Address to the 43d
Session of the United Nations General Assembly in
President, Mr. General Secretary [Secretary-General], distinguished delegates:
Half a world away from this place of peace, the firing, the killing, the
bloodshed in two merciless conflicts have, for the first time in recent memory,
diminished. After adding terrible new names to the rollcall
of human horror -- names such as Halabja, Maidan Shahr, and Spin Buldak -- there is today hope of peace in the
hundred miles east, in the Southeast Asian country of
And another change, Mr. Secretary-General, a change that, if it endures, may go down as one of the signal accomplishments of our history, a change that is a cause for shaking of the head in wonder, is also upon us -- a change going to the source of postwar tensions and to the once seemingly impossible dream of ending the twin threats of our time: totalitarianism and thermonuclear world war.
For the first time, the differences between East and West -- fundamental differences over important moral questions dealing with the worth of the individual and whether governments shall control people or people control governments -- for the first time, these differences have shown signs of easing, easing to the point where there are not just troop withdrawals from places like Afghanistan but also talk in the East of reform and greater freedom of press, of assembly, and of religion.
Yes, fundamental differences remain. But should talk of reform become more than that, should it become reality, there is the prospect of not only a new era in Soviet-American relations but a new age of world peace. For such reform can bring peace, history teaches. And my country has always believed that where the rights of the individual and the people are enshrined, war is a distant prospect. For it is not people who make war; only governments do that.
stand at this podium, then, in a moment of hope -- hope not just for the
peoples of the
because of these changes, today the United Nations has the opportunity to live
and breathe and work as never before. Already, you, Mr. Secretary-General,
through your persistence, patience, and unyielding will, have shown, in working
toward peace in
of the reason for all of this goes back, I believe, to
And in that place, by that peaceful lake in neutral Switzerland, Mr. Gorbachev and I did begin a new relationship based not just on engagement over the single issue of arms control but on a broader agenda about our deeper differences -- an agenda of human rights, regional conflicts, and bilateral exchanges between our peoples. Even on the arms control issue itself, we agreed to go beyond the past, to seek not just treaties that permit building weapons to higher levels but revolutionary agreements that actually reduced and even eliminated a whole class of nuclear weapons.
was begun that morning in Geneva has shown results -- in the INF treaty; in my
recent visit to Moscow; in my opportunity to meet there with Soviet citizens
and dissidents and speak of human rights, and to speak, too, in the Lenin Hills
of Moscow to the young people of the Soviet Union about the wonder and splendor
of human freedom. The results of that morning in
Mr. Secretary-General, history teaches caution. Indeed, that very building in
We are here today, Mr. Secretary-General, determined that no such fate shall befall the United Nations. We are determined that the U.N. should succeed and serve the cause of peace for humankind. So, Mr. Secretary-General, we realize that, even in this time of hope, the chance of failure is real. But this knowledge does not discourage us; it spurs us on. For the stakes are high. Do we falter and fail now and bring down upon ourselves the just anger of future generations? Or do we continue the work of the founders of this institution and see to it that, at last, freedom is enshrined and humanity knows war no longer and that this place, this floor, shall be truly ``the world's last battlefield?'' We are determined it shall be so. So, we turn now to the agenda of peace.
us begin by addressing a concern that was much on my mind when I met with Mr.
Gorbachev in the Kremlin, as well as on the minds of Soviet citizens that I met
Now, let us understand: If we would have peace, we must acknowledge the elementary rights of our fellow human beings. In our own land and in other lands, if we would have peace, the trampling of the human spirit must cease. Human rights is not for some, some of the time. Human rights, as the universal declaration of this Assembly adopted in 1948 proclaims, is ``for all people and all nations,'' and for all time.
