October 2, 2007: Statement of H. E. Mr. S. R. Insanally, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guyana, in the General Debate of the 62nd session of the General Assembly
15 August 2008 / 03:19
At the outset of my statement, I wish to offer the President and our newly appointed Secretary-General my warmest congratulations and best wishes for the success of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, which has as its main focus the impact of climate change on global peace and development.
As the recently concluded High-level Event revealed, there is now a greater awareness of that issue and of the need to address them with greater urgency. Like the legendary Rip Van Winkle, we appear to have finally awakened from a long and deep slumber, only to find that the world around us is in serious danger of degradation. Our environment has become frightening. As a result of the increased consumption of fossil fuels in past decades, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by more than 25 per cent, which will, if unmitigated, eventually lead to a rise in the Earth ’s temperature of more than 5 degrees in the years ahead. Such warming is likely to produce an increase in sea levels of almost 2 metres. Since one third of the world’s population lives close to coastlines, such an elevation will have a disastrous impact on the living conditions of many millions. At the same time, the world’s forests are said to be vanishing at a rate of 15 million hectares a year, threatening the loss of almost 50 per cent of the forest cover in developing countries. Altogether, those climatic changes will take a heavy toll on the economic and social growth of many countries, through a higher incidence of drought, desertification, flooding and other natural disasters.
The primary responsibility for this environmental degradation has been laid — quite rightly — at the door of those developed countries whose industrialization policies and programmes have shown scant regard for preservation of the global ecosystem. By piggybacking on the natural assets of developing countries, those States have achieved astonishing economic and social progress and have created consumerist societies whose appetites for ever-greater extravagance know no bounds and must be satisfied at all costs.
In the face of mounting evidence that climate change does in fact imperil the Earth and its resources, some developed States appear willing to accept — albeit reluctantly — that carbon emissions must be significantly reduced to preserve the ozone layer as a shield from the effects of greenhouse gases. Even so, they do not seem prepared to accept primary responsibility for protecting the environment. Instead of “common but differentiated responsibility”, they speak of “shared responsibility”, clearly demanding a greater contribution by developing countries to the campaign against climate change. This demand often becomes a conditionality for any development assistance they offer.
For the many developing countries which suffer from a chronic lack of resources, this imposition is clearly unequal and unfair. These States, including many in sub-Saharan Africa , small islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and low-lying coastal States like my own, are especially vulnerable to climatic changes and, consequently, disaster prone. The Barbados Programme of Action and the subsequent Mauritius Strategy were both devised for the purpose of alleviating the destructive impact of the many natural disasters faced by these disadvantaged countries. However, despite their initial promise, these agreements have yet to yield the measure of assistance needed by small States to overcome the consequences of climate change. Invariably, these affected countries must rely on their own limited resources to protect their environment from harm.
Guyana fully understood and responded to the challenges of climate change when, more than a decade ago, it made available to the international community almost one million acres of its pristine forest for the study of bio-diversity and the sustainable development of forestry. However, the future of this project is now threatened, since financial support from the international community has become increasingly scarce. At the same time, as our President stated at the High-level Event, the Kyoto Protocol rewards — quite perversely, I might add — those States which burn and pillage their resources but punishes others like Guyana which are committed to preserving their standing forests. This inequity should no longer be tolerated.
It is very important that any post-Kyoto agreement be endowed with the resources necessary for its full implementation. Development assistance statistics have shown a marked diminution in levels from past years, with little promise of the additional or new financing needed for environment-related projects. There, therefore, needs to be what has been called a partnership for additionality which, in return for a commitment by countries to the preservation of the environment, will provide adequate and predictable financing to allow them to pursue a path of accelerated and sustainable development. It is high time to honour the commitments made at the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development.
As a country which is below sea-level, Guyana has been further sensitized to the threat of climate change as a result of frequent floods that wreak economic havoc on our coastal population. The last major inundation was in 2005, when the economic loss suffered was, according to the estimate of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean , nearly 60 per cent of the country ’s gross domestic product. Unfortunately for us, the tragedy, occurring as it did around the same time as the tsunami disaster, did not feature prominently on the international radar screen and, therefore, received little notice in the wider community. However, thanks to the assistance of a few friendly countries and the resilience of our own people, we are on the road to recovery. That experience, however, impels us to renew our call in this Assembly for the strengthening of multilateral facilities to provide all victims of such natural disasters with prompt and adequate relief.
