|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1661|
|Release Date: 3 July 2000|
Government Officials Urge Cooperation Between
Developed, Developing Nations
Assessments of Copenhagen Commitments Include Equitable Distribution
GENEVA, 29 June (UN Information Service) -- Industrialized developed countries that had benefited greatly from economic globalization should join with poorer nations to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth, Government ministers told the General Assembly special session on social development this afternoon.
The session, a follow-up to the 1995 Copenhagen Social Summit that had resulted in commitments on fair economic policies between the developed and developing countries, featured a number of speakers who said that although globalization had been tremendously successful for some of the planet's wealthiest nations, it had cast a dark shadow over billions of people in impoverished countries.
Continuing for a fourth day a discussion called "proposals for further initiatives for social development," several speakers from nations that were attempting to build sustainable economies said it was imperative for the international community to further commit to helping them build economies that would continually grow and to establish environments where social development would eventually thrive. Many agreed that the eradication of poverty -- mainly through concerted job creation efforts -- was of paramount importance in constructing stable and civil societies.
It was also paramount, they stressed, that the richest countries, coupled with the financial international institutions, adopt such policies as debt forgiveness and equitable lending schemes to ensure the new world economy involved all nations.
Speaking were the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium for the Budget, Social Integration and Social Economy; the Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia; the Minister of Labour and Social Security of Azerbaijan; the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; the Minister of Social Policy of Paraguay; the Minister for the Advancement of Women, Family Welfare and Social Affairs of Djibouti; the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and the Family of Slovakia; the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of the United Arab Emirates; the Secretary of State for Children and Youth of Canada; the Minister for Economic Affairs and Development of Mauritania; the Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Spain; the Minister for Labour, Family and Social Affairs of Slovenia; the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Moldova; the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan; the Under-Secretary for Planning and Public Investment, Secretariat of Planning and Programming of the Presidency of Guatemala; the General Director for Multilateral Affairs of Bolivia; the Permanent Secretary of Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda; and the Chairperson of the Delegation of Myanmar.
Exercising their rights of reply were representatives of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Armenia.
Officially titled the "World Summit for Social Development and Beyond: Achieving Social Development for All in a Globalizing World", the week-long special session -- the twenty-fourth in the General Assembly's history -- is intended to review the fulfilment of 10 international commitments made at the 1995 Social Summit, which was held in Copenhagen and aimed at eradicating poverty, achieving full employment, and strengthening social integration. Proposals for expanding or giving greater emphasis to social progress are also anticipated.
The original Copenhagen commitments relate to (1) an enabling environment for social development; (2) poverty eradication; (3) full employment; (4) promotion of social integration; (5) equality and equity between women and men; (6) universal and equitable access to high-quality education and health services; (7) acceleration of development in Africa and in the least-developed countries; (8) inclusion of social development goals in structural-adjustment programmes; (9) resources for social development; and (10) international cooperation for social development.
The special session will reconvene on Friday, 30 June 2000 at 10 a.m. to resume its debate.
JOHAN VANDE LANOTTE, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Budget, Social Integration and Social Economy of Belgium, said the Copenhagen Summit had been notable for its conviction that economic development must go hand in hand with social concerns; the pace of globalization had confirmed that the economic, social and ecological dimensions of development were interdependent. Economic progress could not be acquired or balanced without sufficient attention to social matters. Volatile financial flows could increase cycles of growth and stagnation, and such systemic anarchy could have hard consequences for individual lives around the globe. Belgium supported European Union proposals for eradication of poverty in the region, and the setting of norms based on a basket of goods and services termed to be necessary for basic, dignified living. Under the European Union programme, the poverty rate was to be halved by the year 2010.
Around the world there had not been significant progress in reducing poverty, despite the conclusions of the Copenhagen Summit. The objectives of the summit must be supported by dialogue and help at the international level. Belgium had voted for an increase in support for social programmes, and was considering how to swiftly conform to the initiative for debt relief for the most heavily indebted countries. Technical assistance was needed for developing countries; another possibility was a tax on international financial transactions that could be used for aid; and greater market access for developing countries should be pursued.
ZELJKA ANTUNOVIC, Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, said an important achievement of the Copenhagen Summit was the marked transition from approaches mostly preoccupied with market liberalization to those directed toward social development. Focusing on three main problems -- poverty, unemployment and social exclusion -- the Summit had identified new challenges and at the same time had defined the social component as an essential element of global economic development. It was globalization, technological progress and modernization which represented the new challenges in the fulfilment of commitments made and the realization of new goals set by the Summit. As the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration had noted, globalization opened new opportunities for sustained economic growth and development of the world economy, particularly in developing countries, but at the same time, the rapid processes of change and adjustment had been accompanied by intensified poverty, unemployment and social disintegration. Globalization and interdependence provided beneficial opportunities, but also brought potential damages and costs.
