UN role critical: Lewis

UN role critical: Lewis
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Stephen Lewis, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, was happy to be “among friends” at Centennial College Thurs. April 14.

Canada should use the upcoming economic summit in Toronto to step up the pressure for “comprehensive” international economic sanctions against South Africa, UN ambassador Stephen Lewis. “Sanctions are the only thing left that might bring South Africa to its senses,” Lewis told an audience of about 300 faculty, students and staff at the Warden Woods campus.

He said Canada will have “to keep the pressure” on South Africa’s major international trading partners — the United States, Germany and Japan — to apply sanctions against the only country where “racism is enshrined in law.”

Speaking for an hour without notes, the former Scarborough West MPP passionately praised the United Nations for focusing international attention on human rights issues.
“Canada is right at the heart of all of it,” he said, referring to this country’s “remarkable”reputation at the United Nations and Canada’s tough stands on such issues as disarmament.

“All of this has given us an integrity and independence that I didn’t appreciate when I got there (the UN), and it continues to surprise me,” said Lewis, the former Ontario NDP leader appointed ambassador in 1984.” I have often thought we haven’t begun to flex our political muscle,” he said, suggesting Canada can take a more aggressive role on the international stage.
He received spontaneous applause when he said that earlier in the day the UN had “consolidated a major political victory” in the signing of an accord in Geneva that will take the Soviet troops out of Afghanistan.

“Year in and year out” for the last 11 years the UN has been relentless in its condemnation of the Soviet Union for its role in the Afghanistan conflict, Lewis said.

“To get the Soviet Union toleave a land they had subdued… is a remarkable achievement of the UN.”

The Afghanistan war has cost “a million human lives in eight years,” he said, calling the Soviet troop withdrawal “the first indispensable step.”

His voice rising in anger, Lewis berated Western countries for betraying a commitment made at the UN in 1986 to end the cycle of drought and famine in Africa.

In return for an African commitment to economic and social reform, the international community promised to provide the resources to bolster the continent’s recovery, he said.
Lewis said the African countries “have moved heaven and earth” to achieve a “subsistence” standard of living, but the developed nations are “betraying that confidence in a way that is absolutely unconscionable.”

Citing developed nations’ refusal to forgive Africa’s crippling international debt and debt service charges, Lewis said the situation verges on international economic obscenity.”

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