Press Releases

    GA/9916
    26 September 2001

    UNITED NATIONS ROLE ESSENTIAL IN "MORAL IMPERATIVE" OF PREVENTING CONFLICT GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD, AS DEBATE CONTINUES ON SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REPORT

    NEW YORK, 25 September (UN Headquarters) -- Preventing conflicts was today a moral imperative and the United Nations had an essential role in preventive diplomacy by virtue of its mandate, legitimacy and wide-ranging capabilities, the representative of Slovakia told the General Assembly this morning, one of 14 speakers in its continued consideration of the Secretary-General’s annual report on the work of the Organization.

    With many of this morning’s speakers addressing the Secretary-General’s call to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention, Slovakia’s representative said the key question for the international community in the face of potential conflicts was not "if" preventive diplomacy was an option, but rather "by whom, how and when" it should be exercised. Conflict prevention was a fundamental, defining task for international cooperation and would become the focus of United Nations activities. The United Nations had been born out of war and the face of war since then had become uglier -- its latest, ugliest form bearing the name of "terrorism".

    The representative of the Netherlands called for support of the United Nations, so that increasing global demands did not challenge decision-making in the Secretariat. He said the United Nations was active in eliminating the root causes of conflict, which were also the breeding ground for the insanity of terrorism. However, despite increased responsibilities only a "negligible amount" of the world gross domestic product was spent on the United Nations Secretariat, funds, programmes or agencies.

    Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September, his government had allocated considerable further funding to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the representative of the United Kingdom told the Assembly. The people who carried out the terrorist attacks were not people who accepted the rules or values of the vast majority in the world. The situation was not a clash of institutions or religions, and particularly not an argument with Islam. Traditional methods of diplomacy had to be transformed. No one, whether States or individuals, should harbour, support, finance or encourage terrorism.

    Pakistan’s representative said the international community’s response to the impending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan would be a test of its ability and its moral responsibility. For more than two decades, his country had borne the burden of Afghan refugees. Now, another 1.5 million could enter and join the 2.5 million refugees Pakistan was already hosting.

    Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Bhutan, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil, Belarus, Cyprus, Denmark, Singapore, Mexico and Iran.

    The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of the Secretary-General’s report.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this morning to continue consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Organization (document A/56/1 and Add.1). The report has been summarized in Press Release SG/2071-GA/911 of 20 September.

    Statements

    LYONPO OM PRADHAN (Bhutan) said the Secretary-General’s report was frank, bringing forth the issues on which the international community had yet to take adequate action or make sufficient progress. He was obviously concerned with terrorist acts and its implications to human security. They were a crime against humanity that did not differentiate between military and civilian targets and personnel. The United Nations needed to get more involved in mustering international cooperation to prevent the rising tide of terrorism. He supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention.

    Those laudable goals could not move forward without the political and principled support of Member States, he said. Efforts must, therefore, continue towards eliminating weapons of mass destruction and the traffic in small arms, banning land mines, providing more effective and greater humanitarian assistance, ensuring that children were not made into soldiers, and eliminating the gross mistreatment of women in some parts of the world. The role of the Organization had to be consistent and unfailing in maintaining peace and enhancing security of all parts of the world.

    Poverty in the developing world was becoming unbearably severe, especially with the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, he said. To make progress in social and economic development and the battle against HIV/AIDS, Member States needed commitment and a strong political will.

    RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said the Assembly needed to address conflicts with a new resolve, born of the realization that one could not separate international peace and security from issues of poverty and under-development. The events of 11 September had demonstrated that the entire international community must seek to resolve longstanding disputes, on which terrorism fed. In that context, he welcomed the Secretary-General's comments on issues of conflict prevention, peace-building and peacekeeping. Many conflicts were extremely complex and required integrated responses. He encouraged further improvements in coordination between humanitarian action and peace operations.

    Ireland shared the Secretary-General's concern with regard to the current uncertainties in the area of disarmament, particularly the weakening of commitment to existing bilateral and multilateral arms-control agreements. Surely, recent events strengthened rather than diminished the need for renewed commitment to multilateral negotiations towards legally binding, irreversible and verifiable disarmament agreements.

    He concluded by pointing to ways in which the Secretary-General’s report could be improved. Those were, firstly, the inclusion of a forward-looking section containing specific goals for the Organization and, secondly, the addition of an annex giving information on costs of programmes and activities. Both of these would be useful tools for the Secretariat in ongoing efforts to improve accountability and oversight, and would also help Member States assess the extent to which mandates had been fulfilled.

    FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA (Portugal) said that security, in all its aspects, was the main concern of the United Nations. How did one bring conflicts to an end, he asked, and how could one prevent conflicts from beginning? How could countries help themselves develop? How could others help countries develop? In the search for peace and security, the reform of the United Nations peacekeeping support structures was essential. The recommendations of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations would be crucial, in that respect.

    Coordination, both at Headquarters and in the field, was essential in the provision of humanitarian assistance to those most in need, he said. It was critical to strengthen that capacity, thereby ensuring that all humanitarian actors were able to use their strengths and particular expertise, avoid duplication of effort and be most effective in the provision of assistance. On the topic of development, a regulated process of globalization, based on free and fair trade, could have a decisive influence in spreading the benefits of growth and would contribute to the alleviation of social imbalance and ethnic tensions.

    Concerning international law, he emphasized the need to strengthen respect for the rule of law in international affairs. The ratification of treaties, codifying the commitments undertaken by Member States for international cooperation, and the growth of international law in general were critical in that process.

    GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said that the United Nations was the appropriate venue to combat terror, because it required both a broad coalition and tolerance. The Security Council must resolve to fight that scourge, which was employing increasingly sophisticated means. The same resolve was necessary to combat conflicts around the world. The Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations -- the Brahimi Report -- was an important contribution to improving the United Nations’ work in peacemaking, but it was unfortunate that reports on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and the "prevention of armed conflicts had not gotten the same attention. Promotion of international law was an important way to bolster stability and an effective International Criminal Court could deter massive violations of human rights.

    Extreme poverty had a corrosive effect on the construction of a stable, peaceful world, so efforts to eradicate it should be redoubled, he continued. The "Road Map" provided by the Secretary-General to implement the commitments of the Millennium Declaration was a good step towards implementing a programme for sustainable development. Though there was no set way to achieve development, there could be no development and poverty could not be eradicated if developing countries did not receive access to markets and sustained financial flows. His country attached great importance to the upcoming Conference on Sustainable Development, because it presented an opportunity to understand the conditions that had made the 11 September attacks possible.

    If efforts were given to overcoming the risk of unilateral solutions in the disarmament process, a safer world climate could be created, he said. Catastrophic scenarios, such as terrorism with weapons of mass destruction, could also be avoided. If development were promoted, discrimination combated, human rights strengthened and the United Nations used to prevent and end conflicts, it would be more difficult to use social, economic and political circumstances to manipulate the poor and worsen hateful extremism. The United Nations was the ideal place for creating a "supportive globalization."

    ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV (Belarus) said a concrete global response to global challenges was needed, and that was how the United Nations should look at its work today. Belarus would actively participate in working out initiatives to combat terrorism when it was addressed by the General Assembly.

    Globalization had become part of people’s day-to-day life and, thus, United Nations work towards practical results in that area were welcome. The starting point was development. The issues facing nations today were interrelated and affected peace and security. It was natural, then, to look at the prevention of conflicts. Attention should be turned to the hotbeds of instability; if not addressed, they would never stabilize. The report had many references to the situation in Africa. It had long been a focus of the United Nations’ attention and, for the first time, progress was being seen. It was important to support those States in overcoming their problems and not losing momentum.

    He said the Palestinian people had to have their right to self-determination realized, while at the same time Israel’s stability must be ensured. It was unfortunate that the Security Council had not been able to reach consensus on the issue. In the Balkans, further attention was needed to ensure that further war did not break out. The report also provided statistics about military budgets. In February of the current year, Belarus completed its inspection of medium and short-range missiles. It did not support the plans for national missile defence systems, because of the possible impact they could have on multilateral agreements.

    This is the fifteenth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which had a direct impact on sustainable development. The international community should focus on that aspect. Today, unity was needed and the United Nations had to be the source. Belarus was pledged to working with the United Nations to that end.

    JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said it needed to be acknowledged that the people who carried out the terrorist attacks of 11 September were not people who accepted any of the rules or values the vast majority of the people in the world would recognize. That was why his Government had stated that it was not a clash of institutions or religions, and particularly not an argument with Islam. It had since 11 September allocated considerable further funding to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Traditional methods of diplomacy had to be transformed. It must be ensured that no one, whether States or individuals, should harbour, support, finance or encourage terrorism.

