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UN2K: Georgia President Edouard Sheverdnadze










ONE UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 26TH FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10017 - TFL. (212) 759-1949 - FAX: (212) 759-1832

Mr. Chairman,

Mr. Secretary General,

My Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must not fail to acknowledge the comprehensive nature of the report of the Secretary General. This is indeed a document worthy of a Millennium.

Here today, I want to share with you some reflections, and some of the burden of my heart. As you know, I participated in bringing the Cold War, the longest war in history, to an end.

Everyone here remembers a world that was split in two. A world of "East and West." A world separated by the Wall whose building blocks were class and ideological variance. A world over which the specter of possible nuclear war incessantly hung.

My co-thinkers and I were convinced that once the Cold War was over, the planet would survive, and that the groanings about the end of mankind would fall silent.

This was a unique phenomenon - a world war ending without bloodshed.

However, I will not mask a certain disappointment - derived from today's realities and born out by the unvarnished report of the Secretary General.

The problem of disarmament remains unsolved - although we do see the first signs of progress.

The unsettled conflicts of today - both between and within states - could flare up into horrific conflagration tomorrow.

Figures on people who suffer from hunger, tragic infirmity, illiteracy simply boggle the mind.

Against the backdrop of these global shifts, my country has chosen a course toward democratic development. But what has come out of it? A handful of separatists relying on external forces split Georgia asunder - exterminating thousands of innocent people in the process. For eight consecutive years 300,000 of my compatriots have remained ousted from their homes. More than half of the population is on the verge of hunger, although friends from the United States and other countries are helping. Again, I thank these friends for that.

The UN Security Council has adopted 23 resolutions on the Abkhaz Conflict. And the result? Nothing.

The Security Council has so far been unable even to call the ethnically based expulsion of people from Abkhazia by its appropriate name.

I was the last ethnic Georgian who left Abkhazia. And 1 know everything - who would benefit from the success of the separatists. I declare with full responsibility that if the separatists had not succeeded in Abkhazia, today there would be no Chechen tragedy.

As the Cold War came to a close, we spoke a lot about a new world, a new order. Ten years have passed. The world order we all dreamed of is still in the distance. And what guarantee exists that the Secretary General's proposals will indeed come to pass? 1, an optimist by nature, personally have grounds for skepticism. Earlier, I spoke of the bipolar world. Some consider it still to be such. Who then is able to assume responsibility for matters, which cannot be shouldered by individual states, sovereign states.

There are many prudent, reasonable observations and proposals in the Millennium Report, yet how many of these require that existing international organizations and alliances be radically overhauled? Can we do it?

One of the most complex problems is that of debt. Again, thank you President Clinton, and other leaders for the initiatives you have taken in this area It is commonly known that as debts accumulate, the number of those suffering from hunger and sickness the world over grows in geometric progression.

This is not a populist appeal: at the dawn of this Millennium we must release poor and developing countries from the fetters of debt. This breakthrough would equal that of the victory over the Cold War. Its initiators and participants would become modern heroes.

Furthermore, there can be no "new financial architecture" unless debts are written off.

Many new independent democratic states are now facing difficulties. In Georgia, for example, we have established democratic values, gained freedom for the nation and the individual. The primacy of human rights is not in question. Yet we have not even neared a state of well-being for our people. Neither have corruption or the shadow economy been defeated. Time is required. I appeal to the leaders of developed nations. How many decades did you travel the road, which finally brought you up to modem standards.

In developing democratic states, a protracted process toward material welfare calls democratic values into question. We cannot expect disillusioned people to derive their nourishment from ideals alone.

As the Georgian saying goes, to a poor man misfortune never comes singly. When we gained a relatively firm footing, and somewhat recovered our breath, environmental distress obliterated our harvest. Now, too, we look to our friends with hope. In my view, we can no longer doubt that the dangers of global warming are now upon us. Do we fully conceive all that awaits our planet? What other environmental perils are in the offing? And what of the consequences of global warming on a grand scale over large areas?

I therefore believe that global environmental security should be the direct responsibility of the UN and its Security Council. To some degree, world food security should also become subject to centralized management.

The resources and capabilities of the United Nations must dramatically increase, and of course the role and responsibility of the individual states should likewise grow.

All these concerns indicate that addressing the problems we face in this Millennium is a task that individual states- even the most powerful ones - cannot manage alone. There is a need for a uniting and bonding force, a body with a broad competence and wide duties. There is a need for a fundamental restructuring of the UN and the

Security Council to meet the challenges of the new Millennium.

The Security Council must be expanded. I recall at the General Assembly in 1992, I spoke in favor of permanent membership for Germany and Japan. One wonders why the expansion issue has not yet been resolved. At this stage, more new prospective members have appeared, and today too, a reasonable solution can be found. I firmly believe that the right of veto must be limited. I assure you that the sky will not fall as a result.

The Charter of the United. Nations- also needs to be adapted, factoring in the modem discoveries and the worst threats of the new era. The role and functions of the Security Council must be more clear cut.

If I may borrow some words from the Secretary-General, the Security Council should have at its command a sufficient number of "fire engines" to put out the flames and maintain stability and peace in the world. I concur with the Secretary- General's position on the Intemational Court, only we must assure that it does not take us a whole new decade to make it happen.

Interaction of such powerful regional organizations as the European Union and OSCE with the United Nations and its Security Council must be more coordinated and synchronized.

No individual state or group of states can resolve the problems facing mankind, and most importantly save Man, nature's crowning achievement. With this in mind, the desire of some states to preserve, regain, and expand their spheres of influence or otherwise return to the past appears anachronistic.

And still we must hope that independent democratic states will become stronger and that we together will create a new United Nations and a new Security Council, which will be a central guarantee of peace and security.

Among the comprehensive trends of today, globalization is most frequently mentioned. This subject is given considerable attention in the Secretary-General's report. And I, too, will comment briefly on this process.

The globalization process today, as yesterday, is driven by strong interests. Yet if in past times it was obstructed by manifold imperial and bloc confrontations and the lack of high technologies, today no political or technological obstacle can impede its progress. Artificial isolation from globalization is fatal. History has taught us this lesson countless times. That is why I believe globalization deserves not to be impeded, but encouraged so that it becomes all-inclusive, and serves all mankind.

As a representative of a small nation whose unique culture spans thousands of years, it is only natural that I should be concerned about one particular aspect of globalization - the dangers of cultural homogenization. In my opinion, policy in these matters must be based on the utmost promotion of one's own culture, rather than the putting up of barriers. The Georgian culture, like numerous others, has always acquired and internalized elements of foreign cultures. It was enriched thereby, yet remained distinctive. I do not doubt that this will continue to be the case.

Now, as for homogenization in terms of those values on which democracy, pluralism, and protection of human rights are based, the unity of the world vis a vis these issues is not only welcome, but necessary if we want to successfully address the complex challenges of the present and future. Adopting a shared basis of values ought not to be regarded as "Westemization." As most recent history has demonstrated, this set of values is imperative to sustainable development, as, for example, is electricity. I sincerely doubt that while using electricity today, anyone really considers whence it came - East or West.

In the face of the complex challenges of today, we must think more about unity and not dividing lines. The history of the last decades has shown us that when we act in concert, we can do wonders.


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