NEW YORK, 24 SEPTEMBER 1998
STATEMENT BY THE H.E. Mr. JAIME GAMA, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF PORTUGAL, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL
Portugal has already had the opportunity to state in the Security Council its support for the remarkable report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on The causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. I would like to reiterate emphatically that the Portuguese government is ready to support fully and actively the role of the United Nations in forging a new and more dynamic relationship with Africa.
It is up to us all, as Members States of the United Nations, to turn from words to deeds if we really wish to contribute to free Africa from economic underdevelopment, and to help the peoples of Africa to maintain their steady pace towards democracy and good governance. Africa gives us several good examples of this, such as Mozambique and Cape Verde, which encourage us to act according to the proposals correctly identified by the Secretary-General (whose presence among us I warmly salute).
The common pursuit of peace and development in Africa presupposes the existence of a corresponding political will on the part of all actors in this process. Portugal will play its part in all international fora, namely in the United Nations system and the European Union. We are committed to bringing to fruition the holding of a Europe-Africa summit during the Portuguese presidency of the European Union in the year 2000.
In harmony with the Secretary-Generals report, Portugal agrees that weapons proliferation is one of the most devastating scourges currently affecting Africa. Much more has to be done to stop the flow of weapons, particularly small arms, across borders from conflict to conflict. We believe that it would be useful to reduce defense budgets in Africa, wherever possible, as well as to carry out a reassessment of the objectives of bilateral military cooperation programmes with developed countries.
In this context, let me underline that Portugal has already adopted legislation making the violation of Security Council arms embargoes a criminal offence. I would also note the importance we attribute to resolution 1196, recently approved by this Council.
Last year, I referred here that Portugal would respond to the need to make available greater resources for UN peace-keeping operations in Africa. We were part of ONUMOZ in Mozambique and of UNAVEM in Angola, where we continue to participate in MONUA; we are also present in MINURSO and in MINURCA. Of the European Union, Portugal has been one of the most active countries participating in peace-keeping operations in Africa and is committed, to the best of its abilities, to responding positively to the needs of the United Nations.
On another level, we recognize the unique role that the OAU and African sub-regional organizations should have in both conflict prevention and conflict resolution on their continent. Therefore, we support the recommendations of the Secretary-General pointing to closer coordination between the efforts of the United Nations and those organizations. In this context, resolution 1197 adopted last week is a step in the right direction.
However, we should bear in mind that the final responsibility to authorize the use of force to restore peace belongs to the Security Council.
As a member of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) which is principally constituted by African countries - Portugal is in a position to provide, through that organization, an effective contribution to the resolution of the conflict in Guinea-Bissau, a country with which we share many close ties of cooperation. We believe that the mediation of this conflict, that the CPLP carries out jointly with ECOWAS, is a good example of how two international organizations can work towards the same goal - a peaceful and negotiated settlement of a conflict - taking into account their respective vocations and specifications.
Often, the tasks of peace consolidation are as difficult as those of peace enforcement or conflict prevention. This may require a sustained and prolonged effort from the international community. We share fully the views expressed by the Secretary-General on the importance of post-conflict peacebuilding as, in his own words, actions undertaken at the end of a conflict to consolidate peace and prevent a recurrence of armed confrontation. We sincerely hope the Security Council will avoid an overly narrow perspective of its own competencies with regard to this matter and will discuss it with the seriousness it deserves.
We believe that peacebuilding elements should be clearly identified and integrated, from the outset, into the mandates of peace-keeping operations. This is one of the lessons we have learned from our participation in the United Nations missions in Angola and Mozambique.
The humanitarian and human rights components of peace-keeping operations and post-conflict peacebuilding are other elements to which we attribute particular importance. To that end, we are ready to contribute to the implementation of the recommendations put forward by the Secretary-General, stressing the following:
- measures to increase the security of refugee camps, possibly the most visible consequence of the conflicts which have plagued the African continent;
- the expansion of the concept of children as zones of peace, and I would underline the expectations we hold with regard to the pilot experiment in Sierra Leone;
- the funding of special human rights missions from assessed contributions.
A word is also needed to reiterate the importance we attribute to the promotion of good governance and sustainable development in Africa, equally vital components to how we see the possible paths to overcoming the problems faced by that continent. Let me recall the wise words of the Chairman of the OUA here last year: it is also true that the seed of democracy cannot germinate, let alone thrive, in the soil of mass poverty, illiteracy, hunger and disease. The international community should provide appropriate assistance to the efforts of Africans themselves to overcome these problems. Portugal has taken concrete steps in that direction, by carrying out a global reform of the mechanisms of official development assistance in order to adapt them to the current needs of aid for development. From 1996 to 1997, Portugal was the country of the OECD that registered the greatest proportional increase in official development aid, which rose by 27%. But Portugals most significant contribution to economic growth in Africa should be seen in the increase of our flow of trade with several African countries, the opening of our markets to African exports as well as in the increase of Portuguese investment in Africa.
The wounds that affect Africa are particularly deep in certain parts of the continent. Some of these, as in the cases of Sudan and Somalia, are long-standing and do not show any signs of improvement. Others are more recent and could spread out of control to infect others. We feel concerned at the resurgence of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and we appeal for a political solution, based on the respect for international law and the territorial integrity of that country. We are also concerned at the prevailing instability in other areas of the Great Lakes, as well as in other areas such as Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The current impasse in the peace process in Angola causes us profound apprehension. We will persevere, alone, as well as with the Troika which met this morning at the ministerial level and in close cooperation with the United Nations, to seek a political settlement of the problem, in strict accordance with the Lusaka Protocol and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. The prolonged instability in Angola clearly shows that, in the final analysis, peace or war depends on the political will of the parties in situations of conflict.
As a final note, I would like to emphasize this point. All the proposals and recommendations of the report of the Secretary- General have as a fundamental supposition, I would even say a sine qua non condition: the political will of the international community and of States. The will to choose tougher roads, despite their difficulty. The will to transform rhetoric into reality. The will to choose peace and development, instead of war and selfish interest. In sum, the will to opt to change the state of affairs. The very comprehensive approach towards Africa recommended by the Secretary-General relies on an act of will of the international community as whole. We hope that we are all up to this great challenge.