13 September 2002
President Thabo Mbeki urged the world’s leaders, gathered in New York a day after the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on the US, to reaffirm their commitment to the United Nations and its Charter as indispensable to world peace.
Speaking at the United Nations headquarters during the opening session of the 57th UN General Assembly, Mbeki described the multilateral system of global governance as “the only viable international response to all our challenges . Fundamentally, this is the only credible response to the challenge of globalisation and the need to enhance human solidarity to meet our common needs.”
Mbeki was addressing the gathering in his capacity as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement and the newly formed African Union, and president of the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Mbeki spoke immediately after US President George W Bush, whose administration has threatened to attack Iraq, accusing it of failing to comply with UN resolutions adopted in the wake of its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Laying out the United States’ case against the current Iraqi regime, Bush pledged that the US “will work with the UN Security Council to meet our common challenge”, but warned that “if Iraq’s regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold [it] to account.”
Mbeki said the Non-Aligned Movement is committed to the peaceful resolution of all conflicts, “including those pertaining to Palestine and Israel, as well as Iraq, in keeping with the resolutions of the United Nations”‘, adding that these were “urgent tasks to which this organisation must respond”.
Two years ago, Mbeki said, the world’s leaders, through the United Nations Millennium Declaration, “reaffirmed our faith in the [United Nations] and its Charter as indispensable foundations of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.
“None of those who spoke from this podium knew that a year after they had pledged to use their energies and talents to provide a meaningful life for all, peace in this country and the rest of the world would be brutally challenged by the murderous terrorist attack of September 11.
“We meet a day after the first anniversary of that fateful September 11. We have a collective duty to reaffirm our united resolve to create a world free of the fear of terrorism.
“We have a solemn obligation to give real meaning to the message of hope we proclaimed in the Millennium Declaration. It may be that future generations will say that if we have learnt anything at all from the horrendous events of September 11, it is to the accomplishment of these tasks that this General Assembly should dedicate its efforts.”
Africa’s response to its past and present
Turning to his Africa, Mbeki said the continent had risen to the challenges of the Millennium Declaration by forming the African Union (AU).
“The African Union (AU) is Africa’s practical and determined response to its past and present, in favour of peace and stability, democracy and human rights, co-operation, development, prosperity and human dignity”, Mbeki said.
“Its programme for the socio-economic revitalisation of our continent is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), which must help us to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment throughout Africa and, within the context of the African Union, end Africa’s humiliation as an object of charity.”
Mbeki told the gathering that the AU had agreed to the establishment of various institutions, including a peer-review mechanism, “which must help us ensure that we honour our commitments democracy, human rights and good governance”.
Mbeki called on the UN to work closely with the AU in modernising Africa’s economy, dealing with the continent’s “intolerable debt burden”, ensuring access for Africa’s products in the markets of the developed world, fighting Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, and working against environmental degradation.
Shared prosperity through sustainable development
Reporting on the World Summit, which took place in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September, Mbeki said the Summit had “confronted the stark reality that billions of people across the globe are poor, and boldly confirmed the need for us to collaborate for a shared human prosperity through sustainable development.
“We agree that this goal can be achieved because we are inspired by the knowledge that the resources needed exist within the global community.”
Delegates from around the world enshrined the decisions they took in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, “to ensure that the billions of people who have placed their fate on our collective shoulders have a concrete programme of action to realise the goals contained in Agenda 21 and other documents adopted by the world community of nations during the last 10 years.”
Mbeki said that UN member states had already committed themselves to making available the finance, technology and capacity building needed for implementing the Johannesburg Plan.
“It is critically important that we implement everything we agreed, acting with the necessary sense of urgency.”
Mbeki reminded the gathering that, two years ago in the Millennium Declaration more than 150 heads of state and government resolved that “the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalisation becomes a positive force for all the world’s people.
“Through both our global and regional programmes”, Mbeki said, “we can and must ensure that globalisation indeed becomes a valuable process, which will bring about sustainable development and prosperity for all.”