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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-24
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 24 September 1997
This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.
"The determined efforts to implement economic policy reforms have led to improved economic performance in about half the least developed countries (LDCs)," the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) states, in its new Least Developed Countries 1997 Report.
According to the document, the fact that the performance of many LDCs remained relatively robust in 1996, despite generally unfavourable commodity prices and stagnating external resource flows, is testament to the progress of these economies. In the short run, the external economic environment facing LDCs is expected to be fairly stable. Thus, peace, security and competent governance will be crucial if the economic recovery which has begun for some LDCs is to be sustainable and replicable throughout the LDC group.
Introducing the report on Wednesday, Makha Sarr, UNCTAD's Director of the Office of the Special for Africa and the Least Developed Countries, said that the growth rate of the LDCs' gross domestic product (GDP) in 1996 stood at 4.7 per cent 1996 compared with 5.2 per cent in 1995, according to preliminary estimates. The report states that the slight decline is due mainly to a slow down in the average growth rate of the 33 African LDCs, from 5.4 per cent in 1995 to 4.6 per cent in 1996. For the group of Asian and Pacific island LDCs, the average growth rate rose slightly, from 4.6 per cent in 1995 to 4.8 per cent in 1996.
Mr. Sarr noted that it was encouraging that this performance was achieved when Official Development Assistance flows had been decreasing.
The 213 page report includes a statistical annex. It is divided into three parts: part one deals with economic performance; part two focuses on agriculture; and part three is on LDCs which have experienced economic regression.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe on Wednesday welcomed UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan's "bold package of proposals" for reforming the United Nations.
Addressing the General Assembly, President Mugabe, who is currently chairing the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said that Africa consistently underlined the need to reform the United Nations and other multilateral bodies in order to promote democratization and effective decision-making. Pledging to work closely with the Secretary-General and other delegations to ensure that the reform process would be expedited, Mr. Mugabe said that the reforms should aim to remove "anachronistic and undemocratic arrangements introduced over 50 years ago".
On the enlargement of the Security Council, President Mugabe said that the under-representation of major geographical and political groupings "is the greatest anomaly of our times". He reiterated the position of the OAU summit held last June in Harare that the veto power should be restricted, if not abolished. However, as long as the veto power existed, he said the new permanent members should be granted the same prerogatives and powers as the current ones.
The President of Zimbabwe also said that reform should "seek to reinforce the pivotal role of the United Nations in development, and, conversely, the centrality of development to the agenda of the United Nations". While recognizing the role of free enterprise as the motivating force in economic development, Mr. Mugabe warned against marginalizing the Organization's role while giving "free play to blind market forces and finance capital".
Secretary-General Kofi Annan's programme for United Nations reform takes into account the essential consideration that the United Nations must remain a democratic institution representing the interests of all members, the President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said on Wednesday. "We too, much like the Secretary-General, wish this Organization to be a promoter of new changes, a true centre where countries can harmonize their activities for building a better world."
Kiro Gligorov stressed that reforms must render the United Nations better able to resolve the bitter issues that burdened the international community, adding that the credibility of the United Nations would to a large measure depend on that point.
President Gligorov expressed appreciation for the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force, which he said had helped avert a spillover of the conflict from some parts of the former Yugoslavia and the crisis in Albania to his country. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was seeking candidacy to the Security Council for the next term. In that period the Council would continue dealing with the Balkans situation and should therefore have a Balkan country serving on it, he said.
The Prime Minister of India has reiterated his country's readiness to accept the responsibilities of permanent membership on the Security Council. "We are the largest democracy in the world, with ancient civilizational values and attainments, and a world view based on a universalist inspiration, participative governance, respect for diversity and pluralism, as well as readiness for constructive engagement in the world's affairs," Inder Kumar Gujral told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Congratulating the Secretary-General for making reform one of his priorities, President Gujral said reform was not simply an exercise to trim the United Nations budget. "Instead, reform should contribute towards a strengthened United Nations and its capacity to respond effectively to the priorities identified by the overwhelming majority of its membership."
He stressed that international peace and security and development were linked. "The one is impossible to achieve without the other." The single most important target that the United Nations should set for itself was the promotion of sustained economic growth in developing countries, leading to the eradication of poverty. That would erase the tensions and pressures that had led to the collapse of governance and social order in several States and to conflicts between others. "International peace and stability will be enhanced only when all countries enjoy a minimum standard of economic self-sufficiency and well- being."
The Foreign Minister of Germany has stated that if his country is elected to a permanent seat on the Security Council, it would make a good contribution, "one that is in keeping with the spirit of the Charter". Klaus Kinkel stressed that the Security Council must reflect today's political realities, including the greater status of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. "The debate on this must not be artificially prolonged", he said. "This, the most important body of the United Nations cannot credibly and effectively perform its role as the guardian of peace in the twenty-first century if its composition remains basically as it was in 1945."
On the subject of United Nations reform, he said Germany supported the Secretary-General's proposed reforms as a package. "I appeal to all Member States: Let us not talk it to shreds but make quick decisions so that the necessary measures can be put into effect." The United Nations must be streamlined in order to increase efficiency, and any savings realized in the process must be used for development assistance purposes.
