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Third Committee of the 54th General Assembly

Statement by H.E. Mr. Martin Palous, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, on Agenda Item 116 (b,d,e)New York, November 8, 1999 Statement by H.E. Mr. Jiri Malenovsky, Director-General of the Legal and Consular Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Martin Palous, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, on Agenda Item 116 (b,d,e)
    New York, November 8, 1999

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Jiri Malenovsky, Director-General of the Legal and Consular Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, on Agenda Item 114
    New York, October 25, 1999

  • Statement by Ms. Nadezda Holikova, Second Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 107 and 108
    New York, October 19, 1999

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, Chairman of the Third Committee
    New York, September 21, 1999

Statement by H.E. Mr. Martin Palous, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, on Agenda Item 116 (b,d, e)

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

In a few days, the Czech Republic will celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the so-called "Velvet Revolution". The sudden and largely unexpected collapse of oppressive totalitarian regimes throughout Central and Eastern Europe was welcomed by the international community as a major and even decisive victory in the struggle for democracy and the respect for human rights in the contemporary world. Ten years after, however, we can clearly see that history did not reach its "end", as some scholars predicted, with this miraculous liberation. On the contrary, in 1999, it seems clear that

- the process of transition from communism is "open-ended" and largely unpredictable;

- the scope and impact of change is much greater than we thought in 1989;

- we have to face new challenges coming from the future and not only try to overcome the unfortunate legacies of the past;

- our situation less than two months before entering the Jubilee Year of 2000 requires from us creative thinking and new responses.

In this context, let me mention briefly two things representing the core of the actual policy on human rights of the Czech Republic.

1. As recently stated in the Human Rights Memorandum issued by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the promotion and protection of human rights is one of the basic principles, and thus one of the main priorities, of Czech foreign policy. Starting from our own experience with totalitarianism, we know how important and powerful can be a sheer act of human solidarity with the victims of human rights violations. We also realize that in today´s globalized world, cases of human rights violation cease to be a local matter and rightly become the concern of the whole international community. Therefore, the Czech Republic has been trying - and it will keep doing so in the future - to be actively engaged in the open and contructive dialogue in various international fora and institutions on the state of human rights. The Czech Government understands the importance, in this connection, of an effective cooperation with the world community of democratic nations. In order to be fruitful, any discussion on human rights requires a positive approach of the discussion partners, in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.

While defending the principle of indivisibility of human rights, the Czech Republic appreciates the importance of a proper balance between their civil, social and economic components. At the same time, the Czech Government is aware that an initiative critical of the human rights situation in any part of the world can be fruitful only if it uses - as a matter of preference - the available channels and mechanisms, addressing the human right problems in a spirit of cooperation rather than confrontation and encouraging the general will to cooperate. This is why my Government considers that the criterion for the credibility of such efforts is the existence of a true political dialogue on human right issues. In this context, we hold the opinion that the effectiveness of economic sanctions as a means of pressure on governments violating certain human rights principles is limited. Therefore, the Czech Republic does not actively support such policies.

2. My second remark concerns the human rights situation in my country. I would like to declare very clearly: the Czech Republic does not intend to criticize others from the position of its own perfection, forgetting its own human rights problems. It is well known that the main human rights problem which we have now in the Czech Republic concerns the situation of the Roma minority. The Czech Republic has been criticized on a number of occasions for not being able to deal with this complex issue in an effective and speedy way. Although it is generally recognized that one cannot change the world overnight and get rid of a burden that has been growing for many decades - or even centuries, - we have been urged from many sides to activate the steps we take - in other words to do much more much faster.. I would like to say that we welcome an international dialogue on this topic and our approach is to learn as much as we can from all critical remarks. As a former human rights activist, I am quite concerned about the efficiency of such communication. Comparing our current situation with the one we faced a few years ago, I daresay that despite all the problems and difficulties we have (including the unfortunate fence-wall in the town of Ústí nad Labem, which from the point of view of my Government is absolutely unacceptable) quite a lot has already been achieved. It is also true that quite a lot remains to be done. There can be no doubt, however, about the goodwill on our side. The problems which we are struggling with in the Czech Republic are not easy, but I do not think that our case is totally exceptional. The Roma community meets various visible and invisible walls in most European countries where it is established.

