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    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/GA/1698
        21 September 2000
     Efforts to Eliminate Narcotic Drugs and Combat Drug-trafficking
    Described During Assembly Debate
     

    NEW YORK, 20 September (UN Headquarters) – The situation in Myanmar had been under unfair scrutiny and the subject of political pressure by a number of powerful countries for quite some time, that country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, U Win Aung, told the fifty-fifth general session of the General Assembly as it met this afternoon to continue its general debate.

     The Government of Myanmar was in the process of establishing a democratic society and making efforts to consolidate national unity, he continued.  The charges made against his country would only give rise to unnecessary delays in the current democratization process.  Far from recognizing the achievements that had been made, some Western countries imposed political pressure and unilateral sanctions on Myanmar. 

     The problem of narcotic drugs, he said, had been introduced into his country by the colonial administration, as the poppy plant was not native to Myanmar.  Successive governments had been relentless in their efforts to eradicate the problem, which had resulted in a noticeable drop in opium cultivation and production.  However, except for assistance from the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, no substantial assistance had been provided to Myanmar.  This was tantamount to making a travesty of the much avowed principle of shared responsibility.

     Fernando Messmer, the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, said his country had assumed the responsibility for getting out of the drug-trafficking loop by implementing an integral policy that linked alternative development, eradication of illegal crops, confiscation, prevention and rehabilitation.  Today, more than 80 per cent of illegal coca crops had been eradicated.  Conditions must now be created which would obviate a return to the production of coca leaves as a consequence of the lack of jobs and income.  Bolivia therefore needed investment to promote economic growth in all sectors generating job opportunities, and the opening of secure markets for its exports.

     The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, Monie Captan, said that after the Liberian civil war, the government had destroyed over 21,000 small arms, and then signed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on the Moratorium on Small Arms.  Despite those measures, repeated violations of Liberia's territorial integrity by armed insurgents from Guinea had occurred  three times since 1999.  He called for a United Nations monitoring presence at the borders between Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 

     Addressing specific problems of small island States, the representative of Vanuatu said one of the great obstacles to his country’s economic development had always been the high cost of energy. With access to new technology, Vanuatu and other small island nations could develop integrated renewable energy systems and hydrogen fuels.  Financial and technical resources from developed countries could positively contribute to the common objective of creating healthier and more environment-friendly economic development.

     In other business during the meeting, the Assembly decided to include The Federated States of Micronesia in the list of speakers for the general debate.

     The Minister for Foreign Affairs and la Francophonie of the Central African Republic, Marcel Metefara, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Haiti, Fritz Longchamp, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Gambia, Momodou Lamin Sedat Jobe, also addressed the Assembly.

     The representative of Andorra also spoke.

     The representative of Guinea made a statement in right of reply.

     The Assembly will meet again tomorrow, Thursday, 21 September, at 10 a.m.

    Assembly Work Programme

     The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its regular debate.

     Statements were expected to be made by representatives of Liberia, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Bolivia, Myanmar, Andorra, Haiti, Nauru, Vanuatu, and the Gambia.

    Statements

     MONIE R. CAPTAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said the United Nations needed to correct the structural and institutional malaise that continued to undermine the Organization.  Specifically, there must be a review of the inequitable representation in the Security Council, where undemocratic processes of decision-making and continuous violations of the United Nations Charter took place.  When the Organization was framed, five nations had been entrusted with the responsibility to oversee the world.  But "time has unfolded new realities", making the old arrangement unrealistic, unjustifiable and unacceptable.  The need to take into account existing political, economic and security realities also included the use of the veto in the Security Council.

     As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Liberia worked to ensure the attainment of peace in its sub-region, he said.  Following consultations held between the Chairman of ECOWAS, the Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Presidents of Nigeria, Gambia and his own country, a new leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) had been named, removing Foday Sankoh from the peace process in Sierra Leone.  The new RUF leadership had indicated, in writing, its willingness to accept a ceasefire and to return to positions at the signing of the Lomé Agreement.  Liberia also called upon them to show good faith by returning all seized arms, ammunition and equipment to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). 

