24 September 2008
General AssemblyGA/10751
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly


7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)



Denouncing organized crime fuelled by illegal drug trafficking and the wave of terrorism “spreading like wildfire” across the globe, world leaders addressing the General Assembly today expressed unwavering support for improved legal frameworks, institutional capacity-building and, in some cases, full transition to democracy to provide a hedge against future destabilization.

“Terrorist forces have significantly increased their attacks and brutality, and enjoyed freedom in their sanctuaries,” President Hâmid Karzai of Afghanistan said as he drew attention to unfolding events in his region, during the second day of the General Assembly’s annual debate.  “Terrorism will not go away until we dismantle the elaborate institutional support terrorists enjoy,” he added.

Recent attacks on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the terrorist attacks in the Indian cities of Bangalore and Ahmedabad, as well as the daily killings of political and tribal leaders on both sides of the Durand Line, all demonstrated the growing reach of terrorists groups, he said.

At the same time, however, during the year, terrorists themselves had been seriously challenged by several political moves that could counter their threats, including Pakistan’s democratic transition and recent elections, the inauguration of a democratic Government in Afghanistan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Bucharest, where 40 countries with existing military commitments in Afghanistan had recommitted to staying the course.  Successful responses to terrorist organizations would only be ensured when local populations were empowered to act in concert with regional and international military endeavours, he added.

For its part, Afghanistan had made gains, beginning with the convening of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy in Paris last June, and including the rapid double-digit economic growth in recent years.  A strong reconstruction movement had spawned the building of thousands of new schools, while rural development programmes continued to improve the lives of underserved citizens.

Similarly, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that his Government was ready to address the causes of terrorism and had effectively implemented political and constitutional solutions to meet the aspirations and rights of all communities.  However, Sri Lanka would not, and could not, let an illegal, armed terrorist group -- the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) -- hold a fraction of the country’s northern population hostage and deny their democratic rights to dissent and free election.

The Government had declared a policy of engaging in dialogue with the Tamil community’s leadership, and successive Governments had tried to resolve the problem for more than 25 years.   Sri Lanka would be ready to talk to LTTE only when the group was ready to commit itself to decommissioning its illicit weapons, dismantling its military capability and returning to the democratic fold.  The complex situation needed to be resolved through an appropriate process of deterrent actions and patient political efforts at consensus building.

Regarding Latin America, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez stressed that illicit drugs fuelled terrorism, and his country was committed to the concept of shared responsibility.  But, while Columbia fought to destroy harvests of illegal substances, other nations had to address the role that demand played in the illicit drug trade.  Indeed, whoever bought illicit drugs encouraged a child to become a part of the distribution system, helped to set off a car bomb in Colombia and encouraged the destruction of another tree in the rain forest.  By making strides to combat that problem, Colombia had raised the world’s confidence in it.  More resolute support from the global community was needed in the fight.

Underscoring the value of democratic processes, Fernando Lugo Méndez, President of Paraguay, said that his country, after 61 years of single-party Government, had at last seen a party come to power through the vote.  “ Paraguay is part of the winds of democratic change in the region,” he declared.

The new Administration, which had come to power on 15 August, represented “the end of the transition to democracy”, he said, adding that citizens had voted for greater social justice, combating corruption and an end to an opportunistic State.  Political and economic stability were not more important than social stability, and he was committed to applying policies that would combat extreme poverty.

Michelle Bachelet Jeria, President of Chile, similarly attested to the growing power of democracy in the region, saying that South American nations had worked together recently to find a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Bolivia -– efforts that had shown the strength of democracy and the region’s desire to leave its dark history behind.

Also speaking today were the Presidents of Ukraine, Portugal, Ghana, Slovenia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Israel, Honduras, Mozambique, Estonia, Malawi, Cyprus, Latvia, Nauru, El Salvador, Suriname, Guatemala, Poland, Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Albania and Costa Rica.

The Premier of China and the Prime Minister of Mongolia also addressed the Assembly, as did the First President of Cuba.

General Assembly will reconvene Thursday, 25 September, at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.


The sixty-third session of the General Assembly met this morning to continue its annual general debate.


MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, President of Sri Lanka, said the global food crisis had become a frightening actuality, and had the potential to intensify if the international community failed to take urgent and collective action.  His Government was investing more in agriculture, research, shared technologies and best practices to bolster the rural empowerment that was so essential in a developing nation like Sri Lanka, whose people depended on agriculture for their livelihoods.  Achieving food security would require strengthening and revitalizing the agriculture sector, and this called for the empowerment of small and midsize farmers.  Sri Lanka had introduced measures, such as fertilizer and fisheries subsidies, to provide an effective social safety net.

He went on to stress the importance of finding equitable and pragmatic solutions to the energy crisis, which included transferring new technology to developing countries.  The United Nations and its agencies needed to take the lead in developing a framework for international cooperation, so vulnerable developing countries had access to the energy benefits of the so-called “nuclear renaissance” at affordable rates.  He also cautioned against the rush to biofuels, which had contributed to high food prices.

On the issue of terrorism, President Rajapaksa said the Sri Lankan Government was ready to address the causes of terrorism, and had effectively implemented political and constitutional solutions to meet the aspirations and rights of all communities.  He stressed that the Government would not and could not let an illegal and armed terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), hold a fraction of the country’s northern population -- a part of the Tamil community –- hostage, and deny their democratic rights of dissent and free election.

The Government had declared a policy of engaging in dialogue and discussion with the Tamil community’s leadership, and successive Governments had tried to resolve the problem for more than 25 years.  The Sri Lankan Government would only be ready to talk to this illegal armed group when it was ready to commit itself to decommissioning its illicit weapons, dismantling its military capability, and returning to the democratic fold.  The Government would not permit the undermining of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, or the division on any part of its territory.  The complex situation in Sri Lanka needed to be resolved through an appropriate process of deterrent actions to ensure law and order, and patient political efforts at consensus building.

This Assembly session was a good opportunity to gauge the progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals worldwide.  It was regrettable that many factors, such as the global economic slowdown, financial turmoil and rising food and fuel prices had become obstacles to their achievement.  Urgent and collective action, on both a short- and long-term basis, was needed to realize the agreed development goals, he said.

Invoking the aims and values of the Charter and Millennium Development Goals, VICTOR YUSHCHENKO, President of Ukraine, expressed the need for “common and good will” to face recent tragedies in the Caucasus.  “The principal challenge that stands before us is the neglect and undermining of the standards of the international law and foreign affairs,” which included sovereignty, territorial integrity and firmness of the state boundary, he said.

He expressed condolences to Georgians, Ossetians and Russians, and condemned all acts of aggression in the region.  He stipulated that Ukraine “vigorously denounces” the violation of Georgian territory, but did not recognize the independence of the self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, citing Ukraine’s attainment of commonwealth status in a “legitimate and acknowledged way”.  He went on to condemn the illegitimate and separatist affirmation of statehood of any territories.  He urged the Security Council –- whose balanced decisions and effective actions were needed –- to strengthen its role in global peace and security.

On its part, Ukraine pledged support in continued peacekeeping activities and efforts to settle protracted conflicts following the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and freedoms.  Ukraine would also work with the international community in solving the food and energy crisis, with emphasis on ecology.  He proposed an initiative to develop a framework binding agreement -- a “World Environmental Constitution” -- and to establish a structure for ecological protection in conjunction with the United Nations.

In closing, Mr. Yushchenko remarked on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Great Famine (Holodomor) in Ukraine, saying that national tragedies should be commemorated jointly in order to prevent any future repetitions.

FERNANDO LUGO MÉNDEZ, President of Paraguay, said the United Nations was a place where the world Powers wrote history, and in which States should move beyond lofty political rhetoric to “become tools for eliminating hunger”.  Paraguay, after 61 years of single-party government, had seen a party come to power through the vote.  “ Paraguay is part of the winds of democratic change in the region,” he declared.  This year, citizens had voted for greater social justice to halt massive destruction of the environment, as well as to combat corruption.  The new administration represented “the end of the transition to democracy”.  Political and economic stability were not more important than social stability, and he was committed to applying policies that would combat extreme poverty.

Two weeks ago, Paraguay began its war against illicit Government management, he said.  The new Government, which came to power on 15 August, had responded to defend democratically elected Governments, such as in Bolivia.  Carrying out economic relations through the “market mechanism”, which had indebted Latin America, had proven to be a mistake, and today, the world was seeing a crisis that had resulted from “immoral speculation”, prompted by the desire for greater wealth.

He said Paraguay supported strengthening the General Assembly, adding that, as the most representative United Nations body, it must become “the true parliament of the world”.  Regarding climate change, the irony was that the poorest people -– those least responsible for climate change -– had suffered the most from its consequences.   Paraguay underscored the need to “turn pledges into action”, and called for recognizing shared but different responsibilities.

