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27 June 2008 / 06:15

The international development goals, especially the Millennium Development Goals, which we set ourselves at the Millennium Summit five years ago and which we are called upon to review at this Meeting, have been a major benchmark for development. Addressing as they do such fundamentals as health and education, they constitute important prerequisites for our economic and social advancement.

Despite serious financial and human constraints, my country has made appreciable progress towards those objectives. Through a progressive poverty-reduction strategy and the allocation of more budgetary resources to the social sector, we have managed to reach the poor in our society and to provide them with increased opportunities to improve their lives.

Sad to say, however, our hard-won gains are now threatened by forces and influences that are well beyond our control. An example of this is the fact that, although Europe has declared support for the Millennium Development Goals, the European Commission has nonetheless made proposals to drastically reduce the price of sugar exports from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, which, if implemented, will deal a devastating blow to their economies, forcing a large number of people into extreme poverty. In the case of Guyana, our economy stands to lose some $40 million per annum, a sum that negates the $8 million in debt relief which is expected to flow from the recent G-8 decisions. That action is typical of some developed countries, which, while giving with great fanfare some assistance to the developing countries, quietly take away even more through harmful trade and economic policies. Worse yet, despite their asseverations of partnership and commitment to consultation and coherence, they decide unilaterally on measures that adversely affect the lives of millions in the developing countries. As it is, therefore, we will be hard put to achieve the Millennium Development Goals within the time-frames set.

Altogether, our experience — one that I know is shared by many others — has been daunting. We cannot but conclude that, while the realization of the Millennium Development Goals provides the necessary foundation for national development, adequate economic and social progress cannot be achieved in the absence of a more comprehensive framework that encompasses significant development and investment flows, wider debt relief, more equitable trade and economic cooperation as well as the transfer of science and technology for development purposes.

These economic and social challenges are made, as the Secretary-General’s report reminds us, all the greater by the political insecurity that is the defining reality of today’s world. The threats to the security of States — more particularly small and vulnerable ones — have been greatly magnified by the spread of terrorism, transboundary crime, disease, arms and drug trafficking. Most of our countries are ill-equipped, because of scarce resources, to defend themselves against such encroachments.

Contemporary circumstances have brought us to a watershed moment. The multiplication of threats to our common existence, whatever their genesis, represents as foreboding a scenario as any the scourge of war could conjure up. We must act to contain such dangers by strengthening the United Nations so that it can perform its functions.

For more than a decade, we have been engaged in the examination of ways and means to reform the United Nations. On the basis of the recommendations that have emerged, we must take action at this session of the General Assembly to make the Organization more democratic in its decision-making and more effective in the discharge of the many mandates with which it has been entrusted.

Of particular urgency is the need to reform the Security Council — the organ responsible for the maintenance of global peace and security — to allow it better to cope with the various threats to our safe and secure existence. The records of the Working Group which was set up for this purpose will show that widespread agreement had been reached on the expansion of the Council in both categories of membership to provide greater balance in representation and greater credibility to the Council’s activities. This has presented us with a window of opportunity which, if we do not take advantage of it, may close again and remain indefinitely closed.

Let us therefore not be faint-hearted, but rather boldly accelerate and complete the process of reform, so that the principles and purposes for which the United Nations stands may be fully implemented.