Towards a New Culture of International Relations: Rights and Responsibilities of the Individual in Multilateral Decision-Making
December 10, 2007
JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I would like to thank you all for joining us.
Today it is an honor to welcome to our breakfast program His Excellency Dr. Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd General Assembly. The title of his presentation is Towards a New Culture of International Relations: Rights and Responsibilities of the Individual in Multilateral Decision Making.
Over 60 years ago, when the UN Charter was signed in San Francisco, the American president at the time, Harry S. Truman, realized the need for individuals to make sacrifices in the interest of peace. He said, and I quote, "We all have to recognize that no matter how great our strength, we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please. No one nation can or should expect any special privilege which harms any other nation. Unless we are willing to pay that price, no organization for world peace can accomplish its purpose. And what a reasonable price that is."
Even though these comments were made over six decades ago, President Truman's remarks remain as relevant today as they were then. With the myriad challenges confronting us, whether collectively or individually, it should be apparent that the international community must come together in order to solve pressing global problems. Yet, in order to be more effective in a multilateral decision-making environment than has been evident in the past, and to make the 21st century different than the last, our speaker believes that there is a need for a new culture and a renewed determination on the part of individual states to cooperate with each other, thus altering the prevailing mindset of "business as usual."
As a seasoned diplomat, economist, scholar, and businessman, Dr. Kerim knows, just as President Truman once did, that in addition to having a vision and a strategy, what is also needed is a greater degree of flexibility and trust based on mutual respect among nations. By reverting back to the moral obligations and ethical values found in the charter itself, exemplified by principles such as respect for human rights and human security, our speaker is optimistic that these values can once again be the driving force for achieving the common good. Although some problems may remain intractable, I know he would argue that there is no better place to debate these issues than at the UN, an organization which, more than any other, embodies the collective will and wisdom of the entire world.
Having served as foreign minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Dr. Kerim brings to the 62nd General Assembly a wealth of experience in international politics, economic affairs, and crisis management. He also has at his fingertips an extensive knowledge of the United Nations system, gained while serving as Macedonia's permanent representative to the UN from 2001 to 2003. During this time, he was vice chairman of both the International Conference on Financing for Development and of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which took place that same year. In addition, he was a member of the group of facilitators of the 56th UN General Assembly focusing on UN reform and was a co-organizer of the Regional Forum on Dialogue Among Civilizations.
With a reputation for determined and proven leadership, commitment, and significant public experience on both national and international levels, it would be difficult to find a better individual to lead the UN General Assembly at this critical time.
Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to our speaker today, Dr. Srgjan Kerim. Thank you.
SRGJAN KERIM: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to thank very much Ms. Joanne Myers for her introduction and for the invitation to speak today in the Carnegie Council. It's a great honor for me, and a privilege, to address such a distinguished audience.
Let me start with a remark before I elaborate on the topic which was announced for today and which is called Towards a New Culture of International Relations: Rights and Responsibilities of the Individual in Multilateral Decision Making. The other day when I was in Milan, I had the opportunity to talk also to some of my hosts about politics, and I tried to draw a definition: What is the difference between a politician and a statesman? All the politicians try to become statesmen, but they do not succeed. Only a few people succeed to be statesmen. The difference is that politicians try always to position themselves, before elections and after elections, and they are mainly preoccupied with themselves. Statesmen are people who are preoccupied with the world. They try to reshape the world, to shape it in another way, and to create something.
The other experience I have had, in reading about history and following what is going on in the world, in this last 30 years at least, is that I realized that also statesmen do not deliver in the same manner and way in different times. During a war and immediately after a war, they show much more vision than in a period of peace. We are confronted with that. The world definitely does not have, unfortunately, leaders of the caliber of those who drew the Atlantic Charter, of those who created the United Nations and made a lot of other important things for shaping the world as it is today.
The political map of the world of today was mainly drawn in the 1960s and 1970s. If you look at the statistics, the United Nations had only 15 or so members when they were created in San Francisco, and later when they moved to New York. In the 1960s and the 1970s, a series of new emerging states in Africa and Asia joined. So it became a club of 130 nations.
Then in the early 1990s, we had another new series of emerging states in Eastern Europe, due to the breaking up of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. So we have arrived at the number of 192 states, the latest one being Montenegro, which used to be one of the republics of the former Yugoslavia.