     After the Liberian Civil War, he said, the Government had voluntarily destroyed, with the assistance of the ECOWAS and the United Nations, over 21,000 small arms; in addition, it had signed the ECOWAS Protocol on the Moratorium on Small Arms.  Despite those measures, repeated violations of Liberia's territorial integrity by armed insurgents from Guinea had occurred three times since 1999.  His country called for a monitoring presence of the United Nations at the borders between Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  Last year, Liberia had requested that the Council lift the arms embargo imposed in 1992, especially in light of the repeated armed incursions into Liberia by dissidents from Guinea.  He said that if the United Nations failed to grant Liberia the right to defend itself, then the Organization was obligated to provide for the security and defence of Liberia.

     Despite assurances from the international community that the road to international assistance was a successful disarmament process followed by the holding of free and fair elections, the international donor community had continued to pursue a policy of "punitive disengagement", in which all known avenues for obtaining assistance were laden with impractical conditionalities.  That exclusionary attitude approximated the imposition of economic sanctions on Liberia and its people.  Because of its debt burden, Liberia's children were deprived of food, education, health care and jobs for their parents.  He therefore called upon the Group of Eight industrialized countries to consider a comprehensive debt-waiver programme for all highly indebted poor countries.

    MARCEL METEFARA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and la Francophonie of the Central African Republic, said a world of peace, progress and concord summed up the key tenets of the United Nations.  How could one explain that 55 years later the United Nations was so far away from achieving these goals?  Progress was a reality for only a quarter of humankind, and solidarity was still something selectively applied.  The United Nations had not fulfilled its goals, yet it continued to exist due to the determination of States.  It was crucial to stimulate renewed interest in the United Nations.  

    The conflict settlement machinery of the United Nations was no longer suited to cope with crisis situations, he said.  However, through cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic had been a success at monitoring and keeping the peace.  He hoped that the United Nations would provide the same resources to promote lasting peace settlements in Sierra Leone, Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia and Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Democratic Republic of Congo shared a long frontier with his Country, and the heavy tolls of the conflict and refugees could be felt in the region.  He called upon the competent international authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to pay more attention to the region.  

    The United Nations should regain its authority to enable it to contribute to promoting development throughout the world, he said.  Africa suffered from weak educational systems, lack of sanitation and drinking water and a lack of medical equipment.  The Central African Republic had participated in the Libreville Summit and subscribed to the new frameworks for fighting poverty.  Developing countries should be given the preconditions to meet the requirements of development, such as the cancellation of external debts.  New technologies coming into play contributed to greater development.  However, Africa was still awaiting the benefits from technological advances.  He called upon the World Trade Organization (WTO) to bear in mind the needs of Africa.  

    The United Nations had an important role to play in ensuring the conditions necessary for the promotion and protection of human rights, he said.  A High Commissariat for Human Rights had been set up in the Central African Republic.  In order for the United Nations to make a difference, it had to be in tune with the state of the world and streamline its methods and approaches.  The paramount mission of the United Nations consisted in defending international peace and security.  This role belonged primarily to the Security Council, and the Council had to reflect that fact in its make-up.  Even though the veto right was not used as excessively as during the cold war, a reconfiguration of the Security Council was vital.

     FERNANDO MESSMER, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, said poverty, underdevelopment and inequality must be corrected because they spawned present and future conflicts which could place the world’s economic and political stability in serious jeopardy.  The United Nations priorities must be redefined in a way that would be conducive to clear-sighted and effective action.  That signified, among other things, substantial reform of the system’s economic and financial bodies, modernization of the General Assembly’s working methods and attuning the Security Council to the new realities.

     In an open economy, it was unfair for markets to be closed and discriminatory measures to be applied with protectionist intent, he said.  It was also imperative for countries with small-scale economies to be favoured through greater capital input and debt-relief programmes.  Science and technology must become a heritage of humankind and must not widen already existing gaps and divisions.  At the meeting of South American Presidents in Brasilia, the importance of access to the new information-and-knowledge age had been stressed in order to strengthen a system of continuing education at all levels for the broadest sectors of society.