The Croatian Government had attempted to create an environment that would enable sustainable growth by dedicating its efforts to the individual. It was believed that such an environment could be achieved only through interaction between economic and social development, with the ultimate goal of pursuing the improvement of living standards for all and facilitating full and free participation in the economic, political and social arena without discrimination. The eradication of poverty, the attainment of full employment and respect for human dignity at the highest level as well as equal opportunities for all were the fundamental values advocated by the Government. The policy was mainly aimed at promoting social development by creating a society that should not only guarantee everyone the opportunity for self-sufficiency and active participation in the community, but should also ensure that vulnerable groups had access to social services, so as to prevent social exclusion and reduce poverty.
ALI NAGHIYEV, Minister of Labour and Social Security of Azerbaijan, said Azerbaijan had sped up and expanded social reforms after the Copenhagen Summit; the economic crisis that had swept the country in the early '90s had ended and considerable work had been carried out to recover from it. A series of reforms had been implemented in such spheres as subsidies and pensions, creation of jobs for socially vulnerable groups, and help for the education and health sectors. Some 30 legislative acts had been passed related to social reforms. A number of international organizations had taken an active part in solving the country's problems; there had been efforts to expand the private sector; and significant accomplishments had been made in the sphere of health care. A series of programmes had been established under the title of "The Young Family". However, the country's political and economic past, the aggression and occupation by Armenia of more than 20 per cent of the national territory, the presence of large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, and problems of economic transition had caused a continuation of poverty in Azerbaijan. The Armenian aggression had limited Azerbaijan's capacity to implement some commitments made in Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen Summit had resulted in concrete progress in the country. The current meeting should result in a new level of appraisal and in new strategies and decisions for world social progress.
ABDURAHMAN MOHAMED SHALGHEM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Libya, said that since the Copenhagen Summit, the international community had been aware that people-centred social development had to be implemented. However, the achievements made during the last five years were too modest. The gap between the poor and the rich both within a nation and among States had continued to grow. The amount of debt payment by the developing countries and the part they allocated to their social development was incomparable. The problems of poverty and disease had continued to ravage particularly the developing countries. It was tragic that those countries continued to experience extreme poverty within the family of nations. A pragmatic solution by the international community was needed in order to reduce poverty and disease in the world.
The debt burden was another problem faced by the developing countries at this stage, Mr. Shalghem continued to say. The cancellation of the debt of a few countries was not enough; it should include all the nations of Africa as a whole. Many countries diverted their social development schemes in favour of the payment of their debt. Those amounts which had been paid for debt service could have been made available for different social development projects in countries, thus improving the life standards of their populations. Libya on its part, despite the economic sanctions imposed against it, had succeeded in improving the standard of life of its people.
AURELIO VARELA, Minister of Social Policy of Paraguay, said at the end of the Copenhagen meeting, there had been great hopes that the commitments would lead to results, and that the existing problems would soon be eradicated. Economics were the main pillar necessary to support equitable social development. But despite these commitments, the same problems still existed. Markets were difficult to access and not always competitive, especially with agricultural and livestock production. Paraguay was a country of lower-level development, and it was landlocked. That made it difficult for it to participate in international trade. In 1989, at the end of an authoritarian Government, Paraguay began a legal framework for democracy. Until now, the transitional Governments had focused on building democracy, with full freedoms for all and a wide respect for human rights.
Paraguay had had unfavourable times in the economic spheres in the last five years, although there had been some successes that stemmed from the summit. In 1996, with the help of the United Nations, the Government had adopted a Strategic Plan for Social Development that had addressed sustained economic growth to support social development; addressed the eradication of poverty; and increased the productive capacity of people and met their basic human needs. Poverty affected 32 per cent of the population, and under-employment was 19 per cent. Significant progress had been made in social investment, which went from 3 per cent of GNP in 1990 to 8.2 per cent in 1998. Life expectancy was 69 years, and there was a reduction in infant mortality rates.