Having said that, I would like to refer a little bit to recent history and what has happened from the 1960s up to now. In the 1960s and in the 1970s, as I said, many African and Asian states became independent. Former colonies joined the United Nations and became partners in international relations. During that period, particularly in the 1970s and in the 1980s—Ambassador Maged, from Egypt, remembers it very well; we were part of that exercise—these countries tried hard to change the world order and to introduce a concept called "a new international economic order." That concept did not have appropriate results and did not work. So there is no new international economic order.
In the beginning of the 1990s, when the Berlin Wall fell, people believed that a new world political order would be established. Obviously, it is not the case. We don't have a new world political order. You can see a lot of failure and a lot of problems and controversies around the world since then. Only part of the world has changed, and that is Eastern Europe. But that is not the world; it's only a tiny part of it. It is less than 10 percent of the population of the world.
So thinking about and reflecting on what is actually the reason that we cannot establish a new world order this or that way—putting more the emphasis on economics or on politics—I thought it's probably because people in today's world—in the world of ICTs, of information communication technologies, an interdependent world, a globalized world—are scared when they hear the word "order." They are fed up with those who always try to impose an order. They would like to have something else—maybe normal transparent relations between them, once the world, anyway, became very, very interdependent, transparent by the ICTs. You can communicate on earth with every person you would like to; you just need an email address and a computer. Nobody can prevent you from doing that. There is no order which can prevent that.
On the other hand, in terms of international relations, we are dealing with a lot of stereotypes. The first one is sovereignty, understood as it was after one of the cruelest wars in history, which ended up with the Westphalian peace treaty in Western Europe, and which established sovereignty. But that was in the 17th century. Now we are in the 21st century, and the world has changed so tremendously that you could not fit in with this scheme in the way we are still doing it.
The United Nations is also an example where we are confronted with one of these contradictions. When we have our discussions, our dialogues, sometimes misunderstandings, disagreements—also political struggle—it is mainly about and related to national sovereignty, the understanding of sovereignty. Many people still believe that talking about human rights is interfering in internal affairs.
I can give you an example in the former Yugoslavia. I was vice minister of foreign affairs, in charge, among other things, of human rights, and I was the one who established it in the ministry. There was a great resistance to that in the ministry, to have a department which would deal with human rights. They said, "What's that? What do we want with human rights? Human rights do not exist beyond the state. The state is the one that has to take care of it."
We had relations with other states, and in that period we had a visit of a very distinguished American senator. I can now also reveal his name. It was Bob Dole. He visited Kosovo. The president of Serbia was then Mr. Milosevic. He called my office and said, "If you don't tell the American ambassador to tell this guy to leave immediately, we are going to arrest him." I was in shock. I said, "What are you talking about? He's our guest. He's visiting our country. What is the problem?"
"The problem is, he's interfering constantly in our internal affairs."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because he's talking about human rights and minority rights. That's not his business. It's our business. We create the order here"—that's the word, "order"—"and our order does not allow foreigners to tell us about human rights, about minority rights, about this and that."
So I called the American ambassador, Warren Zimmermann, a very good friend of mine, who, unfortunately, died a few years ago. I said, "Warren, we are in trouble. We have to discreetly tell the senator to come to Belgrade, to rescue him from Belgrade. We will organize further steps so that we do not spoil American-Yugoslav relations. But we also do not give in to Milosevic's understanding of international relations"—that he would even arrest or expel his guest. He was a guest of our government. He didn't pay a private visit to Kosovo.
Mentioning that, I come to another issue, which also causes a lot of misunderstandings: majority and minority. The problem of Kosovo, ultimately, is a problem that in the Balkans we still do not differentiate between two categories, and people have serious problems with that—with the definition and then with the understanding and then with the application of it. What are ethnic roots, and what is citizenship? What is the basis of the nation-state?
Due to the fact that in the Balkans there was always identification of the majority, on an ethnic basis, with citizenship and with the nation-state, we created always a situation of ethnic majorities and minorities. The minorities, of course, were never prepared to be second-class citizens, with good reason. You can understand that. The majorities never understood. They could not identify completely, themselves, with the nation-state. That created a lot of problems.
I remember, during my father's time, because we are of Turkish origin, he was told by some people in Macedonia, "Because you're not regionally Macedonian in terms of the ethnic Macedonian, you can never be number one in anything in this country. You can count on number two and then further. If there is an association, you cannot be president of the association, but vice president, because you are not of that origin."
