Address by Mr. Néstor Kirchner, President of Argentine Republic.
62th session General Assembly – 5th plenary meeting – 3 p.m. New York
Allow me at the outset to express my sincerest congratulations to Mr. Srgjan Kerim on his assumption of the presidency of the General Assembly at its sixtysecond session. Argentina welcomes the new Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and expresses its support for his efforts at the head of the United Nations.
As in previous years, we have come to the General Assembly with the aim of revitalizing this world body and with the firm belief that this will ensure the effectiveness of international law in settling disputes, thus successfully dealing with any threats to peace.
The world is facing problems. The only hope we have of resolving them lies in respect for multilateralism, support for local customs, observance of international norms and conventions by all countries, and, of course, the full realization of human rights.
For each individual country, and for the world as a whole, peace will be possible only if we promote equality and work to combat poverty and marginalization. The world cannot and must not be a place where violations of human rights are everywhere. Peaceful coexistence is strengthened and maintained through true solidarity between nations based upon a concept of humanity that goes beyond the purely military or the predominantly unilateral. Our international policy is based on the values of representative democracy, sovereignty of the people, respect for fundamental human rights, and the active upholding of international peace and security.
Those principles are shared by the vast majority of the Argentine people. They help to focus the Government’s activities and are reflected in the decisions taken by the Argentine Republic at the international level.
We firmly support the construction of more just and equitable societies that distribute more equitably the benefits of economic growth. We know that each country must have the right to seek out its own development model, without external pressure.
The past few years have been very testing for us. Considerable efforts have been made to rescue a nation that barely five years ago was in the throes of an unprecedented social and economic crisis. At the time, many people thought that recovery might be impossible. But day by day, with a great deal of effort and humility, we revived production in a country burdened by a foreign debt that threatened our future with its conditions and constraints.
Argentina — a developing country which once demonstrated that it is truly possible to climb the social ladder; a country of immigrants where workers once succeeded in sending their children to university; a country once without illiteracy and having almost banished child mortality — had been reduced to a country of workers demoralized by unemployment, children begging in the streets instead of going to school, and the elderly living off miniscule pensions and becoming dependent on their children and grandchildren.
Our country’s coffers had been emptied owing to the rigid application of the rules of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As a corollary, there was violence in the streets, and Argentina experienced an institutional crisis, with presidents lasting only days.
For the first time, Argentina sent off its own children into an unprecedented economic exile.
Today the Argentine State has won its autonomy and itself administers the variables of its
macroeconomy as best it can in the current international environment. It pursues a sound,
disciplined and predictable economic policy within a stable and democratic framework.
Our capacity for revitalization has allowed us,even without receiving funding, to begin cancelling our net debt with international organizations. We have even paid off in advance all of our debt with the IMF — an IMF that supported and promoted Governments that were self-supporting, adjusting and patching up their budgets, but at the cost of increasing the poverty of their people, promoting deindustrialization and irresponsibly plunging the country into debt.
Faced with the incredulous criticism of the promoters of orthodox prescriptions, Argentina, thanks to cautious monetary policies, disciplined public expenditures and a healthy budget surplus that enabled it to face or mitigate potential foreign crises, has reduced the debt and registered an annual growth rate of 9 per cent during the past five years. This was the strongest uninterrupted economic expansion of any in the past 100 years.
Today we represent the empirical proof that there is life after the Fund and also the certitude that other paths can lead to development and integration. We serve as a reminder of the unreliability of models that claim to be universally valid and the revindication of the right of countries to choose their own path, benefiting from international experience while prioritizing their national interests and circumstances above any other interest.
Our case provides proof that the international economic architecture must be reformed, in particular that of IMF. The Fund is an exponent of an old world order that is no longer valid. Our case demonstrates the need for change in the multilateral financial institutions so that they can cooperate in the development of the less-well-endowed nations and help to fight poverty and generate true options for progress. We are thinking, not of economic growth as defined by economic experts or historians, but of growth that has a strong social component and an emphasis on equity, where citizens are the focus of the results.
Whereas one fourth of the labour force experienced the humiliation of being unemployed, unemployment has been reduced to 7.8 per cent since we have taken office. We are speaking, not about just any sort of work, but about appropriate and decent work of the kind we advocated at the most recent summit meeting of the Americas, which was held in our country.
Thanks to a productive policy that generates added value and, in addition, appeals to private enterprises to show social responsibility, we are reindustrializing Argentina. The economic indicators posted by our country today would have been impossible were it not for the complementarity of action between the State and the private sector.
Our sales to all destinations have doubled over the past four years, with a 16 per cent annual growth rate. Investments have improved substantially: gross domestic fixed investment has increased for the past 17 consecutive quarters; the ratio of investment to GDP is between 20 and 23 per cent — in stark contrast to the level of 2002 when it was hardly more than 11 per cent.
When faced with that crisis almost five years ago, we felt compelled to maintain essential assistance policies for the most vulnerable segments of our population. We do not regret those policies, and today we can state that the true solution to the serious social problems affecting our country, and many others around the world, lies in providing jobs, health care and education.
