Ferrero-Waldner at the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations
Statement by H.E. Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria
58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, September 25, 2003
Mr. President !
It is only a few days ago that the United Nations was again attacked in Baghdad, just a month after the UN Headquarters had been targeted by a devastating terrorist attack. My heartfelt sympathies - not only as the Foreign Minister of Austria, but also as a former staff member working here at the headquarters of the United Nations - go to the victims, their loved ones and to all colleagues in the UN family. Sergio Vieira de Mello and his collaborators died heroes. As a host country to the UN Austria firmly supports the Secretary General’s call for providing the utmost safety for UN personnel on missions everywhere in the world.
The UN-staff members had dedicated their lives to helping the most vulnerable. Today we are called upon to live up to their cause.
This has also been a year of lethal attacks on politicians who courageously stood for a human face of politics. We sadly remember the outstanding leadership qualities and invaluable contributions of Zoran Dzindzic and Anna Lindh. We are equally saddened to learn that Ms. Aquila al-Haschimi, Member of the Iraqi Governing Council, has succumbed to her injuries suffered in the recent terrorist attack.
What is at stake today is how the UN can best shoulder their responsibility for global security and peace and how we as Member States can support the UN in this task.
Austria as one of the host countries to the United Nations feels responsible for the future functioning of the organisation.
The intense public scrutiny of the Security Council’s actions over the past twelve months has opened a window of opportunity for re-launching our efforts to find unity of purpose based on a common security agenda between all nations. In this context, I highly welcome the report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of the Millennium Declaration, which makes one thing crystal clear: We face nothing less than the need for a far-reaching overhaul of the United Nations system in order to enhance efficiency and legitimacy.
We must respond to this challenge and energetically revive the reform debate. The urgency we are faced with today should render a new attempt more successful.
First of all, a priority issue should be the reform of the procedures in the UN system. The composition of the Security Council is at odds with the geopolitical reality of the 21st century. It does not reflect the growing number of UN members nor the necessary regional balance. The decision-making therefore is perceived by many as lacking legitimacy. In my view, this discussion is not only about who should be represented in the Security Council, but - at least as important - about ensuring that the decision making is in the interest of world peace and global security. In this context the regional groups have to accept their responsibility in coming forth with solutions.
As a member of the European Union, which is about to give itself a constitution for the 21st Century, it is important to note that we are moving gradually towards a genuine common foreign and security policy. To this end a Security Doctrine is being elaborated by the High Representative/Secretary General Solana for the European Council. Speaking with one voice also means more common positions in Security Council matters. This logic might one day even lead to the European Union having a seat at the Security Council.
Austria sees her national interest best served by the multilateral approach of a strong UN system, by a Security Council living up to its responsibility for world peace and by maintaining the primacy of international law and the universality of human rights. International terrorism is a direct and lethal threat to global solidarity and collective security. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and on the UN Headquarters in Baghdad have one thing in common: they were targeted against civilization as a whole.
United Nations leadership is needed more than ever to prevent and combat terrorism globally. In the UN system-wide division of labour, the Vienna based Terrorism Prevention Branch of the Office of Drugs and Crime contributes to the counter-terrorism efforts and offers valuable technical assistance to states in signing, ratifying and implementing the international conventions and protocols related to terrorism.
Another hard threat to international security is the proliferation of arms, in particular the spread of weapons of mass destruction. What is needed is obvious: the strengthening and universalization of existing disarmament and non-proliferation control as well as of export control regimes. As a practical contribution to this cause Austria has agreed to serve as immediate central contact for the 109 subscriber states of the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
Also, the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which I had the honour to open on September 3, appealed in its final declaration to all States to sign and ratify, in particular to those 12 countries whose ratification is required for the Treaty's entry into force. Let me repeat and support this appeal!
In the field of non-proliferation the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the leadership of Director General Mohamed el Baradei are essential. Last week’s General Conference of the IAEA unanimously endorsed the necessity of strengthening the international nuclear safeguards system. Recent issues of compliance concerning Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have again shown the central role the IAEA.
One of our great immediate tasks is stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq. We are convinced that reaching the aim of restoring the sovereignty of Iraq as quickly as possible will hardly be feasible without the United Nations playing its part on the basis of a sound, viable and coherent policy.
In line with the human security approach, Austria was among the first to offer humanitarian aid. In Austrian hospitals we provided urgent medical assistance for children in critical condition. Furthermore Austria participates in the Adopt a Hospital program and is about to equip two hospitals in Nazariyah. Together with Slovenia and Jordan, we are preparing the establishment of a centre for war-traumatized children in Baghdad. These are efforts aimed at relief for the weakest and most vulnerable members of Iraqi society.
In spite of renewed efforts by the International Community to revive the Middle East Peace Process, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has again tragically deteriorated. But current setbacks must not stall the implementation of the Road Map. Austria continues to strongly support the role and the responsibility of the Quartet.
