NEW YORK, 23 SEPTEMBER 1997
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. JAIME GAMA, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF PORTUGAL, TO THE 8th MEETING OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 52nd SESSION
Allow me first to congratulate my colleague from Ukraine, Minister Hennadiy Udovenko, on his election to the presidency of the General Assembly, and to convey to him our appreciation and the confidence we place in his personal qualities and experience to steer the work of the current session. In his election, I see also the recognition of the role played on the international stage by Ukraine, a European nation with which we have friendly ties. I am pleased to recall the occasion on the margins of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Portugal last May when he initialled a letter on the special partnership between NATO and Ukraine.
I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing President, Ambassador Razali Ismail, for the dedicated and competent manner in which he presided over the work of the fifty-first session of the General Assembly, and notably for his promotion of United Nations reform, which we consider to be essential.
I wish to express my appreciation to the Secretary-General for the new dynamism he has brought to the Organization and for the proposals he has made for its modernization.
My colleague from Luxembourg has already addressed the Assembly on behalf of the 15 member States of the European Union. However, I would like to reflect on a number of questions of particular importance to my country.
The main question on our agenda is undoubtedly the reform of the United Nations. Despite its achievements and increasing importance on the international stage, the United Nations today needs a profound transformation to enable it to face the challenges of the next millennium.
Portugal expresses its appreciation for the programme of reforms presented by the Secretary-General and reaffirms its readiness to participate in the further development of this initiative, taking up the challenge to build up a more effective Organization, with a better capacity to respond and a more rational utilization of its resources. The Portuguese Government supports in general terms the proposals contained in that programme.
Among the instrumental measures proposed, Portugal sees merit in the creation of the post of Deputy Secretary-General. We also welcome the proposal to rationalize the debates of the General Assembly so that it may focus on specific themes.
With regard to the area of peace and security, the primary focus of the action of the United Nations, we support the strengthening of its institutional capacity in the field of preventive diplomacy and of post-conflict peace-building. The creation of a rapidly deployable mission headquarters and the initiative of some Member States to constitute a high-readiness brigade are instruments that will permit the United Nations to strengthen its capacity to react to emerging crises. I am pleased to note that Portugal is ranked twenty-sixth among nations contributing troops for United Nations peacekeeping operations.
We also believe that cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations should continue to be encouraged, particularly as concerns the African continent.
With regard to the defence and promotion of human rights, I would like to commend the emphasis given by the Secretary-General to its cross-sectoral nature, which must be taken into due account in all the activities and programmes of the United Nations.
In this context, we are also particularly pleased to see the proposal to fuse the Centre for Human Rights with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The process of reform in this area will be carried out by the new High Commissioner, Mrs. Mary Robinson, whom I congratulate on her recent appointment.
The effectiveness of intervention by the United Nations in humanitarian assistance is of special concern to us, including within the framework of the Security Council. Therefore, Portugal welcomes the proposal of the Secretary-General to restructure this sector by strengthening the role of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, as well as the suggestion for the establishment of an Economic and Social Council segment for humanitarian affairs.
The promotion of social and economic progress is a fundamental goal of the United Nations. As the Secretary-General rightly reminded us in an Agenda for Development, development cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Portugal notes with satisfaction the process of readjustment proposed by the Secretary-General to strengthen the macroeconomic coordinating mechanisms of the activities of the United Nations and its specialized agencies.
In the area of assistance for development, we see with equal satisfaction the focus on guaranteeing an integrated, coherent and coordinated activity of all funds, programmes and agencies involved. As we see it, however, such efforts must not jeopardize their respective autonomy and specificity.
We understand the goals of the challenge launched by the Secretary-General to replenish the levels of financing for development activities of the United Nations. For our part, we pledge to continue our efforts, within the limits of our capabilities. We also believe that the persuasion and mobilization of the private sector may turn out to be very useful at a time of acute budgetary restrictions.
In this context, and in the light of the increasing disparity between developed and developing countries, the proposal of the Secretary-General to channel savings resulting from reforms towards development activities is particularly welcome to us. The promotion of sustainable, equitable and socially just development has increasingly become a top priority for the United Nations. The guarantee of a balance between economic growth, the conservation of the environment and the protection of natural resources is essential for the future of our planet. Portugal therefore supports the proposals of the Secretary-General aimed at strengthening the United Nations Environment Programme as the core environmental agency of the United Nations.