In the area of health, Argentina has launched a national policy that includes prescriptions for generic drugs and the provision of essential medications free of charge. It also strengthens maternity and child programmes and everything that relates to primary health care, in line with the goals of equity and protection. This has enabled us to compensate in part for the disastrous state of the public health sector a short time ago.
Of course, education is an essential element for renewing the social and moral fabric of the nation, even though the time horizon for its effects to be felt is longer than those of other public policies. In order to remedy the tragic situation that signalled the breakdown of society and the failure on the part of the State to protect those who were most vulnerable, a new law on national education was passed. It will again focus on ensuring equality of opportunity through guaranteed access to a quality education throughout the territory that is linked to the labour market and includes excellent training for teachers. Under the new law, a deadline of 2010 has been set, by which time 6 per cent of the gross national product will be used to finance education.
In this context of steady recovery, Argentina’s foreign policy is being strengthened and expanded, with a clear and decisive commitment to the national interest.
Regional integration is a priority. Over the past two decades, through the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), Argentina has strengthened its commercial ties with the countries of the region. But its trade relations go far beyond the region. In that sense, multilateral negotiations within the World Trade Organization are of particular importance because the liberalization of our agricultural sector — in which our country has clear competitive advantages — depends on them, as does the adequate flexibility we need to carry out our industrial policies.
More equitable and fairer rules in international trade are of great importance to Argentina. We therefore participate actively in multilateral economic negotiations with the firm goal of achieving equity in the norms that govern world trade and of reversing the discrimination erected against our main products through tariff barriers and other trade-distorting instruments imposed by the developed countries.
Argentina will be present in all multilateral forums, where we will participate to ensure more equitable and democratic rules. Multilateralism is the most effective instrument for winning the battle against hunger, poverty, exclusion and environmental degradation.
Everything I have said here is both cause and consequence of institutional stability and respect for the rule of law. The three pillars of the Argentine State are making decisions to combat impunity and preserve memory, truth, and justice. We have begun bringing to justice those guilty of serious human rights violators.
Those who imagined themselves having escaped with impunity are fiercely resisting justice and, in an attempt to intimidate witnesses, have caused the disappearance of one witness, Julio Lopez. They have thereby sent a dark message to a society that is seeking the truth about the crimes against humanity which they committed, and that condemns such acts.
Unconditional respect for human rights is our new national paradigm. In the past, we were known throughout the world for violations of those rights; today, as we strive to find the truth and to punish the guilty, we also seek to defend those rights worldwide.
Argentina, the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in the monumental dignity of their struggle, and the Argentine people have personally suffered under the inefficiency of a broken multilateral human rights system. Their sole comfort were the very precious humanitarian gestures of individuals, organizations and countries. While people were being kidnapped, tortured and killed in my country, the mechanisms established precisely to condemn and prevent such horrors remained silent. It is in their memory, so that this will never happen again, that we support the new Human Rights Council and hope that itwill live up to the expectations of the international
My Government has endorsed instruments of great importance, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by this Assembly on 20 December 2006, which we signed in Paris on 6 February. That instrument, along with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, gives continuity and concrete form to a policy that ascribes a central role to the promotion of human rights.
In our public policy, we now focus on environmental protection, but we know that there will be no viable solution without cooperation among all the countries of the world, the industrialized countries in particular, because the nature of the problem is of a global scale.
The issue of climate change should be of concern to all Governments, because no corner of the planet is unaffected by changes that have been identified as due to human activity. The Secretary-General’s convening of yesterday’s High-level Meeting was a timely manifestation of the urgent need to strengthen international cooperation as an effective and adequate response to protect the environment and prevent the unacceptable exportation of pollutants to the developing countries.
One after the other, various diplomatic efforts to halt the violence in the Middle East once and for all have failed, but we cannot merely throw up our hands. No military solution will lead to peace and the tranquillity that all the peoples of the region so desperately call for. The invasion of Iraq, which we rejected at the time it occurred, is the tragic and painful proof of the truth of our position. The Security Council and the nations of the Quartet have the heavy responsibility of accompanying and, if possible, guiding a peace process that can succeed with courage and great perseverance.
The Argentine Republic continues, year after year, tirelessly to condemn the serious threat of terrorism throughout the world. We believe that all acts of terror are criminal and unjustifiable and that no argument can justify them. Just as no nation of the world is beyond their reach, the response must be a joint effort of all nations, and especially this Organization, to stop and eliminate this scourge. We cannot tolerate the actions of those responsible for terrorism or of those who defend, finance or protect terrorists, be they individuals or countries.
Argentina has twice suffered terrorist attacks.
The Israeli embassy was attacked in 1992 and the AMIA headquarters in 1994. Some 102 members of our community, some of whose relatives are here with us today, lost their lives. Those victims, united by terror to those of this city, those of Madrid, those of London, those of Bali, those of Istanbul and those of many other places, impose upon us the moral mandate to respect their memories and to commit all our energies to hunting down, finding and prosecuting those responsible.
