The balance sheet for the Twentieth Century in the area of economic
and social development is similarly mixed. While the
United Nations, through its Specialised Agencies and Programmes, has made great strides in the fight against hunger,
disease and deprivation, the progress has not been evenly distributed. The goal of the alleviation and ultimate
eradication of poverty remains largely unfulfilled, with desperate consequences for the growing numbers of the world's
population who live in extreme poverty. Structural adjustment, the errant compass of the so called lost decade of the
80's, has taken its heavy social toll. So too has the burden of debt, which despite the promise of debt forgiveness for the
Least Developed Countries and special initiatives for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries, continues to constrain the
future economic prospects for a large number of developing countries. At the same time, the decline in Official
Development Assistance has had a direct impact on the most vulnerable sectors of society: women, children, the elderly
and the infirm.
The Secretary-General has challenged the international community to set a target for the halving of the numbers of the
population living in extreme poverty by 2015. For this to be achieved there is urgent need for a higher level of political will
and a shared commitment to create the necessary social and economic framework to enable the poor and dispossessed
to redirect their lives.
Education remains the most powerful tool for ensuring social progress and the betterment of living standards for the
underprivileged. It is thus one of the most disappointing truths of the closing century that the international community has
failed in its collective endeavour to eradicate illiteracy, especially among children. Although in the developing world the
adult literacy rate has increased by half, from 48% in 1970 to 72% in 1998, the information revolution now threatens to
create a new category of functional illiterates.
The eradication of illiteracy and the provision of at least primary basic schooling are eminently achievable goals. As an
engine of social mobility, education stands as the most important component in ensuring the success of an individual and
of a society. It is the greatest social liberator and facilitator of peace and is one of the fundamental pillars supporting
democracy, competitiveness and social stability.
The development of my country Barbados provides ample proof of how education can empower a people and foster
upward mobility for each succeeding generation. Education has always been one of the highest priorities for the
Government of Barbados and a major source of budget expenditure. We are one of the very few countries where access
to education is free at point of delivery, mandatory up to sixteen years of age and universal at primary, secondary and
tertiary level. Currently the Government of Barbados is embarked upon an ambitious programme within the schools
known as EDUTECH 2000, which aims to ensure that every child is equipped to function successfully in the new
Mr. President, as we approach the new century, the world faces probably one of the most disastrous threats to its
sustainability, a threat which has ended the lives of an unimaginable number of persons; crippled the economies and
threatened the productive workforce of Southern Africa; and taken an increasing toll in Asia and in my own sub-region,
the Caribbean. I am referring of course to the pandemic of AIDS/HIV.
Current estimates indicate that there are over 33.4 million people worldwide who are now infected with the disease. In the
Caribbean region alone that figure numbers some 330 000, an astounding and frightening statistic to contemplate for my
country of a mere 267,000 people. Our region has the highest prevalence in the Western Hemisphere, and a prevalence
second to only that of Sub-Saharan Africa. It has been reported by UN AIDS that every day there are sixteen thousand
new HIV infections and that 95% of all reported AIDS cases occur in the developing world.
The AIDS pandemic, Mr. President, is in our view the gravest economic and social crisis facing the global community as
we enter the twenty-first century. Many of our leaders and policy makers are only now beginning to grasp the enormity of
the problem, and to fully appreciate the devastating impact which AIDS is having, and will continue to have, on the
economic sustainability of every country, from the smallest most undeveloped nation to the largest most economically
viable state. For AIDS is not only a human and a social tragedy. It is also an economic one. It attacks our present
workforce not only in its productive, but also in its reproductive capacity, thus simultaneously decimating the economic
potential of two generations. It is a sobering reality, Mr. President, that AIDS is now the leading cause of death among
young men in the Caribbean, and it is projected that the disease may cause a decline in the region's GDP by as much as
four to six percent over the next decade.
Mr. President, we cannot tackle this grave crisis solely on the basis of current strategies and financial flows. Containing
the spread of AIDS and dealing with its economic impact is an immediate priority which will require a major commitment of
human and financial resources. In this regard, I am pleased to note the serious attention now being given to the crisis by
the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions. Just yesterday in Barbados
a major Conference was convened under the auspices of the World Bank, UNAIDS, PAHO/WHO, the UNDP, CARICOM
and CIDA to bring together high level Caribbean health, education, economic development and labour policy makers to
map out a new crisis strategy for our region.
Barbados applauds the recommendations of the Secretary-General that the United Nations should adopt as an explicit
goal, the reduction of HIV?infection rates in persons 15-24 years of age by 25 percent within the most affected countries
before the year 2005, and by 25 percent by 2010. The United Nations must make AIDS education and research a priority
for the coming century. Determined leadership is needed to persuade governments and international pharmaceutical
companies that a partnership must be developed to combat the disease both through research and through the provision
of drugs, at reasonable cost, to those who are most in need.
Mr. President, the trafficking in and abuse of illegal drugs has paralysed the development of many of our societies. It has
also eroded the productivity of the work force, and led to social discord, violence, and a conspicuous erosion of values
and respect for the rule of law. The countries of the Caribbean have not remained untouched by this affliction, both as
transhipment, and more recently, as consuming states.
In the fight against this menace, the United Nations Drug Control Programme has played a crucial role, and its
sub-regional office in Barbados deserves special mention for its active support for our own efforts. In Barbados, UNDCP
assistance has been invaluable in the establishment of the Integrated Drug Programme through our domestic National
Council on Substance Abuse, and in facilitating our community outreach efforts. Of particular note too, has been its role
in the establishment of an Anti?Money Laundering Authority in Barbados.