The same was true in determining economic and political responsibility for the global economic deterioration.  In many regions, citizens were not involved in decision-making processes, he said, strongly calling for respecting indigenous peoples.  Not doing so would be an “intolerable attack” on civilizations.

Paraguay had begun an unprecedented process of transparency, in which the media was proactive in combating corruption.  He called for working towards a more just world.  States would fail if they were unable to “draw a smile” on young people, or help women who had been relegated to low social positions.  On food security, he called for greater international assistance for agricultural production, without destroying the environment.

Continuing, he said the unique issues faced by landlocked countries were important to Paraguay’s foreign policy, and the global community must recognize special treatment for those countries.  The Government was prioritizing using renewable resources, which would complement efforts to create opportunities for work, and reducing poverty.  On financing for development, Paraguay hoped that the global community would mobilize resources for supporting development in smaller economies.  That was a priority for international financial institutions and developed economies.

He called on States to be guided by humanitarian ideals, and welcome his country’s migrants who were today dreaming of having a decent life, and finding a solution to the new and dramatic fallout from globalization.  To achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he called for strengthening combined efforts, and by increasing official development assistance (ODA), notably for the most vulnerable economies.

In Latin America, poverty had reached 44 per cent of the population.  In Paraguay, 35.6 per cent suffered from that scourge, 20 per cent of whom lived below the extreme poverty line.  That situation was unacceptable, and called for a “radical change”.  The international community must ensure that resource mobilization become a priority for finance organizations and developed economies.

The word “love” was not used frequently in politics, but there was no other way to rebuild a world full of “hate”, he said, adding that States must not forget individuals with special capacities.   Paraguay believed in friendship, which was why it had set 30 July as a Day of Friendship, which he hoped would resonate around the world.

ANÍBAL ANTÓNIO CAVACO SILVA, President of Portugal, said guaranteeing peace, security and sustainable development was a shared responsibility.  How the world achieved those goals would determine its common destiny.  Global challenges implied collective responsibility, and the United Nations was the forum which best embodied that collective duty.  In a globalized world, only strong multilateral institutions could promote the fundamental values of peace, democracy, human rights and sustainable development, and Portugal was committed to supporting effective multilateralism.

Actions must be made on clear assumptions, he asserted, saying first that States must make every effort to ensure the United Nations had the means to fulfil its mission.  Second, greater representation in the United Nations bodies must be ensured, and actions must be more transparent.  He asked whether it was reasonable to have a Security Council without reforming its working methods, in which countries like Brazil and India had no permanent seats, and Africa was not represented with that status.  Third, States must guarantee fulfilment of human rights declarations, bearing in mind that the ultimate beneficiaries of doing so were all the world’s peoples.

Portugal had been committed to that common effort, notably through involvement in peacekeeping operations.  He paid tribute to all Blue Berets, who had made the ultimate sacrifice for the ideals of the United Nations Charter.  On Africa, he said the continent deserved urgent attention, a belief that had led Portugal to hold the Cairo and Lisbon Summits with its African partners.   Portugal also supported African efforts to achieve the goals of peace, sustainable development, access to health and education, and integration into the global market.

In that context, he congratulated the Angolan people for the “civic way” in which the recent electoral process had been carried out.  He welcomed the political agreement in Zimbabwe, and congratulated Guinea-Bissau on the anniversary of its independence.  That country was a member of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP), and had undertaken increasing duties as an operational partner in the regional organizations to which it belonged.

On terrorism, he noted that, although much had been done, implementation of the United Nations Global Strategy was fundamental for success against that scourge, and respect for both human rights and freedom was crucial.  On the equally destructive “common enemies” -- hunger and extreme poverty -- Portugal reiterated firm support for the Millennium Development Goals, and was directing most of its development aid to Africa.  He was pleased at the creation of a high-level working group on the global food crisis, and called for working together on challenges posed by climate change.  The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was a landmark in the promotion of human rights.

“We are the United Nations, and the Organization’s destiny is in our hands,” he said.  He hailed the Assembly’s consensus on Security Council reform, and Portugal had had the honour of being directly linked to its result, having submitted its candidacy to a non-permanent membership for the 2011-2012 biennium.  Its candidacy must be read in light of the United Nations values that States had long defended.  “We stand for an equal representation of States”, as that was the best way to guarantee justice.

JOHN AGYEKUM KUFUOR, President of Ghana, said the world was in a state of flux, with challenges that were befuddling all nations, both strong and weak, rich and poor.  But at the same time, there were also tremendous opportunities, and there had been tremendous progress in a range of areas, from medicine to engineering and bioscience technologies.  Those opportunities were diffusing power around the globe, and the primary challenge was how the many peoples of the world would promote common humanity as the primary factor behind their endeavours.

He said the United Nations was the only Organization with the potential to command respect around the globe, and under its auspices, the strong and rich nations showed greater tendencies towards sharing resources, such as knowledge and finance with the poor.  That echoed the same moral streak embedded in the United Nations that had motivated various regional blocks around the world, including Africa.  Dramatic improvements had been made in Africa over the last 15 years, and the African Union’s Peer Review Mechanism demonstrated African nations’ great resolve to adhere to the rule of law and good governance.  It was noteworthy that most African Union members had signed up for review, and many more of the continent’s leaders were using the ballot box to assume power.

Under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Africa was trying to pool resources among its members and players outside the continent, to exploit the potential to develop its resources, including in energy, telecommunications, transportation and agriculture.  That was the way to solve the many problems of the continent such as poverty, illiteracy, disease, ignorance and conflicts.

While acknowledging the support of its development partners, President Kufuor said there was still room for improvement.  Various forms of assistance were uncoordinated and insufficient to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 target date.  As noted in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) XII’s Accra Accord, the goal of aid was to empower beneficiary countries to become effective partners in the global market.

He noted that poor economic conditions in 2001, the year he assumed power, had forced Ghana to sign up for the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC).  Ghana had subsequently achieved the HIPC Completion Point quickly to earn a debt forgiveness of about $8 billion from bilateral and multilateral creditors.  That success had led to increased inflows of domestic and foreign investment, which had allowed the Government to initiate many social services and improve its infrastructure.  Those policies and others had laid the groundwork for Ghana to attain its ambitious vision of a middle income status by 2015.  It showed that accelerated national development and good governance, including respect for human rights, were not mutually exclusive, and good governance should hasten development.

MICHELLE BACHELET JERIA, President of Chile, said the world had changed tremendously since the Assembly had adopted the Millennium Declaration.  The world now faced increasing problems, such as climate change, terrorism and the food crisis, while at the same time, economies and communications had become more interdependent.  Those changes had created more opportunities, as well as more risks and inequities.  While progress had been made towards the Millennium Development Goals, there had been regrettable setbacks.  The optimism that began in a century called the “millennium of hope” was dissipating.  More than 100 million people had fallen into extreme poverty because of the food crisis.  The global financial crisis could make matters worse.  All of these crises impacted the world’s poorest people, and it was crucial to review the Goals.

The international community needed to expand its notion of progress and freedom.  It could not squander the improvements in science and technology that could, for the first time, assure the welfare of all humanity.  The current financial crisis showed how greed and the irresponsibility of a few could plunge the world into uncertainty.

Without a clear course of collective action by States and civil society, none of the current problems could be tackled, nor could agreed development goals be achieved.  She called for the support of emergency measures to deal with the food crisis, and an urgent commitment to multilateralism and reform of international institutions, such as the United Nations, to make them more democratic and representative.  It was also necessary to achieve an accord at the Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks and obtain concrete results at the follow-up Conference on Financing for Development.  Member States should also work to achieve success at the upcoming Copenhagen conference on climate change in 2009.

President Bachelet noted that Chile was on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals ahead of the 2015 target date, proving it was possible to eradicate poverty in an environment of democracy and freedom.  The country had made social investments and advanced in many areas, including health, education and quality of life, as it provided broader gender opportunities.

She pointed to the growing power of democracy in her region, and said South American nations had worked together recently to establish a dialogue and find a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Bolivia.  That had shown the strength of democracy and human rights, and the region’s desire to leave its dark history behind.

She went on to say that national policies were not enough, and international agreements needed to be forged to govern globalization, while extending democracy and social rights to citizens everywhere.  She noted the upcoming sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and how that instrument had advanced humanity by helping to end centuries of death, torture and abuses of power.  It had opened the door to further advancements in the area of human rights.  She hoped the same would occur with the Millennium Declaration, which needed to be transformed into an ethical and political imperative for Governments around the world.

Transformation was designated as a key policymaking requirement for future United Nations action, said DANILO TÜRK, President of Slovenia, who stressed that in the 60 years since the Member States adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Organization had acted to “transform” the field in worldwide advancement of human rights, and democracy had made global progress.

