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General Assembly - 57th Session (2002-2003)

   Plenary First Committee Second Committee Third Committee Fourth Committee Fifth Committee Sixth Committee   PLENARY 57th Session of the General Assembly, Plenary Session, Statement on Agenda Item 98: "Outcome of the


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  • 57th Session of the General Assembly, Plenary Session, Statement on Agenda Item 98: "Outcome of the International Year of Volunteers and its Follow-up
    New York, 26 November

  • Statement by Mr. Jan KARA, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 14: "Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency"
    New York, 11 November 2002

  • Statement by Mrs. Hana Sevcikova, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, at the Plenary Session of the 57th UN General Assembly, on Agenda Item 42: "Follow-up to the Outcome of the Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS"
    New York, November 2002

  • Statement by H.E. Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek, the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, at the Plenary Session of the 57th UN General Assembly in the joint debate on agenda items 11 and 40 ("Report of the Security Council and Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters")
    New York, October 15, 2002

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Jan Kohout, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, at the General Debate of the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
    New York, September 20, 2002

Statement by the Representative of the Czech Republic at the Plenary Session of the 57th General Assembly, on Agenda Item 98: Outcome of the International Year of Volunteers and its Follow-up
New York, 27 November 2002

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic fully associates itself with the statement delivered recently by Denmark on behalf of the European Union. Similarly to the EU countries, the competent bodies in the Czech Republic paid great attention to the International Year of Volunteers, proclaimed by the United Nations in 2001. Our aim was to increase the awareness of general public of the ideas and objectives of volunteerism. To this end, a National Co-ordinating Committee for the International Year of Volunteers was set up in the Czech Republic to focus on the following three priorities:

* promotion and presentation of the International Year of Volunteers in the Czech Republic;

* support for embodying the term "volunteerism" in the Czech legislation; and

* promotion of particular voluntary projects.

Working Groups were set up for each of the above fields, composed of members of the National Co-ordinating Committee and other invited experts. Throughout 2001 all the priority tasks were gradually fulfilled. Several conferences with international participation were also organised in the Czech Republic in 2001, at which the contacts with foreign partners and exchange of experience proved to be most helpful for the Czech public and voluntary organisations and, as we hope, mutually for their foreign partners, too.

An important field, without which no voluntary programme could develop effectively, is the promotion. Voluntary actions were announced in a number of dailies, magazines, radio and television during the International Year. Presented in the mass media were the views on particular projects by representatives of non-profit organisations involved in voluntary activities both in the Czech Republic and abroad. Worth mentioning is also the opening of an Internet volunteers portal, the database of available volunteers as well as programmes, which appeared on the occasion of the Year.

Public presentations and media campaigns in support of voluntary activities remain one of the main means for the Czech Government to spread further the information about potential of volunteerism in modern society and thus rehabilitate the idea of volunteerism highly devaluated in our country under the past Communist regime.

Volunteerism is a phenomenon very sensitive to any institutionalisation. "Good will" or the feeling of "need to be of help" leads to the volunteer's decision to offer own efforts and time to the others. Such a decision should be made voluntarily by each and every person. However, due to the necessity to secure this voluntary nature on one hand, and the appropriate level of responsibility from all involved in the voluntary action on the other, we were at the same time facing the need for an adequate legislative framework for such activities. To this end, the Czech Republic decided during the International Year of Volunteers to pass an act on voluntary service. The idea of this legal instrument was initiated by the Czech Government in close co-operation with the civil society and took its basis from a previously conducted analysis of the field practice and the operative Czech legislation in relation to voluntary service. The aim of this act has not been to regulate or limit existing and considerably different forms of voluntary services and activities, but the clear definition of their operational mode and of conditions under which the Government could promote them.

Although the International Year was very fruitful, one year cannot be enough for sufficient influence on the nations' attitude towards the volunteerism. The Czech Government has therefore paid due attention also to the follow-up of the IYV. The Act on Voluntary Service was approved by the Parliament in April 2002 and will enter in effect on 1 January 2003, thus creating basic legal conditions for the further dynamic developments in this field. The state administration bodies are currently preparing suitable mechanisms for granting accreditation to volunteers' organisations on the basis of which these non-profit organisations can obtain governmental subsidies in support of their activities.

