25 September 2008
General Assembly
GA/10754

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Plenary

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)


REELING FROM IMPACTS OF GLOBAL WARMING, SMALL ISLAND STATES URGE


GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO TAKE COMPREHENSIVE ACTION

 

Presidents of Pakistan, Iraq Say Terrorism

Will Not Derail Nation-Building, Reconstruction Efforts


Already threatened by environmental degradation, rising sea levels and other threats posed by climate change, small island developing States were now being pummelled by soaring fuel prices that made transportation of food and other essential commodities prohibitively expensive, leaders of those nations told the General Assembly today.


In the Marshall Islands, for example, the high fuel prices had curtailed the distribution of food and essential services, crippling the country’s ability to sustain normal public services, that country’s President, Litokwa Tomeing, told world leaders gathered in New York for the third day of the sixty-third General Assembly’s annual general debate.


Acknowledging that his country had had to declare a state of economic emergency, he urged Assembly delegations to create a comprehensive financial facility that would help the 51 small island developing States spread around the globe, often in very remote areas, to cope during the crises.  Such a plan might also help such countries shift from the use of fossil fuels to more affordable renewable energy sources.


He said the Marshall Islands could not alter the size or height of the islands to deal with rising sea levels.  If the sea level rose by two metres, Tokelau, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands would be completely submerged under the sea.  The issue, therefore, demanded an effective and immediate global response, and he urged the United Nations to elevate that threat as “justification for all-out war against climate change”.


For his part, Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, said that, for years, island States had “tirelessly” pleaded with the United Nations to provide solutions for those seriously affected by the detrimental impacts of global warming.  Those pleas had failed to produce practical solutions, especially for people living in low-lying small island developing States like Kiribati.  The science on the matter was now irrefutable, as the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had projected an increase in sea-level rise of 0.4 metres within this century.


Low-lying small island developing States, like Kiribati, were on the “frontlines” of the global warming calamity, and mitigation efforts would not be able to reverse their situation, he said.  Though it was not a major emitter of greenhouse gasses, Kiribati, with its limited resources, would still do its part to explore renewable and efficient energy technologies.  Meanwhile, island States would need to face up to the reality of being unable to support life, and plan accordingly.  His Government had developed a long-term relocation strategy for people forced to leave their homes, “so that when people migrate, they will migrate on merit and with dignity”.


Seychelles’ President James A. Michel said it was not right that small islands risked being submerged by rising seas while other nations refused to acknowledge their responsibility for the environmental pollution that threatened the planet’s resources.  With the support of international non-governmental organizations, Seychelles had started a global movement –- the Global Island Partnership -- to get all small island States, and nations with islands, to devote part of their natural resources to environmental resilience and sustainability.


He also criticized the skewed nature of global trade and foreign investors’ exploitation of the country’s natural resources.  “Of the total value of tuna – our ‘blue gold’ - caught and transhipped in our waters by foreign fishing vessels every year, the Seychelles receives only 7 per cent in revenue, comprising license and transhipment fees.  This to my mind is unacceptable,” he said.


As the leaders of the small island States spoke of their battle against the threats sparked by global warming, the leaders of Pakistan and Iraq renewed their commitment to combat the more immediate threats posed by terrorism.


Recently elected Pakistani President Asif Ali Sardari said that if Al-Qaida and the Taliban believed that by silencing his late wife, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, they were silencing her message, they were very wrong.   Pakistan would fight against terrorists who attacked it, and those who used its territory to plan attacks against its neighbours, or anywhere in the world.


The “Bhutto Doctrine of Reconciliation” presented a dual mission of combating dictatorship and terrorism, and promoting social and economic reform, as well as justice, he explained.  The Doctrine was a road map to a new Pakistan, and an era of peace and cooperation between East and West, among all faiths.  Invoking the Marshall Plan, he said the Doctrine placed at its centre an economically viable Pakistan that would allow for the victory of pluralism over terrorism.


Fighting terrorism required political will, popular mobilization and a socio-economic strategy that won the hearts and minds of nations, he said.  He added that unilateral actions of great Powers should not inflame the passions of allies.  Only a democratic Government could win that war.  “Yes, this is our war, but we need international support -– moral, political and economic,” he said, asking the Assembly whether it would stand with his country.


Meanwhile, Iraqi President Jala Talabani said that, even as the Iraqi people were building a new federal State based on democracy, pluralism and the peaceful distribution of power, they had been impacted by terrorist acts that targeted all segments of Iraqi society, attempting to ignite sectarian strife and undermine the country’s political process and stability.  “These acts of terrorism, committed by the enemies of freedom, will not discourage our people from establishing a new democratic experience, which [they] paid a heavy price for,” he said.


Iraq required support and assistance from countries around the world so it could build a modern nation that ensured justice, equality, the rule of law, respect for human rights and women’s participation in all spheres of life.  He thanked the international community for its efforts in helping Iraq handle the current crisis.  Iraq was eager to cooperate with the United Nations and called upon the Organization to expand its presence in Iraq.


Also speaking today were the Presidents of Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Armenia, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Federated States of Micronesia, Guinea-Bissau, Timor-Leste, Zimbabwe and Cameroon.


Also speaking at the General Assembly were the King of Swaziland and the Crown Prince of Brunei Darussalam.


The Vice-Presidents of Palau and Sudan also addressed the Assembly.


The Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Spain, Japan, Kuwait, Republic of Korea, Australia, Andorra, San Marino, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Netherlands all spoke to the General Assembly.


General Assembly will reconvene Thursday, 26 September at 9 a.m. to continue its general debate.


Background


The General Assembly met today to continue its general debate.


Statements


EMOMALI RAHMON, President of Tajikistan, spoke of current interrelated crises, namely energy, food, climate and finance, and how those crises more severely impacted the millions of people in the developing countries and States with economies in transition, including Tajikistan.


He reminded the Assembly that no country could answer those crises single-handedly and that the United Nations was capable of developing a collective response, specifically regarding food distribution.  With 93 per cent of Tajikistan covered by mountains and only 7 per cent suitable for agriculture, the food crises affected two thirds of the country’s households.


He called for continued and expanded support for the United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Global Food Crisis, mandated to develop long-term approaches to ensure food security.  The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) work towards advanced technologies and seeds, and financial technical assistance to developing countries should also be supported.  Not addressing the food crises would impact the world’s people as severely as terrorism itself, he said, reminding the Assembly that solutions could be created without long discussions.


More than 55 per cent of water resources for the Central Asian region originated in Tajikistan.  Tajikistan was committed to contributing to the solutions of worldwide problems by being a major source of ecologically sound electrical energy.  Currently, only 5 per cent of the hydropower capacity in Tajikistan was being utilized.  He expressed hope that plans for an integrated approach to the utilization of hydropower and other natural resources would support the development of Central Asia, and contribute to the solution of food and ecological problems.  Further, the Bretton-Woods institutions and United Nations partners from the private sector should continue their support to that end.


Without those projects, and without support from the United Nations community, partners and Member States, Tajikistan would not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, or ensure its own sustainable growth. Tajikistan had implemented its National Strategy for Development through 2015, a new approach to development, which took into account the country’s history, as well as current circumstances.  However, he urged donors to double assistance to all developing countries, so that all Member States could achieve internationally agreed goals.  Debt forgiveness would also enable profound progress, freeing resources to fund education, environmental protection and combating HIV/AIDS, among other objectives.


Concluding, he pledged to support the global combat against terrorism, and called for increasing both military presence and economic development assistance in Afghanistan.  Countering international illicit drug trafficking was also key.  He also heralded the work of the staff of the United Nations peace building forces, especially those who had lost their lives while fulfilling their duties.


BRANKO CRVENKOVSKI, President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said that in light of new challenges, such as climate change and the surge in oil and food prices which had led to a slowdown in economic development worldwide, the general debate must focus on developing new methods aimed at helping countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Achieving sustainable development for all would then lead to worldwide security, stability and long-term peace, even though at present, numerous crisis situations, long-standing conflicts and terrorist acts persist.


Noting that this year marked the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said the instrument’s “universal validity” was in question.  The Declaration must not be implemented selectively.  He also advocated cooperation and dialogue on equal footing between Member States, since each would contribute valuable contributions, stemming from important differences.  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in that vein, was constantly working on functional multi-ethnic democracy in the hopes of positively affecting the region.


Highest priorities in national strategy had been the country’s integration into two international structures:  the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  But despite years of investing resources and negotiating for such inclusion, dispute over his country’s name persisted, with Greece having objected to its admittance into NATO earlier this year.


He reminded Member States that when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had been admitted into the United Nations in 1993, a major legal precedent was set when it was addressed as the “ Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” instead of the name the people of the country had chosen.  He ended by stating that his country would continue the negotiation process with assistance in mediation of a personal envoy of the Secretary-General.  “The Republic of Macedonia is ready to accept a fair compromise and reasonable solution, which is not going to deny our cultural identity.”


