General Assembly hears calls to address root causes of terrorism

General Assembly hears calls to address root causes of terrorism

General Assembly building
The United Nations General Assembly concluded its second day of high-level debate this evening with universal condemnation of terrorism and widespread support for worldwide action to counter the threat.

In the speeches delivered today by the Heads of State or Government and other high-ranking officials attending the weeklong debate, terrorism was the prevailing theme as many speakers also noted that the global community had been unified in its response to the events of 11 September.

Much of the debate throughout the day also centred on the efforts needed to combat the root causes of the kind of discontent that might lead to such extreme actions, such as poverty, hunger, underdevelopment and neglect of human rights.

The first speaker in the Assembly’s afternoon session, the President of Guatemala,, Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, told the General Assembly that as a small country his State mirrored the grave problems of today's world while it struggled to cope with inequality, injustice and poverty that put “our peace and our democracy at risk.”

“We still do not enjoy the benefits of the great scientific and technological achievements, but we still suffer from great social inequalities,” he said. “A country that has opened itself to the world, although the world has perhaps not opened itself to it in the same way.”

As for the struggle against terrorism, President Portillo said it was a struggle against inequality in international economic relations, against ignorance and injustice and against discrimination, intolerance, exclusion and poverty that prevented the attainment of peace. “A peace associated with inequality, with poverty and injustice is a bad peace,” he said. “And let us not forget that a bad peace is worse than war.” The challenge for the world community, therefore, was to eliminate the universal threat posed by terrorism while renewing the ethical, political, legal and social bases that would ensure coexistence in a globalized world.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Samoa’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, said fighting terrorism could not be separated from preventing conflict and organized crime, the spread of small arms and other weapons, or from ensuring that the conditions of poverty and despair that breed ignorance, hatred, violence and extremism are properly and effectively addressed. Respect for the rule of law will help deny to terrorists whatever they seek to gain from violence, he said.

Highlighting the difficulties facing small island States such as Samoa, the Prime Minister said his delegation welcomed the recognition in various international fora of the fragility of small island States in the globalizing economy, but said much more needed to be done in terms of concrete actions. “Overcoming the well-recognized vulnerability of small island States like my own, and the exposure of island communities to the effects of global climate change, natural disasters, environmental damage and global economic shocks will be an essential element of sustainable development in all small island regions,” the Samoan leader said.

For his part, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, called for an international conference on terrorism in order to agree on a definition of the scourge, one that would distinguished it from the right of peoples to struggle against occupation. He stressed that an effective fight against terrorism required maximum international cooperation and coordination and also demanded a “soul-searching” review of the world’s current political, economic and social policies and practices in dealing with current global challenges. The goal was to minimize, if not eliminate, the ills that might be exploited by evildoers to carry out their terror schemes in a bid to advance their own agendas.

Turning to the situation in Afghanistan, Sheikh Al-Ahmad said it required the international community’s maximum efforts to bring about the long-awaited peace and security. National reconciliation and a national coalition government elected by the people of Afghanistan, representing all factions and ethnic groups, were perhaps the most viable means to ensure the country’s sustainability and eventually its normal status within the region and the world.

Prince Albert of Monaco told the General Assembly that the Millennium Declaration, as well as the international community’s statements against light weapons and racism, deserved particular attention in today’s world. “They can contribute to improving both international security and understanding among peoples,” he said, as could economic cooperation and regional political measures. Cultural and sporting events, which tended to bring people together, should also be encouraged, Prince Albert said. Turning to the issue of information technology, he said that alongside modern communications systems there should be an emphasis on more traditional ways of interaction and that education and information played a fundamental role in spreading the idea of peace among men and women living in our “troubled time.”

Kiichi Miyazawa, a Member of Parliament of Japan, said his Government was ready to cooperate with developing countries in controlling the financing of terrorism, and on a wide range of issues, including immigration control, aviation and maritime security, and biological and chemical weapons. Japan was also providing urgent economic aid to Afghan refugees and will contribute some $120 million for Afghan refugee assistance efforts by UN agencies and others, he said. Mr. Miyazawa emphasized that peace in Afghanistan was vital not only as a way of eliminating the hotbed of global terrorism but also for laying the foundation for long-term stability and development of the country and the region. He reaffirmed that Japan was prepared to hold, as soon as possible, a Conference for Peace and Reconstruction in Afghanistan it had been calling for since 1996.

Jan Petersen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, said the United Nations was the foremost tool for solving global problems and “we must not let the cruelty of terrorists divert attention from the ambitious goals set during the Millennium Summit.” Ending poverty, eliminating infectious diseases and upholding respect for human rights and the rule of law and other goals must remain priorities, he said, along with the fight against terrorism. For all those objectives, the world community must show steadfast determination and provide necessary resources and financial support otherwise the alternative was to face even more painful consequences, the Foreign Minister said.