Can you imagine what kinds of frustrations and what kinds of problems that raises on the individual level? Then people cannot understand each other, cannot correspond with each other and communicate with each other. This is definitely, again, a wrong perception of what a nation-state is.
By the way, if you go back to history and see what has happened, there is no single nation which created a state. It was the other way around: States created nations. Look at the history of the United States. Look at the history of France. Look at the history of Germany, Egypt, and many, many others. First, the state was created and then the nation, and not the other way around.
In the Balkans, we had this problem. We are still facing it. This is how the problem between the Serbs and the Albanians in Kosovo escalated, because there was always the problem of the majority which dictates to the minority everything in that state. They lived, as a matter of fact, for decades in the same state, but the Albanians were always second-class people, second-category. It culminated, then, one day, when the process of breaking apart and secession in Yugoslavia started and the nations wanted to leave this association of nations and community, because they always felt the majority's pressure on the minority—and, as I said, this confusion between ethnic roots and citizenship.
I will bring it to the absurd. For those of you who are interested in soccer, if you watch the national team of France, one can claim, according to the Balkan criteria, that there is no national team of France because they are all black people and Arab people from Africa—so no French, so no national team. But there is also no point in it. As I said, this confusion in the heads of people arises due to this.
This is why I think we badly need—and I come now to my point—a new culture of international relations, where the individual is in the center. There are a lot of reasons for that.
First of all, I had recently a lecture at the Harvard Business School, and the topic was "Does Globalization Mean that National Sovereignty is in Decline?" It is in decline, but it's transforming itself. It will not disappear. We will have to work with nation-states and with sovereignty. The whole relations in the United Nations are based on that. But it has to transform itself in a way that it will disaggregate. This disaggregation will be definitely in favor of the individual. The sovereignty of the individual has to be strengthened, and in order to strengthen that, we have to deal with human security. Human security is not only about nations; it's about individuals. Look at all the crises we are facing, from Sudan to Myanmar—everywhere in the world—and conflicts. They have to do with that, with human security. People do not feel secure, and they are then part of a conflict.
Then human rights, of course—and today is a special day, as you know. I would like to mention that today is the anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. We have to be aware that in terms of human rights, we have established a lot of norms here and there, conventions, many other documents, but I don't think we have made tremendous progress on that. There is a lot of work to be done, to involve people, individuals. This is why I am, during this session, working a lot with NGOs. I am glad to tell you that countries, no matter where they come from—from Asia or from Africa, from Eastern or Western Europe, from North America—are now more and more aware and interested in involving the NGOs in our work, just because that is another opportunity, another chance—and the business sector—to involve individuals.
After human security and human rights, a third principle I would like to mention as a part of this new culture of international relations—because people need more of culture, less of order in the world—or, as I put it in other words, more software, less hardware in developing international relations. In this regard, another principle which is also important is the responsibility to protect.
There are still controversies within even our own ranks in the UN on that. But it is becoming, day by day, month by month, more and more acceptable. Even the secretary general has recently appointed his envoy, Professor Ed Luck, from New York, to deal with the issue, which becomes very important. We cannot talk about humanitarian assistance, we cannot talk about peacekeeping, peace building, and all the instruments we are using in the United Nations, without bearing in mind that many of the conflicts have been in a terrible phase, and we did not intervene. We were just observers. We were just hypocrites who were looking to the left when the conflict arose on the right, and the other way around. That is really not something that today's world can accept and absorb. This is why we have to develop also this instrument.
I know how difficult it was at the beginning to design, to make this concept, and then to start talking about that in the United Nations and around the United Nations. But times are changing, for the better, so we can say now that this is really also something which becomes more and more an integral part of our philosophy in dealing with each other.
Last but not least, all that does not make sense if we do not include sustainable development. I am very glad to see that the new president of the World Bank, Bob Zoellick, in talking about his plans in concept, said that his mantra as far as the World Bank is concerned is and will be climate change and sustainable development.
There we round up the whole concept: How can you deal with climate change? From what point of view? It is the planet, so it has nothing to do with national borders, with sovereignty, with individual states or regions. It's a global threat, an unprecedented global threat. The whole world has to deal with it, because this threat has the dimension of even wiping out Member States of the United Nations. All the small islands are in danger. Many other vulnerable countries in Africa and Asia are also under attack, so to say. This is definitely something which has to be accepted as a reality. But we have, of course, to confront it.
