Address by Hon. George W. Odlum,
Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Trade
to the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations 55th Regular Session of the
General Assembly, September 15, 2001
Humanity, our greatest concern, is the reason why we are gathered here today. Humanity stands at a defining moment in world history. The challenge before us is to harness the collective consciousness and will of the International Community to address the problems of Planet Earth. During the course of the last century the disparities between and within nations have widened. Poverty, ill-health, illiteracy and hunger among the worlds people have increased. The worlds ecosystem, the foundation upon which we all depend for survival is rapidly deteriorating. This is why we must regard this moment as significant in human history despite Fukuyamas claim that history has ended. The Third Millennium offers us the opportunity to break away from the shackles of the past and create new beginnings. The choices that we make can change the face of humankind and lead to the accepted goals of global peace, economic and human security and the greater good of humanity. The last century was replete with examples of nations preening themselves for conquest and domination. The Conquistadors who plundered the New World are still at large using global institutions, new technology, weapons of destruction, to oppress and dominate the weak, the innocent and the dispossessed sectors of mankind. The message that Saint Lucia brings to this Millennium Assembly comes from the pen of Saint Lucias Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott who reminds us that:
There are no worlds to CONQUER
But worlds to RE-CREATE
Minds that are historically poisoned with conquest can hardly experience the essential equanimity and calm of RE-CREATION. The theme of this Millennium Assembly reaches out in the direction of RE-CREATION a People centred re-shaping of the role and function of the United Nations and a purposeful moral thrust in re-creating the battered, demoralised societies we live in.
Mr. President, that is why we must embrace the United Nations Millennium Summits theme: "We the peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century." The attainment of meaningful transformation in the world system, calls for a United Nations capable of assuming a vanguard role in development and in advancing human security. The United Nations system must play a critical role in promoting global responsibility. Global responsibility implicitly involves some form of moral commitment to human welfare. It is the formulation of economic programmes designed to bring about economic redistribution, to safeguard against economic crises and the formulation of developmental policies that are in keeping with environmental protection and sustainability.
The UN should be strengthened to play a more central role in development, in ensuring equity and security for its small, vulnerable members like Saint Lucia against the greed of profit driven powers. Instead we are witnessing a consistent, systemic weakening of the UNs role in development, and development issues being left to undemocratic institutions like the World Bank, IMF and WTO that perpetuate the global economic inequities and where the development issues and concerns of developing countries are ignored.
UNDP, the UNs primary development agency is now reoriented to giving advice in governance and democratic elections. The UN therefore has a peripheral role in development and small states like Saint Lucia are left on their own to be devoured by powerful states backed by powerful transnational corporations.
Saint Lucia joined this Organization and entrusted it with our hopes of peace, security and development. This Organization has passed on our trust to a few dominant powers and Corporations. If the UN has a diminished role in ensuring development, peace and security for its small and vulnerable members, then our presence here is an unnecessary diversion of our scarce resources. In these circumstances we feel threatened and vulnerable that our trust has been betrayed.
Mr. President, the greater good of human security cannot be fostered simply through peacekeeping operations and humanitarian missions. There must be a global drive to empower people. Empowerment through the elimination of the adverse conditions that cause the incapacitation of the human spirit and the imprisonment of the imagination. Hence, the United Nations of the Twenty-First Century must be capable of playing a significant role in liberating the human spirit and imagination through education and real opportunity. It must be able to reposition itself to give practical meaning to the rising tide all over the world wherein the common man aspires to higher and wider horizons.
In reaffirming our faith in the UN and its Charter, it was again with the hope of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war. The threat to peace does not necessarily emanate from military warfare. There are new forms of war currently being waged on the small, the weak and the vulnerable.
In previous addresses to this august Assembly, and in the Statement of our Head of Government to the Millennium Summit, we pointed out the injustice perpetrated on Saint Lucia and other banana producing countries of the Caribbean by the WTO, through its rejection of the marketing regime for bananas in Europe as being WTO incompatible. That ruling has condemned our countries to the prospect of economic ruin, as the stabilizing force of our economy has been dealt a mortal blow.
Mr. President, since that ruling by the WTO, which granted an unreasonably limited time to adjust our economy, we have lost 50% of our foreign exchange earnings, thousands of farmers are unemployed and poverty and crime are on the increase. Yet, despite our urgent economic situation, negotiations between the EU and the US have been stalled. Saint Lucia calls on the United States to resume discussions with the European Union, on a new marketing system for bananas that could be acceptable to all giving due consideration to the Caribbean proposal.
