Address by Ms. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentine Republic
64th session, 4th plenary meeting, General Assembly
Wednesday, 23 September 2009, 3 p.m. New York
I must confess that, when I arrived in this city to participate in this session of the General Assembly, I had intended to begin my statement with a strong appeal on the need to rebuild multilateralism and cooperation as the two basic instruments to overcome what today is undoubtedly the central issue in our global discussion, namely, overcoming the social and economic crisis.
However, certain events on Monday and Tuesday oblige me to begin my statement by reporting that the Embassy of the Argentine Republic in Tegucigalpa, Republic of Honduras, had its electricity cut off some two days ago. That, of course, was not because we had not paid the bill, but was for far more serious reasons.
Next to the Argentine Embassy is a television studio which broadcast the news of President Zelaya’s arrival in Honduras, the repression and the demonstrations in favour of the return of democracy. That was one of the reasons. In any event, we have had better luck than the Embassy of the sister Republic of Brazil, where, at an early stage they cut off not only the electricity but the water as well — for having given shelter to the constitutional President, Manuel Zelaya.
As a Latin American, I must recall that not even in Chile during the dictatorship of General Pinochet, or in Argentina during the dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla — perhaps the two cruelest dictatorships in Latin America — was there similar behaviour against embassies that were actively working to give shelter to refugees.
I say this because it is crucial that we realize that we must design and forge a multilateral strategy which is strong and specific to return democracy to Honduras. We need a strategy which would actually allow for true respect for human rights and ensure free and democratic elections — which can take place only with full respect for the constitution. If we do not do this, we would be setting a harsh precedent in a region where, for decades during the national security doctrine, suspensions of democracy claimed the lives of thousands and thousands of Latin Americans, led to the exile of many other and created the region’s most serious economic and social tragedy in memory.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room U-506. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.
I make this appeal because I played an active role from the platform of the Organization of American States, and also accompanied the former President of the General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, to El Salvador in order to carry out a task which would safeguard two basic values which, in my opinion, our region has managed to develop: democracy and respect for human rights.
Therefore, I believe that multilateralism would also mean understanding that we have to set common and general rules in this globalized world that must be accepted by all countries. In this case, we are faced with a cynical media coup which was carefully hidden or minimized because, in fact, it was slanted against the advent of populist progressive Governments in the region. I believe that, for all of us, defining multilateralism is going to require specific actions and rules so that absolutely all of us will have the same parameters when it comes time to judge conduct, attitudes and institutional situations.
Yesterday I took part in the climate change event convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in order to bring positions closer together with a view to the Copenhagen Conference, which will take place in a little more than 10 weeks’ time. A decade and a half ago we agreed on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with environmental protection, and we later adopted the Kyoto Protocol in order to begin ensuring respect for those obligations undertaken by nations. A decade and a half later, it is clear that neither agreement is being satisfactorily implemented.
Essentially, this is sometimes because the nations most responsible for pollution and gas emissions, which should bear greater responsibility for reducing those emissions, in terms of investments both in their own countries and in developing countries, cannot come to an agreement either. As I was saying yesterday in our meeting, I think we need to understand that the only possibility of successfully approaching globalization lies precisely in the setting of common rules which would be respected by all nations, developed and developing.
In this framework, we should mention the situation of the Argentine Republic, where we still have a colonial enclave, our Malvinas Islands, which persists without the possibility of addressing the question of sovereignty together with the United Kingdom, as proclaimed in many General Assembly resolutions. We were recently able to agree, following a humanitarian request, that family members with loved ones buried on the islands should be able to travel there by air to inaugurate a cenotaph to pay tribute to those who fought for their homeland.
All of this points to the very clear need to look at multilateralism not only as a type of rhetorical statement repeated every year in this or other multilateral forums, but rather in terms of concrete results. Otherwise, it will become increasingly complicated, with ever more unresolved problems. For, in the final analysis, the multilateralism we have been persistently proclaiming since 2003 has not been put into practice.
My country and the United States are the only two countries to have experienced attacks of international terrorism. For Argentina, the first was in 1992, at the Embassy of Israel, and the second was at the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA). Hundreds of people died in those attacks. Today, in this Assembly, I am joined by the head of AMIA, the entity that was bombed, as well as by family members who have accompanied him.
In 2007, then-President Néstor Kirchner came here to the Assembly (see A/62/PV.5) to call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to agree to extradite officials of its country wanted by the Argentine justice system in order to carry out a proper investigation and assign responsibility for that serious attack. Last year, I myself came here (see A/63/PV.5) to call once again on the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran to accede to our request. I said that there were constitutional guarantees in my country; that the principle that no one is guilty until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt prevails from one end of my country to the other; and that we have guarantees for freedom and the administration of justice. Nevertheless, that did not happen. Instead, this year, one of the officials whose extradition was sought by the prosecutor on the case was promoted to minister.