JAMES A. MICHEL, President of Seychelles, said new enemies “are staring us in the face”.  Hunger, pandemics, poverty, economic turmoil, environmental degradation and the iniquity of the global trading system, were enemies, which, if not overcome, could shatter the foundation of civilization.  As President of Seychelles, one of the smallest nations in the world, with 87,000 people who lived in trepidation, he appealed to the conscience of everyone gathered in the Assembly hall to create a better world.  That could be achieved through vision and bold leadership, with leaders setting clear commitments, and working to resolve the climate, energy and food crises among others.  That vision should also encompass fairness and justice in trade, where the issues of small island developing States were recognized and taken up to promote their development.


He said the skewed nature of global trade was an impediment to his country.  Not only did some wealthy nations hand subsidies to their farmers, but developing countries were obliged to follow World Trade Organization rules to the letter, even when they undermined domestic economic policies created to protect vulnerable people.  Foreign investors exploited the country’s natural resources.  For example, Seychelles received only 7 per cent in revenue, made up of licence and transhipment fees, from the total value of the tuna (its so-called “blue gold”) caught and shipped by foreign fishing vessels in its waters.


Another impediment to development was the fact that Seychelles had a high human development index ranking and was excluded from access to grants and soft loans to expand development.  At the same time, it fell into the category of Highly Vulnerable countries, as defined by the Commonwealth Vulnerability Index.


And like many other small island States, Seychelles remained vulnerable to the threats posed by global warming, climate change and rising sea levels.  It was not right that the small island risked being submerged by rising seas while other nations refused to acknowledge their responsibility for the environmental pollution that threatened the planet’s resources.  With the support of international non-governmental organizations, Seychelles had started a global movement –- the Global Island Partnership -- to get all small islands, and nations with islands, to devote part of their natural resources to environmental resilience and sustainability.


Turning to food security, he said the international community must end the food crisis and provide food at affordable prices to ordinary people.  Industrialized countries needed to remove subsidies given to their farmers and provide the global South with urgently-needed resources to improve its infrastructure.  This would let the South produce more food and feed its own peoples.  A revamped United Nations system was the best place to achieve progress in these areas:  food security; trade; climate change; and energy.  He called for a clear action plan, not more repetitive conferences and “talk shops”.


SERZH SARGSYAN, President of Armenia, said he represented a country, which in recent weeks, had been in an unacceptable situation.  Blood had been shed in the South Caucasus, and once again, innocent people had died because leaders failed to bring a peaceful resolution to existing conflicts.  The unsettling expression “cold war” had again emerged, and the Assembly’s main task should be a joint demand to unequivocally rule out such developments.


Indeed, he called for establishing a new viable structure, as it was impossible to tackle today’s challenges exclusively with structures established after Second World War.  The world continued to respond to today’s nettlesome challenges -– terrorism, international crime and drug trafficking among them -- through institutions envisaged to merely smooth over controversies.  Regional cooperation could be among the essential means to address such challenges, and Armenia had always promoted such action as the most effective way to address existing problems.  Open borders and interrelated economic systems were also crucial.


On rising food and fuel prices, he said the world continued to witness unilateral sanctions and border closures.  Existing problems with neighbouring States could not be solved without dialogue, and with that in mind, he was pleased at Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s “bold decision” to accept his invitation to come to Yerevan as part of the “football diplomacy” initiative.  The time had come to solve Armenian-Turkish problems, and Mr. Sargsyan was certain of the need to move resolutely in that direction.


Events in the South Caucasus region held “very serious” lessons for the world, he explained, saying first that the United Nations must strictly follow the spirit of its Charter.  Should any Member State increase its military budget, among other things, it must receive a rapid and firm response.  “Prevention is preferable over cure,” he said.


It was also time to seriously consider the right of people to self-determination, and he opposed the idea that each claim be resolved through secession.  There was no doubt that to be viable, such an outcome should be endorsed by all parties involved, which was why Armenia continued to negotiate with Azerbaijan in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, seeking recognition by that country for the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, which had been independent for two decades.  Those people had been subject to brutal war, and for years, had been on the brink of extinction.  They had neither a regular army nor any ability or intention to occupy any Azeri territory.


In recent months, a resolution related to one episode in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict had been adopted with only 30 of 146 States voting in favour of it.  A sensitive problem, with “deep roots and bloody developments”, had been decided upon by the majority to support one of the parties.  That outcome had been “more than predictable”.  He hoped that Azerbaijan’s real interest was in the peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the conflict.  The process mediated by the Minsk Group aimed to reach that goal, and Armenia had undertaken serious work with the mediation of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs.


Noting that this year marked the sixtieth anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of the Convention on Genocide Prevention, he said that such anniversaries were more than merely “important”.  His country would do everything possible to advocate continuously for the Genocide Convention, and he recognized that Armenia had “important things to do” to guarantee the full implementation of the Universal Declaration.  On that road, Armenia was trying not to repeat others’ mistakes.


LITOKWA TOMEING, President of Marshall Islands, said his country, like other island States in the Pacific, was struggling to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Its efforts had been made more difficult by unpredictable global forces, such as the current energy crisis sparked by higher fuel costs.  The vast distances between islands had made transport in the region excessively expensive, and the adverse impact of fuel price spikes had been immediate and severe.  The transportation of essential goods and the movement of people to and from far-flung islands had been sharply curtailed as a result.


Further, the dispensation of essential services and food products had been acutely impaired, crippling the country’s ability to sustain normal public services and threatening food security and medical services.  The country had been forced to declare a state of economic emergency.  He asked the international community to consider creating a comprehensive financial facility that could help the small island States cope during crises.  Such a facility could also help those States shift from fossil-fuel-based energy to affordable and renewable energy sources.


Turning to climate change, he said the Marshall Islands could not alter the size or height of the islands to deal with rising sea levels.  If the sea level rose by two metres, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands would be completely submerged under the sea.  The issue, therefore, demanded an effective and immediate global response, and he urged the United Nations to elevate this threat as justification for a total war against climate change.


On relations between China and Taiwan, he said the new era of goodwill sparked hope for improved economic possibilities and political stability.  That era presented an opportunity for the international community to encourage, and strengthen, the process.  The Marshall Islands believed it was time for Taiwan to be accorded full participation in the specialized agencies of the United Nations.  On the issue of reform, he said the Security Council should be enlarged to reflect the new world realities, and Japan’s aspiration to seek a permanent seat on the Council deserved favourable consideration.


AHMED ABDALLAH SAMBI, President of Comoros, called for Member States and their political leaders to be responsible and concerned for the challenges facing the global community, and to step up their defence of the ideals of peace, justice and solidarity.  Moreover, privileged nations needed to show a greater concern for developing countries struggling daily with hunger, disease and conflict.  He specifically noted that the crises sparked by food and energy shortages required a new surge of international solidarity, and said multilateralism and the reform of the United Nations were essential to that end.


He noted that last March, Comoros’ democratic actions had ended a conflict on the island of Anjouan, and enabled free and transparent elections there in June.  The establishment of a local government in Anjouan without bloodshed had been possible because of the financial, material and moral support of the African Union and the League of Arab States, among others.  He also announced the organization of a national and international conference in Comoros to bring together political entities, civil society, local government and international partners to study and improve the national institutes.


Stressing that environmental problems impacted small islands, developing States and Indian Ocean islands more severely than other nations, he called on Member States to support the Indian Ocean Commission and the Maurice Strategy so that successful development continued in the region.


He concluded by expressing his concern for the situation regarding the Island of Mayotte.  Following talks with French officials and meetings with President Nicolas Sarkozy, he had not planned to discuss the issue in his address.  However, he noted that the intentions of French authorities for a referendum in 2009 to transform Mayotte into a department didn’t favour open dialogue.  He reminded the Assembly that when Comoros had been admitted into the United Nations in 1975, it included Mayotte and that there had been no opposition from France at the time.


The official declaration of France to make Mayotte a department was, thus, not in line with international law.  He, therefore, requested that the vote on Mayotte to become a French department be considered null and void.  His confidence in President Sarkozy, who had successfully found solutions and resolutions to other problems, was strong, and he appealed to the French Government to preserve a favourable climate for dialogue, so that a settlement reflecting the concern of the people of Mayotte could be found.  The unity of Comoros was essential for harmonious development.


TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO, President of Equatorial Guinea, said he was pleased that the annual debate included the issue of democratizing the United Nations system, including working reforms for the Security Council and Bretton Woods institutions, and funding for Africa’s development.  The world had harboured the hope that peace would be achieved, and he was saddened at the differences separating the rich from the poor; hunger, poverty, war and destabilization among them.


