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UN2K: President of the Republic of Sierra Leone



Address by the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone

H.E. Alhaii Dr. Ahmad Teian Kabbah

to the Millennium Summit of the United Nations

New York, Thursday 7 September 2000

Esteemed Chair of the Millennium Summit, Mr. Secretary-General, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I bring you greetings from the people of Sierra Leone, a people who have been subjected to the worst form of brutality the world has witnessed in the closing years of the 20th century, a people who, against all odds, have become shining symbols of resilience, of faith and of hope. They would like this august assembly of world leaders to know that they are determined and ready to embark on the difficult task of national reconstruction. At the same time, they maintain their right to see that truth and justice prevail, because these are the prerequisites of genuine reconciliation and lasting peace in their country.

Your Excellencies, our world Organisation comprises independent sovereign states, and is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members. We therefore expect each state to respect the sovereignty of others. As leaders, we all speak with pride, in defence of the sovereignty of our respective states. We must never forget, however, that in the final analysis sovereignty belongs to the people. We often forget that whatever we say or do within these walls is said and done on behalf of the peoples we represent. Our resolutions, declarations and conventions, will ultimately affect the lives and livelihood of the peoples of the world. For the United Nations is about people, All people, irrespective of their colour, creed, or social and economic status.

We therefore commend our Secretary-General for reminding us that the United Nations is for and about people, about their welfare, their safety and security, and about their future. He has done so by choosing "We the Peoples" as the title of his Millennium Report, in which he provided us with not just an agenda for the years ahead, but concrete recommendations for our collective action on behalf of the peoples of the world. As he rightly observed, we the leaders are at the service of the world's peoples. We must listen to them and try harder, in the words of the Charter, "to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples."

We urge the United Nations to pursue further measures to make the voices of the peoples of the world more directly heard by increasing their participation in the decision-making processes of the Organisation.

This Millennium Summit presents a unique opportunity to strengthen the role of the United Nations in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. The main challenges that he has identified reflect many of the concerns that Member States have articulated in various global and regional forums. The Secretary-General's Report provides a solid base on which we can build a new consensus at the highest political level, for meeting the urgent needs of our people and the challenges of the new Millennium.

Your Excellencies, the tasks ahead have become more difficult. This is because most of the problems and issues that the United Nations was created to tackle just over half a century ago have taken different forms and dimensions. They are becoming more complex and more challenging. Many of them seem to have become immune to the prescriptions and remedies we had developed over the years to tackle resolve or eradicate them.

For instance, just when we were celebrating the eradication of small pox, and while we were struggling to control malaria, still the most prevalent deadly disease in Africa and the primary source of poverty in the Continent, another health menace, HIV/AIDS, raised its vicious head within and across our frontiers and threatening to wipe out millions of families. In these circumstances, we ask ourselves how much progress we have really made in the area of public health? What are the prospects of achieving substantial reduction of this threat in the new century?

While we were applauding the efforts of the United Nations along with other bodies in ending colonialism and apartheid, we have also been witnessing the emergence of other manifestations of colonialism, in the form of political and social repression, ethnic intolerance, racist tendencies, and rampant economic inequality. We had no sooner breathed a sign of relief that the so-called cold war with all its destabilizing consequences had ended, than we were confronted by widespread 'hot wars' that continue to take the lives of millions of people.

While we have been preoccupied, and rightly so, with the establishment of democratic governance within states, and complementing this determination with carrying out the task of economic reform and development, it is ironic' that we continue to face resistance in our efforts to seek a democratisation of the international economic and political systems.

How then do we act on the challenges of the new century? How can the United Nations help meet these and other challenges that the Secretary-General has identified? In my view the answers lie in the process of adaptation.

The United Nations must adapt and re-equip itself to deal with these new manifestations of the perennial problems of human security and human development. In many instances we have to develop new approaches, and new 'people-centered' strategies for addressing the emerging and complex issues ahead. Whether we describe the process as one of change or of reform, we must at this critical stage realise that the United Nations along with its system must adapt itself to meet the challenges of the 21st century or fail. All too often the Bretton Woods institutions advise us, no doubt with good intentions, to invest in the education and health of our people. But we submit that such advice should not become 'conditionalities' to the detriment of national security. For without security, as in the case of my country, even the limited socio-economic gains may be swept away.

The peoples of the world demand that we make drastic improvements in some of the methods we have employed to alleviate such scourges as poverty, illiteracy, disease. We must eliminate the insecurity created by the excessive accumulation of nuclear and conventional weapons, and the proliferation of small arms which have caused and continue to cause thousands of death and suffering in our part of the world.