The concept of two states remains the only viable solution. The promise of land for peace must be reactivated to create a basis of trust and respect on which to build. Terrorism destroys such hope.
In Afghanistan, Austria appreciates the stabilizing effect of the UN Assistance Mission coordinating the international efforts to political and economic reconstruction. I am convinced that continued attention needs to be given to the situation of Afghan women and girls. Hence, Austria focuses its aid towards women and children in addition to projects in de-mining and the fight against opium production and trafficking.
Turning to what the Secretary General called soft threats, here his report coincides with the goals of my recently concluded presidency of the Human Security Network to strengthen the universal system by forging inter-regional consensus on issues pertaining to human security. This places the individual human being and its protection in the centre of our policies.
As a concrete result of my presidency the Ministers of the Network adopted a manual on human rights education. This unique training tool is designed for global use and adaptable to target groups, based on the universality of human rights.
The Network also adopted a strategy for supporting children affected by armed conflict, along with a training curriculum for child rights experts and a compendium of the relevant international child protection standards, an effort in which we closely cooperated with the Secretary General’s Special Representative Olara Otunnu.
The Millennium Development Goals have become fundamental benchmarks in our efforts to achieve a more inclusive and equitable globalisation and we, both developing and developed countries, need to strive for their fulfilment at the global, regional and national levels. As part of the partnership effort agreed to in Monterrey, I am in this context happy to announce that the Austrian ODA will be increased by 35% in 2004.
Johannesburg recognized the importance of energy for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Austria welcomes the additional impetus created by the "Renewables 2004" Conference. I am also glad that the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), will establish its secretariat in Vienna. Meanwhile Austria will use the synergies created by these activities to continue her own endeavours to build up the capacity of the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy, which I launched in 1999.
Let me at this point express Austria’s disappointment that the Ministerial Meeting in Cancun could not sustain the momentum towards achieving acceptable solutions for fair trade. Such a setback must not repeat itself. Not the least because trade is an engine for development, I support the notion that we also need to start a reform of the decision making process within the WTO. We have to avoid a tendency towards ending multilateralism and towards relying exclusively on bilateralism or regionalism in trade.
This year we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights which confirmed the universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness of human rights, as well as the important nexus between human rights, democracy and development. Human rights disasters that we have witnessed since, such as Rwanda, Srebrenica, etc., must not be allowed to occur again. One essential step in this regard is the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which I signed this morning.
Human rights must particularly protect the weak, women and children. As a woman and as foreign minister of my country I have always spoken out in favour of the rights of women and against the frequently terrible infringements of them, such as genital mutilation, stoning of women, enslaving and trading women and girls on the sex markets, etc. These horrendous practices must stop! And there is reason for hope: Today is a good day for women's rights. News has reached us that Ms Armina Laval was acquitted by a Nigerian court. I am very happy about this outcome.
Let us remind ourselves that the all important fight against terrorism must not entail a lessening of hard fought-for human rights standards.
Austria has over the years and under the guidance of the Secretary General placed great importance on a comprehensive Dialogue of Cultures and Civilizations. This November I will host a second media seminar on the topic of "Cultural diversity, the Quest for Common Moral Ground and the Public Role of the Media", exploring how the free media can contribute to cultural understanding and respect.
A seminal event in the context of this Dialogue was the first ever conference of European Islamic leaders in Austria in June of this year, which adopted a strongly worded declaration in support of tolerance.
Other soft but very real threats are HIV/Aids and other contagious diseases, which are not only a health problem but a societal problem, an impediment to development and a major security concern. We have to see the fight against these scourges of humanity also as an issue of human rights, of education and of fighting poverty. In view of the action urgently needed Austria is prepared to finance UNICEF’s Project on Expanded and Innovative HIV/AIDS Prevention Focusing on Youth in Ethiopia.
To mention one more soft threat that all too frequently turns into hard facts, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, antipersonnel landmines and unexploded ordnances; they kill millions every year. Austria is honoured to take the chair of the first review conference of the landmine ban treaty to be held in 2004 in Nairobi.
How can we contribute to stability in the regions of the world? Europe has its own experience with creating a zone of stability and welfare. The signing of the EU accession treaty with 10 new prospective members in April of this year is an important contribution to security on our continent. The strategy of the EU is also geared to exporting this peace dividend to the new neighbours of the enlarged EU, further to the East, Southeast and in the Mediterranean region.
Let me highlight one encouraging event from this region, which I could witness from a close vantage point, when I visited Belgrade not even two weeks ago. I am talking about the important gesture of President Marovic of Serbia and Montenegro and of President Mesic of Croatia, apologizing on behalf of their citizens, who have committed acts of violence against each other in recent history.
The vision of global solidarity, collective security and a global culture of human rights are rooted in the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am grateful to the Secretary-General for his courage and leadership to engage us in an honest, future-oriented debate.
The time to act is now. I can again assure you, Mr. Secretary-General, that Austria supports you in this important endeavour.
Thank you Mr. President !