Today, there were new challenges that jeopardized budding institutions in developing countries, he said, and it was necessary to adopt strategies to provide a bridge to a “new form” of cooperation among peoples.  Only the creation of a new world framework for cooperation could lead to peace and stability in all nations.  “The use of force by the strong” had worsened today’s problems, and conflicts had arisen from a clear lack of dialogue.  Long-standing conflicts continued, and new tensions had emerged, including injustice, poverty, climate change and inequality.


Equatorial Guinea believed that such a cooperation strategy must start with reform of multilateral institutions and behaviour of those who, today, held economic power.  Recent endeavours had taken shape with the Millennium Development Goals, and if those were to be achieved, the economic system must be reformed and based on respect for different development models.  The “troubled” global scenario impacted Africa.


Taking up the global food crisis, he said it was inconceivable that in an age of plenty, developing countries lack the basic human right to food.  FAO stated that 80 per cent of the 900 million people suffering from hunger lived in developing countries.  Remedies proposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered barriers against his country’s products.  The “unbridled free trade” imposed by those institutions had allowed his nation to be “invaded” by highly subsidized food products:  Africa imported what it did not -– but could, with targeted assistance -- produce for its own consumption.  Today, Africa needed solid, united development, based on strengthening of the socio-economic fabric.


On the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), he proposed the creation of an international steering committee, made up of donors and African countries, to implement projects and programmes at regional and subregional levels.  Projects could focus on such issues as HIV/AIDS; funding for energy resources; construction of trans-African infrastructure; launch of an African communications satellite; creation of an African university to train human resources; and provision of soft loans.


In closing, he reminded delegates of their commitments to protect the environment, saying that Equatorial Guinea had made efforts.  He reiterated his Government’s commitment to combat international terrorism and organized crime in all its forms.  Today, the country enjoyed unprecedented freedom, and its people worked in a climate of peace.  Renewing his commitment to promoting and defending human rights, he said his country believed in the United Nations as the only way to build peace, stability and development.


ANOTE TONG, President of Kiribati, focusing his remarks first on climate change, said that for many years, States had “tirelessly” appealed to the United Nations to provide solutions for those seriously affected by the detrimental impacts of global warming.  Those appeals had failed to produce practical solutions for people living in low-lying small island developing States like Kiribati.  The science on climate change was irrefutable, and the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had projected an increase in sea-level rise of 0.4 metres within this century.  That was “quite alarming” for people living on low-lying small islands.


Therefore, mitigation and adaptation strategies would continue to be integral to the climate change response, even though this would ultimately only provide short- and medium-term solutions.  In the meantime, small island States would need to face up to the reality of being unable to support life, and plan accordingly.  Kiribati, which was not a major emitter of greenhouse gases, would nonetheless do its part to explore renewable and efficient energy technologies.


Kiribati was a country with low-lying coral atolls and islands rising no more that two metres, and as such, required adaptation strategies, he said.  Coastal protection through seawall construction was the main adaptation measure, and it did not have the resources to extend that protection to private properties.  On climate change initiatives, he acknowledged Australia’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and New Zealand’s pledge to increase financial support, among others.


Low-lying small island developing States, like his own, were on the “frontlines” of the climate change calamity, and mitigation efforts would not be able to reverse their situation, he said.  The question had been raised about what to do when people started to flee their countries due to environmental catastrophe.  Relocation required long-term forward planning, which was why his Government had developed a long-term, merit-based relocation strategy as an option for his people, “so that when people migrate, they will migrate on merit and with dignity”.


Regionally, he said, the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in August had adopted the Niue Declaration on Climate Change, marking a “new chapter” in initiating the first ever high-level climate change declaration in his part of the world.  Internationally, he welcomed that climate change had finally been given due recognition as a security issue.  He was deeply concerned that there had never been discussion of the fate of those whose existence was seriously undermined by climate change, and he urged the Assembly to address that challenge.


Noting that Kiribati was proud to be home to the largest marine protected area in the world, he said the Phoenix Islands were among the most isolated islands on the planet, largely untouched by man.  The preservation of those islands, and the surrounding ocean, was Kiribati’s gift to humanity, but it faced the possibility that those islands would become uninhabitable within the century due to rising seas.


The food crisis, he said, was being felt more acutely by those living in drought-prone, resource-poor and infertile small island developing States, such as his own.  He appealed to the global community to assist the most vulnerable nations, with food and energy security strategies.  On graduation from the list of least developed countries, he said Kiribati was among three Pacific least developed countries to be considered for graduation.  While not a graduation indicator, environmental vulnerability should be taken into account.


FRADIQUE BANDEIRA MELO DE MENEZES, President of Sao Tome and Principe, said he had come to join others in New York gathered to discuss the crucial issues of the day, including armed conflict; environmental catastrophes, both from natural disasters and forms of thoughtless behaviour; the financial crisis; and the food crisis.

Those issues showed the fragility of the current system, and the need to engage in actions that would lead to peaceful solutions and long-term development.  The international community needed to translate proposals into action.  He did not want to repeat previous discussions on conflicts, but concerted action was required to address, among others, the situation in the Middle East, latent conflicts in Africa, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the impact of the humanitarian situation in Darfur.


Sao Tome had made efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Yet it had endured many hardships, and would not be able to achieve all the targets by 2015.  Exacerbating those hardships was the current food and financial crises, and insufficiency of aid linked to inadequate delivery processes and mechanisms.  The number of the poor was increasing, instead of decreasing.  His country had engaged in such efforts, increasing microcredits for fisheries.  While there had been advances in education, statistics from 2007 showed that instances of HIV/AIDS had increased throughout Sao Tome and Principe, despite strong educational campaigns.


Though Sao Tome included three mountainous islands, it was very concerned with advancing seas at high tide.  Giant waves had begun to cover coastal highways over the last 10 years, leaving regions of the country isolated.  He made a strong appeal to those responsible for global warming to address that crucial issue in a much more aggressive and serious way.


ERNEST BAI KOROMA, President of Sierra Leone, delivering his first speech to the Assembly, said that although the United Nations sacred duty “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” had been “tested in fire” in Sierra Leone, his country had shown what the Organization could achieve when States worked together.  His people understood the value of its work, and appreciated its support as they reconstructed their society, and moved from war to peace.


The session’s theme, which focused on the global food crisis and need to democratize the United Nations, was timely, he explained, especially as Africa had a disproportionate share of the world’s poor.  Further, rising food costs posed a risk to stability, both in his nation and among other West African countries.  It was vital that Africa increased food productivity and achieved food self-sufficiency.  African farmers had to adopt higher-yielding land practices, and he welcomed the work of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which recognized that massive investment in agriculture was key to finding a long-term solution.  Sierra Leone was suitably positioned to benefit from such investment.


Noting that he coordinated the African Union Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government, charged with promoting the Common African Position on United Nations reform, he supported an effective United Nations that could meet a growing and complex array of challenges.  While reform efforts had achieved “modest” successes, the critical issue of Security Council reform remained unresolved, and he called for making that body more representative of today’s realities.  Its current composition contradicted basic principles of democratic representation.  Africa’s collective position was outlined in the Ezulwini Consensus, and the continent would negotiate in good faith.  The status quo was not an option, and Africa deserved permanent representation in the Council.


On peace and development issues, he said the Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Fund, among other mechanisms, were helping his country in critical ways to meet the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction.  The United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had made “extraordinary” contributions to establishing the rule of law, so that Sierra Leone could put its tragic past behind it.  He commended the Special Court’s efforts to engage both his Government and the international justice community to make preparations for any residual issues that might remain following its closure.


In recent years, Sierra Leone had made progress in consolidating democracy and good governance, by conducting free, fair and non-violent presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.  “We are on the right path,” he declared, thanking the global community for contributing to the electoral process.  More remained to be done, and development was the foremost need.


“You can only be secure if you have food, shelter, clean water and protection from disease,” he said, which was why the “monumental task” of poverty eradication was among the country’s national priorities.  The Government was completing a second generation Poverty Reduction Strategy.  Despite difficulties, particularly in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, his Government was resolved to improving peoples’ lives.  International support remained crucial.


JALAL TALABANI, President of Iraq, said his country’s former regime had left behind security and political conditions that had drained the energy of the Iraqi people, damaged the economy and created significant environmental and social damage.  That regime’s foreign policy and its domestic practices had dragged the country into futile wars that left millions of victims, and had destroyed economic and state institutions.


While the Iraqi people were building a new federal State based on democracy, pluralism and the peaceful distribution of power, they had been impacted by terrorist acts that targeted all segments of Iraqi society, attempting to ignite sectarian strife and undermine the country’s political process and stability.  Iraq required support and assistance from countries around the world so it could build a modern nation that ensured justice, equality, the rule of law, respect for human rights and women’s participation in all spheres of life.


