22 SEPTEMBER 2004Mr. PEDRO SANTANA LOPES, PRIME MINISTER OF THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC, TO THE 59th SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
STATEMENT BY HE
Portugal wishes the United Nations to fulfil the central role it rightly deserves in the community of nations. The United Nations is the indispensable international organization. Without this project, of which we are all a part, the world would be more unstable, less predictable, and a place where the universal dream of peace and freedom would be no more than a mirage on a far-off horizon.
The United Nations were established in a distant historical context, but its ideas and basic values remain contemporary. Portugal has a habit of recalling them, on occasions such as this, because we feel that this common undertaking is based on solid foundations. “We the peoples of the United Nations” believe in the dignity and the value of the human being, in fundamental freedoms and in the equality between men and women. We defend the primacy of International Law and tolerance in the relations between peoples.
But we also believe that one should not distinguish between large and small nations, as we all have a common interest in social advancement and in the maintenance of international peace and security. These are the objectives of this Organization which need to be preserved and strengthened. This is, in good truth, our common cause – the cause of humankind.
The month of September, in this city of New York, inevitably brings back memories of the horror of three years ago. It forces us to look at the challenges to peace that this Organization faces today. The tragic events in Madrid, in Beslan, in Baghdad, in Jakarta and in other places show us that terrorism has entered the deepest and darkest of shadows.
No cause, no idea, justifies acts of pure barbarism and the spilling of innocent’s blood. Terrorism is an enemy of humankind.
Portugal believes that it is up to the United Nations to contribute also decisively to the establishment of a global strategy against terrorism. A strategy that takes into account not only the obvious security-related responses, but also other elements that may have the potential to generate violence.
Let us be unyielding in the fight against terrorism. But let us also engage ourselves in doing it collectively. Let us take into account the laws and the values in the name of which we are fighting this evil.
Hunger and poverty generate despair and may goad people into choosing a path of violence. I would thus like to congratulate the meeting of World Leaders Against Hunger and Poverty, promoted by President Lula da Silva, which I had the honour of attending. We believe that this meeting is a fundamental step towards changing cases of extreme poverty, that are ethical and politically unsustainable.
Fighting poverty is an intelligent way to counteract some of the factors that feed violence. Peace and development are inseparably intertwined. Not to recognize this fact is not to recognize reality.
If we act now the world can change for the better. If not, its balance could become ever more difficult to manage.
Portugal wants to be in the forefront of the future. That is why the sustainability of development and the defence of natural resources are for us the paradigm of a new era.
We believe that the economic development of the 21st Century will only be sustainable if it truly respects the balance of the planet and if the Kyoto provisions are implemented.
Does it make sense that a Organization like the United Nations continues to work in the 21st Century as it did 60 years ago?
The United Nations was born at a time when there was no television, no computers, no cellular phones. Communications, technologies, means of transportation have all changed, DNA and the human genome were discovered, we surf the Internet on a global scale. And yet the organization that brings together the peoples of the world has the same structure it had more than half a century ago.
The rhythm of change is breathtaking.
The United Nations finds itself at a crossroads: while its relevance is not challenged, we may question its efficacy. But this is an issue that should primarily be placed before the Member States. The United Nations is, after all, the expression of our collective will. This Organization cannot be seen as a distant reflection on which we project our individual expectations, often beyond the mandates and the means that we make available to it.
It is in this regard that we support the work of the High Level Panel established last year by the Secretary-General to examine the current challenges to peace and security. The strategies for the reinforcement of the Organization, which the Panel will recommend, aim at preserving what is best in the United Nations. As well as ensuring that it is equipped with the means necessary to promote development, prevent conflicts and protect human rights.
Portugal unequivocally supports the reform of the Security Council. We support its enlargement so as to better reflect the world of today, through a rebalance of its representative ness. We have already stated before this forum, and I reiterate it today, our support for the enlargement in the number of permanent and non-permanent members. Portugal’s support to Brazil, Germany and Japan has been known to this General Assembly since 1993.
We have already expressed our sympathy for - and I take the opportunity to express Portugal’s commitment, in this regard – having the African continent represented by a permanent seat in the Security Council.
We also want to improve the relationship between the Council and other organs and agencies of the United Nations, as well as promoting greater transparency in its decisions. The democracy that this Organization defends is not compatible with obsolete working methods which often have a negative impact on the image and the credibility of the United Nations, and lead to its paralysis.
Preventing conflicts is more important than solving them. We should be aware that the usefulness of the United Nations will be ultimately judged by its capacity for conflict prevention and management. The proliferation of crisis situations has led to the deployment of 60,000 “blue helmets” in peacekeeping operations. And this number tends to increase!