Finally, we cannot fail to underline that the goal of the reforms, particularly in the economic and social sector, should not be exclusively to reduce costs but to rationalize structures and consequently to improve the capacity of the Organization.
We support a reform and enlargement of the Security Council that reflects the increase in the Members of the United Nations, takes into account the new political and economic realities and ensures fairer geographical distribution. In this way, the Security Council will be more democratic and therefore more effective in the formulation and implementation of its decisions.
With regard to the composition of the Security Council, we advocate an equitable increase in both categories of membership, encompassing all regional groups, in order to make it more representative.
As to the selection of new permanent members, we believe that certain criteria should be applied, namely, respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter, full acceptance of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the capacity and will to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as global influence.
The Portuguese Government reaffirms its support for the inclusion of Germany and Japan as permanent members of the Security Council. But it would be difficult to understand if the increase in the number of permanent members did not also include States from the regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In this context, among eligible countries, there is Brazil, a founding Member of the United Nations, the largest country in Latin America and a State that is committed to the principles of the Charter.
Portugal believes particular emphasis should be given to the review of the working methods of the Security Council, not only in order to strengthen the transparency of its decision-making process, but also to create the conditions for an improved ability for non-members to accompany the work of the Council. In fact, this was one of the concerns of the Portuguese candidature for the Security Council for 1997-1998 and was one of the main priorities of the Portuguese presidency of the Council last April. Within the Security Council, we have advocated the holding of open Council debates to allow non-members to participate in discussions of matters of direct interest to them.
We have also encouraged the involvement of the Security Council in debating themes which have particular relevance to its work, such as the promotion of human rights, the protection of refugees, humanitarian assistance and the impact of sanctions, aiming at providing a more coherent framework for the Council to act in the future.
One of the most pressing concerns requiring an urgent response is resolution of the Organization's serious financial crisis. We believe that the solution lies in the full and timely fulfilment of obligations, the unconditional payment of arrears to the Organization, review of the scales of assessment so as to reflect the real capacity to pay of Member States, and applying financial rigour and rationalizing the use of existing resources. These proposals seek to guarantee a sound financial base for the United Nations.
Portugal, a member of the troika of observer countries of the peace process in Angola, and a member of the Security Council, continues to pay particular attention to developments in that African country. We were particularly encouraged to witness the positive events of March this year: the formation of a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation including members of UNITA, as well as the return to the National Assembly of that movement's parliamentary group. These important fulfilments of the 1994 Lusaka Protocol, which is the framework for the entire process, were undoubtedly an important step forward in the eyes of all those, foremost among them the Angolan people themselves, who yearn to see this great African country enter fully into a future of peace, national reconciliation and economic and social development. We are therefore understandably concerned about the new difficulties affecting the peace process, which have already resulted in the timely, and we hope decisive, intervention by the Security Council through its resolution 1127 (1997), adopted last month. As we stated on the occasion of its adoption, we consider the terms of the resolution the ability to impose sanctions to be a stimulus for UNITA to fulfil its obligations under the Lusaka Protocol, which it accepted freely. This is not an attempt to condemn UNITA to isolation or to exclude it from the peace process, of which it is, and should continue to be, an integral part.
Peace in Angola is possible and necessary. But, as we have stated before, in the final analysis it depends on the political will of the Lusaka Protocol signatories. They must not, however, ignore the human, financial and material investments the international community has already made in Angola in defence of the peace process. Should the current impasse in the Angolan peace process continue, the international community will undoubtedly adopt the measures required under the circumstances. We therefore reiterate our appeal to the parties, and in particular to UNITA, to show the international community, by taking concrete steps, that they have decidedly opted for the road to peace, once and for all relegating to the past the spectre of a fratricidal war.
Finally, I could not end this reference to Angola without saluting the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Angola, Maitre Alioune Blondin Beye, who has been tireless in his mission to defend the peace process. We would also like to place on record our sincere appreciation to all those who, working with either great commitment with the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) or the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), embody the international community's hope that a brighter future awaits the Angolan people.
Year after year Portugal has brought to the attention of this Assembly the question of East Timor. Some may have thought that time would consign this question to oblivion. But the events of this last year have confirmed that the problem of East Timor is more alive than ever before in the conscience of the international community. I recall the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 to Monsignor Ximenes Belo and Josť Ramos-Horta, two East Timorese who, in different fields, have greatly distinguished themselves in taking up the rights and the identity of the people of East Timor. The award of that Prize also demonstrates the respect and solidarity of world public opinion for the struggle of a people for freedom and for their inalienable right to self-determination, which all Members of the United Nations are duty-bound to respect.