He went on to say that Iraqi Security Forces had assumed responsibility of security from the multinational forces in many of Iraq’s provinces, most recently, this month in Anbar.  Those forces were working to take full responsibility and to defend and preserve the democratic gains of the people.


The National Unity Government had taken the initiative to improve its relations with all countries, especially neighbouring countries.  Iraq no longer threatened international peace and security and called on the international community to move towards removing Iraq’s “Chapter VII” status and ending, or settling, all measures taken by the Security Council under resolutions based on Chapter VII, including on the issue of compensation.


He called on all nations to open, or re-open, diplomatic missions in Iraq, and strengthen existing missions by increasing their level of representation.  Iraq was planning to return to the international community by actively participating in meetings and conferences of the United Nations, its agencies and offices, on all global issues.  He thanked the international community for its efforts in helping Iraq handle the current crisis.  Iraq was eager to cooperate with the United Nations and called upon the Organization to expand its presence in Iraq.


He said the problems of the Middle East could be solved through constructive dialogue, in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy and principles of the United Nations and international law.  The Iraqi Government supported the Palestinian people’s struggle for the resolution of their inalienable rights, including the creation of an independent State.


ELIAS CAMSEK CHIN, Vice-President of Palau, pledged, on behalf of the President and the citizens of his country, full cooperation for the success of the goals of the United Nations.  The crisis of climate change was the greatest challenge in the world today.  The problems of rising oceans and greenhouse gases were of utmost urgency since small island States were in danger of disappearing entirely.  He called for an agreement on quantified emission reductions targets for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.


The Pacific Small Island Developing States had submitted a draft resolution to the Assembly’s sixty-second session requesting the Security Council to consider the security implications of climate change.  The resolution would be re-submitted this year.  Actions needed to be taken in the meantime, however.  Although a minor contributor to greenhouse gases -- and despite the detrimental economic consequences -- Palau had taken significant steps to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel.  He also called for all regional fisheries management organizations to join the small island States in adopting measures to protect the world’s ocean ecosystems.


Committed to combating terrorism, Palau officials had met with the Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) to seek assistance in addressing money laundering and terrorism financing.  More steps should follow, however, since drafting and adopting legislation, although the first step to changes, would be meaningless unless it led to actual enforcement.  He called for the establishment of a voluntary trust fund that would allow smaller countries to actualize successful anti-terrorism strategies.


Acknowledging its continued support to the G-4 resolution, put forward by Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, he appealed for the reform of the Security Council to ensure genuine and positive changes in the Organization.  Japan and India should both be granted seats on the Council.


He concluded with hope for the new submission dates of the Extended Continental Shelf, beyond May 2009, which would allow developing countries to preserve claims to the resources in those waters.  He requested assistance from the international community so that a full submission to the Commission on the limits of the Continental Shelf could be successfully achieved.


WINSTON BALDWIN SPENCER, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the sixty-third Assembly was taking place against a backdrop of escalating challenges to international peace and security:  persistent poverty; diminishing food supplies for many people; mega-disasters induced by climate change; and an impending meltdown in the world’s largest economy.  Those circumstances called for a heightened sense of urgency and stronger will among all nations to work with, and through, the United Nations especially to embrace multilateralism in the fullest sense.


The climate crisis was a clear threat to the security of small island States, and a major obstacle to achieving the sustainable development goals.


He said the international community was woefully short of political will to address the climate crisis, especially since its effects on natural disasters was indisputable.  The frequency and severity of natural disasters was increasing around the globe and such disasters were especially catastrophic for the small countries of the Caribbean, whose economies were largely dependent on the natural environment.


While encouraged by efforts of the primary contributors to the climate change to shift over to new energy sources, he said the developed countries retained the responsibility to provide the necessary resources to correct the problem.  On the issue of Cuba, he called on the United States Administration and its future leadership to end the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on that nation.  He said the United Nations would be a more potent entity, and the world a better place, if the next President of the United States, in his inaugural address, gave an irrevocable commitment to multilateralism.


In his capacity as the chair of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, he said the United Nations record of implementation and delivery of the many commitments, timetables, and proposals adopted over the years was a source of embarrassment for world leaders.  There had been some modest gains, for example, in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria.  But the international community faced an endemic crisis of development, including the failure of development policies and approaches that didn’t take into account the specific situations of countries and regions.


This had led to growing inequities within and across countries, an environmental crisis, a crisis of confidence in global government, a worsening energy crisis and an unprecedented food crisis and a looming water crisis.  While recognizing that each country had the primary responsibility for its development, he said the international community needed to create a conducive, sustainable, fair and predictable environment and provide the necessary policy space to discharge this responsibility.


The Group believed this effort could begin with today’s high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.  He encouraged the members to use this meeting, and the upcoming Conference on Financing for Development in Doha, to offer specific proposals on how financing could be mobilized to address the commitments, and ensure cooperation, so all developing countries could meet their specific targets.


EMANUEL MORI, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said that the world financial situation, along with the fuel and food crises, had a negative impact on efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the broader pursuit of sustainable development.  Island nations remained under threat from climate change, he added.  Those most affected were those who could least afford a response, most often the small island developing States.  Families in Micronesia had been adversely impacted by the inability to secure fuel, he said, calling for the acceleration of development and sharing of technologies for renewable and affordable alternative energy sources.  The assistance of the international community and financial institutions should follow.


The energy crisis led to an increase in the cost of foodstuffs, he said, noting that imported rice, a staple of the Micronesian diet, had become unaffordable.  The nexus between food security and climate change was being felt in his country, which had farmlands barely a few metres above sea level.  Taro, and other crops, had already been inundated by salt water from the surrounding rising waters.  The seas must be managed sustainably to preserve the bounty they provide.  Collateral catches and discards in commercial fisheries were also troubling as they impacted both critical resources and areas of cultural importance to Micronesia.


The world’s financial turbulence, while emanating from larger economies, put everyone at risk.  He encouraged developed countries not to use this current situation as a pretext to pull back from the agreed target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for official development assistance (ODA).  He further spoke of Security Council reform, supporting expansion of membership in both categories, and said that India, Japan and Germany should all be made permanent members.


Returning to climate change, he said that it was the greatest challenge to achieving the Millennium Development Goals for small island developing States.  Sea rise could wash away those islands and their culture.  Melting glaciers and snow pack from the Tibetan Plateau, and the disintegration of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets could reach a “tipping point”, causing metres of sea rise, putting the entire planet in peril.  He called for fast-track mitigation strategies to protect the climate and the ozone layer, such as strengthening the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion.


While sustainable development was essential, he said that global warming must be approached from a holistic perspective, rather than limited to sustainable development, humanitarian or technical issues, or economic or environmental issues.  Climate change also impacted human rights, international peace and security, territorial integrity and the very existence of small island nations.  The United Nations, Governments, public and private enterprises, such as academic and research institutions, must work together to combat climate change.


JOÃO BERNARDO VIEIRA, President of Guinea-Bissau, said today’s international situation demanded serious reflection about the causes of the crises many countries faced.  Added to the main crisis areas in energy, food and international finances, the disastrous consequences of climate change called for better coordinated efforts to identify innovative, courageous and adequate solutions that would lead to a just, and equitable, world order.


Highlighting the negative and destabilizing effects of increased oil prices on poor countries such as his, he said the lack of energy seriously undermined all socio-economic activities the country was attempting to undertake.  “How can we invest and improve our infrastructure in such vital areas like health, education and agriculture if we are compelled to continuously spend a large part of our already limited resources to buy fuel?” he asked.  Added to that, the tremendous increases in food prices on the global market were also a matter of serious concern, especially to the people of Africa, where hunger and malnutrition could affect many.


Against that backdrop, calls for making agriculture a priority should not be considered “mere slogans”.  Indeed, food shortages could pose a serious threat to the peace and security of some countries, he said.  The situation called for serious discussions at the international level on how to improve capacity to respond effectively to the food crisis including putting in practice scientific advances and using technology more suitable to specific climatic conditions.  The social economic realities of peoples of the respective regions should also be considered.


Expressing his concerns with the state of the world economy, he noted that the international financial system, already affected by serious distortions, could not be based only on the search for speculative profits and unlawful behaviour, as that had the potential for enormous consequences for many countries.  Indeed, thousands of families were falling victim to the dysfunctional financial markets.  Regrettably, the consequences of such malpractices were not limited to just a few countries, he observed, calling on the international community to “react to all these challenges”.