In order to confront it, again we come to the question, who is going to do it, and on what basis? I don't think the United Nations by itself can do it, the Member States. They need for that the business people, the business sector. They need for that the NGOs. They need for that the academic sector, individuals, people who are prepared to be part of a mission called "How To Save the Planet from a Disaster." I know it's nothing which will happen tomorrow or after tomorrow, literally speaking, but it is something which is a threat on a daily basis, and in the medium and long run it can have disastrous consequences for the whole planet. We have to be aware of that.
This is why I said—and I began with that—for that, we need, really, statesmen. We need people who are able to create visions and to share them with the people and with individuals, and to involve individuals. Part of that vision is to understand that we have to concentrate and to give a lot of what we call our sovereignty and integrity to the individual.
Of course, with these rights, responsibilities go hand in hand. I am not here only to preach and to plead for human security and human rights and minority rights, but also for shared responsibilities. Shared responsibilities should be the value of such a new culture of international relations, together with freedom, with equality, with tolerance and respect.
This sounds very familiar, like everyday words like "coffee," like "tea," like "juice." But that's not true. The truth of the matter is that we have to be very, very in front of dealing with these values, trying to apply them in international relations, starting from the United Nations and all the other international organizations, and in the dealings of Member States with each other. If we succeed in that one, we will be really able to shape a world of the 21st century and the 22nd century. That is what the world of today needs, at the beginning of this century, and not the world of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
Thank you very much.
Questions and Answers
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much for those remarks.
I know you have been a politician and I know you were a diplomat. I think today you are a statesman as well.
I would like to open up the floor for questions.
QUESTION: Thank you for being so candid about your own background. That helps us to understand why you are now president of the General Assembly, even though you come from a small state. It's a great tribute to your evolution as a person and as a statesman. And you were so comprehensive.
How can the United Nations deal with genocide? Based on the experience with Rwanda, Burundi, Cambodia, growing threats of conflict between the Shiites and the Sunnis, and so forth, what new ways—based on all this experience and thinking about the unfortunate failures of peacekeeping, what can the United Nations do to prevent or stop genocide?
SRGJAN KERIM: I think, basically, two things. The first one is, we already have the one instrument, which has to be strengthened, created in Rome, the International Criminal Court. We have to strengthen its role and be very energetic about it. That has to do again with what I have defined as a new culture of international relations, because it is about individuals.
You have to know, as Americans, that what we had in the Balkans in the 1990s was not a war. Even the media were misguided at that time. I think that the media should be a part of this new culture of international relations, in spreading that culture and playing an active role in that. The media also were a victim of that. They were talking about a war.
What happened in the former Yugoslavia was not war, because war is when two armies fight each other. That is the definition of war. We have conventions. We have everything. That was not two armies fighting each other. That was criminals killing innocent women and children, including stealing their property, their houses—plundering. That's crime. That was the right decision by the international community to bring all these warlords and war criminals to justice.
When two armies fight, when there is a war, we know that it's the worst way for how people want to sort out things. But even a war has rules.
That was not a war. That was just a crime. That crime had to be stopped, including elements of genocide.
They went to the villages at the beginning, the paramilitary forces of Milosevic, from Serbia to Bosnia, and they asked all the men—I'm sorry for saying that, to be so rude—to get their trousers down, to see whether they are circumcised or not, which means Muslim, and they killed them, without asking about the identity, who they are, what they are, why they are in the village.
That is crime. That has nothing to do with war or the interests of a state or whatever—nothing legitimate.
This is why it was important to have this court in The Hague, and to put all these people to justice. This is why we need responsibility to protect. I know Richard Holbrooke was the ambassador of the United States to Germany. I was the ambassador of Macedonia. He asked me, "What is the solution?"
I said, "You have to bomb all the bridges between Serbia and Bosnia, so as not to allow them to go there and to do the crimes they are doing. You will not bomb people, not sites where people live. But by destroying these bridges, you will prevent all these criminals from continuing unprecedented activities of crime, human crime."
This is why we need the concept of responsibility to protect.
The same goes for Rwanda.