However, he added that human rights violations persist in the form of racial discrimination, torture and continued conflicts, alongside new challenges such as security and counter-terrorism concerns, which seemed to have led to diminished care for fundamental freedoms in some societies.  To combat this, higher priority should be given to human rights education, as well as to the work of the International Criminal Court, and the principle of the “responsibility to protect”.

The intrinsic link between the pursuits of freedom and development had been recognized in 1986, with the Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Right to Development, and relevant progress has been made in subsequent years.  Global development would depend heavily on the preservation of the environment, where “the battle for our common, global future will be won –- or lost.”  A plan to reduce greenhouse gases had been adopted by the European Union, earlier this year, but additional “transformational” approaches were necessary, such as the establishment of adequate partnerships between key economic and political players, including the European Union, the United States and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.

Mr. Türk recognized the contributions of the United Nations in peacekeeping, post-conflict peacebuilding, preventative diplomacy, and the strengthening of the role of the Secretary-General in those areas.  But he also cited a “serious need for transformation” in the overall field of international security.  Further efforts needed were strategic development of partnerships, particularly in the Middle East, the Caucasus, the Balkans and several regions of Africa.  Further, reform of the Security Council had been “long overdue”.  In particular, he called for:  an addition of six permanent members from all regions of the world; an additional category of six non-permanent members with more frequency in rotation; and more geographic distribution given to the remaining eight non-permanent members.

LEONEL FERNÁNDEZ REYNA, President of the Dominican Republic, recalled that eight years ago, representatives of 189 countries made what was possibly the most transcendent commitment that such a large grouping had ever undertaken:  they had agreed on the Millennium Development Goals.  Those Goals would be remembered as the bravest ethical decision taken to combat extreme poverty.

“We did not fill the Millennium Declaration with abstract and grandiloquent concepts,” he said.  “On the contrary, we analysed, with the greatest rigor possible, the situation we wanted to correct.”  At the midpoint to 2015, States faced a disheartening international climate filled with obstacles to achieving the Goals.

The Dominican Republic had made progress, he said, noting that it had reduced, by more than half, the percentage of five-year-old underweight children.  Despite progress in his and other developing countries, there were, however, still more than half a million women who died every year due to pregnancy-related complications that could be prevented.  Without extraordinary effort, the Goal of reducing the percentage of children born with a less-than-healthy birth weight would not be reached.  Preventive measures against AIDS, “an ominous pandemic”, were grossly insufficient.  Without greater efforts, more than 600 million would not have better sanitary services, he added.

At the same time, rich nations, which had agreed to provide ODA to achieve the Goals, had fallen short in following up on their pledges.  Only five of those nations –- Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Luxemburg -– had honoured them, making contributions equal to, or more than, 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP).

Achieving the Goals required a financial “rescue plan”, he said, citing a World Bank study that showed a yearly average of $50 billion was needed.  Between now until 2015, $350 billion in external assistance would be needed.  He did not want to think that rescuing the dignity of the world’s poor did not have the same priority as rescuing credit institutions in the world’s financial centre.

On unregulated speculation in the purchase and sale of futures contracts for oil and food, he said there was no way to hide the fact that, without market regulation, futures contracts lent themselves to fraud.  In July, he had been shocked to see that the price of a barrel of oil had risen $10 in a single day.  There was only one explanation:  excessive speculation in the futures markets.  In only five years, hundreds of billions of dollars had entered commodities futures markets, much of which had been directed towards energy.  Also in that time, the price of wheat had jumped by 177 per cent; and soy by 196 per cent.  He reiterated that rising oil prices were among the factors that most affected achievement of the Millennium Goals.

“The world does not aspire to be a gambling den,” he declared.  Rather, people had simple aspirations:  to live in conditions of social justice and equity.  To achieve such noble objectives, nations that believed in the Goals as an agenda of genuine social transformation turned to the Organization with hope of correcting existing distortions.

FELIPE CALDERÓN HINOJOSA, President of Mexico, stated that, in “an era of shared responsibility, the consequences of our actions transcend the territory of our countries, affecting the planet as a whole”.  Noting the high priority placed on reversing the effects of climate change, he also said that, though it affected the world’s populations indiscriminately, those who contributed the least to it were most vulnerable.

Climate change was one of several common global challenges requiring multilateral action and a “renewed and strengthened” United Nations system.  This was in addition to the food crisis, migration, terrorism, and security threats in the form of illicit drugs, weapons and human trafficking, which are especially challenging to Mexico’s development, he said.

On Mexico’s part, he declared:  “We want to be actors, not spectators to the transformations of the world.”  Mexico, therefore, proposed the following:  creation of a “Green Fund” to provide incentives to States working on their problems with climate change, and an action plan to facilitate access to food by reducing taxes on basic food imports; establishing a “Strategic Reserve of Basic Products”; and increasing financial grants to poor families.

In terms of the Millennium Development objectives, Mexico was in near full compliance, and had set additional goals in its National Development Plan for reducing extreme poverty and reaching universal health care.  Mexico had already reached the goal of universal basic education.

Because of this activism, and the fact that Mexico’s population was eleventh largest in the world, and its economy was the twelfth largest, it was seeking a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for 2009-2018.  If attained, Mexico would commit itself to further action by promoting peace, democracy and the rule of law.

ABDOULAYE WADE, President of Senegal, said the “dizzying increase” in oil prices had been raised by many Heads of State, and many countries had denounced policies that tried to blame the sharp run-up on increased demand.  He also said the goal of the United Nations’ founding members had not been achieved:  to promote social progress and establish better living conditions.  The Organization had served humanity considerably by resolving some conflicts, but States must recognize its shortcomings, notably in the area of peace.

People had great expectations.  People had hope, even in so-called poor countries, or “countries that had been impoverished by slavery and colonization”.   Africa, for its part, had engaged in bilateral and multilateral initiatives, he said, calling States to “look at things straight in the face, and undertaking reforms”.

To feed Africa, the world must substitute the idea of “food aid” with “assistance to agriculture”, he continued.  There was a need for innovative financing, as nations in the Sahara saw very little rain each year.  Still, they could grow anything they wanted -- with resources. In Senegal, a major farming initiative would soon be completed.  Indeed, the country had met the challenge of creating abundance:  six months ago, it had been largely dependent on food imports –- bringing in some 600,000 tons of rice annually.  Today, “everything is green”, he said.  The programme had been a success, and Senegal would not make an appeal for food aid.  Fortunately, the country had found inputs -– phosphates -- which allowed it to redirect one third of its investment.  “They had been hidden, but we found them,” he said.

On the environment, Senegal had launched the “Great Green Wall” project, and hoped scientists would help determine which species would survive in its climactic zones.  The project also would establish retention lakes to capture rainwater.  The African coast was disappearing, from Morocco down to the Gulf of Guinea, and a meeting had been called to counter that erosion, he added.

Noting that the World Bank had named Senegal among those nations likely to meet the Millennium Development Goals, he said:  “I like challenges.”  However, as long as Senegal faced high child and maternal mortality rates, its progress would be slowed.   Senegal was working to reduce those deaths, notably through plans to provide cell phones to women so they could contact health centres.

Senegal had created a Digital Solidarity Fund to help close the digital divide, and reiterated support for the dialogue of civilizations.  Condemning extremism, which was against the teaching of Islam, Senegal was ready to dialogue with all civilizations, he said.

The United Nations was challenged by conflicts, he explained, noting those in Chad and the Darfur region of the Sudan.  For its part, Senegal would continue to provide services.  In the Middle East, Senegal had been asked to support dialogue between Israel and Palestine.  On the ineffectiveness of economic thinking, he said that solutions to today’s failures would not be found in the global North; they would be found in the global South, notably in Africa.  Rather than allow capital markets to create inflationary conditions, he called for wealth creation in Africa.  “It is in Africa where the final progress will be made.”

HÂMID KARZAI, President of Afghanistan, observed that even as his country experienced the brunt of international terrorism, the attacks were expanding beyond attempts to destabilize Afghanistan into the wider region of Pakistan.  The recent attacks on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the terrorist attacks in India’s Bangalore and Ahmadabad, as well as daily killings of political and tribal leaders on both sides of the Durand Line all demonstrated the growing reach of terrorists groups.   The intricate network of these groups could only be dismantled through sincere regional and international collaboration.

At the same time, however, in the past year, those international terrorists had been challenged by, among others, Pakistan’s democratic transition and recent elections, the inauguration of a democratic Government in Afghanistan, and the 2008 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Bucharest, where 40 countries with existing military commitments in Afghanistan recommitted to staying the course.  He believed that successful responses to terrorist organizations would only be ensured when local populations were empowered to act in concert with regional and international military endeavours.  In that respect, he called for international efforts to support the enabling of the Afghan Army and the police, so they would be able to take on a greater share of the war against terrorism and the protection of their citizens.

