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    Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1692
    Release Date:  13 September 2000
     Secretary-General Presents Annual Report on Work of Organization,
    As Fifty-fifth General Assembly Begins General Debate

    Assembly Hears Djibouti’s President, Guatemala’s Vice-President, 
    Foreign Ministers of Brazil, United States, France, Nepal, Malta
     
     

    NEW YORK, 12 September (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations had to be a more effective instrument for pursuing priorities, such as the fight for development, the fight against injustices in all its forms, the fight against violence, terror and crime, and the fight against the degradation of the earth, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, told the fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly this morning, as it opened its general debate.

     Introducing his report on the work of the Organization, he said neither the United Nations nor governments could win all those battles on their own.  Cooperation with commercial enterprises and with civil society was necessary.  It was up to the General Assembly to give effect to the commitments made by the heads of State at the Millenium Summit.  It was also up to the Assembly to achieve the comprehensive reform of the Security Council, a reform that would make the Council more representative and legitimate, but also more effective.

     The Secretary of State of the United States, Madeleine Albright, said that today the United Nations accomplished more and wasted less than it did seven years ago.  Those improvements, she said, must be built on by improving United Nations management and strengthening peacekeeping.  The latter would require a larger peacekeeping staff, the ability to deploy United Nations military forces and civilian police rapidly, improved coordination between military peacekeepers and civilian peace builders, and additional resources from all governments.  The report recently prepared by Ambassador Brahimi’s team was a solid place to start. 

    She pointed to the need for a sustainable and equitable system of financing in order to provide a stronger foundation for United Nations programmes and missions.  The Organization should preserve the special responsibility for peacekeeping of the Security Council’s permanent members and retain a heavily discounted rate for the poorest countries. An equitable system of financing would also reduce the United Nations’ over-reliance on payments from the United States.  Although the United Nations provided no guarantee of global peace or prosperity, it could play a vital role as a catalyst and a coordinator. 

    Addressing the Assembly on the subject of Somalia, Ismael Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti, said that the country as a nation seemed condemned to a slow death, unable to expect either regional or international intervention or a positive change in the behavior of the war lords, who carried out systematic dismantling, destruction and looting.  The people, however, had opted for government, law and order, and a certain future.

     The date 26 August 2000 was a date which would forever stir the hearts of Somalis, he said.  On that date Somalia's interim parliament, the Transitional National Assembly, elected the country's first President in more than a decade.  The rebirth of Somalia opened unlimited possibilities for Somalis everywhere to rebuild their country.  Hopefully, the international community would mobilize emergency assistance to enable the government to function and to recreate basic institutions.

     Juan Francisco Reyes Lopez, Vice-President of Guatemala, said the United Nations had made a significant contribution to the peace process in his country.  His Government was fully committed to complying with the Peace Agreements of December 1996 and to incorporate new obligations, such as that of democratizing access to credit.  The presence of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) was highly valued and he requested the cooperation of the General Assembly in order that its mandate be extended to the end of 2003.

     Of the reforms pending in the United Nations, that of the Security Council had received the most attention, he said.  He urged, among other things, an expansion of the membership of the Council as well as exercise of the veto in strict conformity with the United Nations Charter.  The regularity of its use should be subject to review by the Assembly and in extreme cases by the International Court of Justice, in the interest of an authentic rule of law of an international character.
      
     Statements were also made this morning by Luiz Felipe Palmeira Lampreia, Minister for External Relations of Brazil, Hubert Vedrine, Minister for Foreign 
    Affairs of France (on behalf of the European Union), Chakra Prasa Bastola, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, and Joe Borg, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta.

    The General Assembly will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue its general debate.

    Assembly Work Programme

     The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly met this morning to begin its general debate.  It was expected to hear from the President of the Republic of Djibouti, the Vice-President of the Republic of Guatemala, and representatives of Brazil, United States, France, Nepal and Malta.

     Before the Assembly was a report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization (document A/55/1), containing an introduction and five chapters.  The chapters address the issues of achieving peace and security, meeting humanitarian commitments, cooperating for development, the international legal order and human rights, and managing change.  (A summary of the report has been issued today as Press Release SG/2067.)

    Statement by Secretary-General

    KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said this year’s general debate marked the moment when delegates would roll up their sleeves and start putting into action the bold pledges made by their heads of State and government.  In that spirit, he was presenting his annual report.  The Millennium Summit had proved that there was broad consensus on what needed to be done.  Now, it was vital that the Assembly agree on the means and tools.  In particular, it was vital that the Organization be capable of playing the role the world expected of it.  That meant the United Nations had to be a more effective instrument for pursuing priorities, such as the fight for development, the fight against injustices in all its forms, the fight against violence, terror and crime and the fight against the degradation of the earth. 

