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General Assembly - 55th Session (2000-2001)

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  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations on Agenda Item 38: "Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Related Matters"
    New York, 16 November 2000

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, at the Fifty-fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly
    New York, 16 September 2000

Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations on Agenda Item 38: "Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Related Matters"

Mr. President,

There is a simple reason why the Czech Republic is taking floor again and again in our ongoing debates on expansion and reform of the Security Council. The reason is that our silence in such a debate could be seen as a sign of resignation. And this is not the case. Obviously, for a reform-minded country, I am honored to represent, there is scope for frustration, given the amount of seemingly wasted efforts and stalemate of the last several years. But we are not giving up. The reform of the Security Council is probably the most difficult and delicate task we face. And it also remains our greatest challenge.

Mr. President,

Reform of the Security Council is in our view a key issue of the overall UN reform. As long as the Council (or a "Magistracy" in our "Global Village", as my distinguished colleague from Singapore put it a few weeks ago) fails to represent the membership of the UN in an adequate manner and as long as it fails to enjoy overwhelming confidence of the Members, the reform of the UN will not be complete, and the pursuit of its overall strengthening will once again vanish. This was recognized by our Heads of States, and that is why they incorporated a strong commitment "to intensify our efforts to achieve a comprehensive reform of the Security Council in all its aspects" in the Millennium Declaration.

Mr. President,

Positions and aspirations of Member States with regard to the Council reform are well known. So is the position of my country and I can be very brief in reiterating it here. In a nutshell:

- We firmly believe that the Security Council should be enlarged in both categories; our choice would be of 5 additional permanent seats and 4 - 5 additional non-permanent seats, including one for Eastern Europe. We respect the option of rotating permanent seats for specific regions, but no country or region should be forced into such a scheme.

- As to the question of the veto, we continue to favor some reduction of areas where the veto can be applied, possibly through individual commitments by permanent members and other steps which do not necessarily require Charter amendments; in this regard, we continue to believe in validity of a proposal submitted by G-10 in 1998 and as a member of G-10, we are determined to take active part in future deliberations on that subject matter.

- In the area of Security Council working methods, we generally welcome and support any motion towards greater openness and transparency. Some of the recent developments in this area - often thanks to initiatives of non-permanent members - are encouraging, and we would strongly appreciate if similar motions continue. The list of newly elected non-permanent members of the Council seems to justify such an expectation

Having said that, I have to assure you, Mr. President, that our views on the reform are not "frozen" in time. We are flexible to some degree, and we are always pleased to see some flexibility from others, too. As a matter of fact, a very good example of increasing flexibility came last spring from the US delegation concerning the number of seats in the enlarged Council. Let us hope that this signal will have a follow-up. Indeed, it is most encouraging for all reform-minded countries to see flexibility on the reform issues among the P-5; I would like to stress that any such sign of their will to share their powers, privileges and responsibilities helps very much, probably more that anything else.

Finally, Mr. President, I would like to invite you to identify yourself with the process of the Council reform. We very much rely on you, because your role in this process is irreplaceable. And we expect from you, also as a designated Chairman of the OEWG, a strong leadership in the reform issues, capturing and capitalizing the momentum of the Millennium Summit. We already noted with high appreciation your strong determination to move the reform forward. In this respect, you can count on our full and active support.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Statement by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, at the Fifty-fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished colleagues,

I would like to start by congratulating you on being elected to preside over the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly and wish you much success as you carry out this important post. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank your Namibian predecessor, minister Theo-Ben Gurirab, for the responsible work and efforts he invested in UN activities throughout the year and, in particular, for the role he played in preparation of the Millennium Summit. Let me also take this opportunity to welcome the admission of Tuvalu to the United Nations - another expression of openness and universal character of this Organization.

The Millennium Summit brought interesting, stimulating ideas embracing the huge potential posed by the experience of the population of the whole planet, formulated in the words of the highest representatives of member states. The Summit, the most representative gathering ever, gave us a unique opportunity to make multi-faceted review of challenges the world is facing at the threshold of the new millennium. The unexpectedly positive Summit´s results are generally being appreciated and approved. However, the implementation of those 32 UN Millennium Declaration´s provisions, as well as of an unprecedented Security Council Resolution 1318 (2000), will not be easy, nor cheap or rapidly attainable.

