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30 June 2008 / 05:48

For some time now the United Nations has been engaged in a process of reform and restructuring with the aim of improving its capacity to address the many challenges which the world now faces. It has been an arduous and time-consuming exercise which, if truth be told, has diverted us, to some degree, from our primary task of promoting global peace and development. Yet the exercise is a necessary one if we are in fact to enhance the Organization’s efficiency and effectiveness and to gear it for service to the international community in the coming years.

My delegation is confident that, under the able leadership of the President, we will be able to make progress in our endeavours. His wide diplomatic experience, together with his intimate knowledge of the Organization, will serve, I am sure, to orient and accelerate our efforts. We congratulate him on his unanimous election and vouchsafe to him our ready cooperation to make this fifty-second session of the General Assembly a significant turning point in the life of the Organization.

To the President’s distinguished predecessor, Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia, we convey our deep and sincere appreciation for the determination and dynamism which he brought to bear on the work of the last session. To his great credit, he laboured tirelessly to find general agreement on the steps which must be taken to revitalize the United Nations. His exemplary leadership will no doubt inspire us to fulfil the task at hand without undue delay.

I also wish to acknowledge with appreciation the notable contribution which our Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, has made to the reform process since taking office. In keeping with the promise made to the Assembly, he has presented us with a set of interesting proposals for the reshaping of the Organization for service in the twenty-first century. This comprehensive and constructive document requires our serious consideration. I intend, therefore, in the time allocated to me, to make a few comments which I trust, despite their brief and preliminary nature, will provide an indication of our thinking at the present time on the ways and means by which the Organization can be reformed.

Let me first say that we share the vision which the Secretary-General has set forth for the future role of the United Nations. The Organization has proved its capacity for preventing major wars and forging international consensus on important aspects of international relations. It is now poised to explore the many possibilities of multilateralism. Increasingly, Member States, large and small, are seeing it in their interest to cooperate with the United Nations to maximize their ability to deal with several international concerns. There is increasing recourse to its machinery in order to deal with such issues as development, the environment, disease, drug trafficking and terrorism, to name just a few. Many of the special agencies, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and others too numerous to mention, cater to the needs of the most vulnerable sections of our population — the aged, women, children and our indigenous peoples.

Built on the pillars of multilateralism, the United Nations offers Member States a unique forum in which they can come together for their common good. Its grand design, elaborated some 50 years ago, remains by and large a useful chart for promoting international comity. It is important, therefore, as we plan for a new era, that we hold fast to the founders’ abiding vision lest we be dashed against the rocks of isolation and left to survive as best we can.

The effective translation of this vision into reality requires strong and dynamic leadership. History has shown that, much too often, our most worthwhile aspirations have been left unfulfilled because of inadequate political commitment and direction. States often see the world only through the prism of narrow self-interest and are blind to the virtues of concerted action. However, the challenges of our times, when no single nation, however rich and powerful, can hope to be entirely self-reliant, require the highest level of international cooperation. For it is only by unity of purpose that we, the United Nations, can hope to achieve the aspirations so loftily declared in the Charter.

We are pleased to note that the Secretary-General, as the Organization’s chief administrative officer, has demonstrated vision and leadership in outlining his suggestions for reform. Of particular satisfaction to us is the fact that in setting his priorities for the Organization’s future work he has accorded high importance to its development activities. At a time when financial support is weak, it is imperative that appropriate strategies be developed to eradicate world poverty and restore economic and social prosperity, particularly in small developing countries.

We therefore welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to strengthen management capability within the Secretariat to provide for full coordination of effort and for forward planning. We recognize the need for economy, but hope that this will not be to the detriment of clear mandates of Member States and to the fundamental nature of the Organization. It would be a grave pity if, in reducing costs, the United Nations were to be starved of substance.

We certainly approve of the idea initially propounded by the Government of Japan, and subsequently endorsed by the G-7 countries, calling for administrative savings to be channelled into development activities. This dividend, although presumably limited in quantity, may be significant enough to serve as a catalyst for financing the development account that the Secretary-General proposes. Like the rest of the world, we welcome the generous gift of the Chairman of Turner Communications, who had participated in the 1994 World Hearings on Development and has now seen fit to come out in support of this cause. One can only hope that such philanthropy will be emulated by others in the private sector.

The recently concluded Agenda for Development, together with the joint strategy for development of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), provides a basis for moving forward in the field of economic and social cooperation. Both documents accept the fact that while private investment flows have an important role to play in development, they are, because of their high selectivity and general unpredictability, insufficient to guarantee the development of small disadvantaged countries. For those countries — and here I include my own — development assistance, debt relief, capacity building and increased trade will remain crucial to our progress.

