Calls for stronger UN highlight second day of General Assembly debate

President Nicanor Duarte FrutosThe battle against poverty, hunger and social inequality also figured high in Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte Frutos’ address. “It is here that the UN, this noble organization, must not lose its historical memory, its raison d’etre, the objectives that gave it birth.”Among measures he proposed for his continent of Latin America were debt relief and adequate social investment to allow the Millennium goals to be reached. He also called on rich countries to fully open their markets to agricultural exports from the developing world. Video President Alejandro Toledo ManriquePresident Alejandro Toledo of Peru stressed the indispensable role the UN has to play in the current evolving world. “Without it, the goals of global governance towards preventing and curbing international conflicts, civil wars and ethnical and cultural conflicts will not be attained,” he declared. “Let us all strengthen the juridical structure of the United Nations, the rule of international law.”But he warned that no amount of reinforcement would help without addressing hunger, poverty and inequality among and within nations. “The international community must understand – we all must – that peace, security and the stability of the world system are not uniquely related to political, military or strategic issues,” he said. “Poverty and exclusion are some of the new threats to peace and security.” Video Thabo Mbeki, PresidentBut South African President Thabo Mbeki declared that for the billions of the planet’s poor, and powerless, people, the description of the UN in the Millennium Declaration as “the most universal and most representative organization in the world” was a mockery. “We comforted or perhaps deluded ourselves with the thought,” he added, “afraid to ask the question – is it?”He underscored the gulf between “the grandeur of our words and the vision they paint of a world of peace, free of war, a world characterized by shared prosperity, free of poverty” and the paltry results. For the wealthy and powerful, terrorism is the major threat, but “the poor and powerless feel threatened by a permanent hurricane of poverty, which is devastating their communities as horrendously as Hurricane Ivan destroyed the Caribbean island state of Grenada,” he added. Video President Ismail Omar GuellehPresident Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti also stressed the deficit in achieving the lofty goals of the Millennium Declaration to combat poverty and hunger and achieve a range of other social targets, noting that of the world’s 50 least developed countries, 34 were on his own continent of Africa.”There is a mounting recognition that global poverty and inequality threaten national security interests,” he said. “Something must be done for the millions suffering in those countries, as well. To ignore them is at our own peril.” He added that action to solve the conflicts in Africa must come through the UN. “This is the only path that confers a degree of legitimacy for any actions taken,” he declared. Video Opening the morning session, President Sulejman Tihic of Bosnia and Herzegovina drew on the tragic experience of his own country – torn apart a decade ago by ethnic war between Serbs, Muslims and Croats in which thousands were massacred – to highlight the need for effective UN action.”If UN mechanisms had been more efficient, the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina would not have happened or, at least, the war could not have lasted that long,” he said. “And genocide would not have been committed in the UN safe haven of Srebrenica and Žepa,” he added of the UN-designated zone where between 7,000 and 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered in July 1995 after it was overrun by Serbs. Video Prime Minister Paul MartinCanadian Prime Minister Paul Martin called for reforms “designed to put our common humanity at the centre of the UN’s agenda.” He cited as an example the current crisis in Darfur, proposing a “responsibility to protect” clause which would enshrine the legal right to intervene in a country on the grounds of humanitarian emergency when the government of that country “is unwilling or unable to protect their people from extreme harm as a result of internal war, repression or state failure.”Other reforms would establish a permanent inspection and verification mechanism to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and mechanisms to protect threatened minorities, pre-empt new pandemics and manage the environment. “The time has come for real reform of the United Nations,” he declared. “We must put aside narrow interests and work to common purpose to strengthen this universal institution, whose activities give force to our common humanity.” Video Pervez Musharraf, PresidentSpeaking from the frontline of the war on terrorism President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan warned that the immediate anti-terrorist response has to be accompanied by socio-economic reform in Muslim nations and adequate financial and technical assistance and larger trade opportunities from the industrialized world. “A bold and innovative global strategy is required to redress the growing inequalities,” he said.He welcomed a resurgence of support for multilateralism, saying this must be based on the principles of the UN Charter. “All our collective aspirations can be best pursued within this world organization,” he declared. “The United Nations must be strengthened and revitalized to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.” Video Sam Nujoma, President Striking a similar note, President Sam Nujoma of Namibia called the widening income gap between the industrialized North and the developing South a dangerous time bomb, adding that the planet was too small to perpetuate the coexistence of abject poverty and abundance of prosperity within its fold.The world had enormous resources to fight and defeat poverty and hunger and developed countries should consider their support to the countries of the South as an act of enlightened contribution to regional and global stability, he declared. Like other leaders he called for UN reform, including the enlargement of the Security Council to reflect new economic and regional realities that did not exist four decades ago at the time of the last enlargement. Video Robert Mugabe, PresidentPresident Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe called for reform of the UN, noting that already last year he stressed “the perils inherent in the status quo, particularly, with regard to the dominance of global politics by one superpower and its closest allies.” He said debate on reforming the Security Council has been too long drawn because of attempts calculated to protect those whose interests are best served by the status quo.”We are seriously concerned that the United Nations, the pre-eminent instrument for the maintenance of international peace and security, watched helplessly while Iraq was plundered by the US- and UK-led so-called coalition of the willing,” he declared. “Such belligerent gun-slinging diplomacy and illegitimate territorial occupation of the state of Iraq are blemishes on the fair play image of the UN.” Video Bingu wa Mutharika, PresidentMalawi’s President Bingu Wa Mutharika returned to the theme of combating poverty in an address he titled “Sharing global prosperity,” underscoring what he called the “dismal” results of the international community to alleviate the scourge. He called on the industrialized nations to share the prosperity of globalization with poor nations and for the UN to adopt a holistic approach in the war on HIV/AIDS combining support, care, treatment and prevention with the provision of adequate, nutritious food and proper diet.”We share the belief that a more representative and democratic United Nations will enhance the efficiency and credibility of this global organization,” he concluded. “This will also enhance the efforts towards a just and more equitable sharing of global prosperity.” Video Vaira Vike-Freiberga, PresidentLatvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga voiced pessimism over the “many dramatic and disconcerting events” since last year’s high-level debate, referring to the “indiscriminate and brutal terrorist attacks on civilians” all over the world – in Russia, Spain, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and elsewhere. “Ten years after the human catastrophe in Rwanda, we are again confronted with the systematic rape, torture and killing of civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan,” she added.But she reiterated Latvia’s deep commitment to the UN and effective multilateralism. “Latvia believes that the UN must maintain its crucial role in the mediation of international disputes, and that the United Nations Member States must summon the collective political will to support the UN as a truly credible force for peace,” she declared. Video Prime Minister Issam FaresWrapping up the morning session, Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares of Lebanon called on the UN to solve the Middle East problem by securing Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories, giving the Palestinians an independent sovereign state and ensuring the return of Palestinian refuges to their homeland.The world body should also assume more responsibility in resolving the violent conflict in Iraq and in restoring peace, stability and unity to the Iraqis, he said. Video