Extreme poverty, marginalization fuel conflict, General Assembly told

15 November 2001

International efforts to block the financing of terrorism and to cope with the problems of extreme poverty and marginalization that often led to conflict were among the subjects raised this afternoon, as the General Assembly neared the end of its annual high-level debate.

Opening the afternoon meeting, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha of Bulgaria, said the struggle against terrorism required a moral and spiritual commitment. Bulgaria, he said, was shouldering its responsibility as a newly elected non-permanent member of the Security Council with a sense of pride and was playing its role in support of peace and security in its region. In the Balkans, Bulgaria favoured comprehensive implementation of the Dayton Agreement. Efforts must be undertaken to bring about economic development in south-east Europe, as such efforts were crucial to the peaceful settlement of conflicts. He stressed the importance of monitoring the trade in weapons, including dual-use technologies, particularly in addressing the problem of terrorism. Solutions to conflicts must be found in the United Nations - not on the battlefield.

José Miguel Aleman, the Foreign Minister of Panama, said his government was prepared to vigorously implement all international instruments on terrorism and had just signed the convention on the financing of terrorism. The massive illegal traffic in small and light weapons must be also addressed, and a regional legal framework established to suppress it, he said. Emphasizing that States must reconcile their activities with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, he stressed that parties in the Middle East must leave aside the use of force, re-establish trust and revive the peace process. In all spheres, conflicts should be resolved peacefully, through dialogue. Active solidarity on the part of the wealthier nations was essential to eradicate poverty, which would prevent the erosion of human rights, the Foreign Minister underscored, adding that financing must be made available to developing countries at lower rates.

Also addressing the needs of developing countries, Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, the Foreign Minister of Lesotho, said the UN must give priority to their access to communications and information technologies. The winds of democracy continued to blow in Africa, and there was also a growing awareness that sustainable development could not take place in a situation of conflict. Africa was determined to overcome its problems, and to ensure that its future was shaped by Africans themselves. To achieve sustainable development, people must be able to work in stable conditions, under the rule of law, with strong institutions. It required improved access to world markets, debt relief and increased foreign investment. In view of the importance of housing to human aspirations, it was crucial to implement the Habitat agenda, he said. Similarly, the Global Aids Fund must become operational and provide assistance to the most affected countries.

Agba Otikpo Mezode, Foreign Minister of the Central African Republic, also called on the international community to support Africa's development efforts, stressing that conflict often had its roots in extreme poverty. The efforts of young democracies should be strengthened by enhancing economic well-being. His country wished to continue as a small haven of stability in a region torn apart by war, the Minister said, adding that impunity must not be allowed to prevail in the face of continued offences. Citing the attempted coup of 28 May in his country, he said that any coup, whether failed or successful, resulted in actions, which undermined freedom, the rights of societies and the rights of peoples. The Central African Republic had therefore established a commission of inquiry and was engaged in a wide range of actions to support the march of democracy.

Billie Miller, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Barbados, said there must be zero tolerance for terrorism, whatever its source or ideology. Terrorism was a complex, global problem, which required a multidimensional response. Barbados was committed to minimizing the risk of terrorist activities in its territory and had adopted a money-laundering prevention act. The fight against terrorism must also address underdevelopment, poverty, intolerance and injustice, which provided fertile ground for new converts to terrorism, the Minister stressed. The Caribbean countries were continuing their efforts on a regional regime for sustainable development. She added that the new round of trade talks must meet the concerns of developing countries, with fair, equitable and inclusive trade arrangements. The international financial community must respond appropriately to the current crisis facing those countries.

Foreign Minister Elvin Nimrod of Grenada said his country was playing its part in the international coalition against terrorism. It was cooperating with United States authorities to ensure there were no terrorist funds in its offshore institutions. It had examined its economic citizenship programme to ensure that no known terrorists had been granted such citizenship, suspending that programme indefinitely. Grenada fully supported a comprehensive legal framework against terrorism, including in particular the convention on its financing. Mr. Nimrod said the events of September 11 had taken a serious economic toll on the Caribbean States, which were suffering a marked decline in tourism. Citing the fight against poverty as a social imperative, he expressed the hope that next year's conference on financing for development would yield positive results.

Leonardo Santos Simão, the Foreign Minister of Mozambique, said terrorism represented a serious threat to international peace and security, as well as to friendly relationships among peoples and nations. It required a concerted international response under the leadership of the United Nations, he said, adding that his country was ready to participate in a global discussion of the issue to help clearly define the targets of that effort. In a world where few countries were reaping the benefits of globalization, and the majority are increasingly marginalized, the Minister said, those increasing inequalities aggravated poverty, fuel conflicts and threatened international security, stability and democracy. The appalling situation in Africa required an international response. The external debt of heavily indebted poor countries must be cancelled, and solutions must be found to problems affecting the continent, he said.

While expressing Ethiopia's commitment to the fight against terrorism, its Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said the fight against poverty was not so elusive; its causes were known. African leaders had come up with a partnership for development, taking responsibility for Africa's fate through democracy, good governance, sound economic management and sustainable development - with international support. He expressed growing concern on the situation between his country and Eritrea, which he said was not complying with the Algiers peace agreement, refusing to maintain the integrity of that buffer zone between the two forces. On the contrary, there was an ever-increasing mobilization of troops along the border, to which the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) had failed to respond. He called on the UN, as guarantor of the Algiers agreement to ensure that it was scrupulously observed.

Mervyn Assam, Minister for Enterprise Development and Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said his country has already acceded to 11 of the 12 anti-terrorist conventions and called for the crimes of illegal drug trafficking and terrorism to be included in the province of the International Criminal Court. He said that as a small island developing State, Trinidad and Tobago had special needs that required a supportive global environment. Turning to the AIDS pandemic, he said it was emerging as a major development challenge in the Caribbean and elsewhere. While his country's policy supported a competitive business environment, it still required access to foreign markets, as well as foreign direct investment. The World Trade Organization (WTO) must recognize the difference in development capacity among its member States.

Jose Ela Ebang, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Equatorial Guinea, drew attention to tasks that were best borne collectively, through the United Nations, which remained the best vehicle for conflict prevention, crisis management and rapprochement among peoples. It must therefore be endowed with the means to fulfil its mission, so it might combat intolerance, persistent tensions and conflict, and the worsening situation of poor countries. Specific and positive measures must be undertaken to support democratic international relations, strengthen respect for human rights, consolidate the disarmament regime, and promote development. Unfortunately, the levels of development assistance have continued to fall worldwide, while military budgets have increased, he said, stressing that efforts must be strengthened to eradicate poverty.

Statements were also to be made by heads of delegations of Papua New Guinea, Denmark, Thailand and Saint Lucia.


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