The German Foreign Minister also noted that United Nations Programmes and Funds -- those of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) -- together dispensed more than $4.6 billion each year in economic and social aid. That came to some 80 cents per person. By contrast, the world's governments spent about $767 billion on arms, or roughly $134 per person. Calling on Member States to look beyond their national interests, he said "We cannot simply come here, make and listen to speeches, then return to business as usual for another 12 months."
China will soon sign the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and is "studying earnestly" the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the country's Foreign Minister said on Wednesday.
Qian Qichen told the General Assembly that the universality of human rights must be respected, yet their realization must be integrated with the conditions of each country. "We say it is quite natural for people to differ on the human rights issue. The question is how to deal with these differences. Which is the better approach, dialogue or confrontation? I opt for dialogue", he said.
Concerning reform of the United Nations, he said its aim should be to strengthen the Organization's role and enhance its efficiency. The reform plan should be widely acceptable to all Member States. Efficiency would require a reduction in the number of personnel and level of expenditures, but in the process, the Organization's role in promoting development must be strengthened, not weakened. The enlargement of the Security Council should follow the principle of equitable geographical distribution and ensure a proper balance between developed and developing countries.
The Security Council must be enlarged to become more representative, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France said on Wednesday, adding that his Government supported granting permanent seats to Germany, Japan and three countries from the South, as well as the establishment of new non- permanent seats. "Let us not forget either that once enlarged and more representative, the Council will still have to be effective," he stressed.
On the subject of the Organization's financial crisis, Hubert Vedrine said it was "shocking that the United Nations should be living so precariously and therefore under a system of financial and budgetary dependence with respect to its debtors". Debtors must pay what they owed in full, on time and unconditionally. The payment of assessments should not be a way to exert pressure on the Secretary-General and other Member States.
France supported the logic of the Secretary-General's proposed reforms, he said. It welcomed the establishment in Vienna of a centre dedicated to addressing such new transnational dangers as organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism. France also favoured the integration of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Centre for Human Rights. The United Nations was the rightful forum for international discussions, and the only one where they were universal. "Our Organization is an irreplaceable framework and a vital necessity for us all", he said. "Let us reform it so as to make it more useful still."
Mexico's Foreign Minister said on Wednesday that since 1945, his country had attacked the very concept of a division between permanent and non- permanent members of the Security Council, because the two categories established a discriminatory situation which was accentuated by giving the permanent members the right of veto -- a privilege which had been abused, frequently preventing the Council from fulfilling its basic task.
Angel Gurria said Mexico could not accept a reform of the Council which would result in treatment that discriminated between developed and developing countries. The veto should be restricted, as a first step, to draft resolutions invoking Chapter VII of the Charter. To the extent that such criteria would be met, he said, "Mexico wants to make it clear that it is fully prepared to participate in an expanded, renewed and representative Security Council."
Mexico welcomed the Secretary-General's reform proposals, he said, stressing that cost-cutting should not guide the reform process. "The financial crisis of the Organization should not lead us to take decisions that distort the spirit of reform we share. Carried to the extreme, this logic would call for the designation of Ted Turner as a permanent member of the Security Council, with the right of veto", he said.
President Milan Kucan of Slovenia has said that major decisions on United Nations reform should be taken during the first part of the General Assembly's current session.
Addressing the Assembly on Wednesday, President Kucan said the approach in implementing the Secretary-General's proposals "should not be based primarily on calculations focusing on what individual Member States might gain from the reform". Reform must aim to better serve all Member States. That would only be possible if the Organization improved its ability to deal with the basic tasks of maintaining international peace and security, promoting economic and social development, and protecting individual as well as collective human rights.
On proposals for expanding the Security Council, he said Slovenia was committed to a reasonable and balanced increase in the number of both permanent and non-permanent members. A restriction on the use of the veto was also needed. Further, the Council's functioning must be rendered more transparent.
The first consensus on reform is emerging and its benefits would soon be felt, Cape Verde's Prime Minister, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, said on Wednesday.
Reform of the Security Council was one of the most difficult elements in the package of reforms under consideration, but broad agreement on a formula had not been found, he told the General Assembly. Africa was working to refine the modalities for determining how States on the continent would be represented on the new rotating seats which it expected to have an enlarged Council.
He noted that the Secretary-General, convinced of the need for reform, had taken decisions and had sought the advice of Member States. "We thank and warmly congratulate the Secretary-General for his initiative, because the choice of the focus and its broad scope reveal a profound knowledge of the situation experienced by the Organization and a far-ranging view of the directions which should be taken", he said.
Pledging his Government's support for Secretary-General Kofi Annan's reform proposals, Lithuania's Foreign Minister on Wednesday called on Member States to rise above their narrow national interests and compromise on how to make the Organization more focused, more efficient, more transparent and more democratic. Reform efforts, he stressed, should be subject to a strict time-frame.