The positive response we are looking for and trying to implement in various programs and strategies has one common denominator: more cooperation and better communication. The fundamental question is how to transform the negative attitudes, conflicting behaviour, prejudices, resentments and biases, which have been growing surreptitiously for a long period of time, into synergies. That is how to reach a comprehensive solution of the Roma problem based on mutual understanding and goodwill, both on the part of the majority population and of the Roma community. What can be done to strengthen the spirit of cooperation ? Such a change of orientation would be for us an important sign of progress. From this perspective, we do invite criticism, but not for criticism´s sake. Criticism, in order to be useful, must mobilize and not demobilize those who are trying to do something; it has to be constructive and not destructive, opening space for dialogue and offering a perspective of cooperation. We are firmly convinced that the problems we are struggling with are manageable. Apart from the highly medialized and criticized fence-wall, which has become an absurd, Kafka-like symbol, we can present to the international community also a number of success stories and small victories proving that things are changing for the better.

Mr. Chairman, in conclusion I would like to repeat once more: the Czech Republic is prepared to support the development of the international human rights mechanisms to the best of its abilities. We are ready to offer our experiences and at the same time to learn from others how to improve the situation of human rights, both at home and in the world.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Statement by H.E. Mr. Jiri Malenovsky, Director-General of the Legal and Consular Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic on Agenda Item 114

Mr. Chairman,

The delegation of the Czech Republic has already aligned itself with the statement made by the delegation of Finland on behalf of the European Union on agenda items 114 and 115. I would therefore limit myself to some comments with regard to the statement delivered in the Third Committee on 21 October on behalf of the Special Rapporteur on measures to combat contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Czech Republic highly appreciates the work of the Special Rapporteur but it is of the view that, by focusing mainly on the problem of Roma population in the Czech Republic and two other European countries, his statement was not adequately balanced. Other current manifestations of racism, discrimination or xenophobia in other parts of the world were referred to only in a sporadic and isolated manner in the Rapporteur´s speech.

The Czech Republic is fully aware of the fact that the situation of Roma community on its territory is not satisfactory. Therefore, being a democratic country, it pays due attention to recommendations and suggestions of other countries and international institutions. Although the Czech Republic has become a Contracting Party to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and the protection of Roma community is thoroughly granted by its domestic legislation, it has not yet been always feasible to free interpersonal relations from elements of intolerance so typical for many countries still coping with the heritage of their totalitarian past.

In the last few months, criticism regarding the Czech Republic has been connected with the construction of a two-metre-high concrete fence or wall in the town of Ústí nad Labem which was also - in a regrettably uninformed manner - mentioned in the statement of the Special Rapporteur. The intention of its builders was to solve the neighbours' dispute between groups of citizens, all of them having played their own negative role in escalating tensions in the locality. Unfortunately, the wall - or fence - has gradually, after it had been brought to the attention of the international community, become a symbol of racial intolerance. Even if we do not agree with this perception, we are committed to address this issue, not only because of the damage it has caused to the image of the Czech Republic abroad, but for the sake of finding a balanced solution to the problem.

Both the Government and Parliament of the Czech Republic consider the construction of a wall to be an unacceptable solution of any social controversy. The construction of the wall in Ústí nad Labem is not an outcome of the dialogue and agreement between the parties involved but a mere manifestation of bureaucratic stubbornness of the local authorities injuring human dignity of all the participants. On 13 October, the decision of these authorities regarding the construction of the wall has been annulled by the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament. Currently, the Government is earnestly trying to find a prompt, acceptable and lasting solution. For that purpose, on 18 October, Special Representative of the Government has been appointed with the task to reopen the dialogue between the parties of the dispute.

The Czech Republic is fully aware of its responsibility for the overall improvement of the status of Roma community on its territory, the responsibility it has both towards its own citizens and to the international community. During the last few years, numerous fundamental and positive measures have been taken regarding Roma population and the international community has been regularly provided with respective information.

