Speaker in General Assembly Annual Debate Rejects ‘Pernicious Notion’ Human Dignity Can Be ‘Sliced Up, Compartmentalized, or Compromised’
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
21st & 22nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Responsibility to Protect, Illicit Arms Flows, Political Transitions
Dominate Discussion; Syria, Other Speakers from Middle East Take Floor
As the General Assembly entered week two of its annual debate, Canada’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said he rejected the “pernicious notion” that human dignity could be “sliced up, compartmentalized or compromised”, since it was impossible, in a pluralistic society, to protect some human rights and freedoms while infringing others.
Canada’s aim, he said, was to secure tangible results for the human family. At the United Nations, the focus should be on achievement rather than on the arrangements of its affairs, he said, adding, “the billions who are hungry, or lack access to clean water, or are displaced or cannot read and write do not care how many members sit on the Security Council”.
To those who would ask “what business is it of ours” — whether about religion or freedom, sexual, political or otherwise, or “what interest do we have in events outside our borders”, the Minister said he would reply, “our business is a shared community; our interest is the dignity of humankind”.
Syria remained “the most urgent crisis” on the United Nations’ agenda, he said, expressing support for the Syrian people and condemning the “brutal and illegitimate regime that has unleashed weapons of mass destruction on its own people”. Calling for a political resolution resulting in a peaceful, democratic and pluralistic Syria, he warned, however, not to “confuse” a peaceful, negotiated outcome with equivocation or moral uncertainty. “There can be no moral ambiguity about the use of chemical weapons on civilians,” he added.
Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs offered a different perspective, saying instead that he believed “aggressive policies” and “political hypocrisy” were at play in the attitude of some countries towards his own. Foreign interference in internal affairs was based on a “pretext of humanitarian intervention or the responsibility to protect”. The same countries that were supporting intervention in Syria had also supported terrorism there.
He renewed his call on the international community to work on establishing a Middle East zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, which could not be achievable without the accession of Israel, the region’s only nuclear Power. At the same time, he underlined the right of all countries to acquire and develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Bahrain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs also stressed the right of all States to enjoy the fruits of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and related to that, support for reaching a swift solution to the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme, in line with the provisions of the NPT.
For the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, illicit small arms and light weapons were “the weapons of mass destruction”, and she hoped that implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty would lead to a reduction in the illicit flow. That would help to reduce armed conflict and violence, she said.
Echoing the call made throughout the debate of the importance political and diplomatic means to resolve conflict was the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, who voiced support for a United Nations declaration that would strengthen the legal basis for the work of the General Assembly, Security Council and other United Nations entities dealing with peace and stability issues. Turkmenistan had launched a regional initiative aimed at establishing a standing mechanism of political dialogue in Central Asia, he noted.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Guineans Abroad of Guinea pointed to the importance of regional support in the resolution of the recent crisis in Mali, stressing that that country’s stability was vital to that of the Sahel as a whole. In his own country, he pointed to the vital contribution of the Mano River Union’s efforts to consolidate peace and to catalyse the dialogue that had been vital to the process. Describing the political transition in Myanmar, its Foreign Minister said expectations were high, and while the country was still in a critical period, it would march resolutely along its chosen path, as there was no turning back.
Several speakers also made references to the spate of recent terrorist attacks around the world, including in Nairobi, Kenya, where an attack at a shopping mall on 21 September killed scores of innocent civilians.
Also speaking were ministers from Oman, Iceland, Belize, Morocco, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Hungary, Philippines, Bhutan, Suriname and Grenada.
Speaking in exercise of the right to reply were representatives of Indonesia and Pakistan.
The General Assembly will meet again at 9 a.m. Tuesday, 1 October, to conclude its annual debate.