Address by Hon. Senator Julian R. Hunte, OBE to the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly – New York, September 24, 2004
Mr. President, St. Lucia supported your unanimous election as President of the Fifty-ninth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, as it shares the view of Member States that you will provide important leadership to this General Assembly. I extend sincere congratulations to you and to the Government and people of your country, Gabon, on behalf of the delegation of St Lucia, and on my own behalf, and pledge to work cooperatively with you in our common endeavour.
I am fully aware, therefore, of the
tremendous responsibility that falls to you as President, and the demands and
pressures of leadership of this, the United Nations sole universal organ. In a
relay of leadership that began some fifty-nine years ago, I have passed the
baton to you, assured that this will be a productive and successful Fifty-ninth
Mr. Secretary-General, my year as
President of the General Assembly has given me a keener appreciation of the
myriad tasks you perform in the service of, and to inspire confidence in, the
United Nations. The Government and people of St Lucia support you in your
continuing contribution towards our efforts to address the critical issues
facing our organization and our world.
Mr. President, the picture of our
twenty-first century world is far different from that envisaged in the United
Nations Charter. Instead of a world of peace, security and economic and social
progress, in which human rights, fundamental freedoms and international law are
fully respected, today our world is buffeted by poverty, hunger, the spread of
endemic disease, including HIV/AIDS, conflicts, war, terrorism and other grave
problems. This is so despite the combined effort of the United Nations system,
and the enormous potential of the organization to live up to the ideals,
principles and purposes of the Charter.
The United Nations is passing through
a period of intense questioning and doubt as to its capacity and relevance. It
is my government's view that many of these doubts and questions stem from the
continuing challenge posed to the organization to transform the ideals of the
Charter into action. These questions and doubts have been intensified by the
concern that some of the organization's most influential and powerful member
states might turn away from multilateralism – the very foundation of the United
Nations – and follow the path of unilateral action.
We can, and we must, stop our unique
and indispensable organization from being battered by the tides of these
turbulent times. We must better enable it to address the myriad problems with
which peoples and nations are grappling. And we must reaffirm its status as the
world's foremost multilateral organization. But we can only do so through our
full commitment and resolve to ensure that the organization and its member
States live up to the ideals of the Charter.
We know that the Charter charges the
United Nations to achieve the solution of economic problems cooperatively. This
puts the organization on the front line of what, for many states, particularly
those in the developing world, appears to be a very long road to sustainable
development. Nowadays, it is a road constructed primarily around globalization
and trade liberalization, which have mostly delivered on their promises of
economic advancement to developed countries, but have yet to deliver on those
promises to many others, mostly developing countries.
It cannot be disputed that current
inconsistencies and inequities in the global trading system are widening the gap
between rich and poor, haves and have-nots. It is not surprising, therefore,
that developing countries, particularly in the framework of the World Trade
Organization (WTO), are asserting that globalization and trade liberalization
should not undercut their sustainable development prospects, and that there
ought to be a fair and equitable global trading system.
Agricultural subsidies, market
access, non-tariff barriers to trade, low or falling commodity prices, and
special and differential treatment - all these issues beg for constructive
dialogue and decisive action, particularly in the interest of the developing
world. Specific mandates for trade and development issues may reside in other
organizations, including the WTO, the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund. But the United Nations has a leading role to play in bringing coherence to
debate and policy setting on these issues, in line with its Charter mandate. Its
efforts in this area have the full support of my Government.
Mr. President, the spate of deadly
hurricanes that continue to traverse the Caribbean region, have brought sharply
into focus the issues on which Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including
St Lucia, have urged this United Nations and the international community to act.
We have reiterated, for example, that SIDS are vulnerable, and that special and
differential treatment, fair prices for commodities and development financing
are essential to their sustainable development.
In just a few short weeks, hurricanes
have brought death and destruction throughout the Caribbean region, and, indeed,
also to the Bahamas and the United States. There was tragic loss of life in our
sister Caribbean countries and territories - 37 in Grenada, 20 in Jamaica; and
even now, Haiti is still counting the cost in lives lost. Property and
infrastructural damage was immense particularly in Grenada. Hurricane Ivan
destroyed 90% of the country's physical infrastructure. I say to this august
Assembly that when a Small Island Developing State loses ninety percent of its
physical infrastructure in the space of a few hours, the challenge to that
country is formidable.
For Grenada it is like starting over.
Grenada must rebuild its infrastructure, economy, communications systems,
hospitals and schools, everything from the ground up to restore the quality of
life for its people. But how, and with what resources will it rebuild? The
Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have made a commitment to
Grenada, but can only assist to the extent that their means allow. Given their
own resource constraints, how far can this assistance be expected to go? The
Government and People of Grenada and of CARICOM are highly appreciative of the
condolences expressed in this Hall, and for offers of assistance. But Grenada
needs much more. The Government of St Lucia calls upon the international
community to make a commitment, as a matter of urgency, to the reconstruction of
Grenada. We urge the convening, at an early date, of an international donor
conference for the purpose of mobilizing the resources required for the
In keeping with the international
commitment to promote the sustainable development of SIDS, St Lucia calls upon
the development partners and the international donor community to work together
with SIDS to address their vulnerability and other critical issues frontally.