Mr. President, as a Small Island Developing State, Barbados is very aware that the natural environment performs for us
free, basic services without which human beings could not survive. At the same time, certain industrial and technological
advances have threatened the bio diversity of many of the small island developing states. Therefore, for ecological
reasons, and for reasons of sovereignty and sustainable development, Barbados, on behalf of the Association of
Caribbean Sates last year launched an initiative leading to the adoption of resolution 54/225 on: "Promoting an
Integrated Management Approach to the Caribbean Sea Area in the Context of Sustainable Development". We are
grateful for the recognition by the General Assembly of the efforts of the Caribbean to protect and preserve our most
precious resource.The functions of the Caribbean Sea are many and multi?layered. It is the source of our food, it is the
main attraction which drives our tourism markets, and it is our primary and most reliable link with the outside world. The
destruction that would be caused if there were an accident involving nuclear waste or oil in our waters would be beyond
catastrophic and it would take centuries for our environment to fully recover. We look forward to continued assistance
from the international community in helping us to achieve the objectives of this resolution to maintain and protect this our
most vital natural resource. It remains the ultimate goal of the region to have the Caribbean Sea recognised as a special
area within the context of sustainable development.
In this spirit Barbados also welcomes the newly established Open-Ended
Informal Consultative Process of the United
Nations on Ocean Affairs (UNICPO), and intends to be an active participant in the consultative process. We welcome the
efforts by the General Assembly to address the problems of over exploitation of living marine resources and the
degradation of the marine environment.
Mr. President, the collective efforts of our governments to alleviate poverty and disease and to develop our human capital
to take full advantage of the opportunities for economic and social advancement take place within the parameters of a
challenging new international order. I refer, of course, to the phenomenon of globalisation.
Globalisation is not entirely new. It has existed in varying incarnations among trading nations throughout history. What
makes the modern incarnation different, however, is the manner in which the accompanying information revolution is
making possible the integration of trade, investment, finance, production and services across national boundaries. What
also distinguishes it is the philosophy of multilateralism, which offers all countries, developed and developing, a say, at
least in theory, in shaping the rules which will henceforth govern international economic transactions. Nor is globalisation
as a concept inherently negative. The precepts of expanding market access, trade liberalisation, increased technological
advancement, and more efficient and effective mechanisms of manufacturing and agriculture are all positive elements. It
is in the rigid application of these elements, however, and their application without regard to the social dimension of
development, that distortions have arisen which threaten to widen further the income gap between the developed and the
developing worlds. Again I reiterate, Mr. President, that the true challenge of the new multilateralism will be to ensure that
globalisation does not become an instrument of oppression for the peoples of the developing world, but rather a means
of offering a better life to all our peoples.
In our efforts to sensitise the developed world to the need for adequate transitional measures for developing countries,
and for recognition of the special vulnerabilities of small economies, Barbados has frequently pointed to the fact that our
Caribbean countries are being asked to undertake in ten years a process which was carried out by the advanced
industrialised societies over a period of more than forty years, spread over eight rounds of multilateral trade negotiations
from 1947 to 1994. In this regard we have emphasised that however clinically sound a procedure might be, the
compression of its application into too short a time period can often be a fatal therapy. One of the great essential
inequalities of the contemporary global economy is that while the developed world was allowed an extended period over
which to properly phase in trade liberalisation, to its benefit, smaller, less endowed societies with lesser scope to absorb
the shocks of adjustment are expected to make a potentially beneficial adjustment over an incredibly short period of time.
It would not have worked for the developed world; it will not now work for the developing, and is in fact the consideration
which argues the case for longer phase-in periods to apply the changes in the global trading regime.
Barbados is not opposed to globalisation, Mr. President. We have already begun the process of restructuring our
economy and repositioning our society to meet the challenge. But our efforts, we believe, must be met by a similar display
of good faith on the part of the WTO, which must, as my Government has repeatedly stated, review, repair and reform
itself, adopt an ideology that is developmental, and embrace a developmental agenda that is progressive and balanced in
its substance, its processes and its outcomes.
That display of good faith is also necessary in promoting constructive and mutually beneficial dialogue between the
industrialised countries and their developing country partners on the crucial matter of the regulation of international
financial centres in their jurisdictions. My country has spoken extensively in other fora on our serious concerns over the
unilateral manner in which the OECD has proceeded on its so called "harmful tax competition" initiative, and on the real
motives underlying this unfortunate move. The setting of international rules in the area of financial services cannot
properly be done by a grouping of 29 countries to the exclusion of all other interested parties. In this age of enlightened
multilateralism, there is no place for the application of unilateral, extra-territorial solutions to international economic
On balance, Mr. President, we must not allow our frustration at the many missed opportunities to obscure the fact that the
Twentieth Century has produced much that is positive. As we look forward, in the words of the Prime Minister of
Barbados, the Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur: "we face the prospect that the simultaneous operation of the enormous power of
technological change, the dismantling of barriers to the movement of output, capital, ideas and skills, and the emergence
of rules-based, consensus-driven institutions of global scope will create a new global society that is capable of affording
development to all, and of putting the scourge of poverty behind us forever. We will leave the Twentieth Century and
enter the Twenty First conscious of the dangers, but excited by the prospects."
I thank you, Mr. President.