King MSWATI III of Swaziland said the world continued to face many challenges, including the catastrophic effects of climate change, diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, and food shortages.  High fuel and food prices, and an unstable global economy, were retarding the efforts of his country to fight poverty and attain sustainable development.  He praised the United Nations, particularly FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) for helping developing countries find lasting solutions to the food crisis.  Swaziland had put in place various strategies to ensure food security, he added.


Swaziland continued to undertake efforts to address those issues, and last year had held a national agricultural meeting which looked at ways to increase food production, among other national interests.  The Government had arrived at various conclusions and was implementing them.  He looked forward to positive results from the upcoming Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations, particularly regarding agriculture.  Developing countries hoped for secure and increased market access for their products.


Swaziland fully supported the dialogue on global warming and other environmental concerns, as it continued to be a victim of the devastating effects of global warming.  Wildfires and droughts were constantly undermining development efforts in his country.  Failure to respond in a timely and decisive manner to global warming would undermine international efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  He added that he was pleased with the Assembly’s adoption of the declaration on supporting Africa’s development, and looked forward to its effective implementation.


There was an urgent need to address Africa’s special needs, particularly in economic development, poverty reduction and peace and security.  He said access to international financial institutions was crucial to achieving sustainable development.  Many people in Swaziland were living in poverty and facing unemployment.  Swaziland’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Goals was unwavering, and they had been integrated into the country’s development and poverty reduction strategies.

The Government was doing all it could to achieve universal education, gender equality and environmental sustainability, reduce child mortality and fight diseases like HIV/AIDS.  Swaziland was working with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to ensure preservation of political and security standards.  He urged the international community to support the Government of national unity in Zimbabwe.  He condemned terrorism and commended efforts to fully implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  His Parliament had recently promulgated the anti-terrorism act.


JOSÉ RAMOS-HORTA, President of Timor-Leste, said increased demand for oil, higher food costs, a lack of arable land and water, and climate change were just a few indicators of the non-conventional security threats the world faced today.  But crises offered opportunities.  Changing the course for the hundreds of millions of people who left their ancestral homes for dashed dreams of a “better” life in cities was possible, if Governments invested in job creation programmes, especially for agricultural production.


Without redoubling international efforts to significantly bolster development aid, it would be almost impossible for poor non-oil-producing countries to achieve their modest goals, he continued.  Donors must also re-size their aid for development and increase the portion of ODA devoted to agriculture to 30 per cent overall.  Supporting the creation of the high-level task force to handle the food crisis, he thanked donors for their help, adding that it also must be asked whether that aid had helped improve peoples’ lives.


Timor-Leste, though a least developed country, had modest oil and gas wealth.  With revenues averaging $100 million to $150 million per month, it could be argued that, for a country with slightly more than 1 million people, that was not too bad.  At the same time, the country’s oil fund was invested in United States treasury bonds, and he was seeking to re-invest those funds in diversified portfolios across the world.


Timor-Leste was not indifferent to suffering in other parts of the world, he said, noting his Government’s commitment of some $50,000 for earthquake victims in Indonesia, and a pledge to donate $500,000 to victims of the recent earthquake in China.  In 2009, Timor-Leste would start contributing $1 million annually to help children’s programmes in such countries as Myanmar.  Specifically on Myanmar, he said Timor-Leste’s position was aligned with that of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  No long-term solution would be found without the full partnership of the Army.  The challenge was in persuading the Army that their interests would not be compromised.


Regarding Cuba, he said tropical storms Gustav and Ike had ruined the island nation’s economy, with losses totalling a staggering $5 billion.  East Timorese medical students had been studying in Cuba, and 300 Cuban doctors working in Timor-Leste.  While commending the United States supporting universal, democratic values, he said punitive measures, imposed on poor developing countries for the perceived actions of their leaders, could not be justified.  He called for lifting the embargo on Cuba, and reiterated his heartfelt sympathy with Haiti, among others, recently impacted by natural disaster.


Turning to his country’s situation, he recalled that he had almost been fatally shot earlier this year.  “I escaped by an act of God”, and with support from doctors and nurses in Australia, he said, adding that: “I stood at the frontier of life and death.  I saw the beauty of life that I almost left behind.”  Those events had served to unite people against violence;  common crimes had dropped significantly, and a growing number of internally displaced persons were returning home.


On the economic front, he noted that real gross domestic product growth of around 7 per cent -– and around 19 per cent when taking oil revenue into account -– were successes that would not have been possible without global support.  The professionalism of international forces was visible to all, and he especially thanked the United Nations police force in his country.  In closing, he said that, with a shared vision and commitment to serve the poorest of the poor, he was confident that the Millennium Development Goals would be met.


ROBERT MUGABE, President of Zimbabwe, said that the current food crisis, and attendant escalating food prices, caused suffering to the majority of poor people in many developing countries.  Compounded by the energy crisis, it had caused devastating social and economic consequences for the most vulnerable.  The crisis was a humanitarian emergency requiring global solidarity to provide speedy assistance with food, water and energy needs.


The crisis competed with scarce resources for development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially with declining ODA and foreign direct investment.  National efforts to address the global food and energy crises must be complemented by international interventions, among them, debt cancellation for low-income, food-deficient developing countries.  He urged support for food production programmes, research into better seed varieties, assistance in irrigation technology and improved water harvesting methods necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change on agriculture.


He called for an open, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory trading and financial system and the removal of trade barriers, and expressed dismay at the collapse of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks.  He further stressed the importance of just land ownership patterns, and said that sustainable development was impossible without agrarian reform.  Zimbabwe had created a foundation for sustainable food production through its land reform programme, and had empowered its rural people to be masters of their own destiny.  However, the effects of climate change “and the illegal, unilaterally imposed sanctions on [the] country have hindered Zimbabwe’s efforts to increase food production.”  He appealed to the world community to pressure the United Kingdom, the United States and their allies to lift the sanctions.


Mr. Mugabe said that some permanent members of the Security Council had sought to invoke Chapter VII of the Charter so that its sanctions could be applied against his “small country, which by any stretch of the imagination is no threat to international peace and security”.  He called the act abuse of the Charter.  Further, he asked what protection small countries had from false allegations of violations of the rule of law and human rights by those who “are themselves international perpetrators of genocide, acts of aggression and mass destruction”. Those who had invaded Iraq under false pretences, in “blatant violation of the Charter” and at the cost of the lives of “masses of innocent men, women and children” must be made liable for them, he declared.


He also recognized the important role of the good offices of the Secretary-General in assisting Member States to resolve political and other problems, and noted that international civil servants must serve with neutrality without pandering to the whims of the mighty against the weak.  He called on some members of the Security Council to desist from using the Secretariat to promote their political interests.


“The Secretary-General and his staff should be allowed to serve all Member States without fear or favour.”  Democratization of the Security Council would prevent its manipulation by powerful countries.  He reiterated his support for the Ezulwini Consensus, which called for Africa to have two permanent and two non-permanent seats on the Council, and further called for the revitalization of the General Assembly.


In closing, he reported the success of negotiations, which had led to the formation of an all-inclusive Government in Zimbabwe.  That had been achieved, he noted, entirely through African mediation, which demonstrated that Africa was “capable of solving her challenges and problems […] often the remnants of colonialism”.  He extended his thanks to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, SADC, the African Union and others who had supported the mediation initiative, and pledged to abide by the spirit and letter of the agreement.  Finally, he called again for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe so that it could focus on its economic turnaround programme.


PAUL BIYA, President of Cameroon, reiterated the Secretary-General’s assertion that the food crisis and the need to democratize the United Nations were at the core of the problems facing the international community.  Cameroon had addressed its recent social upheaval by implementing several corrective measures, among them reducing taxes and stabilizing fuel prices.  However, problems of global origin needed to be addressed on a global platform.  He commemorated the Secretary-General for establishing the Task Force on the Global Food Crisis.  The success of any solution would require the participation of all Member States, and the wider international community, he said, urging the Assembly to finance the measures recommended by the Task Force.


Turning to other pressing issues, he discussed the myriad challenges facing Africa.  His hopes for globalization to help alleviate poverty in Africa had been dashed.  The international financial crisis instigated huge oil price hikes.  In addition, the failure of the Doha Round of trade negotiations had been “shunted to the side”.  Nonetheless, he spoke of Africa’s desire to believe that the international community would continue its support and assistance, and welcomed the Assembly’s high-level meetings devoted to Africa’s continued development and untapped potential.


He also called for a concerted response to the issue of migrants who suffered inhumane and atrocious treatment at the hands of their employers.  At the same time, their exodus from Africa to seek work also drained their countries of the very human resources needed to rebuild.  Compounding that was the continuing conflicts throughout the continent and increasing acts of terrorism.  The international community, in particular the United Nations, had been able to significantly promote peace, with one of the best examples being the settlement of the dispute over the Bakassi Peninsula.  He offered his gratitude and appreciation for all who worked to make that happen and welcomed the new era of peaceful relations between Cameroon and Nigeria.  For further peace efforts to continue, he called for all Member States to give the support and resources needed in that regard.


