a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of Afghanistan. We have decided to make Afghanistan one of our partner countries in development co-operation.

Mr. President,

In Sri Lanka the peace process has reached a decisive juncture. We are hopeful that the parties will soon be able to embark on negotiations towards an interim administration for the north-east province. It is vital that the parties reach agreement and resume direct peace negotiations within the timeframe envisaged.

Development of economic infrastructure is equally important for all in Sri Lanka. In parallel with dealing with the political process, the parties should take care to proceed with the important task of reconstruction and development.

Norway remains firmly committed to the role of facilitator of the peace process between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. We call on the international community to engage in the efforts for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Sri Lanka.

In Myanmar the government has recently stated its intention to invite the democratic opposition and the ethnic minorities to take part in the building of a national consensus. A good place to start would be by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi immediately and without conditions, and thereby demonstrate the government's sincere intentions. This might mean the beginning of a new political era in Myanmar.

Norway stands ready to support efforts to make democratisation an irreversible process. We strongly support the role of the United Nations, and-, believe that the active involvement of countries in the region will be vital in reaching a solution.

Mr. President,

2003 has been a tragic year for Israelis and Palestinians. Their acceptance of the Road Map for peace boded well. But again violence and not politics is determining the course of development.

A political solution is needed - building on a parallel process where Israel takes significant steps to end the occupation, and where the Palestinian Authority takes determined steps to fight terror.

The ultimate goal, in which we will not lose faith, is that of two states - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security.

Norway urges Israel to do its utmost to ease the living conditions of the Palestinians. In our capacity as chairman of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for assistance to the Palestinians, Norway remains committed to rebuilding the Palestinian areas.

Norway also believes that the parties should avail themselves of the assistance of the international community and individual countries through appropriate monitoring mechanisms.

Mr. President,

The past year has been a trying one for the United Nations. Multilateralism has come under pressure from those who continue to question the primacy of the United Nations - and therefore look elsewhere for solutions.

The answer to this challenge is to make the United Nations more effective and thus more relevant in dealing with issues at the top of the international agenda. By increasing the relevance of the United Nations we can increase its authority and legitimacy.

Norway shares the Secretary-General's view that Member States need to take a hard look at today's UN institutions and ask whether they are adequate for the tasks we have before us. The time has come to advance the issue of reform of the Security Council. It is also time to agree on a more relevant agenda for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Human Rights. Norway puts emphasis on reforming the work of the First Committee

We therefore welcome the Secretary-General's decision to appoint a High-Level Panel to recommend concrete ways in which to strengthen the functioning of the major bodies of the United Nations and the relationship between them.

Norway, together with the Nordic countries, has a long-standing commitment to reform. We stand ready to assist in bringing the initiatives of the Secretary-General to fruition.

Mr. President,

The aims and ideals of the United Nations are as relevant as ever - to maintain peace and security, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, to establish conditions for justice and the international rule of law, and to promote economic and social development.

The world has changed since 1945, but the United Nations has not changed with it. I urge Member States to come together with a renewed sense of unity and purpose, so that we can change our organisation in the collective spirit that lies at the core of the Charter.