The Roma are faced with invisible walls and indifference of the majority population basically anywhere they live, in many cases being also excluded from the full participation in the civil society or in fact deprived of education. The problem of Roma has therefore undoubtedly its international and all-European dimensions and, as such, it has to be targeted by the states together, in a close cooperation.

The Czech Republic has been consistently calling for this cooperation. Last year, as a result of the initiative and financial contribution of my country, the structure of the OSCE Office for the Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw has been reinforced and the post of the coordinator for Roma has been established. In cooperation with the Council of Europe, the Strategic Plan for the solution of inter-ethnic relations between the majority population and Roma community has been developed in Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic. The Council of Europe intends to introduce the Plan as a blueprint elsewhere in Europe. Last August, following the recommendation by the Czech Republic, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights adopted the decision No. 1999/109 asking for the preparation of a working paper on the human rights problems and protection of the Roma in the world, which is to be submitted to the Sub-Commission next year.

The Czech Republic is strongly committed to further continue its international efforts concerning the status of Roma community. It firmly believes that, by means of cooperation with the UN and other international organizations and institutions, it will acquire necessary support of other states for its call to approach the problem from the Europe-wide perspective in order to reach general and lasting improvement of the status of the Roma in Europe and in the entire world.

Statement by Ms. Nadezda Holikova, Second Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 107 and 108

Mr. Chairman,

Let me first congratulate you and other members of the bureau on your election and wish you success in your important work.

Last week, my delegation associated itself with the EU statement made on the agenda items 107 and 108. Nevertheless, allow me now to make some additional remarks regarding the problems of particular importance to the Czech Republic.

The life of many societies all over the world is challenged by the increasing seriousness of the abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as a lasting but unacceptable phenomenon. The destructive impact of drug abuse on societies and their economies has been well documented.

With the advancing globalization, qualitatively new and more favourable conditions are created for the activities of transnational organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking. The global spread of the post-modernist culture, along with the erosion of traditional ties and values, created in many countries fertile soil for raising the threshold of tolerance of drug abuse by societies.

Primary responsibility for combating drug abuse lies undoubtedly with individual national governments. However, in spite of many well-meaning words stated on various occasions, many countries faced with political, social or economic instability are in a situation forcing them to use the available resources elsewhere, where they are more needed. Objectively, such situation calls for more effective international cooperation in combating drug abuse, including technical assistance to affected countries.

It is very encouraging to hear that not only UNDCP but also other UN bodies and agencies are deeply involved in combating the drug abuse. We are of the view that the ways and means of their future involvement in this field should be further explored. At the same time, it is necessary to give more attention to the coordination of their work and to improve the existing information links between various bodies in order to avoid overlapping and duplication of their activities.

The world community has set up effective drug control machinery within the UN system. It has also agreed on a medium-term strategy included in the Political Declaration of the 20th UN General Assembly Special Session, plans of action and the Declaration on demand reduction. Although some improvement can be noticed, the number of countries which have ratified and above all implemented the fundamental international legal drug control instruments, in particular the 1988 Convention, is still considerably low. Without compliance with these instruments, any progress would be practically impossible and results achieved will be lagging far behind the expectations. The failure to meet the goals we have set forth would then degrade all the efforts taken so far and would certainly and inevitably lead to the need for an overall review of the approach of the international community to the drug problem.

In the Czech Republic, the problem of drug abuse is addressed as a serious issue. Since January 1, 1999, the country has made important steps in the legal adjustment to international norms. An amendment to the Penal Code, which came into force on that date, criminalizes the possession of a small amount of drugs exceeding the amount for personal use only. This step harmonizes Czech legislation with the country's international obligations and, according to the latest surveys, has produced positive results by impeding the activities of drug dealers. Furthermore, the country adopted a new law tightening the regime for precursors and essential chemicals as well as the control requirements for flunitrazepam. In this case, the arrangements are even stricter than those contained in the 1971 Convention. The Czech Government is ready to discuss a bill on probation and mediation services to facilitate the passing of alternative sentences in near future. Another step taken has been the introduction of a system of specialization of prosecutors in drug crime prosecution and a complex system of special training for judges, prosecutors and probation officers dealing with drug issues. The Czech Republic has also recorded a positive effect of the extension of competences of customs authorities by giving them the status of police forces. The results of this were visible practically immediately in operations against drug trafficking both in the Czech Republic and in the framework of international cooperation.

