Address by Ms. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentine Republic
63rd session, 5th plenary meeting, General Assembly
Tuesday, 23 September 2008, 9 a.m. New York
As the first female head of State in the history of my country, I would like to address this Assembly by speaking first on the issue of human rights. Members know that, for my country, the policy of unrestricted respect for and promotion of human rights is one of our State policies.
In that context, I would like to urge that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance — which was so energetically promoted by our country and which I co-signed, as First Lady of the Argentine Republic, in Paris last year together with 73 other delegations — be ratified by all countries that have signed it. Thus far, only four countries — Argentina, Albania, Mexico and Honduras — have ratified it. I know that the Republic of France will soon be ratifying it, but it is indispensable that we all strongly commit to ensuring that the inviolability of persons be one of the guiding principles for all States.
In this context, I would also like to put forward the Latin American Initiative for the Identification of Disappeared Persons. I would like to say that, together with the Guatemalan Foundation for Forensic Anthropology, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team and the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team, we are promoting this initiative to establish genetic identity banks to enable us to report precisely on violations of human rights and properly identify victims.
We deem invaluable the testimony of the women who are with us here at the Assembly today, members of Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo — the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo — who envisioned the creation of this genetic information bank. They have been able to recover, from oblivion and disappearance, 95 of the 500 grandchildren who disappeared, children of those political prisoners who disappeared under the former dictatorship in Argentina.
The work of these women is living witness to how, even amidst adversity and against all that State terrorism — not just in my country but in other republics — has meant, it is possible to overcome death and fight for life. The recovery of these children shows how important — how crucial — it is to support this type of initiative and underlines the importance of the work that has been done to identify the victims of the Balkan wars and those of the 11 September attack on the World Trade Center.
In the fight against impunity, which is a State policy in the Republic of Argentina, we cannot fail to mention an issue that, for us, is undoubtedly another cornerstone of this inexhaustible struggle. My country, the Republic of Argentina, suffered two attacks, in 1992 and 1994: the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building.
Last year, before this very Assembly, former President Kirchner asked INTERPOL to ratify the arrest warrants issued by my country’s Ministry of Justice against Iranian citizens accused of participating in the AMIA building bombing. Days later, INTERPOL ratified them, and international arrest warrants were issued accordingly. I call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran, in compliance with international law, please to agree that the Argentine justice system can bring to trial in public, transparent courts, and with the full guarantees given by a democratic system, those citizens who stand accused.
Before all the countries of the world brought together in this Assembly, and with the conviction I have always held that innocence must be respected until an individual has been convicted and sentenced by a competent judge, I would like to affirm that, in my country, those citizens will have a fair and public trial with their full participation, with all the guarantees afforded by Argentine law and by the oversight of the international community. Given the gravity of these events, this would guarantee to the Islamic Republic of Iran that there would be fairness, truth and justice in that trial.
I would thus urge once again that, in compliance with international law and because ensuring access to justice is what truly shows how we respect truth, justice and freedom, this request from the Argentine justice system, accepted by INTERPOL, be respected. That would undoubtedly contribute to providing truth for all — not just for Argentines, but for the entire international community — at a time when truth and justice are elusive values internationally.
In this Hall, as we have been doing since 2003, I would also like to call for the reform of our multilateral bodies — not only of the United Nations, which includes us all, but also of the multilateral financial institutions as well. That involves us all, and it is necessary to recreate a multilateralism which has been lost, leading to a far more insecure world. The Organization needs to be reformed, not just from the point of view of dogmatic approaches to the world, but to meet the real need of all States to ensure the functional, operational and results-oriented character of the activities and interventions of the Organization.
In this context, I would modestly like to put forward an example from our region, South America, of how we were recently able to demonstrate that multilateralism can be achieved, despite differences of approach and vision that different Governments in our region may have.
Here I am looking at the President Evo Morales — the legitimate President of our sister Republic of Bolivia. I would like to say that, a few days ago, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) met in support of the democratic legitimacy of that country. In a concrete multilateral exercise, heads of State, who do not always share the same viewpoints or interests when we take decisions, were able to work unanimously to forge a resolution and plan of action to help our sister Republic of Bolivia, affected by those who do not respect the democratic will of the people freely expressed through elections.
That is not our only experience of multilateralism. Previously, at the meeting of the Rio Group in the Dominican Republic, at the time of the incident between the sister Republics of Ecuador and Colombia, heads of State intervened and were able to navigate a conflict which, on the basis of history, in other situations would surely have degenerated into an armed conflict between two sister countries.