Noting that economic development impacted the grip of terrorism on a country’s people, he heralded the gains made in Afghanistan’s economic development, beginning with the convening of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy in Paris last June, and Afghanistan’s rapid, double-digit economic growth in recent years.  A strong reconstruction movement had spawned the building of thousands of new schools for the millions of youngsters preparing for a peaceful future, and rural development programmes continued to improve citizens deeply underserved or not served at all in the past.

In the area of legal and institutional improvement, he announced the establishment of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption aimed at eliminating corruption through preventative, educational and enforcement measures.  Even with the complication of an acute food shortage, there had also been a 20 per cent decline in total opium production, and Afghanistan was now 50 per cent poppy‑free.  Continued efforts to ensure alternative livelihood for its farmers, as well as greater investment in law enforcement would guarantee Afghanistan’s success in challenging the tenacious narcotic trade.  He reminded the Assembly that enforcing international border controls and impacting international demand for drugs was essential to the success of Afghanistan continuing its progress.

He concluded by urging a just and comprehensive settlement for the Palestinian people, and a call to the international community and the United Nations to join together again and continue its challenge to worldwide conflict for the betterment of everyone in the global community.

BLAISE COMPAORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, said the Assembly’s current session was taking place in an international context marked by threats to peace.  It was a crucial session that, at the same time, provided an opportunity to assess the situation, and he welcomed the initiative to review attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, the results of which would help to create appropriate strategies.

He said the global food crisis reflected the fragility of food production and commodities trading systems.  It was vital, therefore, to relaunch agricultural investment, and support farmer and professional organizations in innovative partnerships.  It was also important to invest in farming, and more effectively distribute seeds and fertilizers.  He added that the energy crisis was driving the search for renewable sources.

Official development assistance had dropped in recent years -- both in level and effectiveness, he said.  Along with that, there were four crucial considerations that required attention:  ownership of economic policies and capacity-building for governance; harmonization of donor procedures; the gradual alignment of assistance with development priorities; and greater coordination with partners on the ground, under the supervision of Governments.

He went on to say that the scourge of narcotics was a threat to Africa, including the West African subregion.  Some parts of his country had encountered cross-border criminality.  On the environmental front, the international community must invest more to bring about progress on climate change.

Resolving conflicts around the world and in Africa was a major challenge, he said, adding that his country, which held the Chairmanship of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was making its contribution to enhancing peace and security, a priority needed for ensuring democracy.  He welcomed progress gained through major mediation efforts that allowed Africans to resolve issues among themselves.

Discussing such efforts, he said Burkina Faso was taking part in the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Darfur, and was concerned at the “erosion” of the Somali nation.  On the Western Sahara, he noted Morocco’s involvement and the Security Council’s appeal for a realistic settlement, which provided encouraging hopes.  The greater Sahara region had been infected by insecurity, and collective dialogue was needed.  Welcoming progress in the Middle East, notably towards the creation of a viable Palestinian State, he also appealed for “reason” to ensure that negotiations would recognize Iran’s right to have civil nuclear power.

On other issues, he said news today was dominated by conflict in the Caucasus and Senegal, which supported negotiations, hoped a solution based on inclusive dialogue.  Highlighting relations between China and Taiwan, he hoped to see participation by Taiwan in the activities of international organizations.

SHIMON PERES, President of Israel, said more than 60 years had passed since the Assembly voted on a historic resolution that would have ended the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Resolution 181 called for the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state, and the “Plan of Partition with Economic Union” had envisioned two States for two peoples, each fulfilling a distinct national aspiration.  The Jewish people adopted the resolution, and created the State of Israel.  The Arabs rejected it, and that move had led to war.

Israel had turned military victories into a peace process and reached two peace agreements, the first with the largest Arab country, Egypt, and the second with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  All the land, water and natural resources that fell in Israel’s hands through the war were repatriated after the peace agreements were sealed.  He also noted that another pressing regional need was to repair the damaged environment and land.  “If we shall not overcome the desert, the thirst, the pollution […] they will overcome us,” he said.

At the centre of the region’s violence and fanaticism stood Iran, “a danger to the entire world”.  Its quest for religious hegemony and regional dominance divided the Middle East, and held back chances of peace while undermining human rights.  Iranian support for Hizbullah had divided Lebanon, and its support for Hamas had divided Palestinians and postponed the creation of the Palestinian State.  Yesterday, in his address to the Assembly, the Iranian leader “renewed the darkest anti-Semitic libel –- the protocol of the elders of Zion”.  That despicable denial of the Holocaust was a mockery of indisputable evidence, a cynical offence to survivors of the horror, and contradictory to the resolutions adopted by the Assembly.

He said Iran continued to develop enriched uranium and long-range missiles.  The Assembly and Security Council had a responsibility to prevent agonies before they took place.

Continuing, he said terrorism stood to make the world ungovernable, and the free world needed to unite to combat it.  Israel would continue to seek peace, and had suggested immediate peace with Lebanon.  Israeli leaders had indicated to Syria that they were ready to explore a comprehensive compromise for peace, and in order to gain trust and save time, Israel had suggested face-to-face meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Israel was waiting for a response.

While acknowledging the growing concern that Middle East peace was a distant hope, President Peres said his life-long experience gave him a different point of view.  He could identify a road in the right direction:  peace agreements; a series of summits; Israel’s acceptance of the two-State solution; and Arab nations’ backing of the peace initiative, inaugurated by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud.  He urged the Saudi leader to expand his initiative, so it could become an invitation for a comprehensive peace.  He also invited all leaders to discuss peace in Jerusalem, which was holy to all.  Israel would gladly accept an Arab invitation to meet at a designated venue, where a meaningful dialogue could take place.

Global dangers united and divided the international community at the same time.  The dangers included the deterioration of the environment, the shortage of water, the lack of renewable energy, the spread of terrorism, and increased poverty, he said.  Unity offered many alternatives and would direct global investment to new areas, including to address demanding challenges such as health, security, education and the environment.  The twenty-first century called for pioneers, and was an opportunity to provide the children with peace, knowledge, strength and friendship.  It was their children’s right and the international community’s moral obligation.

WEN JIABAO, Premier of the State Council of China, noted the two major events of China’s recent past.  Both the Chinese people and the international community responded to the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan Province with unprecedented support and courage.  The affected people were successfully relocated, and recovery and reconstruction went forward with strong results.  The second event had been the successful Beijing Olympic Games, where China and the international community joined together and had created an experience of true sportsmanship.  Both events had enabled China and the world at large to learn more about one another.

He highlighted China’s continuing commitment to peaceful development, reform and expanded international relations.  However, even with a high GDP, he noted that China still trailed behind more than 100 countries in per capita income.  This was illuminated by the inequity between urban and rural development, as well as different regions in China; the lack of adequate food and clothing for millions of Chinese; productivity constrained by the shortage of resources and energy; and by environmental concerns.  Democratic policy and principles, and the rule of law, still needed to be incorporated into the socialist market economic system.

Although those issues challenged China’s continued growth and expansion, he declared China’s dedication to its ongoing development through reform and open relationship with the international community.  Thirty years ago, China’s reform and “opening-up” policy had fundamentally changed its “closed and ossified” existence by generating great economic and social progress.  China’s commitment to this policy would ensure its continued expansion and strong participation as a successful and productive member of the global family.

He restated the pledge of peaceful development, by stressing that China respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries, and only maintained an appropriate level of military capability, with the single goal of safeguarding its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.  As a permanent member of the Security Council, China was dedicated to promoting peaceful settlement in all international and regional conflicts, as well as addressing its own historical and current differences with other countries.

He concluded by observing that the international community was more closely linked now than ever before, and what affected one country would inevitably affect another.  In that respect, China was committed to be a responsible and active participant and partner with the global community for harmonious and sustainable development.

JOSÉ RAMÓN MACHADO VENTURA, Vice-President of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called for international peace, solidarity, social justice and sustainable development, so the future of humankind could be ensured.  The economic and environmental crises facing the world severely impacted the Non-Aligned countries, and the poorest of the poor continued to suffer the devastating consequences.  For any response to be successful to these worldwide crises, the developed and industrialized countries must take full responsibility for their actions.

He also emphatically urged the developed and industrialized countries to end wars and occupations, cease the depletion of resources in developing countries, cancel the foreign debt of developing countries, redirect financial resources from commercial venues into food production and delivery, and promote technological access to Third World Countries, among others.  This would engender solidarity between peoples and Governments, with the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas and PetroCaribe coalitions in Latin America and the Caribbean as strong examples.

