DR Congo + 3 more

Press conference by Security Council President

Costa Rica had been struggling for many years to improve the working methods of the Security Council, and during its presidency of the 15-nation body this month it would treat issues as publicly as possible, Permanent Representative Jorge Urbina said today during a press conference at Headquarters.

Briefing correspondents on the Security Council's November work programme, Ambassador Urbina said any issue on the agenda would have a public setting, although for some issues consultations had been scheduled, as well. During this morning's consultations, he noted that South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo had said the programme set "a new standard of openness and transparency".

He said 19 November would be an important day for his country, as the Council was set to convene a high-level meeting on strengthening collective security and armament regulation -- a delicate issue that already was raising some concern. He would love to have a presidential statement as an outcome of the meeting, which would be a consensus expression of the Council's views on the topic.

Costa Rica's President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize winner Óscar Rafael de Jesús Arias Sánchez was expected to attend, as was Panama's President. As the two countries in the Council without an army, they had some "moral authority" on the issue. Several foreign ministers were expected as well, he added. In addition, a side event on development and arms spending would feature President Arias, as well as Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, and Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics, he said.

As for the rest of the programme of work for the month, he highlighted the fact that on 6 November the Council would vote on judges for the International Court of Justice simultaneously with the General Assembly. A matter of great concern to Council members was the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy would brief the Council as soon as he returned from his visit there, and on 26 November, the Council would address the request for additional troops for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), on which there was currently no consensus.

Answering questions about the high-level event on 19 November, Ambassador Uribe said people from his country and wider Latin America believed that arms control was an achievable goal through the United Nations. The world, especially the developing world, was spending too much money on arms that could go to development. The Security Council had the duty of preserving peace, but also, according to Article 26 of the Charter -- the "forgotten Article" -- to promote peace and to prepare plans for arms control. The Council had never done so, and it had not worked on Article 26 since 1947.

[Article 26 reads: "In order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources, the Security Council shall be responsible for formulating, with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee referred to in Article 47, plans to be submitted to the Members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments."]

He said the fact that the General Assembly was working on a draft arms control treaty was related to holding the high-level event. There was a clear division of work, however, as expressed in respective resolutions adopted by the two bodies, under which the Assembly had the responsibility to formulate general policies for arms control, and the Council must make specific plans.

It was difficult to promote a discussion in the Council of issues related to development, he continued, noting that Article 26 offered a way to promote such a discussion, as it could highlight the money spent on the military. It was odd that, at times, the United Nations, in security sector reform debates for example, promoted the preservation of an army where it didn't make sense -- in Timor-Leste for instance.

Financing for achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 would require $72 billion a year. "That money can be found in savings in the military, if States feel that there is sufficient collective security in place, if they feel safe," he said, adding that Costa Rica, which had had not army for 60 years, had invested in education, health and housing.

Asked if the Council considered the issue of the Western Sahara a priority and if he was optimistic that the conflict could be settled in the next few months, Ambassador Uribe said the Council reviewed the situation periodically. In his national capacity, however, he said he was not very optimistic about a quick solution.

On the Middle East, he said that Tony Blair, Special Envoy of the diplomatic Quartet, might brief the Council, but no answer had been received to a request in that regard. In his national capacity, he said that that conflict had lasted for 60 years. He had some reasons to be "very moderately" optimistic, as well as some reasons to be pessimistic. The coming elections in Israel might shed more light on the issue. Costa Rica had voted on the partition resolution and was working hard for a solution in which two States could live side by side.

The debate on the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Multinational Force had been planned to enable the United States to give its periodic briefing. Asked whether during that debate a mandate expansion of the Multinational Force would be taken up, Ambassador Uribe said no request had been received from any of the parties for a mandate extension.

Asked why the "protection of civilians in armed conflict" was only a footnote in the programme of work and not a thematic debate, he said he would have liked to have scheduled the debate for November, but since the "aide mémoire" on the issue had not been updated since 2004 and the report on the matter was scheduled for December, the debate had to be postponed.

For information media - not an official record