[Viewpoint]The community of nationsIt is a great pleasure to commemorate the 62nd birthday of the United Nations.
Today’s global challenges require a global response. Ever-widening globalization demands a significant increase in the role of the United Nations. While there seems to be consensus on the need to strengthen the UN’s capacity to meet these challenges, public opinion is divided as to how the world body is doing in this regard. Some even question the relevance of the United Nations in dealing with the new challenges.
Yet, we should not forget the UN’s record of success. The UN has spearheaded the efforts to establish international norms and principles. By virtue of its universality, moral authority and legitimacy, the UN has played a key role in resolving international disputes and dealing with global issues. In such ways, the organization contributed to the maintenance of stable and predictable relations between and among nations. Other more practical achievements should not be underestimated either, in such areas as development, decolonization and the promotion of human rights.
Since joining the UN in 1991, the Republic of Korea has participated in key decision-making mechanisms of the United Nations. Before putting up a Korean national as UN secretary general, Korea had served as a member of the Security Council and assumed the presidency of the 56th session of the General Assembly. Moreover, we have played active roles in the Economic and Social Council, Human Rights Council and other bodies.
Against such a backdrop, this year’s UN Day holds particular meaning for Korea. I would like to share my views on UN issues in which the Republic of Korea has placed its primary focus, as well as our efforts to consolidate peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
United Nations peacekeeping operations play a crucial role in the maintenance of international peace and security. Korea has made it a policy priority to strengthen its participation in UN peacekeeping activities by, among other things, providing its well-trained and disciplined troops. It has participated in 14 peacekeeping operations so far, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) being the latest. Recently, 43 Korean lawmakers submitted a draft PKO Act to the National Assembly to expedite the process of sending PKO troops. We are putting in our best efforts to produce concrete results in the near future.
When I think of Korea’s potential for contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, I believe that it should be something like our contribution to the world economy through our strength in the IT industry. In other words, we can make useful contributions by doing what we are good at. The same rationale can be applied to our role in development cooperation, which is based on our own experience of national development.
This year marks the halfway point toward the delivery date of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Korea is in the process of increasing its official development assistance (ODA) to $1 billion by 2009. Further efforts are being made to reach a scale of 0.25 percent of gross national income by 2015.
Drawing lessons from the past history of national development, we are enhancing the effectiveness of our ODA program by sharing our experiences with developing countries.
As an inaugural member of the Human Rights Council, Korea has been striving for the protection and promotion of the human rights of all. We have placed a special focus on vulnerable groups in society and have also kept voicing the need to improve the human rights situation in countries of concern. Korea is an active member of the Community of Democracies and also a founding member of the new multilateral initiative, Partnership for Democratic Governance, which aims to advance the goal of democracy around the world.
The United Nations can and must do better. We should persist in our efforts to strengthen the world body through reform. Korea supports the initiatives taken under the leadership of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and accountability of the UN Secretariat. Korea continues its efforts to ensure that many well-qualified Koreans are given the opportunity to serve in the organization through a fair and competitive process.
Turning to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the six-party talks have made noticeable progress lately. Pursuant to the Oct. 3 agreement, North Korea will disable three key nuclear facilities in Yongbyon by the end of this year. We expect the actual disablement process to start in early November. The North has also committed itself to providing a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs within the year. This declaration will give us a whole picture of all nuclear-related activities and programs in North Korea, which will be the basis for their dismantlement. In return, corresponding measures, including economic and energy assistance provided by the five parties, will facilitate the denuclearization process. The United States, in parallel with North Korea’s actions, will fulfill its commitment to North Korea on bilateral issues of concern.
The 2007 inter-Korean summit meeting provided a new momentum for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. At the summit, the commitment was confirmed to fully implement the agreements of the six-party talks. As such, the six-party talks process and North-South relations are developing in a mutually reinforcing manner.
As Korea’s perspective in world affairs grows, it would be important for our people to see and understand international issues, not only from a Korean perspective but also from a global perspective. In order to achieve the ideals of the UN, the participation of not only member states but also the nongovernmental sector is crucial. We wish the UN Association of Korea every success in its endeavors to forge stronger bonds of cooperation between the Republic of Korea and the United Nations.
*The writer is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea.
by Song Min-soon