Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

United Nations Summit Begins

Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

UN Summit set to open From Munyaradzi Huni at the United Nations in New THE 2005 United Nations Summit begins here today with predictions that this could be a "summit without an outcome document".

This is because the core group, comprising about 30 ambassadors, that has been locked in preliminary discussions aimed at transforming the Human Rights Commission into a Council and debating proposed Security Council reforms has not yet come up with an agreed position on these two contentious matters. Last Monday, the core group reached a deadlock on the matter regarding transformation of the Human Rights Commission, while there were clear signs that proposed reforms of the world body’s Security Council could be deferred to the end of the year.

The three-day summit is expected to draw worldwide interest as, for the first time since the UN was established 60 years ago, an unprecedented 180 leaders are scheduled to converge at its New York headquarters. By yesterday, the UN Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan was making frantic efforts to the extent of even postponing his scheduled Press conference in a bid to secure what he termed a compromise of "give and take" from member states. Zimbabwe’s representative to the UN, Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku, said the United States was proposing the transformation of the Human Rights Commission into a Council that would have between 30 and 50 members — a reduction from the current 53.

"We are saying ‘No’ to the American proposals. They want to put qualifications that once a country is under sanctions, it can’t be a member of the Human Rights Council and we don’t want those qualifications. We believe that any member of the UN should be able to serve on the Council or Commission. "It doesn’t make sense to cut on the numbers as they are proposing that the Council should have between 30 and 50 members. "If we are for democracy, then we should actually expand the number. That is why we are proposing that the number of members should be increased to about 67 so that Africa and Asia get more representation," he said.

Ambassador Chidyausiku said it was clear from the US proposals that the countries targeted for disqualification were Zimbabwe, Cuba, Libya and Iran, among many others. "As a result of these sticking issues, there is a deadlock in the negotiations and this might lead to the summit not having an outcome document," he predicted. Turning to reforms of the Security Council, Ambassador Chidyausiku said Africa was adhering to its stance of being allocated two permanent veto-wielding members and five non-permanent seats.

"We are maintaining our position that those who go into the Security Council should have veto power because there is no need to go in without veto power. As things stand now, Africa is the only continent without veto power and we should maintain our original position so that we get the veto power," he said, noting that the "issue might be deferred to the end of the year". He said the core group discussing the issues was scheduled to meet late yesterday for deliberations, but pointed out that "this might be a summit without an outcome". UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, who was clearly showing panic, told the Press: "There is clearly a sense of urgency.

The clock continues to tick; the negotiators, I think, have left things perilously late in light of the date of the summit which was announced well in advance; and he (Mr Annan) is concerned that the work might not be done. "But he’s definitely not given up, and as I speak he’s continuing to consult with member states at various levels," he said. The UN spokesperson disclosed that Mr Annan was even making phone calls to various national capitals in his bid to secure the outcome document.

Talking about Zimbabwe’s position regarding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ambassador Chidyausiku said the country’s efforts were being hampered by illegal sanctions imposed by Britain and America. "Zimbabwe has the capacity to meet its MDGs, but all that is being made difficult by the sanctions imposed on the country. (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair is a hypocrite – on one hand, he is saying countries should meet their MDGs, but on the other he is spending sleepless nights trying to make sure that Zimbabwe doesn’t achieve its goals.

But as a country we know that everything being equal, we have the capacity to meet our goals," he said. The ambassador said international media organisations like the CNN, Associated Press and the BBC were already inundating his office with calls to secure exclusive interviews with the President. "I think they would want to interview the President as they perceives him as an icon from Africa. They would want to talk about a whole range of issues, ranging from Operation Murambatsvina to UN reforms," he said.

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