    One could not allow the determination to combat terrorism to divert from action to meet other global challenges, he said. The battle against poverty must remain at the heart of collective efforts. The financing for development process would be the principal forum for the debate on that issue until the conference on Monterrey next year. Monterrey must rise above the all too familiar Second Committee squabbles about who was responsible for the unsatisfactory results so far in addressing the needs of developing countries. The fact was that all were responsible. At Monterrey, a programme for collective action must be developed that would be more effective in addressing the problems of the developing world than any previous efforts.

    The Organization’s peacekeeping and conflict prevention capacities must be enhanced along the lines of the Brahimi report. Effective follow-up to the AIDS special 'session’ must also be a priority. The agendas from Beijing, Copenhagen and Istanbul remained on the table. It was a mark against the international community that work still needed to be done to consolidate human rights as the foundation of the global programme of human advancement. "In no continent was it more important that we pull together these difficult and demanding agendas than in Africa," he said. Africans themselves had established the New Africa Initiative. His Government was taking a detailed interest in that initiative and would contribute materially to it.

    DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands) said that the United Nations did a tremendous amount of work in dealing with cross-border problems, such as combating HIV/AIDS, poverty eradication, climate issues, refugee problems and terrorism. The 11 September attacks had highlighted the need to address the conditions that permitted the growth of hatred and depravity. Conflict, disease, poverty and ignorance created a breeding ground for the insanity of terrorism. Threats to security and the international role of law must be immediately addressed in a results-oriented way.

    Because combating the scourge of terrorism required a broad coalition, the conventions against terrorism should come into full effect and must be enforced, he said. Those nations that had not yet ratified United Nations conventions against terrorism, including the International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, were called on to do so. Because impunity for crimes against humanity was unacceptable, the International Criminal Court must also be established without further delay.

    The United Nations should play its part in eliminating the root causes of conflict and promoting sustainable development, he continued. He called on all developed countries to adhere to the international target of devoting 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance (ODA). The decision-making process of the Secretariat would be challenged by the increasing demands of global phenomena, yet, only a negligible amount of the world GDP was spent on the United Nations Secretariat, funds and programmes and specialized agencies. Was that sufficient? His country was ready to play an active role shaping a new agenda based on the Millennium Declaration, the Brahimi Report, and recent events and expected others to do the same.

    SOTOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) referred to an item in the report related to the situation in Cyprus. In paragraph 39, the Secretary-General had described his efforts at restarting talks following the withdrawal from the negotiations by the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Denktash. Following an official invitation by the Secretary-General to President Clerides and Mr.Denktash to resume negotiations, Mr Denktash had rejected the invitation in another outburst of his well-known intransigence. The Turkish Cypriot leader, with the support of Ankara, continued to place preconditions before he returned to the negotiations, preconditions that were contrary to Security Council resolutions 541(1983), 550 (1984) and 1250 (1999).

    Mr. Denktash had embarked on yet another attempt at presenting his proposal for a confederation of two, equal sovereign States in Cyprus. The Turkish side tried to justify an unacceptable position by the "need" to accept the so-called "realities" on the ground. The Turkish side deliberately, however, chose to ignore that the separation of the two communities was a direct consequence of Turkey's partitionist designs against Cyprus and her invasion and the subsequent occupation of 37 per cent of Cypriot territory. Acceptance of the so-called "realities" would create a very dangerous precedent in international affairs, striking at the very heart of the cherished principles of State sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.

    The real realities were the presence of 36,000 Turkish occupation troops, massive human rights violations by Turkey, and a deliberate policy to alter the demographic character of the island through the illegal implantation of 120,000 Turkish mainland settlers in the occupied area. He concluded by confirming that the Government of Cyprus and President Clerides, despite those realities, would continue to display a constructive approach and the necessary political will for a solution of the Cyprus problem. That was the only way to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and security for all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike.

    SHAMSHAD AHMAD (Pakistan) said the roots of terrorism lay in the inequity of societies, in the despair of slums, and in the bewilderment of the human soul. It was a problem that had to be dealt with in a long-term manner, aimed at rooting out injustice and oppression. "Let us hold each other’s hands. Let us respect each other and each other’s culture and value systems. Let us enable this world body to play its Charter role in preventing conflicts and resolving disputes", he said. Pakistan had pledged its full and unstinted support in the fight against international terrorism. It stood on the side of right and upheld the flag of freedom and justice.

