Poor nations pledge to reform United Nations


Thu 19 August, 2004 21:26

By Manoah Esipisu

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - Developing countries have pledged to band together to force the West to help tackle their problems, ranging from poverty to reform of the United Nations.

Foreign ministers from the 115-member Non-Aligned Movement said in a declaration on Thursday that they had already shown they could make the West take notice by their united actions on the global trade arena, and they would consolidate those gains.

"Underdevelopment and poverty remain the cardinal concerns on the agenda of the South," the declaration said.

"We undertook to enhance the movement's cohesion, solidarity and unanimity on common positions for concerted action in shaping the multilateral agenda to embrace development as a priority," it added.

Earlier on Thursday South African President Thabo Mbeki had asked the countries to unite to ensure their voice was heard.

He referred to the collapse of global trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, almost a year ago when poor nations refused to agree to c ompromises they said hurt their people and interests.

Mbeki maintained the biggest challenges faced by developing nations were poverty, underdevelopment, peace, security and terrorism, along with the restructuring of global power centres which he said was key to growing developing countries.

"We reaffirmed the centrality of the United Nations and the principles of international law in the preservation of international peace and security," the declaration said, urging enhanced steps to restructure the Security Council.

The Non-Aligned Movement was formed in 1961 as a third way between the Cold War rivalry of the Western and Communist blocs. It is staking new diplomatic territory for itself by pressing for causes from debt relief to fighting HIV/AIDS.

Mbeki urged members to press the West to free billions of dollars in aid needed for poor nations to meet "Millennium Development Goals" - including halving poverty by 2015.

While some Asian members of the group have seen rapid economic growth, many of th e 53 African nations which belong to it remain among the poorest countries in the world.

Mbeki and foreign ministers meeting in the port city of Durban reiterated support for the U.N. as the forum for agreeing global policy on the U.S.-led "war on terror".

Mbeki said it was not acceptable that a "few countries" decided the future of the Middle East and other countries without consulting those affected by the decisions.

South Africa opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq saying the United Nations should lead any such action, and offered asylum to ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who now lives in South Africa as a guest of the government.

The movement condemned the rebel Hutu Forces for National Liberation (FNL) which claimed responsibility for the massacre of 160 refugees in Burundi last week and said it fully backed a decision by regional leaders to brand the FNL a terrorist group and sought urgent measures to punish it.