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30 June 2008 / 06:04

Permit me first of all to congratulate you, Sir, on your election to the presidency of the General Assembly at its forty-ninth session. I am confident that under your skilful guidance the Assembly will move forward in responding to the many complex issues on our agenda. You are equally assured of the full and unstinting support of Guyana in the discharge of your responsibilities in the period ahead.

Guyana was very honoured to have held the presidency of the forty-eighth session of the General Assembly. On behalf of the Government and the people of Guyana, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for the confidence and support given to Ambassador Insanally during his tenure of office.

I have every confidence too that the work of the Organization will benefit much from the dynamic leadership of Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and his dedicated staff. They deserve our admiration and encouragement in the performance of their praiseworthy but often difficult tasks.

The forty-ninth session of the General Assembly takes place at a momentous time. There have been changes, many of which have had a significant impact on global relations. World events now testify to the need for an Organization which is equipped to meet every challenge posed to it.

The world is observing the United Nations and will not fail to pass judgement on its activities. While much has been accomplished, there are still considerable challenges ahead of us. An overview of the United Nations and its achievements has pointed to a greater awareness of its role in the world. Increasingly, the Organization is being called upon to respond to and resolve critical situations confronting our global community. Our responses, while effective in many cases, are still inadequate. It is now imperative that we move beyond merely responding to individual crises to address the fundamental causes of conflict and threats to global stability.

In the year ahead, Guyana will work with the Assembly to make the United Nations more responsive to the altered situation we face in the post-cold-war era. We shall strive with others to make the Security Council more equitable and effective, so that it may better discharge the functions allocated to it under the Charter. As a priority, we shall seek to promote the work of the Organization in the formulation and implementation of an agenda for development, which should complement “An Agenda for Peace”. Equally important, we will press for the revitalization of this Assembly in order that, as the most representative body of the United Nations, it may harmonize our efforts to promote global peace and development.

Efforts to achieve peace and security in the face of overwhelming odds reflect the desire of Member States to dwell in harmony, however difficult such an aim may be. They also reflect the increasing importance of peaceful negotiations to settle conflicts and to solve economic, social and human problems.

The eruption of conflicts, primarily within States, and the ever-present threat of eruption in other States has stymied the hope of a new international order that would address these issues and hopefully proffer solutions. In this context I wish to refer to the proposals of President Cheddi Jagan on a new global humanitarian order, in response to General Assembly resolution 47/106 of 16 December 1992.

In his work, President Jagan has stressed the debilitating effects of poverty and hunger and the urgent need for concerted action to alleviate their effects. But apart from these classic humanitarian concerns, he has sought to broaden the tableau to include the entire spectrum of human development and related issues. Thus, he promotes the principles of international interdependence and cooperation which will recognize the primacy of human development as a sine qua non for a peaceful and orderly existence.

He has emphasized the need for good governance and popular participation in decision-making as the cornerstone for a new type of development, which will take into consideration the satisfaction of basic human needs in health, education, housing and the right to productive employment for all.

My Government has recognized that the question of basic human needs cannot be ignored. It is a prerequisite for good order and stability, which would in turn produce a stable political environment. Governments cannot afford to allow the growth of social discontent that is engendered by the vicious circle of debt, poverty and economic deprivation.

There are many countries, not least my own, which suffer, not from open and violent conflict, but from the residue of a crushing external debt and the debilitating effects of an ongoing structural adjustment programme. In spite of all this, my Government is committed to providing for its people the basic necessities of health, housing, education and an economic and a social environment for both men and women to achieve their full potential. Some of the factors that inhibit advances towards a new economic and social order are attributed to the prevailing inequitable terms of trade and the persistent reduction in commodity earnings of exporters of primary products.

However, social and economic problems are now not confined to developing countries. In this era of greater interdependence among nations and increasing globalization, issues and problems of economic growth and development, poverty, population growth and environmental destruction have become global. It is therefore necessary to first of all address the root causes of these problems before any tangible and lasting solutions are achieved.

President Jagan's proposals for a New Global Humanitarian Order have therefore taken into account the globalization of these pressing issues. His proposals directly relate to the work of the General Assembly on “An Agenda for Development”; the Rio de Janeiro Conference of 1992; the Conference of Small Island Developing States; the recently concluded World Conference on Population and Development; the forthcoming World Summit on Social Development; and the Fourth World Conference on Women. It is therefore my Government's fervent hope that this forty-ninth session will result in positive measures being taken to address the economic, social and humanitarian problems prevailing in the world today. We have shown the capacity to resolve supposedly intractable problems. I may refer here to the end of the iniquitous system of apartheid, when we all felt a sense of pride and accomplishment at the readmission of South Africa to the United Nations on 23 June 1994.

I may also refer to the Middle East where we have seen a marvellous example of what can be achieved through patient diplomacy and dialogue, by the recent signing of a Peace Accord between Israel and Jordan. The earlier signature of the Declaration of Principles, together with the current self-rule in Gaza, point to the statesmanship of the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian people and the other parties to a conflict which has dragged on for far too long.

We have seen the convening of a World Conference on Human Rights and the appointment of a High Commissioner for Human Rights, events which point to the increasing concern of the United Nations for the protection of human rights and for the improvement of the economic and social conditions of mankind.

In my own region, we see the possibility of the restoration of democracy in Haiti. The multinational operation now under way, of which Guyana is a part, offers the hope that, notwithstanding its inherent difficulties, the illegal government will finally abandon power. Guyana is pledged to participate in the process leading to the prompt return of peace and stability in Haiti. The international community must now work together to assist in the rebuilding of that country's institutions, as well as its economy, as a safeguard to its future welfare.

We are happy that the United States and Cuba were able to meet here in New York and come to a positive agreement on the migration issue. We hope that the maturity displayed in those negotiations will spill over to a correlative issue, the economic embargo, and that Cuba will be allowed to pursue its economic rehabilitation for the benefit of its people.

A peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem, which has seemed to be elusive, continues to be our great desire. Guyana remains hopeful that the efforts of the Secretary-General and the goodwill of the parties involved will lead to a satisfactory solution.

I am convinced that this Organisation can and will achieve greater success for a better world. I would therefore urge serious consideration of the “New Global Humanitarian Order”, which is aimed at fusing various aspects of past and future undertakings by this Assembly. This new order will effectively bridge the gap between rhetoric and implementation, and will succeed in dealing directly with the common problems which face us all.

As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, I appeal to those present here today to reflect on the spirit of solidarity which inspired the Charter of the United Nations. Let us therefore work together to enhance the role of this august body. Let us also, through mutual respect and tolerance, work to promote better relations between all nations and peoples.