Within the International Year of Volunteers, the Czech Government also earmarked funds for support to voluntary programmes and projects. These funds have been divided, according to recommendations of the National Co-ordinating Committee, as a special subsidy among 23 best evaluated Czech volunteers organisations operating in the Czech Republic. In addition to its annual contribution to the UNV Special Voluntary Fund, the Czech Government highlighted its interest in co-operation with the UN Volunteers by concluding at the end of 2001 of a "Full Funding Agreement". This arrangement will unable the Government to fully fund, via the UNV, the engagement of increasing number of Czech volunteers in various UN projects and programmes abroad.

The Government of the Czech Republic appreciates the report of the Secretary General on "the International Year of Volunteers - Outcomes and Future Perspectives" and reaffirms its readiness to participate actively in the future UN activities in the area of development of volunteering and of volunteering in development.

Mr. President,

at the conclusion, allow me to use this honourable floor to thank, on behalf of the Government of the Czech Republic, the Czech volunteers who proved their irreplaceable role in our society most recently during the damaging floods last summer, as well as all volunteers world-wide for their courage, unselfishness, solidarity and humanity.

Thank you.

Statement by Mr. Jan KÁRA, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 14: "Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency"
New York, 11 November 2002

Mr. President,

At the outset I would like to thank Mr. ElBaradei, the Director-General, for his informative and comprehensive opening statement highlighting the achievements of the Agency´s activities in the course of the past period.

As the Czech Republic has associated itself with the statement delivered by Denmark on behalf of the European Union, I will touch only upon some of the topics that are of particular importance to my country.

Mr. President,

The efforts and activities of the IAEA are scrutinized in light of present debate on global security problems and role of nuclear energy in sustainable development. The key role of the Agency lies, in our view, in helping mankind to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks related to exploitation of the nuclear power. The international community expects the Agency to continue playing its important part under the three pillars of its mandate, that is verification, safety and technology. In previous period the IAEA succeeded in achieving its main objectives, that is in serving as a unique platform for transfer of nuclear science and technology, in building and maintaining global nuclear safety regime, in guarding against proliferation of nuclear weapons and in strengthening the security and physical protection of nuclear material and facilities.

Mr. President,

My country has continued to work hard with other countries to enhance the global non-proliferation regime and its verification. The recent completion of ratification by the Czech Parliament of the Protocol Additional to the Safeguards Agreement signed between the IAEA and the Czech Republic is the most visible contribution to these efforts in the last period. The full implementation of the Protocol has been among the highest priorities of involved state administration. Like the EU we would like to use this opportunity to urge those who have not done so yet to conclude similar protocols with the Agency without delay, in order to make the strengthened safeguards system as broad as possible and, ultimately, universal.

From the very beginning of international co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy the major supplying countries have recognized the responsibility to ensure that such co-operation activities do not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This principle is reflected in the NPT and in the multilateral regimes on export controls.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group together with Zangger Committee play an important role in support of the NPT and non-proliferation in general. The Czech Republic, which currently chairs the NSG, attaches high priority to the Group´s dialogue with other non-member states, in particular potential nuclear suppliers. In doing so we are as transparent and cooperative as possible in order to pursue the non-proliferation objectives.

Non-proliferation efforts have also their anti-terrorist dimension. The Czech Republic will not stay aside and wants to join new initiatives in the area of protection against nuclear terrorism including the Agency's Plan of Action. Both in-kind and financial contributions are under consideration.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic belongs to the group of countries with broad employment of Nuclear Technology to satisfy various needs of its society. In our view most of the nuclear technology non-power applications in human health, food and agriculture and chemical and physical sciences are able to bring distinct economic and social benefits in any part of the world. Of course any such use shall be carefully tailored to specific needs and existing infrastructure of individual country or region. In this context the Czech Republic recognizes the importance of technical co-operation among the Member States. With the aim to contribute to these endeavours Czech organizations and individual experts take active part in various co-operative programmes and other IAEA sponsored activities in order to encourage sound progress in the development and peaceful use of nuclear energy in Europe and other regions. As in previous years, the Czech Government allocated additional financial resources to support activities under the Agency's TC Programme and offered voluntary contributions to specific projects in Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. The Czech Republic also welcomes all the efforts in allocating TC funds efficiently to the activities of the Agency that are indispensable in its respective major programmes. Result oriented approach applied in process of planning for the programme and budget 2004 - 2005 is appropriate vehicle for achieving more efficient funds spending not only in TC area.