I know that some 4, 5 or 15 speakers from now the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran will take the floor. Surely, he will once again deny tragedies that occurred in the course of western history in the twentieth century. He will surely invoke the threat of other imperialisms. And he will also surely invoke God. I would like to say to him that my country, the Argentine Republic, is not an imperialist country — neither by way of belief nor as a reflection of our history. To the contrary, ours is a country that suffered from colonial oppression at its founding. During the world’s bipolar era, we also suffered from the doctrine of national security. I would like to tell him that, like him, I believe in God. We may do so in different faiths but, in the end, I believe that neither of us believes that God could command us to prefer threats or to avoid justice from being done.
As President of the Argentine Republic, therefore, I humbly reiterate once again our appeal for the extradition of the officials whom Argentina’s justice system believes are responsible — not to be found guilty, but to be judged and to be allowed to take advantage of all the rights and guarantees that every Argentine citizen and foreigner has in our country: guarantees under democracy, whose unconditional defence Argentina has made part of its institutional and historical core.
I would not wish to conclude without referring to three events that I believe are very positive, which I would like to share with the members of the Assembly today. The first took place quite recently, on 9 September, when the Argentine Republic received a visit from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, including its Chair and the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. That visit occurred 30 years after the Court’s first visit, during the dictatorship, when it came to investigate the crimes that were being committed and to take complaints from Argentine citizens — including our Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is with me today and who, like his father, was imprisoned at that time — and to hear testimony about the serious violations that were taking place.
Thirty years later, the men who comprised the Commission and the men and women who are its members today visited an Argentina where criminals responsible for genocide under the dictatorship are being tried by judges in accordance with the Constitution. We have also reached an agreement with the Inter-American Court to send a bill to our legislature — which I have already done — to eliminate the crime of libel and defamation against journalists. That is homage to the freedom of expression and of the press. But I also firmly believe that it should apply to all citizens. It is offensive that, in the twenty-first century, someone could be sentenced to prison for having said something and said it freely.
We have also reached an agreement to send up two bills — which we have also already done — to contribute to the recovery of children born in captivity during the dictatorship. Those will include provisions to ensure respect for the victims, as well as on society’s collective right to learn their identities.
The second thing that I would like to share has to do with the fact that I listened today to the President of the United States speak about an issue that is crucial to world peace and security, as well as to the rights of the Palestinian people. It is also a key component of a strategy against international terrorism, which, as ever, we continue to condemn. It is genuinely satisfying, and a salve to the soul, to hear from the mouth of the President of the United States of America that there is a need for the Palestinian people to be able to live on their land free of settlements of any kind, as well as, clearly, a right for Israel’s citizens to live in peace within their borders. The words of the President and the timely message he delivered at Cairo University, which many here likely followed with interest, place us in a position that we have not occupied for many years, namely, the possibility of beginning negotiations — successful ones, I hope — between the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel to at last resolve a key issue for international peace and security, namely, the Palestinian question.
Lastly, I would like to tell the Assembly that, as a member of the Group of 20 (G-20), which will meet tomorrow in Pittsburgh, we would like to call for the presence of another multilateral body to be heard from at those meetings: the International Labour Organization. In the two previous G-20 meetings, there was a great deal of discussion about the financial crisis. However, as we did then, we continue to believe that a key issue is to once again discuss the real economy. That is why we believed it timely that workers and business owners, as genuine actors in the real economy and as catalysts to re-energizing it, should be heard from as well in those forums, alongside officials from multilateral credit institutions and the World Bank.
We are genuinely convinced that there is a need to build a new multilateralism in which all of us are genuinely on an equal footing; where rights and obligations and the road map for the course to be taken are the same for rich and poor countries alike; and where the rights and responsibilities of developing countries are the same as those of developed States. We therefore agreed that equal rules of the game for the entire world was one of the basic elements of ensuring success in building multilateralism. If we do not achieve this, we will continue with these rhetorical exercises year after year, but we will never achieve the results that are not a right but an obligation for all of us who make up this body.
In conclusion, democracy, the defence of human rights, and equal rules for all countries in the world are the three key elements to building a new multilateralism. These three requirements must be equal and the same for all countries, but above all for those that, through their own actions and because of their level of social and economic development, lead the major developed countries of the world.
It is clear that those who have the greatest responsibility and hold the greatest leadership roles — won through military, technological, economic and even cultural power — also have an obligation to exercise that leadership in a responsible manner. This is what we, the developing and emerging countries, feel, and what we ask of the major nations of the world. They have the responsibility to build this world. This will no doubt be echoed in all our speeches, but this building must be done every day through our decisions and concrete actions.