Mr. President,

The start of the 1990s was characterized by buoyancy and great expectations in handling long-term problems connected with the era of Communism in the world, the onset of democracy, and the stress on the importance of observing universal human rights. Bound up in this optimism were expectations that were sometimes unrealistic.

These expectations proved unfeasible in the second half of the decade. The intricate nature of the problems, difficulties in finding lasting solutions, and internal and external crises quite clearly exposed the boundaries and possibilities of the international community, and the UN was no exception. Disillusion and disenchantment sometimes led to the assertion and defense of utilitarian and particular interests which led to the feelings of belonging and solidarity being greatly undermined.

The inhabitants of the world, suffering from the ravages of war, poverty, disasters, various forms of oppression, expect actions of us today.

Can we match these expectations? I hope - and firmly believe - we can. There is no longer time for a further devaluation in the significance of the words "development", "security", "cooperation", and "solidarity". We can no longer abuse the trust and patience of too many people. If reaching a compromise and consensus continues to be impossible for our diplomats, then it will be all the more difficult to find it among states and entities in individual countries. The UN is expected to be able to prove its ability to adapt quickly and to carry out internal reform, primarily of the Security Council. The Security Council has to reflect the reality of today, not that of 50 years ago. Only a truly representative and effective Security Council will be able to overcome its current impotence, sometimes veiled in high-sounding but empty phrases. If no remedy is found now, after the Millennium Summit, the UN risks loss of credibility, and it will greatly reduce its influence on many processes which are now shaping the world. Here I am thinking especially of those processes we include under the term " globalization".

Globalization does not stop at 42nd Street. It is rushing around the world with the force of a typhoon, picking up speed as it is fed ever new discoveries in information and communication technology. But globalization is much more comprehensive phenomenon than the mere standardization of traffic regulations, TV systems or bananas. Globalization entails development and human security as well as poverty and human fear. But it encompasses also human thinking... If it does not embrace solidarity and social justice it will continue to divide the world between winners and losers (as German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer mentioned here). United Nations can help with this issue. If it fails, it will be guilty of loosing this crucial opportunity of making UN again into a respected organization, able to tackle the most important global problems. We have to find the political will and the means to do so.

Mr. President,

I would like to dwell on the topic of peacekeeping a little. What I have said about huge optimism and subsequent disenchantment is just as applicable to this area. I am convinced that lasting solutions to conflicts can only be found by peaceful means, by negotiations between all parties involved. Peacekeeping remains a key instrument wielded by the international community as it establishes peace and peaceful co-existence among the nations.

We welcome the priority given to peacekeeping last week. Millennium Summit´s meetings, together with Mr. Brahimi´s report, present a unique opportunity to strengthen the United Nations capacity for peacekeeping operations. Our pledges to enhance the effectiveness of the UN in addressing conflicts at all stages from prevention to settlement to post-conflict peace-building should bind the international community from the very moment it approved them last week.

Far-reaching but realistic intentions announced from this rostrum by Minister Védrine on behalf of the European Union earlier this week thus meet our expectations of how to bring into life the Millennium Summit´s recommendations, anchored in a firm belief in the United Nations potential.

Any reform of the UN would not be complete without reforming its crucial body - the Security Council. Its role is irreplaceable; the decision-making process should respond not only to a change in the nature of today's crises, but also to the necessary comprehensiveness of their solutions. An increase in the effective capacity of the UN Secretariat, to act via the reorganization of its Department of Peacekeeping Operations, closer cooperation, and coordination with regional structures is an integral part of the process. We must look for ways to react quickly, promptly, and effectively.

The Czech Republic´s approach to the reform of the UN Security Council has been voiced many times and we prove it through our active participation notably in the open-ended working group of the GA, and in the so called Group of 10. Unfortunately, deliberations on the Security Council reform are still short of bringing fruits, being effectively paralyzed by particular interests of several states. The new millennium has to see a new, enlarged and more representative Security Council soon, preferably with five additional permanent seats both for developed and developing countries, and few more non-permanent seats. We all have to take to our hearts the appeal of the Millennium Declaration to further strengthen our efforts in this regard.

