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30 June 2008 / 05:29

Still fresh in our minds is the strong plea made by the leaders of the world at their historic meeting on the eve of this fifty-fifth Assembly for a universal recommitment to multilateralism and to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Their Declaration at the Summit’s end was unanimous and unambiguous. Humanity’s future lies in the hands of this Organization and its ability to create a new global order for the promotion of peace and development. It is a conclusion which the Assembly must take to heart if it is to fulfil this urgent mandate.

I am confident that our task will be facilitated by our President’s skilful direction. Coming from Finland, a country that has been forged by history on the anvil of political, economic and social endurance, he will undoubtedly bring to bear on our deliberations a sense of purpose and urgency. In congratulating him on his election, Guyana pledges a readiness to cooperate to make this Assembly abundantly successful.

My delegation also offers its appreciation and thanks to His Excellency Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab for the able leadership he provided the fifty-fourth General Assembly.

Our gratitude is also due to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who continues to manage the Organization with a sure and steady hand. The report that he submitted to the Assembly, “We the peoples — the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century”, amply addresses the many important challenges that lie ahead of us. It is well worth our study to see what measures the Assembly can take to promote global peace and development through strengthening of the Organization.

As the report demonstrates, a high level of tension now exists in the governance of the global economy. While it has been generally acknowledged that markets offer opportunities for growth and development, there is still the caveat against excessive reliance on them. As many developing countries have discovered, the market is often blind to their particular circumstances and needs. Their concerns have raised serious questions about the fairness of the trading system, leading to much public protest, as was dramatically expressed in Seattle and almost every city where the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have tried to hold meetings.

The message is clear: the international community must find a consensus on ways and means to ensure more democratic governance in international affairs so that the developing countries can have a greater say in shaping their own future.

The gap between the richest and poorest countries has widened so dramatically during recent years that strong and urgent action must be taken to avoid a major human disaster. For most developing countries such as my own, a scarcity of financial and human resources places serious constraints on the policy options they are able to exercise. Despite the fact that many have embraced market-based reforms and democratic governance, they have had limited success in improving the socio-economic conditions of their people.

Their efforts to undertake important reforms and to lift themselves up by their boot-straps have been rewarded by a denial of much-needed assistance to sustain the progress achieved. The hostile international environment in which they find themselves not only frustrates their economic and social development but also renders the strengthening of the democratic process extremely difficult.

Thus, while globalization has benefited strong economies, it has weakened many developing countries and forced them into the backwaters of development. Severe economic and social dislocation has followed in many cases, accentuating the particular vulnerabilities of small economies, many of which are often dependent on a single agriculture crop for the livelihood of their peoples. While the proponents of economic liberalization contend that the market offers “a level playing field”, they conveniently forget and fail to realize that the players are not equally matched and that the rules of the game are stacked in favour of the strong. The weak can hardly compete and are eventually marginalized. Indeed, it is a zero-sum game, where both winners and losers are known in advance.

The majority of developing countries continue to be crippled by weak infrastructure such as roads, communications and other physical requirements and the inadequacy of skilled labour to take advantage of opportunities in the market. Moreover, they must face not only high production costs but also low prices and inadequate access to markets. Trade liberalization has also led to a rapid growth in imports by developing countries, while their own exports remain sluggish and their trade deficit widens. In the process, Governments lose much-needed revenues from duties and taxes, which hitherto made an appreciable contribution to the national budget.

Meanwhile, official development assistance has fallen to its lowest since the target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product (GNP) was established by the United Nations in 1970. Only four countries — Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden — have reached the mark. On average, developed countries contribute less than a third of this target figure, with the richest countries contributing even less. Assistance is now apparently seen by some as both wasteful and wasted, a perception which may serve to explain this rapid decline. Yet for many of the poor developing countries, such assistance is indispensable if they are to improve their economic performance. To make matters worse, they find it difficult without the requisite technology and human resource base to attract foreign direct investment, which is increasingly concentrated in a small number of emerging economies.

