Please note that all PDF documents are marked as such and will open in a new browser window.
30 June 2008 / 06:00

In another two weeks we will be commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of this Organization. We shall do so with much ceremony. I would hope, however, that we will go beyond the ceremonial to take the opportunity which the occasion provides us to reflect further on the role of the Organization and on the ways and means by which its performance can be enhanced to serve better the needs of its Members in the coming twenty-first century.

We offer Mr. Freitas do Amaral our warmest congratulations on his election. We are confident that, with his demonstrated ability and skills, he will advance us even further in our task of reforming and restructuring the Organization so that it may successfully confront the challenges which the post-cold-war era has brought. He may be sure that we will fully cooperate with him to make the deliberations of the fiftieth session of this Assembly as constructive as possible.

My Government is grateful to the outgoing President of the Assembly, Mr. Amara Essy of Côte d'Ivoire, for the initiatives which he took during his term of office to improve the functioning of the institution at this critical time of its existence.

We would also wish to say a special word of appreciation to the distinguished Secretary-General, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and his staff for their continuing devotion to the servicing of our many requirements. Their support for our efforts will undoubtedly guarantee our ultimate success.

It is vitally important that the dynamism and effectiveness of the United Nations be increased if it is adequately to discharge its many tasks. Since the Organization was founded almost five decades ago, the world has changed considerably and international problems have become much more complex. The United Nations today bears a heavier load of responsibility than ever before. Ironically, at the same time, it is saddled with a deepening financial crisis which makes its effectiveness and its very future highly uncertain. This situation cannot continue without adverse consequences for the world community.

The expanding nature of many peace-keeping operations not only places an added financial strain on the finances of the United Nations, but is especially burdensome for small developing countries, such as mine, which are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil our financial obligations to the Organization. Support for these operations represents a continuing drain on our limited resources and hampers our own efforts at development. Yet as conflicts multiply the United Nations will be called upon to mount more operations to keep the peace.

Given the urgency of these demands, we have no choice but to try and meet them. The time has therefore come for us to put the financing of these undertakings on a more reliable footing. We urge all States, especially the major defaulting countries, to honour fully their obligations to the Organization.

It must be a matter of growing concern to the international community that the peace and prosperity expected in the aftermath of the cold war have not materialized. The world continues to face some of the worst threats to international stability. Violent conflicts arising from resurgent nationalisms and religious intolerance between and within States have proliferated. The unresolved situations in Afghanistan, Rwanda, parts of the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia have caused severe loss of life and destruction to property and have given rise to humanitarian crises of immense proportions.

The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains uncertain. The suffering of the Bosnian people, the total disregard for the safe havens and the constant threat to the international peace-keeping force demands that the international community take effective measures to end this senseless conflict. We welcome the prospects of a peaceful settlement which have resulted from the latest diplomatic initiative. With the international Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia now established, we hope that those responsible for the atrocities committed against the Bosnian people will be brought to trial.

We are equally concerned with the situation in Cyprus which, despite the efforts of the Secretary-General, appears to be worsening. There are reports of escalating tensions. We urge both sides to the dispute to respond urgently to his call for a negotiated solution which would preserve the island's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Although the Middle East continues to be volatile, we have reason today to believe that a comprehensive peace can be a reality in the not-too-distant future. The accords already signed between Israel and the Palestinians on the one hand and Israel and Jordan on the other show a willingness to reach a just and lasting solution. These achievements should serve as a catalyst for new initiatives. Many issues such as the refugee problem, security arrangements and borders, fundamental to the Palestine question, remain to be settled. The recent high-level negotiations between the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of Palestine must be considered a positive development. We hope that all remaining difficulties can be resolved in good faith by both sides with the help of this Organization and the international community.

