NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006
I wish to offer my congratulations on your election as President of the 61st
General Assembly. Your experience in international affairs is the best guarantee of the
success of your term. At the same time, allow me to express to your predecessor, Jan
Eliasson,our sincere thanks for his effective and balanced leadership of the 60 th General
My special appreciation also to Kofi Annan, for having dedicated his life to this
Organization, particularly in the past ten years as the Secretary-General, led it through
difficult challenges, and laying the groundwork for its reform. Thank you, Kofi!
In taking the floor at this 61 st General Assembly, Italy fully shares the statement
made by the President of the Republic of Finland on behalf of the European Union.
* * *
It was in this city, on the I I th of September five years ago, that the dramatic
realization was forced upon us of just how dangerous the world has become. On that day
we knew that the new Millennium would hold unpredictable and complex threats—
extending beyond national borders—against which notions of protection inside national
borders are illusory. Asymmetrical threats that are difficult to counter effectively with the
instruments previously used to settle conflicts.
Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction have changed traditional society and
its values. They have rendered obsolete systems of collective defense and security based
on deterrence. The old solutions to the world's problems—the logic of balance and
hegemony—are no longer enough to guarantee stability and security.
These new threats add a new element to a list that includes regional conflicts in
the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, pandemics, problems of development and the gap
between North and South, human rights abuses, mass migrations, and issues concerning
energy and the environment: Phenomena that are also impossible to resolve without a
collective assumption of responsibility.
If we wish to govern these phenomena, we need to be equal to their dimensions.
No country, however strong and powerful it may be, can take on such complex
challenges single-handedly. Global threats demand a global response. In the final
analysis, this means collective partnership.
To have chosen as the theme of the 61 st General Assembly "Implementing a
global partnership for development" was thus particularly appropriate. Without collective
action by the countries in the northern and southern hemispheres, international
organizations and institutions, the public and the private sector, and civil society, it will
be impossible to achieve the goals we have set.
* * *
First and foremost we need to reinvigorate multilateralism, by which I mean
restoring the central, fundamental role of the United Nations.
The recent experience in Lebanon and the strengthening of the UNIFIL mission
are one example of how the United Nations can regain its crucial importance in the
resolution of international controversies. Above all it demonstrates—and this is the key
point — that if the stakeholders are willing to confer upon the UN a strong, central role,
the Organization is well able to fulfill it.
In Lebanon we are still at square one, and much remains to be done. To
underestimate the risks of this mission would be a serious mistake. We must, however, be
pleased with how the United Nations, its member States, and—allow me to add—the
European Union have addressed a situation that only two months ago risked getting out
of hand and that today presents a series of opportunities for the Middle East as a whole.
We should be pleased to have set up a mission that represents the entire
international community, a tangible expression of the very global partnership that we are
discussing today. For while it is true that Europe provides the backbone of UNIFIL, it
cannot carry out its mission effectively without the contributions of China, India,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey, and the many other non-European countries
The question we must ask at this point is this: What do we need to do in order to
continue the work just begun in Lebanon? More in general, and in view of the crises and
emergencies that surround us: What does the United Nations need in order to fulfill the
principles of the Charter?
The United Nations needs two things:
To quickly complete the reforms needed to make it more effective;
The strong and unconditional support of its members.
* * *
On the issue of reform, last year, after an intense series of negotiations, a moment
of summary allowed us to lay the groundwork for giving the United Nations a more
incisive role, to the benefit of the international community.
The Peace-building Commission is the first major result because it highlights the
indestructible bond between development, security, and human rights. A priority
commitment to human rights and to safeguarding human rights should be the goal of any
country that wishes to lend greater ethical authority to its foreign policy. The results
achieved by the reform on this point, through the establishment of the new Human Rights
Council, are still being examined. The other significant outcome is the affirmation of the
principle of the responsibility to protect, so that the international community will no
longer be indifferent before acts of genocide.
But it is on the General Assembly and the Security Council that we must focus
By restoring the central role of the General Assembly as the main decisionmaking,
representative, and policy-making body of the United Nations;
By renewing efforts to reform the Security Council, both in terms of its
working methods and its composition.
In the current situation, the member States thus need to send a strong political
signal that can help us to begin a new chapter and open the way to an innovative
approach. In other words, we need to enter a period of negotiation, which has thus far
eluded us. A period in which, rather than seek to impose positions and models, we can
undertake a true comparison of positions, for the purpose of achieving solutions that are
not divisive but rather enable the widest possible consensus. With a word of caution:
everything is negotiable except for the ownership of this Organization by the member
States, by all of us. This is the true pillar on which UN multilateralism must rest.
* * *
The other way for the United Nations to regain the forcefulness and credibility it
needs to fulfill its mission is by strengthening the role of its great regional stake-holders. I
am thinking first of the European Union, because if Europe is stronger, the United
Nations will be stronger. The world and the United Nations do not need a Europe that
hesitates, but rather a Europe that is able to do its part in the challenges that await us.
Europe, in turn, must become more aware that only by contributing to the resolution of
global tensions can it give greater security and prosperity to its citizens.