This regard for human rights as the foundation of peace is at the heart of the U.N. Those who starve in Ethiopia, those who die among the Kurds, those who face racial injustice in South Africa, those who still cannot write or speak freely in the Soviet Union, those who cannot worship in the Ukraine, those who struggle for life and freedom on boats in the South China Sea, those who cannot publish or assemble in Managua -- all of this is more than just an agenda item on your calendar. It must be a first concern, an issue above others. For when human rights concerns are not paramount at the United Nations, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not honored in these halls and meeting rooms, then the very credibility of this organization is at stake, the very purpose of its existence in question.
is why when human rights progress is made, the United Nations grows stronger --
must be done. The United Nations must be relentless and unyielding in seeking
now to regional conflicts, we feel again the uplift of hope. In the Gulf war
Moving on to a second region: When I first
addressed the U.N. General Assembly in 1983, world attention was focused on the
brutal invasion and illegal occupation of
Secretary-General, there are new hopes for
other critical areas, we applaud the Secretary-General's efforts to structure a
referendum on the western Sahara. And in the
Mediterranean, direct talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities hold
much promise for accord in that divided island nation. And finally, we look to
a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. So, too, the unnatural
most of these areas, then, we see progress, and again, we're glad of it. Only a
few years ago, all of these and other conflicts were burning dangerously out of
control. Indeed, the invasion of
because we're resolved to keep it so, I would be remiss in my duty if I did not
now take note here of the one exception to progress in regional conflicts. I
refer here to the continuing deterioration of human rights in
This elite, in calling itself revolutionary, seeks no real revolution; the use of the term is subterfuge, deception for hiding the oldest, most corrupt vice of all: man's age-old will to power, his lust to control the lives and steal the freedom of others. And that's why, as President, I will continue to urge the Congress and the American public to stand behind those who resist this attempt to impose a totalitarian regime on the people of Nicaragua, that the United States will continue to stand with those who are threatened by this regime's aggression against its neighbors in Central America.
Today I also call on the Soviet Union to show in Central America the same spirit of constructive realism it has shown in other regional conflicts -- to assist in bringing conflict in Central America to a close by halting the flow of billions of dollars worth of arms and ammunition to the Sandinista regime, a regime whose goals of regional domination, while ultimately doomed, can continue to cause great suffering to the people of that area and risk to Soviet-American relations unless action is taken now.
now to the arms reduction agenda, I have mentioned already the importance of
the INF treaty and the momentum developed in the START negotiations. The draft
START treaty is a lengthy document, filled with bracketed language designating
sections of disagreement between the two sides. But through this summer in
too, our discussions on nuclear testing and defense and space have been useful.
But let me here stress to this General Assembly that much of the momentum in
nuclear arms control negotiations is due to technological progress itself,
especially in the potential for space-based defensive systems. I believe that
such systems, for the first time, in case of accidental launch or the act of a
madman somewhere, major powers will not be faced with the single option of
massive retaliation but will instead have the chance of a saner choice: to
shield against an attack instead of avenging it. So, too, as defensive systems
grow in effectiveness, they reduce the threat and the value of greater and
greater offensive arsenals. Only recently, briefings I have received in the
Oval Office indicate that progress toward such systems may be even more rapid
and less costly than we had at first thought. Today the
And yet, even as diplomatic and technological progress holds out the hope of at last diminishing the awful cloud of nuclear terror we've lived under in the postwar era, even at this moment another ominous terror is loose once again in the world, a terror we thought the world had put behind, a terror that looms at us now from the long-buried past, from ghostly, scarring trenches and the haunting, wan faces of millions dead in one of the most inhumane conflicts of all time: poison gas, chemical warfare. Mr. Secretary-General, distinguished delegates, the terror of it! The horror of it! We condemn it. The use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war, beyond its tragic human toll, jeopardizes the moral and legal strictures that have held those weapons in check since World War I.
this tragedy spark reaffirmation of the
Mr. Secretary-General, we must redouble our efforts to stop further
proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. Likewise, proliferation in other
high-technology weapons, such as ballistic missiles, is reaching global
proportions, exacerbating regional rivalries in ways that can have global
implications. The number of potential suppliers is growing at an alarming rate,
and more must be done to halt the spread of these weapons. This was a matter of
discussion last week between Secretary Shultz and Foreign Minister
Shevardnadze. Talks between American and Soviet experts begin on this today.
And we hope to see a multilateral effort to avoid having areas of tension like
But in most of these areas, we see not only progress but also the potential for an increasingly vital role for multilateral efforts and institutions like this United Nations. That is why, now more than ever, the United Nations must continue to increase its effectiveness through budget and program reform. The U.N. already is enacting sweeping measures affecting personnel reductions, budgeting by consensus, and the establishment of program priorities. These actions are extremely important. The progress on reforms has allowed me to release funds withheld under congressional restrictions. I expect the reform program will continue and that further funds will be released in our new fiscal year.