Whether for programmes or for peacekeeping, UN in the new millennium needs a sustainable and equitable system of financing. Here we are ready to cooperate actively during the discussions about adjustments in the scale of assessments both for the regular budget and for peacekeeping. We appreciate those countries, which announced their preparedness to assume additional financial responsibility by moving voluntarily from category C to B in the PKO scale (as the Czech Republic voluntarily committed itself to remain in category B) - but this is not a solution of the problem. A new scale is urgently needed. Negotiations of such scale, however, should not be trapped in endless debates over past unpaid debts. All arrears should be settled before the adoption of a new and hopefully fairer scale of assessment.

Mr. President,

The anniversary of the tragic massacre in Bosnian Srebrenica that we marked this year leads me to the issue of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The international community's objective is to achieve peace, but lasting peace requires justice. In this respect, the international criminal tribunals set up by the Security Council are of prime importance. Besides punishing the offenders, these international tribunals have another, extremely important, function, and that is to prove personal guilt in criminal cases and thus to reject the notion of collective guilt. The tribunals are also important as deterrents for those who may be thinking of easing their way to power over the bodies of the innocent.

Therefore, the Czech Republic is highly appreciative of the work done by the international criminal tribunals investigating the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and supports the establishment of a similar body to punish crimes in Cambodia and Sierra Leone. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia increased its activities during the last year, with those war criminals, who carried higher responsibility for committed crimes being brought to the Hague. War criminals have been prosecuted there, but their political and military leaders still remain at large. Recent developments, however, have shown that leaders themselves are not immune from international jurisdiction.

This trend is best illustrated by the efforts of the international community to establish an International Criminal Tribunal, which most UN members voted for in 1998 in Rome. The creation of a functioning International Criminal Court, an institution that can play a important role in projecting the principle of justice into international relations and to build up an increasingly efficient system of protecting human rights, is one of the priorities of Czech foreign policy in the field of international law. The Czech Republic is taking all the steps necessary to ratify the Rome Statute as quickly as possible.

Mr. President,

Developments in international law are bound up directly with the issue of human rights. I believe that the UN's commitment to the right of every human being to a dignified life in safety should become the focus of attention of all UN member states. The long, and frequently painful process of development in international human rights, at the outset of which stood the terrible experience of the Holocaust, has resulted in the concept of universal human rights, and the UN is playing a key role in implementing this concept. However, I think it would be wrong to use our contemporary understanding of human rights when we look back at events long past. In the last decade, the international community demonstrated its determination not to accept the abuse of human rights, and its willingness to defend the principle of the personal safety of humans, even to the detriment of the well-established concept of national sovereignty. Accepting limits in absolute sovereignty for the sake of human rights is a matter of political principle and morality, forming the basis of the UN's values. As I said here last year, we would prefer if any actions which do infringe on sovereignty of member states would be legitimated by proper UN mandate. Human rights is not a process that has been completed; it is still progressing. However, we should not judge history by the standards of today.

Protection of human rights is one of the fundamental principles of Czech foreign policy. Compared with other international conventions, those on human rights enjoy a privileged status in Czech law. I am pleased that the Czech Republic signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Due efforts to complete a protocol to the Convention against Torture, should be exerted. The Czech Republic also made an active contribution to the preparation of the Declaration on human-rights defenders. I believe that the decision made this year by the UN Commission on Human Rights on the appointment of a Special Rapporteur for human rights defenders will help establish the mechanism we need for the implementation of the Declaration.

Mr. President,

The last of the more general issues I would like to raise attention to is the issue of sanctions. By that I do not mean weapons embargoes. The Czech Republic views them as an instrument capable of reducing the intensity of a conflict, supports them, and observes them without reservation. A problem, though, lies in the efficiency and impact of blanket economic sanctions. The last ten years have provided ample proof that in Cuba, Iraq, and Yugoslavia, to take just three examples, blanket economic sanctions, whether declared unilaterally or multilaterally, have been unable to achieve their objective. Poorly nourished, isolated, sick people are hardly likely to rise against a governing elite that will never allow the consequences of sanctions to fall on itself or their faithful supporters. The result is that changes in the conduct of the rulers are even less likely. Growing globalization and the economic and information interconnection of the whole world influences and changes the conditions for the efficiency of sanctions. The Czech Republic would therefore prefer the use of smart sanctions targeted against leading representatives of a state that refuses to observe international law. In my opinion, such sanctions could include a ban on the issue of entry visas and the freezing of assets abroad. I think it would be particularly useful and expedient if the reflections concerning the issue of peacekeeping were also projected into the issue of sanctions. The Czech Republic believes that a similar approach, i.e. it is the appointment of a panel of experts on this issue, and subsequent discussion of a report drawn up by the panel, would be of immense benefit in improving our collective efforts to achieve peace and security by punishing the perpetrators and not the victims.

