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H. E. Mr. Marcus Stephen, President

24 September 2008

Statement Summary

MARCUS STEPHEN, President of Nauru, addressing the Assembly for the first time, reminded delegations that almost a decade ago, his country had been on the brink of total economic collapse.  Through a variety of fiscal, economic and governance reforms, Nauru had begun slow, and occasionally painful, progress towards some stability.  However, because the situation had been fragile, the country needed continued support and assistance from its development partners, as well as strong debt forgiveness or major write downs.

He noted the many obstacles and challenges facing the Nauruans in current times, amongst them, high unemployment and depleted natural resources, and he appealed to developed countries, specifically the United States, as it expanded its military facilities in Guam, to open up job opportunities, reduce barriers to trade and promote labour mobility.  In developing stronger economic development, Nauru would be able to shift from its historical reliance on government and public sector investment to a more evolved private sector.

Like many countries around the world, the food and energy crises affected the security and well-being of the citizens of Nauru.  The exploitation of its phosphate mines had left the country unable to develop agriculture or prevent desertification and drought.  Recalling that the Secretary-General had said earlier that the price of rice had risen to $730 a ton, he noted that Nauru paid $1,340 a ton for its rice.  Although Nauru didn’t contribute to the foods shortages, it was one of the first to experience the consequences.  He called for a worldwide increase of food production, and a review of trade policies on food aid.

The unaffordable cost of fuel had also impacted the island in significant ways, with power cuts of up to eight hours a day, limited access to running water, the jeopardizing of sanitation standards, and, because transportation costs were out of reach for most of its citizens, the country’s growing isolation from the rest of the world.  He observed that the world’s reliance on fossil fuels and the resulting emissions affected Nauru with rising sea levels, which would eventually flood the island.  Global warming was no longer a scientific theory in Nauru.  It was a reality.

Despite those immense threats, he maintained his Government’s goals to rehabilitate the island’s land.  He also requested additional support to do so.  He challenged the emitting countries to do more to reduce their carbon footprint and called upon the United Nations to live up to its mandate to maintain international peace and security by ensuring a healthy global climate.

[Source: GA/10751]