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UN Assembly ends high-level debate as terrorism, poverty dominate discussion

UN Assembly ends high-level debate as terrorism, poverty dominate discussion

The United Nations General Assembly today concluded its annual high-level debate, which in the wake of 11 September attacks against the United States was dominated by a discussion of ways to combat terrorism and eradicate extreme poverty and exclusion that often provide breeding ground for extremism.

Over the past seven days, the Assembly heard from 188 speakers – including 31 Heads of State, 11 Heads of Government, 9 Deputy Prime Ministers and 96 Foreign Ministers – as well as Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the President of the Assembly, Han Seung-Soo of the Republic of Korea.

During the week, there were nearly 550 bilateral meetings and more than 200 other meetings – including 60 meetings of regional and other groupings. There were 175 treaty actions by 78 States. The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, in particular, received 42 signatures, 6 ratifications and 1 accession. It now has 114 signatures and 13 parties, and will enter into force when 22 instruments of ratification have been received.

In his closing statement, the Assembly President noted that this year’s debate had taken place in an extraordinary context, with almost all speakers highlighting the need for concerted action to combat terrorism. It was often stressed that terrorism could only be eliminated if poverty and marginalization, its breeding ground, were also addressed. It was also widely agreed that last year’s Millennium Declaration, which provided a valuable blueprint for tackling such global issues, must be implemented. He added that several delegations highlighted the need for activities supporting the empowerment of women worldwide, and particularly in Afghanistan.

Opening this morning’s session, Joseph Philippe Antonio, Foreign Minister of Haiti, said his country was ready to back all measures necessary in the fight against terrorism. Nevertheless, the factors that spawned terrorism must also be addressed, through a grand coalition against poverty, starvation, disease and marginalization of developing countries from the global economy. Their fundamental need for access to world markets must be met through a new partnership for development. Turning to the situation in his own country, he said his government was committed to Haiti’s democratic future. Unfortunately, international aid had been suspended owing to the crisis situation arising out of an electoral dispute and poverty was raging – a problem compounded by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The government was doing all it could to resolve the post-electoral crisis and put the country back on the road to development, he said.

Igor Ivanov, the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, said the international community must pool its efforts to construct a really just and democratic world order, guaranteeing equal security and sustainable development to all States, or it would continue to fail to counter real threats to global stability and security. A universal anti-terrorist coalition has been formed, and Russia proposed studying the inclusion in international law of a principle of responsibility of States for failure to take measures against terrorists in their territory. Consolidation of non-proliferation regimes for weapons of mass destruction was also of key importance in the fight against terrorism, he said, adding that terrorism was rooted in the gap between affluence and poverty, both within States and in the international arena. The task of ensuring sustainable development in all regions of the world and of focusing on social aspects of the globalization process was as urgent today as ever.

Addressing development issues, Foreign Minister Patrice Trovoada of Sao Tome and Principe said the continuing phenomenon of asymmetric development could be easily seen in the social and economic plight of sub-Saharan Africa. How could one explain the indifference of the developed nations to the suffering of the developing countries – particular with respect to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other epidemics, such as malaria and hepatitis B. Sao Tome and Principe was a country where liberty, democracy and fundamental human rights were respected. Yet it was underdeveloped, despite the concerted efforts and political will of its government and people. The constraints and inequalities of the international economic order had prevented his government from creating a more dignified life for its people, the Minister said. It was necessary to act to correct that situation, if only for the protection of children, who were the future generation.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines said Asians were familiar with terrorism, which had taken a terrible toll on its people and economies – deterring investments and depriving citizens of the most basic security. And while her government negotiated with its secessionist groups, it threw the full weight of the law against those who resorted to terrorism. Terrorism could not be placated and no terrorist should be appeased. However, the concerns they claim as their inspiration must be addressed, stripping them of their moral pretensions by taking up the causes they pervert. For example, no nation could indefinitely endure the increasing gap between rich and poor, the President stressed, adding that the international community had a responsibility to eliminate poverty.

The most effective and least costly anti-poverty measure on the global scale would be for developed countries to open their markets to the products of developing countries, she said. That applied particularly to agricultural commodities, textiles, clothing, footwear, and electronics, both appliances and components. The global trading system could not allow developed countries to subsidize their agricultural imports while developing countries were left without the means to help their own farmers. Turning to the question of equal opportunities for women, she said that, speaking as a woman Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief, the gender gap was a part of the development gap and must be addressed with equal vigor.

The role of separatism as a root cause of conflicts and a threat to international peace and security was stressed by Nicolae Dudau, Foreign Minister of Moldova. He said separatism affected the basis of multicultural societies and posed grave danger to the sovereignty and integrity of States. Like terrorism, it placed emphasis on what divides and segregates rather than what unites and integrates – and was often linked with other criminal activities, including terrorism. In the Transdnestrian region of his own country, the separatist regime continued to remain opposed to any proposals aimed at elaborating a special status for the region as a constituent part of the Republic of Moldova. Also of continuing concern was the illegal production of different types of armaments in the region, which, through third countries, had reached other conflict zones, supporting terrorist, criminal groups and secessionist movements.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud said his country stood ready to cooperate with the United States and the UN in the fight against terrorism, in accordance with the principles of international law and national sovereignty. However, one must distinguish between terrorism and peoples’ legitimate right to struggle for the liberation of their territories from foreign occupation. Had it not been for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978, there would have been no Lebanese resistance. Had Israel not occupied the Palestinian territories, there would have been no need for the courageous uprising there. Lebanon attached great importance to the release of the Lebanese, kidnapped by Israel during its occupation, he said. The United Nations and international community should also make a greater effort to compel Israel to disclose the locations of the 130,000 land mines it left behind, which were still killing and harming civilians, he said.

Enele Sopoaga, Deputy Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, said that while the new coalition to counteract terrorism was absolutely necessary, coalitions were needed against hunger, poverty, malnutrition, malaria, HIV/AIDS, brutality and intolerance. The current international solidarity against terrorism should be used to form a series of new coalitions – against childhood diseases, poverty and human underdevelopment, as well as the accumulation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The proliferation of conventional arms had brought untold suffering to his people, the Minister said. Action was needed to prevent their transfer to non-state entities, such as terrorists and rebels, who committed atrocities against innocent civilians. This was even more clear in view of the recent terrorist attacks and awareness of the threat posed by biological weapons in the hands of non-state entities.

Ali Said Abdella, the Foreign Minister of Eritrea, said the world had welcomed the signing of the Algiers peace agreement on the cessation of hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea stressed its abiding commitment to the peace agreement and its speedy implementation and would cooperate with all its partners in the peace process. Unfortunately, Ethiopia had failed to meet its obligations under the agreement. Among other things, it had refused to submit information on its minefields and to release detainees and war prisoners. In view of Ethiopia’s violation of the comprehensive peace agreement, it was surprising that Ethiopia had been accusing Eritrea of mobilizing its troops along their common border, despite the report of the UN representative to the contrary. He urged the Ethiopia to meet its obligations under the peace agreement and to cease its terrorist and barbarous attacks on his country.

Foreign Minister Antonieta Rosa Gomes of Guinea-Bissau said her country supported a broad international strategy to combat terrorism. Noting that the effects of the 11 September attacks on the global economy were particularly felt by the least developed countries, she appealed to Africa’s development partners to open their markets to its agricultural products. Her country was enduring the after-effects of the armed conflict of 1998-99, which had damaged its basic infrastructure. Combined with decreased foreign aid and a marked decline in market prices for cashew nuts, Guinea-Bissau’s main commodity, it had led to increased poverty. Her country was committed to the rebuilding of infrastructure, the reintegration into society of former combatants, and the fight against AIDS. Nevertheless, it continued to need the assistance of its development partners and the international community, and appealed for reinforced donor support.

Echoing calls for a unified international response to terrorism, the Foreign Minister of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, said his country had ratified or was in the process of ratifying all the relevant UN conventions and had intensified cooperation with its partners in the fight against terrorism. Efforts had also been undertaken on a regional level, and Estonia’s anti-money laundering legislation had been given high ratings. This fall’s terrorist attacks were directly aimed at international peace and security, placing the UN at the centre of the ongoing struggle. Every Member State should consider how it could best support the aims of the organization. As Estonia had gradually been transformed from an aid recipient to an aid provider, it had willingly given up various UN services, freeing up those resources to be used where they were more needed. The UN, too, should act on reform of the Security Council, expanding both its permanent and non-permanent membership, he said.

The representatives of Rwanda, Tuvalu, Fiji, Antigua and Barbuda, the Marshall Islands, Seychelles, Tonga, Swaziland, Latvia and Georgia also made statements. Statements in exercise of the right of reply were made by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Cyprus and Eritrea.