The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Opening Remarks to the UN Security Council – 31 January 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s opening remarks to the United Nations Security Council, held in New York on 31st January 1992.


The 3046th meeting of the Security Council is now called to order.

May I turn firstly please to the adoption of the Agenda. The Provisional Agenda for the meeting is before the Council. Unless I hear any objection, I shall consider the Agenda is adopted.

If there is no objection, the Agenda is adopted.

The Security Council will now begin its consideration of Item 2 of the Agenda and with the permission of colleagues, I will make a brief introductory statement to our meeting today.

This is a unique meeting. We are meeting at a time of momentous change. Just a year ago, the Council met the challenge of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the Council did that with great success but today we face new challenges and to set a new course in tackling them it is right, I believe, that we should meet for the first time ever at the level of Heads of State and Government. Today, we must show that the Security Council is working with a common purpose.

I welcome very much the presence today of so many Heads of State and Government. It is proof of the importance we all attach to the United Nations and of our commitment to the ideals of the United Nations. We come today from all parts of the world. Each of our countries has its own characteristics, its own concerns but we are united in one particular aspect: we are united by a commitment to strengthen the wider community to which we belong, to reinforce collective security and to maintain international peace and security.

In convening this Extraordinary Meeting this morning, I intended that our discussion could serve four important purposes:

Firstly, our presence today marks a turning point in the world and at the United Nations. On the international scene, we have witnessed the end of the Cold War; member states of this Organisation have divided and reformed themselves. This presents immense opportunities but it carries with it also new risks. At the United Nations, the term of office of Mr. Perez de Cuellar has come to a close. He has served the international community for many years with outstanding distinction and I am delighted to be able to thank him for that work. We are here not only to wish his successor, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, well but to give him our full backing in carrying out his mandate. A new situation in the world needs new ideas and a new impetus.

Second, we should today reaffirm our attachment to the principle of collective security and to the resolution of disputes in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. We should send a clear signal that it is through the United Nations and its Security Council that we intend to deal with threats to international peace and security.

Thirdly today, we should consider anew the means by which collective security is upheld through the United Nations and consider how best to update and to develop them. It is time to review all the instruments at our disposal: preventive action; to avert crises by monitoring and addressing the causes of conflict; peace-making, to restore peace by diplomatic means; peace-keeping, to reduce tensions, to consolidate and underpin efforts to restore peace. These, I believe, are the matters that we should consider in our meeting today and even today as we meet here, peace-keeping operations are under way in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

The need is not likely to decrease in the future. We must consider how we can enhance the United Nations ability to respond effectively and ensure that it has the necessary resources both financial and material to enable it to do so. In all of these, of course, the role of the Secretary-General is vital.

Fourthly today, we should commit ourselves anew to upholding international peace and security through reinforced measures of arms control. Activity to restrain the accumulation and transfer of arms, to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, that affects all members of the United Nations. Arms control policy has become genuinely global. The role of this Organisation – not just the Security Council but the whole of this Organisation – is an increasingly important one.

As we meet to consider the specific responsibilities of the Security Council, the wider concerns of the international community even if we shall not discuss all of them today are also in our minds. It is of course true that without economic development and prosperity we cannot hope to achieve lasting peace and stability but it is every bit as true that only when conditions of security and peace are assured can sustained economic development take place; both are needed and only when we have both can resources be directed to where they are so urgently needed, towards the economic and social needs of the world’s population.

The opening line of our Charter – the Charter of the United Nations – does not talk about states or governments, it talks about people. The world now has the best chance for peace, security and development since the founding of the United Nations, I hope, like the founders of the United Nations themselves, that we can today renew the resolve enshrined in the Charter, the resolve to combine our efforts to accomplish the aims of the Charter in the interests of all the people that we are privileged to represent. That is our role and I wish the Council well in its work today.

Members of the Council, we have a great deal to do today. In accordance with custom, with your agreement, I shall make my National Statement when all other colleagues have spoken but we may now, I think, commence our debate and I invite the Secretary-General to address us.