Reiterating the founding principles of the Non-Aligned countries, among them the cause of the Palestinian people, and the protection of the work of the Human Rights Council, Cuba reminded the Assembly that Cuba continued to endure the longest economic blockade in history, and that despite the Assembly’s call to end the blockade, the United States continued to enforce it.  Such disregard for the world’s wishes only intensified 50 years of economic war against Cuba, and had prevented mutual beneficial participation in trade and economic development between both countries.  He believed the aim was to destroy the success of the 1959 Cuban revolution, and he challenged the United States to re-evaluate its own actions at Guantánamo before condemning Cuba.

Finally, he said that Cuba had weathered two hurricanes that destroyed agriculture, seriously impacted parts of its infrastructure, and damaged thousands of homes, with the aid and assistances of the many countries, organizations and individuals who responded to the crisis.

JOSÉ MANUEL ZELAYA ROSALES, President of Honduras, commended the recent efforts of Central American leaders to bring integration.  Francisco Morazan, a martyr of that part of the world who had advocated liberal policies, had given his life for this cause.  Today, the peoples of Central America and Honduras continued to fight for those causes, as well as for unity and independence.

In recent years, Honduras had achieved sustainable growth rates of between 6 and 7 per cent.  As a result, it had reduced poverty and had sought to mitigate the impacts of climate change.  It had also become a tourist destination.  Yet these advances were now endangered by the current financial crisis.  The international scale of the fraud on the part of the multinationals had triggered rapid and devastating spikes in the price of food and energy, and in many countries, poverty and inequality were becoming more acute, exacerbating social ills.

In the last two centuries, he continued, the peoples of Central America had resisted the capitalist system.  Pope John Paul II had called that system “wild and savage”, and it was evident that the market’s laws were demonic, satisfying only the few.  It was like a sinister cat and mouse game, or, like the ancient god Saturn who devoured his own children.  Now with the fall of Wall Street and the bursting of the speculative bubble, it was paradoxically devouring its very creators.

Still, it was brutal and surprising to see how poor countries had become aligned with the major interests of the capitalistic system, he said, noting that the effects of that system’s crisis were widespread.  Over the last two decades, coffee growers in Honduras had increased their exports from $200 million to $600 million.  But in one year, the increase in costs of food and fuel prices had erased that progress.  On the international stage, the United Nations had, despite its adoption of the Millennium Development Goals and the target of halving poverty by 2015, fallen short of its aims.  For each dollar the international community contributed to eradicating poverty, it put 10 towards the creation of arms.  With just a third of the amount of money that was being earmarked to arrest the current financial crisis, poverty in Africa could be ended overnight.

The question at hand, he continued, was if we could save ourselves.  To do so, the international community would have to place capital at the service of building a fair society.  The major pharmaceutical multinationals should make their patents available to cure disease and heal the ill.  Unfair competition, including subsidies and tariff and non-tariff barriers, should be eliminated.

As had been said before, the developing world was grateful for the help extended by the developed world.  But its peoples did not want donations.  If aid was provided, conditions should not be attached.  Development should come through education and by the provision of greater health and basic services.  Developed countries should also be included in organizations of industrialized nations.  They could contribute ideas which might, ultimately, be more valuable than money.  He appealed to the United States and the countries of Europe to consider the rights of immigrants in their midst.  Immigration was a human right, not a crime, and should be addressed in that framework.

Taking up the expansion of the Security Council’s membership, he called for democratization at “home” –- at the very top of the United Nations.  With such a step, the Organization would serve as an example of the value of solidarity between human beings to the rest of the world.  It would further show that the centre of the world was not money or industry, but the human being.

ARMANDO EMILIO GUEBUZA, President of Mozambique, took up the issue of the food crisis, saying it was linked to irregular rains resulting from climate change and desertification.  Increased demand for cereals was another factor because it distorted the price of food.  Other factors were high transportation costs due to the rising price of oil, and the decline in the agricultural sector in developing countries due to unfair subsidies used by developed countries.

The current crisis should be taken as an opportunity to boost international partnerships in the name of development, by giving developing countries the means to transform their subsistence farming systems into successful commercial agriculture systems.  That could be done through improved access to better seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, “investment in infrastructure to make markets accessible” and better water management.  Regional efforts should be given as much support as possible.

He said Mozambique was sensitive to fluctuations in food prices because it imported large quantities of food products.  It did not have the means to commercialize its agricultural sector because its banking systems in rural areas were weak, and it did not have the technology to scale up production to levels that could meet national needs.  Poor distribution systems made the problem worse.  At the same time, soil erosion and depletion were making it more difficult to grow crops, contributing to Mozambique’s food insecurity.  Additional resources would be needed if the country were to implement a “Green Revolution” programme, which was launched in 2007 as part of its food production action plan.

Mozambique also had its share of health problems, particularly in terms of women.  An additional $4 million would be needed from now until 2010 to carry out AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programmes directed at women and children.  With that money, doctors and nurses could be trained, and more mothers would gain access to health care.  The United Nations was best equipped to help Mozambique meet such challenges.  In that regard, structural reforms were needed within the Organization to better provide assistance to struggling nations.  Indeed, international cooperation was important in helping countries secure enough affordable food, as well as to build a viable consensus for United Nations reforms.

TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES, President of Estonia, addressed the issues of the Millennium Development Goals, natural disasters and humanitarian assistance and the conflict between Georgia and Russia.  Regarding the Goals, he noted how little time remained to achieve them.  There had been progress in providing greater access to education, reducing infant mortality, debt relief for developing countries, increased access to information and communications technology, as well as a certain degree of progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  However, in the spheres of trade and development cooperation, progress had been modest.  While donor nations had increased their ODA, the actual flow of financial assistance had decreased over the last two years.  The halting of the Doha round of trade negotiations was also a serious setback, he said.

Further, he noted that every nation was primarily responsible for its own development and called on developing countries to strengthen administrative infrastructure, intensify their fight against corruption and improve their economic environment.  Donor States and organizations, he continued, could enhance effectiveness by coordinating and standardizing procedures for development cooperation.  He expressed support for the Millennium Development Goals “Call to Action”.

He also spoke of the importance of formulating and implementing measures to minimize the danger to people and property from natural disasters, and to avoid or reduce their damage to infrastructure and the environment, and prevent social and economic convulsions that natural catastrophes often triggered.  He further stressed the urgency of providing assistance immediately following such disasters, and the essential nature of free access for humanitarian experts at such times regardless of their nationality or the organization they represent.  When they were prevented from offering their expertise, he noted, it was the most vulnerable who suffered.

Finally, he addressed the recent military confrontation between Georgia and Russia, and posed the question: “What do these events mean for us, the United Nations?”  He noted that the issues involved were complex, but that “the principles governing relations between States had been seriously damaged”.  Based on the fundamental United Nations principles decrying the use of force and aggression, he demanded that the Organization be capable of “convincing one Member to withdraw its military forces from the territory of another sovereign Member State”.  The United Nations would lose its reason to exist if international law could be selectively implemented.  He noted that a permanent member of the Security Council should be especially committed to fulfilling the principles of the Charter.

He called for the Organization to bolster its capacity to regulate and resolve conflicts, and noted the importance of Security Council reform.  He also drew the Assembly’s attention to the danger of cyber attacks and cyber warfare, a form of aggression no nation could deal with on its own.  “Cyber attacks can be launched against any nation and on any continent.  And from any continent,” he said.  Fighting this danger required cooperation and the standardization of relevant international regulations.  He called on Member States to take the risks concerning cyber security seriously.

BINGU WA MUTHARIKA, President of Malawi, said the food crisis was the result of failure on the part of all nations to increase and sustain the production of staple foods such as wheat, rice, potatoes, lentils, fish and poultry.  Other contributing factors included severe climate changes, which reduced agricultural productivity and food security; high dependence on rain-fed agriculture; low budgetary allocation to food production in many countries, especially in Africa; diversion of food crops towards the production of biofuels; and the preference of commercial farmers to grow cash crops rather than food crops.

He went on to say, that serious pollution through deliberate dumping of toxic wastes and hazardous materials by Northern industries into rivers, seas and other water sources had spoiled coastal land and destroyed tourism, in addition to damaging agriculture in developing countries.  World leaders had ignored signs pointing towards this global food crisis, which was now threatening the social and economic stability of all nations.  Food crises also led to riots which had, in turn, led to political instability.  World leaders should be part of the solution and move food supplies from surplus areas to deficient ones.

The food crisis even negated the gains in economic growth and trade that were manifested in developed and developing nations.  Rich nations should share research, science and technology in food production and processing with poor countries.  The United Nations should urge industrialized countries to increase allocation of resources to agriculture and food production, and persuade the private sector in those countries to increase investment in food production and agricultural science and technology.

The United Nations should support also the Alliance for an African Green Revolution, he said, in order to acknowledge Africa’s capacity to help remedy the problem.  All nations, big or small, rich or poor, must work together to eliminate the global food shortages, famine, hunger and malnutrition.

