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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


GA/9007
20 November 1995



INCREASED COOPERATION SOUGHT WITH ARAB LEAGUE,
ISLAMIC CONFERENCE, BY TERMS OF TWO
GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTIONS


Both Texts Approved without a Vote; Assembly also
Concludes Commemoration of Year for Tolerance

Strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and both the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference was the subject of two separate resolutions adopted without a vote this afternoon by the General Assembly.

Under the terms of the text on the League of Arab States, the Assembly decided that a general meeting between the United Nations system and the League should take place every two years to enhance cooperation between them. The United Nations Secretary-General was requested, in cooperation with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, to encourage periodic consultation between the two organizations with a view to accelerating implementation and follow-up action of multilateral projects, proposals and recommendations adopted at the meetings between the two organizations.

The representative of Israel spoke in explanation of position on that resolution, which was introduced by the representative of Egypt. A representative of the League of Arab States also made a statement.

By the provisions of the resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Assembly requested the two organizations to continue cooperation in their common search for solutions to global problems. United Nations organizations were urged to provide increased assistance to the Organization of the Islamic Conference in order to enhance cooperation. The Assembly recommended that a general meeting between the two organizations take place in 1996 and every two years thereafter.

That resolution was introduced by the representative of Morocco. A representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.

In addition, the Assembly this afternoon concluded its commemoration of the United Nations Year for Tolerance, hearing statements by the representatives of Tunisia, Australia, Sudan, Norway, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malta and the Russian Federation. The representative of Nigeria spoke in right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 21 November, to hold elections to fill vacancies on the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Food Council. It will also consider appointments to fill vacancies on the Committee on Conferences. In addition, the Assembly will begin its review of the role of the Trusteeship Council.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider agenda items on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States and cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Assembly will also conclude its special commemorative meeting to mark the United Nations Year for Tolerance.

The Assembly has before it a report of the Secretary-General on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States (document A/50/496). The report reviews follow-up action on proposals agreed to at general meetings between the two organizations, and provides information on the latest such meeting, held in Vienna from 19 to 21 July.

The follow-up action includes that undertaken by the Department of Public Information, which has continued to work closely with the League both at Headquarters and through the United Nations information centres, particularly at Cairo and Tunis. The Department believes that, given the importance of increasing cooperation with the League and its role as an important regional organization, matters related to the dissemination of information and cooperation for the promotion of pluralistic and independent media should be included in the annual meetings on areas of priority in the development of Arab States.

The report states that the general meeting recognized the importance of continuing cooperation between the two organizations with a view to contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security and to promoting social and economic development. It pointed out the importance of preventive diplomacy as an effective tool in easing political tensions and defusing potential crises that might lead to armed conflicts in different regions of the world.

Emphasis was placed on employing the confidence-building measures and other preventive measures proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General in An Agenda for Peace in order to help improve the United Nations capacity for dealing with threats to international peace and security. Regular contacts and consultations between the United Nations and the League of Arab States would contribute to achieving these objectives, the report states.

According to the report, the meeting stressed a comprehensive approach to disarmament issues, covering all States and all weapons of mass destruction. Security and stability in the Middle East require that the region be made a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, participants stressed.

The humanitarian element of the increasing problem caused by land-mines was also discussed, the report states. It was agreed that international cooperation to provide technical and financial support to mine-affected countries was essential to create and strengthen national capacities in mine clearance. The meeting emphasized that the only way to stop the proliferation of land-mines was through a total ban on the production, use and transfer of mines.

The report also describes the following seven priority sectors identified by the League for enhancing cooperation within the United Nations system: energy; rural development; desertification and green belts; training and vocational training; technology; environment; and information and documentation. The United Nations and its specialized agencies agreed to study the proposals and respond to them.

By a draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States (document A/50/L.21), the Assembly would decide that a general meeting between the United Nations system and the League of Arab States should take place every two years to enhance cooperation and to review and appraise progress, and that intersectoral meetings should be organized regularly on areas of priority determined by the counterpart programmes of the United Nations system and the League of Arab States and its specialized organizations.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations would be requested, in cooperation with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, to encourage periodic consultation between the representatives of the two organizations to review and strengthen coordination mechanisms, with a view to accelerating implementation and follow-up action of multilateral projects, proposals and recommendations adopted at the meetings between the two organizations.

The Assembly would request the Secretariat of the United Nations and the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States, within their respective fields of competence, to intensify further their cooperation towards the realization of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, the strengthening of international peace and security, economic development, disarmament, decolonization, self-determination and the eradication of all forms of racism and racial discrimination.