    In the report he noted the references to both Kashmir and Palestine, two of the longest unresolved disputes of current times. The tragic loss of life had underlined the urgency of reaching a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict on the basis of Security Council resolutions. The observation on Palestine was equally valid for Kashmir, where thousands of innocent lives had also been lost, necessitating an early solution of the problem in accordance with the resolutions of the Council. He hoped the Secretary-General and the international community would continue the bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan in order to reach a final settlement of the Kashmir issue, in accordance with Council resolutions and in conformity with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan sought a durable peace with India. Both countries needed to free themselves from the legacy of the last century.

    As the international community responded to the current crisis in Afghanistan, it must also address the grave humanitarian situation in that country through reconstruction and reconciliation, he said. His country had for more than two decades borne the burden of millions of Afghan refugees. Nearly 1.5 million more Afghan refugees might enter Pakistan, which already had 2.5 million refugees. How the international community coped with the impending humanitarian crisis would be a real test of its ability, and its moral responsibility. Further, the eradication of poverty deserved greater attention from the international community. If the international community was to meet its goals of development and poverty eradication, economic growth in developing countries must accelerate, he said.

    ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark) said terrorism was today the single most serious international threat to democracy and the rule of law, and thus the functioning of societies. It was essential that all countries redouble and unite their efforts in the fight against terrorism. International cooperation needed to be strengthened in a wide range of areas. Joint efforts needed to be reiterated, and the world had to be shown that the political will to act existed. If not, the United Nations would become a redundant "talking club" that could not be taken seriously. The report of the Secretary-General showed the complexity of the challenges that were being faced. The report also illustrated that the United Nations could be an instrument in international cooperation to meet those challenges.

    Denmark was fully committed to meeting the challenges, she continued. It devoted more than 1 per cent of its GDP to ODA, and it actively participated in United Nations deliberations and actions –- not the least of which was the United Nations peacekeeping operations. Her Government welcomed the efforts to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. It was heartening to see that the peace building and conflict prevention activities had been strengthened across the system, especially at the field level. Peace and security were fundamental conditions for economic and social and environmentally sustainable development –- that had become ever more obvious during the last decade. Thus, this year the Danish Government, in a reformulation of its development policy, decided to further strengthen its efforts to prevent conflicts.

    The Secretary-General had stated the critical link between peace, security and conflict prevention, as well as development and the respect for all human rights. That point could not be stressed too often. The interlinkage was unquestionable. Both sides of the problem needed to be addressed. With a focus on the eradication of poverty, domestic and international commitments had to go hand in hand, in order to obtain the proper balance for development in all countries. The Secretary-General, in his report, had once again highlighted the HIV/AIDS pandemic’s global proportions and the devastating effect it had on development in Africa. The outcome document from the special session on HIV/AIDS was a comprehensive basis for the fight against the pandemic –- a fight that must remain at the top of the international agenda.

    KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said that, despite the insights in the annual report, it had not reported on the performance of the Board of Directors –- the Member States of the United Nations. The Secretariat was just one member of the United Nations family, but the Organization's reputation was also determined by the performance of other members, such as the Assembly and Security Council. Both records were mixed. The high point for the Assembly was the Millennium Summit last year, but subsequent special sessions and conferences, including on racism, had run into trouble. Similarly, decisive Council intervention in Sierra Leone prevented a disastrous situation, but the record in the Great Lakes region was troubling. The lessons of Rwanda were clearly not being applied to Burundi.

    Continuing, he noted that the report contained an important section on peacekeeping and peace-building, but related decisions were not made by the Secretariat, but by the Council, and some of those were difficult to understand. For example, why had the international community sent more than 45,000 troops and spent billions on a small province in Europe called Kosovo, while sending less than 10 per cent of that number to a country that was almost as large as Western Europe, namely the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Even within Africa, the mission in Sierra Leone had an authorized force of 20,000, while other conflicts received scant or no attention. Were the needs of Burundi any less pressing? He had not been persuaded that each peacekeeping decision reflected an allocation of resources based on overall global needs, rather than on the national interests of a few countries.

    One key issue was development, he said. If peacekeeping issues touched the lives of a few hundred million people, development issues were the concern of five billion. The United Nations had made many significant commitments in that field, including the grand commitment made at last year's Millennium Summit to halve the number of people living in poverty by 2015. Unfortunately, the global economic situation looked difficult in the coming months. Next year's report should come up with bold and imaginative solutions to development issues, which remained the Organization's most important work. He hoped the Secretary-General would issue an appeal to all governments -– similar to his call for effective conflict prevention -- to match their rhetoric with action. Future reports should show how to reverse disturbing trends.

