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Primacy of UN dominates second day of debate

Primacy of UN dominates second day of General Assembly debate

The primacy of the United Nations, Security Council reform, terrorism, poverty and development continued to dominate the General Assembly on the second day of its annual high-level meeting as Heads of State and Government mounted the rostrum to address the 191-member body's general debate.

Opening the morning session, President Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique said sceptics have recently wondered whether the UN had lost its credibility and relevance. "The answer is clear: The role of the United Nations as the main instrument for the maintenance of international peace and security has more than ever before been vindicated," he declared. "It must be strengthened, safeguarded and adequately funded," he added. The 15-member Security Council must be expanded to make it more representative, with African receiving at least two permanent member positions.

Noting recent international terrorist attacks, President Chissano said: "The United Nations remains the most appropriate forum for the search of the best ways and means of combating terrorism." He referred to recent positive events in Africa, including the formation of a transitional government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the ceasefire in Liberia, adding: "Africa is endowed with human and natural resources that can contribute decisively to its own development. What we need is an opportunity. An opportunity to integrate ourselves into the world economy."

President Enrique Bolanos Geyer of Nicaragua also emphasized the importance of the UN. "The world must not be intimidated by terrorism," he declared. "The role of the United Nations as a guarantor of collective security is irreplaceable." He called for a new era of international cooperation "within the multilateral system to combat…terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking, trafficking in arms and persons and transnational crime, which are harmful to the consolidation of democracy and progress."

Pledging to fight corruption, President Bolanos said Nicaragua "greatly appreciates the efforts to translate a United Nations convention against corruption into reality." He also called for a more equitable international trading system through the World Trade Organization, declaring that international cooperation is not sufficient to achieve economic development. "We want fair treatment," he said. "This is the issue, and we hope the developed countries will be favourably disposed towards a new trade relationship with developing countries like Nicaragua."

Noting that the war in Iraq and its aftermath have "put to test the UN capability, credibility and role in the world," President Arnold Ruutel of Estonia said: "I would like to believe that the passed year has not undermined the morale of the world organization but rather on the contrary. The ordeals and the war of Iraq have been a lesson and deepened conviction that the UN should be even more decisive and efficient in future than today." He welcomed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's pledge that despite terrorist attack against it in Baghdad the UN would continue working in Iraq. "Terrorists should not determine the future of Iraq and make the people of Iraq and the international community to withdraw from the goal of building up a sovereign, democratic and prosperous Iraq," he added.

President Ruutel devoted much of his speech to the importance of the environment and sustainable development. Noting the problem of limited resources, a bourgeoning world population and pollution, he said: "Environment protection and ensuring of the welfare of mankind and wildlife is becoming an ever more important and difficult task. It is not by chance that the UN declared the year 2003 the International Year of Fresh Water and that the year 2002 focused on eco-tourism and mountain regions."

President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana noted that the past two years have been "years of near apocalyptic ordeal for the world and this great Organization," caught as they were in "crossfires of terrorism, violence and wars." Making a plea that the UN not be deterred by the terrorist attack in Baghdad, he said: "We in Ghana still believe in the United Nations as the global repository of humankind's aspiration. We believe that the problems of the 21st century cannot be addressed without universal commitment to multilateralism spearheaded by the United Nations."

President Kufuor made a plea, too, not to abandon Africa in its efforts to resolve its internal conflicts or its battle against scourges like AIDS, hunger, poverty and under-development. He noted that the UN Human Development Report for 2003 "exposes the tragedy that besets sub-Saharan Africa" - that it will take 150 years for the region to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which Member States had hoped to achieve by 2015. He also endorsed an expansion of the Security Council with two new permanent seats for Africa.

Taking the rostrum next, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria said mounting threats imperilled the status and role of the UN. "Indeed, recent developments marked the opening of a new phase of instability and uncertainty highlighting the dangers arising out of the sidestepping of our Organization in the conduct of world affairs," he declared. Stressing that the UN remains the best place where Member States should join in collective endeavours in their quest of the common good, he said: "Therefore, strengthening our organization and improving its efficiency stands as a collective task and a shared responsibility of all Member States, and a duty stemming from their commitment to preventing crisis situations, addressing threats to international peace and security, and ensuring conditions for sustainable development."

President Bouteflika also called for greater international intervention on the Middle East conflict to "firmly urge Israel to fully cooperate for a global, just and lasting solution, which necessarily includes the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State." In Iraq, he said, only the UN "can legitimately and efficiently accompany the institution building and reconstruction of the country, and its role in these processes is of paramount importance."

