Keynote speech by H.E. Ms Katalin Bogyay, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN at the Second European Blue Sky Conference: Global Transformations: Consequences and Alternatives, in Budapest on 29 October 2015.
Professor Miklós Réthelyi:
President of Hungarian National Commission of UNESCO
Former Minister of Human Resources
Professor Ferenc Miszlivetz:
Member of UNESCO Most (Management of Social Transformation) Intergovernmental Council since 2013; Chair of UNESCO Hungarian National Committee of Social sciences since 2012; Unesco Chair of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainability of Corvinus- ISES in Kőszeg since 2011.
Your Excellency Mr Zoltán Cséfalvay, Permanent Delegate of Hungary to UNESCO and Permanent Representative of Hungary to OECD
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The UN celebrates its seventieth anniversary.
This year we commemorate a key moment in the history of international relations in the post-World War II era – the creation of the United Nations. The world has made extraordinary progress since 1945 in global cooperation – peace, security, freedom of nations, human rights, development, fight diseases, advance education, health, women’s and children’s rights, and technology are among the areas that have made a quantum leap in history of Humankind.
At the time of the inception of the United Nations the scale and spread of violence, destruction and devastation prompted the international community to pledge to free succeeding generation from the scourges of war. However, in the subsequent seven decades there have been numerous failings to live up to this pledge. Efforts of prevention of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the genocide, including early warning and early action remain as important as ever.
The membership of the United Nations expanded from the original 51 to the present 193 with two observer states of the Holy Sea and Palestine. This stands proof of the proliferation of the right of all peoples to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic social and cultural development.
Today, no country stays isolated from the increasingly globalized world. Countries - big or small, developed or least developed, landlocked or islands - have experienced growing difficulties in protecting themselves from the imbalances that transcend national boundaries and regions. Working together has become more and more important. We believe the United Nations remains the world's only plausible setting where all voices can be heard. UN became an indispensable instrument for addressing the challenges we face.
A lot has been done, but a lot more needs to be achieved in reflection of ever-changing reality around us. Every year, every day, even every hour we face new challenges. We have to cope with new dangers. Simultaneously we have to strive for making the United Nations more transparent, more inclusive, and more efficient.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Two high level weeks introduced the 70th session of the General Assembly this year.
Between 25-27th of September world leaders gathered for the Sustainable Development Summit and have expressed their firm support for the 2030 Agenda and their strong commitment to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
And on the week of the 28th of September world leaders shared their vision about the most pressing problems of their countries, the world and the UN.
So, the circus came to town twice. The life in New York during the high level week, this time weeks, is unbearable. Convoys, traffic jams, 1000 secret agents, not to mention police in cars, on horses, motorbikes and even on bikes, and UN security personnel made our life miserable. We, the UN Ambassadors were running and sweating, picking up delegations on different airports thousand times, having head ache and heart failure because of the new and new obstacles and wishes of our leaders and harsh security measures. We acted as magicians and waited, as we say, for the smell of the aerosol, the departure time.
And yes, this year everybody came from the world. Royals, celebrities, Heads of States, Heads of Governments, Foreign Ministers. And even The Holy Father, Pope Francis, who actually set the tone of this world gathering:
“The history of this organized community of States - as he said - is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour.”
The Pope spoke out against partisan interests, “the culture of waste”, selfishness, inequality and exclusion that are the root causes for the biggest global problems. He spoke strongly in favour of observing ethical norms and practical considerations in order to safeguard the environment and thereby, ensure the future of mankind.
Sustainable Development Summit
It is most welcome that on the first week at the Sustainable Development Summit Heads of State and Government have expressed their firm support for the Agenda and their strong commitment to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. At the agenda’s core lie the 17 interrelated SDG-s and the 169 targets that ensure the interplay between the economic, social and environmental pillars in each and every goal.
If we truly want to secure our common future, end poverty and hunger by 2030 and ensure prosperity for all, now is the time to start turning words into action by mobilizing all stakeholders, governments, private sector, international and regional organizations, NGOs, academia, both the North and the South to take responsibility and contribute their fair share to the implementation. Only through the establishment of this true Global Partnership can our aspirations be met.