Since the Czech Republic is a country with scarce energy resources, nuclear power is an important part of our energy mix. Currently, about 20% of the country's electricity is generated by four units of Dukovany NPP, commissioning of two NPP Temelin units is in progress. When on full power, the installed capacity of Czech NPPs will more than double.

Mr. President,

Mentioning the NPP Temelin subject I cannot fail to mention the nuclear safety issues. I have to underline, that the Czech Government attaches the utmost importance to the safety of nuclear installations operated on its territory. In order to demonstrate this, the system of nuclear safety assessment continues to be based on the principles of independence and transparency. Peer reviews organised by the Agency are important part of the safety assessment structure in the Czech Republic. Bringing independent and internationally recognized expertise, missions to the NPP Temelin and Dukovany organised under the IAEA umbrella in the end of the last year again confirmed very good situation in all aspects of safety and offered a number of ideas for further improvements. In this respect, allow me, Mr. President, to use this opportunity and express once again words of appreciation both to the individual Member States making their experts available and to the Secretariat, in particular to the Department of Nuclear Safety and the Department of Technical Co-operation of the Agency.

However, we are concerned over the attempts to exclude Agency's peer review services from the regional Technical Co-operation Programme. High level of safety of nuclear installations and workplaces with sources of radioactive and ionizing radiation, physical protection or radiation protection are among constraints for any use of nuclear technologies and it is logical that this principle is also applied before any TC project is launched. It is useless to reiterate the importance of independent third party peer reviews in maintaining and further developing safety and security levels in use of nuclear energy and ionizing radiation. The same applies for re-emphasizing complexity and well-defined framework for conduct of review services offered by the Agency. Nevertheless, worth mentioning is the unique design of Agency's review services allowing sharing the experience gained and results achieved at least in interested groups, such as users of similar technology or regulatory authorities. Offering platform for experience and information sharing and discussion of common issues is one of the most important missions of the regional part of the TC programme.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, let me reassure you of my Government's continuing commitment to supporting and expanding the Agency role in international co-operation, in peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy and ionizing radiation for the benefit of all Member States.

Thank you Mr. President.

Statement by Mrs. Hana Sevcikova, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, at the Plenary Session of the 57th UN General Assembly, on Agenda Item 42: "Follow-up to the Outcome of the Implementation of the Declaratin of Commitment on HIV/AIDS"
New York, November 2002

Mr. President,

Allow me to start by complimenting the Secretary General and United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) on their work related with the overall process leading to the adoption of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS during the Special Session on HIV/AIDS in June 2001. The 26th UNGASS represents a very important step forward in the global effort in the fight against HIV/AIDS. For the first time since the beginning of the epidemic two decades ago, we have a document that summarises commitments needed to reduce and eliminate the spread of this deadly disease.

The Czech Republic appreciates the clarity of the language and of the goals set and reconfirms its commitment to contribute to the global alliance in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Relevant national targets from the Declaration of Commitment became a part of a new Medium-Term Plan for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS in the Czech Republic between 2003 and 2007. Seven out of nine UNAIDS national program and behavioural indicators were incorporated into the National Plan against HIV/AIDS for this time period.