Cameroon’s committed participation in the global effort to attain the Millennium Development Goals was possible because of its citizens’ sacrifices, its bilateral and multilateral partners’ endeavours, and the understanding and support of the United Nations.


ASIF ALI SARDARI, President of Pakistan, said he came before the Assembly in the name of his late wife, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, and “as a victim of terrorism representing a nation that is a victim of terrorism”.


“I am a grieving husband, who has seen the mother of my children give her life fighting the menace of terrorism and fanaticism that haunt the entire civilized world,” he said.  He was here in her place, as the elected President of a democratic country who had received a 75 per cent mandate of its Parliament and assemblies, which had been a vote of confidence in her and in the “Bhutto Doctrine”.


A United Nations resolution, passed 11 months after the first attack on his wife, which called for an inquiry into that crime against humanity, had thus far been ineffective, he said.  Pakistan still did not know which forces and institutions had been involved in the murder of his wife, and an investigation would reassure Pakistanis that the United Nations Charter was “more than just rhetoric”.


The “Bhutto Doctrine of Reconciliation” presented a dual mission of combating dictatorship and terrorism, and promoting social and economic reform, as well as justice, he explained.  Benazir Bhutto had understood that democracy was not an end, but a beginning, and that a father who could not support his family was “someone ripe for extremism”.  The Doctrine was a road map to a new Pakistan, and an era of peace and cooperation between East and West, among all faiths.  Invoking the Marshall Plan, he said the Doctrine placed as its centre an economically viable Pakistan that would allow for the victory of pluralism over terrorism.


If Al-Qaida and the Taliban believed that by silencing his wife that they were silencing her message, they were very wrong, he stressed.  Pakistan would fight against all terrorists who attacked it, and those who used its territory to plan attacks against its neighbours, or anywhere in the world.  With last week’s suicide truck bomb that destroyed a building “a stone’s throw” from his office, Pakistan was once again the great victim in the war on terror, and once again, its people wondered whether they stood alone.  The country had lost more soldiers than all 37 countries with forces in Afghanistan put together.


Recalling that today’s terrorism could be traced to a war among the super-Powers in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he said Pakistan had been left with 3 million refugees, whose camps had soon become breeding grounds for violence.  The West’s departure had eventually given rise to the birth of Al-Qaida and the “Talibanization” of Afghanistan.  Yet, “we are not victims”, he said, and Pakistan’s future would not be dictated by those who defied the laws of Islam for sordid political goals.


Fighting terrorism required political will, popular mobilization and a socio-economic strategy that won the hearts and minds of nations, he said, adding that unilateral actions of great Powers should not inflame passions of allies.  Only a democratic Government could win this war.  “Yes, this is our war, but we need international support -– moral, political and economic,” he said, asking the Assembly whether it would stand with his country.


He said there were two “great battles” before mankind:  that for democracy and liberty against authoritarians and dictators, and another that would determine the course of the new millennium:  the battle against extremism and terrorism.  The outcomes would determine whether the “noble experiment” embodied in the United Nations would succeed or fail.  It was time for the world to take notice:  Pakistan was not the cause of terrorism -- it was its victim, and he called for the developed world “to step up to the plate and help us”, and in turn, help itself.


In closing, he said his nine years of unjust imprisonment had hardened his resolve to fight for democracy and justice.  Pakistan would prove wrong all the negative predictions about its future, and show the way in building a future for its people.


ALI OSMAN MOHAMED TAHA, Vice-President of Sudan, said the current session of the Assembly was occurring at a very important time with regard to the principles set down in the Charter.  Issues such as respect for the sovereignty of nations should be the focus of debate, as should reform of the United Nations, which had dealt with the many problems faced on the African continent since liberation from the yoke of colonialism.  Underdevelopment and unfavourable market conditions must be addressed.  Special threats against Africa also needed to be addressed, including the politicizing of the United Nations principles to affect the international order and the double standards that undermined the Organization’s principles.


He said Sudan was an environment with enormous resources and that peace in Sudan was a strategic necessity for the stability of the region.  Nothing should be done to jeopardize the Government’s efforts to bring about peace.  The Government must be allowed to carry out national projects for disarmament, demobilization, mine-clearing and reconciliation.  The commitments made in Oslo must be honoured by the international community to help Sudan deal with the difficulties and obstacles in implementation.  Sudan’s external debt should be cancelled in harmony with its ability to implement a comprehensive peace.


On the situation in Darfur, he said the problem was Sudan’s responsibility.  A Sudanese initiative, based on the people’s views, would be the yardstick by which a resolution was reached.  A proposal for an Arab Committee to supervise the peace had been welcomed by both the African Union and the Arab League.  That would allow for full implementation of the peace agreement that had been signed on 5 May 2006.  That African Union-led initiative had called for measures such as power sharing, all of which had the full support of the Sudanese Government. 


Many steps had already been taken in that direction, including the extension of executive and legislative positions.  “But the intransigence of the uncooperative elements” had increased as the Government carried out its obligations according to the principles of cooperation with African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  The Government had full faith the Mission and a status of forces agreement was in place.  The transfer of command from the African Union to UNAMID was proceeding according to plan with periodic coordination meetings held.  On the humanitarian level, the Government was again fully committed to the effort, and was conducting implementation of measures in an exemplary manner with the follow-up mechanisms in place. 


Therefore, at a time when the Government had made great strides to implement the peace and reconciliation process and its commitment had been guaranteed by the President himself, and when an election was planned take place in 2009, the issuance of an indictment against the man who had ended the longest war in Africa was detrimental to the peace process.  Sudan fully supported the accountability that the indictment was intended to bring about, but the Government was already implementing measures towards accountability, and the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s decision was “corroding” Sudan’s peace process.  The Security Council should correct the error, to which numerous States had objected.  Sudan wanted to get beyond bitterness.  Therefore, realizing peace in Sudan and Darfur and the aim of the Court were “two different tracks that could never meet”.  The Prosecutor’s decision must be reversed as soon as possible.


JOSÉ LUIS RODRÍGUEZ ZAPATERO, President of the Government of Spain, noted that in a few weeks it would be 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been adopted.  That instrument was a testament to the international community’s determination to make itself a better world.  The international community was already halfway through the required period for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and the Universal Declaration, along with the targets set by the Goals, were perhaps the most noble investments in personal dignity in human history.


The international community should not be complacent in working to achieve the Goals and human rights for all.  The Millennium Declaration and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were falling short of expectations, and even with the passage of time, things had not improved.  He stressed that poverty was a crime against humanity, and that it was not a result of natural forces but the actions and omissions of man, especially those in positions of leadership.


He said that, eight years ago, the world pledged to deal with poverty, yet, in his  opinion, needs in that area were the same or even greater than ever.  The world could not afford to sit back or excuse its commitment to eradicating poverty and protecting human rights.  Also, the international community needed to work towards a new financial order to prevent situations such as the current global crisis.


He said that, in the last four years, Spain had posted the highest increase in development assistance.  He also lauded his country’s human rights record, and noted that a universal moratorium on the death penalty should also be instituted by 2015.  He urged Member States to join Spain in helping to abolish the death penalty.  He further called for an extension in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the eradication of poverty.  Those objectives should not be put off with resignation or selfishness.


The international financial crisis that had begun one year ago was spreading to the rest of the world and there was a risk that the poorer countries would suffer more, he said.  That crisis showed, bluntly, the need to regulate economic spheres.  The role of Governments needed to be stressed to rationalize markets, and international financial bodies needed more support.  Finally, he stressed that dialogue should be elevated over intolerance and hate to achieve peace.  Arbitrary injustice should be eliminated with ending the discrimination of women.  Development must be sustainable and not uncontrolled.  “We need the United Nations,” he said.


TASO ASO, Prime Minister of Japan, said that the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) had focused on a “Vibrant Africa”.  Some 51 Government delegations had attended the event, which had called for increased efforts to accelerate economic growth in Africa.  The participants had also expressed renewed determination to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a sustainable manner, as well as fostering improvements in health, water, sanitation and education in Africa “on the basis of human security”.


He went on to say the recent Group of Eight (G-8) summit on Hokkaido had also addressed development.  Japan had invited a host of participants from Africa to ensure continued momentum from TICAD IV.  In hopes of continuing work on climate change, G-8 members agreed to seek adoption of a global long-term reduction in emissions, and the creation, under the auspices of the United Nations, of an effective framework for participation from all major economies on climate change issues.