Mr. President,

Allow me to mention how the Czech Republic views some of the most topical questions of international policy.

We believe that boosting defense capacities to protect against potential attack is an absolutely legitimate step by any government. In the case of National Missile Defense, however, we are talking of a concept shrouded in question marks. In our opinion, security, as conceived today, is comprehensive and integral, something that cannot be built up to the detriment of other partners. The Czech Republic sees the way to a safer world primarily in a continuation of the disarmament process and the non-proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction, leading ultimately to a world free of any nuclear weapons. We support the view that a more intense disarmament process will lead to savings in the funds spent on arms. Employing them for peaceful purposes would increase the ability of the international community to tackle pressing challenges such as the widening gap between rich and poor countries, deal with ethnic and religious conflicts, environmental care, and so on. I would like to assure you, Mr. President, that efforts to renew the momentum in the disarmament process will continue to have unequivocal support of the Czech Republic. Therefore, the Czech Republic welcomes President Clinton's decision to leave the verdict on the NMD to the new President.

The Czech Republic is monitoring the situation in the Middle East closely as a traditional and active supporter of the peace process, established under UN Security Council Resolutions No. 242 and 338 and the principle of the exchange of land for peace. The Czech Republic resolutely opposes the exploitation of developments after the summit at Camp David to attack the peace process as a whole as well as the positive results achieved so far in negotiations between Israel and the PNC. The Czech Republic also emphatically rejects the misuse of this situation to carry out acts of violence, which can only result in unnecessary suffering and in more victims. This is not the way to achieve much-desired peace and stability in the Middle East. The Czech Republic supports the establishment of an independent Palestine, but it would prefer the emergence of such a state in an atmosphere of general support enjoying the consensus of all those involved; that is why we believe the PNC´s postponement of this step by two months creates a certain space for further deliberations - we wish them to be fruitful and successful in their outcome, though we are aware that even with good political will on both sides, the issues are thorny and laden with emotions and historical burden.

Last year from this rostrum I said that Kosovo would be the benchmark for the success of the international institutions. I also said that Kosovo now goes through a period when it is necessary to defend peace, that is, a period needed to achieve political stability and democratization, economic stabilization and gradual development of the region.

We can be proud of what KFOR and UNMIK have done for the return of the Albanian ethnic group after being chased out of their homes by Serbian forces.

Regardless of these tremendous efforts however, we cannot be quite satisfied with the development in Kosovo. In fact, some of the objectives of the Resolution have not been achieved. The positive developments we have so far seen in Kosovo mostly concern one ethnic group, while the other still lives under security threat. There is still a very long way to a multiethnic, multicultural and democratic life in the area.

In keeping with the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999), permanent possibility of non-Albanian ethnic groups to return and the building of a multiethnic, pluralist and democratic society must remain our objective, no matter how unattainable this aim may seem today. To give up on this objective would equal admitting defeat of the international community.

Certain negative features of the developments in Kosovo hinder also the chances for democratization of Serbia. They play into the hands of those forces in the FRY/Serbia which build their election campaign on xenophobia, on the continuation of political isolation of the FRY and Serbia, and the continuation of sanctions.

In our view, time has come to give further steps in Kosovo our most serious consideration, including at the level of the Security Council. The Council has already taken first steps in this direction but it is imperative for it to return to the Kosovo issue soon. Obviously many things will depend on the results of the forthcoming elections in the FRY.

Mr. President,

The world beyond the doors of this hall is changing rapidly. Our children will live and work in an environment that we can only guess at. It is our collective responsibility to do all we can to ensure that it is a world of peace, prosperity, solidarity, and tolerance.

Thank you for your attention.