Within a wider international framework, the Czech Republic together with another four Central European countries, associated in the Central European Cooperation Programme, has been seeking concrete projects that would help to improve mutual cooperation. We hope to push ahead with our cooperation also at our Budapest meeting planned for this year. I would like to mention in this place also the broader European context and above all the recent developments in the Balkans. It is no secret that after a tough struggle with mafias from the former Soviet Union, the so-called Kosovo-Albanian Mafia has got control of the heroin market both in the Czech Republic and in some other neighbouring countries. This should be given due attention in the UNDCP as well as in other European law enforcing structures.

As a member of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Czech Republic follows very closely its important work. We are convinced that the deliberations of the Commission should not be only a platform for the declaratory statements. The Commission must actively contribute to the implementation of the overall antidrug strategies. The candidature of the Czech Republic for the Chairmanship of the upcoming 43rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is focused on this goal as a matter of priority.

Transnational organized crime is not limited only to drug trafficking but it is also involved in corruption, prostitution, arms smuggling and trafficking in human beings. If finished, the currently discussed draft Convention on Transnational Organized Crime would become an important tool for strengthening cooperation between countries. However, the debates held up to date show that its contents may not exceed the framework of the 1988 Convention. This would mean that an excellent chance would be squandered and that organized crime would again have the upper hand as it could use the loopeholes in national legislations for its benefit and for reducing risks to its operations.

In conclusion, let me thank the Under Secretary-General Mr. P. Arlarcchi for his informative statement. The Czech Republic highly values the work of the Vienna Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, and the Government of the Czech Republic is ready to continue its support for the important activities of the Office in the future.

Thank you.

Statement by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Galuska, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, Chairman of the Third Committee

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, dear friends,

I would like to open the meeting of the Third Committee today by thanking you for the honor you have bestowed on me by electing me to the post of the Committee's chairman. In return I can promise you, that I will discharge my duties with all my energy and with full commitment to our common goal. I will focus all my attention and that of my aides on the work of the Committee, I will be impartial and listen to your proposals without prejudice, as is expected and required from my position.The Chairman, and I am sure I can speak for the future Bureau as well, and certainly for the Secretariat, will try to be as "user friendly" as humanely possible and you are invited to address us with your concerns in or outside our meetings any time.I would like to pay tribute at this time to my predecessor Ambassador Ali Hachani of Tunisia under whose able guidance the work of the Third Committee was concluded smoothly last fall. I would wish to bear the torch he has passed me with the distinction he has achieved.

This year we shall not feel the energizing effects of a major anniversary like last years commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nevertheless the world community expects us to address the pressing issues of humankind without relying on additional inspiration. We do have an ambitious and exhausting agenda set forward to us by the GA resolutions, ECOSOC and various UN Commissions. I hope we shall all share the rewarding feeling of moving the cart a little forward at the end of our deliberations.

Not that we are completely deprived of any celebrations this year. The tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child will give us opportunity to asses it's effectiveness in the plenary of the General Assembly. To bridge a lifetime we shall meet in the plenary to follow up on 1999 International Year of Older Persons which is appropriately closing this millenium.

This last year in the most widely used calendar's millenium does not fortunately bring us the end of the world. Not even the recent total eclipse of the sun has solved all our problems as some predicted, and a few are confident that the Y2K will not do the work either.

We are bound to work hard as a duty to former and future generations and we shall make the UN worth it's ambitiuos name.

I wish all of us, the distinguished delegates of 188 countries, successful work in the Third Committee during this 54th session of the General Assembly, work marked by cooperation rather than competition, friendship rather than mistrust, result rather than the process, shortly, marked by the qualities for which the Committee has become famous for.

Thank you.