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3rd Summit of the Alliance of Small Island States

Saturday, 25 September 1999
H.E. Ambassador Jackeo A. Relang
New York

Mr. Chairman,


May I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate you for agreeing to chair this meeting. I bring you warm greetings from His Excellency President Imata Kabua of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. He has instructed me to bring to you his apologies for not being able to attend this Summit, as we was unexpectedly required to involve himself in other urgent matters for the Government. The Head of our delegation, H.E. The Honorable Hiroshi Yamamura, Minister of Internal Affairs, has been delayed by airline problems and will arrive later today.


Therefore, on behalf of the Government and People of the Marshall Islands I wish to thank you and thank Samoa for the important role that you are playing in the leadership of the Alliance of Small Island States. Your statement has indeed set the stage for our discussions here at this Summit. A number of issues come to mind regarding the sustainable development of our island countries, and how we as a group of countries can cooperate further for mutual benefit.


The Minister of Internal Affairs of my country has primary responsibility for the outer island communities, as well as for social development of the entire country. This task is in the view of my Government an integral task to achieving sustainable development; indeed, we feel it as one of the cornerstones that we require if we are to succeed. I have to admit that the task before us is not an easy one. We have been struggling with the problems of finding solutions that will work for the outer island communities. We know that there is great potential for their sustainable development, but we also know that there are constraints. These are familiar to all of you of course, as they apply to varying degrees to all of our countries. Distance, smallness, vulnerability, lack of infrastructure, colonial ties – these are all aspects which we have to overcome if we are to succeed.


Mr. Chairman, you will of course be aware that the Marshall Islands submitted a large number of project proposals to the Donors Conference in February this year. Many of these projects are of direct relevance to the sustainable development of these communities that I have mentioned. However, we have not yet received any indication of support or even interest in funding any of these projects. I am sure that the situation is the same for many of my colleagues around this conference room. It is a situation that is difficult for my Government to explain, as the Donors Conference did raise expectations. It was reported on in the press and on national radio.



What can we do as a group to ensure that progress is made next week at the Special Session? We must above all ensure that we move forward as a coherent group, with solidarity and cooperation as our key objectives. We must present a united front to the rest of the world community. We should also continue to present our arguments in a logical and lucid manner, since we are not being unreasonable in our requests. Mr. Chairman, the Barbados Program of Action is acknowledged as the first test of the Rio Conference and of the new spirit of cooperation for sustainable development. If the world community neglects to live up to its commitments to the Small Island Developing States, it is our view that serious damage will have been done to the Rio Spirit.


It is therefore my hope that the cooperation and the pragmatic approach that we have taken as a group in the past will continue to mark our progress. I think that this has been adequately covered in our AOSIS Summit Communiqué, and I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you and my other colleagues.