DIMITRIS CHRISTOFIAS, President of Cyprus, said that his country’s experience emerging from colonialism and conflict engendered solidarity for all who struggled for survival and their own development.  Cyprus focused its overseas development assistance on a small number of countries in the area of infrastructure development for health and education services.  It was gradually increasing the number of countries it assisted.  Small States had a higher stake in multilateral diplomacy, and in a fair and functional system of collective security based on the principles of sovereign equality and respect for territorial integrity.

Cyprus had needed the support of the world community since the earliest days of its independence to face threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The will of the international community for Cyprus to survive had been evident in numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  Further, he said, United Nations resolutions had provided for negotiations in the form of the good offices mission of the Secretary-General, and had defined the legal and political framework on which the discussions for the federal architecture of the Cypriot State would be built.  The good offices negotiations made Cypriots the owners of their own process, he added.

He went on to say that framework provided for a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single personality, single indivisible sovereignty and single citizenship, and represented the only compromise on which a political arrangement could be built.  He noted that, on 3 September, a new intensive effort had begun with the aim of overcoming the impasses of the past and achieving progress that would lead to the reunification of Cyprus under mutually agreed terms, as well as to the withdrawal of foreign troops after 34 years of division and foreign occupation.  The role of the Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, was to agree on what they wanted, something he believed could be achieved.

Turkey also had to contribute to the process, he continued.  It maintained 40,000 troops and tens of thousands of settlers in Cyprus and could determine the outcome of issues under discussion.  The solution should allow Greek and Turkish Cypriots “to live and work together in an independent, prosperous country, within the family of the European Union, without the presence of foreign armies and illegal colonists under conditions of security and respect for their identity and their rights”.

ÁLVARO URIBE VÉLEZ, President of Colombia, said his country continued to fight so that each citizen could live confidently and safely.  Crimes against Colombian citizens continued to decrease.  Only 36 of the total homicides so far this year had been workers and teachers associated with trade unions, and not a single journalist had been murdered.

Still, Colombia was not satisfied and its determination to combat impunity was ongoing, he said.  Due to security policies and a tripartite agreement between workers, business leaders and Government -- and in stark contrast to the two charged with murder between 1991 and 2002 -- 199 persons had, in the last few years, received sentences for the murder of workers.  While terrorist organizations had often penetrated the ranks of workers in the past, the ongoing dismantling of the paramilitaries had significantly reduced their number.  While the setting off of a car bomb by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Cali recently had rattled the country, efforts were still being made to demobilize ever greater numbers of that group’s members.

In a country like Colombia, he continued, democracy relied on transparency, which in turn relied on the respect of human rights.  The Government constantly sought to balance vigilance with such respect, and a formative programme that promoted respect for human rights among Colombia’s armed services was ongoing.  On 10 December, Colombia planned to voluntarily submit to the universal periodic review under the procedures of the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission.

Pointing out that Colombia was already experiencing tangible results of democratic security, he said that, as citizens increasingly sought their protection in the State, any temptation to resort to justice by their own means receded.  Victims had left behind their fear and were coming forward to claim their rights.  Last year, he had stood at the Assembly acknowledging that his country had not been able to liberate Ingrid Betancourt.  Today, that was no longer the case.

Because social cohesion validated security, meeting the Millennium Development Goals was an essential part of Colombia’s efforts to reach social cohesion, he said.  To this end, Colombia was raising its rate of basic education coverage to 100 per cent.  Fewer children were repeating grades, and child mortality rates were falling.  Nevertheless, more needed to be done to resolve the great economic disparities between the country’s regions.  The Government was also focused on raising levels of child nutrition and vocational training, while streamlining the management of social resources and eliminating inefficiencies.

Taking up the issue of climate change, he emphasized that the financial turmoil paled in comparison to environmental change.  For its part, Colombia was constructing mass transportation systems in several of its urban areas.  It had undertaken conservation efforts to protect its rainforest and other ecologically fragile areas.  “We will not allow the rainforest to be touched,” he said, adding that protecting the forests would be Colombia’s most critical contribution to combating global warming.

Noting that illicit drugs were a great enemy of the environment and also fuelled terrorism, he stressed Colombia’s commitment to the concept of shared responsibility.  While Colombia fought to destroy harvests of illegal substances, other countries must address the role demand played in the illicit drug trade.  Indeed, whoever bought illicit drugs encouraged a child to become a part of the distribution system, helped to set off a car bomb in Colombia and encouraged the destruction of another tree in the rainforest.  By making strides to combat this problem, Colombia had raised the world’s confidence in it.  But more resolute support from the international community was still needed in this fight.

VALDIS ZATLERS, President of Latvia, addressed the issue of security, particularly in relation to long-lasting conflicts that appeared to quiet but might later re-emerge.  One such example was Kosovo, which required the international community’s help to achieve stability and to foster good relations with its neighbours.  In that context, the Secretary-General’s decision to reconfigure the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was welcomed.  Similarly, the world must not undermine efforts under way in Afghanistan to build a democratic, prosperous and secure State -- a cause to which Latvia was strongly committed.  Other parts of the world requiring attention were the Palestinian occupied territories and Lebanon.

He noted that not all developments on the international scene had been positive, and several questions regarding the legality of peacekeeping had been raised, notably by the recent conflict in Georgia.  For instance, was it acceptable for peacekeeping troops to protect one side in a conflict?  Could “protection of nationals abroad” be used as a pretext for a large-scale use of force in another State without Security Council approval?  In terms of peacebuilding in Georgia, he urged implementation of an agreed ceasefire with the Russian Federation, and called on world leaders to provide help to rebuild the country.  The United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) should not be hindered in its efforts.

Turning to the topic of development, he noted that the United Nations needed a clearer picture on what was required to successfully tackle the individual development clusters, namely health, education, growth and climate change.  There must be a clearer picture of the division of labour among different actors.  In that connection, Latvia supported the European Union initiative entitled “MDGs Call for Action”, and believed that the United Nations should play a decisive role in helping the world deal with climate change.  The Organization should help find a way to ensure that globalization benefited as many people as possible, while Member States should strive to cooperate fully with special procedures of the Human Rights Council.  States were also called on to ensure full cooperation with the International Criminal Court.  Work should proceed on Security Council and management reform within the United Nations, so as to help foster more effective multilateralism.

MARCUS STEPHEN, President of Nauru, addressing the Assembly for the first time, reminded delegations that almost a decade ago, his country had been on the brink of total economic collapse.  Through a variety of fiscal, economic and governance reforms, Nauru had begun slow, and occasionally painful, progress towards some stability.  However, because the situation had been fragile, the country needed continued support and assistance from its development partners, as well as strong debt forgiveness or major write downs.

He noted the many obstacles and challenges facing the Nauruans in current times, amongst them, high unemployment and depleted natural resources, and he appealed to developed countries, specifically the United States, as it expanded its military facilities in Guam, to open up job opportunities, reduce barriers to trade and promote labour mobility.  In developing stronger economic development, Nauru would be able to shift from its historical reliance on government and public sector investment to a more evolved private sector.

Like many countries around the world, the food and energy crises affected the security and well-being of the citizens of Nauru.  The exploitation of its phosphate mines had left the country unable to develop agriculture or prevent desertification and drought.  Recalling that the Secretary-General had said earlier that the price of rice had risen to $730 a ton, he noted that Nauru paid $1,340 a ton for its rice.  Although Nauru didn’t contribute to the foods shortages, it was one of the first to experience the consequences.  He called for a worldwide increase of food production, and a review of trade policies on food aid.

The unaffordable cost of fuel had also impacted the island in significant ways, with power cuts of up to eight hours a day, limited access to running water, the jeopardizing of sanitation standards, and, because transportation costs were out of reach for most of its citizens, the country’s growing isolation from the rest of the world.  He observed that the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and the resulting emissions affected Nauru with rising sea levels, which would eventually flood the island.  Global warming was no longer a scientific theory in Nauru.  It was a reality.

Despite those immense threats, he maintained his Government’s goals to rehabilitate the island’s land.  He also requested additional support to do so.  He challenged the emitting countries to do more to reduce their carbon footprint and called upon the United Nations to live up to its mandate to maintain international peace and security by ensuring a healthy global climate.

ELÍAS ANTONIO SACA GONZÁLEZ, President of El Salvador, said there was a danger of backtracking amid the current financial crisis, and prudent capitalism must be undertaken to finance economic development and not speculation.  Serious financial fluctuations must be mitigated, books balanced and the credit situation stabilized.  Countries directly affected should meet as soon as possible to find common solutions to the deepest financial predicament the world had seen in the past 75 years.

It was undeniable that the rise and instability of oil prices continued to negatively impact development in a majority of the world’s countries.  “If we don’t act immediately and together to find balanced solutions,” he said, “we are virtually condemning ourselves to bankruptcy.”  The international community had invested in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, but past successes would be swept aside by excessive oil prices if preventative actions were not taken.