Highlighting Japan’s efforts to promote cooperation and reconciliation around the world, he said his country had offered its assistance in diplomacy concerning the introduction of Israeli “drip irrigation” technology to the West Bank.  If such technology were utilized, the production of vegetables and other agricultural products in that area would dramatically increase.  Japan had also hosted Israeli and Palestinian high school students this summer to promote reconciliation.


Japan also hoped for a peaceful solution to the situation in Georgia, and expected to see a peaceful resolution of the issue, based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, with all the parties involved, including the Russian Federation, “acting in a responsible manner”.  He went on to pledge Japan’s proactive participation in the continued global fight against terrorism, as well as its commitment to Afghanistan’s reconstruction.


Turning to the situation in his region, he reiterated Japan’s continued commitment to the six-party talks regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its nuclear programme.  At the same time, he stressed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had abducted Japanese citizens, and although that country had promised to begin an investigation into the matter, no action had been taken.


SHEIKH NASSAR AL-MOHAMMAD AL AHMAD AL JABER AL-SABAH, Prime Minister of Kuwait, said the rising cost of food, basic commodities and energy, along with the effects of climate, had become serious challenges to the developing world, particularly the least developed countries.  Those challenges transcended national borders.  Africa, he continued, had not achieved any significant progress in the eradication of poverty and hunger or combating diseases like AIDS and malaria.


Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the violation of human rights posed a serious international threat, and required a swift and coordinated response from the United Nations.  There was also need for consistent commitment to the agreements and conventions ratified by Member States, along with a transparent implementation of resolutions issued in international meetings and conferences, he said.


Further, the reform of many of the United Nations bodies needed to reflect the dynamic nature of the challenges facing the international community.  He called for the introduction of reforms to the working methods of the Security Council to make it more transparent and reflective of the broader interests of the international community, including those of Arab, Islamic and small States.


Kuwait continued efforts to achieve economic and social development for its citizens, and had made good progress in implementing the commitments of the Assembly’s 2005 World Summit.  Kuwait had realized all the Millennium Development Goals including on education, health and advancing the role of women in society.  It was also working to transform itself into a financial and business centre for its region, he continued.  It had also adopted new policies, and devised new strategies, with a view to restructure the national economy and consolidate trade and investment activities.


He noted that Kuwait had provided development assistance to developing countries -- particularly the least developed countries -- through its official and non-official institutions.  This was a part of Kuwait’s foreign policy.  Since the establishment of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development in 1961, it had provided more than $12 billion in grants and “easy-to-pay loans” to finance infrastructure projects in more than 100 developing countries.  It also remained committed to fulfilling its financial obligations towards international financial institutions and specialized international agencies.


He said that Kuwait tried to follow a balanced oil policy, taking into consideration the interests of its consumers and maintaining stable prices on the world market.  Increasing oil prices were unjustified, and were a cause for concern because they contributed to the world economic crisis.  He expressed deep concern about the world financial crisis, and welcomed bold steps being considered by the United States Government to deal with the problem.


He went on to say that a truly serious desire to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East must be in accordance with the international resolutions on the principle of land for peace, the Road Map, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative.  He also reaffirmed Kuwait’s support for Syria to regain occupied land, and for the continued dialogue between all Lebanese parties in the implementation of the Doha Accord.  He also welcomed the progress made in fighting terrorism in Iraq, and stressed the right of all States to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.


HAN SEUNG-SOO, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, recalled the beginning of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly, 12 September 2001, when he had been the body’s President, and Member States had been united in calling for the international community to condemn terrorism.  Counter-terrorism capacities had been strengthened at all levels through the cooperation that followed.  Nevertheless, terrorism continued to take the lives of innocent people in many parts of the world.  It was time to root out terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, he declared.


He noted that the Republic of Korea was the first country to have the establishment of its Government recognized by the United Nations through a General Assembly resolution, 60 years ago, and that with the Organization’s support, today his country was a full-fledged democracy with a vibrant economy.  The United Nations was now leading the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and addressing the global food and energy crises.  He called for a green and pro-poor growth model in the face of climate change, which was threatening agriculture and leading to more frequent and intense natural disasters.  Growth based on cheap fossil fuels was driving up the prices of food and oil, he added.


He believed that a low-carbon, green growth paradigm was the way of the future, and supported a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2050.  He stressed the importance of high-level commitment to bolster political momentum on the issues of the environment and development, and called for a new World Summit focused on climate change and sustainable development needs in 2012, suggesting that it be held in Asia.


The global food crisis contributed to instability and threatened to reverse many development gains already achieved.  The response had to be comprehensive and timely, he said.  In addition to assisting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, his country planned to offer developing countries $100 million, as well as its first-hand expertise in agricultural development over the next three years in areas such as farming infrastructure, technology and policy-making.


The Republic of Korea supported United Nations reform, particularly the Secretary-General’s initiatives to make the Secretariat more accountable, efficient and responsive.  The Security Council needed to be more representative, accountable and efficient.  Reform of that body should be carried out in a way that united Member States, not divided them.  He went on to call for strengthening disarmament and non-proliferation regimes and for the expeditious resolution of the “North Korean nuclear issue”.  He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to resume disablement measures immediately.  As progress was made towards denuclearization, he stood ready to support economic growth in the North.  He looked forward to full restoration of inter-Korean dialogue.


HAJI AL-MUHTADEE BILLAH, Crown Prince of Brunei Darussalam, said the global challenges of today demanded that every nation worked together.  He would offer whatever support he could to the United Nations in the areas of politics, economics, disaster recovery, environmental protection and the cultures of small societies like his.


He strongly supported the efforts of the United Nations on the diplomatic Quartet working to establish just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  He noted the efforts of the Secretary-General in working with ASEAN to help Myanmar recover from the effects of Cyclone Nargis this year.  His country was working with its neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, to conserve the rainforests of Borneo.


He went on to urge support to worldwide dialogue between faiths to promote religious tolerance.  He noted that a new generation of leaders was emerging in his region.  These leaders wanted to ensure that their people had hope for the future, and would be able to fully participate in the twenty-first century through education, modern training and health care.  He asked the United Nations for help in addressing those concerns.


Finally, he commended the work of the United Nations agencies in the field, particularly the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  He said Brunei Darussalam had hosted its first UNESCO Science and Technology Camp in 2006, and had been impressed by the agency’s relevance to the needs of ordinary people.  He expressed support for UNESCO’s strategies for resolving confrontation, “no matter how painstaking the process may be”.


KEVIN RUDD, Prime Minister of Australia, said there were many who criticized the United Nations, but those who argued against it advanced no credible arguments for what should replace it.  “Whatever its imperfections, the United Nations represents a necessary democracy of States,” he said.


Recalling that the United Nations had been conceived as a bold experiment for protecting State sovereignty and advancing both the protection of peoples and dignity of individuals, he said the ideals on which the institution had been founded remained as valid today as in the past. The “quantum” of financial institutional failure seen in recent weeks had been significant, and that of Government intervention unprecedented.


On the global financial crisis, he noted that financial markets were a public good, and if Governments failed to protect that good, working people suffered.  After the Asian financial crisis, the world resolved to reduce the risk of systemic shocks, but a decade on, those lessons had not been learned.  The failure of internal governance within financial institutions was coupled with a failure of external oversight.  The immediate task was to rebuild confidence by ensuring that central banks provided adequate liquidity.


In the longer term, he said, systemically important financial institutions should be licensed to operate only on condition of disclosure, and States must ensure that banks build up capital as a buffer for bad times.  Financial institutions also needed internal incentives to promote responsible behaviour, and supervisory systems must be compatible with accounting procedures.  IMF should be given a strengthened mandate for prudential analysis.


Implementing such reforms required political will, exercised through the Group of 20 (G-20) world’s largest economies, together with the European Union, among others, he said.  In that context, Australia would work intensively with the chairs of the G-20 to ensure that financial stability was at the centre of the work programme.  The G-20 finance ministers should review progress in adopting the financial stability forum recommendations, and demonstrate their commitment to best-practice financial regulation.


Taking up environmental issues, he said Australia had begun developing the world’s most comprehensive emissions trading and carbon pollution reduction scheme to cut carbon emissions.  It would implement national strategies for energy efficiency and renewable energy.  On security matters, he said Australia was working with Afghanistan to bring stability to that country, and continued to urge nations to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  His Government was concerned that States such as Iran and North Korea failed to comply with demands for a full accounting of their nuclear programmes.


ALBERT PINTAT, Chief of Government of Andorra, said that with the world facing global warming, along with financial, energy and food crises, questions needed to be asked.  What had humanity done wrong?  What was not working?  Food prices had gone up by 50 per cent in the last year and, according to United Nations experts, the price of commodities had gone up by 30 per cent since January.  The current crises were closely related with the production patterns.  Perhaps production should be increased in the places where people were suffering, and be sent from countries with more resources.  The World Bank’s decision to double loans to agriculture was correct.  It would provide $800 million in 2009.


