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Mbeki calls for UN reform

South African President Thabo Mbeki has called for reform of the United Nations (UN), saying that the world body needed to reflect the "changing times."

The first African leader to address the 54th session of the General Assembly, Mbeki said: "If we are indeed seriously committed to these critical objectives of peace and democracy in the world, then we have no excuse to permit the further postponement of the meaningful restructuring of the United Nations."

In his speech on Monday, Mbeki also said that with the end of the cold war, the overwhelming majority of countries had opted for democratic forms of government. He cautioned, however, that the maintenance of democracy across the globe required that "in every democratic country the ordinary people should feel that they actually do enjoy the right to determine their own destiny." He added that there had to be a "democratisation of the system of international relations."

Mbeki said the time had come for the world to work together to
reconstruct a human society that consistent with the Declaration of Human Rights. "Only time will tell whether we have the moral and intellectual courage in fact to rise to this challenge. But this we feel we can say, that the conditions exist in the world today for us successfully to pursue the vision contained in the UN documents to which I have referred (the Declaration of Human Rights). What may be in short supply is the courage of the politicians, as opposed to an abundance of good-sounding rhetoric."

He added: "Sometimes our response to conflicts has been wait for them to develop into violence and even wars and subsequently to intervene through costly peace keeping operations. These, at times, serve to freeze those conflicts, perpetuate polarisation, and make their timely resolution more difficult," he said. He added that the requirement on the UN to intervene to prevent the outbreak of hostilities "imposes an obligation on the UN that it should be seen by governments and peoples as a truly even-handed interlocutor and peacemaker."

He said that as the UN needed to act with all "necessary vigour" to end the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola, Western Sahara, East Timor, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Kosovo, and others. Mbeki concluded by saying world leaders now had the chance "at this podium" to give the poor and the powerless new possibilities: "Let future generations not say that because of the force of inertia we failed to act."

Meanwhile in his speech to the general assembly President Sam Nujoma of neighbouring Namibia said that the reform of the Security Council constituted one of "the most important components in the efforts to strengthen, revitalise and democratise the United Nations.

The composition of the Security Council does not reflect the substantial increase in the membership of the United Nations." He added: "In the existing Security Council, particularly in the permanent members category, developing countries are grossly under-represented. To maintain such a situation is to erode the principle of democracy and fairness."

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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