In our own region we are pleased to see that peace and stability have been restored to a large degree in Haiti. Much has been accomplished since the return of the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in October 1994. We note in particular the practical steps taken by the Government of Haiti to organize free and fair legislative elections, as called for in Security Council resolution 940 (1994). The first of these elections has shown that more has to be done in terms of establishing an effective electoral machinery. The role of the International Civilian Mission and the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) in assisting the Haitian authorities to reinforce democracy remains crucial. The sustained commitment of the international community is indispensable to the prospects for long-term progress in Haiti. My Government is ready to provide whatever assistance it can to achieve this goal.

Today more than ever, the people of the world are making the United Nations the repository of their hopes. The Organization must therefore do its utmost to satisfy these expanded expectations. It must undertake whatever institutional reforms are necessary for adapting itself to the new international context. The urgency of our agenda makes it imperative for us to conclude as early as possible the work under way in the many Working Groups to secure the rationalization of our agenda, as well as the reform of the major organs of the United Nations. These reforms, which we believe to be essential and urgent, must be carried out with transparency and on a consensual basis. They must be realistic and be aimed at increasing efficiency. Above all, they must be in full accordance with the democratic purposes and principles of the Charter.

In so far as the reform of the Security Council is concerned, my Government supports an appropriate increase in membership. Such an increase should take account of the size of the current membership of the Organization and be reflective of the principle of equitable geographical representation. The discussions in the Working Group that was set up in accordance with resolution 48/26 have produced several interesting proposals for reform. These should now be more closely examined and evaluated to determine their feasibility. It is possible, we believe, to find an arrangement that would respond satisfactorily to the need for enhancing the Council's capacity to preserve international peace and security in the post-cold-war era.

A major responsibility of any reformed Council should be to give further impetus to the disarmament process. The decision taken by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to extend the agreement indefinitely reflects the commitment of all parties involved to work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. The extension of the Treaty, however, is not an end in itself. It must be followed by further steps towards complete nuclear disarmament, the dissemination of nuclear know-how for peaceful purposes, adequate security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States and the establishment of nuclear-weapon free zones. Especially important is the need to conclude a comprehensive test-ban treaty in order to preclude nuclear-weapon States from undertaking further hazardous experiments. We urge the Conference on Disarmament to proceed as expeditiously as possible to the elaboration of a universal and effective treaty within a fixed time frame.

The nuclear threat, as well as other hazards to which we are exposed, must make us all actually aware of our obligation to protect our fragile environment. Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, we have made some progress in a number of areas with regard to the implementation of Agenda 21. We have seen the coming into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification, as well as the holding in Barbados of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the adoption of the Barbados Programme of Action. Much more, however, remains to be done if we are adequately to honour the commitments made in Rio.

The terrible destruction inflicted recently by powerful hurricanes on several sister States in the Caribbean Community shows how vulnerable small States are to environmental disasters. Only two months ago my own country suffered major ecological damage as a result of severe leakages from the tailings pond dam at the Omai Gold Mines in the Essequibo region, causing some 1.2 million cubic metres of cyanide slurry to be discharged into the environment. Aquatic life in the river was endangered, while the inhabitants of nearby villages were exposed to serious health hazards. Fortunately, the Government of Guyana was able, with the assistance of friendly Governments and agencies of the United Nations system, to contain the danger. These disasters, both natural and man-made, point to the need for urgent international action to protect small countries such as ours.

Yet, three years after the Rio Conference, the commitments to provide financial resources to implement Agenda 21 remain largely on paper. The target of 0.7 per cent of official development assistance is still to be realized. New resources have simply not been available to undertake some of the programmes specified in the Agenda. Nor have we witnessed any significant transfer of suitable technology to developing countries. While the developing countries are ready to discharge their obligations, developed countries balk at making their contribution. The global partnership, which was so highly advocated and praised at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, is yet to be formed.

We are nevertheless encouraged by the adoption last August of the Draft Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. We hope that this Agreement, which will be opened for signature on 4 December 1995, will ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the living resources of the high seas identified in Agenda 21. This Agreement and the larger United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force in November 1994, are important to the sustainable development of the fishing industry in small States such as ours. We urge their full observance and implementation.