Resilient a people as we are, we are moving to diversify our economies and to build another sector, financial services. Again, the economic giants are determined to crush our development efforts and subject our people to poverty by attacking yet another sector of our narrow economic base.
Saint Lucia has acted in good faith in fulfilling our obligations to the Charter of the UN, assuming equality of all member states. We have respected the territorial integrity and political independence of other member states and have NEVER interferred in the internal affairs of another state.
Today, the OECD has chosen to dictate the tax policies of Saint Lucia and other Caribbean islands, by labeling our tax regime among harmful tax havens and are threatening to impose sanctions for noncompliance with their prescribed changes to our tax policies. Mr. President, it is Saint Lucias sovereign right to determine its taxes, we cannot tell the OECD countries what taxes to impose nor do we expect interference in our right to determine that sacred right entrusted to us by our citizens. Our development options are few and limited, and we consider this action a violation of our basic human right to development and to pursue a decent standard of living for our people.
Our peace is threatened, our democracy is being undermined. The conditions for conflict are being created in my country and in the Region, and yet, instead of addressing development, we are being asked to strengthen the UN to intervene in national crises.
Within the context of a globalised world the concept of sovereignty is fast becoming an endangered species. No self-respecting nation would willingly abandon its sovereignty for the illusion of a better world when all the signals from this brave new world are destructive and negative. In respect of peacekeeping interventions one can surrender sovereignty to avoid a holocaust but certainly not to permit well-heeled rapacious countries to hog the capital flows in the Financial Services Sector.
Last week, through our Heads of State and Government we reaffirmed our faith in the UN and its Charter as indispensable foundations for a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.
This reaffirmation is of particular significance to small developing states like Saint Lucia devoid of the size and resources to urge the international community to give due consideration to our concerns and interests. We agreed to entrust the UN with ensuring equality among states. It is of paramount importance to us that the UN does not flinch in its role of fostering international dialogue and consensus building so that the concerns and interests of all member states are adequately addressed and reflected in the work of the Organization. We do not expect our trust to be given to more powerful influences to determine our collective future. We rededicated ourselves to uphold the principle of equality of states and expect that equality to be realized in policy directives of the United Nations with a balance in representation for all interests of member states and regions.
Saint Lucia calls on the UN to assume its rightful, central role in development and the governance of globalization, to promote democracy, and good governance nationally and internationally, to stand for right and the protection of its weak and vulnerable members against the powerful and dominant, and to seek equality and justice for all. This should be the focus of the UN in the New Millennium if poverty is to be eradicated, and peace enjoyed.
Saint Lucia cannot be enthusiastic about other issues until development and equity in the global economy become a priority. Our decline in revenues deny us the capacity to increase our contribution to peacekeeping and we will be reluctant to do so until there is an increase in our participation and benefit from the global economy. Man cannot live by governance alone or peace alone. Our people must find the sustenance that will enable them to participate in governance and peace. Saint Lucia therefore eagerly looks forward to the convening of the UN Conference on Financing for Development to discuss, in a holistic manner, issues of trade, finance and monetary matters in the context of globalization and trade liberalization.
We have always promoted an integrated approach to development and addressing global issues and this age of technology and interdependence lends itself more than ever to the integrated approach of assessing and addressing the issues at hand.
We continue to view the financing for development process as the missing and the critical link in the development agenda for a sustainable and lasting resolution to poverty and threats to peace. We hope through this process the UN will reclaim its legitimate role in development entrusted to it in the Charter and promote the effective participation of all its member states in the governance of the global economy and globalization, for the benefit of all the peoples of the world.
The greatest threat to world peace and democracy is the systemic imbalances and inequities in the global economy and the institutions that govern it. This situation is unsustainable and explosive.
The thrust of many statements made during the Millennium Summit and this Session has been to strengthen peacekeeping efforts with resources and personnel. We recognize that there is need for improvement in peacekeeping efforts to make them more effective. However, equal emphasis and effort is not committed to addressing the real threats to peace and the primary cause of war. Developing countries are threatened by continued deprivation and inequities in the global economy. Unless these inequities and imbalances are corrected we will continue to create situations of unrest and threaten intervention, while causes go unaddressed.
