Speech

The Prime Minister's speech at the UN General Assembly, 22 September 1997

Check against delivery

 

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen

First of all I should like to refer to the intervention which will be given tomorrow by the Foreign Minister of Luxem-bourg on behalf of the European Union. I should also like to congratulate you, Mr. President of the General Assembly, Your Excellency, the foreign minister of Ukraine, upon your election.

And, Mr. President, may I just reflect a little bit upon the fact that it is three decades ago that a Danish Prime Minister - Mr. Jens Otto Krag - presented the yearly address to the 22nd General Assembly. The challenges then are not very similar to the challenges of our time and yet, they are of no less complexity nor magnitude. For the United Nations to face up to the challenges, the United Nations must adapt, must reform, must change, must modernize. That is why reforms must be a priority for this General Assembly. And that is why in all humbleness I am here today to support the Secretary-general, to do what I can on behalf of my country, so we can reach our goal and have the necessary decisions in place at the conclusion of this General Assembly to modernize, to reform.

Mr. President,

Since the 22nd General Assembly 30 years ago we have seen disappointments, we have seen civil wars, we have seen frustrations, backlashes and incredible sufferings and yet, we have also seen lights, we have seen peace where war raged. We have seen enemies turn into friends and live peacefully together. Yes, we have seen Apartheid disappear. We have seen the Berlin Wall fall. We have seen the oppressed coming out of jails, being elected as leaders of their countries and, some of them, becoming the world's most outstanding leaders. We have seen the winds of change sweep over continents.

Mr. President,

I believe that if our generation should not believe in the impossible - who can? I think that our generation should take the necessary decisions. - Who else could? All in all I think this is of crucial importance for the United Nations. Because a reform program for the United Nations is not only about more efficient use of scarce resources, it is also, and more importantly, about strengthening and revitalizing the organization so it can carry out its core activities effectively and meet the challenges of the future. A reform closer to the people, a reform closer to NGOs and parliamentarians, a reform unifying governments, the UN and the peoples of the world.

The core activities and priorities are clearly described in the reform program by the Secretary-General. With great precision and clarity the Secretary-General spelled out what my government fully subscribes to: Peace and Security; Economic and Social Affairs; Development Cooperation; Humanitarian Affairs; and - as an activity cutting across the others - Human Rights, because human rights make this United Nations the peoples' United Nations.

These core functions of the UN are interdependent and mutually supportive. No amount of funding will create sustainable development without peace, good governance, and respect for human rights. None of our efforts in the field of peace and security or humanitarian relief will be of durable effect without efforts to create sustainable development.

Mr. President,

Denmark gives its full support to the reform program of the Secretary-General. We consider this program in its totality a significant contribution towards strengthening of the organization and towards making it more responsive, legitimate, and efficient.

And I see also the spirit of the Secretary-General in motivating the employees of the United Nations by creating shorter lines between the level of the Secretary-General and the people working for our common goal both in this house and around the world.

Reform is about shifting resources to the core functions of the United Nations, shifting resources - from administration to development. In short, if you like: more value for money - centrally, locally.

The reform program constitutes a package. It should be dealt with by the General Assembly as such. The program as a whole should receive the poli-tical en-dorse-ment of the Assem-bly in the coming weeks.

My country endorses the package - fully and wholly.

Ground-breaking work has been carried out on the way towards Security Council Reforms. Expansion of the membership of the Council is essential in order to en-hance its legitima-cy. At the same time, its effecti-veness and decision-making capacity must be safeguarded.

But, Mr. President, I think there is also a 'but'.

We must unify and act collectively to reform. We are gathered at this General Assembly to reform, to open a new chapter of a reformed and modernized United Nations. But it has to be said that no institution can discharge its functions without a sound financial basis. Member states' fulfillment of their financial obligations must be considered the touchstone of their attachment to the United Nations.

