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Address by Dermot Ahern, Foreign Minister of Ireland and Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the September 2005 Summit
Warsaw, 17 May 2005
Since publication of the Secretary-General’s “In Larger Freedom” report there has been a surge of activity, in New York and around the world – though not equally in all regions or capitals. The Secretary-General has been in touch with world leaders and his five Envoys active in our respective regions. The General Assembly has held a series of formal and informal consultations in New York, under the leadership of its President and his ten Facilitators.
The Secretary-General is gratified to see Member States engaged in serious and positive dialogue across the set of recommendations he has proposed in his report. On some points, areas of convergence have already emerged and deserve to be reinforced. On some others, though, there are still difficulties, requiring intensified efforts to find common ground.
The Secretary-General appreciates the lead taken by European countries on issues of development and the achievement of the 0.7% target for Official Development Assistance (ODA). On this and other issues like the Peacebuilding Commission, Europe has complementary interests with Africa, and should build on that. African countries, along with other developing States, stand to benefit the most from the Secretary-General’s proposals, and should be encouraged to adopt a more proactive role.
The Secretary-General on numerous occasions has clarified that development is central in its own right. We now have to move and implement in practice the Monterrey consensus. The Secretary-General has taken a balanced approach, emphasizing both sides of the “deal” – for developed and developing countries - the need for solid national strategies, with commitments to an increase in ODA within a set timeframe.
Mitigating climate change is of particular importance to small island developing states, especially in the Pacific. Although this is broadly recognized, references to “major emitters” draw objections from some larger developing countries.
Establishing a global early warning system for natural hazards and strengthening the international humanitarian response capacity are well received across the board.
The fight against HIV/AIDS, gender equality, water and sanitation remain a priority, and the recommendations of the Secretary-General have widespread support.
More difficult are issues of trade. Developing countries are concerned about the outcome of the Doha Round and emphasize the need to focus on issues such as market access, elimination of agricultural subsidies, and commodity prices. They also continue to advocate for an effective solution to the problems of external indebtedness and easing the burden of middle income countries.
The establishment of a Democracy Fund and strengthening the UN’s human rights machinery receive wide support, notably in Europe but also the Americas. Many countries are in favour of transforming the Commission on Human Rights into a Human Rights Council. However, several stress the need for further discussions on size and composition before committing to a concrete decision.
There is near universal agreement on the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission. Details will be firmed up in the coming weeks, and it is the Secretary-General’s firm hope that heads of state and government create the body at the September Summit. Strengthening UN mediation and good offices and providing strategic reserves for peacekeeping also attract very wide support.
The definition of terrorism remains controversial. Although attacks against civilians are deemed unacceptable irrespective of circumstances, “state terrorism” and the right to resistance against occupation remain divisive. Additional efforts are needed here, especially with some key Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries, to move the issue to a successful conclusion. The recent adoption of a Convention on nuclear terrorism by the General Assembly was an important step forward.
The majority of UN members recognize that the importance of a vision of collective security laid out in the Secretary-General’s report cannot afford to get stuck on old debates between non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and disarmament. We need both.
Recommendations on chemical and biological weapons are widely accepted but nuclear non-proliferation issues remain more controversial, in particular the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty and nuclear fuel cycle issues. The use of force, together with the responsibility to protect, remains highly contested.
There is broad agreement on the proposals to strengthen the Economic and Social Council and on the need to revitalize the General Assembly, although in the latter case the exact way of doing so is not agreed upon. The need to make the Security Council more representative and more legitimate is widely acknowledged, but there is no agreement on the model to follow.
The Secretary-General hopes for consensus eventually emerging on this and other issues. However, the search for consensus should not delay indefinitely the reaching of decisions. His message is clear: no single issue should be allowed to overshadow this important process. Actionable decisions should be made at the September Summit across the wide range of issues that are on the table.