It would call upon the specialized agencies and other organizations and programmes of the United Nations system to inform the Secretary-General, not later than 15 May 1996, of the progress of their cooperation with the League of Arab States and its specialized organizations in the priority sectors of energy, rural development, desertification, and green belts, training and vocational training, technology, environment, and information and documentation.

The Secretary-General would also be requested to continue his efforts to strengthen cooperation and coordination between the two organizations and their specialized organizations and agencies in order to enhance their capacity to serve the mutual interests of the two organizations in the humanitarian, cultural and administrative fields.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Concerning cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (document A/50/573), the Secretary-General reports that he met with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on 3 October 1994 to review cooperation in the political and other fields. On the same date, the Director of the West Africa Division of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs attended the annual coordination meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the States members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. That meeting was held at United Nations Headquarters to review the current international situation.

The report states that the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs represented the Secretary-General at the Seventh Islamic Summit at Casablanca from 10 to 14 December 1994, and met with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to discuss issues of mutual interest. Additionally, the meeting of the focal points of the lead agencies of the two organizations also met in Geneva from 19 to 21 June 1995, and agreed to continue and strengthen cooperation in such priority areas as: development of science and technology; trade and development; technical cooperation; assistance to refugees; food security and agriculture; education; investment mechanisms; human resource development; and the environment.

That meeting also recommended: the prioritization of development through intercultural dialogue and three-to-five-year cooperation programmes agreed upon by the focal points of the two organizations; memoranda of understanding to formalize relations; and a small high-level committee consisting of two senior officials from both organizations to facilitate cooperation. The meeting additionally recommended inviting the Islamic Development Bank and other funding organizations of the Islamic world to attend future meetings.

The report also summarizes the reports of the United Nations organizations and agencies serving as focal points for the priority areas during the period under review, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Also, the report describes cooperation in the areas of economic, social and cultural development with such United Nations programmes and agencies as the Department for Development Support and Management Services, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

For example, the report points out that negotiations continued between the United Nations Department for Development Support and Management Services and the Organization of the Islamic Conference on a project to strengthen the administrative infrastructure of the city of Sarajevo. The UNICEF participated in an Islamic Conference-sponsored child rights symposium, held in June 1994 in Jeddah, to promote ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all Islamic Conference member countries. The symposium also prepared a draft declaration on child rights and child care, which was endorsed by the Seventh Islamic Summit.

The United Nations Population Fund also continued to assist Islamic Conference member States to develop common projects in population policy formulation and implementation and a number of joint activities were implemented in the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, with the support of Organization of the Islamic Conference's specialized institutions.

By a draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (document A/50/L.22), submitted by Morocco, the Assembly would request the two organizations to continue cooperation in their common search for solutions to global problems, on such questions as international peace and security, disarmament, decolonization, fundamental human rights, social and economic development and technical cooperation.

Specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system would be encouraged to continue to expand their cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference, particularly by negotiating cooperation agreements, and would be invited to multiply the contacts and meetings of the focal points for cooperation in priority areas of interest to the two organizations. The Assembly would also urge the organizations of the United Nations system, especially the lead agencies, to provide increased technical and other forms of assistance to the Organization of Islamic Conference and its specialized institutions in order to enhance cooperation.

The Assembly would recommend a general meeting between the representatives of the secretariats of the United Nations system and of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and its specialized institutions, to take place in 1996 and every two years thereafter. It would also recommend that coordination meetings of focal points of the agencies of the United Nations system and the Organization of the Islamic Conference and its specialized institutions should be held concurrently with the general meeting.

Commemoration of Year for Tolerance

SLAHEDDINE ABDELLAH (Tunisia) said that for years, mankind had witnessed an increase in violence and hatred, with tragic results, "as if the universal conscience were no longer playing its proper role in molding the behaviour of individuals, communities or States, or in remembering the lessons of history". The conscience of mankind must be mobilized to change the present situation.

Images of violence and terrorism were proliferating in the media without any attention to the consequences of trivializing such matters in the eyes of world public opinion, he continued. Tolerance was a basic tenet of Islam and had long characterized Tunisia's society. Currently, Tunisia was promoting human rights, especially those of women, children and other vulnerable groups. Tunisia had always championed tolerance at home and abroad. It had recently hosted a meeting, sponsored jointly by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which had reaffirmed the need to attack inequalities in the fight against intolerance.

DOMINIC FOREMAN (Australia) said his country had hosted a Conference on Cultural Diversity in April 1995 to mark the United Nations Year for Tolerance and the anniversary of the United Nations. The agenda of the Conference had demonstrated that cultural diversity itself was a diverse concept. Therefore, government policies ought to facilitate access to national languages and provide equal access to education, training opportunities, the labour market and social services. Full justice for and reconciliation with indigenous people was essential.

