Allow me to first warmly congratulate you personally for the People’s Republic of China’s organization of this high level open debate. I join those who have done the same in previous statements. Spain supports the statement that the Delegation of the European Union will make on behalf of the Member States. These good wishes are more than a formality. We welcome that the Chinese Presidency of the Council provides us all – members and non-members of this body – the opportunity to express our views on such an essential issue that we might call the kernel of our Organization. This opportunity calls us to reflect together on the validity of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter in the light of an experience of 70 years that projects, like any human endeavor, lights and shadows.
My second recognition goes to the concept note: clear, positive and with courage. It constitutes a motivating guide to take off in flight while abandoning the casuistry of daily life and allows us to gain the necessary perspective in order to make a vital and indispensable common goal a reality: a secure and peaceful world with a shared prosperity.
Your invitation is not a theoretical or academic exercise as it would be inappropriate in this body. It is about reaffirming the commitment of each one of us with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter in order to create an atmosphere conducive to commemorate this year the 70th anniversary of the Organization.
The simple and direct questioning of the concept note deserves a clear answer: Spain is firmly committed to the purposes and principles of the San Francisco Charter. We consider them as valid today as in 1945. The principles are the basis on which constant action requires the realization of the purposes. This is because the purposes are not goals that, once achieved, are overcome. They require, however, a sustained effort to which we are all called to contribute. The purposes are a daily challenge.
The purposes and principles should be read in conjunction with the Preamble of the Charter, with its catalog of inspiring values behind the actions of the Organization, which constitute a sort of “ethical heaven.” The triangle composed by the Preamble, Purposes and Principles is an indivisible whole which not only has not aged with the passage of time as a daguerreotype, but it has gained in resolution and validity.
The founders of the United Nations, with the firsthand experience of the ravages of war declared “determined to save succeeding generations” from this scourge. They charted a program to that end, a code of conduct that requires constant reaffirmation. The 70th Anniversary of the Organization is an ideal opportunity for all Members to renew their vows proclaimed in the Preamble of the Charter and to express our commitment to its purposes and principles. Spain encourages to solemnly commemorate this occasion through a universal declaration which reaffirms the validity of this essential core of the Charter- preamble, purposes and principles- to which I am referring.
Although the foundation of our building’s Organization is solid, the land on which the United Nations is today established -the world in the second decade of the 21st Century has little to do with that which resurfaced from the ashes of World War II. We live in a much more mobile, complex and uncertain scenario than that of the last post-war world.
The UN system has evolved from its origins in order to meet the challenges of a changing world. It is also up to us now, one of those future generations to whom the founders referred, to update the instruments that strengthen the roots of the values and purposes of the Charter, based on the principles of Article 2, in contemporary international society.
These 70 years that have passed are far from being an upward and straight path. It is true that humanity has not been subjected to a new world war with the consequent risk to the survival of the planet. But the fact remains that local or regional conflicts have occurred incessantly and are still growing. Far from feeling satisfied, we must admit that too often than what we would like, we are frustrated because we are not capable of preventing announced conflicts; because we are not always able to facilitate or impose the cessation of hostilities when two parties in conflict resort to armed force and also because we fail to consolidate fragile truces in which the ashes of violence rekindle a fire that ends up burning countries and even entire regions.
We must improve our performance in conflict prevention. The Organization has plenty of means at the service of prevention. The General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretariat can undoubtedly establish guidelines for combined action that, respectful of the principles of the Charter, can more effectively serve the purpose of maintaining peace.
Spain firmly believes in the need to strengthen the instruments of conflict prevention. The promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue through the Alliance of Civilizations and the King Abdullah International Centre for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue (KAIICID), the development of mediation mechanisms, such as the one we drive forward together with Morocco in the Mediterranean, are assisted by friendly countries such as Slovenia or Jordan, or by the water strategy in the Western Mediterranean which we co-lead with Algeria, are multifaceted samples of our active participation in the field of conflict prevention and mediation. The common denominator of these initiatives is a determined effort to create channels and efficient mechanisms for cooperation, understanding and tolerance and to raise dikes against fanaticism and violence.
The preservation of peace must be based on a system of relations between States and organizations based on legally binding rights and obligations, whose ultimate goal is the rule of law. There is no peace without respect for the law. The UN system has been able to gradually channel the yearnings and aspirations of the components of the international community, including the smaller States. These wishes and aspirations are increasingly being reflected in a legal system that tends to develop towards the achievement of a global rule of law, at whose apex lies the United Nations Charter (Art. 103), with full respect for equality among the members of the Organization (Art. 2.1).
This equality derives from the principle of sovereignty, whose legitimacy rests, in the words of Kofi Annan, in a conception of States as “instruments at the service of its people, and not vice versa,” and in a interpretation of sovereignty that is faithful to the original meaning of the word, which evokes a “superior” and not an absolute power. Since the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration, UN members have made progress in integrating human rights as an essential element that informs and strengthens the exercise of state sovereignty.
The San Francisco Charter gave birth to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and decades later, the Rome Statute gave life to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Other good news along the path of these seven decades include the institutions created and multilateral agreements signed in the field of human rights and in international humanitarian law; the gradual rise in conventional instruments of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control; the development and codification of international law that result in increased legal security; and the progressive closing in of impunity for atrocious and massive crimes against humanity.
We can still make more progress. A certain amount of utopia is necessary to make the world move forward. In this spirit, we would like to highlight that the use of the veto is one of the most important brakes to a practical realization of the purpose of maintaining international peace and security under the Charter, which is primarily attributed to the Council. We are aware that the veto is part of the “constituent agreement,” which lies at the origin of the San Francisco Charter. With all this, to rigidly cling to an arrangement, which -as experience teaches- well deserves an update does not solve the underlying problem: the lack of legitimacy of vetoes to draft resolutions that seek to remedy large-scale killings and open spaces for just and lasting peace solutions. From this conviction, we second the French initiative for a code of conduct by which the five permanent members of the Council would commit to not make use of the veto in cases where mass atrocities have been proven. We consider this proposal, which counts on the advantage of not requiring the reform of the Charter, to be a substantive approach to the goal of eliminating a privilege whose abuse harms the system and weakens the exercising authority.
I conclude. 2015 can and must become a historic year in the life of the Organization: the new development agenda, the Climate Conference and the review of peacekeeping operations are appointments that require responsibility and courage.
In this context, the adoption of a universal declaration to renew the commitment of its members with the values, purposes and principles of the San Francisco Charter on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of its entry into force will act like a breath of energy on a body that has suffered some wear and needs to come back to drinking from the fountain that gave it reason for being.
The 21st Century depends on our will and skill for it to be better for humanity than the twentieth century was. We wish –need- to build from the basis of the solid foundation of the Charter, a future with more democracy and a greater protection of human rights under an international law that is more accomplished and efficient. It is an arduous and a passionate task which we owe to our children and future generations. To do this you can count on Spain.