HAWA AHMED YOUSSOUF, Minister-delegate responsible for the Advancement of Women, Family Welfare and Social Affairs of the Office of the Prime Minister of Djibouti, said five years had been a short period, but some things were clear -- utmost priority needed to be given to human development. In Djibouti, more than 50 per cent of people lived below subsistence level; progress in some areas, such as women's rights, had been offset by problems with unemployment -- that and low income were the main factors creating poverty in the country. There also was unmet demand for basic social services. Economic growth would not alleviate poverty, it was clear, unless it led to economic growth for the poor. Hence, Djibouti had undertaken reforms to fight poverty and, with help from international partners, had established a structural reform programme that gave priority to social programmes. Good governance was a key element of this new policy.
Legal measures taken included adoption of a new code for the family and a new penal code; and three new ministries had been established in the social sphere, including one focusing on women's issues. It was obvious that without democracy such efforts would be in vain -- continuing conflicts in Africa threatened all kinds of progress, and conflicts in the Horn of Africa were a threat to Djibouti and to the region. Hence, Djibouti had been active in peace efforts for Somalia. Working together, nations could win the fight against poverty, but further debt cancellation was needed, along with greater development assistance.
MIHA BREJC, Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Family of Slovakia, said that his Government had bound itself to develop policies and programmes that would secure and extend participation of women as equal partners in all areas of political, economic, social and cultural life. The key policy document of the Government of the Slovak Republic in the area of women issues was a national action plan for women which was elaborated in 1997 for a decade. Since the new Government came to office in 1998, it had intensified its involvement in the activities of the world organizations. Cooperation with the International Labour Organization should be mentioned, the organization in which Slovakia had achieved a position of a titular member of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization and presidency of the government group during the 87th Conference last year.
Mr. Brejc said that his country had adopted the International Labour Organization Convention on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and attached importance to it. In addition, it had ratified all eight core conventions of the organization, as a contribution in support of social cohesion. Slovakia believed that the key factors and basic prerequisites for building a cohesive society were trust and participation. Thus, when building a cohesive society, Slovakia had to focus on formulating such strategies and principles that strengthened trust among citizens and in the state administration.
MATAR HUMAID AL-TAYER, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said the human being was at the centre of all development and resources. The UAE was able to strike a balance between economic development and social development. Generally speaking, the social development plan in the UAE could be considered a model, because the plan had been successful very quickly. Education and training systems had been set up to address the changing landscape in development. One of the priority objectives was teaching technical training in schools. Attendance at the secondary school level was 76 per cent for boys and 84 per cent for girls, and many were also studying at universities. Health care was guaranteed for all citizens of the UAE, and life expectancy was 76 years for women, and 73.5 for men -- among the highest in the world. There were strategies in place to combat chronic diseases. The infant mortality rate had dropped to 9.44 deaths per 1,000 live births. Laws had been passed to guarantee the social well-being of people -- this particular legislation covered the most needy families, and other legislative matters dealt with pensions, the aged, and the disabled.
Concerning youth and culture, centres had been opened, Mr. Al-Tayer said. The UAE had encouraged sports federations, and their number had increased from three to 27. In employment, the Government had established a body for the development of management. The labour market there was a very good example of international cooperation. Foreigners working in the UAE had full protection under the law. Women there enjoyed all rights in society -- equal to all the rights of men. In fact, in higher education, there were more women than men enrolled. Women had advantages in terms of employment -- they received the same salary as men for equal work. In addition to achieving sustainable development, the UAE was aware that a number of countries suffered from a lack of resources. The Government had taken on a number of international responsibilities. Assistance was given, and certain debts had been cancelled. The UAE was trying to make as much progress as possible in terms of realizing the objectives of the 1995 Copenhagen Summit.
ETHEL BLONDIN-ANDREW, Secretary of State, Children and Youth of Canada, stated that the context for social development had changed since 1995 and that there had been unprecedented advancement in technologies, information and communications. The roles of the public and private sectors had evolved in managing national economics. The public sector had been shrinking, its resources diminished. World trade had dramatically increased as trade borders and barriers had disappeared through regional trade agreements and electronic commerce. Civil society was playing a more active role in shaping government responses and policies. But increased economic growth had not automatically translated into equitable distribution of benefits -- in countries and between countries. In some cases, globalization had exacerbated the marginalization of disadvantaged groups. And there was a growing sense of insecurity, as the already disadvantaged saw uncertainly in their future potential to take full, productive part in the new economy and to profit from its advantages.
