|General Assembly Informal Meeting on The Report of the High Level Panel on Threat, Challenges and Changes, and on the Millennium Project Report|
|Wednesday, 23 February 2005 00:00|
Statement by Ambassador Bernard A. B. Goonetilleke, Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at the General Assembly Informal Meeting on The Report of the High Level Panel on Threat, Challenges and Changes, and on the Millennium Project Report .
I would like to begin by joining other delegations, who expressed their appreciation to you for convening this meeting, to continue the discussion on the report of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, as well as to discuss the report of Professor Jeffery Sachs on the subject of MDGs. I consider it a privilege for my delegation to have an opportunity to express some preliminary views on these two important reports, which together with the Secretary General’s report due in March will help the Member countries of the United Nations to charter the course of humanity in the 21st century.
My delegation associates itself with the statements made by the Chairman of the Co-ordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement as well as the Chairman of G 77 on the report of the High Level Panel. It is the hope of my delegation that due consideration will be given to the issues raised and views expressed by the NAM and G 77.
My first observation is with regard to the importance of the task in our hands and the need to reach agreement as a matter of priority. In studying the report and considering the recommendations, we have to bear in mind the fact that time is of essence to reform the organization with a view to serving its members and the multitude of peoples in various parts of the world, who look upon at the United Nations as the primary institution to assure peace, security and development, observe the rule of law and protect the vulnerable. We should, therefore strive to reach agreement on as many issues as possible with a view to implementing those recommendations that can be implemented with least delay. It is our hope that we will be able to reach agreement on major issues highlighted in the report, well in advance of the High-Level Plenary Meeting scheduled for September.
Speaking of international peace and security, we are aware of the primary role of the Security Council. It is an acknowledged fact that the Security Council needs to be reformed and we are aware that there has been considerable discussion relating to the reforming of the Security Council for over a decade. Undoubtedly, time has come for us to reach agreement on the reforms. On the subject of reforms, while some members have focused on the importance of expansion, so far there has been no common understanding how it should be done. Meanwhile, a large number of member States have highlighted need for improving the functioning of the Council, so that it will be more open, transparent and accountable to the members of this organization. In our opinion, both aspects are equally important. Sri Lanka’s position on the expansion has been clearly expressed during the 59th session of the General Assembly and needs no repetition.
However, we wish to stress that in the process of reform, we should not allow the role of the General Assembly or for that matter the ECOSOC to be diminished or their responsibilities encroached upon by the Security Council. In this regard, we cannot but be concerned with the inadequate attention paid in the report to the revitalization of the General Assembly, bearing in mind its role as the principal deliberative and policy making organ of this organization, and its universal character facilitating broader consensus.
Since the release of the report, much controversy has been created by the section dealing with Article 51 of the Charter. Almost all would accept the view that the language of Article 51 is restrictive. Yet it is noted that the Panel was not in favour of rewriting or reinterpreting that Article. While this position can be accepted, the vast majority of members are likely to have difficulties with the wider interpretation given in the report that Article 51 provides for pre-emptive use of force under certain circumstances. Therefore, we would like to urge caution in attempting to give wider interpretation to Article 51.
Sri Lanka is in agreement with the position expressed in the report that too many States remain outside the conventions designed to curb terrorism and not all countries ratifying the conventions proceed to adopt internal enforcement measures. Sri Lanka is also in agreement with the recommendation that the General Assembly should rapidly complete negotiations on a comprehensive convention on terrorism and expresses its hope that the outstanding issues, including that of definition of terrorism would be agreed upon in the forthcoming session of the General Assembly.
It is an undeniable fact that the United Nations peace keeping operations contribute considerably for maintaining peace and providing security in many conflict affected parts of the world. As a country, which has contributed within its means to the peace keeping operations, Sri Lanka is in agreement with the recommendations, which demands that peace keeping responsibilities should also be shouldered by developed States and States with advanced military capabilities.
