Leaders continue calls for multilateralism, reform on 4th day of UN Assembly debate

26 September 2003

World leaders today continued to call for multilateralism in addressing global security issues and reform of the United Nations, as the General Assembly's annual high-level debate entered its fourth day.

The first to address the Assembly this morning, President Janez Drnovsek of Slovenia said that in a time of growing global interdependence the multilateralism of the UN must be grounded in an awareness that no one can be satisfied in the long-term, as long as there were people living in poverty without the basic necessities of human dignity. He stressed that freedom should not be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. International commitments to respect human rights must therefore be upheld, he said, lauding the creation of the International Criminal Court as an important step in rights protection.

Turning to Iraq, President Drnovsek said the course of events in that country demonstrated the limits of unilateralism and that post-conflict reconstruction demanded the widest possible support, which only the UN was capable of representing. He warned, however, that focus on the Iraqi crisis should not take away attention from other areas of conflict and cited southeastern Europe as one of the most serious threats to global peace in the 1990s. President Drnovsek expressed Slovenia's support of proposals for recommendations to reform the General Assembly and to enlarge the Security Council to give it a satisfactory level of legitimacy. imageVideo


President Ricardo Maduro

The President of Honduras, Ricardo Maduro, said his country, along with sister republics in Central America, had developed plans to combat international terrorism, as well as organized crime in all its forms. He said Honduras put forward timely initiatives aimed at increasing information exchange and creating an order for regional arrests in order to end impunity through the crossing of a border. In addition, the Central American region had moved forward in limiting investment in weapons to ensure adequate spending on social issues instead, he noted. Honduras has increased its school lunch programme to reach 80 per cent of those children going to school, for example.Joining calls to reform the UN, President Maduro said the Organization should be made more efficient in meeting new challenges and channelling differences. Pressing situations of conflict, such as those in the Middle East and Asia, must be addressed, while on the economic stage, foreign debt relief must become a reality, he stated. With regards to international trade, he said Honduras was in the process of negotiating free trade agreements with the United States and Canada, and next year would undertake similar negotiations with the European Union. He also called for the elimination of agricultural subsidies by rich countries. imageVideo


President Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Noting that slavery was a crime against humanity, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said the freedom Haiti's ancestors had won in 1804 was a beacon for all those yearning for liberty. He stressed, however, that the flowering of a new Haiti and the empowerment of a new world meant addressing the issue of environmental degradation. During the past three decades 400 million hectares of forests and woodlands had been lost worldwide - 40 per cent of which were in the Latin American and Caribbean regions, he said. Also highlighting the impact of another scourge, HIV/AIDS, he said it was necessary to recognize the gradual extinction of mankind as the pandemic continues to rampage throughout the world.Haiti was actively working towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals, but economic globalization threatened to derail those efforts, President Aristide said. He expressed his hope that the reduction in global military spending during the past decade and the rise in spending for human development would promote both human and economic growth. In addition, the President said he hoped the international focus on terrorism would not lead to another arms race or spark the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The international community should work assiduously to ensure peace wherever wars are inflicting untold suffering, he said. imageVideo


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

The vision of the Millennium Summit has begun to bear fruit in the Philippines as witnessed through the peace process for Mindanao in the south, said the country's President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She said both the Government and the Muslim separatist group, the MILF, believed that peace was an "indispensable condition for economic development." The Philippines, in a bid to advance the peace process and further understanding between faiths, would next month attend the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as an observer.Turning to UN reform, President Macapagal-Arroyo said while it was undeniable that the world body has struggled over the last 12 months, its predicted decline was greatly exaggerated. However, to fulfil its envisioned role the UN must continue to adapt to changing conditions. She said democracy was the most conducive condition for the rule of law to flourish and stressed the importance of erecting machineries and infrastructure as a key part of any exit strategy by UN peacekeeping operations. The President said she was actively assisting in the work of the Security Council's Counter-terrorism Committee and was also working with other Heads of State to ensure continued cooperation in the fight to rid Southeast Asia of terrorist threats. imageVideo