At the macroeconomic level, we will continue to look to the United Nations to play a more central role in the concertation of development policies. The Secretary-General has said,

“The promotion of economic and social progress is one of the United Nations primary objectives, enshrined in the Charter.” (A/51/950, para. 68)

It cannot, consequently, be marginalized in the development process. Instead, it must be its principal generator.

Accordingly, both its structure and operation must be such as to provide “a more integrated collaborative approach”. (ibid., para. 72) Greater coordination of development activities, both at Headquarters and at the regional and local levels, is essential. As has been suggested, the creation of a new development group and a United Nations development-assistance framework could possibly provide the necessary focus and direction. We should be careful to ensure, however, that the strengths of individual actors and agencies are not lost in any merger.

We fully support the proposal for a closer and more cooperative relationship with the World Bank and other international financial institutions. Over time, those bodies, although connected with the United Nations, have moved away from their original mandates and developed quite independently of the Organization. It is time that those bodies concentrate on human development as distinct from the means of development. We should therefore seek to bring them into line with the main organs of the United Nations. To that end, we encourage the Secretary-General to take whatever steps are needed to achieve that harmonization of the development efforts. We will also have to consider at some stage how to strengthen the relationship of the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the United Nations.

At the same time, we must complement these efforts by giving to the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council the direct and overarching responsibility for leading the development enterprise. In the past, those organs have been sadly left behind in the development process. Although useful as forums for dialogue and consensus building, they have failed to engage the key players. We should therefore strive to transform them so that they can provide a stronger political impetus for development and ensure effective global macroeconomic management.

We hope that from this debate will come a clear indication of proposals and recommendations that are considered desirable and feasible. There will be some, of course, which, like the conversion of the Trusteeship Council into a forum for dealing with issues such as the global commons, will require further study. These proposals may be explored in informal working sessions of the Assembly and then taken up formally as a package for approval and subsequent implementation. With diligent cooperation on the part of all, there is no reason why such reforms cannot be agreed upon early in the new year.

Institutional tinkering alone, however, will not guarantee development. The most important dynamic remains the political will of States. The several strategies that we have forged and the many declarations we have issued over the years remain largely unfulfilled. It is no wonder that poverty is today the single most important threat to global peace and security.

The reduction and eventual elimination of world poverty is an imperative which the United Nations cannot ignore. At the special mid-term review of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in June of this year, we came close to agreeing to achieve this target by the year 2015. This year, at the Kyoto session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and later, at the mid-term review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, we will have other opportunities for the further promotion of sustainable development. We should not fail to take advantage of these in our continuing efforts to create a partnership for the benefit of all States.

For its part, my Government remains dedicated to this end. In demonstration of our seriousness of purpose, we have honoured the obligations that have been deemed necessary to national development. As suggested by the World Bank in its publication entitled Partnership for Sustainable Growth, we have sought to promote

“global governance in all its aspects, including ensuring the rule of law, improving efficiency and accountability of the public sector and tackling corruption as essential elements of a framework within which economies can prosper.”

We have created a truly democratic society in which development is a fundamental human right. The fruit of our policies has been a constant annual growth rate of over 6 per cent. Today, all sectors of our society, including private enterprise and peoples’ organizations, are fully involved in the development process and are fired by the optimistic confidence that, as a nation, we will overcome the problems that currently beset us.

In a few weeks, our nation will conduct another democratic election, open again to the scrutiny of international observers. Out of this exercise will come a fresh popular determination to continue along the path leading to economic and social progress. To facilitate this pursuit, the Government has prepared a national development strategy based on a fully participatory economy. Involved in its preparation were experts from both the public and the private sectors, who have prepared a draft text for wider public consultation and approval. In our view, this provides a useful policy framework which, by establishing needs and priorities, can serve to mobilize assistance from the international community, including donor Governments and international development agencies.

However, as was clearly recognized by our late President, Mr. Cheddi Jagan, the hopes and aspirations of developing countries such as ours will not fully materialize over the long term until the international environment is made more congenial to our needs. Accordingly, he continuously advocated in his lifetime the creation of a new global human order premised on sustainable economic development, equity and social and ecological justice, and based on the creation of a separate global development fund for assistance to both the North and the South. This new North-South partnership must be fashioned in a search for more positive and innovative ways to cope with the vagaries of globalization and liberalization, which are marginalizing millions of people and even many nations.

