15 MARCH 2010
|NADIA YOUNES MEMORIAL LECTURE. ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY GENERAL MOUSSA ON U.N. ROLE.
I am thankful for the occasion to talk in remembrance of Nadia Younes. Nadia was a dear friend, a cherished and able colleague, a generous
person that was always ready to extend a helping hand when needed. Back in the sixties of the last century, as young diplomats and/or UN officials
we were all full of hope, full of energy to learn and adamant to move on. Nadia was the embodiment of the forward looking young, ambitious UN
enthusiast. When she was selected as one of the leading members of the UN mission in Baghdad, Kofi Annan told me that her presence there will
mean a lot for the mission and for the UN and its work in that troubled land. He added: thereafter she would go places. He even confided to me
that his intention was to appoint her as Assistant Secretary General for General Assembly Affairs. He wouldn't know that, instead, we would soon
lose her and that her career was coming to a tragic end.
In a world fraught with conflict, unrest, and bloodshed, an international career is a symbol of commitment, devotion and sacrifice. Nadia Younes
along with my dear friend Sergio Vieira de Mello, and several other dedicated men and women all passed away while performing an international
duty. An international career is not the luxury or the comfort that some people think. It is often a burden...a burden -- even a mission
impossible -- of reconciling conflicting interests, ensuring the implementation of UN resolutions which embody the will of the international
community, accommodating ever-contradictory approaches while holding a commitment to fairness, to justice, to the respect of the principles and
purposes of the UN Charter, the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to pursue the well-being of the individuals, the peoples
and indeed humanity as a whole.
The international career, in our times, has undergone many changes and entailed greater risks. The United Nations of the late 1940s, of
Mahmoud Azmy, the veteran Egyptian writer and diplomat, is not the same United Nations of Nadia Younes. In over half of a century, the United
Nations has become entirely different. Mahmoud Azmy, who passed away while delivering Egypt's statement before the Security Council, died at a
moment when the United Nations was unanimously regarded as the new hope for mankind. Nadia Younes passed away at a moment when the role of the
United Nations became controversial and came under constant and severe criticism.
Like Kamal El Din Salah, another Egyptian diplomat who represented the United Nations and was stabbed to death in Somalia, Nadia Younes passed
away while acting in the field. Kamal el Din Salah was acting for the independence of Somalia, but what was Nadia Younes acting for? As we all
know, Nadia was the chief of staff of the UN mission, which arrived in Iraq shortly after the military intervention by the allied forces, or what
was called "the coalition of the willing," took place. Some contested the presence of such a United Nation's mission on the grounds that the
intervention was not authorized by the Security Council. The mission was conceived by some as just another arm for the coalition forces led by
the United States of America.
At that time, developments on the ground in Iraq revealed that it was not feasible for any force to act solo in that dangerous situation. Then,
Security Council resolution 1483 was adopted on the 23rd of May 2003. This resolution reflected that Iraq needs the international community in
resolving the mess that was unraveling. It was on such grounds that the UN mission in Iraq was established.
The most fundamental component of that United Nations mission was the humanitarian dimension. For, whatever the causes for a conflict and whether
military action was legitimized or not, and at that time it was not, the alleviation of human suffering remained a top priority. The mission was
called the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. The goal was for the mission to support the Secretary General in the fulfillment of his mandate and to
coordinate UN activities as defined in that resolution. In other words, the goal was to restore the UN role in a situation of war and rebuild the
credibility of the United Nations or even the international system, in addition to assessing the needs of the Iraqi people and helping them to go
through the tragedy, which was unfolding day after day. They did uphold the humanitarian dimension and perform coordination duties to the best of
their ability. That is what Nadia Younes and other United Nations officials in Iraq were commissioned to do. And, certainly, they knew the risks
involved, but they never lacked the courage to undertake the commitment. This is what Nadia Younes was working for and this is what Nadia Younes
This brings me to discuss briefly the role of United Nations, the world organization which galvanized the hope for humanity after the Second
World War and continues to be the focal point of the collective work of the international community. This United Nations needs to be supported...to
be defended. It is not only unfortunate, it is detrimental to world stability to marginalize the UN, especially in maintaining international peace
and security as in tackling the multitude of the international crises. We in the Middle East, and in particular in the Arab world, felt and continue
to feel, the negative impact of this marginalization especially of the Security Council -- on the possibility to reach a viable solution to the Arab
Israeli conflict and a just solution to the Palestinian question.