Although some coverage has been given to disarmament issues in the report, the emphasis given to WMD, particularly to nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation will attract critical observations. Moreover, the prescription proposed in situations of withdrawals from the NPT is likely to evoke considerable opposition as such recommendations venture into areas that are governed by international treaty laws. While we focus our attention on non-proliferation measures relating to WMD, we have also to take concrete measures for nuclear disarmament. In this regard we concur with the recommendation made in the report that the nuclear weapon States “must honour their commitments under Article VI of the Treaty on the NPT”. If we are truly interested in making our world a safe place and guarantee peace and security to all, our attention should also be focussed on issues relating to small arms, light weapons as well as anti-personnel mines.
On the subject of protecting the vulnerable, there is no denying the fact that the United Nations has an important role to play on issues relating to promotion and protection of human rights. In this regard, the proposal to universalize the CHR will undoubtedly be a major topic of discussion. While we appreciate the rationale behind that proposal, it appears that the report has not delved fully into the implications and how it would impact on the existing UN institutions and mechanisms dealing with human rights. Moreover, the proposal to appoint an advisory Council or panel to support the CHR after its expansion to embrace universal membership will require careful scrutiny. Similarly, the proposal for an annual report on the human rights situation in the world needs careful consideration. Member countries are fully aware of the difficulties faced by the HCHR in providing relevant documentation relating to the CHR in a timely fashion due to resource constraints. Consequently, we wonder how the HCHR is going to shoulder a new responsibility of this nature. We have to avoid burdening the system with unrealistic goals or resorting to sub-contracting this responsibility to entities outside the UN system.
The second report before us is ‘Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the MDGs’. We are appreciative of the efforts of Professor Jeffery Sachs and his team of experts, who have produced a comprehensive report on the achievement of the MDGs. We are struck by the positive message of the report that practical solutions exist to overcome global poverty. We fully agree with the analysis of the report that international peace and security are closely related to international development issues
As the Millennium Project Report has identified, the importance of mobilization of resources for development, particularly ODA and generous debt relief, is essential for the achievement of MDGs by 2015. The report makes it clear that while many countries are on track to achieve at least some of the Goals by 2015, broad regions, particularly those countries in the Sub Saharan area, are far off the track. Resources required to meeting the MDGs of all countries are estimated at $121 billion in 2006, rising to $189 billion in 2015. Although these figures look rather intimidating, we know how much the world spends on procurement of weapons annually, which is in the range of one trillion dollars! Debt relief is important as countries burdened with debts will not find it possible to invest on health, education and development, while setting aside a high percentage of their resources for debt servicing.
Sri Lanka’s economic and social development programmes are aligned with the UN MDGs. The Sri Lankan Government’s strategy for development seeks a constructive partnership between a strong and accountable private sector, including foreign investment and a robust and responsive public sector. Development efforts of countries like ours cannot realize its full potential without a fair and predictable multilateral trading system, where developed countries open their markets to exports from developing countries. We are pleased that the Millennium project report has recognized this factor. In the context of the natural disaster we have recently experienced, we cannot overemphasize the importance of heightened ODA, debt relief for an extended period and access to markets in the developed countries on concessionary terms, also for an extended period of time.
As the Millennium Project Report notes, the movement of labour should be accorded high priority in the Doha Round. As all of us are aware, remittances by migrant workers contribute significantly to the economies of developing countries. The global policy of liberalization of trade in services should be pursued in the same manner as we have dealt with other areas, such as capital and goods. International migration must be dealt in a comprehensive manner through dialogue and cooperation at the regional and international levels. We must work towards balancing the needs of both developing and developed countries in the area of international migration. The United Nations should continue to study this issue and identify ways to maximize the benefits of international migration for development.
The MDGs, as stated in the report, are the world’s time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty. It quantifies the results that can be achieved by attaining those goals, particularly by the poorest of the poor. The number of persons that can be saved from hunger, disease and consequent death can be counted not in thousands but in millions through concerted action, if the global community can help achieve the MDGs. We know that the global community has the capacity to deliver the poor from their predicament. All what is required to achieve that objective is political will.