The International Meeting to review the Barbados Plan of Action for the
Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, to be convened in
Mauritius in January 2005, gives all yet another opportunity to do so. St Lucia
urges all states, developed and developing, and particularly partners and
donors, to be represented at the International Meeting at the highest level In
particular, we urge that commitments to provide resources for the implementation
of the Barbados Plan of Action, are kept.
Indeed, Mr. President, this
Fifty-ninth session will be a pivotal one in respect of commitments made
internationally, including those made in the critical area of HIV/AIDS. This
session is also crucial to positioning us for the 2005 comprehensive review of
commitments made in furthering the United Nations development agenda, including
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Even as we prepare for the High-level
Plenary that will examine our successes and failures in implementing the
outcomes of more than a decade of United Nations conferences and summits in the
economic and social fields, the disjunction between what we have agreed and what
we have done in the interest of the peoples of the world becomes self-evident.
We must ask ourselves, Mr. President,
why it is that we continue to fail the poor, the hungry, the sick and the
disenfranchised among us, despite the numerous specialized, high-level meetings
we have convened to address their condition? And why is it that we appear
incapable of meaningful action beyond the boundaries of these meetings? If we
cannot bring relief to the vast numbers of marginalized and disadvantaged among
us, if we cannot advance growth and development, particularly for developing
countries, we can rest assured that we will lose, or continue to lose, the
confidence of the people of the world. There is, therefore, one message we must
take into the 2005 High-level event - agreement on outcomes is meaningless, if
it is not followed by practical and effective implementation. We must act to
implement, and we must act now.
Mr. President, it is asserted that
peace and security is not possible without development, nor development without
peace and security. St Lucia agrees with this point: both are central to the
purposes and principles of the Charter. We must, however, remain vigilant, so
that our development agenda is not eclipsed by a single-minded focus on conflict
and war, which continue to cast a giant and deadly shadow over our world.
The function given to the United
Nations – and particularly to the Security Council – for the maintenance of
international peace and security is an exceptional one. How effectively the
organization carries out this function is an important determinant of its
standing in the eyes of the people who need it most, and of world public
opinion. Therefore, we must be consistent in our global strategy for world peace
and security. Importantly, this United Nations must not be seen as an
organization so mesmerized by crises that it is slow to act decisively to
address critical issues of life and death. The action we take, after all, should
present our best hope for a more peaceful, more secure world.
Mr. President, we know that conflict
and war have costs that are incalculable, particularly in human lives, and can
have no happy ending. Today, Iraq remains an unsettled, fractured country. The
United Nations has a responsibility to the people of Iraq to work with them to
restore peace, security and prosperity to their country. In this, the
organization must ultimately take its lead from the people of Iraq – it is only
they who can devise uniquely Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems and determine the
kind of future to which they are committed. Regarding another crisis, my
government is disappointed that the Road Map to Peace in the Middle East appears
to have been put aside, and hopes that new initiatives will be undertaken
urgently towards settling this long-standing situation which continues to cause
so much grief.
Mr. President: every day news stories
and commentaries in the media remind us of the level of violence and perils in
our world. The complex and uncertain threat of terrorists and terrorism
constitutes a critical factor contributing to the rising tide of violence, death
and destruction. Recently, terrorism became a reality for hundreds of victims in
the Russian Republic. My Government extends its sympathy to the Government of
Russia and to all victims of terrorism and their families worldwide. Even with
our best efforts, it is not always possible to know where or when terrorists
will strike again. Neither can we say with any certainty that current efforts
against terrorism have made the world a less dangerous place. We can say,
however, that the root causes of terrorism are symptomatic of problems, some
seemingly intractable, around the globe; that it is global in its impact; and
that its solution must be global. In addressing the problem of terrorism, we
must also look to dealing with the hunger, poverty and inequities spoken of by
President Lula da Silva of Brazil and many other concerned leaders, which are
giving rise to the hopelessness and despair being experienced by millions and
millions of people allover the world. Greater efforts must be made to resolve
these critical problems.
Mr. President, as we survey the
enormity of the challenges the United Nations and the global community face
today, we must ask ourselves: Is our fifty-nine year old organization equipped
to confront these challenges? There is a current of reform within the
organization. A series of progressive steps have been taken during the
Fifty-eighth session in particular, to advance revitalization of this Assembly.
However, the Assembly still has to demonstrate its ability to reconcile the
interests of its Member States, and to take action to implement the hard choices
revitalization of this important universal forum requires. We must ensure that
the gains made are not reversed.
During the Fifty-eighth session, the
debate was also opened on Security Council reform, and some progress has been
made to lift this matter out of its moribund state. The Security Council must,
indeed, be reformed, so that its actions can carry more weight and acceptance
internationally. The Council must be expanded to make it more representative of
the generality of the membership, and a way must be found to address the serious
concerns surrounding the veto privilege. Recent reform initiatives should impact
processes underway and practical recommendations aimed at ensuring that the
Security Council is adequate to its mandates, including those that might be
taken up at the 2005 High-level Plenary.
Mr. President, the Government and
People of St Lucia believe that confidence is being restored in the United
Nations. We believe that the world's people expect the organization to take a
leading role in resolving their most pressing problems. We believe that the
United Nations can be many things to many people. The organization has been
sorely challenged in recent years, but has shown resolve in rising to the
challenge. With an abundance of political will, the principles and purposes of
the United Nations Charter can triumph. The Government and people of St Lucia
are inspired by this prospect.
I thank you, Mr. President.
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