Global perspective Human stories

Presidents of Micronesia, Nicaragua address Assembly as it opens 4th day of debate

Presidents of Micronesia, Nicaragua address Assembly as it opens 4th day of debate

As the United Nations General Assembly's entered the fourth day of its annual debate this morning, high-level representatives of some 30 countries were set to address the UN's main deliberative body, including two presidents and two prime ministers.

Highlighting some of the key concerns for his country, Leo A. Falcam, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, pointed to the threats posed by rising sea levels due to human-induced climate change. The phenomena had already forced neighbouring Tuvalu to look at relocation options earlier this year, he said, noting that the results were not encouraging since more fortunate countries seemed unwilling to provide a haven for these first "climate change refugees." He said a change in the position of several key signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, including the world's largest generators of greenhouse gasses, had created a great deal of concern for all low-lying island states.

Poverty was another challenge facing Micronesia, the President said. "I speak not of the poverty of hunger and unchecked disease," he noted, "but of the all-too-common developing world condition that had resulted from the persistent failure of all nations to achieve equitable sharing of the bounties of the world." Applauding the UN for its "heroic work" to reduce poverty, the President said his Government would continue to work with the Group of 77 developing nations to advance poverty reduction measures and improve the standard of living for all human beings.

For Dr. Arnaldo Aleman Lacayo, President of the Republic of Nicaragua, responding to the challenges facing the world in the new millennium required moving forward with UN reform, making the Organization's policies and structures equal to the realities of contemporary international society, and improving its ability to maintain global peace and security, promote sustainable development and fight poverty. The Security Council must also be reformed, he said, so that it can respond fully and effectively to current needs and future challenges.

The Nicaraguan President also said the UN's principle of equal participation by all Member States could not be fully realized as long as a democratic State and founding subscriber to the San Francisco Charter could not participate as a full member. "The Republic of China is a democratic country and its freely elected government is the only one that can legitimately represent the interests and desires of the people of Taiwan in the United Nations," he said, stressing that the world should not continue to deny the right to 23 million people who live in China to be represented in the UN.

Development issues were also a key theme in the address by the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Nambar Enkhbayar, who stressed that the international community had not lived up to its commitments of the 1990s. "The world does not find itself in much better shape," he said, emphasizing that the world needed to muster sufficient political will to forge the partnerships required "to ease the staggering discrepancy between commitments and action." Affluent countries, for example, could exhibit their solidarity and shared responsibility by further opening their markets, providing broader and faster debt relief and giving more and better focused development assistance and incentives for foreign direct investment flows to their less fortunate partners, he said.

As a country that was itself a victim of a terrorist attack in Dar-es-Salaam in 1998, Tanzania understood the United States' pain and anger after the 11 September events, said Jakaya M. Kikwete, Tanzanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. He reiterated his country's resolve to participate fully in the efforts to combat terrorism. Turning to Security Council reform, Mr. Kikwete said that his Government supported Africa's request for two seats in the permanent category, as well as an analysis of the circumstances of invoking the veto. On Africa's economic problems, he said the availability of official development assistance, as well as debt relief and access to markets of the developed countries were essential in helping to alleviate poverty. As for the Great Lakes region, Mr. Kikwete said Tanzania hoped the installation of the transitional government in Burundi would lead to the repatriation of the over 800,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania.

Pointing to the "avalanche of drugs, drug money, weapons, and warlords spilling out of Afghanistan," Jozias Van Aartsen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said there was every reason to focus attention on terrorist groups in different parts of the world. "Look at the blood diamonds streaming out of Africa," he said. "Think how failing States attract parasites, how they turn into breeding grounds for terrorism, havens for international crime." The remedy, he said, was not outside intervention or massive injections of aid, but rather to help galvanize and enable these States to use their capacities to fix themselves. In order to help post-Taliban Afghanistan, Mr. Van Aartsen said, the UN should play a central role as a catalyst and as an adviser, but not as a governor, to ensure that the new government was representative of the people. He added that Afghanistan must also benefit from generous aid.

Regional concerns were a top priority for Guinea, whose Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mahawa Bangoura Camara, welcomed the UN's role in promoting peace and security between her country, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and said Guinea was ready to make the Mano River Union "a model for economic integration and a space for social cohesion." Mrs. Camara said her Government welcomed the results achieved in Sierra Leone, particularly in the programme of disarmament, demobilization and reinsertion. She noted, however, that the process needed to be consolidated to avoid the errors in Liberia where the restoration of peace was not accompanied by such a programme, or by the financial support required after the conflict's end. Turning to the Middle East, Mrs. Camara said Guinea supported the idea of sending in international observers to put an end to the violence, stressing that the passivity of the international community could lead to a worsening of the situation.