No country was spared the discipline, and none denied the benefits, Ms. Blondin-Andrew continued to state. In Canada, in the past decades, the Government had had to make difficult adjustments; Canada was a trading nation; but its commodity-based economy no longer generated the wealth it needed to provide the high standard of social well-being that Canadians expected their Government to foster. Canada had had to free resources to invest in the new knowledge and information economy and to introduce strict fiscal measures during the transition in order to restore the economy to good health. Canada was proud of its achievements. The economy had strengthened; the employment rate had significantly decreased; and in the last few years, Canada had ranked first on the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) development index for measuring the quality of life.
MOHAMED OULD NANY, Minister for Economic Affairs and Development of Mauritania, said a number of significant commitments had been made in Copenhagen, and now was a time to review their implementation. Mauritania had made significant progress by guaranteeing the rule of law and by committing itself to various freedoms related to employment, human rights, and social advances. Some 37 per cent of public expenditure had been devoted to social matters, and this investment had allowed the country to, among other things, increase the number of children in school to a level of 90 per cent; reduce inequalities between boys and girls; decrease levels of illiteracy by one-third; augment health-care services and make medicine available to citizens at affordable prices; increase access to medical care; increase access to clean drinking water; and expand the role of women in national life. Poverty-eradication programmes had achieved significant results, as had steps to increase employment.
Least-developed countries were increasingly marginalized, and trade deficits were becoming serious barriers. It was possible to integrate more fully such countries into the world economic system if there was the will. All the peoples of the world should be allowed to benefit from global economic growth; all should be able to step confidently into the future in accord with the strategy adopted in Copenhagen.
JUAN CARLOS APARICIO, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Spain, said that the Lisbon Summit had marked an important step forward in the struggle against poverty and social exclusion. The Spanish Government was organizing an international conference on ageing in order to encourage a national and international debate on ageing and its socio-economic consequences. Major progress had been achieved in recent years in the field of gender equality. Legal measures in the field of employment had been adopted with the aim of, inter alia, fighting female unemployment and vertical and horizontal discrimination against women. Although major progress had been made in that field, progress was yet to be achieved to ensure that women had access to posts of responsibility and that the quantitative and qualitative imbalance in their participation in all sectors of social life was redressed.
The Government had multiplied its efforts to eradicate violence against women. Special efforts were also made to train women in fields such as technology and science in order to ensure their advancement. Access to health and reproductive services were universal in Spain. On the bilateral front, 92 projects benefited vulnerable populations. Subsidies were also granted to Spanish NGOs involved in projects to promote social development in the areas of health, education, employment and eradication of marginalization. On the multilateral front, Spain contributed to numerous projects, most notably the eradication of child labour in Latin America.
MIHA BREJC, Minster of Labour, Family and Social Affairs of Slovenia, recalled that at the beginning of the nineties, the transition towards a market economy in Slovenia and the subsequent loss of certain markets had brought about temporary negative trends of economic growth and, as a result, a marked rise in unemployment. Since 1993, a revival of economic growth and a substantial improvement of living standards of most of the Slovene population had been witnessed. In 1999, the economic growth of Slovenia amounted to one of the highest in Europe. However, the Government was aware that general economic and social development did not imply an improved situation for everyone as such. Prevention of poverty and related social exclusion were therefore fundamental objectives of social policy in the country.
There was an urgent need for measures to rectify the current situation concerning social exclusion both in a national and global context. It was important to reduce poverty and social exclusion by means of permanent activities and actions, thus preventing the long-term exclusion of individuals and their families. Such action, in order to be successful, required concerted efforts of the international governmental organizations, governments, local communities, public services and non-governmental organizations. The modern world was increasingly characterized by an extensive welfare of people on the one hand, which was, regrettably, accompanied by the silent poverty of growing numbers of people. The Government of Slovenia believed that this was becoming unacceptable and urgently required correction.
NICOLAE TABACARU, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova, said besides being a great opportunity for economic and social development for all countries, the globalization process also represented a real danger of increasing the inequality among them. It was a well-known fact that the small economies in transition were extremely vulnerable to the current social and economic challenges. The delay of the positive processes in the economies of these countries caused the worsening of the social situation of the populations. The eradication of poverty was at the top of the list of the major problems that many countries, including Moldova, were facing at the moment. Moldova had made considerable efforts to solve these problems, but the country was seriously affected by the traumas of transition, which caused huge disturbances of economical, political and social character. The transition from a planning economy to a market one needed not only a radical change in the mentality of the population, which was used to different types of social guarantees on behalf of the Government, but also large budget expenses.
