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Speech by President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus at the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Mr. President,
Madam Deputy Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, I would like to express my great respect to the leadership of this great Assembly guiding this organisation through global issues and challenges.

    When I was standing at this podium ten years ago, the list of issues to be urgently addressed was about the same. Yet the mood was different. The Kyoto Protocol had just been signed and preparations for the Millennium Summit, including the drafting of the Millennium Development Goals, were underway. The international community guided by the principles and the leadership of the United Nations showed the will and the ambition to resolve global issues.
    But did we manage to turn this collective will into principled and decisive actions?
    I have to admit that many nations, big and small, today have many more concerns than a decade ago. Today we feel less secure. The very structure of the international system seems to be fracturing, depriving us from the protection provided by international law and international institutions.
    In my region, in Eastern Europe and in the EU eastern neighborhood, this is more obvious than anywhere else. Take energy security. Oil supplies to Lithuania have been cut off without warning and we do not stand a chance of conducting a normal civilized dialogue on how to fix this problem. Gas supplies were interrupted to our neighbors Ukraine and Belarus.

    In this light and on the eve of closing down our only independent power generator, we have a very serious reason to worry about the possible risks for the future of our economy. And I would say that concern about unreliable energy supplies is felt by other countries in the region as well. Such situation threatens the stability of the entire region.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations cannot be a mere passive observer if and when universal values and international law are under threat. Still, too often we remain observers in the face of mounting security crises.

    What happened to Georgia a few months ago is a case in point. The United Nations largely failed to react to an act of aggression against a small nation, member of the UN since 1992.

    Perhaps we failed to react because one of the interested sides in the conflict is a Permanent Member of the Security Council, which has the responsibility to protect both the letter and the spirit of the UN Charter and various United Nations resolutions.

    But maybe we failed to react also because our faith in the United Nations has weakened. It is the very essence of this organization to protect human life and human rights, but too often voting on human rights receives less and less support from the member states. Today we still have about 26 million IDPs in the world, including Sudan, Somalia, the South Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan, and others. Last year alone, we faced serious crises in different corners of our planet, including Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The world needed UN leadership. But the organization did not act accordingly. It is because some states hide behind the technicalities or behind the shield of national sovereignty, thus paralyzing the UN.

    It is evident that the UN cannot continue with ‘business as usual.’ It needs reform and greater role in areas that will determine the future of the 21st century, such as energy, information security, anti-terrorism, fight against fundamentalism, and the like. How long will we continue with the cold-war era security definitions, closing the eyes to the less visible but no less dangerous risks of the 21st century?

     When seventeen years ago, after the Soviet occupation, my country regained independence and joined the UN, we were told that ‘Never again will molotovs and ribbentrops dare to decide the future of other nations.’ Next year we will mark the 70th anniversary of the shameful Molotov-Ribbentrop secret protocols, but Lithuania and other nations of the former Soviet Union still have to fight against the revisionism seeping down from the Kremlin towers, blatant claims there was no occupation of the Baltic States and that there was no Holodomor in Ukraine where millions of people were simply starved to death by a ruthless dictator.

        Shouldn’t an alarm bell ring across the entire international community when we see such bold attempts to cover up crimes against humanity? 

    Today my nation commemorates the Day of Genocide of Lithuanian Jews. This tragedy is a powerful reminder to us all about the vulnerability of freedom. But it also teaches us that sincere efforts of admitting ones’ crimes help nations to reconcile and create a truly peaceful, secure and stable area. Therefore on this solemn day we not only remember, but we learn.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    If we are to reform the United Nations in a meaningful way, perhaps we should have a better look at the experience of the European nations after the end of World War II and after the end of the Cold War.

    Based on this experience, it is obvious that we need to strengthen democracy at home in order to have good governance and a responsible leadership. Perhaps, responsible leadership will not protect us from all global challenges, but it will at least seek cooperation with its people and other nations to resolve the persisting problems.

It is only through integration that a truly indivisible security can be achieved. Indivisible security has a special meaning and importance for smaller nations who have all too often fallen victims to the redrawing of maps.

It is my conviction that interaction of and cooperation among different organizations, like the OSCE, the EU, NATO, and the Council of Europe, have been and should remain the foundation of security and stability in Europe.
It has its difficulties and deficiencies. But it has no alternatives and new alternatives are not needed here. Therefore, I am deeply worried by new calls to revise the institutional structure of European security rather than follow the commitments taken before the whole international community.

Security, based on cooperation, should remain the basic principle of different European organizations and of international relations on the whole.
The philosophy of the “balance of power”, which is again growing popular in some capitals, has no place in contemporary Europe.
And because security is indivisible, it is in the interest of the international community that the UN should play a greater role in strengthening preventive diplomacy and making the principle of “Responsibility to Protect” work.

    The United Nations also has to be more responsive to new emerging threats, such as unreliable energy supplies, fundamentalism, or cyber-attacks.

    It does not matter if the world is unipolar, bipolar or multipolar, human life and human rights remain at the heart of our world. Only such a world can create a truly viable architecture among the states – an architecture based on trust, openness and respect for human rights. But did we see efforts to create such an architecture in the Georgia-Russia conflict? What we saw instead were renewed attempts to divide the world into zones of influence or privileged interests. And this should be unacceptable for the international community of the 21st century. Division and exclusion are bad remedies for conflict resolution. Therefore, conflict resolutions in South Ossetia, Abkhazia or elsewhere should be the responsibility of the international community and international institutions, not of one participating side, which hardly remains impartial.

     We also have to keep the commitments to value-based policies. It is through our commitment to change and reform that Lithuania has come to where it is today: a consolidated democracy, a strong reformed economy and an active contributor to international peacekeeping missions from the Balkans to Afghanistan.

    And I believe that we, the peoples of the United Nations, have to re-new our commitment to the universal values and principles so that we march together and in the same direction and our steps become stronger.

        I believe that we must learn these lessons well so that in another ten years time we would celebrate not only the fulfilled promise of the Millennium Development Goals, but also the fulfilled promise to create lasting peace and an area of progress, prosperity and human dignity.

    It is because the United Nations primarily consists not of the sum total of the votes, but of universal principles, and these principles shall be the guiding light to us for the years to come.

    And I still believe that this is the core mission for this organization and I care deeply about it.
H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania
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