Turning to social and economic challenges in El Salvador, he described programmes created to reduce extreme poverty, combat hunger and infant malnutrition, and other objectives established by the Millennium Development Goals.  In the face of that tangle of problems, creative responses were required.  He supported holding a special session of the General Assembly on the world food and energy crises.  To prevent a food crisis in El Salvador, he said, superior seed for basic grains had been provided, which had resulted in record production this year.  Efforts made by multilateral organizations or individual countries required a deep feeling of social solidarity irrespective of ideologies.

He went on to say that middle-income countries needed a global plan of action to achieve success with the Millennium Development Goals.  Such a plan should include new aspects such as South-South and triangular cooperation, as well as a mechanism for debt swapping.  He also delineating some of El Salvador’s recent successes in respect to the Millennium Goals, including a 32.6 per cent decrease in extreme poverty, increase of school enrolment from 78 to 93 per cent, improved literacy rates, universal availability of antiretroviral drugs, reduced child and maternal mortality, and improved access to clean drinking water.

On the subject of migration, he called for intensified actions to prevent all forms of trafficking in persons, particularly women and children.  Although migration policies must be respected, States must acknowledge the positive contributions that had been made by undocumented migrants -- nearly 12 million of whom were located in the United States alone.  These were good, hardworking people, he said, who were working to support their families.

In closing, he said the international community must try to achieve consensus on climate change and global warming.  From a Central American point of view, guidelines needed to be determined to deal with the serious problems arising from the phenomenon.  For its part, El Salvador had launched a “green network” to bring on board governmental and private institutions.

RUNALDO RONALD VENETIAAN, President of Suriname, said that, even as the United Nations celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many of those rights were under serious pressure.  Emerging challenges such as global warming, climate change, and the global food and energy crises were infringing on people’s rights to food, health, education, security and the overall freedom to live in dignity.  Those intertwined threats were beyond the control of any single nation.  Millions of vulnerable people were, therefore, looking to the international community, with the United Nations at the helm, for effective relief.

To meet those challenges, he continued, the world’s combined efforts should be intensified.  Suriname supported the emergency global partnership plan for Food, established by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  The global financial crisis also required substantial political and financial commitments from national Governments, multilateral organizations, indulging the international financial institutions, and the private sector.  Individuals must also change their behaviours towards “Mother Nature”, even as Governments in the developed world modified agricultural policies that caused low agricultural production in the developing world.  Lasting solutions should be sought now, or the costs of inaction would be devastating for future generations.

For its part, he said, Suriname was on the right track towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Due to sustained economic growth rates of over 5 per cent –- and predictions that those rates would rise to 8 per cent in the coming year -- it was reducing its levels of poverty.  It had taken action to preserve that success in the face of the current food and energy crises, and the recent turmoil in the financial sector by expanding social security and calling on the private sector to restore eroded salaries and pensions.

Suriname was also committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, he said, highlighting his country’s accession to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court on 15 July.  It recognized, however, that providing the Court with the full potential to meet its mandate required a joint commitment at the global level.

Given the magnitude of current environmental disturbances, their negative impact on the world’s resources could no longer be ignored, he said.  With 90 per cent of its land covered in forest, Suriname was aware of its potential in contributing to climate change mitigation.  It was further committed to conserving its biodiversity and protecting its water resources.  Nevertheless, his country felt that the international community’s contribution to protecting those valuable resources should be in proportion to the sacrifice made by forested countries.  To that end, Suriname had recently hosted a forum on financing for sustainable forest management, and it continued to stress the importance of finding new financing mechanisms to support forest management.

In closing, he reiterated his country’s support for the restructuring process at the United Nations.  It expected that the role of the Organization as a partner in development would gain further relevance and achieve a more coherent presence in capacity-building efforts.

ALVARO COLON CABALLEROS, President of the Guatemala, spoke of international terrorism and organized crime, including narcotics activity, and of Guatemala’s contribution to the global fight against organized crime in the framework of the rule of law and justice.  He expressed gratitude for United Nations’ assistance in those efforts through the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.  He also said that social inequality, hunger, the high price of food, its use to produce biofuels and global warming all threatened security, stability, governance and, in the case of climate change, the future of the planet.

He reiterated his commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and noted that the current international economic crisis threatened to reverse recent achievements in the fight against poverty.  The world had believed that the main thrust of public policy should be economic management.  Guatemala was now giving social policy the scope and strength it deserved, he said, moving forward with a programme that served the poorest regions of the country, especially those inhabited by the 23 indigenous communities that constituted the majority of Guatemala’s population.  The programme aimed to establish a system of wealth redistribution and social justice.

Those policies required strengthening the State and letting it recover part of its space given over to more traditional market-oriented paradigms.  “Overseeing the banking and financial system, managing public finance […] social expenditures and criminal prosecution, and taking charge of security forces are beginning to take hold as expressions of a State that functions for the common good,” he said, adding that this would provide long-term benefits.  He also highlighted plans for fiscal reform and modernization to ensure transparency, combat corruption and establish accountability for public expenditures among other measures.  He also said that energy sources needed to be diversified without damaging the environment.

He said that just as globalization of trade and information was accepted, so should the right to labour and the free flow of labour migrants.  He suggested that the Secretary-General create a panel of former Presidents from origin and recipient migrant countries to examine the nature, scope and consequences of labour migration and report its findings during the Assembly’s next session.  “Let’s dare to begin a human movement to eliminate the suffering of millions of human beings that simply seek opportunities of work and welfare, [who] are […] achieving a redistribution of wealth that was produced at the expense of their poverty, marginalization and discrimination.”

LECH KACZYŃSKI, President of Poland, said that overcoming the different crises that had arisen in the past year could not be achieved without drawing upon “such universal values as democracy, freedom and solidarity”.  Although the food crisis and its consequences was currently the largest global challenge, Poland also appreciated the initiative to combine that debate with discussions on the need to “democratize the United Nations”.  Hunger and poverty could only be eliminated and stable development of the poorest countries ensured through a democratic and effectively functioning United Nations, he said.

The words “one state one vote”, he said, expressed the fundamental principles that should govern democratic management within the United Nations, in which each State would participate in decision-making and the Assembly would remain the most important forum for democratic debate.  Additionally, he advocated a quicker pace for reforms of the Security Council.

Recalling the principles enshrined in the International Declaration of Human Rights, he lamented that the international community was still falling short of achieving the commitments to fight hunger and poverty as constituted in the Millennium Declaration.  Joint efforts should be made to produce concrete solutions implemented in a timely manner.  In that respect, Poland would host the fourteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Poznan this December.

Turning to issues of energy and international security, he expressed concern at the developments in Georgia, and said that ensuring energy security for Europe would depend on diversified sources of supply, transparent rules regulating trade and an extended transport infrastructure.  Additionally, he had witnessed the “illegal military aggression and division” of Georgia and fundamental principles of international law being infringed.  “We cannot allow the relativization of international law,” he said.  “If we do this, it will have no positive impact.”

He also pointed to Poland’s participation in an anti-terrorism coalition, with more than 3,500 Polish troops in Africa, the Balkans, Middle East and Asia.  He expressed concern for the lack of stability in the Middle East, and said that an independent Palestinian State should be built for the benefit of Palestinians and Israelis alike.  Afghanistan also remained a challenge, but was bound to end in a military success and a success for the Afghan people to improve their daily living.

FRANÇOIS BOZIZÉ, President of the Central African Republic, said that, since 1996 his country had been living through a period of domestic insecurity fed by conflicts in neighbouring countries.  The Darfur crisis had led to constant incursions by armed militias in the north.  To the south, the movements of the Lord’s Resistance Army had created instability and led to the plunder of his country’s land, the rape of its women and the deportation and conscription of children under 10.  The use of the Central African Republic’s territory as a rear-guard base for such non-State armed groups represented a danger to the provisions of Security Council resolution 1778 (2007).

He welcomed the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) to restore safety and security, and ensure the voluntary return of refugees displaced by the region’s conflicts.  Nevertheless, with the mandate of the European Union force (EUFOR) ending in March 2009 and the continuing fragility throughout the region, the renewal of MINURCAT’s mandate, as well as the force’s resizing, had become increasingly critical.  He further hoped that the coordination between the United Nations force and regional and local forces would continue.

Continuing, he said the region’s widespread insecurity had further increased levels of poverty, especially in rural areas.  In addition, the current financial crisis and the effects of natural disasters had sharpened the impact of the global food crisis on developing countries.  Its impact in the Central African Republic was somewhat paradoxical, given the country’s natural resources, including abundant rainfall and arable land.