For his part, Felipe Perez Roque, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, denounced the US attacks against Afghanistan, emphasizing that the war "must be stopped," and Washington "must acknowledge it has made a mistake." Only under the leadership of the UN can the world defeat terrorism, he said, noting that Cuba supported the adoption of a general convention on international terrorism that would allow the international community to define terrorism with accuracy. "This has been an old aspiration of the Non-Aligned Movement," the Cuban Minister said. In his view, such a dialogue would allow the world to find a way to end terrorism, "not only if committed against the United States, but also if undertaken against another country, even from the territory of the United States or with the leniency or complicity of its authorities, as has been Cuba's painful experience for over four decades."

The need for a closer look at the phenomenon of terrorism, including its causes, was also underscored by Lakshman Kadigamar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka. He said that such an endeavour did not mean the international community was "giving in" to terrorists, because it was "axiomatic that a contented people do not rise up to destroy the society in which they live." Noting that the world had indeed changed since 11 September, Mr. Kadigamar said Sri Lanka had been a victim of terrorism for two decades, but received little more than expressions of condolences from the international community. When half of the national airline's fleet was wiped out by terrorists on 24 July, the Government was advised by other nations to negotiate. "We were reminded that 'violence begets violence'," he said. "That approach has changed dramatically, or so it seems, in recent times because terrorism has assailed the national interests of many countries. Terrorism is no longer the curse of the poor."

Expressing his delegation's sadness at the horror of the 11 September attacks, Mohamed Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, warned against the danger of linking the terrorist events to Islam, a religion of coexistence and tolerance. On regional issues, he noted the judgment handed down by the International Court of Justice with regard to his country's border dispute with Qatar, but added that the ramifications of painful events in the region over the past 20 years still represented an "ongoing threat." He reiterated his Government's call on Iraq to cooperate with the UN and to implement Security Council resolutions, and expressed hope that a peaceful solution could be reached between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over three islands - Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Muss. As for the Middle East, the Minister said the problem stemmed from the aggression by Israel against the Palestinian people, and the oppressive actions and economic blockade that it imposed on all the territory under Palestinian authority. He also welcomed the statement of President Bush on the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own State.

Roberto Rojas Lopez, Costa Rica's Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the terror attacks against the United States forced the world to rethink the concept of international security. "The community of nations must create mechanisms to ensure peace and development for all people, with the United Nations playing a central role," he said. All peace efforts must be approached from the human rights angle, because true and sustainable peace will be achieved only when adequate living conditions are guaranteed to all people, with sustainable use and management of natural resources, he said. On the subject of natural disasters, Mr. Rojas Lopez underscored the plight of fragile economies in the wake of such calamities, noting that over the past decade Central America had suffered severe human and material losses. He urged more international attention to the question of helping developing nations design and implement programmes to reduce their vulnerability to natural disasters.

Focusing her attention on the plight of the Afghan people, Anna Lindh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said all nations must assist the people of Afghanistan in their immediate needs. "The Afghan people are held hostage by an illegitimate regime," she said. "Women are denied healthcare and work, girls are practically denied education and their freedom is heavily restricted." Calling for increased efforts by the UN to provide humanitarian relief to suffering Afghans, Ms. Lindh said closed borders must be opened immediately for refugees seeking asylum, and for the secure transport of emergency supplies. Afghanistan should also receive support for a political process that will lead to a representative government. On the Middle East, Mrs Lindh said the aim of the international community should be two States - Israel and Palestine - with secure and recognized borders. "Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories, cease the settlement policy and put and end to extra-judicial executions," she said. "The Palestinians must do everything in their power to stop attacks against innocent civilians."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia, Goran Svilanovic, said his Government was not satisfied with the situation in the provinces of Kosovo and Metohija; particularly with regards to the lack of security for non-Albanians, the return of expelled and displaced persons and the deadlock on the issue of missing persons. Mr. Svilanovic said he expected more extensive cooperation to begin after the 17 November elections to implement Security Council resolution 1244 and to establish democracy and promote human rights in the two provinces, with full respect for Yugoslavia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. On terrorism, the Minister said preventing attacks and punishing perpetrators was not sufficient; the international community should deal with the social causes of terrorism, in particular poverty and lack of opportunity. On UN reform, he said the Security Council should adapt itself to the realities of today's world.

According to Rashid Meredov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, the Afghanistan problem can only be solved through negotiations. The armed conflict there is affecting the stability of the region and blocking its social and economic development, he said, stressing that the UN was the right forum for political negotiations on Afghanistan. On the subject of oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian Sea, which he called "extremely important energy resources for the 21st century," Mr. Meredov said the construction of appropriate pipeline infrastructure to deliver those energy supplies to the world markets, would ensure the considerable economic growth of many States, and the well-being of their peoples. Here too, the UN could play an important role, "as it is capable of creating a mechanism for guaranteeing a safe and unimpeded transportation of raw materials along inter-State pipelines," he said.