    “I do not mean, of course, that this Organization should be able to win all these battles by itself”, he continued.  “If the twentieth century has taught us anything, it is that large-scale, centralized government does not work.  It does not work at the national level, and it is even less likely to work at the global level.  Governments can bring about change, not by acting alone, but by working with other actors –- with commercial enterprises, and with civil society in its broadest sense.”  Governments could define norms and principles, and plans of action, after carefully listening to the views of civil society.  But, appropriate partners to put norms into practice were a necessity.  

    The heads of State and government had reaffirmed the central position of the Assembly as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations, he said.  Now, the Assembly must give effect to that declaration, by taking decisions that reflected the will of the great majority of Member States and taking them when they were needed.  The United Nations could no longer afford to operate at the level of the lowest -- and slowest -- common denominator.  It was also up to the Assembly to achieve the comprehensive reform of the Security Council, a reform that would make the Council more representative and legitimate, but also more effective.  

    In particular, he drew attention to the request that the Assembly consider expeditiously the recommendations of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, he continued.  The largest number of Panel recommendations called for decisions by the Assembly, not least because they had budgetary implications.  He would soon submit an implementation plan, in the hope that within a year real change would be seen.  Never again must the United Nations find itself without the means to protect those who had been encouraged to put their trust in it.  Resources needed to be allocated in a way that reflected current priorities, rather than condemning the Organization to operate with a budget frozen in time.

    Above all, the Organization must make best use of its human resources, he said.  It was vital that it attract the highest calibre staff and that they be given full opportunity to deploy their talents.  It was even more vital that they be given better protection when they were sent to serve the cause of humanity in situations of conflict and danger.  It was also necessary to renovate and modernize the premises of the United Nations.  That could not be delayed without becoming even more costly.  He also wished to highlight the importance of ensuring that parliamentarians, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society were given the opportunity to contribute to the objectives of the United Nations and assist in the implementation thereof.  

    He said that since he had submitted his Millenium Report, headway had already been made on the specific proposals he made for new partnerships.  New information technologies were being brought within reach of the developing countries and that new technology was going to be used to bring medical knowledge where it was most needed.  That work was not being done alone.  It was being done in partnership with volunteers, with corporations and with philanthropic foundations.  There was much, much more to be achieved through such partnerships.

    “The United Nations must continue to play the primary role assigned to it by its founders -- that of keeping the peace”, he said.  That required an Organization that was open, flexible, efficient and representative of all the world's peoples, enjoying legitimacy in their eyes.

    Statements

    LUIZ FELIPE PALMEIRA LAMPREIA, Minister for External Relations of Brazil, welcoming Tuvalu into the United Nations family, said we all know that the twentieth century was marred by a fundamental contradiction.  A growing abundance of intellectual and material resources should have brought about a greater convergence of opportunities and living standards throughout the world.  Yet, because of a failure to harness the necessary political will, those extraordinary possibilities had not been translated into a reality of progress shared by all.

     Globalization was asymmetrical, in part because it flowed from national societies that were themselves socially unbalanced and which seemed to have lost some of their urge to bring about social justice, he continued.  Freedom –- the greatest of values –- continued to advance on all fronts and in all continents.  There was cause for concern, however, that the core values of equality and fraternity were dangerously being put aside.  It was imperative that those two essential elements return to the top of the agenda.

     It was unacceptable that major global issues and campaigns for transnational solidarity were manipulated to disguise what amounted to the protection of narrow interests, he said.  Unfortunately, that was happening in the field of international trade.  It was inadmissible that the most prosperous nations should be legally entitled to restrict access to their markets for agricultural goods, while, at the same time, they called for the free flow of those goods in which they benefited from an enormous competitive advantage.

     Mobilizing political will could make a difference, he said.  The United Nations was the model political forum of the international community and its central goal was to provide the ways and means to bring to life the dearest ideals, values and aspirations.  “It is only through political dialogue and consultation among States made possible by multilateralism that a degree of rationality and predictability can be brought to the workings of global forces”, he said.  To foster multilateralism was to strengthen the United Nations and the modern understanding of the individual as the central beneficiary of international action.

    MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State of the United States, said that the members of the General Assembly were as diverse as humanity, yet were bound together by shared interests.  Those included the benefits of globalization, the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, the protection of the environment, the care of refugees and children, the advancement of the status of women and the fight against HIV/AIDS.  To achieve those aims, she said, “we need all hands on deck” pulling in the same direction.

     She said that no nation could serve its people alone and all could benefit from regional bodies, such as the Organization of American States (OAS), Organization of African Unity (OAU), Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  The role of the United Nations was also vital.  Today, the United Nations accomplished more and wasted less than it did seven years ago.  Those improvements must be built upon, by improving United Nations management and strengthening peacekeeping.  The latter would require a larger peacekeeping staff, the ability to deploy United Nations military forces and civilian police rapidly, improved coordination between military peacekeepers and civilian peace builders, and additional resources from all governments.  The report recently prepared by Ambassador Brahimi’s team was a solid place to start. 

    She pointed to the need for a sustainable and equitable system of financing, in order to provide a stronger foundation for United Nations programmes and missions.  It should preserve the special responsibility for peacekeeping of the Security Council’s permanent members and retain a heavily discounted rate for the poorest countries.  An equitable system of financing would also reduce the United Nations over-reliance on payments from the United States.  That would enable the United States Government to write a cheque to the United Nations for nearly $600 million in prior obligations.  Today, the United Nations was taking on a wide array of “people issues”, including the protection of the planet and putting an end to the trafficking in human beings.  The United Nations was playing an increasing role in areas where cold war divisions once held it back, and had taken a stand against human rights violations in Rwanda and the Balkans, Sierra Leone and Burma.

    Another essential element to achieving a world of greater security, justice and peace was democracy, she said.  Recently, in Poland, more than 100 nations came together to ensure that the democratic tide remained a rising tide around the world.  The evidence of the past century demonstrated that the shared hopes would more readily be accomplished if people could live and work in freedom.  It was the best system yet devised for “sowing and growing the seeds of economic opportunity”.  Although the United Nations provided no guarantee of global peace or prosperity, it could play a vital role as a catalyst and a coordinator. 

     ISMAEL OMAR GUELLEH, President of Djibouti, said the trials and tribulations of the United Nations had continued unabated during the past year, in peace, war, conflict and natural disasters.  It was perhaps a sign of the times when an overview of the world today must give prominence to a disease, HIV/AIDS.  In Africa, it was decimating the youth, professions, classes, the labor force, as well as health systems.  It would test the will of the international community, as in other crises, to respond. 

     Basic uncertainty remained in Africa, because of the spread and intensity of wars, rebel and splinter movements, and factional fighting, he continued.  Angola was in the midst of a civil war, although government forces seemed to be in control.  Sierra Leone’s internal conflict had warranted international concern and the result had been positive.  The economic base for maintaining the bloodshed was curtailed sharply by the decision to ban the sale of precious minerals from belligerents.  He hailed the measures taken by international diamond dealers to proscribe “blood commodities”, noting that similar procedures should be applied to other commodities.  The most ominous threat to the continent was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the United Nations had been unable to deploy troops as envisaged.

     He said the United Nations remained the only organization with the requisite experience to focus the disparate efforts of mankind in such critical areas as the AIDS crisis, pervasive poverty, wars, the environment, human rights abuses, weapons of mass destruction and lack of development.  Decisions regarding the maintenance of international peace and security lay with the Security Council, which, with the explosion of United Nations membership over the last three decades, had become a highly unrepresentative body.  The Council should have access to better intelligence and have some sort of quick response capability.  The mitigation of the spread and impact of conflict did not need to be made on a selective, ad hoc basis, but across the board, wherever serious humanitarian crises were unfolding.

     Addressing the situation in Somalia, he said that it seemed condemned to a slow death, unable to expect either regional or international intervention or a positive change in the behaviour of the warlords, who carried out the systematic dismantling and looting of the Somali nation, ignoring calls to change their criminal behaviour.  The people, however, had opted for government, law and order, and a certain future.  He urged the international community to respect the will of the Somali people and to refuse to entertain doing business with those destructive elements that had made Somalia a byword for chaos and violence.

     The date 26 August would forever stir the hearts of Somalis, he said.  On that date Somalia's interim parliament, the Transitional National Assembly, elected the country's first President in more than a decade.  The man in the news was Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, a seasoned, urbane politician who had already demonstrated his rare skills through a series of visits and engagements, both inside and outside Somalia.  Those individuals who opposed the creation of a representative and democratic government needed to come to terms with reality.  The rebirth of Somalia opened unlimited possibilities for Somalis everywhere to rebuild their country.  He hoped the international community would mobilize emergency assistance to enable the government to function and to recreate basic institutions and capacities.