The President of Ecuador, Lucio Gutiérrez, said the situation in Colombia had been his Government's major preoccupation since the beginning of his term of office. Given the serious threat the Colombian conflict posed to the entire region, the Presidents of the Rio Group had this past spring urged Secretary-General Kofi Annan to use his good offices to spur a peace process in Colombia, and to exhort the guerrilla movements to cease hostilities and enter into an open-ended and transparent dialogue for a peaceful and definitive resolution of the conflict.

President Gutiérrez also addressed the problem of external debt and how it stymied the efforts of poor nations and said debt should not be dealt with solely as an economic issue, but must be recognized as constituting a social and human tragedy. Servicing their external debt, devoid of generosity from developed nations, absorbed the vast bulk of many nations' efforts and savings, he noted. The President said poor nations were not, however, asking for charity, only a chance to grow. Ecuador, for example, devoted over 40 per cent of its income to servicing its external debt.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said while eradicating terrorism was a global fight, it must not erode the moral values of societies. "It must not be hijacked by those who seek to use it as an excuse to suppress other peoples. It must not be allowed to engender a clash of civilizations - a clash between Islam and the West." Islam is a faith of peace and must not be confused with the narrow vision of a few extremists, he added. The way forward was to adopt a strategy to build harmony, promote moderation, oppose extremism and ensure justice. That would call for Muslim nations to assume responsibility for internal reform and renewal, eschewing extremism and confrontation.

For its part, Mr. Musharraf continued, the West must help resolve disputes and situations where Muslim peoples are oppressed such as in Palestine and Kashmir. They must reject attempts to equate terrorism with Islam, and must assist the Muslim world in poverty alleviation and socio-economic development. The UN also had a role to play - it must quickly reach consensus on a way to restore Iraq's stability, security and sovereignty, he said. In addition, Mr. Musharraf invited India to join Pakistan in a sustained dialogue with regards to Kashmir. He said while India had stepped back from its "dangerous and failed experiment in coercive diplomacy" last year, it continued to ignore to relevant Security Council resolutions on the Kashmiri people's right to self-determination. India also had refused Pakistan's offers of dialogue to help resolve the dispute, he said.

Vincente Fox, the President of Mexico, told the Assembly that the world today hung in a “fragile and perilous” balance, mainly as a result of a collective inability to ensure sustained development and peace. All nations are facing the fallout of a type of globalization, which had triggered economic imbalances, particularly among poorest countries. Unchecked, it was also triggering violence, and supporting organized crime and terrorism. Adding that no country large or small could shoulder the responsibility alone, the global community could end hunger, exclusion, crime and inequality once and for all.

Mexico understood the benefits of working as a team both nationally and internationally to ensure all around progress, Mr. Fox said. With that in mind, he reiterated that the UN was the most fitting forum to promote the idea of collective action. He also warned that perhaps the very future of the Organization hung on the decisions that would be made concerning the reconstruction and future of Iraq. Above and beyond Iraq, he said, there were other problems, particularly unresolved and escalating hostilities in the Middle East, ongoing conflict in Africa, and increasing tensions in Asia surrounding weapons of mass destruction. It was time to ensure that diplomacy and dialogue pointed the way forward on those issues.

The Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder, repeated the urgent appeal issued by Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt in 1980 to recognize that the globalization of dangers and challenges - war, chaos and self-destruction - calls for a domestic policy which goes much beyond "national items." To achieve that, peace, security and respect for human rights should be resolutely pursued, conflicts prevented and stable structures created within an effective multilateral strategy, he added. While committed to intensive international cooperation under the aegis of the UN, Mr. Schröder said the Organization must be strengthened, so that it can guide the international community towards a universal order based on law, human dignity, good governance and prosperity for all.

Mindful of their history, he continued, Germans advocated cooperative policies based upon economic, political and humanitarian means in pursuit of peace and justice in the Middle East, Africa and other areas. Yet, shoulder-to-shoulder with its partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union, Germany would assume the military responsibility to secure peace and protect human beings when there was no other way, he added. More than 9,000 members of the German armed forces and police were currently deployed on international missions. Mr. Schröder also said while major advances had been secured in the realization of the common goals enshrined in the UN Charter, the fight against hunger, injustice and poverty had yet to be won.

The Vice-President of Bolivia, Carlos Mesa Gisbert, also addressed the Assembly during its debate, as did the Foreign Ministers of China, Li Zhaoxing, and Australia, Alexander Downer.


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