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Statement of H. E. Mr. S. R. Insanally, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guyana, in the General Debate of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly

Thursday, 15 November 2001

Although the embers from the towering infernos which resulted from the attacks on 11 September have not fully died, it may nevertheless be possible to analyse the impact which that horrific disaster has had on international relations and, more particularly, the political, economic, and social consequences which it is likely to have for the world. Such an analysis, it is to be hoped, will instruct us on how we may best respond to these new challenges and pursue the twin goals of global peace and development in this new, twenty-first century.

Mr. President, it augurs well that this examination will be conducted under your guidance, since, coming as you do from the land of the morning calm, you will no doubt bring to bear on our debate not only a fresh and dispassionate view, but also a ray of hope after the long dark night through which we have just passed. My delegation offers you our warmest congratulations and good wishes as you continue to preside over the work of this historic General Assembly, which, though inaugurated in the depths of despair, may yet hold out the promise of salvation for mankind.

It would be remiss of me were I not also to extend our gratitude to your distinguished predecessor, Mr. Harri Holkeri, who presided with great verve and vigour over the Assembly through very difficult and interesting times. He has contributed much to the revitalization of the General Assembly.

To the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, I convey our greetings and commendation for his sure and steady leadership of our Organization. The recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to him and the United Nations is a source of great satisfaction and pride for Guyana and, indeed, for the entire membership of this body.

As was so aptly stated by the Economist of 15 September, the terrorist attack on the United States altered the geopolitical landscape as indelibly as it did the Manhattan skyline. The world is a changed place since that horrendous event, changed in that we suddenly find, under threat, by unorthodox and hitherto unimaginable means, the values by which our Organization is driven, values the attainment of which have been the object of our onerous and protracted labours for a period extending over many decades. We cannot help but feel a sense of sorrow and shame that such a barbaric act — as the destruction of the World Trade Center and a part of the Pentagon most certainly was — could have occurred in this day and age only a short distance from this house of our common humanity.

Like most leaders of the civilized world, the President of Guyana was swift to condemn this egregious crime. As a small and vulnerable State, with limited ability to defend itself in the event of encroachment on its territorial integrity, Guyana cannot accept the threat or the use of violence to resolve conflicts and disputes, whether inter-State or intra-State. All differences must be settled, as called for in the Charter of the United Nations, by peaceful means, such as those prescribed in Article 33.

The violence which was visited two months ago upon some 5,000 human beings — including many of our own nationals — in this our host city and, indeed, before that, upon so many other peoples and places in the world, must be not only roundly condemned but also condignly punished. The international community must now develop an arsenal of appropriate legal instruments, including a comprehensive convention against terrorism, to combat this new enemy of our times. The message must be clearly sent to all who would use terrorism to pursue their objectives that their actions will not be tolerated by the Members of this Organization but, instead, will be dealt with firmly with the full force of the law.

At home and in our various regions, we must build defences that are strong enough to keep out terrorism and its concomitants, such as arms and drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crime. Within the Caribbean Community, of which Guyana is a member, we have agreed to set up mechanisms for information sharing and coordinated action to deny these criminal elements access to our territories. A regional task force has been established to identify measures necessary to creating a cordon sanitaire to help insulate us from their onslaught. This is not an easy mandate since, as the immigration doors in the developed countries become more tightly closed, hundreds of criminals who have grown up in these societies are being deported now to our countries which, because of severe financial and human constraints, are ill-equipped to handle this influx.

Although perhaps not as immediate or striking as these political and security consequences, the economic and social impact of the 11 September disaster has been no less powerful and pervasive. All countries have undoubtedly been affected by the disaster, but small and vulnerable States such as my own will find it especially difficult to cope with the resulting hardship. Our countries, with far fewer alternatives available to them than to the more developed, because of an unfavourable international economic system, high levels of external debt and unequal terms of trade, will suffer disproportionately. The exporters of primary products, now as in the past, are the first to suffer a downturn in the world economy and the last to recover — a process that occurs with a frequency that is altogether too depressing.

These imbalances and asymmetries which seriously affect the progress of developing countries are now likely to become even more pronounced in the rapid process of globalization. Still, as is often said, "It’s an ill wind that does not blow some good". We would therefore wish to believe that out of the calamity will come an improvement in our lot. We should not be so foolish, however, as to think that this will happen automatically. Salvation will depend on our willingness to learn from our experience and to do better in the future. From the ashes of the Second World War arose the phoenix of the United Nations, giving hope to new generations that they could live in peace, prosperity and larger freedom. Sadly, the end of the cold war did not generate a similarly bold enterprise, leaving humanity to wander aimlessly in search of peaceful coexistence. We must therefore, before it is too late, honour our commitment to the United Nations Charter and create a new vision and strategy with which we may face the challenges of this new era.