As both the outcome of the High-level Event and the statements heard so far in this Assembly make clear, the battle against climate change cannot be won unless a truly global effort is made to save the planet. In the words of my country ’s national poet, Martin Carter , in his poem entitled “All are involved”:
“Like a jig
shakes the loom;
Like a web
is spun the pattern;
all are involved
all are consumed ” (All are involved)
Therefore, unless all of us, both Governments and peoples, accept in a deep and meaningful way the imperative of prudent environmental management, our civilization, such as we know it, will disappear.
In this new era of globalization, humankind has been made acutely aware of the deep interdependence of nations and the concomitant need for cooperation with one another to ensure our common survival. This awareness notwithstanding, many in the developed world continue to practise their misguided “beggar-thy-neighbour” policy, which effectively precludes developing countries from satisfying the aspirations of their people.
Take, for example, the area of trade and economic cooperation, the main pillar on which globalization has been built. The developed countries continue to propagate the thesis that free trade will guarantee prosperity for all. The reality is that most countries, including my own, simply cannot compete successfully in fully liberalized markets unless they are assisted in making a gradual transition. Instead of assistance, however, some of the preferences that we enjoyed hitherto in some markets are being summarily withdrawn.
Witness the unilateral denunciation last week by the European Union of the Sugar Protocol, a legally binding instrument of indefinite duration, which governs the sugar exports of many African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to Europe . This step comes in the midst of negotiations on this issue and is clearly a sign of bad faith. It has been taken without adequate consultation and clarification and contradicts the European Union ’s own lectures to us on partnership and good governance. As a result of this action, thousands of our citizens, especially the rural poor, whose lives depend upon the sugar industry, will likely face great hardship. It is, therefore, imperative that in the negotiation of future trade arrangements, including the Doha Round, due regard be paid to the development challenges of small States.
Similarly, in the area of peace and security there is continuing blatant disregard of the rule of law by many States that, in pursuit of their own selfish national interests, do not hesitate to fan the flames of conflict in various parts of the world. As a consequence, millions in Darfur , in Palestine , in the Middle East and elsewhere are forced to endure unspeakable pain and suffering — pain and suffering which, in today’s world of instant communication, we not only hear about but also actually see and feel in real time. Our common humanity obliges us to call once again for a return to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, and in particular the peaceful settlement of disputes, wherever and whenever they occur.
In this context, I am pleased to announce that last month on 20 September an arbitral tribunal of great eminence under the presidency of Judge Dolliver Nelson, distinguished former President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, sitting pursuant to Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, handed down a decision regarding the maritime boundary between Guyana and neighbouring Suriname. The President of Guyana described the decision as just and erudite; the President of Suriname called it fair and equitable. It was another feather in the crown of international law, another blow struck against the resort to force and another victory for lawful and peaceful processes in the settlement of disputes.
Guyana had initiated recourse to the dispute settlement provisions of the Convention, which, I am happy to recall, was brought into force by our country ’ s ratification in 1993. Under the aegis of a United Nations regime created by internationalism and the rule of international law, our two small countries can now pursue the development of their maritime space without the encumbrance of a dispute. It is an example of the peaceful settlement of a dispute that others might emulate.
In further demonstration of its commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, my Government has placed before the General Assembly an initiative calling for a new global human order based on the principles of equity and social justice. It is born out of our conviction that, given the failure of our past efforts, the world now needs to formulate a qualitatively different and more holistic strategy, leading to a stronger political consensus and broad-based partnership before the General Assembly. The draft resolution now enjoys the sponsorship of forty-nine States and will in time, we hope, command the support of the entire international community.
As this new era of globalization unfolds, with its many challenges and opportunities, I invite this Assembly to support fully our appeal for the firm establishment of a more enlightened and compassionate model of multilateralism as the cornerstone of future international relations.