     Shortly after taking office in 1997, his President had assumed responsibility for getting Bolivia once and for all out of the drug-trafficking loop by implementing an integral policy that linked alternative development, eradication of illegal crops, confiscation, prevention and rehabilitation.  Today, more than 80 per cent of illegal coca crops had been eradicated.  Conditions must now be created which would obviate a return to the production of coca leaves as a consequence of the lack of jobs and income.  What Bolivia, therefore, needed was investment for promoting economic growth in all sectors, generating job opportunities and the opening of secure markets for its exports.

     In the past, Bolivia had aired historical, political and economic arguments for the need to recoup the maritime status which had given rise to its independent existence, he continued.  The Foreign Ministers of Bolivia and Chile had met in Portugal this year where an agreement had been reached to prepare a working programme which should incorporate, without exclusion of any kind, the essential points of bilateral relations.  They had also sought to surmount the differences that had stood in the way of full integration between the two countries.  In that context, he proposed that a programme of integrated development of western Bolivia and northern Chile be implemented.

     U WIN AUNG, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar, said that after seven years of discussions on the reform of the Security Council, an impasse had been reached in many respects.  Efforts must be redoubled to reform the Organization so that it would truly help to build a better world.  Some major international issues continued to defy the international community’s attempts to solve them.  Peace in the Middle East remained elusive.  Myanmar would like to see an enduring peace that would guarantee the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the right of Israel to exist within secure and recognized borders.  Furthermore, his country had consistently supported the negotiations between the Greek and Cypriot communities and pledged its continued support for the task.

     An issue on which Myanmar placed special emphasis was the problem of narcotic drugs, he said.  It was a problem introduced into his country by the colonial administration, as the poppy plant, from which opium was harvested, was not native to Myanmar.  Successive governments had been relentless in their efforts to eradicate the problem of narcotic drugs and these efforts had resulted in a noticeable drop in opium cultivation and production, a fact acknowledged by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).  However, except for assistance provided from the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, no substantial assistance had been provided to Myanmar.  This was tantamount to making a travesty of the much avowed principle of shared responsibility.  Myanmar had been a target of unfair criticisms, despite its efforts.  The fact of the matter was that the scourge of narcotic drugs was not the sole responsibility of any one country.  To tackle the problem, there must be global cooperation.

    Sovereignty, sovereign equality, respect for territorial integrity and non-intervention in internal affairs were the bedrock principles underpinning the international system, he said.  Therefore, Myanmar was greatly distressed by the recent tendency to cast doubt on these cardinal principles.  This was a dangerous trend with dangerous implications for international peace and stability.  Justifying interference in internal affairs under certain conditions was a concept easily vulnerable to abuse by the powerful for their narrow national interests. There were, of course, some situations where the assistance of the international community was necessary.  However, there were others where national measures would better suit the problem.  A proper understanding and correct perspective of each issue, both historical and current, was necessary.  A solution obtained without such understanding was tantamount to treating the symptoms rather than the disease. 

     The situation in Myanmar had been under unfair scrutiny and the subject of political pressure by a number of powerful countries for quite some time, he continued.  The Government of Myanmar was in the process of establishing a democratic society and making efforts to consolidate national unity.  The charges that were being made against his country would only perpetuate existing problems and give rise to unnecessary delays in the current democratization process.  He stressed that it was a situation of chaos and anarchy that had led the armed forces to assume State power.  Although the present government was a military government, the country was not governed by martial law.  Far from recognizing the achievements that had been made, some Western countries imposed political pressure and unilateral sanctions on Myanmar.  International financial institutions were being used to deny his country its rightful loans and assistance.  He urged the countries that had a negative view of Myanmar to look at their situation in a more objective manner. 

     JULI MINOVES-TRIQUELL (Andorra) pointed to the transformation of his country in the past 70 years from being a poor and remote place to a commercial hub —- a country changed by globalization.  Andorra had survived, independent and uninvaded, since 1278, and was one of the oldest democracies in the world.  At the recent Millenium Summit the Secretary-General had referred to globalization as “the melting away of national boundaries as the world becomes one economy, one common space, one village".  Today’s globalization offered benefits that were unevenly distributed, while its costs were born by all.