However, the challenges posed by rural insecurity and disorganized, underdeveloped social and economic infrastructure hampered the country’s agricultural production.  The rural exodus and the impact of HIV/AIDS had also reduced the labour force.  Together, both natural and man-made causes had aggravated the food situation, making the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals more doubtful.

Noting that the Assembly was the most appropriate forum to discuss such emerging problems, he said that, while it was possible to meet the challenge of the food crisis, given the lack of technological and financial resources of countries like his, success was far from guaranteed.  In that light, his country looked forward to the fulfilment of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) recent pledge to double agricultural support to the African continent.

Saying that the threats of terrorism, poverty and bad governance contributed to the world’s vulnerabilities, he emphasized that a durable solution must be sought.  In the current era of interdependence, there was an absolute need for a collective body that could act.  The United Nations had been founded in that spirit.  But today, it was clear that the Organization needed to be reformed, including through genuine democratization.  That would require more effective functioning of the Economic and Social Council, as well as the Bretton Woods institutions, but would ultimately lead to a more balanced and freer world for all peoples.

PEDRO VERONA RODRIGUES PIRES, President of Cape Verde, said that the world today faced a multifaceted crisis in finance, food, energy and ecology, and general and collective security were at risk.  At the same time, transnational organized crime and terrorism threatened international law and order, while global warming and climate change challenged authorities and institutions.  Armed conflict was resurgent or lying in wait with new factors sparking tensions in various spots around the world.

Without security, social stability, political and institutional cohesion, and especially mutual trust among international political actors, it would be difficult to find solutions to global challenges such as extreme poverty, pandemics and economic inequality, he said.  While the Millennium Development Goals aimed to address such issues, the current financial crisis, with its unstable markets and volatility in the movement of capital, put global economic stability at risk.  To that end, new forms of financial regulation, fair and acceptable to all, were needed.

He further said that the food crisis had put hundreds of millions of people in a precarious situation.  Urgent action was required to guarantee increased agricultural production able to meet current and future needs.  That called for partnership with the rich, more technically advanced States, along with aid from international mechanisms and institutions.  It also required sustained support for modernization and increased agricultural production in the affected regions, particularly in Africa.

Escalating oil prices also posed grave problems for less developed and non-oil-producing economies, he said, and called for continued work to find alternative energy sources to promote a reduction in dependency on fossil fuels.  Global measures were urgently needed to overcome the environmental crisis, which affected us all, for the good of all.

Recent experience had shown that no State could find solutions to such complex challenges alone.  The United Nations was the institution which provided the essential conditions to assume collective responsibility.  To do so, the Organization must adapt to the challenges of the twenty-first century.  To that end, United Nations reform was indispensable, especially enlargement of the Security Council, which would strengthen its legitimacy.

BAMIR TOPI, President of Albania, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a strong and coherent United Nations, capable of tackling the new challenges facing the world.   Albania supported initiatives to strengthen collective peace and security towards reaching sustainable and long-term development, while also promoting human rights and international cooperation.  Organizational reform would only be possible through cooperation, dialogue and consensus.

The global fight against terrorism’s collective threat required the United Nations to play a very important role, he said.   Albania had actively met it obligations and responsibilities in that fight, and would continue to be a stabilizing force in its region.  It had contributed peacekeeping troops to United Nations and other security forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Chad.

Having willingly joined the “One UN” programme, he said, Albania was actively working with United Nations agencies to establish new partnerships in the fields of development, humanitarian assistance and combating climate change.  It viewed the Millennium Development Goals not only as development objectives, but also as the means of growth.  Accordingly, it had integrated the Goals in its national development policies, adding good governance as an additional objective.

Noting the varied threats posed by climate change, he underlined Albania’s modest contributions to reducing its carbon emissions and support of international efforts against global warming.  It similarly supported a multilevel, coherent and well-coordinated response to the global food crisis and hailed the creation of the High-Level Task Force charged with meeting that challenge.

He said that Albania would answer the invitation to join NATO with greater responsibility and determination to meet the membership requirements.  As it sought to encourage stronger multilateral and regional relationships, it would also promote trust between all of the region’s countries, as well as their full integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures.

Albania considered the founding of the independent and sovereign state of Kosova as the most important historical development in the region since the beginning of the century, he continued.  Its creation finally freed the region from the nightmares of war, inter-ethnic conflicts, ethnic cleansing and genocide, and had fulfilled the will of a people of Kosova to break free from political oppression, historical injustices and an inability to develop.

Recognition of the new state was in the interest of Kosova, Albania, Serbia and all of its close and distant neighbours, and of Europe.  Stressing that Kosova fully deserved to become a member of the United Nations, he called on the Assembly to recognize and support the Republic of Kosova.

ÓSCAR ARIAS SÁNCHEZ, President of Costa Rica, said he brought a message of urgency to the world body’s meeting: while leaders were deliberating, millions of people who had only recently been able to cover their basic needs were once again seeing the face of poverty.  Hunger, the “abominable monster” that had been vanished for so many years, had returned to chase away the dreams of humanity as pessimism and hopelessness had taken control of the world’s economies.  The poorest were the ones to pay the consequences, he added.

He decried world military spending, which had reached more than $3 billion per day, while international aid continued to trickle to the poorest countries at a snail’s pace and failed to reach the middle-income countries altogether.  He observed that, while the interdependence of today’s world made everyone vulnerable, that very interdependence was also the international community’s strength.  “In the past, a nation could avert its gaze from far-off suffering and scorn the pain of others.  Today, that option does not exist,” he said, adding: “Every victory is shared, and so is every failure.”

On the necessity of upholding the ideals of the Charter, he declared that evil lived not only through actions, but also, and above all, through omission.  To keep silent when crimes were grave and responsibilities were clear was not to remain neutral –- it was to take a stand on the side of the aggressors.  The recent past held unpunished and horrendous crimes that called out, not for vengeance, but for justice.  Evil should not be trivialized if the painful history of Kosovo and Bosnia, of Rwanda and Kampuchea were not to be repeated.  It was, therefore, time for the international community to demand that those responsible for the crimes committed in Darfur be judged before the International Criminal Court.

“ Costa Rica will oppose any attempt to avoid this path, which is the path of peace.  Forgiveness is based on memory, not in concealment; and peace will be possible only through memory,” he said, adding that if the spirit of the past called for holding people responsible for the violation of human rights, the spirit of the present called for ensuring that those rights were fulfilled today.

Continuing, he said excessive military spending was one of many ways in which Governments could indirectly hurt their peoples, particularly in developing countries, where “every long-range missile, every helicopter gunship, every tank” was a symbol of postponed attention to the needs of their people.  He added that, on a planet where one sixth of the population lived on less than a dollar a day, spending $1.2 trillion on arms and soldiers was an offence and a symbol of irrationality, because the security of a satisfied world was more certain than the security of an armed one.

SANJAA BAYAR, Prime Minister of Mongolia, said that the current financial, food and energy crises were exacerbating the complex challenges and threats facing the world -- challenges that only the United Nations could help countries effectively address.  Yet, the Organization needed reform to adapt to evolving global realities.  While there had been progress in several areas, such as system-wide coherence, General Assembly revitalization and, most recently, the Assembly’s decision to begin negotiations on Security Council reform, he believed that small States, who made up the majority of the Organization’s membership, should be a driving force behind the democratization process.

He said that the global food crisis had driven an additional 75 million people into hunger and poverty.  Soaring food prices boosted inflation rates, bred economic protectionism and inhibited economic growth in developing countries.  He called for immediate attention to address the needs of the net food-importing developing countries to secure their right to purchase foodstuffs and agricultural products.

Vulnerable countries must also focus on policies that would boost agricultural production and build national resilience to similar shocks in the future.  He noted that Mongolia had designated this year as the “Year for Food Supply and Safety” with the objectives of reducing the country’s dependence on imported goods, raising public awareness of food quality and ensuring safe food production and processing domestically.

On the impact of escalating oil prices, he called for improved energy efficiency and diversification.  Energy security required a comprehensive solution both nationally and internationally.  He spoke of energy cooperation among States of North-East Asia through the Senior Officials Committee on Energy Cooperation in North-East Asia and the Intergovernmental Collaborative Mechanism on Energy Cooperation in North-East Asia.  He further said that integrating Mongolia’s economy into the region’s economy was among the best means to overcome its developmental difficulties.  He also addressed the need for market access, technical trade assistance and technology transfers to help all developing countries integrate into the global economy.

Turning to the Millennium Development Goals, he noted the contrast between countries on track to meet them and those lagging behind, saying that effective global cooperation was needed to help the latter.  While Mongolia was ahead of schedule on many of its own targets, the important goals of halving poverty, providing housing and ensuring environmental sustainability required redoubled efforts.  Mongolia’s efforts had been hampered in its recent past by partisan division, but it had recently formed a unity Government between the two main political parties.  He was convinced that that political achievement would lead to success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.