Overall economic development remains the single most important challenge facing Member States and, consequently, the United Nations. At various conferences, including the World Summit for Social Development, which was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, last March, we have repeatedly expressed our political will to address our diverse economic and social problems. We came away from Copenhagen ready to act, but we remain uncertain as to the way forward. Now that the Beijing Conference on women is behind us, the international community needs to summon even greater determination if it is to translate into action the bold decisions we have taken in this series of important summit meetings. These decisions should now be consolidated, and specific machinery set up for their implementation. It would indeed be a great pity if the painfully negotiated results of these high-level deliberations were left to evaporate.

The great divide between rich and poor, both among and within nations, must be considered a threat to world peace. The plight of developing countries, particularly the least-developed countries, compels urgent action. The problems of development, or rather of underdevelopment, can no longer be dealt with adequately on an ad hoc and piecemeal basis or through questionable structural-adjustment measures. What is required is fundamental reform of the international economic system, which continues to marginalize developing countries into a position of perpetual dependence. It is necessary to define new strategies and to agree on new modalities to reverse the present inequities in international economic relations.

The developing countries are willing to do their part in providing an environment favourable to growth. However, they urgently need significant debt relief, greater financial investment flows, the transfer of appropriate technology, the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers and just remuneration for commodities and raw materials. These are not new prescriptions; they are generally known to be essential for development. Thus far, however, developed countries have evinced notable reluctance to follow them, preferring instead to dispense small amounts of bilateral aid. Most of them have now further reduced this limited assistance. The root problems therefore remain unresolved.

The signing, in Marrakesh in 1994, of the Uruguay Round agreements has provided some hope that the playing-field for international trade will be levelled to induce the participation of developing countries. The recently created World Trade Organization, if properly oriented, may be able to provide a rule-based system that could encourage such participation. There is much to be said for the introduction of predictability into international economic relations, and we should therefore work to ensure that it is provided in whatever agreements we reach. The “Agenda for Development”, which we are in the process of elaborating, must embody the rights and obligations accepted by the parties.

In this context, Guyana attaches great importance to the conclusion of work on the Agenda. We view the Agenda as an overarching framework for international cooperation for development. We are therefore concerned that, while we work to establish the framework, we should also secure the necessary commitment of resources for effective implementation. In this regard, we believe that South-South cooperation should be considered as an integral and important element of international cooperation for development. International support for greater South-South cooperation cannot but enhance the prospects for world development, thereby increasing the potentialities of interdependence and partnership.

Economic growth cannot be sustained for long unless each individual citizen and each individual community has a stake in that growth and is empowered to take an active part in the development process. Moreover, economic growth would be meaningless if it were not equitably distributed. A society cannot find fulfilment in growth. Indeed, the development process itself is severely hampered if a society does not take adequate care of its vulnerable groups: women, children, ethnic minorities, the handicapped and the homeless. Development must therefore have a social dimension.

Conscious of this need, the President of Guyana, His Excellency Mr. Cheddi Jagan, has advanced the concept of a new global human order. An essential feature of this order would be the consensus that has now emerged in respect of development and governance, the role of the State and the market and sustainable environmentalism. While this consensus is to be welcomed, it is attended by new social, economic and political problems which will effectively prevent it from taking us forward. The solution of these problems calls for a new global commitment to human ideals and universal human development. In his own address to the Assembly, President Jagan will expand on this proposal with a view to securing an appropriate declaration on a new global order to which all States can subscribe.

As I said at the outset of my statement, we must not be content with merely celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations. The critical situation in which the world now finds itself demands from us a supreme effort to make full use of the opportunities which this historical conjuncture offers. The possibilities of interdependence and international cooperation have never been greater. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to grasp the chance we now have for creating a truly just and humane society of nations.