Usually people will say, "Oh, no, we cannot interfere. That's their internal affair. They are in conflict." Who is in conflict? Maybe a couple of individuals. You don't know on what interest it is based. Is it economic interest? Is it political? But it is crime, basically. You cannot watch crime. That's also a sort of crime: You are watching crime and you are doing nothing. But you can. I can understand that people who are helpless are watching and they cannot do anything. But those who can do it, they commit also a sort of crime.
This is why we have to be very alert about that and to invent these instruments, because the United Nations can do it. It's a representative organization. It represents the whole world. All the nations are there. They have to use that to make it legitimate.
QUESTION: I want to ask you a bit more about responsibility to protect. I have been at the United Nations now, covering it, for four years. That was something that was created a couple of years ago, under the secretary-generalship of Kofi Annan. It sounds good on paper. I want to ask you why you think it's making headway.
Responsibility to protect is the responsibility of governments to protect their own people from being killed; but there are three instances in the world where governments are killing their own people. Sudan is one. You mentioned it. Myanmar is another, and Zimbabwe is a third. In all three cases, the United Nations or the international community—or the European Union, over the weekend—has had no success in convincing those countries to not say, "We are a sovereign nation. You have no business passing judgment on us."
Sovereignty, for the moment, is winning, isn't it?
SRGJAN KERIM: I will ask Einstein to help me in this respect: Everything is relative, including that.
It is still prevailing, that's true. But I am trying now to look at what the trend is, what the tendency is. The trend, the tendency, is definitely that we are going towards a new situation, a new quality, and that new quality will bring this up also on the agenda.
At the very beginning, people were allergic when we started talking about responsibility to protect. Let's be honest about that. Nobody liked it around. It was a very shy way, how it was introduced, and preached, as always—all the good ideas are always preached by one, two, three people, and the rest are still thinking and looking at what is going to happen.
But nowadays people are not only talking about it; look at what is going on in terms also of Myanmar. We are going to have a briefing of Ambassador Gambari in a few days in the General Assembly. He is a delegate appointed by the General Assembly, and the General Assembly will have a chance to listen to him. I am meeting him on a regular basis.
We are trying, with the instruments which we have now at our disposal, to make it an issue, which will say, above all, look at the instructions we are giving him: To take care of the lives of the people who are in danger there, of the monks who were arrested, of the opposition leader and the other leaders who are fighting for democracy there, and freedom.
That's what we can do now. But it's much more than to be ignorant, just to state that something is going on there and we are doing nothing; we are just watching. We are not only watching now. We are trying to act, to use some of the instruments at our disposal.
I know, as you said, that it's not enough. But this is why I said that we have to introduce this new concept, including changing and using new instruments in the United Nations, which will definitely be useful and applied to these cases.
QUESTION: Thank you, first, very much for your central focus on human rights and responsibility to protect. I wonder if you could say something about the General Assembly, since you are the 62nd president. There has been a view for many years that the General Assembly has lost its focus, that it does not really play a major role at the United Nations, that the major role is through the Security Council or, in some cases, the secretary-general.
Joanne, in her introduction, referred to your role in reform, the efforts at reform. What is your perception of the role of the General Assembly right now? What do you think can or should be done to reform its functions, to give it more traction?
SRGJAN KERIM: It's a very good question. I thank you for making this case.
First of all, the General Assembly can be as good or as bad as Member States allow. I am always talking to my colleagues, and all the ambassadors know that they can witness it here today. Whenever we are talking about the General Assembly, I am referring to, in the same sentence, that it depends on the political will of Member States.
I find definitely very cynical the definition of the item concerning the General Assembly which is called, for 16 years already, "revitalization" of the General Assembly. I said, "Listen, don't be cynical to ourselves." We assume that we are almost a dead body and we are revitalizing ourselves. What does it mean? It's very cynical—and untrue.
What we need is another definition of that item, which should be called the role of the General Assembly in strengthening the United Nations. That's the point. What role should the General Assembly play, if at all, to strengthen the United Nations? A strong General Assembly is a strong United Nations. We have the potential there.
Don't think that only the big states have smart guys, good guys, and capable guys. You can meet a lot of representatives of small nations, from Nepal to Bhutan, from Kenya to Sweden to Norway, not to mention all of them, which really can contribute to the system and do contribute.
So the General Assembly has to deal, first of all, with the relevant topics. It has to have a relevant agenda, a streamlined agenda—not to deal with everything in this world, but to focus on three, four, five issues, and to deal with them throughout the whole year systematically. That's what the General Assembly should do. That is what is enshrined by the charter. I am not inventing hot water now in telling you that. It's all there. We have to apply. We have to strive for it, to do it.
