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Address by H. E. Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana, to the Millennium Summit, fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly

Wednesday, 06 September 2000

This Millennium Summit has raised the expectations of the world’s peoples that out of it will come renewed commitment and determined action on the part of the United Nations Organization, to secure for them a future of global peace and development. I bring to this forum the aspirations of my people for a better life in the hope that they will be speedily satisfied.

In this regard, I offer to Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General, our sincere appreciation for the very thoughtful and incisive report which he has laid before us at this meeting.

Without anticipating the conclusions of the interactive dialogue over the next few days, I believe that there is one compelling lesson that can be drawn even now — and that is, if humankind is to live in freedom from fear and want, it must be of one mind and purpose. If nothing else our shared experience has taught us that it is no longer possible to live in isolation. Indeed, if we are to survive as a civilization and even as a species, we must come to learn the virtues of interdependence and international cooperation. Survival will not necessarily be of the fittest, but will depend rather on the sturdiness and steadfastness of the general will. It will depend also on our ability to create a new global human order in which every man, woman and child is allowed an opportunity to enjoy a decent standard of living. Ultimately, it will depend on whether or not, we as leaders both in the North and South, are prepared to subscribe to and uphold values and principles such as democratic governance, respect for human rights and international law, justice and equality.

As a newly restored democracy, my own Government has placed people at the centre of development. We have sought to involve them fully in the process of decision-making. We have reached out to the private sector and civil society as a whole so that they can become not only beneficiaries of development but also contributors. Persuaded of the need for national capacity-building, my Government continues to devote an increasing percentage of our national budget to the improvement of the social sector, particularly in such vital areas as health, housing, education and training.

However, our efforts remain limited by scarce development financing. Although alleviated by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and other related arrangements, our debt burden, the servicing of which accounts for more than 50 per cent of government revenue, remains a serious impediment to progress. There is an urgent need for deeper and wider relief to allow small countries such as ours to compete in the global marketplace.

As I stated at the South Summit, which was held earlier this year in Havana, only a fundamental reform of the international economic and financial system can satisfy these needs. The prevailing model of development by which countries implement sound internal policies but fail to progress because of external factors is disastrous. It must be replaced by another paradigm that allows developing countries to participate in the global economy while protecting them from its volatility. Moreover, the success of the model should not be measured by standard economic indicators but by its ability to reduce poverty and empower people.

As we search for this new model we cannot be blind to breaches of international peace and stability which render development difficult if not impossible. The threat or the use of force to resolve disputes — whether inter-State or intra-State — militates against national economic and social progress and must therefore be condemned. The international community must deal swiftly and condignly with such conflicts and demand from all States full respect for the United Nations Charter and the rules and principles of international law. An expanded and more democratic Security Council could, in my view, serve to preserve global security.

On my return to Guyana, my people will be sure to ask of me — What good has this Summit brought us? Will it serve to reduce poverty and create jobs for our young people and social security for our old? Will it help our country to bridge the development and digital divides which now deny us the possibility of full and productive participation in the global economy? I would like to be able to respond positively to these concerns and to assure them that the new millennium will bring them both peace and prosperity.

I know, however, that the hopes and promises of this event will only be realized if there is strong and shared determination by all States to create a new vision and strategy to achieve international sustainable development. I invite my colleague Heads of State and Government to join this enterprise to build a brave new world for this and all generations to come.