Portugal has been with the United Nations in many of its peacekeeping operations around the globe. I would like to pay tribute here to my compatriots and to all others who have served on peacekeeping missions, in particular to those who have given their lives for our collective ideals.
It is our wish that this Organization may better develop its work in the field of conflict prevention. However, we are still lacking an efficient instrument for the development of this policy. This is why Portugal proposed, at the last session of the General Assembly, the creation of a commission to promote peace and development, under the mandate of, and in collaboration with, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. Its objectives would be to monitor closely countries in crisis, or at risk, and ensuring the cooperation of regional and international institutions.
We believe that our proposal remains valid and we thank all those who have already enriched it with suggestions and comments. This is an idea on which we have worked upon particularly with our partners of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries, which I would like to acknowledge on this occasion.
Indeed, the Portuguese language is the unifying factor between hundreds of millions of people on five continents. In order to have strength as a vehicle of communication and culture in the 21st Century, the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries needs its members to make a clear commitment to the common connection between the past, present and future. The fact that Portugal is the cradle of the Portuguese language does not lead us to claim it for ourselves.
The communities one joins for certain specific interests, even though they may be legitimate, never erase one’s own community of blood, spirit, language and culture. “Know thyself” was already inscribed on the Temple of Delphi.
In no other place as in Iraq are we confronted with such a large predicament regarding the ability of the United Nations to act. Iraq needs the support of the international community. The Iraqi people, sacrificed by decades of dictatorship and war, deserve such support. And we should give the United Nations the necessary means to fulfil in its entirety the mandate given by the Security Council. But we must also understand clearly that the international presence in Iraq, approved by the Security Council and by the Iraqi Interim Government, is by its own nature provisional.
It is time for the international community to unite in its efforts to ensure that the Iraqi people again find the path towards peace and development. We cannot change the past, but we must assume that the future can still be influenced in a positive way. Thus, we must quickly find our unity, or we run the risk of turning this Organization into a permanent collateral damage of the Iraqi crisis.
In order for democracy to succeed in Iraq and for that country to maintain its unity, it is indispensable that its people have a saying, through elections, on the way they wish to be governed. It is also important that the agreed political calendar is honoured, or we may seriously compromise the rightful expectations of the Iraqi people and Government.
We cannot allow those who generate instability through unthinkable acts of terrorism the power to veto the establishment of a democratic regime in Iraq.
Elections are the only way to allow the Iraqi people to meet their destiny of democracy and freedom, to which they are entitled to.
But peace, freedom and democracy are also at stake in other parts of this planet we inhabit. We cannot look away from the tragedy unfolding in Darfur. Our collective security also implies an effective international control of the production of nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons, and the means to deploy them.
For the maintenance of international security it is also essential that this Organization continues to push for the resumption of the Middle East peace process. The existing status quo is unacceptable. Israel and Palestine will need to learn to coexist in peace and security, within the internationally recognised borders and without artificial partitions.
We can not substitute a dichotomy between liberalism and collectivism for another between liberty and peace, on the one hand, and terror and dictatorship, on the other.
The world has already entered a new time. “The peoples of the whole world” as mentioned in the Charter of the United Nations, demand a new contract between the governed and those who govern.
The three classic powers of Montesquieu are no longer alone in the government of the peoples. Those who still believe so are lost in time. There is nothing worse than erring in our perceptions of reality. There are powers that are not as they were and others that Montesquieu, Locke and the drafters of liberal revolutions could not know of – because they did not exist or because, meanwhile, they have changed configuration. It is enough to think of the power that the media has on the life of the people.
Our peoples want to feel strength in the present and faith in the future.
For that very reason I end this intervention the same way I started it: stressing the indispensability and the centrality of the United Nations in our daily lives as free and sovereign nations. We belong to an Organization that has restored hope to many peoples and human beings, by bringing the light of freedom to those who lived in oppression. Timor-Leste is an excellent example of the ability of the United Nations to do good.
But one should also stress the attention the United Nations has given to those who are vulnerable, to children, to those who are disabled, and to the promotion of gender equality. For this Organization, Humankind is not an abstract entity. The dialogue between cultures, civilizations and religions, which Portugal upholds, is an inherent part of the daily work of the United Nations.
We are part of an Organization dedicated to making peace and avoiding war. We are party to a collective project in the service of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have the strength of our convictions. And, as Pope John Paul II has stated, we know that “peace is not weakness, but strength”.