Similarly, Mr. President, we parade the fashionable notion of poverty eradication in isolation, ignoring the complex, multi-faceted nature of poverty and the causes of poverty, including global economic inequities. This façade to placate the poorest is fooling some of the people but not all of the worlds poor. The holistic nature of development takes precedence over the palliative of poverty eradication. International cooperation in development should instead be demonstrated through meeting the UN target of 0.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in Overseas Development Assistance, debt cancellation, special and differential treatment on a contractual basis for developing countries and adequate financial support for the UNs development programs.
We reaffirmed our commitment to promoting democracy, albeit with the emphasis on democracy at the national level. The inherent weakness of achieving this objective is clear, since democracy at the national level is undermined by the lack of a commensurate level of democracy at the international level.
The worlds peoples and leaders will rightly make mockery of the call for democracy if this principle is not equally applied in the Security Council, the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Trade Organization, the main institutions that currently govern world affairs in peace, security and the world economy, respectively. The UN must demonstrate leadership of democracy at the global level if we are to believe in this principle as a foundation for peace and prosperity in the New Millennium.
All member states must be able to effectively participate in matters of peace, security and the global economy to give real meaning to democracy and governance.
The symbolism of the United Nations is universally recognised but our role in this Millennium is to re-define its goals, sharpen its focus and make it a more efficient instrument for effecting global change and development. But this institutional change must be inspired and fired by the commensurate determination of Member nations to re-create their own societies. The resonance and sympathetic vibration of our visionary Secretary-General, Kofi Annan is not enough. We as member nations must set about the task of societal re-creation within the parameters of our own societies to offset the negative influence of moral degradation, crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour. These are the bench-marks of the un-civil society.
In the re-creation of our own societies we face the structural disadvantage of unemployment, illiteracy and the tyranny of consumerism and materialism. Our young people are cannon-fodder for the blandishments of cable television. They lap up a culture and a life-style which militates against their own self-development. They fail to understand the nexus between earning and spending and develop the appetite for consumer durables which their economic base could never support. They become aggressively fired- up with demands and rising expectations which neither the resources of the state nor their flimsy work ethic can entertain. They develop a culture of carping criticism which leaves no space for a culture of appreciation. Caribbean Governments look on almost helplessly at a growing phenomenon which threatens to disturb the rhythm of projected economic growth and breeds a kind of lawlessness which conventional law-and-order techniques cannot contain.
As globalization erodes the economic and social bases of our islands, international and bilateral aid dwindles. As ideologies and ideals give way to pragmatism the weak social and political fabric of these fledgling nations is laid bare. The vocabulary of containment and patience can no longer hold back the anarchist tide of popular revolt. Small nations will encounter their own Seattles with no National Guardsmen to come to the rescue, no sustaining philosophies to stem the tide, only the grim statistics of falling revenues and rising expectations.
Nations which attempt to grapple with these social problems have incurred the wrath of large countries culminating in isolation and the imposition of sanctions. Countries like Cuba and Libya have felt the crush of sanctions. The United Nations system must rethink the strategy of imposing sanctions and must devise other means of ensuring compliance within the International Community. The imposition of sanctions is often inhumane and is usually accompanied by devastating economic consequences and fails to produce the desired effect in targeted countries. The International Community should realize that interventions, embargoes and sanctions do not a democracy make!
Because of the untold suffering inflicted on civilian populations, a 21st Century United Nations system cannot continue to endorse the imposition of sanctions. What is even more devastating is that the general will of this august Assembly is often flouted and ignored when the International consensus calls for a removal of sanctions. Is democracy merely a convenient attitude? If so, it begs the question as to the insistence that countries like Cuba should conform to the principles of democracy when these principles themselves are being compromised and rejected as a matter of convenience.
It is these injustices and violations which have turned world opinion in favour of the embattled Caribbean country Cuba and has made its Leader Fidel Castro a living symbol of the unconquerable spirit of our people to triumph over adversity and incredible odds.
Mr. President, more than ever the positives of a reformed United Nations will become a refuge, a bastion of hope for nations non-plussed by events that seem suddenly out of their control. In my last address to this time honoured institution, I alluded to the plight of Africa. I would like to reiterate that as Africa was the last impression of the twentieth-century, poetic justice demands that it must be our first preoccupation in the twenty-first century.