The agenda is the result of a common understanding that current economic, social and environmental trends, if they continue unchallenged and unchanged, will doom our planet. For the first time Member States agree that only sustainable development is development, for development that is unsustainable, is nothing else but temporary improvement. The agenda represents the paradigm of change of the 21st Century: The world’s overall prosperity and States’ own interests are interdependent, therefore, cannot be achieved at the cost of the other.
The 2030 development plan concentrates on ending poverty and hunger, ensuring healthy lives and inclusive education. On gender equality and providing water and sanitation for all. On access to energy for all and productive employment. On reducing inequality within and among countries and fostering innovation. The plan talks about what makes a city sustainable, how to ensure sustainable consumption and take urgent action to combat climate change, how to conserve oceans, protect our ecosystem. It promotes peaceful and inclusive societies. Of course it is an abstract and beautiful vision. Hopefully in the coming 15 years the vision turns into action. But we know that vision and action can be understood differently.
For example, since the agreement on the 2030 Agenda, just adopted by all of us by consensus, we have clear pathways under SDG 10. To deal with the phenomena of migration. The agenda, first and foremost, provides comprehensive approaches, addressing the root causes, so migration does not have to occur. The agenda aims to end poverty and to provide sustainable economic, environmental, social circumstances, so that people can strive in their own countries.
The Agenda acknowledges the role of migration in development. In order to turn the current challenge into opportunity the agenda calls for “ orderly, safe, regulated and responsible migration“.
So, the very agenda received resounding support and was adopted by acclamation by all the world leaders, but the global solution for the recent mass migration is very far away from the agreed vision under SDG 10. “…Facilitate responsible mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.
But I always say: “ Be a dreamer, be an optimist and be an activist!” - If you want to work in the United Nations.
UN: a reflection of human development
Yes, this is the question. Is the UN a real reflection of the world?
It is actually, I believe. The UN deals with peace and security, human rights and development. We should never forget that the strengths and accomplishments, just like the weaknesses and failures of the Organization are our common responsibility. In other words, the capacity of the UN to act, or not to act is nothing but the reflection of the will and determination of its member states.
Is the UN fit for purpose?
There is a growing need for a strong and unified Security Council.
As also expressed by almost all of the heads of state and government at the recent General Debate of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, we are living in an age of global turmoil. Large-scale conflicts have tripled since 2008. More than 60 million people have been forcibly displaced, the most since the Second World War.
The conflicts in the Middle Eastern and North African region, the chronic instability of fragile states and regions (as for example in Sudan and South Sudan or Somalia) dominate the discussions in the area of peace and security. Regionalization, intra-state conflicts, emergence of non-state actors, the spread of radicalism and violent extremism, international terrorism, foreign terrorist fighters, international organized crime, make it even more difficult to face today’s challenges.
The general observation of the UN membership is that the UN still has (and should have) a pivotal role in maintaining peace and security. During its 70 years of existence, the organization has prevented many conflicts from escalation and ended or alleviated human suffering. The role played by the UN in Timor Leste is often cited as one of its best examples of successfully assisting a country through the cycle of peace making, peacekeeping and peace building.
But, as I said, without political will nothing can happen.
And listening carefully to world leaders - as we all do during the GA - you realize it is a real miracle to find common solutions to world problems.
Let us take migration and the chaos of the Middle East!
And let me quote a few key actors!
President of Brazil, Dilma Roussef:
“The reason for the large-scale refugee crisis is the spread of regional conflicts and terrorism. Some countries have destroyed state institutions through military action contrary to international law, thus allowing space for terrorism.”
US President, Barack Obama:
“According to some, and contrary to the US position, the goals of the UN Charter are unattainable and out-dated in today’s context, international relations are a zero-sum game and therefore international order can only be maintained through the use of force.
In contrast, the US rejects violence-based politics and the settlement of the Syrian conflict according to the Russian agenda. Cooperating with Assad does not solve the problem; he is part of the problem. The US is ready to cooperate with Russia and Iran since results can only be attained through concerted efforts.”
President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping:
“In the spirit of multilateralism, countries must seek a global partnership.