The challenge facing the international community and policy-makers in the new millennium, therefore, is to redress these inequities in the global economy in a comprehensive and sustainable manner so as to ensure the smooth integration of developing countries, in particular the smaller economies, into the globalizing world economy. Developing countries are not asking for charity — merely the opportunity to develop their potential and to take their rightful place in the international community. As they have said, they recognize their primary responsibility for their own development. They ask only for assistance in creating a domestic environment that will enable them to participate fairly in the global economy.

A helpful measure would be to integrate transition periods into current economic models and make provisions for targeted assistance to small economies. Another would be to provide significant debt relief and debt cancellation as necessary, together with development assistance to boost the overall productive capability of developing countries.

Developed countries could also assist in promoting regional integration, as well as South-South cooperation, to allow developing countries to benefit from the many complementarities that they possess. Equally indispensable is the provision of new and additional resources through the establishment of a global development fund that would help to bridge the gap between the developed and developing worlds. An action-oriented programme, somewhat along the lines of the post-Second World War Marshall Plan, is necessary to achieve meaningful progress.

Policies aimed merely at creating unsustainable social safety nets are hardly lasting solutions. The root causes of the social and endemic problems of the developing countries, which ultimately lead to global instability, must be addressed. To this end, we must find a way to direct aid and investment into building capital, both human and physical. We cannot speak seriously of closing the digital divide in an environment in which many Governments are struggling to meet even the most basic needs of their populations and where degraded infrastructure does not support a “communications revolution”.

In this context, we have noted the Secretary-General’s initiative to forge a global compact between the United Nations, the private sector and non-governmental organizations in an effort to maximize the development effort. Such a strategic alliance can indeed enhance cooperation on a wide array of global issues, including aid, trade and investment, and protection of the environment as well as satisfy urgent education, health and housing needs. To succeed, however, such a compact must be based on mutual understanding and respect through a clear definition of the respective roles of the partners. There must be common objectives and agendas, as well as a clear definition of the roles of each partner.

Finally, the international community, and more particularly the developed North, must recognize the close link between freedom from want and freedom from fear — between development, peace and stability. At the national level, we know that good governance must be practised to ensure that the population are protected from all forms of oppression and allowed to enjoy their inalienable human rights. Correspondingly, at the international level, the principles of the Charter, as well as the laws which we, as civilized nations, have come to accept, must be respected to provide an environment conducive to development.

In chapter IV of his report the Secretary-General remarks:

“Economic globalization has largely eliminated the benefits of territorial acquisition, while the destructiveness of modern warfare has increased its costs.” (A/54/2000, para. 192)

This lesson must be learned by States which, despite their professed commitment to the Charter, often resort to various forms of coercion in international relations. The United Nations, and more particularly the Security Council, should not — and, indeed, must not — tolerate such actions. All disputes must be resolved through peaceful means.

While many of the proposals made by the Secretary-General in his report will undoubtedly help to contain the threats to peace and development in the twenty-first century, we rather fear that they will be insufficient to meet our requirements if they are pursued in a piecemeal fashion without a more comprehensive and holistic framework. It is for this reason that Guyana sought the inclusion on this year’s agenda of an item on promoting a new global human order. Time does not allow me to provide the details of this initiative. However, so that the concept may be more fully understood and widely supported, I have asked that, along with copies of my statement, an explanatory memorandum outlining the aim of our proposal be circulated. Very shortly we will also make available a more extensive document that could serve as the basis for discussion in plenary session. It is our hope that out of this consideration will emerge a resolution that expresses the determination of the international community to find a consensus on the way forward to securing global peace and development.

The time is now opportune, I believe, for us to summon up our collective political will to devise a common and cogent strategy for managing the global agenda in the twenty-first century. Should we fail to heed this imperative, we will continue to plough the sea and reap only disillusionment and despair. This Millennium Assembly affords us a singular opportunity to define the terms and conditions of a new global partnership. Let us not waste it in futile debate, but, rather, use it to give new hope to our peoples for a better future.