     Protests had taken place against globalization because interested groups, such as the International Forum on Globalization, understood the term to mean a globalized economic system dominated by supranational corporate trade and banking institutions, not accountable to democratic processes or national governments.  The Forum had said that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the WTO, Maastricht and the North American Free Trade Agreement, combined with the structural adjustment policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, were direct stimulants to the processes that weakened democracy and created a world order under the direct control of transnational corporations.  Globalization, the Forum had said, would bring about the worldwide homogenization of diverse, local and indigenous cultures, diluting them into a flat monoculture.  And yet the Forum manifesto itself had been downloaded from the Web:  thus, it was presented in the very technology of globalization.

     He emphasized the need "to remember that people themselves have embraced change".  The concerns of the anti-globalists must not be denied because they recognized the dangers of change.  Had globalization replaced nationalism? he asked.  While much of globalization, such as economies that transcended borders and communication networks that shrunk the world, seemed to render the nation-State obsolete, the question of the border, of the passport, remained increasingly important; in other words, nationalism had not withered away.  A democratic nationalism was needed -- a new nationalism, a global nationalism.  In that new nationalism, the rights of citizens to liberty and peace would be primary; hence, the United Nations needed to become proactive in the protection of these rights in the case of civil conflict. 

    FRITZ LONGCHAMP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Haiti, said that, due to the widening gap between North and South, and to the incongruity between the positive economic aspects and the negative social aspects of globalization, the question of social development took on great urgency as the pace of globalization accelerated.  Therefore, despite all the political and economic difficulties facing Haiti, it had been working steadily to meet the goals fixed by the Millenium Summit.

    The gap between North and South was dangerous to international political, economic and ecological systems, he said.  For that reason, it was essential to facilitate the integration of developing countries into the global economy in the twenty-first century.  That economy would be increasingly based on new information technologies, creating another great challenge for developing countries.  Local genetic and cultural resources of those countries should be protected.

    The culture of peace being promoted by the United Nations should, he said, have at its heart the security of the individual human being.  Success in that area meant releasing people from the slavery of poverty.  To make progress -- since development was linked to international security -- it was important to reform the United Nations, focusing on both the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.  After years of negotiation and debates, the moment had come to democratize the former, dispensing with the veto, to reflect the new dynamics of international reality.  As for the Economic and Social Council, it was necessary to reinforce programmes that supported integrated global development. 

      As Haiti welcomed the admission of Tuvalu, he said, it hoped that the question of representation for the 23 million Chinese people of Taiwan would hold the attention of the United Nations.  Finally, he cited figures that showed the paradox of the twentieth century -- its unprecedented production of goods and wealth, and its parallel increase in abject poverty.  The supreme challenge was to make the twenty-first century not resemble its predecessor in that way.
     
     VINCI NIEL CLODUMAR (Nauru) said the Pacific region demanded special attention.  His country was expected to experience several more years of negative growth as its single resource and industry, phosphate, came to the end of its natural life.  Small Island Developing States (SIDS) faced special difficulties in making the globalization transition and would need time to adjust to changes in the external trade regime.  Their particular vulnerabilities must be recognized as justifying special consideration to deal with such issues as the global process of trade liberalization.  Nations and the private sector must incorporate "Green Accounting" to integrate the environment into economic policy, and suitable regulations and incentives needed to be built into the web of governance.

     He called for an end to unsustainable and damaging practices such as drift-net fishing, offshore dumping and high-seas pollution.  Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was a threat to the economic development of coastal States in the Pacific, Caribbean and Latin American regions, whose national incomes were heavily dependent on the export of fish. 

     Equitable representation of the 11 Pacific Island countries was of vital importance to him, he said.  Until 20 years ago, it might have been reasonable to have Australia and New Zealand in the Western European and Other States Group, and the handful of Pacific Islands in the Asian Group.  However, with the increase in membership since that time and the addition of a number of Pacific Island nations in recent times, it was incumbent upon the United Nations to review the groupings.  

    He said the Asian group presently constituted member countries from the Middle East, Central Asia, China, Japan, the two Koreas, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries and the Pacific Islands countries.  The 11 Pacific Island countries were drowning in the Asian Group, while Australia and New Zealand –- godfathers of the Pacific Islands –- were marooned in the Western European and Other States Group.

