Before making my statement I should like to take this opportunity to express my country’s deepest sympathy with the Government and people of India as they mourn the thousands of lives lost during last week’s earthquake.
I wish to congratulate you on your election, Mr. President; to thank the outgoing President for his
contribution to the work of the United Nations; and to welcome all the new Members of our Organization.
Much has been expected of the United Nations in the past year. Its priority has been to ensure that the profound political and economic change does not result in global conflict. This has sometimes meant coordinating international efforts. On other occasions the United Nations has had to take the lead in these operations. At the same time, it has continued to take up the challenges presented by
the many far-reaching social, humanitarian and environmental problems of our day. These have proved
more and more difficult to contain within national or even regional boundaries.
The United Nations responsibilities have often been undertaken under most unfavourable conditions. I am therefore pleased that our Secretary-General and the countries representing the United Nations have always responded positively to the situations they have faced. I hope that they will continue to do this, even after such distressing events as those which have occurred in Somalia this week.
I say this because the past year has seen so many valuable achievements. The success of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia has shown what can be done through responsible regional efforts and patient multilateral action. In South Africa, national, regional and international efforts in support of United Nations resolutions have brought new hope. In the Middle East, the United Nations has been a positive influence in reducing tension after the Gulf War.
We also welcome the agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. This is the first step towards a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question.
There have also been several initiatives aimed at improving the world economy and developing better trading arrangements in regions. At the same time, the United Nations has continued to give essential assistance to people in developing countries. It has also maintained its peacekeeping operations in a number of problem areas. The United Nations has also organized important international conferences where nations have been able to exchange views on many matters of international concern. This represents a considerable contribution to preventive diplomacy and peace-building. In each case, I hope these achievements will
be consolidated by national and regional authorities.
In Cambodia, we wish the new Government every success as they go about the task of bringing lasting stability to their nation. Like all the countries in our region, we look forward to seeing the Cambodian people enjoying peace and prosperity again.
In South Africa, I believe conditions now exist for national leaders to encourage restraint and seek consensus.
The countries in the Gulf region are also in a position to work towards peaceful solutions to the remaining areas of difficulty.
In the Middle East, current developments should start a process that will restore all legitimate Palestinian rights and should lead to a comprehensive settlement in the region.
In terms of the world economy, objectives have been set. What we hope to see now is equally clear progress in strengthening linkages between the North and the South and in creating conditions that promote cooperation and sustainable growth. To do this, we need to improve the existing mechanisms for preventing economic disagreements from turning into open conflict. Each nation has a responsibility to promote fair trading arrangements throughout the world.
Today’s overall situation presents many challenges. I feel that we can continue to turn them into positive developments if we note carefully the circumstances under which the United Nations appears to achieve its greatest successes. These occur when the special responsibilities of national Governments, non-governmental organizations and regional associations are recognized and agreed upon before the world body is asked to act.
Where those responsibilities have been in confrontation with each other, the effectiveness of United Nations operations has been hindered. This is clearly illustrated in Somalia and in Bosnia. In those countries, the United Nations initially acted in order to guarantee safe and effective humanitarian assistance. There have been considerable successes in these operations, and I thank those who have achieved them for their humanitarian work.
However, these efforts and the fact that conflict has not been allowed to spread outside the regions concerned should not divert our attention from the deep matters of principle involved.
That is why we wish to express our strong support for the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We believe that the United Nations Charter would be severely compromised if the Organization became a party to any arrangement which forces a sovereign nation and fellow
Member of the United Nations to submit to aggression. Not only would this condone terrorism - it would reward it.
In seeking to ensure that the United Nations does not become merely another factor in a local political equation, there are a number of proposals for reform. These are intended to give confidence to Members that United Nations decisions reflect the widest possible spectrum of world opinion. If they also assist in solving the world body’s deep financial problems, I see merit in considering them favourably.
We all have our different views on how the United Nations should best operate. Whatever they are, I hope we will make every effort to encourage our regional and subregional associations to play a crucial supporting role. Ideally, each region will be working on its own agenda for peace and development which will complement the work of the world body. The more this is done, the more the United Nations will be able to act in the way in which it is most effective - as the authority of last resort. In this way, I
believe we can make considerable progress towards establishing what the Secretary-General has described as a workable international system.