Mr. President,

I am not a billionaire, I am probably neither a millionaire. I am the Prime Minister of my country. I know the way to go, I know my country's obligations - financially and otherwise. I hope this General Assembly will be a turning point for all member countries. A sound financial basis requires first and foremost that member states pay their contributions in full, on time, and without any conditions. The contributions of member states must be based on their capacity to pay. Therefore, let us join, as we have done on the reforms, let us join and finance the UN on its path to the next century.

Mr. President,

Political instability, violence, and the collapse of the structures of society have lead to massive refugee population movements. Large numbers of people, millions of people, have fled to regions far from their homes.

We are deeply concerned about this situation. We must do our utmost to support the humanitarian organizations in their efforts to assist refugees and other displaced persons as close to their local environment as possible. As close to their homes as possible.

And yet, still refugees and other displaced persons cannot return to their homes as long as anti-personnel mines remain scattered throughout the countryside, as long as human beings by the thousands are being injured or killed when they work their fields. As long as children cannot go to school without risking losing a limb on their way.

Mr. Secretary-General,

You said it yourself in your speech in Oslo, you underlined that the very presence or just the fear of only one mine being present can put a stop to a whole village, to the work in a whole field, can make it impossible for families or whole villages to survive, to create living conditions. Without mines, countries may double or triple their agricultural production and thereby help themselves.

We must get rid of those anti-personnel mines and we must start doing today rather than tomorrow.

I look forward to the day when the last anti-personel mine will have been produced. That will be a good day for mankind.

I look forward to the day when the last anti-personel mine has been removed. That too will be a good day for mankind. And the day must come soon.

And I look forward to the day when a UN convention will settle this so that it will never come upon us again.

We must, Mr. President, at the same time work at improving the basic conditions of life for ordinary people in the areas of conflict. Only in this way can we prevent people becoming permanent refugees.

Mr. President,

In the past year we have once again experienced how quickly crisis can break out in different parts of the world. It underlines the need for the international commu-nity to be able to react swiftly and in unity in order to prevent the spread of violence and human suffering.

Denmark, my country, has taken the initiative to establish a multinational high readiness brigade, as also the Secretary-General mentioned. The planning element of the briga-de was officially inaugurated in Denmark by the Secretary-General earlier this month in my country.

This initiative aims at increasing the rapid reaction capability and must be carried forward. Improved UN planning capacity is under way and will help reduce the overall response time.

Capacity within other areas must be enhanced as well. Civilian police has proven crucial in many of the recent operations. We must improve both the capa-city and the training of civilian police officers.

Mr. President,

Next year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of a major achievement in the history of mankind: The adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

The noble object of the Declaration is the protection of individuals - not the interests of states. All human beings are equal and deserve equal protection against abuse. Therefore the standards of the Declaration, and I repeat, the standards of the Declaration, are by their very nature universal.

Any denunciation of human rights obligations is unacceptable and demonstrates a lack of respect for human dignity.

Mr. President,

Talking about credibility, I think it is of importance to underline that there must be a connection between violating human rights and consequences to follow. I therefor think that a significant, recent development since the adoption of the Declaration is the establishment of the office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. I welcome the new High Commissioner, Mrs. Mary Robinson. She will receive our full support in her endeavors to promote and ensure universal respect for human rights.

But respect for human rights also demands international justice. After the Nuremberg trials we believed that Holocaust would never happen again. And yet new genocides are haunting us.

Therefore, we need a permanent international criminal court. We will not accept crimes against humanity to go unpunished. This is a fundamental question of credibility, this is a fundamental question of justice.

Setting a precise date for a Diplomatic Conference in 1998 is essential to maintain the momentum for the early establishment of the Court before the end of this decade.

Mr. President,

The need to assist the poorest countries is of great importance and as great as ever. The poorest coun-tries do not in my mind attract enough priva-te ca-pital flows and they do not have the potential to benefit from the liberalization of international trade.