The Czech Republic has been very lucky not to be so heavily affected by the epidemic so far. Our country ranks among world countries with the lowest HIV/AIDS incidence and prevalence. By August 2002, altogether 585 cases of HIV infection have been diagnosed and reported among 10.3 million of Czech citizens. Of this number, only 161 persons developed fully blown AIDS disease and 99 persons died because of HIV-related causes. We have been able to limit the cases of HIV transmission among injecting drug users because of widely accessible services for the exchange of injecting needles and syringes. So far, we have been able not to follow countries in Eastern Europe in the exponential increase of new cases of HIV infection, especially among injectors. Only 3 cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV have been reported so far in our country due to free access to voluntary counselling services and mandatory prophylaxis of all mothers infected by HIV virus. We still do have almost zero prevalence of HIV infection among blood donors. Antiretroviral drugs are accessible to all persons in need and their cost is covered by the national health insurance system and by the National AIDS Program budget.

We, however, do feel solidarity and share our responsibility for all our neighbours whose peoples may have been affected by the HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis in much larger scale. Their example teaches us that nobody can be safe against HIV/AIDS unless the whole planet co-ordinates its efforts to stop it.

A set of the UNAIDS indicators for the national level of response to the epidemic represents in our view a progress in monitoring the HIV response both on the national and international level. We would like to see the UNAIDS Programme Co-ordination Board more focusing its attention on further development of such indicators for measurement of the UN system advancement in its response to the HIV epidemic. Czech Republic declares its readiness to contribute actively to the work of the PCB not only in that area and to this end it has already presented its candidature for the post in the Board for the 2004-06 period.

The Czech Republic believes that more attention of the UNAIDS and its Secretariat should be focused on building national and sub-regional responses to the HIV epidemic. The platform for inter-country collaboration in our region needs to be strengthened and we do believe that UNAIDS should play a catalysing role in this process. We do support more intensive translation of the best international practices into action in other countries, using UNAIDS authority and leadership in this process.

To conclude, I would like to appreciate the report of the Secretary-General as contained in the document A/57/227. We especially welcome how the report stresses on the importance of protection of the human rights of the infected persons and their family members, as well as of collaboration with the non-governmental organisations in this field. We fully identify ourselves with the EU´s statement delivered during this session and together with the EU we stand ready to support especially those specific interventions as well as prevention and treatment capacities built at the local level to sustain effective respond to the disease.

Thank you for your attention.

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek, the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, at the Plenary session of the 57th UN General Assembly in the joint debate on agenda items 11 and 40 ("Report of the Security Council and Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters")
New York, October 15, 2002

Mr. President,

At the outset, let me appreciate the idea of organizing this joint debate on the Report of the Security Council and the Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council. There are commonalities in these two agenda items and we can spare some time as well as avoid some duplications when we discuss them together. Moreover, the Report by its new format sends a clear signal that change is possible, a signal that will be, as I hope, transmitted into battlefields where we have been struggling with the Council reform and enlargement for eight consecutive years.

The Report's new format is not revolutionary, but it makes it more user friendly and turns it into a very useful overview, including its introductory wrap-up section. Another considerable improvement is the adjustment of the time period covered by the report. In general, the improvements that have been introduced into this report deserve to be acknowledged as positive development leading to a greater transparency and accountability of Security Council, although they may still fall short of our expectations. I praise all who invested their efforts, under the guidance of the distinguished ambassador Mahbubani of Singapore, to make this new format possible.

The Report also adds to the evidence on an ongoing dynamics in the area of working methods of the Council. Although some of these changes seem to have been rather self-propelled by the Council, some other may have been at least inspired by the discussions in the Open-ended working group. This may, among others, hold for relations between the Council and troop-contributing countries, for opening of the "private meetings", for conduct of some open Council meetings or for communication and reporting to non-members. In any case, there is little doubt that the Council benefits from the work of the working group in "Cluster II" as well as from the increased interaction between the Council and the working group in previous two years. I therefore encourage the Bureau of the working group to continue the practice of inviting Council representatives for an interactive discussion with the group. And I believe that further progress in working methods and transparency of the Council is possible.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately, on the other front - that of equitable representation and increase of membership - the picture is rather gloomy. Last year, in the wake of the horrible terrorist attack, I expressed in this debate a view that "as international security vis-a-vis globalized crime calls for broader coalitions, for collective action by as many states as possible, the need of a truly representative Council becomes more urgent". But the atmosphere in the Open-ended working group did not improve and its progress in "Cluster I" issues has been perhaps more stalled than ever before.

