Asia and the Pacific: The Quest for Peace Pacts ... Tempered Optimism in '89

Article excerpt

The quest for final peace settlements for Kampuchea, Cyprus, and Iran and Iraq remained a high priority for Asia and the Pacific nations in the 1989 general debate. Many noted continuing obstacles to fully implementing the 1988 UN-brokered peace plan for Afghanistan. The tempered optimism expressed in the debate contrasted somewhat with a spirit of euphoria evident during the 1988 debate.

The intensely troubled region of the Middle East continued to be another major concern of most delegates. Many nations called attention to the lack of progress in the search for Palestinian self-determination. Violence in the occupied territories was deplored. Many speakers supported the goals of the intifadah-the uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip-and stressed the importance of the declaration of the state of Palestine in November 1988. Efforts to end the civil war in Lebanon were noted.

Lack of a breakthrough in talks on Kampuchea concerned many. Some regret was expressed that the Paris Conference had not formulated a comprehensive solution.

Talks on the unification of Korea were urged. Several speakers called for self-determination for New Caledonia. Mention was made of the situation relating to East Timor.

A new agenda

Asian nations named debt, the environment, drug abuse and trafficking, terrorism, protection of human rights, and refugees as likely high priority areas for the UN in the coming years.

The serious development crisis affecting the world's poorest nations, many speakers stated, was exacerbated by sluggish or negative growth rates, the lowest commodity prices in 50 years, and a less than desirable rate of official development assistance (ODA) from developed nations.

Delegations looked to 1990 to renew a dialogue on growing economic disparities between the developed and the developing world. In 1990, the UN is to convene a special General Assembly session on international economic co-operation and the Second Conference on Least Developed Countries, and adopt a strategy for the Fourth United Nations Development Decade.

Speakers also called the scourge of drugs one of the most severe global social problems. The UN should be the central international authority to control this problem, many suggested, perhaps even taking a significant role in interdiction and law enforcement.

South Pacific nations were particularly concerned with environmental threats to the sea.

Despite the seeming intractability of many political conflicts, gloomy economic indicators and threatening social problems, delegates hoped that the UN would continue to be a major force in helping to create a better world.

AFGHANISTAN Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdul
   Wakil asked: "How many more Afghans have to go
   down the drain of a senseless fratricidal war for the
   planners and executors of the war to realize the
   futility of the military option?" How much more, he
   asked, must Afghanistan be destroyed before a
   military solution is abandoned in favour of a
   political one?
BAHRAIN Minister for Foreign Affairs Shaikh
   Mohamed Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa underlined the
   necessity of "preserving the vitality of the role of
   the United Nations". He said it was impossible for
   any individual State, no matter how powerful or
   how great its potential, to isolate itself within its
   own boundaries and solve its problems alone and
   apart from the outside world".
BANGLADESH Foreign Minister Anisul Islam
   Mahmud outlined eight points for action to improve
   the global economic climate: an increase in concessionary
   financing to developing countries; reduction
   and restructuring of external debt-, expansion of
   markets and trade liberalization; recognition of the
   link between trade, development and debt; increased
   scientific and technological development in developing
   countries; betterment of the conditions in least
   developed countries; ensured food security; and
   human resource development. …