The conditions for performing this role are there. The numbers alone make the
European Union a global actor: 25 Countries with a total population of more than 450
million representing one-fourth of the world's GDP and that every month allocate 500
million euros to third countries. Yet these numbers do not correspond to a comparable
ability for the EU to make a difference outside of its own borders.
In the works of this Assembly and its various committees, the European Union is
becoming a key actor. At every debate and on every resolution, its position represents a
point of reference in shaping the attitudes of the other regional groups. Our goal should
be to acquire a similar ability within the Security Council. It may be a slow process,
which will have to take into account points of resistance and stubborn legacies, but it
should be pursued with determination. Only if Europe wields a more incisive influence
on the issues of peace and security can it be considered a true global actor.
The Balkan tragedies in the early 1990s were the result of an absent Europe. But
when it is present and when it is united, Europe can make the difference. This is what we
are seeing in the Lebanese crisis. During the 61 st General Assembly and in the course of
its biennium in the Security Council, Italy will make a special effort to increase the
commitment and the role of the European Union at the United Nations.
* * *
Our aim is to make the Organization more effective in the areas and on the issues
in which, by history and vocation, it can provide the most added value. The proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, has to be seen today in the
context above all of the negotiation underway with Iran. But it is our duty to look further
ahead and to strive—all together—to consolidate the general non-proliferation system.
This is a principle that shall inspire the action of Italy when it enters the Security Council.
With regard to the Iranian nuclear dossier, we are ready to make our contribution to a
negotiated solution that promotes regional security and stability.
In the Middle East, as I mentioned earlier, we need to seize the opportunities and
openings conveyed to us, in the awareness that there will be no peace until the Palestinian
question has been resolved: an independent, sovereign, vital and contiguous Palestinian
State next to the state of Israel, and both within secure and internationally-recognized
The grave regional crises should not lead us to forget Africa. Long-suffering, prey
to ongoing crises, and even poorer than it was two decades ago. The situation in Darfur is
critical. We cannot stand by and watch, for the simple reason that time has run out. We
need to act quickly and strive for a gradual assumption of responsibility by the United
Nations, in compliance with the decisions of the Security Council. The situation in the
Horn of Africa is also a source of concern. Here a strong commitment is required from
the Security Council, where starting on January 1, 2007, Italy will make its contribution
also on the basis of our experience in the region.
When I say Africa I mean primarily the gap between the northern and southern
hemispheres, the phenomenon at the root of almost all the ills afflicting our era. It is this
gap, above all, that causes the massive migratory flows that we cannot ignore and that we
must address with realism, responsibility, equanimity, and especially solidarity.
In the Mediterranean we are working with our partners to address immigration on
the basis of these principles, and seeking to facilitate legal flows and counter both the
illegal flows and the parties that profit from them. Seeking to facilitate the integration
into our countries of those who have immigrated regularly, filled with hope and the desire
But there is another dangerous gap that risks leaving an even deeper gash in the
world. I am referring to what until a few years ago was called a clash of civilizations and
religions between the Christian and Islamic worlds. I refuse to believe that such a clash
exists. Extremists and fanatics do exist. Civilizations and religions were made for the
sake of dialogue, exchange, and mutual enrichment.
We can promote and we want to promote this relationship by building new
policies to bring us closer to the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean,
with the goal of making this sea a basin of peace and harmonious coexistence among
diverse civilizations and religions.
Let me return to the central issue of this session, the global partnership for
development, to clarify one point. The reinvigoration of multilateralism, United Nations
reform, and a collective commitment to the various theaters of crisis risk producing no
lasting effect unless development issues are treated as priorities. It is up to the United
Nations, as the driving force and the glue of solidarity among peoples and the fullest
expression of multilateralism, to keep development at the top of the international agenda.
For it is in the connection between security, solidarity, and development that the added
value of the UN lies, in the full awareness that there can be no peace without
development and no development without peace.
It is not enough to enunciate at this podium, as speakers have been doing for six
years now, the words "Millennium Development Goals." We have to get to work and
carry them out. Starting with the adoption of the financial, trade, technological, and
environmental steps required. Aiming for a very specific, ambitious goal that responds
above all to a moral duty: to guarantee a dignified life to every human being.
* * *
I wish to conclude with a few consideration on the fundamental principles and
values that inspire our action when we deal with multilateralism, the search for peace,
security, development, and North-South relations. All these issues coalesce in the defense
of life and the struggle against all forms of hatred, violence, discrimination, and
marginalization: undeniable values that, together with democratic principles, are at the
foundations of coexistence among peoples and should inspire the action of the world's
Today, sadly, these values are still denied and trampled upon. As if we had
learned nothing from the horrors of the past. But we cannot sit by watching, indifferently,
in the face of barbarous acts. We are for peace and solidarity. We are against the death
penalty, injustice, and human suffering. This is something we must always remember,
especially on the eve of major decisions. This is what is expected of us from those who
sacrificed their lives for peace, for a righteous cause, for an ideal, to defend freedom. The
same freedom that we enjoy every day in a democracy.
There are our ideals, this our absolute, unyielding choice.
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