The following are excerpts from President Clinton's address to the United Nations given on Sept. 27.
I COME before you as the first American president born after the founding of the United Nations. Like most of the people in the world today, I was not even alive during the convulsive world war that convinced humankind of the need for this organization, nor during the San Francisco conference that led to its birth.
Yet I have followed the work of the UN throughout my life with admiration for its accomplishments, with sadness for its failures, and conviction that through common efforts our generation can take the bold steps needed to redeem the mission entrusted to the UN 48 years ago.
The superpower standoff that for so long stymied the UN's work almost from its first day has now yielded to a new promise of practical cooperation. Yet today, we must all admit that there are two powerful tendencies working from opposite directions to challenge the authority of nation states everywhere and to undermine the authority of nation states to work together.
From beyond nations, economic and technological forces all over the globe are compelling the world toward integration. These forces are fueling a welcome explosion of entrepreneurship and political liberalization, but they also threaten to destroy the insularity and independence of national economies, quickening the pace of change and making many of our people feel more insecure.
At the same time, from within nations, the resurgent aspirations of ethnic and religious groups challenge governments on terms that traditional nation states cannot easily accommodate. These twin forces lie at the heart of the challenges not only to our national government but also to all our international institutions.
One of our most urgent priorities must be attacking the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, whether they are nuclear, chemical, or biological, and the ballistic missiles that can rain them down on populations hundreds of miles away. We will pursue new steps to control the materials for nuclear weapons. Growing stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium are raising the danger of nuclear terrorism for all nations. We will press for an international agreement that would ban production of these materials for weapons forever.
As we reduce our nuclear stockpiles, the United States has also begun negotiations toward a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing. This summer I declared that to facilitate these negotiations our nation would suspend our testing if all other nuclear states would do the same.
Today in the face of disturbing signs, I renew my call on the nuclear states to abide by that moratorium as we negotiate to stop nuclear testing for all time.
As we work to keep the world's most destructive weapons out of conflicts, we must also strengthen the international community's ability to address those conflicts themselves. For, as we all now know so painfully, the end of the cold war did not bring us to the millennium of peace. Indeed, it simply removed the lid from many cauldrons of ethnic, religious, and territorial animosity.
UN peacekeeping holds the promise to resolve many of this era's conflicts. The reason we have supported such missions is not, as some critics in the United States have charged, to subcontract American foreign policy, but to strengthen our security, protect our interests, and to share among nations the cost and effort of pursuing peace.
Peacekeeping cannot be a substitute for our own national defense efforts, but it can strongly supplement them.
Together we must prepare UN peacekeeping for the 21st century. We need to begin by bringing the rigors of military and political analysis to every UN peace mission. The UN simply cannot become engaged in every one of the world's conflicts. If the American people are to say yes to UN peacekeeping, the United Nations must know when to say no.
The United Nations must also have the technical means to run a modern world-class peacekeeping operation. We support the creation of a genuine UN peacekeeping headquarters with a planning staff, with access to timely intelligence, with a logistics unit that can be deployed on a moment's notice, and a modern operations center with global communications.
I applaud the initial steps the secretary-general has taken to reduce and to reform the United Nations bureaucracy. Now we must all do even more to root out waste.
Before this General Assembly is over, let us establish a strong mandate for an office of inspector general so that it can attain a reputation for toughness, for integrity, for effectiveness.
Let us work with new energy to protect the world's people from torture and repression. As Secretary of State Warren Christopher stressed at the recent Vienna conference, human rights are not something conditional, bounded by culture, but rather something universal granted by God. This General Assembly should create at long last a high commissioner for human rights. I hope you will do it soon and with vigor and energy and conviction. Let us also work far more ambitiously to fulfill our obligations as custodians of this planet, to improve the quality of life for our citizens and the quality of our air and water and the earth itself. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHELCSPS.COM.