My congratulations go to you, Sir, and to the people of Saint Lucia on your election, together with my thanks to your predecessor, Mr. Kavan, for his work over the past year. You have our full support and best wishes in all your efforts to promote the interests of the members of this Assembly.
May I couple these greetings with my great appreciation to our Secretary-General and his staff. We are very grateful indeed for their dedication and service during one of the most difficult years in United Nations history.
In particular, I wish to add once more the deepest sympathy of the Government and people of Brunei Darussalam to the families of Sergio Vieira de Mello and of all who lost loved ones, colleagues and friends in the attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. His Excellency and his staff were our public servants, our representatives and our people. The attack on them was an attack on us all. As such, we condemn it and all other acts of terrorism.
When Brunei Darussalam had the honour of becoming a Member of this Organization, we committed ourselves to two principles. The first was nationhood and all that this implies in terms of the rule
of international law and the procedures that govern the affairs of this Assembly. The second was multilateral decision-making and, in turn, all that this also implies — respect for fellow members, sensitivity to their deep concerns and the need for dialogue and consultation as equal partners in the conduct of international affairs, no matter how long and how frustrating the process involved may be.
We continue to maintain our belief in these principles in spite of many disappointments in the past
year, both here in the United Nations and earlier this month at the World Trade Organization. We feel that
they are the only basis upon which international affairs can be conducted fairly. They apply to all the great
political and economic organizations of which we are members and we especially look to the United Nations to uphold them.
By this token, the United Nations is whatever we ourselves make it. We form the largest coalition in history and we share responsibility for its successes and its failures. Among those is our failure to bring in the changes that are necessary if we are to evolve with the times in which we live.
Since 1992, this Assembly has been debating reform. It has the support of a large majority here,
including all members of the Non-Aligned Movement. The results of our failure to build on this support can now be clearly seen. Our Security Council has been gravely divided and the past year has left a legacy of bitterness. The consequences for the ordinary people we represent — the people of developing nations year after year, the people of Iraq for the past 10 years or more, and the citizens of Palestine for over half a
century — have been ever more disastrous.
In all this time, Members have been well aware that decision-making at the United Nations needs to be more inclusive and genuinely multilateral. On many occasions, they have expressed the desire that the
Organization reflect today’s world rather than the world of half a century ago. They wish to feel truly part
of the decisions it makes.
As it operates now, however, many observers feel that the actual Members of this Organization are too weak to act effectively in solving the great affairs of the day. It is claimed that international affairs are now beyond the control of individual nations. They are global — global finance; global economics; global
development; global poverty; global crime; and, of course, global terrorism. Consequently, some voices
declare that an Assembly of individual nations, many of them small and still developing, has no power to
address such matters.
That is a depressing scenario and, of course, none of us here really wants to believe it, but it does have one merit. It forces us to examine what the United Nations can actually do most effectively and what it can realistically achieve. The reply from too many of our people today would be, we fear: not much. This
presents a powerful case for reform.
I therefore feel that we must frankly acknowledge our part in the feelings of hopelessness and frustration that are being voiced by ordinary people and indeed by many Governments. At present, restoring belief in the United Nations ability to act on their behalf may be our most important immediate task. On the one hand, the great world institutions are technically multilateral. They are run by the Governments of the world. Yet, in fact, many of these Governments feel excluded from the most important decisions. Many interested parties feel that they are also on the outside.
Multilateralism, in other words, appears to have its limits. Beyond them, it seems, the stronger nations take over. This basic division, we hope, can be brought to an end. That is why we were so pleased to hear our Secretary-General emphasize the need for reform in his address last week. We congratulate the Secretary-General on the structural reforms he has overseen. We also thank him for the many times he has kept us in touch with his thinking and that of his staff and we thank him for the hopes he has continued to express about the future of our world Organization.
We still share his optimism. Nevertheless, that feeling can be maintained only if agreement on reform of the whole United Nations system is a real possibility. We accept that the task of bringing about
this kind of overall change is extremely hard. The reports of your own Working Group, Mr. President,
show a difficult pattern emerging over the past 10 years. There are more and more proposals and basic
approaches continually diverge. Even though we largely share the same objectives, we remain divided
on the means to achieve them.
The divisions we have seen this year, however, suggest that we cannot keep postponing change. They offer a test of whether the United Nations is indeed capable of evolving. That test must be passed, so we continue to support work on Security Council reform and offer our strong encouragement to the Secretary-General in the proposals he outlined last week.
In the face of today’s problems, the United Nations must continue to offer powerful reasons for
optimism about the future. We believe that this calls for a determined and united effort to address the root
causes of the anger of all who feel unjustly treated. To do this, the United Nations as a whole must be a
genuine partnership between nations. It must stand for shared idealism and a shared sense of human justice.
That is what no other body can do.
That is what the work of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his colleagues was dedicated to. In their memory, and in that of all who have given their lives to this Organization, we all need to do a lot better at working together than we have over the past year.