Your Excellencies, in several ways, Sierra Leone has tested the capacity of the United Nations to deal with some of the challenges of the new century. For example, in the areas of human rights protection and the administration of justice, the United Nations has been called upon to adapt itself to a unique situation, by devising an innovative process of dealing with impunity. The people of Sierra Leone have called for assistance, and the Organisation has responded accordingly, to establish a special court to bring to justice persons who have committed gross violation of human rights, international humanitarian an domestic criminal law.

The success of this experiment in dealing with impunity should enhance the ability of our Organisation to deal with future cases of gross human rights violations and atrocities of the type we have experienced in my country during the past nine years. Our Organisation must be equipped to deal with them wherever they may occur in the future.

In the area of conflict management, the situation in Sierra Leone has again provided our Organisation an opportunity to prepare itself for new and emerging challenges in peacekeeping. The Organisation has been prodded to adapt its traditional peacekeeping rules in order to respond to the specific security needs of Sierra Leone. It has been challenged to develop innovative ways of dealing with a conflict that is seemingly internal, but a brutal one conceived and sustained by external allies, and fueled by the illegal sale of diamonds and other natural resources.

The Government of Sierra Leone recently accepted a Security Council ban. albeit a temporary one, on the export of Sierra Leone diamonds. Although this has resulted in the loss of much needed revenue, we did so in order to strengthen the Organisation's capacity to deal with the new menace to international peace and security, namely the role of diamonds in fueling internal armed conflicts.

Also in the area of conflict management, Sierra Leone expects to host, perhaps some 20,000 UN peacekeepers in one of the largest operations the United Nations has ever undertaken in its history. In a sense UNAMSIL has been designed specially for Sierra Leone. May I on behalf of all Sierra Leoneans take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the United Nations Security Council for giving UNAMSIL additional responsibilities within its current mandate. This has given true meaning to

the term "collective security." The situation in Sierra Leone as it developed demanded an appropriate response from our Organisation, an Organisation that has pledged in its Charter, to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

Your Excellencies, the United Nations has no alternative but to adapt itself and to improve its capacity to respond to new challenges. The adaptation is being prompted by two major imperatives.

First, there is the moral imperative. How can we, for instance continue to remain unconcerned or lukewarm to the plight of the greater half of the human family who live in abject poverty on less than one dollar a day? We should therefore endorse the Secretary-General's call for a moral recommitment to the shared values reflecting the spirit of the Charter, values such as equity, solidarity and shared responsibility. Now more than ever before, the concepts of "One World" and the "Human Family" should be made a reality.

The second imperative is technology. Modern technology is also prodding us to adapt or even change. We are compelled to use technology as an instrument for achieving the aims and objectives of the Charter. It is in this context that we fully endorse the SecretaryGeneral's initiatives for a volunteer corps in the area of Internet and information technology, and for the use of computers, mobile and satellite telephones in health and disaster relief. Allow me to point out however, that while we applaud the initiative for training opportunities in information technology and uses of the Internet we must be aware of the fundamental problems inherent in this effort. The question is, what use are computers and satellite phones without a source of adequate power supply to run them? Here lies another challenge we would have to face in our effort to achieve the set of freedoms outlined in the Secretary-General's Millennium Report.

Your Excellencies, the challenges ahead are many and complex. They also require, in virtually every case, specialised knowledge and expertise as well as huge financial resources. Therefore, the Secretary-General's initiative for developing new partnerships and global networks should be vigorously pursued. Such an approach, including partnerships with the private sector and civil society, is consistent with the new concept of international cooperation, a concept that should no longer be restricted to activities between and among governments, but also to legitimate non-state transactions.

Esteemed Colleagues,

Meeting the challenges of the new Millennium therefore requires us to accept the fact that governments alone cannot solve all our problems. Partnership in one form or the other is required. As it has done for the people of Sierra Leone in taking the unprecedented decision to set up an hybrid court that combines municipal and international law to end impunity, the Organisation has to muster the courage to be more creative, to be more innovative, to pursue new initiatives, new strategies, and in the words of the Secretary-General, "to explore viable new approaches" to the hard core problems of our time.

This Summit, the largest assembly of world leaders, affords us the opportunity to re-examine our priorities, re-define our mission in the face of new realities, sharpen our vision of the new century, and provide the political platform on which the United Nations family can place their priority programmes for alleviating or improving the human condition throughout the world.

As Heads of State and Government, we remain the trustees of the hopes and aspirations of our peoples, for peace, security, and economic advancement. We should therefore speak, consult, deliberate, and act decisively on their behalf.

I thank you.

© Scoop Media

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