    LAFRED CARLOT (Vanuatu) said his country shared the view that the key to development was through education.  Vanuatu fully supported the view that involving women as central players in development provided benefits for nutrition, health savings and reinvestment at the family, community and, ultimately, national level.  Nevertheless, the challenge of ensuring education for all, at all levels, was an ambitious objective that would require external assistance.  Education and training of the population, including women, must therefore be an important goal of the Assembly.

     One of the great obstacles to his country’s economic development had always been the high cost of public utilities, in particular, in the energy sector, he said.  Access to new technology would help Vanuatu and other small island nations develop integrated renewable energy systems and hydrogen fuels.  In countries like Vanuatu, financial and technical resources from developed countries could positively contribute to the common objective of creating healthier and more environment-friendly economic development.

     He expressed serious concerns about the difficulties least developed countries (LDCs) faced with regard to joining the WTO, because some powerful countries refused to recognize the constant call for special consideration.  The United States continued to impose heavy and unreasonable demands.  While his country had always supported the principle of freer international trade, he expected the new regime to be more realistic and more flexible, to allow ample time for small and LDCs to adjust to the new rules.  The WTO could not be considered a truly global trade regime without the adhesion of all independent countries, including small island States.

     MOMODOU LAMIN SEDAT JOBE, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, said that the particular concern of his country was that of the conflict situations in Africa.  He was alarmed by the situations in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea.  He appealed to all the Somali factions to put their differences aside and their country first and hoped that efforts being deployed by the ECOWAS would soon bring positive results to Sierra Leone.  His delegation welcomed the establishment of the Special Court to try war crimes and other atrocities.  The only disappointment was that unlike other Tribunals, funding was based on voluntary contributions.  How then, could the Sierra Leone Special Court function effectively and efficiently? he asked.

     If it was unanimously agreed that “might was not right” in one part of the world, the same principle should be applied elsewhere, he said.  In the situation between Kuwait and Iraq, the international community should find ways of alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people, but at the same time the Iraqi leadership should be accountable for the Kuwaiti prisoners of war and missing persons.  Although the sanctions imposed on Libya had since been suspended, what was stopping the Security Council from lifting them altogether? he asked.  Also on the issue of sanctions, he said the unjust sanctions imposed on Cuba for over 30 years should be lifted.  Such sanctions were of another age and not conducive to neighbourliness and international cooperation.

     The international community was talking a lot about the growing digital divide, he said.  That divide must be bridged, and one of the major pillars of that bridge was the Republic of China on Taiwan.  How could this country be excluded from the United Nations family? he asked.  In this era of globalization and liberalization, he could not understand how a leading nation like the Republic of China on Taiwan could be excluded from playing its rightful role in the community of nations. 

     Poverty eradication was also a matter close to the Gambia’s heart, he said. Efforts to eradicate poverty should also include a health component.  In West Africa, the eradication of malaria was among the highest priorities.  The international community also needed to adopt a fresher approach regarding economic development issues, such as the debt burden and trade access, overseas development assistance and financing for development. 

    He said that in addressing the specific problem of the LDCs, extra efforts should be made to tackle the excruciating debt burden across the board, rather than limiting it to a select number of countries as provided for under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative. However, unless the expected target of the complete cancellation of the debt stock of all developing countries was reached, the debt burden would continue to prevent Africa’s economic recovery and social development.

    Right of Reply

     Mr. SOW (Guinea), exercising his right of reply, said his delegation was surprised by the tendentious and groundless statement by Liberia.  In keeping with its policy of good neighbourliness, the Government of Guinea had welcomed more than 500,000 refugees over the last 10 years.  Those refugees had been integrated into the Guinean family, and the international community was satisfied with their treatment.  The Security Council was right to place an embargo on arms for Liberia, because their bellicose attitude and involvement in diamond trafficking was known by everyone.  The Sierra Leonean war was not yet resolved because of the Government in Monrovia. 

    The latest attack UNHCR staff in Macenta, Guinea, had been orchestrated by Monrovia, he said.  There was irrefutable proof to implicate Liberia in destabilizing the region.  He stressed that the Government of Guinea had taken many steps to neutralize the rebellion and to draw a distinction between real refugees and insurgents.  He had informed the Security Council about recent events.  Yesterday, the President of the Council had condemned the attack against Guinea.  He appealed to the General Assembly and the Council to send a fact-finding mission to Guinea.

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