26 September 2003

 Statement of THE CHAIRMAN



Distinguished Delegates, 

As we had agreed, we would focus, during this interactive session, on the theme: “Challenges to and Prospects for Multilateralism”.  

I believe the theme is very relevant in the context of the current international situation.  Recent events have raised a number of fundamental questions about the international system and the role of the United Nations. They must be urgently addressed because they touch the very core of our beliefs as a Movement – principally our beliefs concerning the concept of the sovereignty of States, non-interference in their internal affairs, peaceful settlement of conflict, the right of peoples to determine their own future and the primacy of international law.  These principles, embodied in the Bandung Declaration of 1955 as well as the Charter of the United Nations, are dear to us and define us as a Movement of developing countries.  

            Recent international developments have also raised questions about the role of multilateralism as well as the centrality of the United Nations in the international system.  The United Nations is at a critical juncture in its fifty-eighth year of existence.  Its prestige and credibility are at a very low ebb, as is the morale of its personnel.  Its capacity for action, particularly in the area of international peace and security, has been very much reduced.  Indeed, its very independence has been questioned.  Far from playing a central role in the maintenance of international peace and security, it has effectively been sidelined and relegated to playing a secondary or subsidiary role – contrary to what is provided in its Charter. 

            The weakening of the authority of the United Nations is a matter of serious concern to the Movement as it is to the UN Secretary-general, who dwelt at some length on it during his address at the opening of the 58th session of the General Assembly.  The UN is the repository of the aspirations of the international community, particularly for the developing countries for whom the UN is an indispensable forum for the articulation and promotion of their views on matters of vital concern to them.  For us in NAM, the weakening of the UN means the weakening of the multilateral process and this has a direct impact on us as a Movement as that process provides the framework and avenue for all of us to articulate our positions on issues affecting our countries. 

            In the context of these very worrying developments, I hope that during this interactive session, we could address the issue of the challenges to and prospects for multilateralism in some depth, taking into cognisance of the pertinent points raised by the UN Secretary-General in his address.  It would be extremely useful if at the end of the session, we would be in a position to crystallise our ideas and approaches on how best we could check the further erosion of multilateralism, as well as to further advance it as the governing principle of the international system.  We should consider the kind of remedial action that could be taken collectively by the Movement so that multilateralism could be best pursued in the context of a unipolar world we are living in.    

You would recall that at the Kuala Lumpur NAM Summit, the issues of multilateralism and centrality of the role of the UN have already been addressed by the Movement, as reflected in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Continuing Revitalisation of NAM. Clearly, in the face of the challenges confronting the multilateral process, it is imperative that we enhance our cohesion, unity and solidarity. A strong and more assertive NAM would strengthen the dynamic for multilateral action and weaken that for unilateral action. In this context, it is imperative for NAM to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with issues in the international arena. As an active player in the international arena, we must dare to take initiatives in international fora, including in the UN Security Council, where we are represented by our Member States. We must not allow ourselves to be sidelined on issues of major importance to our countries.  

            At the same time, we must build broad coalitions and increased coordination with other regional groupings, particularly the EU, which shares NAM’s belief in the importance of multilateralism. I believe that a more coordinated approach by NAM and the EU in this area would go a long way in strengthening and revitalizing the multilateral process. For this purpose, it might be worthwhile to consider establishing a mechanism for increased dialogue and interaction between the two groupings here in New York as well at other multilateral centres. 

The NAM should also strengthen its cooperation and interaction with the United Nations Secretariat as the futures of both are interdependent on each other. We should make every effort to support the work of the UN and to encourage it to maintain its independent posture. 

I hope therefore that Ministers, in their interventions, will focus on the theme of our discussion and suggest appropriate ways and means, approaches and strategies that could be pursued by NAM as our collective contribution to the strengthening of the multilateral process. 

Thank you.