27 December 1996

Press Release


19961227 CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY This is the text of the speech to be delivered by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on the occasion of the signing of the peace agreement in Guatemala City on 29 December.

It is an honour to be with you today for this signing of the firm and lasting peace agreement in Guatemala. By this courageous act, you bring a formal end to a horrible, fratricidal conflict that has brought pain and suffering to so many people for so many years. Today is thus a day of immense significance and happiness. For today you embark on a new and more hopeful era in your country's affairs.

Five years ago, on 16 January 1992, in my first public appearance after taking office as United Nations Secretary-General, I travelled to Mexico City for the signing of the Chapultepec Agreement, which brought peace to El Salvador.

Today, as I prepare to leave office, I am gratified to witness the signing of this agreement, which constitutes a milestone for Guatemala and all of Central America. For the first time, there is peace throughout the region, with democratically elected governments in each of its countries.

Today's signing also closes the circle opened almost a decade ago, in August 1987, when the Presidents of the five Central American countries, meeting in Guatemala, signed the Esquipulas II agreement, by which they undertook to initiate processes of democratization and national dialogue in their countries and to bring about cease-fires and promote free and fair elections.

I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve during such a momentous period in the region's history, and to help marshal international support for your painstaking efforts towards peace. The process -- and the remarkable results achieved -- provide an inspiring example for peacemaking efforts throughout the world.

- 2 - Press Release SG/SM/6138 CA/127 27 December 1996

For this peace agreement we must pay tribute first and foremost to the Government of Guatemala and to the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG). The fact that peace is being signed today is largely due to the will of both parties to leave confrontation behind and instead turn their energies to the more productive pursuits of peace, development and reconciliation.

Also worthy of great praise is the significant and innovative contribution made by Guatemalan civil society, especially those sectors represented within the Assembly of Civil Society and all those individuals and organizations who worked to promote the vision of Guatemala contained in the accords.

For this peace agreement we must also pay tribute to the international community. Many of the countries represented here today have provided energetic diplomacy, generous financial contributions and other invaluable support. First among those who should be acknowledged are the six "Friends of the Guatemalan Peace Process" -- Colombia, Mexico, Norway, Spain, the United States and Venezuela.

The United Nations has been closely linked to the peace process since 1990, when my predecessor, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, was asked to provide an observer to the peace dialogue between the National Reconciliation Commission of Guatemala and the URNG.

In January 1994, the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Resumption of the Negotiating Process provided for the United Nations to moderate all negotiations and to verify all subsequent agreements. Since then, through the Moderator of the negotiations, the United Nations Mission for the Verification of Human Rights and of Compliance with the Commitments of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights in Guatemala (MINUGUA) and United Nations agencies and programmes, the Organization has continued to provide support to the parties and to Guatemalan society at large in its quest for peace.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the efforts of all those involved, particularly to the Moderator, Jean Arnault. I would also like to recognize Leonardo Franco, the former head of MINUGUA, and David Stephen, the current head of the mission.

As in other experiences of "post-conflict peace-building", the negotiations have attempted to address the roots of the conflict -- among them social injustice, human rights abuses, militarization of public security and discrimination against the indigenous population. Guatemalans adopted an integrated approach to human security, encompassing military, political, economic, social and environmental problems. And they sought, through the negotiating process, to strengthen both institutions and civil society.

- 3 - Press Release SG/SM/6138 CA/127 27 December 1996

Thus, the signing of today's firm and lasting peace agreement does not simply bring into effect a number of isolated agreements on separate issues. It binds together all previous agreements into a comprehensive commitment for the future of all Guatemalans. It creates a nationwide agenda for peace.

Schedules for the implementation of all of these agreements are outlined in the Agreement on the Timetable for the implementation and verification of the peace accords, which has also been signed today.

Together with the final peace agreement, the agreements all stress one of the basic tenets of the Guatemala peace process, namely, that the cessation of the armed conflict is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a precondition for pursuing national reconciliation across the political, social, ethnic, cultural and linguistic divides that have stifled Guatemala's development for many years.

For the goals outlined in the agreements to be reached, support from all sectors within Guatemala is essential. Much care has been taken thus far by both parties to have the formal backing of the sectors represented in the Assembly of Civil Society and of many others outside the Assembly. This broad support must be maintained.

Continued support will also be required from the "Friends of the Guatemala Peace Process", from other interested governments and from the international community at large. The international community must not turn its attention away, especially in the critical early stages of implementation.

The confrontations of Central America have left hundreds of thousands of dead, many more displaced or exiled, and many survivors traumatized by their experience. These victims should not be forgotten. The conflicts have also left countries damaged by the economic and environmental cost of warfare. It is now time to look ahead, to build a better future.

The firm and lasting peace agreement whose signing we witness and celebrate today does more than end the war in Guatemala. It provides a blueprint for strengthening the pillars of a democratic state. We are all aware that the consolidation of peace will be a costly and lengthy exercise. You face a challenging period of transition. In this time of hope and challenges, I pledge to you the continued support of the United Nations.

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For information media. Not an official record.