Despite the difficulties that have arisen through the passage of time, given that those attacks took place 13 and 15 years ago, respectively, and the subsequent cover-ups, our interest and the justice system continue to seek the truth, and we keep our memory of the horror alive so that it will not recur. In November last year, the Argentine justice system called for international cooperation in the apprehension of nine people suspected of having initiated and planned the 18 July 1994 attack on AMIA, and the Executive Committee of INTERPOL unanimously recommended the apprehension of six Iranian citizens and one Lebanese involved in the affair.
We call here for that recommendation to be ratified during the November session of the
INTERPOL General Assembly. In that context, we hope that the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the context of applicable international law, will accept and respect Argentina’s legal jurisdiction and cooperate effectively with Argentine judges to bring to justice those involved in these events. In that respect, I wish to say here, at United Nations Headquarters and before all the countries of the world, that, unfortunately, the Islamic Republic of Iran has to date failed to offer the required cooperation with the Argentine justice system to resolve those issues.
We call on the Secretary-General and on all the nations of the world to persuade the Islamic Republic of Iran to allow the judicial process to move forward.
We do so with the sole aim of clarifying the facts and bringing those responsible to justice. Respect for the memory of our 102 victims requires justice to be carried out. We request the Islamic Republic of Iran to cooperate in the implementation of the norms of international law to allow us to come to nothing more, but nothing less than the truth.
Nations big and small, rich and poor, all throughout the world will be highly vulnerable if we fail to grasp that action against terrorism requires urgent multilateral, intelligent and sustained action firmly anchored in legitimacy, respect for individual rights, proportional response and respect for international public opinion.
Efforts to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction can count on the firm support and full participation of the Argentine Republic. My country is known for the active role it plays in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Argentina develops, consumes and exports nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in the framework of the strictest respect for the norms enshrined in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the non-proliferation regime in its broadest sense.
Efforts to prevent proliferation are ethically and legally correlated to progress on disarmament. Indeed, the legal instruments on which the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction is based specifically on the firm commitment not to develop new weapons of terror and destruction in the understanding that those who possess such weapons will proceed to their gradual and effective elimination.
In recent years, we have seen disarmament commitments permanently eroded. Nuclear arsenals remain disproportionately large and nuclear disarmament agreements are in stasis. It should come as no surprise, then, that, given the situation, there are those who question the legitimacy of pursuing unilateral advocacy for non-proliferation while solemn commitments in the area of disarmament are ignored.
Conventional weapons are responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the world. Our country has given a high priority to initiatives associated with the conclusion of an arms trade treaty. Domestically, we have initiated programmes for the voluntary handover of firearms, the initial results of which have been encouraging.
The reform of the Security Council is still pending. We are hoping for a reform that will make this central body more responsible, democratically representative and dynamic. It will not, however, achieve this objective by creating new privileged categories. We trust that the ongoing process of consultations will be successful so that the Council can be adapted to today’s world.
Before concluding I wish to raise a matter of continuing importance to the Argentine Republic: the question of the Malvinas Islands, which include South Georgia, South Sandwich and the maritime areas surrounding those islands. This year, 174 years will have passed since the British began to occupy this part of Argentine national territory. Ever since that act of force in 1833, my country has protested against this illegal occupation and has demanded that the full exercise of its sovereignty be restored.
We would also mention that 2007 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1982 conflict in the South Atlantic, a conflict unleashed by the military dictatorship without the backing of the Argentine people, who had always endeavoured to find a peaceful solution to its legitimate sovereignty claim.
The General Assembly has dealt with this matter on many occasions, both prior to and since 1982. Starting in 1965, when the Assembly adopted resolution 2065 (XX), the Organization has recognized, year after year, the existence of a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom relating to the question of the Malvinas Islands. It urged the two Governments to negotiate, as soon as possible, a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the dispute, taking into account the relevant resolutions of United Nations bodies and the interests of the people of the islands.
The ongoing and unrenounceable objective of regaining the full exercise of Argentine sovereignty over this part of our territory and the permanent readiness of my country to resume negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the dispute have been reflected in our national Constitution. It is incomprehensible to us that the United Kingdom should be unwilling to negotiate this matter, thereby violating the provisions of General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX) and numerous similar resolutions.
The time has come for the United Kingdom to shoulder its responsibility and put an end to an anachronism: the illegal occupation for clearly colonial purposes of territory belonging to another State. My Government vigorously rejects the British claim on the establishment of maritime areas surrounding the archipelagos. In particular, it rejects the recently divulged intention of the United Kingdom to make a submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf — established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — relative to the outer limits of the continental shelf of these Argentine territories.
In this, my last message to the General Assembly as the President of the people of Argentina, I wish to reaffirm our profound conviction that it is only through democracy, accompanied by freedom, social justice and peace, that man can realize his full potential. This Assembly of the peoples has a bounden duty to help ensure that that will come to pass.