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30 June 2008 / 05:52

As the United Nations faces the beginning of its second half-century and the dawn of a new millennium, we look to the Organization for the continuing fulfilment of the high purposes of its Charter: the maintenance of international peace and security and the achievement of international cooperation in solving problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character.

The experience of the past 50 years has shown that these goals are not easily attained. The end of the cold war has not meant an end to conflicts. The world has now entered a new era in which civil strife has replaced super-power rivalry as the main threat to peace and security. We have yet to find workable solutions to many situations in which conflict continues to prevail. At the same time, the vast majority of mankind remains prey to poverty, hunger and disease. Such inhumane conditions serve as a fertile breeding ground for chronic economic and social degradation.

You, Mr. President, face the enormous task of guiding us through this vast thicket of concerns. We are confident, however, that your well-known diplomatic experience and skills will lead us to new paths in the search for satisfactory solutions. As a son of Malaysia, a country which has long championed the cause of peace and development, you will undoubtedly bring to bear a sense of urgency to the discharge of the many responsibilities with which you will be entrusted.

In so doing, you will build upon the efforts of your predecessor, Mr. Diogo Freitas do Amaral of Portugal, who spearheaded our thrust to reform and restructure the world Organization in order to make it more responsive to our needs in the post-cold-war era. He is deserving of our gratitude for his labour during the past year.

I would also like to pay tribute to the Secretary-General for providing dynamic leadership to the Secretariat in these challenging times.

The special commemorative meeting held last year to mark our Organization's fiftieth anniversary provided an excellent opportunity not only for reflection on its past achievements, but also on its future direction. There was no dearth of ideas and proposals for strengthening the United Nations in order to help it face the challenges of the twenty-first century. It may be useful for us to look closer at some of those suggestions to determine their feasibility for implementation. It is an exercise in which some of our main Committees, our several working groups and the Secretariat may profitably engage so that the thinking of our Heads of State and Governments does not fall by the wayside, unheeded and forgotten.

My own President, on that historic occasion, presented his concept of a new global human order in which the nations of the world could come together in a creative partnership for progress. This concept of partnership is predicated on the belief that we all now live in an interdependent world, in which, unless we learn to hang together, we will certainly hang separately.

No one nation, no matter how militarily and economically powerful, can hope adequately to address the many complex cross-boundary problems which it now faces. States Members of the United Nations need to come together urgently to see how they can enhance cooperation in the various areas specified by the United Nations Charter.

Among the immediate imperatives would be the creation of a partnership for peace, for, although the world has been mercifully spared another world war since 1945, it has witnessed a number of conflicts, both old and new, which continue to proliferate and to sap our collective strength. The causes of these eruptions are often deep-seated and not easily eradicated. They require careful study and attempts at resolution. Invariably, this will mean that the United Nations will have to go beyond traditional peacemaking and peacekeeping to the increased practice of preventive diplomacy aimed at pacifying potential conflict situations. The experience of past operations, both successes and failures, should be distilled with a view to garnering those lessons which may be of guidance in future cases. In this context, classical approaches to conflict resolution may have to be supplemented by new and imaginative ideas.

Over the past few years, we have together made a laudable effort to enhance the Security Council's capacity to deal with threats to international peace and security. To our credit, we have been somewhat successful in making the Council's operations more transparent to the public eye. We have yet to decide, however, on the major aspects of resolution 48/26 on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council.

Mr. Wilmot (Ghana), Vice-President, took the Chair.

Ideas abound on ways and means of achieving these aims. Our challenge is to reconcile these so that a consensus can be reached on reform. My delegation believes that the various proposals now on the table, such as those made by Belize, Italy and Malaysia, need to be further examined to determine both their political acceptability and feasibility. It is possible that, under the right circumstances and with the necessary political will, a reformed and more representative Council will emerge.

A more democratic Security Council will command the respect and enjoy the confidence of United Nations Member States. In time, they may be persuaded to rely less on their own costly defence forces and more on the collective security system provided by the Organization. As specified by the Charter, the various organs and agencies such as the Assembly, the Council itself, the International Court of Justice, the Secretariat and — under Chapter VIII — regional arrangements, can combine to form an effective bulwark against breaches of peace. During the cold war, some of these organs were precluded from performing their several functions. We must now seek to endow them with the machinery needed for their full operation.

At the same time, we need to strengthen the partnership against the proliferation of all lethal weapons, nuclear and conventional alike. Following the indefinite extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, we have the opportunity now to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which, while admittedly less than satisfactory, nevertheless offers a chance to proscribe the further development of dangerous weapons.

Although considered less worrisome than their nuclear counterparts, conventional weapons are no less destructive of human life and property. With the ending of the East-West arms race, these weapons are being diverted by producer States to developing countries, where they fuel tensions and eventual conflict. These dangerous transfers must be closely monitored and a serious attempt made to convert the arms industry to development purposes. It is time that we see a dividend from our investment in peace.

In eschewing the use of arms, we must seek to promote dialogue, negotiation and development to remove the root causes of all disputes and conflicts. The persistent eruption of violence in the Middle East demonstrates that, unless respect is shown for the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, peace will continue to elude that troubled region. The peace process cannot, therefore, be allowed to die since without it there is little prospect of reconciliation among belligerents. Similarly, in the Korean peninsula and, indeed, in all areas where divisions among peoples exist, we must use our best diplomatic and political efforts to reduce tensions and encourage peaceful reunification.