Also here it is time for action. Also here it is time to diminish the gap between rhetoric and action. I remind you of our Summit in Copenhagen, the Social Summit. I remind you of our obligations and I remind you of our vision of narrowing the gap between the rhetoric and practical action. Education, health, participation for women are fundamentals.

Thus, the role of the UN system in the field of economic and social development is indispensable. I should like to emphasize, in particular, the impor-tance of the UN as an organization operating with a global mandate and on the basis of a global approach of sustainable development, security, and good governance.

Let me mention by way of example the world conference on women in Beijing. It should be a primary task for the UN system to ensure an effective follow-up to these conferences.

Mr. President,

The UN should be in the forefront of the global efforts to ensure sustainable deve-lopment for all. And yet, let us be direct and clear and honest. The United Nations development organizations concerned are entirely dependent on voluntary contributions and these have, regrettably, followed a decreasing trend in recent years.

I think it is fair to say that the UN development organizations themselves can be partly blamed for the emerging crisis concerning fun-ding. All too often they have failed to cooperate. Many donors have been frustrated to see UN organizations engage in a costly competition for funds.

The mere fact that it has not been possible until now for the United Nations organizations to establish common premises at the country level is an example of this situation.

Here again, I feel that the Secretary-General has spelled out a vision in his reform proposals that is a significant con-tribution to redress this unfortunate situation. Let's have one coordinated UN house in each country and let's not compete among UN organizations but cooperate effectively. That is the vision which we want to follow and which we want to back up.

The many, many problems facing minorities in our world, not least the indigenous peoples, must be addressed in a co-herent manner. We must ensure that indigenous peoples are given real influence on matters pertaining to themselves.

That is why Denmark - in close cooperation with the indigenous population of Greenland - has called upon the United Nations and its member states to establish, within the framework of ECOSOC, a permanent forum for indigenous peoples.

This forum should have a broad mandate to cover a wide range of issues. Indigenous peoples the-mselves must be ensured possibilities of active and effective partici-pation in its establishment and in its function.

Mr. President,

The United Nations is the future for all of us on this globe. A future which will be better by closer cooperation, also on the regional level. Cooperation with regional organizations must be streng-thened. And may I remind you that since the political changes in Europe began at the end of the 1980's the OSCE has taken on an important role in that region.

This role is a natural expression of the status as a regional arrangement under Chapter Eight of the United Nations Charter. The OSCE cooperates closely with the United Nations in a number of areas. By taking on responsibi-lity within its own geographical area, the OSCE contributes to the United Nations' ability to deal with crises elsewhere.

As Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE my foreign minister has given high priority to strengthening the rela-tionship between the OSCE and the United Nations. We have frequent contacts to the Secretary-General and have encouraged closer relations between the secretariats.

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General,

Let me conclude: It is time for reform as the Secretary-General so wisely said. Three points to conclude:

My first point is:

The reform program put forward by the Secretary-General deserves our full support. If adopted it will leave this organization in much better shape. For the sake of our common future this is needed. Let's decide and let's follow up.

My second point is this:

We need the UN. And the United Nations needs us. We must ensure necessary funding for the world organization and its development agencies. We must do this to make the world a better and safer place. Every member must pay in full, on time, without conditions.

And finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, my third point:

We must address the negative legacies of the past. We cannot solve the problem of refugees and displaced persons without making it possible for them to return back home. They cannot and they will not do that as long as their physical well-being is being threatened by inhumane anti-personnel mines. As long as their political future is being threatened by war criminals not brought to justice.

Human rights is not just about words. It should also be a human right to be able to live a secure life. In Copenhagen at the Social Summit we said: you cannot have a secure state without a secure people. This is what we need the UN to help us do.

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is not a perfect world. But I remain an optimist. With the United Nations as an organization for the people and by the people we can make this world a better place. Let us join hands to make the twenty-first century a happier one.

Thank you Mr. President, and thank you to all of you.