    JORGE EDUARDO NAVARRETE (Mexico) said that implementation of the Millenium Declaration was of the utmost importance at the current time. He emphasized the establishment of a "culture of prevention" in peace-building, along with honing the sanction mechanism, which should be targeted to violators of international law only and only imposed by the Security Council. In the area of disarmament, priorities must be those of the final document adopted at the first special session of the General Assembly on disarmament, with nuclear disarmament the first priority.

    In the area of human rights, he said, Mexico was determined to promote the application of international instruments. Towards that end, it had begun adapting its domestic legislation to allow ratification, in the near future, of relevant protocols and statutes. Priority should also be given to the progressive development and codification of international law.

    He hoped that a global alliance for development would continue to grow with the participation of all sectors, and that the financing for development Conference hosted by Mexico in March 2002 would plot its course. Though African States bore the main responsibility for overcoming the problems they faced, international support for Africa continued to be indispensable, and should be governed by the New Africa Initiative. In that vein, Mexico had recently decided to promote bilateral cooperation and strengthen the mechanisms of multilateral cooperation with the countries of Africa.

    PETER TOMKA (Slovakia) seconded the Secretary-General’s call in his report to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. He said preventing conflicts was a moral imperative in today’s world and the United Nations had an essential role in preventive diplomacy, by virtue of its mandate, legitimacy and wide-ranging capabilities. The primary responsibility to peacefully settle a dispute, however, remained with the parties to a dispute, an obligation that was a cornerstone of international law.

    The key question for the international was not "if" preventive diplomacy was an option, but rather, "by whom, how and when" it should be exercised, he continued. The objective of that effort was to establish trust in line with the Secretary-General’s suggestions, giving consideration to a role for regional organizations, non-governmental actors and others. Non-governmental organizations, academic institutions or prominent individuals might have insights into the roots of a conflict and could help defuse it. Also, the role of United Nations peacekeepers in preventive diplomacy should be realized. A small-scale international presence could ease a tense situation that might otherwise escalate into a large-scale conflict requiring a costly intervention.

    Conflict prevention was a fundamental, defining task for international cooperation, he continued. It would become the focus of United Nations activities, since the international community could not stand by as a passive observer while disputes grew into armed conflicts. The United Nations had been born out of war. The face of war had become uglier since then, its latest ugliest form bearing the name of "terrorism". There was no alternative but to condemn that activity and to take an active part in common endeavors. However, while the Organization’s long-standing financial problem had been resolved last year, the Organization’s financial situation remained a concern, because not all Member States obeyed the agreed-upon rules and some did not live up to the pledges they made.

    HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said that, since the role of the United Nations in peace and security was an essential part of its global responsibilities, he fully endorsed the emphasis in the report on the need for moving from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. The steadfastness of the Secretary-General in recent years in steering the United Nations in that direction was promising. In the area of peacemaking, as well, the efforts of the Secretary-General during the last year were commendable.

    He said that despite the Secretary-General’s personal attention to the ongoing crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories and his two visits to the area, the continued aggressive policy of the Israelis had not allowed any diminishment in the suffering of the Palestinians. The policy of willful killing and suffocation of defenseless civilians by the Israeli armed forces continued. The inaction on the part of the Security Council, which had refrained from living up to its responsibility and assigning a United Nations protection force to the area, also continued.

    The Secretary-General, in his report, referred to the impact on some countries in Central Asia of acts perpetrated by extremists and terrorist forces, which were in part related to the situation in Afghanistan. Not only the Central Asian countries, but, in fact, all of Afghanistan’s neighbours were significantly hurt by disorder in the country. Iran pledged to lend active support to the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General aimed at restoring peace and helping Afghans form a broad-based and representative government there.

    Negotiations on strengthening the prevention and banning the development and use of weapons of mass destruction were now faced with major obstacles, he said. Conclusion of the verification protocol of the Biological Weapons Convention, as well as the CTBT preparation work had now reached a deadlock due to the position of the United States. Unfortunately, the same attitude had impaired the progress towards effective norms on small arms. However, the recent adoption of the plan of action on small arms and light weapons was a major step forward. Missiles were also an important issue on the international agenda, which merited full and serious consideration. The best approach, as noted in the report, were multilaterally negotiated norms.

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