This year, as the ambassador of Romania knows, when we started the whole preparations in the Eastern European group—because I was proposed by the Eastern European group, which I am very grateful for, and Romania was among the first countries that supported me—when I went to Bucharest and spoke to his foreign minister, I told him that we need a very clearly defined agenda if we want to be a successful president, which means we have to deal with climate change, with financing for development, with management reform, with counterterrorism, with the Millennium Development Goals. These are the main topics of the United Nations, and the General Assembly has to deal with them. Then the General Assembly is relevant. Then the General Assembly does not need an exercise goal—revitalization. That's the relevance of the General Assembly, and not to adopt resolutions on revitalization. We believe that's the alibi way: You adopt resolutions on revitalization and you are happy. But you don't do your part of the role.
To talk about the Security Council and the General Assembly, for me, it is also not the issue. The Security Council has, within the division of labor, its own role, and the General Assembly the other role.
In two situations I remember, in Afghanistan and Iraq, the whole General Assembly moved to the Security Council. I said to my colleagues, "Why are we doing that?" We complain that the General Assembly is out, but we all go to the Security Council session and participate in it. Why don't we convene a session of the General Assembly and talk about it? We have also our role and our stake in it.
QUESTION: Thank you, Joanne. Good morning, Mr. President.
Let me say something to supplement what you are saying.
SRGJAN KERIM: But tell them first that you are my vice president.
QUESTIONER: Yes. I am the ambassador of Egypt to the United Nations.
Mr. President, in 2005, we agreed on three main pillars for our work in the General Assembly: security, human rights, and development. Looking back—because I came here in the year 2000—I see that we achieved very little in all three.
In security, we did not succeed in making the world more secure, whether through the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] or through other instruments, of chemical weapons, biological weapons, or small arms or others. We adopted the counterterrorism strategy, yes, but it still has to be implemented.
On human rights, there were new notions: human security, human rights, and the responsibility to protect. I tend to agree with Warren that it has not seen as much implementation for the time being; it's still in the phase of discussion.
In the area of development, there is waning commitment from the developed nations to support the developing countries.
All this takes me to a problem which I was discussing with the ambassador of the Netherlands before you arrived. It's confidence. We feel in the General Assembly that there is a need to rebuild the confidence between the developed and the developing, between the West and the East, between different parts of the world. Why? Because we feel that there are still some double standards in dealing with issues. When you deal with issues of human security, in areas of genocide or others, these are areas where you can deal with it in the Security Council. But what about violations committed in big, developed countries? Who is going to deal with them? Who is going to initiate a county-specific resolution against countries that, for instance, violate the rights of indigenous people or who have people in prisons and tortured, at the time that these big countries are supplying development assistance to developing countries?
We are in a chicken-and-egg situation in the United Nations. So confidence, I believe, is what needs to be enhanced in the time to come. This goes along with what you are saying. We have to concentrate on the individual. If we want to forget about borders and about sovereignty, then the rules should apply for all, not for some at the expense of others.
QUESTION: I learned a lot this morning. I want to find out where you got the expression, from what language or culture it comes, "I am not inventing hot water." It's beautiful. [Laughter]
A little bit more seriously, will Kosovo gain its independence? If so, when? Will Belgium stay together?
SRGJAN KERIM: In terms of your question on Kosovo, as I already said, Kosovo is a part of that concept which failed to function in the Balkans. This is why Yugoslavia actually fell apart as a country, because we had a different approach and understanding of this majority and minority. The political process started at the moment when the leadership of Serbia started pleading that those who have the majority of the population have to be those who will prevail in the political system. That was definitely not acceptable for the other republics, which were smaller, like Slovenia (only 2 million), Croatia (5 million), Macedonia (2 million).
They all started to use, by the way, their own rights because in the constitution of the former Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia was a federation composed of republics, defined as states, sovereign states, with all the rights, including the right of secession. So they used their own rights.
The other problem was that the international community was not prepared for that, because the international community had all the available instruments for conflicts among states, but not conflicts within a state. This is why everybody failed to intervene in time to help in terms of what happened when the conflict became also an armed one, and military.
