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Bush Proposes Democracy Fund at UN Assembly


As UN Assembly opens annual high-level debate, Bush proposes democracy fund

As 95 Heads of State and Government began arriving at United Nations Headquarters in New York today for the start of the General Assembly's annual high-level debate, United States President George W. Bush called on the world body to support democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the global war on terrorism.

Mr. Bush proposed establishing a Democracy Fund within the UN. "This is a great calling for this great organization," he said, pledging an initial US contribution and urging other nations to donate to the fund, which would help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the rule of law and independent courts, a free press, political parties and trade unions.

“Each of us alone can only do so much. Together, we can accomplish so much more,” he declared, adding that history will honour the UN’s high ideals. “Let history show that in a decisive decade, members of the United Nations did not grow weary in our duties, or waver in meeting them.”

Speaking at the outset of the session, Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva appealed for economic and social justice in a world where the disparity in per capita income between the richest and poorest nations is now 16 times greater than it was nearly two decades ago, while a lack of basic sanitation has killed more children in the past decade than all military conflicts since the end of World War II.

Referring to ongoing wars and terrorist attacks, he said mankind was losing the fight for peace, adding: "The situation imposes on peoples and leaders of the world a new sense of collective and individual responsibility." He argued in favour of an international order based on a constructive dialogue among different cultures and perspectives. "No organ is better suited than the UN foe ensuring the world's convergence towards common goals."

The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, speaking also as current president of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, noted that this group now numbered 132 nations, more than two thirds of UN Member States, embodying the commitment of developing countries to the UN mission. Stressing the link between international peace and eliminating poverty, he called on developed countries to end agricultural subsidies and other measures that prevented developing countries from realizing their potential.

"The continued imbalance in the distribution of the benefits of international economic interdependence, the progressive widening of the gap between the developed and the developing countries, the deterioration of the economic conditions in quite a few countries in the South and the attendant adverse effect, on the environment would accentuate the feelings of discontent and frustration and could even lead to abhorrent forms of international conflict," he declared.

President Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon also expressed grave concern at these disparities, calling for a "strong political will" to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals which seek to halve extreme poverty and hunger, reduce infant and maternal mortality and achieve other social goals, all by 2015.

He stressed the need to reinforce the entire UN system to achieve these goals. "In this great common aspiration Africa is assuming its share of responsibility more than in the past," he declared. "A leap in solidarity on the part of the more privileged countries is more than ever necessary. What is at stake is the survival of millions people around the world." President Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, which only joined the UN two years ago when dissension was rife over the possible invasion of Iraq, said experience showed that actions taken without a mandate clearly defined in a Security Council resolution are doomed to failure. "There is now a clear need for reform and for strengthening the means of joint action," he added.

"To remain credible in its role as keeper of the peace, the UN and its Member States must, above all, be unshakeable guarantors of international law and, in particular, international humanitarian law," he declared, calling for a system of prevention that included fighting poverty and multilateral institutions that respond more rapidly to nascent crises.

For his part President Benjamin William Mkapa of Tanzania regretted the failure of many industrialized countries to meet the long-established UN target of allocating at least 0.7 per cent of national income to development cooperation, while praising Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden for consistently doing so.

"We urge the other rich countries to produce timetables to meet this long overdue target, to have coherent development policies, and to earnestly and deliberately build and nurture a national consciousness and consensus on the global war on poverty," he added, also calling for a fairer process of globalization that would close the wealth gap.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka highlighted the need for UN reform, a theme also stressed by several other leaders, including an enlargement of the Security Council to reflect the new economic and regional realities of the present day.

"Sri Lanka believes in the UN and its potential to be the principal forum where the voice of the poor, the defenceless and the weak is also heard as much as the voice of the rich and powerful," she said. The UN could counter the violence proffered by extremists and terrorist groups as the only instrument of change, she added, declaring: "We expect the UN to epitomize the force of law not the rule of force. However, we cannot expect the UN to deliver what the member States fail to support. The UN can do what its Member States want it to do; no more, no less."

President Abel Pacheco de la Espriella of Costa Rica called for a fairer world economic system. "This General Assembly, which represents and expresses the common will of all mankind, must play a central role in promoting a markedly humane globalization," he said.

Noting that in 2003, the world reached a new record by devoting $956 billion to military expenditure, 17 times the amount of resources devoted to official development assistance and more than the sum of the foreign debt of the 64 countries with the lowest GDP, he declared: "These numbers show that mankind has not understood yet that security does not result from a multiplication of the weapons but from a multiplication of the loaves of bread."

As the last of the Heads of State to address the first day's morning session, President Janez Drnovsek of Slovenia underlined the central role of the UN in the presumption of equality and the tolerant acceptance of plurality in human values.

"Only a multilateral response to the modern challenges can be effective. Of all the existing organizations, the United Nations is without doubt the most important and most appropriate for seeking such responses," he said, also stressing the need for a fairer globalization that reduced rather than increased the differences between rich and poor.

Foreign Minister Bernard Bot of the Netherlands also addressed the morning session on behalf of the 25 Member States of the European Union (EU), calling for an intensification of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reform efforts to make the UN stronger, more effective and more efficient in facing global challenges from terrorism to the proliferation of weapons if mass destruction to climate change.

"The EU itself is an example of multilateralism at work," he declared, pledging the Union's support for all the UN's multifaceted tasks. "Conflicting interests and diverging views still exist within the EU, as they do everywhere. But conflicts are resolved in the framework of common institutions and binding rules. Multilateralism works. A rule-based international order is possible. And necessary."

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