The world must create a security system based on justice, common contributions and shared benefits.”
Russian President, Vladimir Putin:
“Many criticize the UN and the Security Council for not being effective enough and for failing to agree on basic questions but such differences have always existed. Every member has used the veto.
You have to accept that each country follows its own path of development, and dissemination of ideals preferred by some lead to the destruction of national institutions. The resulting power vacuum has caused anarchy in several Middle Eastern and North African countries.”
President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma:
“The migrant crisis was caused by arming of the civil insurgents.”
President of Poland, Andrzej Duda:
“The increasingly frequent attacks against Christian minorities in the Middle East are concerning.”
President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani:
“The nuclear agreement opened a new chapter in the relations between Iran and other countries, and could bring us closer to stabilization of the region. Iran is ready to contribute to the democratization of Syria and Yemen.”
Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu:
„Despite the restrictions in the Iran nuclear agreement, Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear state, once the agreement expires in 10-15 years. Israel will not allow this. The agreement is bad, even if the world is celebrating the new business opportunities that it opened up.
In contrast to President Abbas, I am ready to begin immediately and unconditionally direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. I remain committed to the two-state solution, under which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes Israel as the state of the Jews.”
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas:
„ I call on Israel to stop attacks against Islamic and Christian holy sites.
Maintenance of the status quo is unacceptable. All state supporters of a two-state solution must recognize Palestine's statehood.”
Ahmet Davutoglu, Prime Minister of Turkey:
„It is unacceptable that Assad can be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis. Turkey fights against the PKK, DAESH and all forms of terrorism.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Jubeir:
„Saudi Arabia will be the first to support the Syrian people and the country's reconstruction following Assad’s departure.”
Failures and successes from the everyday work of the Security Council
According to the UN Charter, the Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Through its constant meetings, closed consultations, open briefings by members of the UN Secretariat, debates open to all the UN membership to participate to, the work of its different subsidiary bodies, such as the various sanctions committees, etc. This is what it is admittedly doing every day, all year round.
As the Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN, I deem it important to have Hungary - even though currently not a member of the Security Council - participate to the meetings of the Security Council when possible. This is important for the transparency of the world body and gives us a chance to have our viewpoints heard by the members of the body. I have thus delivered numerous statements at the open debates of the Security Council in the past months in the area of protection of civilians, women, peace and security, protection of ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East, among others.
It is a common view among Member States, that the UN has major problems with responding to current conflicts. Despite the robust efforts, the demand for peacekeeping has grown in the recent years, with 87 per cent of UN peacekeepers deployed in Africa. The revival of major power competition and proxy wars in trouble spots (Eastern Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, to site just a few examples) and the inability of the Security Council to often fulfil its responsibilities are found by many to be truly worrisome.
Fortunately, there are cases where the Security Council can still find a unified voice. This is how the resolutions on the use of chemical weapons and on the humanitarian track in Syria, counter-terrorism, fight against foreign terrorist fighters or on the fight against illicit migration in the Mediterranean were adopted. We should also mention the united stance taken (under strong US leadership) by the world body to eradicate the Ebola epidemic in West Africa here.
Nevertheless, the real output of the Security Council ultimately depends on the political will of the parties involved to commit to peace. Without such a political will, there will be no peace to keep and the Security Council will only be managing and not resolving crises.
Ultimately, the Security Council will have to break the deadlock and come up quick political solutions to the imminent crises, including Iraq, Syria and Libya. There is no military solution to these conflicts and therefore, the transatlantic community and Russia have to cooperate, instead of pursuing unilateral military actions.
World leaders agree that the spread of terrorism and violent extremism is a common threat that should be tackled by united efforts. These seem to be areas, where members of the Security Council are also looking for ways to cooperate. Previously adopted resolutions in the area demonstrate that this is possible. Despite current disputes over Syria, a real international cooperation against Daesh may prove unavoidable.
The Iran Deal has also shown that sometimes, when the Security Council is at a deadlock, solutions can be negotiated outside the UN. This should not be necessarily regarded as a negative development, but more a pragmatic adaptation to “realpolitik”.