Moreover, diversity had to be reconciled with social cohesion, he said. Shared values and mores ought to be promoted. The status of women in all cultures should continue to be advanced. The Australian Government was in the process of encouraging other countries to host a follow-up conference on diversity, since that would further raise awareness on the question of tolerance.

AWAD AL-KARIM FADL ALLA (Sudan) said the phenomenon of intolerance throughout the world stemmed from such tensions and conflicts as xenophobia, ethnic genocide and lack of respect for certain cultures and religions. That made the practice of tolerance both important and necessary. The world had been, from the beginning, beset by differences. Imbalances in the division of wealth and levels of poverty were among the reasons why some looked down on other cultures or religions and charged others with being "fundamentalists" and "terrorists."

Cultural variety and religious and ethical diversity were, in fact, sources of richness and wealth, he continued. For example, Sudan was composed of Arabic, Muslim, Christian and other cultures and for centuries had served as an example of tolerance. Churches and mosques were often built side by side. Recent conferences had been held in Khartoum with the representatives of religions from various parts of the world, including the leaders of the Catholic and Anglican confession. Sudan would continue to receive such delegations, so that others could view for themselves the reality in his country. For example, numerous Christians held high Government posts.

HANS JACOB BIORN LIAN (Norway) said the opposite of tolerance had been practised a few days ago through the brutal acts committed in Nigeria. Norway condemned the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight co-defendants. Through that act, Nigeria had failed to honour its commitment to human rights and a number of international instruments to which it was party. His Government supported fully the rationale for the United Nations Year for Tolerance. He joined in the statement made by Spain on behalf of the European Union, in reaffirming his country's commitment to the objectives of the Year for Tolerance.

JAN ALI JUNEJO (Pakistan) said his country was currently campaigning to protect human rights, as that was essential for encouraging tolerance. In recent years, there had been instances where minorities were denigrated and termed extremists on the slightest excuse. "Instead of respecting the separate identities of minorities and providing them full opportunities for growth, some States have abetted pogroms of religious minorities, organized massacres and propagated disfigurement of their religious persona."

The abhorrent caste system still plagued the lives of hundreds of millions of people, he continued. Ironically, the perpetrators of such excesses talked about tolerance to maintain a semblance of respectability. Tolerance should not be used as a subterfuge to justify violations of international humanitarian law. It would be a most unusual interpretation of tolerance to allow international censure of human rights violations to be dismissed as an interference in internal affairs.

MOHAMMAD ZIAUDDIN (Bangladesh) said governments had the primary responsibility for securing tolerance, by promoting and protecting rights for all, banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination, and ensuring equal access to justice and equal opportunity. Much remained to be done worldwide. Despite many wide-ranging initiatives, no real progress had been made on the international level. Conflicts in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrated that conditions in many areas had deteriorated.

In many areas around the globe, more violent and contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance had appeared, he continued. Some governments had acted to eliminate racism, despite the economic and social challenges that they often faced when taking measures to combat intolerance. The developing countries had been hard hit by the recent world economic crisis and had to face the challenge of fighting intolerance without the necessary economic and social development. Bangladesh renewed the call on the United Nations system to take all measures to work towards the goals of the Year for Tolerance.

JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta) said his country associated itself with the statement made by the representative of Spain on behalf of the European Union. The international community had faced a dramatic increase of tension and conflict based on race, ethnicity and national prejudice since the end of bloc confrontation. One of the distinguishing characteristics of intolerance was that it reflected and perpetuated tensions with willful disregard for reality. Thus, nations must act in unison, together with appropriate United Nations agencies, to combat generalizations about persons or groups against which prejudice was directed. Further, in an age of global communications, the international media had as much responsibility as their local counterparts to ensure that the messages they relayed did not carry within them the violent seeds of hatred.

SERGEI A. ORDZHONIKIDZE (Russian Federation) said a rising tide of intolerance had washed over entire regions of the globe. New and more sophisticated forms of discrimination were emerging against ethnic minorities, as was the case when States denied parts of their populations the right to citizenship. Over the past year, the situation had not improved, but trends demonstrated that international efforts to promote tolerance had not been in vain. Progress in the Middle East offered hope that a tolerant attitude would result in mutually acceptable compromises in the area of peace and security.

The principles of tolerance must not be viewed as a passive guarantee of peace and democracy, he said. They must become a guide for action by the media, governments, political parties, educational systems and non- governmental organizations. International assistance was required in States where tolerance had collapsed, such as Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Internal conflicts within States constituted the major threat to security today. Such conflict was not unusual, but became threatening when parties became determined to use violence to reach their ends. Such conflicts must be resolved peacefully.

