Press Releases

    UNIS/DSG/24
    1 February 2000

     

    Deputy Secretary-General Says Security Council Has
    "Spectacularly Reaffirmed Its Long-standing Engagement with Africa"



    NEW YORK, 31 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette’s statement to the Security Council, as it met this afternoon to consider the situation in Africa:

    Let me begin by congratulating you and your country, once again, for the truly historic start you have given to this Council's activity in the new millennium. Seldom, if ever, can this Chamber have been graced, in the space of one month, by so many heads of State and government, or by such distinguished representatives of the host country.

    You have brought both the executive and the legislative branches of your Government here, at a very high level. I believe it may be true to say that, as a result, the United Nations and the United States now understand each other better than for many years past. And it may not be too much to hope that this will mark the beginning of a new era of positive engagement by the United States in all aspects of this Organization's work.

    It is particularly gratifying that you have used this opportunity to focus attention on the challenges that face us in Africa. No part of the world is in greater need of our help. And none has greater potential to reward our efforts if we apply them in a wise and timely manner.

    Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, is likely to be the world's fastest-growing region this year, in economic terms. And which country is leading this impressive spurt of growth? Mozambique -- a country which, only a few years ago, was in the grip of a civil war apparently as intractable as any of those still raging or smouldering on the continent.

    Mr. President, if there is one country in the world where the efforts of the United Nations -- in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building -- have made an incontrovertible difference, I suggest that Mozambique would be that country. Let no "Afro-pessimist" say, therefore, that you in the United States, or we in the Secretariat, or any of the members of this Council, are wasting our time in trying to help Africans solve their problems. On the contrary, I am convinced that, if only we can sustain the momentum you have given us, your efforts to mobilize the international community, as well as the continent itself, will make a tangible difference to peace, stability and prosperity in Africa.

    And I am glad to see that on Friday, European Union ministers, in their turn, began a historic debate on a "new and strategic" relationship with Africa, focused on reducing poverty and conflict.

    In the course of this "Month of Africa", we have seen real and encouraging signs of the understanding, interest, determination and commitment, which all sides need to demonstrate if we are to address the root causes of conflict and bring an end to the suffering of so many Africans. And we have benefited from the wisdom and sustained attention of several outstanding African leaders, whose interest in solving the continent's problems clearly goes well beyond the immediate national interests of any one African country. Let me salute, in particular, the contributions made by three African leaders who have stayed with us for this final session: President Chiluba of Zambia; Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity; and the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab.

    As you know, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has also followed your proceedings with intense interest. A long-standing conflict in another part of the world -- Cyprus -- requires his presence in Geneva today. But I assure you he is very much with us in spirit, and I shall give him a full account of your deliberations when he returns to New York tomorrow.

    By devoting its very first session of the new millennium to the question of AIDS, the Council recognized the epidemic as a security threat for Africa -- both as a direct killer of millions of Africans and as an agent of social, economic and political instability. Members of the Council showed a clear understanding that it would make no sense for the international community to try and address peace and security issues on the continent without bringing HIV/AIDS into the picture. Many important proposals were made during the debate, and must be followed up energetically. All in all, a new impetus has been given to the fight against this most cruel of diseases, and to the alliance against AIDS in Africa which is currently being built under the leadership of UNAIDS. I particularly welcome the pledges of material support for this struggle given by Vice-President Gore and other representatives of donor governments.

    The discussions on Burundi also yielded clear signs of a stronger intent to overcome the current stalemate. President Mandela's wisdom and faith once again proved invaluable. I thank him most sincerely for the trust he showed in the Council by coming to take part in its debate, and for the unforgettable statements he delivered both here and in Arusha.

    Similarly, when it came to the even more complex problems of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, no fewer than seven African heads of State joined your own Secretary of State, Mr. President, in giving us new hope by their presence and by their words. They reaffirmed their commitment to finding a peaceful solution to what Mrs. Albright has aptly named "Africa's first world war".

    The Lusaka Agreement -- already in itself an important example of Africa's renewed determination to tackle its own problems -- thereby received a major boost. All the States which had signed it solemnly reaffirmed their commitment to it. And the fact that a statesman of such wisdom and moral authority as Sir Ketumile Masire has agreed to act as facilitator in the next phase of negotiations is certainly a source of hope.

    The Council has since been working hard to finalize a resolution which would enable us at last to deploy the promised 500 military observers and support troops. If all goes well, this should lead on to a major new peacekeeping and peace-building effort, which will demonstrate beyond any doubt the seriousness of the international community's commitment to resolving conflict in Africa.

    In Sierra Leone, the peace process is further advanced, but still very fragile. Nowhere in Africa, at this moment, has the United Nations taken on a greater responsibility. I am glad that discussions during this month have moved us closer to having the mandate and the resources we need to carry out that responsibility, and I hope that next week the Council will be able to adopt a resolution to that effect, as planned.

    In Angola, your discussions have at least helped bring the protracted conflict there back into clearer international focus, and I am grateful for that. The important work of the Council's committee on sanctions, led by Ambassador Fowler, must now be carried forward in order to reinforce the push for peace.

    No less important was the debate you held on the harrowing problem of refugees and displaced persons in Africa. These unhappy people merit our attention every bit as much as their counterparts in other parts of the world. I hope that the spotlight you have focused on them will result in more generous funding of the humanitarian appeals which the United Nations has launched on their behalf. And I must thank you also, Mr. President, for drawing attention to the discrimination which often affects the internally displaced -- an issue which has long preoccupied the humanitarian branches of the United Nations family, but until now has seldom caught the eye of political leaders or the international media.

    If I were to sum up the achievement of this month in a single phrase, I should say that the Council has spectacularly reaffirmed its long-standing engagement with Africa, and in doing so has shown a greater sense of urgency than ever before.

    But we all know that the real measure of our achievements, if such they are, will not to be found in this room. It can only be found on the African continent itself, in the peace we are able to restore or maintain, and the relief we are able to bring to the sufferings of so many innocent people. So the real issue is: where do we go from here?

    Presidencies come and go as the months pass, but Africa, with its deep wounds and its heroic efforts, remains with us month after month. Our commitment to heal those wounds and to support those efforts is worth nothing, unless it matches deeds to words -- unless it is strong and, above all, sustained.

    And, Mr. President, African leaders on their side must not forget something they have heard over and over in this Chamber during the past few weeks: that no amount of international support can help them unless they themselves show statesmanship and real political will. No one imagines their task is easy. The cause of peace and development requires many painful sacrifices and courageous compromises. But the pain and the risk will surely be worthwhile if they give the peoples of Africa a real chance to build a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their children.

    For my part, on behalf of the Secretariat, I pledge that we will do everything possible to sustain the momentum this "Month of Africa" has generated, and to make sure they are effectively harnessed within the United Nations system. I am confident that members of this Council will do the same.

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