Guyana has openly embraced the 20/20 initiative adopted at the World Summit for Social Development as a means of sparking international cooperation for development. In addition, we have called for agreement on some forms of international taxation, which, like national revenue at the country level, would provide the funding necessary to promote global development. Thus far, some developed countries have been reluctant to contemplate such innovative means of resource mobilization. But in circumstances of ever increasing international obligations and decreasing development assistance, where will the necessary financing come from? The answer to this question is key to the future of the United Nations, for unless the Organization is endowed with predictable and adequate resources, it will be incapable of satisfying the many requirements placed upon it by Member States.

In my delegation’s view, the time has come to deal with this issue. The Economic and Social Council has broached the question in recent high-level discussions, but we are a long way from testing the feasibility of the many ideas that have been advanced to find new and additional ways of financing multilateralism. Initial studies done by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other development agencies have revealed that some of the mechanisms proposed are indeed feasible. Why, then, are some States unwilling to entertain any meaningful discussion of their introduction? Is it that they are afraid of losing control of the United Nations? Or are they not serious about their proclaimed adherence to the concept of the interdependence of States?

Assuring the financial stability of this Organization must be seen as essential not only to development but to peace. Invariably, instability and conflict within and among States are due in great measure to economic and social instability leading to intense competition for limited resources. An investment in development must therefore be seen as an investment in preventive diplomacy and in the building of peace.

Admittedly, these are costly tasks, but there can be no doubt that the expenditure involved is much less than that resulting from conflict. The international community should therefore be prepared to adequately fund activities in this field to enhance the prospects of their success.

Apart from financial support, there is also a need for more competent supervision by the Security Council. No reform of the United Nations will be complete without reform of the Council, which is the organ primarily responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Unfortunately, despite the most intensive search, we are yet to find general agreement on the basis for restructuring that important body. We must persevere, however, in the fulfilment of our mandate to devise a more effective, open and representative Council fully capable of performing the functions assigned to it under the Charter.

Guyana, as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, believes that this aim can best be served by an appropriate expansion in the non-permanent category. However, in a spirit of compromise, we are prepared to contemplate enlargement also in the permanent category, providing a balance can be found between developed- and developing-country representation and agreement reached on the limitation of the use of the veto and on the concept of periodic review. We are ready to continue our work in this direction until a solution is found.

Meanwhile, we are happy to see the progress being made towards the creation of an international criminal court, which will be able to deal effectively with several crimes against humanity.

Last, but by no means least, we wish to see in the campaign for peace more active interest and participation by this Assembly in the disarmament process, so that the weapons of war may be converted into tools of development. Although we have yet to see any significant peace dividend from the ending of the cold war, we believe that a reduction in arms expenditures on both nuclear and conventional weapons can only benefit the welfare of all peoples. The Assembly must therefore encourage the Committee on Disarmament to intensify its efforts in this field and must itself take whatever action it deems necessary to prompt the conversion from arms production to more peaceful pursuits. Disarmament is too important an issue to be left to the major military Powers. The international community as a whole must therefore exert continuing pressure on the process to achieve the desired results.

At the same time, we must intensify the Organization’s role in bringing peace to those countries and regions of the world where conflict or the threat of conflict persists. Upheavals in the Great Lakes region of Africa and the tenuous situation in places such as Afghanistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina still defy resolution.

In the Middle East, the peace process seems to have atrophied. The Palestinian problem and the Arab-Israeli conflict continue to hamper the progress of that entire area. In Cyprus, where tensions are restrained only by the continued presence of United Nations troops, the danger of violence is ever present. On the Korean Peninsula, peaceful reunification is still an elusive goal. The international community has no choice but to do whatever it can to help the parties involved in conflict everywhere to work peacefully towards an amicable settlement of their particular disputes.

The world wants peace and development. It also wants the United Nations to help in the achievement of these goals. Governments have a duty to heed these sentiments and to increase their support of the Organization.

The United Nations itself must in turn reach out to benefit from the valuable reservoir of goodwill which exists towards it among the peoples of the world. Public information is key to securing widespread support for its activities and to expanding its role in international affairs. We therefore urge that the dissemination capacity of the Department of Public Information be enhanced in developed countries, where awareness of the Organization’s potential is less than it should be.

As we approach the major milestone marking the start of the third millennium, we must have a clear vision of what we want the United Nations to be and of what we want it to do. Only with such clarity can we be sure that the reform process will result in a change for the better. It is therefore my delegation’s hope that this general debate will engender a common sense of purpose among its Members and a willingness on their part to press forward in the revitalization of an Organization which is so necessary to both our survival and our development.