Algirdas Saudargas said that although the reform of the Security Council had started out as a separate process, it was now part of the entire reform package, based on the general acknowledgement that the time had come for the Council to reflect new realities in world politics. "Today we have more nations able and willing to serve permanently on the Security Council than during the days of its inception." Those included Germany and Japan. Asia, Africa and Latin America also legitimately aspired to have new permanent seats.
Comprehensive Security Council reform must also include increases in the number of non-permanent seats, he said. The group of Central and Eastern European States, whose number had more than doubled over the past few years, deserved at least one additional seat. "Our position on this is very firm", he added.
Venezuela favours eliminating veto power on the Security Council; that was part of the message delivered by the country's Foreign Minister in his statement to the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Any increase in the number of permanent members on the Security Council must ensure that there was no discrimination of any kind, he said. Such an increase must be based on the ultimate interests of the international community, including fair distribution for all geographical regions.
Stressing that Member States must pay their contributions on time, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister said, "None can refuse to honour a freely accepted obligation, nor set conditions that represent a threat to the equality of States and the dignity of the world forum of which we are a part."
Reform of the Security Council must include the establishment of a mechanism governing rotation that would enable all States which had demonstrated respect for the Charter to participate, the Foreign Minister of Argentina told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Guido di Tella said Argentina favoured "an ample participation of all States of the region, without any exclusions whatsoever". He suggested that the Council update its work methods, including by holding more open meetings.
Reform efforts, he added, must identify the irreplaceable role of the United Nations in such areas as international peace and security, sustainable development, respect for human rights and non-discrimination. "Although, on the whole, reform has aroused feelings of hope, we must overcome the present climate of skepticism and give the Secretary-General our support", he said.
The Foreign Minister of Ghana on Wednesday said that the United Nations must adopt bold and imaginative measures to overhaul its structure and working methods. He said this was necessary in order for the Organization to remove obstacles to its effectiveness not only as an instrument for promoting peace and security but also as an indispensable agent for resolving the world's socio-economic problems.
In his statement to the General Assembly, Kwamena Ahwoi warmly welcomed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's "bold initiative" which, he said, had thrown a momentous challenge to all world leaders. He called on those leaders to measure up to the test by "manifesting the necessary breadth of vision and objectivity of outlook".
The United Nations remained the only international body available to the international community in its search for peace, progress and prosperity as well as the resolution of differences among nations, he added.
The Foreign Minister of Sweden, Lena Hjelm-Wallen, told the General Assembly on Wednesday that reform of the United Nations must not be piecemeal improvement but major change.
Joining world leaders endorsing the Secretary-General's reform proposals, the Foreign Minister said reform was not a cost-cutting exercise. "Its aim must be to make the Organization strong, effective and efficient, focusing on its core activities and ready to meet its future challenges." In particular, she said, savings generated through efficiency should be used for development.
She pointed out that the United Nations could not be reformed "under threat of political and financial crisis". It was unacceptable for Member States to set conditions for fulfilling Charter obligations. Sweden, she said, urged all debtors, including the United States as the main debtor, to settle their accounts before the end of this year and to pay their assessed contributions in full, on time and without conditions. Securing a sound and viable financial basis must be an integral part of reform efforts, she added.
The first anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was marked on Wednesday. Since 24 September 1996, the Treaty has garnered 147 signatories and seven States parties. In order to enter into force, the Treaty must be ratified by the 44 countries which are listed in the treating as having nuclear facilities on their territory.
According to Wolfgang Hoffman, the Executive Secretary of the Treaty's Preparatory Commission, thanks to the support of the Austrian authorities and the international organizations in Vienna and elsewhere "we have got off to a flying start in fulfilling the tasks entrusted to us". The Preparatory Committee, established last November, is staffed by 80 persons from 38 countries.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty bans all nuclear weapon test explosions and any other nuclear explosions anywhere in the world. It constrains any significant development of nuclear weapons and lays the ground for further advancing nuclear disarmament. The Preparatory Commission is charged with establishing the global verification regime foreseen in the Treaty so that it will be operational by the time the Treaty enters into force.
The Foreign Minister of Angola on Wednesday said that the current structure of the United Nations Security Council was obsolete and reflected the reality that existed more than fifty years ago.
In a statement during the general debate of the fifty-second session of the General Assembly, Venancio de Moura said that the construction of a new world democratic order demanded a greater role for the United Nations, the principal forum for multilateral diplomacy. He called for a complete restructuring and revitalization of the system. "How is it conceivable that regions such as the African continent which makes up the largest group at the United Nations or Latin America are not represented among the members of the Security Council?" he asked. Mr. de Moura said it was high time that the geographical composition of the Council be overhauled to allow for more balanced and more equitable representation. The Foreign Minister of Angola said his country endorsed the African claim of no less than two seats in the Security Council.
Mr. de Moura also called for a revision of the work methods of the Security Council to ensure greater transparency in its decision-making process. Angola, he added, supported the Declaration of the Heads of State of the Organization of African Unity as well as the statement of the Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned countries on the reform of the Security Council.
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