In keeping with the spirit and substance of our historic compromise, we must act responsibly to remove from our midst all threats to global peace and security. Foremost among these is the situation in the Middle East, at the core of which is the Palestinian problem, stemming from the persistent denial to an entire people of the enjoyment of their basic and inalienable rights. The peace process must be immediately re-engaged with seriousness of purpose and determination to put an end, once and for all, to the senseless violence and bloodshed which has been the unhappy fate of the Palestinian people and others. They, as well as all other peoples in the region, must be allowed to live in a State of their own, free from fear or want, within safe and secure borders. However, it is not only the Middle East which suffers from the ravages of conflict. In far too many places — in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe, the risk of violence is ever present, fuelled by a variety of factors and made more dangerous by the possibility of further conflagration. To avert these threats, we must fully utilize the machinery provided in the Charter for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Yet, it is important in all of this that the Agenda for Peace not be allowed to diminish or to displace the Agenda for Development since, were this to happen, the prospects for any durable peace anywhere would be virtually non-existent. Peace and development are inextricably intertwined, and any attempt to separate them would not only be artificial but totally dangerous. We would do well to bear this in mind should recent events prompt a reordering of global priorities and lead to a diversion of attention from economic and social issues to purely political and security concerns. Already, in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the President of the World Bank was reported to have said that the 2015 target for halving global poverty could not now be reached and that, in fact, poverty would increase over the next year or two. This deterioration is not easily contemplated by small economies like our own and those of the Caribbean region.

In our view, it is imperative that the United Nations now actively pursue the Agenda for Development to enable developing countries, especially the small and the vulnerable, to ride out the current political and economic storms. The upcoming International Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place in Monterrey, Mexico, next March, represents a unique opportunity to examine both the internal and external constraints that significantly affect the mobilization of financial resources for development, as well as to collectively address the inefficiencies and inequities of existing financial markets. The high concentration of these markets on existing financial assets aimed at short-term profit, rather than on new assets linked to the creation of wealth and employment for longer-term development, remains a source of great concern and must be remedied.

I think that we all must now acknowledge that the prevailing international system of development cooperation is seriously flawed and has failed to achieve its primary objective of increasing growth and improving the quality of life in poor countries. Inherent in this system are many debt and poverty traps that continue to ensnare millions of the world’s poorest people, many of whom now have to face diseases such as AIDS. Not only is the experience painful, but it often also deprives the poor of their basic human rights, there being an undoubted nexus, now universally recognized, between the actualization of human rights and economic development. It is out of this recognition that my delegation, last November, brought resolution 55/48 before the General Assembly on the role of the United Nations in promoting a new global human order.

The proposal for such an order acknowledges that the major constraints affecting economic and social progress in developing countries reside in the capacity limitation in the critical areas of markets, administrative and institutional infrastructures in both the public and private sectors, the leveraging of resources and the ability of developing countries to negotiate as equal partners in a number of forums outside the United Nations. This proposal therefore seeks to improve the effectiveness of development cooperation programmes, to optimize scarce financial resources and to reduce the spread of poverty. It also addresses new ways of managing development cooperation that would significantly overcome problems of aid dependence, current imbalances and asymmetries in international trade, and the high indebtedness that continues to plague developing countries.

These objectives, in the view of the Government of Guyana, can be achieved through a comprehensive dialogue among Governments, based not only on political and economic considerations, but also on ethical and moral principles that are necessary to the creation of a more humane and just order in the world. This dialogue, which began at the last session of the General Assembly, will be renewed at the fifty-seventh session, when, we hope, the concept will be further embedded in the international consciousness and ultimately accepted as the way forward to a more enlightened system of international relations.

It is entirely appropriate that this dialogue should be held within the United Nations, since the multifaceted and transnational nature of today’s challenges requires a multilateral, rather than a unilateral, approach. There is no doubt that the United Nations is ideally suited to promote this global partnership in an environment that today requires firm, focused and inclusive governance. Given the universality of the Organization’s membership, the principles and values that it has long upheld and the growing interest of civil society in its activities, the United Nations has a singular opportunity now to exercise a leadership role in international political, social and economic policy-making.

At this time of great uncertainty and trepidation, therefore, we must recognize, now more than ever before, the continuing need for the United Nations Organization which, despite its many achievements in its 56 years of existence, has yet to fulfil its full potential with regard to international cooperation. We must therefore not allow complacency, self-interest or unilateralism to compromise that global vision of the founding Members.