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22nd Special Session of the United Nations to review and appraise the implementation of the Barbados Program of Action for the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States

Monday, 27 September 1999
Honorable Hiroshi Yamamura
New York

Mr. President, I bring you warm greetings and congratulations on your election to preside over this very important special session of the General Assembly from His Excellency President Imata Kabua of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The President was unable to be present due to urgent Government matters. It is a pleasure for me to personally welcome and congratulate the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru and the Kingdom of Tonga on their admission as full Members of the United Nations. Our friends and neighbors from the Pacific have now taken their rightful place in the United Nations, and we look forward to cooperate with them in the future work of this Organization.  A much comprehensive statement is being circulated, and I will just summarize a few points.


Mr. President, my delegation fully endorses the statements made by the Chairman of the Group of 77, and by the Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States.


Our late President, His Excellency Amata Kabua returned from the Rio Conference full of enthusiasm and hope. At the Barbados Conference the Marshall Islands delegation was optimistic that a new dawn of international dialogue with the Small Island Developing States was about to ensue. We felt that the Barbados Conference would lay down the fundamental principles of cooperation that our President had endorsed at Rio. As such we were very pleased with the results of Barbados. The Declaration and the Programme of Action are great documents that we have taken into our national deliberations.


It is my pleasure to announce the completion of the domestic preparations for the establishment of the National Commission on Sustainable Development, to ensure that all the chapters of the Barbados Program of Action as well as Agenda 21 are translated into tangible policies and concrete project proposals for the Marshall Islands. National priorities and assessment of progress will be established within the context of each chapter. We are also looking at how we may integrate the decisions and conclusions of the Commission on Sustainable Development, as well as of major meetings such as this.


While the Marshall Islands is seeking to be proactive in the implementation of the Barbados Program of Action, overall progress will only be achieved through proactive actions by the international community as well. The declining financial and technical support is quite alarming. What little has been received has been limited, and has mostly come from our long time friends. It is clear that the Barbados Program of Action has brought us little new in terms of financial support for sustainable development projects. We certainly have not seen what the Barbados Program of Action describes as “effective means, including adequate, predictable new and additional financial resources in accordance with chapter 33 of Agenda 21”. The Marshall Islands together with the other Alliance of Small Island States countries have tried to address this matter in our contributions to the further initiatives that we hope will be adopted by this Special Session. While my delegation is pleased that we are approaching a consensus, we have been disappointed that there have been attempts to back away from the financial commitments of the Barbados Program of Action. All Small Island Developing States face the same problems, as recognized in the Barbados Program of Action. Least developed as well as developing members of our Alliance should be given the appropriate assistance, bearing in mind their circumstances – They are all Small Islands States!


Mr. President, the Marshall Islands is a country on the frontline of climate change. Our difficult situation is made more precarious for the future by the lack of progress in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. We see little evidence that there will be a concerted effort by the countries primarily responsible for climate change – the industrialized and rich countries – will do anything serious until they feel the effects of climate change on their own bodies. The tragic results of the recent hurricanes of death and destruction are just appetizers for what is to come.


Marshall Islands hosted a workshop for the Alliance of Small Island States countries in Majuro in July this year. We were able to welcome participants from all regions of the Alliance, as well as other invited experts, through the generous support from our friends. My Government was asked to ensure that the document adopted – the Majuro Statement on Climate Change – was brought to the attention of the international community, in particular to this special session. Consequently, with the assistance of the Secretary General we have been able to circulate this document as A/S-22/5. In his opening statement to the workshop, the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, His Excellency Imata Kabua, stated that the issue of climate change was not simply a Small Island Developing States issue. Clearly it is a responsibility for all humankind to deal with. The cooperative outcome that was achieved by the workshop was in our view a welcome contribution to this aim.


I wish to also take this opportunity to thank SIDSNet, both for their participation at the workshop, as well as for their dissemination of the report on the Internet. SIDSNet is well worthy of our continued support, and we are constantly impressed at how much SIDSNet has been able to do with such limited resources. It is discouraging however that SIDSNet continues to have to do more with fewer resources. Other agencies are in a similar position.


Mr. President, Marshall Islands has taken the step of trying to do more than what is required of us in our response to climate change concerns. Even though our emissions are so low they do not show up on the scales used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we are trying to seek to make them even lower. We are currently in the process of finalizing a sustainable energy development policy. This will become part of our overall national sustainable development efforts, but will have targeted outcomes such as the reduction of our emissions and moving the economy away from fossil fuels to the extent possible. We hope that others will take similar steps, especially those countries most responsible for our current predicament.


Mr. President, the international community should be more cognizant of the calamities of climate change which are at this stage major threat to Small Island Developing States and low lying coastal areas. We are a pragmatic group of countries, and we seek to cooperate, not to confront. But, as my delegation has stated before, it is our considered view that our strong positions are not unreasonable. If faced by imminent destruction, most other countries would have taken up arms.


Furthermore Mr. President, the UN system must become more responsive to our modest requirements and our very reasoned project proposals. We have been receiving some assistance over the last few years from United Nations Development Program, and my Government has welcomed this. But these are first steps, and must be complemented by further action. In this regard we welcome the announcement of the strengthening of the SIDS Unit as a positive step towards this goal. We will make liberal use of this facility in the next few months, and we thank the Government of Norway for their generous support and contribution.


As I have stated Mr. President, sustainable development is of great importance to the Marshall Islands, as it is to all other countries. Our commitment is to reduce poverty, and to develop our economy. We must move into a new commitment to sustainable development, which we have described as moving beyond giving a man a fish. Rather than having food for just one day, we must teach him how to fish and he can live and prosper in independence.


In conclusion, Mr. President, we will continue to be a cooperative partner with the international community and we will use all opportunities to promote our concerns together with our Alliance of Small Island States. You can count on us to strive for the peaceful and cooperative spirit of Rio and Barbados to be the driving force in our deliberations.


Thank you.