Here, I would like to praise the recent initiative of the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, in support of the efforts of the Secretary-General, aimed at the release of the East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao and of all other East Timorese political prisoners.
Unfortunately, this increasing international attention to the question of East Timor has not resulted in an improvement of the situation in the territory, where the systematic violation of the most basic human rights persists and whose people continue to be denied the right to express and affirm their identity, despite the deliberations, year after year, of the Human Rights Commission.
I would like to express our recognition of the new impetus which, in accordance with the mandate given to him by resolution 37/30, the Secretary-General has sought to give to the search for a negotiated settlement to the problem of East Timor by: appointing a Personal Representative dedicated exclusively to this matter, in the eminent person of Ambassador Jamsheed Marker; providing a more operational and active impulse to the tripartite negotiations under his auspices; and relaunching the all-inclusive East Timorese dialogue which involves the active participation of the East Timorese in this process, involvement that is essential to its success.
Only through negotiations will it be possible to find a lasting solution to the problem of East Timor. Portugal is contributing, with hope and commitment, to this new cycle of negotiations aimed at achieving a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution for East Timor, according to the terms of the Charter and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.
Portugal has sought to give fresh impetus to its participation in international organizations, recognizing the dynamism and increased importance of multilateral forums in international life. Since the last General Assembly session, Portugal has hosted two important international meetings: the Summit Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the spring ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Portugal has also recently hosted two rounds of negotiations on Western Sahara. We welcome the positive results achieved on this question by the special envoy of the Secretary-General, Mr. James Baker.
In 1998, Portugal will be hosting the eighth Ibero-American Summit, and will organize, in close cooperation with the United Nations, the first world conference of youth ministers, which will take action on the United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond.
I would like also to refer to the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP). The promotion of the Portuguese language, spoken today by more than 200 million people, the new modalities of institutional cooperation which have been established and the coordination of the diplomatic and political positions of the founder countries in the many international forums involved, have made this organization, despite its youth, an attentive participant within the international community.
The problems associated with the many components of the drug phenomenon are among the biggest challenges faced by our societies today. The phenomenon particularly affects our young people, and its global nature certainly requires a concerted response on the part of the entire international community. In this context, and given that Portugal is presiding over the preparatory work for the special session of the General Assembly on drugs, which will take place in June 1998, I would like to underline the importance we attribute to that event. We sincerely hope that that session will produce a clear political commitment on the part of Governments to combat the drug plague, and that concrete steps will be taken in that direction. With a view to achieving these objectives, I appeal to Member States to be represented at the special session at the highest political level.
With regard to sustainable development, Portugal has closely followed the implementation of the principles established by the Rio Summit. The nineteenth special session of the General Assembly confirmed, however, that we are still far from implementing fully the goals established there. Allow me to underline the three components to which Portugal attributes particular importance: combating desertification, protecting the forests and protecting the oceans. Portugal considers that in the fight against desertification the United Nations Convention is the fundamental legal instrument for the implementation of new international actions on this matter. With regard to the northern Mediterranean, we will continue to promote the most extensive cooperation with our partners, and we are open to closer association with the countries of North Africa in a joint effort involving the entire Mediterranean region.
In the area of the preservation of forests, we support action undertaken, particularly in the context of the United Nations, with a view to the conservation, integrated development and sustainable management of this important heritage of mankind. I would like to draw attention to the holding in Lisbon in June 1998 of the third Pan-European ministerial Meeting on the protection of the forests, which we hope will contribute significantly to protecting forest ecosystems that have deteriorated.
As regards the oceans and seas, Portugal will continue to support efforts to preserve them, advocating in particular the more effective protection of marine biodiversity and the integrated management of coastal, continental and insular zones.
Following the proclamation of 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean, Portugal is proud to be organizing in Lisbon the last universal exposition of this century, Expo 98, which will be dedicated to the theme Oceans: a heritage for the future.
Particularly relevant in this context will be the work of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans, chaired by the former President of the Portuguese Republic, Mr. Mario Soares, the conclusions of which will be presented to the General Assembly at its next session.
I would like to end my statement with a word of hope and optimism for the future of the Organization. We believe in a revitalized and even stronger United Nations for the twenty-first century. The Assembly can count on our efforts to work towards that goal.