This is also felt elsewhere when we see that dealing with different and escalating crises is being done outside the United Nations. But what
happened in Iraq is a case in point. The Security Council for more than a decade was more active than ever in dealing with the situation in Iraq
under Chapter 7, including sanctions and isolation, but when the United Nations effort was badly needed to lead the way towards helping Iraq grapple
with the major disasters it has incurred, it was sidelined. I recall the words of my friend Lakhdar Brahimi who stepped down as the UN special
representative for Iraq in June 2004. He talked about the huge difficulties and the frustrating experience which he had in Iraq. When someone like
Brahimi famous for his perseverance speaks about frustration, that says a lot.
I believed, and I still believe, that the key to stability in Iraq is achieving reconciliation. Unfortunately, not enough steps have been taken
in this regard. In November 2004, I presented to the Sharm Elsheikh Conference on Iraq what I considered the pillars of achieving stability in that
First: I called for a reconciliation process between all Iraqi sects without discrimination. This is yet to reach fruition.
Second: to determine a time schedule to terminate foreign military presence. This has been achieved through the agreement signed in 2008 between
the government of Iraq and the government of the United States.
Third: I called for a role to be performed by the UN, not only to follow up on the political process, but also to encourage national dialogue
and to reach a consensus on the new Iraqi constitution.
Fourth: I stated that the UN must help in preserving the unity of Iraq, inviting the UN to work with us. There must be international cooperation
to put an end to the sliding into sectarian strife or even civil war.
That is what I proposed in 2004. I will not get into the details about the course of events in Iraq ever since. I will just briefly say that as
you see this vision remains largely, or fully, unrealized. We, at the Arab League endeavored to facilitate reconciliation among different Iraqi
political forces and factions. We had the United Nations involved. The then UN envoy for Iraq Ashraf Qazi participated in our efforts to achieve
national reconciliation. We convened a number of meetings in the Arab League in 2005 and 2006, including a major conferenece in November 2005 in
which all the Iraqi leaders representing the various components of the diverse Iraqi soceity particpated. We tried our best. We endeavored to
achieve reconciliation. Unfortunately this did not happen. I believe that it was some foreign fingers that did not want an Arab solution for the
situation in Iraq.
Today Iraq is more quite compared to a couple of years ago. We do not count the bodies of the dead by the hundreds everyday. However, I can tell
that the gates of hell that were opened in 2003 have not been closed yet. Without achieving genuine reconciliation and addressing the grievances of
various Iraqi parties, in addition to the precarious situation in the region, the improvements we see in Iraq will be threatened -- seriously
For two decades Iraq has been the test both for the United Nations, and for us in the Arab System. It still is a test. We support the Iraqi
elections. The Arab League will be among those organisations that will monitor the elections in Iraq.
Now, again the UN, I believe that resorting to the UN in such dangerous situations, situations dealing with peace and security, only to contribute
to what came to be famously called" crisis management" further curtails the authority and the credibility of the world organization. I shall come to
this point later.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me seize the opportunity to briefly turn to some basic aspects of the current -and future- agenda of the United Nations. We shall find issues of major magnitude in the form of:
- Chronic and increasingly destabilizing crises like the situation in the Middle East or Afghanistan
- We will find also new issues of extreme influence on the future of humanity and its well-being like climate change or water shortages or food
- Deep divisions in relations between cultures. The clash among civilizations is becoming more and more a self fulfilling prophecy.
- The dangerous financial and economic crises that threaten economic and social developments on the universal scale, in particular, in developing
- Major initiatives like the Global Zero, which president Obama launched in April, 2009
- Defending democracy and good governance should be one of the jobs of the UN or one of the major items on its agenda.
- And finally, Millennium Development Goals and the unsteadiness of their achievement, which would have a negative bearing on global stability
How can the world deal with all such global challenges? Could this be done within the confines of the "Gees"; G7, G8 or G20? Can we bring our act
together through such narrow mechanisms? I submit that we cannot do it right for the prosperity of humanity as a whole without the United Nations
A few weeks ago, I was invited along with other heads of international organizations, by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to meet in a retreat in
Long Island to evaluate the global situation and discuss the role of the United Nations, the regional and security organizations, their situations,
their responsibilities in such a changing world. The debate was deep and far-reaching. One aspect of it is worth mentioning in tonight's special
occasion. I insisted during the debate on the issue I mentioned minutes ago, namely that pressures on the United Nations to keep managing crises as
opposed to resolving problems have to be revisited. I am afraid that the United Nations mission in Baghdad fitted into this category i.e. only
managing the Iraqi crisis and that created a lot of frustration.