In terms of Kosovo, that is, as I said, part of it. As all the parts of Yugoslavia used their rights, Kosovo wanted to do the same. The problem is now, because it is part of the territory of Serbia, how to resolve it. We tried hard to do it through the Security Council, but obviously it will not work. At least this is the latest news, although there is a session convened for the 19th of this month. That is the last ray of hope. But if it doesn't work, then I'm afraid that afterwards Kosovo will declare its independence without asking the international community. Then it's up to the international community to decide how to deal with it.
QUESTIONER: What about Belgium?
SRGJAN KERIM: About Belgium, Frank Majoor [Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN] is a better expert on that. He comes from the Netherlands. It is the immediate neighbor, and people speak Flemish in Belgium—also in my family, because my son speaks perfect Flemish. He used to live in Belgium, in Brussels.
Talking to him, I never had the impression that something like that would happen. I don't think it will happen, because Belgium is part of the European Union and in the European Union there are already well-established standards about relations between nations, within nations. So I don't think that that will be the case.
It is, by the way, why we want to become members of the European Union. My country is a serious candidate for it. We want to share the values on which the European Union is based. It's more about integration, less about disintegration.
QUESTION: Reverting back to your talk about human rights, do you think that some of the regional groupings, whether it's the African Union or ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], could be enticed, let's say, to bring more impact on resolving some of the very sensitive problems that you have been talking about, whether it's Burma or Sudan? That type of issue might find a better issue inside their own groupings, rather than in a worldwide grouping.
SRGJAN KERIM: I agree with you. I see in your question also the answer. I share your view. I think regional integration, and such examples as ASEAN, should be strengthened. They are very useful as part of the system of international relations. Also in the case of Burma, Myanmar, I think ASEAN should and can play a role. I encouraged Ambassador Gambari when he came to see me to do that, to contact more of the states, not only because they are in the immediate neighborhood, but because this country is a part of it. They have to deal with the problem within that organization and because of regional integration.
We need more of that in the UN system, more cooperation between UN and regional integration.
QUESTION: Getting back to the peacekeeping operations, what happens if you have people going into Rwanda and—what would the UN do when you have the Hutus against the Tutsis? Whom do you shoot if you have to impose some kind of peace?
Roméo Dallaire was complaining about the fact that they didn't have any ability to protect themselves, really, until the very last minute, and then they couldn't do anything. Also David Rieff has spoken about NGOs that go into these conflicts and really act as mainly enablers of the administration that is in power, whether it be Sudan, Zimbabwe, or the like.
SRGJAN KERIM: First of all, the immediate neighbors are also part of that shared responsibility. Secondly, the United Nations, as I said, really has to create better and more efficient instruments in terms of the responsibility to protect, to prevent these kinds of situations and to intervene when it comes to the matter, and not when the crime is of such a size that you cannot even control it anymore. I think this is what we have to do.
To come back to the question which was raised by my vice president, Ambassador Maged from Egypt, confidence measures are very important. We have to raise this power of mutual trust in the General Assembly and the United Nations. But we can do it only through dealing with relevant issues, not complaining about each other and about all these divisions.
I'm sorry to say that—maybe it's too strong, as an expression—but I think also this North-South and East-West division is a stereotype. Egypt deals with a lot of the northern countries—it has such a developed cooperation—much more than with some so-called southern countries. When I was in South Africa and I came back to Macedonia—we are in the North—I said, "We are African; they are northern." They are more developed in many dimensions than we are. So why do we talk in terms of North-South, really?
It's all stereotypes from the era when the world was in some patterns of division—East-West and also North-South.
I must tell you that I also support, personally—it has nothing to do with my role as president of the General Assembly—these multilateral events and initiatives beyond the United Nations, like when President Bush invited a group of states to discuss some issues. That is also important. We have to mix the nations, forming groups of informal constituencies, whether they come from the North or the South, from the East or the West, according to the interests. We have to create now a world based on the equilibrium of interests, not of power, because if you talk about power, everybody then starts to be suspicious and to talk about whether it is a unipolar world, whether it is a bipolar world, whether it is a multipolar world. But it's in terms of power.
If we try to work, as on climate change now, based on the equilibrium of interests and not of power, we will achieve a hell of a lot. That will increase also our confidence-building measures, because then Egypt will cooperate with countries which share the same interests in the Mediterranean or in Africa or globally, because it's a big country with a lot of potential, rather than to divide ourselves in these groups which were formed 40 years ago, with completely different purposes than we are facing in the world of today.
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you.