The countries with economies in transition needed financial assistance from international organizations and funds to realize the goals of social development and transition to a market-based economy. Their cooperation with such international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral bodies working on social development issues were compulsory for the strengthening of social integration and social protection. Social assistance had to be promoted as a State social policy and administrated by a central specialized structure in close cooperation with non-governmental organizations, associations, and foundations.
A. ABDULLA, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said that for scores of nations and thousands of millions of people throughout the world, globalization meant marginalization and worsening of their social conditions. The gap between the rich and poor was developing into a gulf at international as well as national levels. More and more people were becoming trapped by poverty, sickness and illiteracy. For them, the concept of a global village was a pipe-dream. Humankind could not and should not bow to the law of market alone. A number of conflicts raging in the world today were sustained by economic and financial interests offering immediate gain; whereas a prerequisite for lasting development was stability. Rules were needed. If the trend towards marginalization was not checked, the world would be faced with major upheavals. If that trend continued, it would foster the emergence of fanatical and extremist forces which would threaten international stability and security.
Social development could not be achieved in isolation but had to be envisaged in a global framework of economic, cultural and political development. The two essential pillars which sustained the whole structure were health and education for all. At the national level, the essential framework was one of respect for the renewed will of the people, respect for human rights, participation of civil society and good governance. At the regional level, respect for the sovereignty of States was an essential precondition for regional cooperation. At the international level, the essential framework was the honouring by the rich countries of their commitments to the developing countries, including matters relating to debt and the taking into account of considerations of social development in the programmes and policies of the international financial institutions.
FRANCISCO MORALES LOPEZ, Under-Secretary of the Secretariat for Planning and Programming of the Presidency of Guatemala, recalled that the indigenous groups in Guatemala were the principal victims of the internal armed conflict that for 36 years had ravaged the country, leaving in its wake thousands of deaths, as well as injured people, widows, orphans and displaced persons. That conflict was, fortunately, brought to an end by the conclusion, in 1996, of the peace agreements. The commitments they embodied coincided to a large extent with what was agreed upon in Copenhagen five years ago, with regard both the intentions of the drafters and the actions provided for. Their most important objectives included respect for human rights, respect for the identity of the indigenous peoples, the overcoming of marginality and exclusion, and a dynamic and sustained economic development. The agreements also aimed to strengthen the democratic State, with provisions for the full observance of human rights.
Mr. Lopez said since the Copenhagen Summit and after decades of institutionalized violations of fundamental human rights, the country was heading towards consolidation of the democratic rule of law and respect for human rights. In order to promote the development of indigenous peoples, projects had been financed through the Guatemalan Indigenous Development Fund. Despite the problems it still faced, Guatemala had managed advances in the social sphere as well as in complying with the peace agreements. The Government had affirmed its determination to pursue all the efforts necessary to consolidate the integral human development of Guatemalans and to promote global sustainable social development, as agreed in Copenhagen.
CANEDO PATINO, General Director for Multilateral Affairs of Bolivia, said many policies and numerous national programmes had been started in the years since the Copenhagen Summit. In Bolivia, the main challenge was to ensure that poverty was diminished, to eliminate social exclusion, and to create social justice for everyone. The fight against poverty started with public policies and effective measures that would change the situation. There was a law that decentralized the Government and made for greater efficiency. To stimulate private investment, laws were created to increase the flow of national and international investments. In the social area, a legal context was developed that increased the participation of citizens. There was also the law of education reform.
The Constitution of the State recognized the right of indigenous peoples to carry out self-government. The work done for equality among women and men was apart from the public policies of the Government. There were laws on quotas and against domestic violence; and decrees on equality between men and women, against sexual harassment, and food safety, among others. The challenge of eradicating poverty had to be an obligation of all countries, rich and poor. It was hoped it would be supported internationally.
KAKIMA NTAMBI, Permanent Secretary, Minister of Gender Labour and Social Development of Uganda said that Uganda had actively participated in the Copenhagen Summit and had fully subscribed to the concluded Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action on social development. On the economic management front, Uganda had implemented a very comprehensive programme of economic reforms with the aim of correcting macro-economic imbalances, achieving financial stabilization and structural adjustment policies designed to correct distortions in resource allocation across all sectors, improving micro economic efficiency and transforming the economy to achieve sustainable growth.