     JUAN FRANCISCO REYES LOPEZ, Vice-President of Guatemala, said the United Nations had made a significant contribution to the peace process in his country.  In December 1996, following a protracted period of arduous negotiations, a set of Agreements were signed that brought to an end four decades of a fratricidal war that had left tragic and lasting consequences in its wake.  His Government was fully committed to complying with those agreements and to incorporating new obligations, such as that of democratizing access to credit.  The presence of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) was highly valued and he requested the cooperation of the General Assembly in extending its mandate until the end of 2003.

     He said the purposes of the Peace Agreements coincide with the programmes of his Government, including:  unrestricted respect for human rights; the consolidation of a full, participatory democracy; subordination of the armed forces to civilian authority; the development of a pluri-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual society; the strengthening and modernization of the justice system; the reform of the State; and, above all, the provision of an adequate response to the unsatisfied demands of the majority of Guatemalans for more and better social services and adequate incomes.

     His Government intended to establish the basis for dynamic growth in the period 2001 to 2004, with the resulting generation of productive and adequate employment and rising levels of savings and investment, he said.  It would invest in the future by giving priority to human resources, particularly in the areas of health and multilingual education.  It would carry out new productive activities, in the areas where comparative advantages at the international level existed.  It would also devote special attention to the fight against poverty, by decentralizing public administration and working closely with those affected by its policies.

     Of the reforms pending in the United Nations, that of the Security Council had received the most attention, he said.  He urged, among other things, an expansion of the membership of the Council, as well as exercise of the veto in strict conformity with the United Nations Charter.  The regularity of its use should be subject to review by the Assembly and in extreme cases by the International Court of Justice, in the interest of an authentic rule of law of an international character.  He was convinced of the need to strengthen collective capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts, both across borders and at the domestic level.  However, strengthening of the capacity of the United Nations in that area should not be at the expense of activities in the economic and social field.  He also noted that in an increasingly interdependent world, multilateral diplomacy played a crucial role in the struggle against environmental degradation.

     HUBERT VEDRINE, Minister for Foreign Affairs (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said peacekeeping, strengthening international security and defending human rights were the central principles underpinning the Union's foreign policy.  It had also decided to equip itself to be a major political actor and to play its full role on the international stage.  New decision-making action-oriented political and military bodies had been set up -- a political and security committee, a military committee, a European Union military staff, a situation centre and a committee for civilian crisis management.  Those bodies would enable the Union to intervene quickly and credibly in international crises.  The Union also intended to establish, by 2003, a force of 60,000 troops for international missions, with the requisite air and naval support for deployment to a conflict within 60 days and for a period of one year.  

    He said that in addition to its military resources, the Union would develop civilian intervention capabilities, including a corps of civilian police.  States members had set themselves the goal of being able, by 2003, to provide up to 5,000 officers, 1,000 of whom would be deployment-ready within 30 days.  Turning to the Western Balkans, he said the assistance that the Union had provided to that region over the last 10 years was nearly 8 billion euros.  The Union would continue to sustain that stabilization and association process by giving the Western Balkan countries massive technical, economic and financial assistance, as well as by granting them asymmetrical trade advantages, which should pave the way for the creation of a free trade zone with the Union.  A summit to be held this autumn by both the Union and the Western Balkans signaled a common resolve to overcome the divisions of the past.

    He said the first democratic elections for municipal authorities in Kosovo, to be held in a few weeks, constituted a major step in the implementation of Security Council resolution 1244.  The Union also considered that the status quo in Cyprus was unacceptable, and supported the efforts of the Secretary-General to reach a negotiated, comprehensive, fair and lasting settlement.  The Union also supported efforts being made to prevent and settle conflicts in Africa by the United Nations, the OAU and other sub-regional organizations, in accordance with the objectives agreed at the Africa-Europe Summit, held in Cairo last April.  He was pleased to note that awareness had been raised about the illicit trade in diamonds and other minerals which were directly fueling conflicts.  

    Expressing concern at the situation in Myanmar, he asked the authorities in that country to immediately restore Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom of speech, movement and communication with the outside.  The Union also called on the Indonesian authorities to adopt effective measures to control without delay the militias in West Timor who were responsible for the recent loss of lives of two United Nations peacekeepers.  Turning to disarmament, he said the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a crucial issue that the Union was resolved to combat relentlessly.  International cooperation must be stressed, along with the development of multilateral standards for non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament.  