The position of the Czech Republic on the "Cluster I" issues is well known and seems to be close to a mainstream: most notably we favor enlargement in both categories of permanent and non- permanent members, and some reduction of areas where the veto can be applied, possibly through voluntary commitments by permanent members and other steps which do not necessarily require Charter amendments. But we have previously also indicated a "degree" of flexibility, in expectation that flexibility may be shown by others, too.

It would be, for instance, extremely helpful if we could narrow down the range of options we repeatedly discuss in the working group on issues like "use of veto", "numbers for enlargement of Council" or others. Indeed, we have already more than enough options to choose from and we should - not as during the last session - move only one direction: to reduce number of these options and to get closer to the core of the matter.

But even if there was some progress on the "Cluster I", alone it would be unlikely to make the reform a reality. Therefore, we should definitely not lose sight of other reform vistas, including those indicated in the "farewell" statement of the President of the 55th General Assembly Mr. Holkeri on September 10, 2001, and especially his idea of moving our discussion to a higher political level.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Statement by Mr. Jan Kohout, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, at the General Debate of the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly,
New York, September 20, 2002

Mr. President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start with saying how pleased I am to see a representative of my own country presiding over this session. It is the first time the Czech Republic has a honour to chair this supreme body of the United Nations and I am grateful to all who made this possible by supporting our aspirations. I wish you, Mr. President, every success in the performance of this important function - the function which was raised to such a high standard by your predecessor, Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea.

Mr. President,

Representing the Government which assumed its function this July, I would like to confirm the continuity of the Czech foreign policy with its emphasis on the Euro-Atlantic dimension but also with a truly global reach and strong involvement in multilateral cooperation. And I should also mention that the Government of the Czech Republic has set its active participation in the fight against terrorism and against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as one of its top priorities.

This time a year ago the whole world was shocked by the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States of America of September 11th. The appalling dimensions of these attacks revealed the nature of the new threats that the international community is currently facing. Our response must be firm. We must move from the policy of containment to the policy of active struggle against international terrorism. At the same time we need to discuss issues that may be the source or fertile ground for violent acts of a similar nature.

This November, Prague will host the Summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Euro- Atlantic Partnership Council. The Czech Republic will support NATO enlargement to include further countries from Central and Eastern Europe. At the same time we are aware of the importance of NATO and EU relations with the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the Mediterranean countries. We also anticipate that the Prague Summit will mark an important milestone in the history of the Alliance in connection with its transformation to meet the current security challenges such as international terrorism and other asymmetric threats. We are convinced that these steps will contribute to the strengthening of stability and security of the world as a whole.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic is paying great attention to the problem of Iraq. We advocate the unconditional implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including those concerning the renewal of arms inspections, disarmament, release of detained Kuwaiti citizens and return of confiscated Kuwaiti property. The current regime in Iraq, because of its efforts to develop and produce weapons of mass destruction and its failure to comply with the will of the international community, represents an enormous risk not only for the security and stability of the Middle East region, but for the international community as a whole. I can assure you, Mr. President, that the Czech Republic advocates peaceful solution of disputes in international relations. However, our nation has its tragic experience with never ending concessions to aggressive regimes. We must not forget that peace must be sometimes defended even by force. The Czech Republic considers the letter by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq to UN Secretary General as a reaction to a firm stand and pressure of international community. This pressure on the Iraqi regime must continue until all Security Council requirements are met in full.

The Czech Republic also closely follows the developments in the Middle East. Let me recall that our preference here was always for peaceful and just settlement of the problem, in line with the resolutions of the UN Security Council No. 242, 338 and 1403. The only meaningful option is to continue negotiations with the objective of stabilizing the current situation as a step to achieving a complete and lasting peace in this region. The Czech Republic shares the vision of peaceful coexistence between Israel and independent and democratic Palestinian state, based on mutual trust and arrangements covering all the security concerns. In this regard, we welcome
the promising results of the Quartet meeting earlier this week.