Right of Reply

ISAAC E. AYEWAH (Nigeria), speaking in right of reply, said the statements by the European Union and the United States had negatively affected the name of Nigeria. It was necessary to inform the international community of the true state of affairs with respect to the trial and conviction of nine Nigerians, including Ken Saro-Wiwa. Fifteen Nigerians, including Mr. Saro- Wiwa, had been charged with the murder of four other Nigerians. They had all been tried in an open court with due representation by counsel. Nine of them had been found guilty of murder, while the remaining six had been acquitted. In accordance with existing law, those found guilty had been sentenced to capital punishment.

"For the European Union and the United States to accuse Nigeria of violating the rights of those found guilty of murder is totally out of tune with the facts of the case", he said. He cautioned against turning the commemorative occasion into a session of controversy and acrimony. Rather, it should be used to promote the values of tolerance, which were essential to maintaining a peaceful world. Nigeria pledged its full support to that endeavour.

Introduction of Draft on Arab League

NABIL A. ELARABY (Egypt), introducing the draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States, stressed the importance of such close cooperation in order to provide the necessary support to ensure the economic and social progress of the League's member States. Progress had been made in resolving the problems in the Middle East, including the agreements reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He hoped that the peace process in the Middle East would lead to a just and lasting peace, respecting the rights of all involved, including the rights of the Palestinian people to their land and natural resources. Support to the League of Arab States was a noble objective which should enjoy the full support of all countries. Therefore, the draft should be adopted by consensus.

MAHMOUD ABOUL-NASR, Observer for the League of Arab States, described the long-standing cooperation between the League and the United Nations, as discussed in the Secretary-General's report. Humanitarian as well as political matters had been discussed at the most recent meeting between the two organizations, which had produced positive results. The League had underlined its firm commitment to promote the goals of the United Nations Charter. Among the issues discussed at the meeting had been the need to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and the desirability of all countries of the region becoming party to the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The League had also recently organized a meeting on Somalia, which had been attended by representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as well as a representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, he said. The League remained concerned about the situation in the Middle East, and looked forward to the establishment of a durable peace in the region based on the principles of justice, equality and respect for international legitimacy, on the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and on the principle of land for peace. The League would spare no effort in cooperating with the United Nations in order to build a better world.

The Assembly then adopted the resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States without a vote.

YAEL RUBENSTEIN (Israel) said her country had joined the consensus on the text. Significant progress had been made over the past year in resolving problems in the Middle East, including through the agreements reached between Israel and the PLO, as well as Israel and Jordan. She hoped other agreements would be reached with other parties to the bilateral negotiations. Israel had been encouraged by some steps that had been taken to lift the boycott against it, such as the decision by the Gulf Cooperation Council to lift part of the boycott. She had hoped that such positive developments would have been reflected in the resolution.

Just last month, she went on, the second Middle East-North Africa economic summit had been held in Amman, with the aim of facilitating the expansion of private sector investment in the region. Business leaders from Israel, many Arab States and Muslim States from outside the region had concluded a number of deals at the summit that would contribute to the development of the region. For example, it had been decided that a development bank for the Middle East and North Africa should be established.

It was regrettable that Israel still did not belong to a regional group at the United Nations, she said. She called upon the members of the League to lift their objections to Israel becoming a member of the Asian Group. Any position to the contrary ran counter to the Organization's principle of universality.

Draft Resolution on Organization of the Islamic Conference

ZAHID EL HASSANE (Morocco) introduced the draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

AHMET ENGIN ANSAY, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said it was encouraging to note that, besides continuing to expand mutual cooperation in several economic, social and humanitarian sectors, cooperation had been strengthened in the political field. That was, indeed, a timely response to some priority concerns of member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which were also Member States of the United Nations. He had in mind the preoccupations of both organizations in the serious political issues faced in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Tajikistan, Cyprus, Somalia and other places experiencing formidable conflicts.

The report of the Secretary-General included recommendations regarding the meetings of the focal points of the two organizations, held in Geneva in June of this year to review progress in nine priority areas. The eight recommendations that flowed from that review were contained in the Secretary-General's report and merited support. The recommendation contained in paragraph 15(c), concerning joint programming procedures, required concentration on those programmes and projects already approved by respective bodies with corresponding resources. The recommendations in paragraph 15(d) complemented the above paragraph.

He drew attention to several of the operative paragraphs contained in the draft resolution, including operative paragraph six, which concerned the strengthening of cooperation between the two organizations in the political field, and paragraph nine, which called for intensification of technical assistance by a number of lead agencies of the United Nations system to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The Assembly adopted draft the resolution on cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference without a vote.


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For information media - not an official record