[b]Belarus is known to be one of the UN’s founder-members. Today, Minsk is trying to play an active role in the organisation, which, of course, enhances our authority within the international arena [/b]Some joke that the UN is a grandmother, respected by everyone but unheeded. 65 is truly an age which commands respect, although this organisation is often criticised for having become stuck in the old, post-war world order. Many stress that it needs to respond to contemporary conditions.The UN is constantly pushed to the background of world politics. George Bush openly ignored its advice when he declared war in Iraq and Barack Obama has done almost the same thing, albeit in a veiled way. Meanwhile, it was the G20 which tackled the global economic crisis rather than the global United Nations Organisation.
Some joke that the UN is a grandmother, respected by everyone but unheeded. 65 is truly an age which commands respect, although this organisation is often criticised for having become stuck in the old, post-war world order. Many stress that it needs to respond to contemporary conditions.
The UN is constantly pushed to the background of world politics. George Bush openly ignored its advice when he declared war in Iraq and Barack Obama has done almost the same thing, albeit in a veiled way. Meanwhile, it was the G20 which tackled the global economic crisis rather than the global United Nations Organisation.
However, the role of the UN is more important than ever in our rapidly changing world. It strengthens international relations, preventing them from sinking into chaos. It may be the only place where all states are truly equal, as was well understood by over 100 heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers who took part in common political discussion at the 65th GA session at the UN Headquarters. Belarus’ Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov, presented his views on major world problems, offering various solutions.
New millennium — old problems
In 2000, the Millennium Develop-ment Goals were adopted, which aim to be fulfilled by 2015. We can now discuss how far we’ve advanced in achieving these. Unfortunately, most of the assessments announced in New York were unsatisfactory. “Globally, the most problematic targets, most lagging behind fulfilment, are the need for reduced unemployment and maternity and infant death rates and ensuring gender equality,” noted Mr. Martynov.
Most states paid special attention to the way these goals were implemented in their own countries but only a relatively small group of delegations (from the EU, China, Russia and Belarus) have emphasised definite plans to ensure success, rather than failure, within five years. They have accentuated the need for changing relations between states, noting that we should view each other as partners, rather than rivals or enemies. “The most convincing and fresh example is the Global Partnership against Slavery and Trafficking in Human Beings, initiated by Belarus five years ago, which is being successfully implemented at the UN. It recently found its reflection in the UN GA resolution on the adoption of a Global Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking,” asserts Belarus’ Foreign Minister.
Belarus believes the creation of conditions for favourable economic development, aided by the World Trade Organisation, is another vital issue, without which the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is impossible. Unfortunately, the WTO can appear as a closed club, discriminating against certain states, so Minsk believes that the rules for joining the WTO should be simplified.
Minsk supports the G20’s strategy for overcoming the crisis in the world economy. “However, we can assume that large countries will primarily defend and promote their own interests. We need to take measures at the GA to improve the economic instruments of the whole UN system. Otherwise, our organisation won’t be able to play a key role in the global management of economic processes. Small and medium-sized countries won’t have the tools to influence these processes,” believes Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Aleinik.
When Belarus’ Foreign Minister speaks of the need for disarmament, his words should be trusted; Belarus was the first country to voluntarily dismantle nuclear weapons left after the USSR’s collapse. Russia, the USA and the UK have granted security guarantees to Belarus for its action. Unfortunately, official Minsk believes that the introduction of American economic sanctions against Belarusian enterprises raises questions regarding the efficiency of guarantees…
Meanwhile, Belarus plans to make an even greater contribution to international security. Mr. Martynov met the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, which he notes, ‘was a great novelty’. “Last year, President Alexander Lukashenko adopted a corresponding decision, responding to a direct call from the UN General Secretary to Belarus, requesting that we take part in UN peacekeeping activities,” he stressed. “We’re now beginning work to ensure such participation for the first time in the history of Belarus. We’ll begin by sending several of our specialists to join UN forces maintaining peace in Lebanon. One Belarusian military surgeon has already arrived there and we’ll be working to ensure our other specialists can participate in UN peacekeeping operations as medical personnel, civilian police and, even, military staff. It’s a huge, complex job, involving practical help and training, but our state won’t cease from tackling such issues.” Belarusians may also travel to Cyprus.
Rights under scrutiny
This autumn, the UN Headquarters in Geneva also hosted another important event for Belarus, with the UN Human Rights Council approving a Universal Periodic Review on Belarus. This document offers a unique possibility to conduct comprehensive analysis of the human rights situation around the world. Our country supported the idea of preparing a report on Belarus, with the hope that the document would become a trustworthy ‘database’ for the world community.
The UN is probably the major body responsible for observation of human rights worldwide, with its assessment based upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such documents.
Belarus’ Permanent Representative to the UN and other International Organisations in Geneva, Mikhail Khvostov, sees the review as positive. Other countries have praised Belarus’ success in ensuring social and economic rights. Belarus’ high human development index has been noted, alongside its political, socio-economic and ethnic stability. Our country has played a leading role in counteracting human trafficking, as noted in many speeches.
In total, Minsk has adopted 75 out of 93 UN-proposed recommendations. Mr. Khvostov stresses that our country’s refusal to adopt some recommendations is its sovereign right and corresponds to international practice. “Canada has refused 14 recommendations, Egypt — 25, Italy — 12 and Norway — 18,” he said.
In particular, the Government is yet to agree to recommendations to abolish the death penalty, since a national refe-rendum voted to keep the punishment. However, the country is moving towards abolition, with the state gradually trying to change public opinion.
A range of recommendations relate to legislation in the sphere of media and elections. Last year, a new law on media, developed with the OSCE, came into force. In early 2010, amendments and additions were introduced into Belarus’ Electoral Code, taking into account
OSCE recommendations. “These documents aim to enhance transparency and democracy in these areas. They only recently entered into force, so it’s too early to draw conclusions on their effectiveness. At present, we simply need to concentrate on fulfilling these laws,” emphasised Mr. Khvostov.
Belarus notes that its Government will continue to keep all proposals in mind (without exception). “Just because we’re yet to implement some recommendations doesn’t mean we never will,” underlines the Belarusian Foreign Ministry. Within four years, Belarus, like other countries, will report to the UN Human Rights Council on the fulfilment of its obligations.
Returning to the UN document, our country’s representative in Geneva noted, “Belarus appears to be doing well in observing human rights. We have something to be proud of.” It’s an opinion shared by the UN review, compiled by its experts.
By Igor Slavinsky