And let me say here, we congratulate the United Nations on the work it has done in three areas of special concern. First, our struggle against the scourge of terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism must continue. And we must also end the scourge of hostage taking. Second, the work of the World Health Organization in coordinating and advancing research on AIDS is vital. All international efforts in this area must be redoubled. The AIDS crisis is a grave one. We must move as one to meet it.
And so, too, is the drug crisis. We're moving now toward a new anti-drug-trafficking convention. This important treaty will be completed in December. I am confident other strong U.N. drug control programs will also follow. The American people are profoundly concerned and deeply angered. We will not tolerate the drug traffickers. We mean to make war on them, and we believe this is one war the United Nations can endorse and participate in.
Yes, the United Nations is a better place than it was 8 years ago, and so, too, is the world. But the real issue of reform in the United Nations is not limited just to fiscal and administrative improvements but also to a higher sort of reform, an intellectual and philosophical reform, a reform of old views about the relationship between the individual and the state.
developments, for example, have been more encouraging to the United States than
the special session this body held on Africa 2\1/2\ years ago, a session in
which the United Nations joined as one in a call for free-market incentives and
a lessening of state controls to spur economic development. At one of the first
international assemblies of my Presidency, in
this, Mr. Secretary-General and distinguished delegates, is the immutable
lesson of the postwar era: that freedom works -- even more, that freedom and
peace work together. Every year that passes, everywhere in the world, this
lesson is taking hold, from the People's Republic of
And yet we Americans champion freedom not only because it's practical and beneficial but because it is also just, morally right. And here, Mr. Secretary-General, I hope you'll permit me to note that I have addressed this assemblage more than any of my predecessors and that this will be the last occasion I do so. So I hope, too, I may be permitted now some closing reflections.
The world is currently witnessing another celebration of international cooperation. At the Olympics we see nations joining together in the competition of sports, and we see young people who know precious little of the resentments of their elders coming together as one. One of our young athletes from a home of modest means said that she drew the strength for her achievement from another source of wealth. ``We were rich as a family,'' she said, about the love she was given and the values she was taught. Mr. Secretary-General, I dare to hope that, in the sentiment of that young athlete, we see a sign of the rediscovery of old and tested values: values such as family, the first and most important unit of society, where all values and learning begin -- an institution to be cherished and protected; values, too, such as work, community, freedom, and faith. For it's here we find the deeper rationale for the cause of human rights and world peace.
And our own experience on this continent -- the American experience -- though brief, has had one unmistakable encounter, an insistence on the preservation of one sacred truth. It is a truth that our first President, our Founding Father, passed on in the first farewell address made to the American people. It is a truth that I hope now you'll permit me to mention in these remarks of farewell, a truth embodied in our Declaration of Independence: that the case for inalienable rights, that the idea of human dignity, that the notion of conscience above compulsion can be made only in the context of higher law, only in the context of what one of the founders of this organization, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, has called devotion to something which is greater and higher than we are ourselves. This is the endless cycle, the final truth to which humankind seems always to return: that religion and morality, that faith in something higher, are prerequisites for freedom and that justice and peace within ourselves is the first step toward justice and peace in the world and for the ages.
Yes, this is a place of great debate and grave discussions. And yet I cannot help but note here that one of our Founding Fathers, the most worldly of men, an internationalist, Benjamin Franklin, interrupted the proceedings of our own Constitutional Convention to make much the same point. And I cannot help but think this morning of other beginnings, of where and when I first read those words: ``And they shall beat their swords into plowshares . . .'' and ``your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams . . .'' This morning, my thoughts go to her who gave me many things in life, but her most important gift was the knowledge of happiness and solace to be gained in prayer. It's the greatest help I've had in my Presidency, and I recall here Lincoln's words when he said only the most foolish of men would think he could confront the duties of the office I now hold without turning to someone stronger, a power above all others.
think then of her and others like her in that small town in
And so, if future generations do say of us that in our time peace came closer, that we did bring about new seasons of truth and justice, it will be cause for pride. But it shall be a cause of greater pride, still, if it is also said that we were wise enough to know the deliberations of great leaders and great bodies are but overture, that the truly majestic music -- the music of freedom, of justice, and peace -- is the music made in forgetting self and seeking in silence the will of Him who made us.
Thank you for your hospitality over the years. I bid you now farewell, and God bless you.
Note: The President spoke at in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations.