New York, 23 September 2004 - On the fringe of the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York today, Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner among other things attended the Ministerial Meeting of the Human Security Network, which took place at the invitation of the current Chairman, the Canadian Foreign Minister Pettigrew. The subjects of the ministerial talks included, among others, the "2004 Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World" and the problem of children in armed conflicts, as well as the topic of human rights education. Furthermore, the current situation in Darfur was discussed by the representatives of the network of 13 countries, to which Austria also belongs.
Ferrero-Waldner reported on the "2004 Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World", the First Review Conference of the Antipersonnel Mines Ban Convention of Ottawa, which will take place largely on Austria’s initiative from 29 November to 3 December 2004 in Nairobi. The Foreign Minister deemed the fact that the Summit will be presided over by Austria as a particular recognition of the active role played by Austria in the fight against antipersonnel mines.
"Although important accomplishments have been made in the past 5 years since the Convention has come into force, such as 143 states signing up to the Convention or the destruction of 37 million antipersonnel mines, there are still 20,000 people worldwide who fall victim to landmines each year", the Foreign Minister stressed on an alarming note. Also, many important countries, including three permanent members of the UN Security Council, have thus far failed to sign the Ottawa Convention. The target of the Nairobi conference initiated by Austria must therefore be to "set the course for a solution to the mine problem in the coming years". The Foreign Minister emphasised that the assumption of the presidency at the Nairobi Summit must be considered as a recognition of Austria’s active role in the "Ottawa Process". Austria was one of those states that insisted on a total ban of antipersonnel landmines during the negotiations and who finally succeeded in pushing through the Convention in 1997. Furthermore, since 1998 Austria has provided about EUR 8 million for mine clearance, in particular for mine-clearance self-help training, programmes for awareness building and the rehabilitation of landmine victims.
Ferrero-Waldner emphasised the particular efforts of the Human Security Network in its fight against the use of children in armed conflicts. In this context, she especially highlighted the importance of Security Council resolution 1539, which is intended to create a monitoring mechanism for the observation and prevention of children’s rights violations in conflicts. "Such a mechanism could be the basis for establishing the responsibility of perpetrators in political terms and under criminal law", stressed the Foreign Minister. To this end, the Human Security Network consulted on providing targeted support for the UN Secretary-General as well as the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
Human rights education was another focus of the talks. In this context, Ferrero-Waldner referred to the Manual on Human Rights Education that was prepared during the Austrian Presidency and which has been translated into English, Spanish, French and Arabic and will soon also be available in a Chinese and a Russian version. "Releasing this publication in all UN languages will ensure the broadest possible use of the manual in educational facilities worldwide", said Ferrero-Waldner.
With regard to the critical situation in Darfur, the Minister for Foreign Affairs reiterated her call for an investigation and clarification of human rights violations. She welcomed the fact that Secretary-General Annan had been mandated with the appointment of an international commission and expressed her support for the Security Council resolution of 18 September. "In view of the refugees’ precarious situation, international aid efforts must not dwindle", underlined the Minister for Foreign Affairs.