The Government had taken serious measures to ensure that people’s rights to food, work, education, free expression and primary health care were ensured. Measures and policies to address the needs and concerns of vulnerable and marginalized groups had also been put in place. Compulsory universal primary education was established four year ago. Specific programmes had been established to address the problems of poverty, including the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, a plan on modernization of agriculture and programmes of micro finance. In the health sector, health care services had been prioritized in the area of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, immunization of children, child nutrition, and reproductive and maternal health care. Although a lot had been achieved in the area of social development, there was room for improvement with additional requisite human and financial resources. It was a fact that with globalization today there was more rampant poverty, and the gap between the rich and the poor was widening both within and between countries.
U MYA THAN, Chairperson of the Delegation of Myanmar, said that through the implementation of its four national economic objectives, Myanmar was making steady and sustained progress in terms of economic development and poverty alleviation. Despite the effect of the Asian financial crisis, Myanmar was able to maintain the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate at 4.6 per cent in 1997-98. With a view of laying down a firm foundation for economic development and enhancing the political, economic and social life of the people, the Government had undertaken infrastructure building on an unprecedented scale. The Government's economic development strategy was people-centred, and was aimed at the alleviation and eventual eradication of poverty in rural areas, particularly in the less developed border areas. Consequently, national races in the border areas of the country were enjoying higher levels of socio-economic development, higher living standards and happier lives than they had experienced before.
As regards the drug problem, Myanmar was indeed a country in the forefront of war against illicit drugs. The determination, commitments and sacrifices by Myanmar in combating the menace of illicit drugs were now increasingly recognized by the international community. Just to cite one example, Myanmar had sacrificed the lives of 716 members of the armed forces in military operations to interdict drug traffickers.
A representative of Ethiopia, speaking in right of reply, said the international community knew very well that Ethiopia was the victim of the unprovoked aggression of Eritrea. Eritrea, in its brief existence as an independent State, had waged wars of aggression on four of its neighbours -- the last of which was Ethiopia. In order to advance its policies of destabilization, Eritrea had conscripted 10 per cent of its population for military purposes. Ethiopia was dragged into this unwanted war in exercising its inherent right of self-defence. Ethiopia had never provoked or committed aggression against sovereign States or countries in its long history of existence.
Eritrea should be held accountable not only for committing this aggression against Ethiopia, but also for diverting attention and scarce resources from fighting poverty and backwardness which were the primary enemies of people. Eritrea had no moral and legal right to accuse the Ethiopian Defence Forces of looting and destruction of private and public property. In fact, it was the Eritrean Government that had confiscated private and public property worth more than $ 200 million from the ports of Assab and Massawa. This was a well-documented subject and was being carefully handled by appropriate regional and international bodies. Eritrea should also be held responsible for killing close to 200 innocent civilians and for abducting about 650 others in the first few days of the war alone. As people fled for their lives, over 350,000 people were displaced from their homes and communities and many individuals were separated from their families including thousands of children who still did not know the whereabout of their parents.
A representative of Armenia, speaking in right of reply, referred to a statement made by the Minister of Azerbaijan, saying that it was unacceptable that the Minister referred to the status of Armenia's territories as occupied. His statement which alluded to 20 per cent of territory occupied by Armenia and one million refugees from Armenia in Azerbaijan was unacceptable. The just will of the Nagorno Karabakh people for their right to self-determination would never qualify as "aggression" or "occupation". The reference to Armenia as an aggressor State was also to be refuted. The conflict was one that should be solved regionally.
A representative of Eritrea, speaking in right of reply, said the charges of the Ethiopian representative had not been confirmed by international bodies. The statement made by the delegation this morning was relevant to the discussion before this session. It was not a political statement. There was an independent report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) last week that had said that the Ethiopian occupation had left an indelible mark on a once-thriving city, devastating a hospital, looting a church, and stealing property from mosques. Every conceivable kind of business had been broken into, and the contents taken. What was left was set on fire. The legacy of what had happened was difficult for many to accept. South of there, the trail of destruction had continued. The handful of people who remained in the villages outside of the city said soldiers set the villages on fire. The centre of employment was destroyed, as were the Government buildings. Assessing the long-term cost would be difficult. And this was simply a single story. There were many towns that had suffered the same fate.
A representative of Ethiopia, speaking in second right of reply, said that Eritrea had injected into the debate unrelated issues taken out of context for propaganda purposes. Unlike Eritrea, where thousands of Ethiopian nationals were subjected to maltreatment, imprisonment and summary executions, Ethiopia respected the rule of law and was committed to a peaceful solution of the conflict.
A representative of Eritrea, speaking in second right of reply, said what he had read was the report of the BBC of 21 June 2000. That was not from the Government. It was the BBC.
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