NEW YORK — As the parade of nations proceeded through the first day
of the much-heralded United Nations Millennium Summit — with heads of
state each taking their allotted five minutes at the podium — U.S.
President Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin each touched on
their visions for a new world.
Most of the diplomatic deliveries confirmed support for the U.N.,
including reforms that will redefine the global body’s role in the 21st
century. There were few surprises.
As leaders arrived for the Summit, breaking news from West Timor
reported the death of U.N. peacekeepers. Secretary General Kofi Annan
greeted nations with his regret over the tragedy and called for one
minute of silence. The tone was thus set for the secretary general to
stress the growing need for nations to sign the 25 core treaties that
await the signatures of heads of state — including the International
Criminal Court treaty. Signing ceremonies are planned throughout the
U.S. President Bill Clinton tagged his comments to Kofi Annan’s by
endorsing the crucial role of the U.N. peacekeeping missions around the
globe. Delivering his final address to the U.N. as president, Clinton
took the opportunity to assure the global body that “those in my country
who think we can do without the U.N. … misread history.” In a clear
reference to Americans calling for U.S. withdrawal from the U.N.,
Clinton admonished detractors by asserting that “we must provide the
tools” necessary for U.N. support, including mechanisms providing for
Clinton stressed that the nature of peacekeeping has changed, saying
there are “fewer wars between nations, but more wars within them.” These
wars are the result, he said, of ethnic and religious conflicts. The
dilemma, according to Clinton, is finding the means to respect
sovereignty, yet “at the same time, protect the people.” Clinton’s
charge to his fellow heads-of-state was that “leaders assembled here can
re-write human history. …”
International journalists in the United Nations’ press room mused
about possible changes in the United States’ formal relationship with
the U.N. in the event that George W. Bush is elected in November.
Islamic journalists in particular queried American reporters about
possible differences in U.S. financial commitments if a Republican
administration is installed in January. Others were interested in how
widespread was American resistance to the International Criminal Court.
Several American journalists reported intrusive treatment during the
media accreditation process.
Insight magazine’s reporter was interrogated over “anti-Gore” articles that had appeared in the magazine. A journalist with a religious periodical was told religious media were “inappropriate at this event” and that the accreditation had not been confirmed. The folder with accreditation was “found,” however, when the correspondent produced U.N. press passes from earlier conferences.
Ironically, despite press office concern over the few alternative, religious and “New Media” organizations critical of the United Nations, some heads of government frequently spoke of the need for “moral democracies” with respect for cultural and religious traditions. The counterpoint to those sentiments was expressed by nations calling for peace via security and stability, as well as “personal rights” — a veiled reference to abortion and legal acceptance of homosexuality.
The refrain calling for “stability” is echoed across town at the ongoing
State of the World Forum where Mikhail Gorbachev and colleagues continued to stress the need for “global stability” — necessitating global governance. Stability and security for the 21st century, say Forum backers, requires radical new approaches to disarmament.
While Gorbachev promoted disarmament at the Forum, Vladimir Putin, making his inaugural speech to the U.N., insisted that this “threshold epoch” was a time for “real disarmament.” The former director of the KGB called for a conference to be held in Moscow where nations would work out an agreement to de-militarize outer space.
Several of the heads of state have also made appearances at the State of the World Forum, including New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark. The Forum, which is being held in New York this year in support of the U.N.’s Millennium Summit, will adjourn Saturday.