People in Iraq want to get out of the mess they lived in. They did not need the United Nations to "manage" their crisis and then stay on the
sidelines when it comes to its solution. They wanted the United Nations to act as the world organization that has a special responsibility to
protect their rights and help them go through the rigors of having to deal with so many challenges, and to top it all an ethnic, religious and
sectarian strife that was an existenial threat for Iraq. A challenging task indeed for the Iraqi people in rebuilding their society and country. It
is equally a challenging task for the United Nations since it overlaps with serious regional considerations, which continue to haunt the Middle East
in its entirety.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Indeed, we are here to pay tribute to Nadia, to remember her and salute her work and sacrifice, but it's for the sake of her soul and the souls of
all other courageous persons who sacrificed their lives for a cause -- a just cause -- that we need to contemplate such issues and work together to
promote the United Nations' role in leading the work on the international agenda whose main items I have just outlined.
Let me before I conclude briefly address the Arab Israeli conflict in its current phase. This is one of the recurrent themes in many of my
speeches and interventions, for this conflict remains the core cause of instability in our region. At this stage, however, there is an additional
reason for addressing this conflict. It is the fact that as the days pass by I feel more and more that my generation might not be able to resolve
this conflict in a manner that would ensure that peace and stability would prevail in our region. This means that, unfortunately, it will probably
be passed to the next generation and you therefore need to know what awaits you and what should be done in this regard.
As the Secretary General of the Arab League, and as an Egyptian politician and diplomat who spent the better part of his life following this
issue, I have to admit that we have failed time and again through a continuous management of the crisis until it became chronic and seemed to some
as impossible to resolve.
I have seen it all: international conferences from Madrid in 1991 to Annapolis in 2007, we heard the expressions: shuttle diplomacy, proximity
talks, indirect negotiations, back channels, track 2, and more. We tried all kinds of approaches Confidence Building Measures, step by step, final
status issues, end game and more.
The lack of effective brokership, the marginalization of the United Nations and the immunity granted to one party -- to Israel -- vis a vis the
international community, vis a vis the international law, vis a vis the international system contributed, and if it continues it will still
contribute, to failure and to chaos.
After the refusal of Israel to freeze all settlement activities in the occupied territories, and when I say settlement activities it has to be
clarified -- and I do not think I need to clarify that in such an educated society -- what we mean by settlements is the constant change in the
demographic composition and geographic character of the occupied terretories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is what we mean by
settlements. That is why it is very difficult to think that we can sit, talk and negotiate while changes in the composition of the territories and
geography of the terretories is ongoing. However, now, the United States is proposing a plan to push forward.. to move towards peace. Many of us
believe there is a chance, and this has to be within a time framework...it cannot go forever. We have suffered from the open-ended peace process.
of us have doubts about this process approach and these doubts are justified. We have to avoid falling again in circles of talks and talks. Next
week we will meet to discuss the American offer, to discuss the Palestinian decision about it and see how it will move on. We are eager to move on, I
must say, we are eager to establish peace, we want to establish peace, but it will not be at any price. I wish to state here, that some of us,
several of us, remain hopeful regarding the intentions and the policy of president Obama and the mission of Senator George Mitchel. The next
few months will be crucial. We will either succeed in achieving a breakthrough or we may be forced to face the dire consequences of yet another
failed attempt to revive the efforts to achieve the long awaited peace in our region.
As I repeatedly said, the future of the region, peace in the region and stability in the region depend on the way we resolve the Arab Israeli
conflict. Such a resolution should be fair and legitimate, or else we could refer the whole issue to the next generation if we couldn't succeed.
Perhaps you will be more capable of achieving the peace of the brave. But this referral will have serious implications indeed, as it means we shall
continue to face an explosive situation that God only knows how it will unfold.
Ladies and Gentleman,
As much as I am grateful for the Younes Family for asking me to speak on this occasion, giving me this honor to adress this honorable audience, it
is really sad that the first time I get a chance to speak about Nadia is on an occasion of remembrance, and during critical regional circumstances.
However, looking at this occasion from a different angle, I feel hopeful when I address the students of this University. A couple of days ago I
addressed the American University in Beirut. I consider myself lucky for having the chance to have addressed promising young people twice in a few
days time. It is you, students of AUC and AUB, together with many of your colleagues in other universities in Egypt and the Arab world, who
represent the hope for a better future. You have tools and opportunities that we, elder generations, envy you for having. As a rising generation
you have a chance in making the future better. Never give up on this chance. It is your hope, determination and readiness to stand up to your
responsibilities and challenges, which will shortly be put to the test, that makes such a sad occasion bear reasons for hope. It is your
presence here today that represent the real tribute to the soul of Nadia Younes.
I thank you and look forward to your questions.