With regard to peace and security, we recently witnessed some encouraging progress in the solution of armed conflicts in Africa,
namely in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in other areas including the Balkans and Afghanistan.
We welcome and support the positive changes. The Czech Republic is, for instance, devoting a long-term attention to relations with the states of South Eastern Europe and the stabilisation efforts of the international community in the Balkans. This year the Czech Republic became a participant to the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, which we regard as an important instrument for economic renewal and reconstruction of the region.

As for Afghanistan, we consider the peace, stability and democratisation a key factor, both for the further peaceful development of the whole region and also in the wider international context of the fight against terrorism. The international community has to increase its efforts to stabilise the security situation and support the economic renewal of Afghanistan, including the breaking of its economy's dependence on the cultivation of opium.

Mr. President,

Important components of the UN agenda are represented by the area of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Czech Republic supports the process of the gradual reduction of nuclear arms and their destruction within a frame of the ongoing process of the implementation and achievement of universality of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the coming into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And similarly, the Czech Republic works for the achievement of universality and rigorous implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, including the destruction of existing arsenals, and the strengthening of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. We also wish to see the renewal of the activities of the Conference on Disarmament and the commencement of substantive talks on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. We invite member states of the Conference to take decision concerning the enlargement of its membership.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic supports steps to strengthen the authority and effectiveness of the United Nations. This includes the reform and enlargement of the UN Security Council, revitalization of the General Assembly, peace-keeping operation following the Brahimi Report, the efforts to transform the "culture of reaction" to a "culture of prevention", and changes in ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, among others as a response to the challenges posed by Millennium Declaration Goals and recent major UN conferences. One of the major challenges currently facing the international community is ensuring that all countries have a fair access to the benefits of globalization. Issues such as development assistance and cooperation, debt relief for highly indebted developing countries and non-discriminatory participation in a multilateral trade system, together with what we call "good governance", are key both for the further economic progress in many parts of the world and for preserving favourable living conditions for the next generations.

In this context, the Czech Republic welcomes the successful conclusion of Monterrey conference on Financing for Development earlier this year and the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg just few weeks ago. The Summit reinforced the determination of international community to pursuit the goal of sustainable development and most importantly, laid stress on implementation, on time-bound goals and specific commitments, on responsibility and accountability. Let us now make sure that this core message from Johannesburg is not forgotten. And let us hope that the Summit is followed by concrete actions at global, regional, national and local levels, including through initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa s Development (NEPAD).

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic attaches great significance to the strengthening of international law and respect for human rights. We are determined to seek early finalization of a general UN convention on international terrorism. We also welcome the establishment of the International Criminal Court. I believe that the Czech Republic will in the near future join the large group of parties to the Rome Statute.

The Czech Republic is conscious of the UN contribution in promoting the respect and protection of human rights. We advocate a consistent approach to the fulfilment of the accepted obligations, in particular in relation to the advancement of women and protection of rights of child including in situation of armed conflicts. We advocate prevention and gradual elimination of all forms of racism and discrimination, including that against members of ethnic or religious minorities, persons with disabilities or older persons, and the ban on torture and the death penalty. We are also paying paramount attention to the draft Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Czech Republic will actively promote its approval by this session of the General Assembly.

Mr. President,

This session of the UN General Assembly will be remembered, inter alia, for the admission of two new members - Switzerland and East Timor. I welcome them most cordially to the UN family. Their entry to the UN is a further step towards completing the universality of the UN membership, the achievement of which the Czech Republic unambiguously supports, and yet another proof of vitality of our Organization.

I could stop here, Mr. President. But before I finish, allow me to take advantage of this prestigious occasion to raise two issues. First, I would like to reiterate the continued interest of the Czech Republic in supporting the activities of the United Nations Information Centre in Prague which was last year sheltered in new premises, the so-called Prague UN House, seating representative bodies also of other organizations of the United Nations system. And finally, I wish to warmly thank, on behalf of the people of the Czech Republic, to all who generously provided humanitarian and other assistance to my country after it was struck by devastating floods last August. At this critical time we have seen an enormous wave of international solidarity - and the flooding thus contributed to a coming together between ourselves, our neighbours and the rest of the world.

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, thank you for your attention.