What I want to say with this is that, for us, the exercise of multilateralism is not simply a hackneyed speech. It is a deeply-held conviction and a concrete and objective policy, showing results in what are normally called emerging regions, where we are capable of giving examples of multilateral collaboration in overcoming conflicts.
The other reform that we have always promoted is that of the multilateral credit institutions, but fundamentally the reform of an economic model that
placed the generation of wealth at the centre of the fictional economy and of the world of finances. Recent days show that those matters, those positions, were not the result of an ideological bias or closed dogmas but of objective and timely observation of what was going on.
Today, we cannot speak of the “caipirinha effect” or the “tequila effect” or the “rice effect”, or the effect that always showed that the crisis moved from the emerging countries towards the centre. Today, if we were to give it a name, we would have to say, perhaps, the “jazz effect”, which moves from the centre of the first economy of the world and spreads to the rest of the world. That situation does not make us content or happy.
Quite the contrary, we consider this an historic opportunity to review behaviour and policies, because during the period of the Washington Consensus, we — the countries of South America — were told that the market would solve everything, that the State was not necessary, that State intervention was something for which groups that had not understood how the economy had developed were nostalgic. However, now we are seeing the most formidable State intervention in memory from exactly the place where we had been told that the State was not necessary, in the framework, moreover, of an incredible fiscal and trade deficit.
My country, the Argentine Republic — which, if it continues to grow at the rates at which it has been growing since 2003, will this year be completing the largest economic growth cycle of its almost 200-year history — has always upheld the need for a State presence, fundamentally because the market does not assign resources to the most vulnerable sectors and because we see the State as connecting the interests of society and market interests.
Since 2003, an Argentina that had been in debt up to as much as 160 per cent of its GDP has today reduced its debt to almost 50 per cent of GDP. We have fully paid our debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and about 15 days ago we announced that we will settle our debt with the Paris Club, which had a cut-off date of 10 December 1983 — the very year when the first democratic President took office, after the dictatorship. Here in New York yesterday, in the Council on Foreign Relations, I announced that Argentina has received a proposal from three very important banks that represent bond-holders who did not participate in the 2005 bond exchange and who are proposing to do so in conditions more favourable for my country, Argentina, than those of the 2005 exchange.
Thus we believe not only that our strategy has been correct but that it is absolutely necessary for all of us to review, with a great deal of intellectual humility, what is happening today in the markets and see what are the possible solutions for overcoming the situation. We emerging countries have a great advantage in what we do not have: no credit risk agency will come, nobody from the IMF will come tell us what to do, a great country that has grown on the basis of its real economy and today really has problems on the basis of a casino economy or a fictional economy, where it was thought that only capitalism can produce money. I always say that capitalism was invented in order to earn money, but on the basis of the production of goods, services and knowledge. Money alone does not produce more money. It has to go through the circuit of production, work, knowledge, services and goods so that there can be a virtuous cycle that can generate well-being for the whole of society.
Finally, I want to mention a matter that affects not only my country, beyond its geographical location, but also concerns this Assembly and also the need to face the twenty-first century without colonial enclaves. Here I refer to the issue of our Malvinas Islands, where, despite the resolutions of this body, despite all the measures taken here for the United Kingdom to agree, in virtue of what is set out in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, to negotiate in peace between the parties, that country resolutely refuses to discuss with the Argentine Republic the issue of the Malvinas Islands.
I believe that a member of the Security Council — one that is among the principal nations of the world in the defence of freedom, human rights and democracy — should give concrete proof that it is not just talk but that it is truly convinced that it is necessary to end this shame, that of a colonial enclave in the twenty-first century. I want to request again, as have the different Presidents who preceded me — because Malvinas is for Argentineans a State policy as well — the cooperation that this body has always provided to once again urge the United Kingdom to agree to comply with international law and to demonstrate that it is serious in wishing to build a different world and a different citizenry.
Lastly, I wish to speak to all those men and women who have institutional governmental responsibilities in any of the branches of the State in their respective countries to once again advocate for the transformation of an international policy that has its fullest expression in this House. The reform of the instruments that we are requesting is not simply a question of cosmetics and formulas and changes that barely conceal that everything is continuing as it stands. The present situation, the complexity of the world that is coming, in terms of food and energy, requires all of us to re-examine our behaviour and our paradigms. We must accept with humility that it is necessary to build a world that is different from the one we have had to date — one in which respect for human rights, for the will of peoples and for those who are different, do not think as we do or who pray to a different god is not merely a catalogue of good intentions set out in the United Nations Charter, but a reality that is experienced a little more concretely every day.