    Addressing human rights, he said that at the upcoming World Conference Against Racism, to be held in South Africa, and its preparatory conference (to be held in Strasbourg), the Union would demonstrate its commitment to combat all expressions of racism whatever form they took.  Turning to sustainable development, he said the Union's contribution to international cooperation was substantial.  With 30 per cent of global gross domestic product, it contributed 36 per cent to the United Nations regular budget, 39 per cent to the peacekeeping budget, 50 per cent to the Funds and Programmes, and 54 per cent of the world total of official development assistance.  That effort was testimony to a commitment to reduce inequalities, particularly by helping the least developed countries to keep from sliding further.

    CHAKRA PRASAD BASTOLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, said that durable peace was elusive and lasting peace could not be secured until nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction had been eradicated.  He also stressed the dangers of small arms and light weapons and welcomed the proposed conference on small arms to be held in 2001.  He urged the Security Council to act promptly with regard to emerging disputes.  In many cases, the Council had done too little, too late.  In addition, poverty and deprivation were among the primary causes of conflict.  If lasting peace was to be achieved, poverty must be reduced and peace built from there.  Global commitments to aid the development of the poorest countries through trade, technology, relieving debt and promoting social development and human rights were often forgotten.

    He said that, despite the increase in global trade, the share of world trade held by developing countries was diminishing.  Although globalization and information technology had potential benefits for all, they had benefited some more than others and had widened the disparity between rich and poor.  The World Trade Organization must work towards more equitable and rule-based trade.  Foreign investment had also become a motor of growth for the few, leaving the vast majority of developing countries untouched.  Development partners could encourage investors to invest in those hitherto untouched countries.  The high-level event on financing for development to be held next year should find reliable means and methods of development funding in the developing world. 

    He affirmed Nepal's commitment to human rights and good governance.  Nepal, he said, was a party to most human rights instruments and held the view that civil and political rights were as important as economic, social and cultural rights.  He reported that Nepal had recently freed the remaining few thousand bonded labourers, established the National Human Rights Commission and signed the optional protocols to the Convention on the Right of the Child.  The security of small States had remained a perennial problem.  In the post-cold-war era small States feared being bullied if they acted in a manner that incurred the wrath of the stronger.  He urged the rich and powerful countries to respect the right of small States to sovereign independence.

    He stressed the importance of revitalizing and reinforcing the United Nations, so that it could meet the challenges of changing times. The primacy of the General Assembly must be restored and the Security Council must be made more representative in composition, more transparent in function and more capable in keeping peace, he said.  It was critical that attention be focused on reinforcing the Economic and Social Council, making its authority on economic matters on a par with the Security Council’s authority on security matters.  He regretted that the United Nations had to limp from one year to the next, as key contributors failed to live up to their treaty obligations.  The cardinal principle in apportioning financial obligations should be the capacity to pay, based on one's share of world gross national product. It was morally indefensible to make poor countries subsidize the richer countries in keeping the United Nations and its peacekeeping operations going. 

     JOE BORG, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, said humanity’s progress owed itself to the culture of partnership, and the United Nations was the very embodiment of that fact because it promoted partnership between States.  The United Nations should take pride in its history, since it had stood the test of time in the more than 50 years of its existence.  The Organization was a noble endeavour that had survived in the face of adversity, that had experienced occasional setbacks, but had also registered more than a fair share of success.

     It was undeniable that decolonization, which transformed the world’s political map, would not have occurred without the United Nations.  The culture of dialogue and cooperation engendered by the Organization had a global impact on social phenomena, from health care to food supplies, from literacy to urban development. But, as the Brahimi Report indicated, some negative experiences -- such as the difficulties in Rwanda and Srebenica –- had taken place, demanding analysis and reevaluation of unrealistic mandates.

     In the Mediterranean region, of which Malta was an integral part, long-lasting stability required political will and a determination both to identify and solve problems.  Because of its strategic position the Mediterranean must be considered a microcosm, and the tragedy in the Balkans remained a challenge to the will of the international community.

     The lessons learned from the Millennium Summit must be observed, specifically the principle of multilateralism.  All nations must share responsibility for maintaining world peace and responding to international threats wherever they might be.  The promotion of good governance could not be understated because it strengthened the need for greater cooperation between nations.  Globalization, as evidenced in the pursuit of e-commerce, would not be an ever-expanding opportunity if it failed to tackle the causes of poverty, ignorance and disease in the developing world.  As the Millennium Summit clearly demonstrated, the United Nations still represented the most dynamic vehicle for promoting international understanding and agreement.

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