Prime Minister Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata

In his statement to the Assembly, the Prime Minister of Tonga, Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, said his country was now party to all 12 UN Conventions on Terrorism, but stressed that merely becoming parties to those instruments was not enough, as concrete steps were needed for small countries like his to fully implement their obligations. Tonga would continue to refine its priority and capacity needs to take greater advantage of available financial and technological support, he stated. Prince Ata said Tonga as a developing island State remained interested in the ongoing developments in ocean affairs and the Law of the Sea. He was pleased that the second informal meeting of States Parties to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement recently resulted in a framework to enable the concrete implementation of Part VII of the Agreement, with particular emphasis on small island developing States and their fisheries aspirations. Prince Ata also pointed out that the HIV/AIDS epidemic remained a devastating development and public health challenge for all, particularly in small and remote island communities. He welcomed the work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the funding it had recently approved to assist Tonga and other countries in the region. imageVideo


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, hailed the peace process in his country as a demonstration of the value of the international community's support for efforts to resolve conflict. In moving from conflict to peace, Sri Lanka initiated fundamental changes in policy and strategy, shifting from confrontation to negotiation, and identifying root causes of the conflict, he said. Mr. Wickremesinghe informed the Assembly that the peace process was at a temporary impasse, however, as the Government awaited the response of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to its proposals regarding the interim administrative arrangements for the north and east of the country. Mr. Wickremesinghe said because of its structure, the UN was under enormous stress as the adequacy and effectiveness of rules devised 50 years ago were being questioned. The apparent irrelevance of the current multilateral rules and institutions to deal with the world's problems compelled urgent attention, he said, calling for the expansion of the Security Council to include Asia and for the Assembly to think creatively and unconventionally in its proposals for reform. imageVideo


Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

For his part, the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, said the range of challenges now confronting the international community in a globalized and interdependent world required nations to unite in common endeavour. Only through cooperation and multilateral effort could human rights, social and economic justice for all, and the achievement of peace and security be guaranteed, he stated. Mr. Malielegaoi said the UN, as the organization uniquely suited to pursue those global objectives, should be reformed and modernized. Substantive changes were required in the General Assembly and Security Council, which should be enlarged to permit the inclusion of new permanent members, he said.Reaffirming Samoa's commitment to the fight against terrorism, Mr. Malielegaoi fully endorsed the continued engagement of the UN in Iraq, stressing the need to provide humanitarian assistance, as well as to restore law and order. Also seriously concerned over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Samoan Prime Minister advocated the strengthening of the internationally agreed instruments controlling the manufacture, transportation and deployment of weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Malielegaoi said there should be effective disarmament and total elimination of all such weapons. imageVideo

Also taking part in the debate this morning were the Foreign Ministers of Bahrain, Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, Yemen, Abubakr Al-Qirbi, Cuba, Felipe Pérez Roque, Greece, George Papandreou, and Botswana, Lt. General Mompati Sebogodi Merafhe.


President Robert Mugabe

Speaking at the outset of the Assembly's afternoon session, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe warned that with the attack of the UN headquarters in Iraq, the Assembly could not allow itself to treat the current session as mere routine. At the heart of that tragedy, he added, was the unprecedented assault on the ethic and multilateral nature of the Security Council, the only guarantor of global peace, order and security. President Mugabe said some powerful nations, led by the Governments of the United States and Britain, had entered into a war of unclear objectives in the face of clear opposition from the rest of the world and with clear opposition from their own people. He stressed that the Iraqi people must have their sovereign right to determine the affairs of their country restored immediately.If the world was to overcome crises that could result in calamitous wars and social breakdowns and to achieve peace, justice and stability, it would be necessary to ensure humane global governance led by the UN, President Mugabe stressed. To that end, mechanisms must be adapted, transformed or even radically changed, he said. The Security Council must democratize and re-evaluate its composition in light of current geopolitical realities and the same is true for the Bretton Woods Institutions, which were established to assist the poor, but had finally succumbed to the whims of major powers, he stated. imageVideo

The other officials who took part in the debate included the Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, New Zealand, Phil Goff, Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, Barbados, Billie Miller, and the Netherlands, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.

In addition, the Foreign Ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Rashid Abdullah Al-Noaimi, Tunisia, Habib Ben Yahia, Viet Nam, Nguyen Dy Nien, Gabon, Jean Ping, Iceland, Halldór Asgrímsson, San Marino, Fiorenzo Stolfi, Chile, Soledad Alvear Valenzuela, Angola, João Bernardo de Miranda, and Venezuela, Roy Chaderton-Matos, participated in the debate.


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