Our security concerns have widened in the post-cold-war era to other areas, such as the environment and drug-trafficking. As a small State and member of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Guyana looks forward to the review of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which is due to take place in 1997. That meeting will provide us with an opportunity to assess the progress made towards implementing the commitments assumed both at Rio and Bridgetown.

With regard to our efforts to combat drug-trafficking and abuse, we were pleased to participate in the high-level debate in the Economic and Social Council last June. We urge further international action on the measures agreed upon and also on the early establishment of an international criminal court which, in our view, will serve as an effective deterrent to drug-related crimes and to other violations against humanity.

Having participated in the various summit conferences which have been held on the environment and development, population and development, human settlements, women and children and social development, my Government is also anxious to see these agreements fully implemented. We also look to the upcoming World Food Summit in Rome to build upon these existing commitments. Eliminating hunger and guaranteeing food security to all the world's people are urgent imperatives for the international community.

As a country which has suffered from the deleterious effects of colonialism, Guyana stands in solidarity with all States that now face the formidable challenge of development. We were thus pleased to participate in the recent mid-term review of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s. The results of that review gave reasons to hope that the African predicament can be overcome through a much-strengthened cooperation between African countries and the international community. We wish at this time to call on all States to intensify their efforts to support Africa's initiatives to promote its development, for the success or failure of the African Agenda will be the success or failure of us all.

These issues are at the heart of the wider and comprehensive Agenda for Development which we are in the process of elaborating. The endeavour we have made this past year to complete our negotiations on the content of this important document, while significant, points to the inevitable conclusion that we have yet to find the level of political will needed for meaningful agreement. We seem to be stuck in the confrontational mode set during our previous years of dialogue. My delegation is nonetheless of the view that, given the growing interdependence of Member States and the globalization of the world economy and society generally, there are now sufficient elements to form the basis of a global partnership for peace and development.

The terms of this partnership could be drawn up by mutual agreement of the parties, specifying both the obligations and the rights of each side. On the part of the developing countries, there would be acceptance of their primary responsibility for their development as well as the need for good governance. The developed nations, on the other hand, would commit themselves to supporting these endogenous efforts and to assisting in the creation of an international economic environment that would be propitious to success.

Like the Lomé partnership that has existed for some time now between a large group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States and countries of the European Union, such an arrangement would provide a fair degree of predictability in its operations. Developed and developing countries alike would have the assurances of joint performance and common benefit. Eventually, this partnership would form the basis of a new and enlightened world order to which we have all aspired for many years.

My President, Mr. Cheddi Jagan and the Government and people of Guyana are dedicated to the creation of this new global partnership. We were pleased to note that several international conferences — including the ninth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at Midrand, South Africa, and the meeting of the Group of Seven in Lyon, France — have fully subscribed to the concept. We are therefore encouraged to think that the time has come for the establishment of a new global human order that would be based on respect for national sovereignty, participatory democracy, socio-economic equality, people-centred development and the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We know that such an order or partnership — call it what you will — will not be easy to create and will require the adoption of a fundamentally new development paradigm which will bring together all actors, governmental and non-governmental alike, as well as multilateral and regional institutions, to work together for economic and social progress.

At a symposium which was hosted in August 1996 by the Government of Guyana, ample consideration was given to ways and means of promoting this new order. In light of the changed political, economic and social circumstances of the world today, the conference agreed inter alia, that, since the enormous debt burden continued to inhibit development, serious consideration should be given to the cancellation of the debt of the least developed countries; a significant reduction in multilateral debt; and a reduction of the remaining debt stock to sustainable levels for the other developing countries, with debt-service payments limited to 10 per cent of exports, provided that 50 per cent of the savings are used for social sector development. There should also be a significant increase in transfers of long-term development finance to developing countries by, first, attaining the existing official development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product by mobilizing new and additional sources of finance; secondly, creating a global fund by mobilizing resources using new and innovative measures, such as the Tobin tax and environment-related levies from which Governments in both the North and the South would benefit; and, thirdly, introducing measures to stabilize the international monetary system and financial markets.

In our efforts to promote the concept of the new global human order, we believe that serious consideration should also be given to the establishment of a fair and equitable trading system, including the provision of reliable access to the markets of the North. Such a system should take into account the special needs of small developing States; ensure fair and stable commodity prices; secure a renegotiation of the provisions of the World Trade Organization, especially with respect to trade and environment, intellectual property rights and foreign direct investments; a reduction and relaxation of conditions attached to future financial transfers; a new emphasis on the expansion of production and growth for sustainable development and a safe physical environment in the south; the development of the social sector as a focus of any new programme with emphasis on education, human resources, health and the development needs of women, children and indigenous peoples; and the enhancement of efforts to democratize and strengthen the United Nations and to restructure other multilateral financial institutions to respond more effectively to the challenge of people-centred development

In this regard, we must quickly resolve the financial crisis in which the Organization finds itself. Member States, particularly the developed countries, must honour their payment obligations so that the funding of all United Nations activities may be placed on a sound and predictable basis.

These are some of the measures which my Government believes need to be taken urgently by the international community in order to promote global peace and security. Admittedly, some, if not all, may seem in the eyes of many to be too bold and far- reaching. Yet, if they are not implemented soon, we run the grave risk of jeopardizing the future of generations to come. We have the moral imperative to act swiftly to prevent the further decline of our peoples and, indeed, of our entire civilization. Let us therefore resolve to make this fifty-first session of the General Assembly a decisive turning point in the life of the Organization and an opportunity for forging a just and enlightened partnership among the peoples of the world.