Mr. President, in the process of Re-creation Saint Lucia and the Caribbean must strive to become a catalyst for Peace in the International Forum. We must use our collective influence to contain the border disputes which threaten to create friction in Latin America and the Caribbean. We must also be wary of importing conflicts into our Region. In the case of Taiwan and China it is vital that we pursue the line of working towards a one-China policy instead of fuelling the hostilities which characterize the existing relationship between these two countries. An early resolution of the impasse between Taiwan and China will strengthen the solidarity of the Developing world. In the case of Africa, the Caribbean has always enjoyed a peculiarly symbiotic relationship with Africa. Men like Padmore, C L R James, Eric Williams, Sir Arthur Lewis and Walter Rodney have all worked assiduously at the side of African Leaders like Nkrumah, Nyerere, Sekou Toure and Leopold Senghor in order to realize the ultimate dream of a United Africa liberated from the bondage of poverty, disease and exploitation. This noble tradition must continue. Once again Saint Lucia calls on its CARICOM colleagues to pursue the possibility of obtaining Observer Status at the Organisation of African Unity.
Mr. President, the peoples of the African continent face the onslaught of the AIDS pandemic that threatens to decimate the population of the entire continent. But the devastating effect of AIDS is felt not only on the African continent. Today the world is confronted with the greatest health crisis in human history. The effects of this disease can destabilise fragile democracies and economic progress in both the developing and the developed world.
We welcome President Clintons efforts to create an African AIDS Trust Fund and the pledge of one billion US Dollars to combat AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. We also welcome President Castros undertaking to send two thousand Cuban doctors to Africa. However, given the trans-national nature of the disease, the United Nations should use its institutions to launch a movement towards the full eradication of this scourge. Mr. President, if the world is to survive the ravages of this plague, we must not only pledge financial resources towards research and the development of pharmaceuticals, but we must make them affordable and accessible, and also continue to sensitize the international community to preventive measures.
At years end, the General Assembly will witness the end of the first International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Much remains to be done before the United Nations is successful in carrying out its statutory mandate to ensure complete and absolute political equality for the peoples of these territories. This must remain the guiding principle of the international community. That the majority of the remaining non-self-governing territories are small islands does not mean that the self-determination of their peoples is less important than former territories which achieved a sovereign status. We must resist all attempts to legitimize the present unequal colonial arrangements which do not provide for full and absolute political equality. Saint Lucia therefore fully endorses the adoption of a Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, and calls on member states and United Nations Organizations to fulfill their responsibilities under the Charter and relevant General Assembly resolutions.
Mr. President, on the initiative of the Government of Canada a debate has started in the forum of the Organisation of American States on the subject of global human security. It is comforting for developing States and especially small developing states to feel that the conscience of the International World has been pricked into focusing on the security of the entire globe. On a discordant note the United States of America is now concentrating its attention on a National Missile Defense System aimed at protecting the United States from missile attacks. At this strategic juncture in the New Millennium when world leaders are gingerly massaging a Culture of Peace and Disarmament this action runs counter to the mood for reconciliation, and universal nuclear disarmament. This unfortunate and myopic emphasis on the protection of one nation and one people might well trigger off a rash of self-protective nuclear explosions effectively eroding the fragile trust which underpins the hope of global human security.
There are no worlds to conquer but worlds to re-create. The re-creation of the United Nations must be posited on the basis of mutual respect between rich and poor. Mutual respect between large and small nations. As small and desperate as our small islands appear to be we should hold fast to the principles which inform the operations of the United Nations.
We challenge the paradigm shift which the developed nations are cleverly manipulating to shunt the focus of the United Nations toward Peace-keeping and Humanitarian Assistance. Saint Lucia states clearly and unequivocally that the United Nations focus should zero in on DEVELOPMENT as a radical instrument for eradicating poverty and war.
No six hundred million-dollar carrot on a stick will tempt us to abandon the principle of a nations capacity to pay. No Congress should determine the scale of assessments for the United Nations and there should be no conditionality for paying arrears and meeting ones obligations to this institution.
Mr. President, the hungry sheep look up and are not fed. The wolves run amok and batten on their hunger, and the cycle goes on in its impropriety. This august Body must not flinch in its Millennium resolve to end the carnage.
So I come to you from the weary battlefield of time
Armed with the disappointments of yesterday,
The sufferings of today and the dreams of tomorrow In the struggle I may die
But let’s not forsake another tomorrow
I thank you.
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