Prevention is key to creating a safer world
Despite the efforts, the work of the UN is still mostly reactive in the field of peace and security instead of being proactive. Much more focus should be put on prevention, mediation, horizon scanning as only these methods can prevent conflict and atrocities.
An excellent opportunity to address these issues is through the various on-going reform processes of the UN peace operations, the UN peace building mechanism and the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security agenda. To achieve maximum effectiveness, Hungary calls for synchronizing these processes with each other.
The historic adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in September underscores a long-standing truth: there will be no peace without development, no development without peace, and neither without respect for human rights.
Therefore, Member States and the Security Council must leave behind the silo mentality and build stronger interdependence between the Council’s work and the related activities of the UN system, from Responsibility to Protect to peace building, and sustainable development.
Partnerships with regional actors and organizations should also further strengthened. The African Union, the League of Arab States and the European Union can all compliment the work of the UN.
Understanding that there is also a mutually reinforcing correlation between peace, security and accountability, Hungary has requested Member States to ensure criminal justice for atrocity crimes committed in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. We are particularly concerned by the crimes committed against religious and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups, as well as the destruction of cultural heritage in these regions. We continuously voice these concerned, including at the relevant open debates of the Security Council.
There is no peace without justice. Impunity not only prevents meaningful reconciliation, but also encourages actors to turn to the tool of mass atrocities to reach their goals. We encourage the Security Council to create its own accountability strategy to bring perpetrators to justice, and make it the cornerstone of its peace-making (and at the same time preventive) efforts.
There are positive results though for example in the development of human rights for a start!
The UN Charter made the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and a guiding principle of the world organization. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 and set out, for the first time in history, the fundamental rights and freedoms that all human beings should enjoy. The UDHR remains the landmark document for international human rights and a “standard” to which all nations should aspire.
Over the last seven decades, UN has placed human rights at the centre of its activities. Let me give you some examples of the major achievements of the UN in the protection of human rights:
Since 1945, a series of international human rights treaties have been adopted under the auspices of the UN, including on civil and political rights, the prohibition of torture, and the elimination of racism. The adoption of these treaties played a ground-breaking role in empowering the voiceless segments of society: children, women, youth, ethnic and racial minorities and persons with disabilities.
By imposing strict measures, including an arms embargo, the United Nations was also a major factor in bringing about the downfall of the apartheid system in South Africa.
Thanks to the work of the UN Commission on Status of Women, and the creation of UN Women, women’s rights are today acknowledged as fundamental human rights.
Recent UN conferences put violence against women at the forefront of the international community’s attention, shedding light at a “global epidemic” that was not long ago considered a private issue. Most importantly, sexual violence in conflict is recognized as a tactic of war and constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity.
The Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC), adopted in 1989, changed the way children are treated and became the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. It inspired changes in laws and practice that have improved the lives of millions of children. As a result, sexual exploitation of children is now strictly penalized in most countries, as is the recruitment of children in armed conflict.
Despite these achievements, the UN human rights system faces significant challenges and has even, at times, failed miserably to protect people from mass atrocities and other serious human rights violations. The massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina took place under the watch of the international community and the UN. In the last stages of the Sri Lankan war, the UN’s efforts were characterized as a “systemic failure”.
The success of UN peace operations is increasingly measured by their ability to protect civilian populations from grave human rights violations. As a result of the “Children Not Soldiers” campaign, Chad has been taken off the UN Secretary-General’s list of child recruiters and over 400 children were released from the army in Myanmar.
After the massacres of the 1990s, the International Criminal Court was created to bring perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice. In 2012, the first sentence of the ICC sentenced a Congolese warlord to 14 years in prison for using child soldiers in his rebel army.
In 2013, the UN Secretary-General launched the ‘Human Rights Up Front’ Initiative. Its main goal is to ensure that the UN takes early and effective action to prevent or respond to serious violations of human rights.
In the Human Rights Council, UN Member States have agreed to submit themselves to international scrutiny and to periodically report on their human rights record through the so-called “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR). This would have been unimaginable even a few decades ago.
These and other achievements are gradually transforming the way the UN responds to serious human rights challenges. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”