Magazine article UN Chronicle

The 38th Floor: Excerpts from Statements by UN Secretary-General Javier Perez De Cuellar Made between 1 July and 30 September 1990

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The 38th Floor: Excerpts from Statements by UN Secretary-General Javier Perez De Cuellar Made between 1 July and 30 September 1990

Article excerpt

THE 38th FLOOR

A new era . . . An amibitious agenda . . .

The period we have entered is Janus-faced. It wears both the aspect of hope and the countenance of dangerous unrestraint. In one major segment of world affairs, we have witnessed political change of a phenomenal character. In large parts of the globe, however, the scene continues to be one of simmering resentments, violent collisions and, at best, a precarious peace. The question whether the more beneficial developments of 1989-1990 will have a healthy impact on the totality of the world situation is still unanswered.

The ending of the cold war has meant the abandonment of the many assumptions that throttled progress in international affairs, bred chronic suspicion and fear and polarized the world. The lessons it conveys both for social thought and for purposes of practical policy are manifold. From the viewpoint of the United Nations, however, three of its characteristics have a global significance.

First, the revolutionary developments in Eastern and Central Europe have given powerful expression to two of the cardinal principles of the Charter of the United Nations: self-determination of peoples and respect for human rights.

Second, it has been strikingly demonstrated that a status quo based primarily on the military factor is bound to prove fragile.

Third, the larger--and saner--concept of security, encompassing all its dimensions, which has begun to emerge is precisely the one the United Nations has been expounding all through the years. It has been a stable theme at the United Nations that an obsession with military security results in a self-perpetuating arms race, distorts priorities, hampers social and economic progress, contains political dialogue, affects the institutions of the State to their long-term detriment, and aggravates the sense of insecurity in all nations. What often sounded a voice in the wilderness has now gained a volume and resonance it lacked before.

Thus, the very change that has rendered obsolete the whole architecture of the cold war serves to reveal afresh the design for peace which the United Nations is meant to execute. Nothing in the constructive refashioning that has take place in Europe nor in the destructive trends exploding elsewhere requires a modification of the purposes and principles of the Organization as laid down in its Charter. In fact, in this respect, the Charter gains richer meaning as political evolution progressively enlarges and clarifies the scope of its principles.

The United Nations, therefore, enters the post-cold war era as a central point of constancy in the midst of flux. …

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