Meanwhile the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mauritania, Dah Ould Abdi, said it was now proven that phenomena such as violence and extremism were the consequence of poverty and despair. That was why the international community needed to make greater efforts in solidarity and social development across the globe. Developing countries needed more support from the wealthy countries through increased investment and the opening of international markets to their products. The Foreign Minister also noted that debt remained one of the principle obstacles that weighed on the economies of developing countries and handicapped their capacity to evolve economically.

In his address, Jaime Gama, the Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Portugal, pointed to Angola as another example of conflicts that dragged on with seemingly no definitive solution in sight. He said his country profoundly regretted the continuation of the armed conflict in Angola and its severe humanitarian consequences. Mr. Gama stressed, however, that when the international community successfully intervened in a conflict, it should not deviate from the consolidation of the solutions reached. The UN had the responsibility to maintain an appropriate level of involvement until the definitive conclusion of the peace process, otherwise it put at risk the investments and expectations created. On the other hand, Mr. Gama welcomed the gains made in East Timor, whose impending transition to independence was, in fact, a clear success case for the UN, and a special reason for pride for the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries.

Heinz Moeller Freile, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador said the process of globalization and threats to international security had been two major factors faced by nations in the last part of the 20th Century. Many countries had to make adjustments to meet the needs of the new world order, but could not combat alone the challenges of globalization, which include dealing with “the ups and downs of short term capital flow and the absence of a truly open international trading system,” he said. On the issue of migrants, Mr. Freile said his country had faced a severe economic crisis and had become a net producer of migrants, which prompted the government to take steps to protect that population, including the signature of an agreement with Spain covering nationals of both countries. He urged the international community to act to protect that vulnerable segment of society. Turning to regional conflicts, the Minister said Ecuador supported the efforts of the Colombian Government to pursue peace talks with armed militant groups and hoped that effort would be met by a similar response by those groups. Such efforts were important in ensuring that the conflict did not spread to other countries in the region, he said, adding that the UN could play a role in helping to solve the problem.

Abdelaziz Belkhadem, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said anti-terrorism efforts should focus on the dismantling of terrorist bases and the freezing of finances linked to such acts, as well as on international cooperation in information-sharing and the provision of assistance to countries that fall victim to terrorism. The struggle also requires an effort by the international community to tackle the causes of terrorism, which create the conditions favorable to extremism and intolerance. In that context, the Algerian Minister said Islam should not be associated with terrorism, which, he said, was completely foreign to the faith’s values of peace and tolerance. On the question of Western Sahara, the Foreign Minister said Algeria supported the holding of a UN-organized referendum that would allow the people of Western Sahara to decide their political fate.

For is part, Hor Namhong, Senior Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, said his Government fully supported international efforts to combat terrorism, but that everything possible must be done to avoid civilian casualties. He also pointed to the need to address the motivation behind terrorist acts, stressing in this context the importance of achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East, including the establishment of a Palestinian State. All nations must also join together to fight poverty and to reduce the widening gap between developed and developing countries, Mr. Namhong said. On the reform of the Security Council, he said it was unacceptable that two-thirds of the world population were not equitably represented in that body. Cambodia therefore supported an increase in permanent and non-permanent members, with Japan, Germany and India as candidates for permanent membership.

Emphasizing that the UN was “the main guarantor of world peace and security,” Lila Ratsifandriamanana, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Madagascar, said that to carry out that function well, the Organization’s institutional structure must be streamlined. On the situation in Africa, she said the continent was resolved to take responsibility for its economic and political destiny, and that regional mechanisms to prevent conflicts and foster development were now in place, including the “New African Initiative.” Nevertheless, in the context of globalization, economic and trade processes did not always favor developing countries, she said, adding that her Government deplored the growing gap between the economies of the North and those of the South. On the Middle East, she urged the UN to convene a special session on the crisis, and to deploy international forces to protect innocent victims.

Abou Drahamane Sangaré, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Cote D’Ivoire, said his government attached great importance to the global effort to eradicate poverty and that it had implemented a number of policies aimed at fighting the problem, including improving health and nutrition services around the country. A policy was in place to make sure people all over the country had access to health care and other basic services. In order to meet those objectives, a favourable macro-economic policy must be in place and Cote D’Ivoire hoped to achieve such policy through good governance, he said.

Fuad Mubarak Al-Hinai, Permanent Representative of Oman, expressed solidarity with the United States in defending its territory, but said innocent civilians must be protected and humanitarian aid provided in Afghanistan. “All peaceful means to combat terrorism should also be searched for and Islam should not be targeted; neither should the fight against terrorism be an occasion to settle old accounts,” he said. On the Middle East conflict, Mr. Al-Hinai said his country supported all efforts aimed at achieving peace founded on justice, international legitimacy and the principle of land for peace. “Oman calls on the United States and the Russian Federation to revive the peace process, and calls for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and Shaba farms.” Regarding Iraq, he said the Security Council should focus on implementing a long-term weapons monitoring and inspection programme to be able to lift sanctions, while Iraq should fulfil its remaining obligations.