To correct market distortions, he said, the agricultural markets should be liberalized in line with the institution of measures to support small local owners.  Liberalization, in fact, would have to be reinvented.  It would not be a common pattern for all countries, but would have to be applied according to the specific circumstances of each country with attention paid to pros and cons.  The subject of agricultural subsidies had also not been resolved, nor had the issue of true free trade that would help the countries needing it most. 


Liberalization, he continued, would involve an expansion of productivity, and the development of both human resources and infrastructures.  It would involve the provision of access to technology and knowledge, along with respect for the environment.  In other words, liberalization would contribute to sustainable development as indicated in the 2008 Doha outcome document.


He said the current crises had revealed the vulnerability of the present global system.  The hard reality was that the approach should now be based on agreements reached at the June high-level Conference on World Food Security.  Andorra had been working on cooperative projects with vulnerable countries in that regard since 2005.  Training programmes had been set up in Haiti, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Mozambique through the financial initiatives of FAO and Andorran non-governmental organizations.  Production and agricultural trade support projects had been set up with Burkina Faso, Colombia and Morocco.  Options for future projects were being explored in the areas of maintaining biological balance, implementing sustainable forestry practices and adapting new technologies to promote ecological balance and slow the effects of climate change.


FLORENZO STOLFI, Minister for Foreign and Political Affairs and Economic Planning with the Functions of Prime Minister of San Marino, said reforming the United Nations was of fundamental importance to world equilibrium, and should remain the focus of the Assembly’s efforts.  A failure to reach an agreement on reforms would lead to the decentralization and weakening of the Organization’s pivotal role.  Given present international conditions, marked by wars inside and between nations and controversies that could lead to more conflicts, the United Nations’ role was of particular necessity.  Indeed, despite the hard work of peacekeepers, the United Nations had failed to play a decisive role in many international crises.


He said the Assembly was the most important forum in which a small State could be heard, and democratization within the bodies of the United Nations assumed fundamental importance for States of limited size.  Greater efficiency would render the Assembly more complementary in its relations with other main bodies of the Organization.  It was important for small States, also, to establish efficient collaboration methods and consultation to coordinate their actions and have their voices heard within international organizations.


Turning to the Millennium Development Goals, he said population growth, climate change and the spread of new diseases, as well as economic and financial instability were seriously threatening the achievement of the Goals.  Noting that developing countries, in particular small islands, were particularly vulnerable to climate change, he said the negative consequences of climate change were a threat to international peace and the cause of the most severe humanitarian emergencies.  The only solution, in that regard, was to identify effective strategies to reach equilibrium between respect for the environment, energy consumption and economic growth, in particular, by expanding the use of renewable energy.  Partnerships between Governments and the private sector could make a significant contribution to tackling climate change and ensuring targeted investments in new technologies.


The global food crisis and rising prices also presented an increasingly distressing trend, he said, expressing San Marino’s support for the United Nations Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis.  He also pledged support for the United Nations Campaign to End Violence against Women, noting that San Marino had recently adopted its own law in that regard entitled the “Prevention and Repression of Violence against Women and Gender-Based Violence”.  Also of particular importance to San Marino was the problems faced by people with disabilities.  It had already ratified the Convention on the matter, and, in concert with the private sector, was participating in United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) projects to protect the rights of disabled children.


Taking up the development of intercultural dialogue, he said such communication was a concrete tool for reaching peaceful coexistence and the mutual respect between individuals and peoples.  San Marino dedicated itself to, and continued to work for, the promotion of such dialogue.  In its work with the Council of Europe, San Marino had coordinated the first meeting on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, which was held this year on an experimental basis.


JENS STOLTENBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, said it was imperative that the stalled Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks be restarted so that the unfinished business of providing billions of people increased economic opportunity moved forward.  Besides the global food crisis, the world today also found itself faced with climate, energy, poverty, inequity and gender crises, as well as a larger decision-making emergency, which called for leadership at the United Nations.


For Norway, reaching the Millennium Development Goals was the foremost priority, to which it had dedicated a special responsibility regarding targets on child mortality and maternal health.  Also, everyone should dedicate the next seven years to helping improve the lives of the bottom billion, the subject of a report from the Global Campaign for the Health Millennium Development Goals he had presented earlier today.  Describing it as an exceptional plan that could save 10 million lives, he said that, if it succeeded, it would build more sustainable societies, reduce the potential for conflict and provide a better basis for growth.


He lamented, however, that, while steady progress had been made towards the Millennium Goals on poverty and child mortality, no progress on maternal health targets had been made.  “The fact that we have not made any significant progress at all in reducing the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth is appalling,” he stated, adding that the only reason for that situation was what he termed “persistent neglect of women in a world dominated by men”.


Specifically on climate change, he observed that efforts against deforestation might provide the world with the largest, quickest and cheapest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  As a fortunate developed country, Norway had a moral responsibility to pursue wider development goals and to seek to generate positive incentives for change and improve climate change policies.  To that end, in the years leading up to 2015, Norway would contribute up to $1 billion to reduce deforestation in the Amazon, making Norway the first contributor to the Amazon Fund.  That was in addition to the major initiative the country had announced in Bali last December to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.


DENZIL L. DOUGLAS, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said his country’s experience demonstrated that good governance and prudent management of resources, coupled with appropriate investment in people and systems, protecting their freedom of association, religion and speech, and the upholding of democratic ideals, were determined not by land mass, but by national character and political commitment.  They were the result of, not demographic or geographic size, but of long-standing socio-cultural traditions.


He said that through its membership in the United Nations for instance, Saint Kitts and Nevis had built important and strategic partnerships, and stood shoulder to shoulder with other Member States to protect its individual rights and collective freedoms.  That was why, 25 years on, he was still optimistic about the progress of the United Nations and its ability to defend the poor and needy, despite the pull of competing powerful national agendas that had occasionally risked undermining the ethos of the institution.  It was easy to side with the cynics when the Security Council became frozen in stalemate, or when the need for action fell victim to political posturing, he said.  But history, especially of the last two decades, indicated that the Organization was far more than the sum of its weaknesses.  This was so, because for millions of people around the world, the United Nations was their only hope –- representing a bridge between life and death, a bastion of freedom and a beacon of hope.  He was therefore hopeful that a sober and unrelenting analysis of the human consequences of sweeping and globally enforced trade and economic regimes on small States would take place during the current session of the General Assembly.


Reflecting on the state of the global economy, he said it was also his hope that the economic uncertainties that were being experienced in some of the world’s larger economies would sensitize everyone to “the breadth of the uncertainty, the depth of the anxiety, and the real psychological trauma” that often gripped small States when policies formulated far beyond their shores were utterly unresponsive to their entreaties, but were nonetheless thrust upon them.  Recent events had thrown into stark relief the issue of the stability of the world financial systems and institutions, and he pointed out that the circumstances that had led to the collapse of those institutions, and the resultant market uncertainties, had not been created by small States such as his.  But, yet again, as was the case with climate change, small States were the victims of the acts of others, and were without resources to address the consequences.


JAN PETER BALKENENDE, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said the world was witnessing extraordinary financial turbulence, and all parties needed to shoulder their responsibility.  At the same time, the crisis should not distract from efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Over 9 million children died each year before they turned five, while, every day, millions of people lived in fear of violence and abuse of power.  Although, in the last 10 years, millions of people had escaped from poverty, there was still so much to do.  All Governments needed to realize that good and ethical governance was an essential foundation for development, and act accordingly.


Returning to the financial crisis, he called on the financial sector and regulators to quickly implement the recommendations of the Financial Stability Forum:  stricter supervision, better risk management, greater transparency and enhanced accountability.  In that regard, IMF should play a central role by stepping up oversight.  That was best way to restore confidence in financial markets and prevent future crises.


Welcoming the Secretary-General’s initiative to place food security at the centre of the Assembly’s agenda, he said Governments had the duty to provide food for their people.  Likewise, international efforts to fight hunger, want and disease, should be as efficient as possible, working with other Governments, the business community and civil society.  The position of small farmers was particularly important.  Pointing out that the Netherlands had earmarked extra funding for the development of agriculture in developing countries, he said that increased agricultural production meant not only benefits for families, but for local communities too.


On the United Nations peacekeeping initiatives and establishing a global sense of freedom among all peoples, he said that, although the Organization had played an important role in ending conflict, peace operations were not enough.  Political disputes often required political solutions.  In that regard, there was no place in a free society for torture or the death penalty.  Crimes that outraged world opinion should be punished through the International Criminal Court.  The challenge for every Government was to affirm its people’s cultural and religious values and customs, and, at the same time, build bridges with the rest of the world.


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For information media • not an official record