NEW YORK, 24 APRIL 1998
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR ANTÓNIO MONTEIRO, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL 3875th MEETING (report of the Secretary-General on conflict and peace in Africa)
Realism, pragmatism and objectivity: these are the perspectives that frame the very important report of the Secretary-General on conflict and peace in Africa. And it is now up to the international community, the States Members of the United Nations and Africa itself to respond in the same vein.
Portugal intends to take up the Secretary-General's challenge, and is heartened by his words pledging that the United Nations not only seeks but welcomes its role in forging a new beginning in its relationship with Africa. We will support this process not only here in the Security Council, in the General Assembly and in other parts of the United Nations system, but also in the European Union and other international forums.
One concept seems to stand out in the Secretary-General's report, and that is the absolutely fundamental need for political will. Political will is needed on the part of African States themselves, but it is equally required from the international community as a whole. It is needed to find political, not military, solutions for the problems that face Africa today. Political will is needed to commit to the principles of good governance, in democracy and with respect for human rights and the rule of law. Political will is needed from the international community to help free economic development in Africa from its constraints. And political will and courage are very much needed to avoid future situations in which the United Nations would unfortunately be seen to have turned its back on the African people.
In a pragmatic spirit, I would like to make a few preliminary remarks on certain aspects of the report. My delegation agrees that early warning mechanisms for conflict prevention also require early action to make them useful. Concrete measures should be considered to ensure that the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, provides a timely response to impending crises.
The Secretary-General is right to point out that, when the international community is engaged in peacemaking efforts, the non-proliferation of mediation efforts should be encouraged. What is important is not how many are involved but whether or not their efforts are tightly coordinated towards the same goals. The United Nations has a central role to play in ensuring this, as it did successfully in Mozambique, which is now a model to follow in conflict resolution.
Sanctions can be a useful tool in conflict resolution, and we agree that they must be better targeted so that those politically responsible are the ones that are directly affected, while the population at large is spared as much as possible. I am pleased to note here that Portugal is able to respond positively to the appeal by the Secretary-General regarding legislation making the violation of a Security Council arms embargo a criminal offence under national laws. We already have such legislation.
The proliferation of arms is a scourge on the African continent. More must be done to stop the illegal flow of weapons, particularly small arms, across borders from conflict to conflict. In this context, I would like to stress the importance of preventing arms that have been collected at the end of one conflict from ending up in another war on the other side of the continent. The United Nations should have a clear role to play here, supported by Member States, in ensuring that weapons collected are destroyed.
We support the Secretary-General's call upon African countries to reduce their defence budgets. We recognize, however, that this is not always easy or possible in certain cases where internal stability is threatened. The international community can also help by providing adequate support, including financial incentives, to Governments that enter into agreements to reduce their military budgets. Portugal agrees that this entire subject of arms proliferation should be taken up by the Security Council.
Portugal is actively supporting efforts to reinforce the capacity of Africa to respond to conflicts, including peacekeeping efforts. The international community should continue to assist in the development of these capabilities. The Portuguese Foreign Minister, Mr. Jaime Gama, stressed the importance we attach to this at the Security Council meeting of 25 September 1997, held at the initiative of the United States, which led to the report before the Council today. In particular, he referred to the pivotal role the Organization of African Unity (OAU) should play in this regard.
But he also stressed that the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, has the ultimate responsibility in the maintenance of international peace and security, and it cannot shirk this burden. When Africa needs the United Nations, the United Nations must not turn its back. This is not only a question of responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations; it is ultimately also a question of common sense. The paralysis to which the Secretary-General refers must never return to this Organization and its Member States.
In concrete terms, the emphasis given in the report to preventive deployment is merited. Timely action taken to prevent conflict can save lives and resources, and we fully support resorting to this type of response. Regarding the implementation of comprehensive settlements, Portugal agrees that a multidisciplinary peacekeeping operation may well represent the best chance to establish peace and to build a foundation for lasting development, based on respect for human rights and the rehabilitation of civic institutions.
Portugal will continue, to the best of its ability, to contribute and to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, as it has done in Mozambique with the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ), in Angola with the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM) and the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) and in Western Sahara with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
Turning now to humanitarian assistance, we can generally endorse the recommendations made by the Secretary-General and are ready to contribute actively to their development. We agree that all special human rights missions should be funded from assessed contributions and strongly endorse, with him, the notion of children as zones of peace.
The recommendations regarding refugee camps are also welcome, particularly in ensuring the safety of the camps and the separation of combatants from refugees. The proposal to hold combatants financially liable to their victims under international law when civilians are made the deliberate target of aggression is an interesting one, both in Africa and elsewhere. However, it is not immediately clear to us how this proposal would be implemented.
We are encouraged to note the importance the Secretary-General attributes to post-conflict peace-building, particularly his view that peace-building elements should be explicitly and clearly identified and integrated, from the outset, into the mandates of peacekeeping operations. We fully share this view, and last year Portugal tried to bring precisely this question before the Security Council during informal consultations with a view to its formal consideration. This process is crucial to ensuring a smooth transition after the withdrawal of peacekeeping operations, and many peace-building components are an integral part of those operations from the very beginning.
Portugal endorses the strategic framework approach to peace-building, which would provide an integrated strategy, through the definition of criteria, to help countries in crisis and permit the coordinated intervention of States, international organizations and non-governmental organizations.
While on the subject of peace-building, I would like to refer to the case of Angola, where a peacekeeping operation is winding down. This has been a major investment in peace by the international community. But many tasks remain to be completed and will have to be carried out in a peace-building context, as defined in the report before us today. Angola will therefore be an important test of the international community's resolve and commitment to these concepts, and we hope that all Member States will support this effort and not abandon the Angolan people.
We could not agree more that peace requires both good governance and sustainable development. They are two sides of the same coin. If it is true that the international community must help Africa towards achieving real economic growth, it is equally true that good governance must be practised if development and peace are to become deeply rooted.
The process of democratization and respect for human rights and the rule of law are fundamental pillars of the edifice of good governance. But, as the Secretary-General reminds us, development itself is a human right and the principal long-term objective of all countries in Africa.
My delegation is ready to work on many of the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his very important report. The momentum should be maintained, and we believe the Security Council should respond positively to the Secretary-General's call to reconvene biennially at the ministerial level to assess the situation and to hold a summit-level meeting.
As I stated earlier, Portugal will work hard in support of the international community's efforts in Africa. To this end, we have already proposed that a Euro-African summit be convened in the year 2000 to establish, for the first time, a political dialogue at the very highest level between the two continents. The European Union has adopted this proposal, and talks have begun with our African partners to make this a reality.
The problems that face Africa are not easy to overcome, and many human and material resources are required. But I agree with the Secretary-General that these problems can be overcome with political will. Let us show that will.