NEW YORK, 25 SEPTEMBER 1997
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. JAIME GAMA, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF PORTUGAL, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL 3819th MEETING (the situation in Africa)
Africa has been a major presence on the agenda of the Security Council. The reasons for the attention given by this body to African affairs are well known. Portugal, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, has sought to contribute to a constructive and productive debate on African problems. In this context, we are always ready to support initiatives that might, in an innovative manner, frame the work of the Council in this area.
We believe that a fresh start is essential in the way the international community deals with issues concerning the African continent. Exceptional circumstances, such as those that today prevail in various African countries, require imaginative and effective answers from all of us.
We have therefore supported since the beginning the excellent initiative of the United States to promote a debate in this format and with this objective in mind. It is a timely debate, and it constitutes a clear sign of the interest of the United Nations in contributing decisively to the maintenance of peace and security in Africa. The welcome presence among us of the Chairman and the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) is a clear indication of the importance of this initiative. I also salute the United Nations Secretary-General, whose marked concern for Africa has been demonstrated in a number of concrete cases.
The Portuguese Government welcomes this meeting of the Security Council on the understanding that it is not an end in itself. Many words have been spoken about the big challenges that are faced by the African continent, but these have not always been translated into practical action. The report and the recommendations that are today being requested from the United Nations Secretary-General will certainly be a step in the right direction.
Strengthening the ties that bind Portugal and Africa is one of the priorities of Portuguese foreign policy. I would like to recall some of the initiatives that reflect this commitment. In the first place, Portugal submitted to its partners in the European Union a proposal for the holding of a Euro-African summit, aimed at establishing, for the first time, a political dialogue at the very highest level between the two continents. The main goal is to place Africa at the top of the international agenda, as a continent whose dimensions and economic potential deserve a new model of relations. At the European Council meeting in Amsterdam, which took place last June, it was agreed that the summit should take place by the year 2000, and talks are starting with our African partners on that subject.
Portugal has been participating in several United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa through an active presence with the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ), the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM), the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
We have also been allocating considerable resources to aid development in various African countries, and we have argued in international forums that funds should be provided commensurate with the demands of the current economic situation in Africa.
Portugal jointly founded the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries with Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe and, across the Atlantic, Brazil. This Community of 200 million people will increase our cooperation and will establish mechanisms of coordination and diplomatic consultation in areas of common interest, which include, naturally and prominently, those relating to Africa. In this context, the seven countries are currently exploring ways to build on their own experiences so as to enable them to contribute to peace actions in Africa.
We know that the difficulties with which various African countries are grappling can ultimately be overcome, carefully and realistically. In Africa, as elsewhere, persistence pays. We sincerely believe that Africans will find the path to political stability and social and economic development, by way of democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights.
We also believe that one of the main priorities of the international community should be to support initiatives aimed at preventing emerging conflicts in Africa, as well as the creation of mechanisms that, would establish the conditions necessary for their peaceful and negotiated resolution at a more advanced stage. The main elements that should orient our action in this area are clear.
First, Portugal believes that it is indispensable to have the active association of African countries and their representative organizations, above all the OAU in the development of doctrine and concepts on which those initiatives are based and in the implementation of those mechanisms. In this context, we consider that the concept of African ownership is particularly suitable; however, it should be made clear that this concept cannot be seen as a pretext for disengagement from Africa on the part of the international community. On the contrary, the aim is to help African countries acquire the capacities to play a more effective role in the resolution of their own problems, avoiding the recourse to external solutions, which have often brought to bear negative effects.
Secondly, we advocate that the Security Council continue to exercise fully its responsibilities under the United Nations Charter, with regard to peacekeeping and other operations, and in cooperation with other United Nations organs and agencies.
Thirdly, we would like to widen this debate on African security, which has centred excessively on technical and operational aspects, to include questions related to peace-building.
Indeed, a formal peace, guaranteed by military forces, should be complemented by conditions aimed at sustaining a material peace, freely accepted by the interested parties. As the Secretary-General pointed out in his opening statement to the fifty-second General Assembly:
We aspire to a United Nations that can act with greater unity of purpose, coherence of efforts and responsiveness in pursuit of peace and progress. (See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-second Session, Plenary Meetings, 5th meeting.)
A final word to express the sincere hope of the Portuguese Government that the serious conflicts and disputes which still divide African countries will shortly be resolved, through dialogue and development. In this way, an end may be brought to the serious humanitarian crises that plague some parts of the continent. As a member of the Security Council, and as a country which has in Africa hundreds of thousands of its countrymen, Portugal will not fail to help Africa and Africans reach that objective.