6 JUNE 2003

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Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General/Madam Deputy Secretary-General, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to express my appreciation and that of the Government of Saint Lucia to the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States for its endorsement of Saint Lucia's candidature for the presidency of the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session. I wish also to thank members of this Assembly for the confidence placed in me in electing me as their incoming President. My endorsement and election are a source of great pride and satisfaction to my Government and to me.

Allow me to assure you, Sir, that you have the continuing support of my Government, which will continue to work with you and Member States in guiding the affairs of the General Assembly through this most difficult period.

Events over the last two years have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that no nation is an island unto itself. No nation can protect its people completely from cross-border problems. The unprecedented challenges that face our Organization - ranging from HIV/AIDS and, recently, SARS, to transnational crime and terrorism - know no borders and respect no boundaries. Only international cooperation offers any hope that, collectively, we can overcome the problems that threaten humanity as a whole.

There can be no nation in today's world that does not value the role or recognize the importance of the United Nations as the premier Organization addressing the myriad challenges that confront our global community. Some continue to question the relevance of the United Nations without offering a viable alternative that respects the very principles of democracy and rights they propound within their own borders. The truth is that, worldwide, people are deeply committed to the United Nations. People do sincerely believe that the world would be a safer, more secure place and that all would have a better standard of living if the Charter of this body were to be respected and upheld. Therefore, although there may be cause for concern, we have no reason to despair about the United Nations and the principles and multilateral approaches for which it stands.

While the United Nations remains vital, there is no doubt that it requires some reform. No institution created in the conditions that existed more than half a century ago can claim to remain relevant in all its aspects unless it keeps pace with a rapidly changing world. We must therefore look to the future in determining the role which the United Nations will play in the service of humanity - a role that respects the rule of law, that upholds the principles of democracy, that reinforces machinery for curbing violations of human rights, that promotes gender equality, that acts against tyranny no less than it acts against aggression, and that offers opportunity for the poor to rise out of poverty even as it ensures economic and social advancement for all peoples. The United Nations must remain vigilant to the role it must play, as solutions are formulated and implemented for critical international issues of peace and security, whether in Iraq, the Middle East or Africa.

I wish to assure Member States and the Secretary-General of my deep commitment to the United Nations and pledge to do my part to enhance its relevance for all nations and peoples. It is my intention as President of the General Assembly to focus the Assembly's efforts on the full implementation of the outcomes of more than a decade of United Nations summits and conferences and the United Nations development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals, for unless we address such critical and pressing issues as poverty, HIV/AIDS, the environment and the vulnerability of small States with deeds and not just words, global stability will be a desired but ever elusive ideal and safety and security will remain in peril.

I am keenly aware that the General Assembly must always be responsive to its membership and to the international environment in which it functions. I wish to assure the Assembly that it is my firm intention to reach out to all Member States and regional groups, and to the Secretary-General and his staff, in seeking to build consensus on the broad range of issues the General Assembly addresses, including those that may be controversial or potentially divisive. In such an approach lies the real revitalization of this, the most important organ of the United Nations.

When in September of this year I receive the baton of President from you, Sir, the Assembly will, in one seamless moment, continue its critical work as the United Nations organ - larger than any one nation - imbued with the authority of all nations and empowered to safeguard the welfare of all peoples. No other body is so empowered.

It is notable that the presidency of this singularly important world body will pass to a representative of the smallest country ever to hold this office. Thus will the United Nations reaffirm its faith in the equal right of nations, large and small, as enunciated in the Charter.

I am confident that I will have the full cooperation of the members of the Assembly, the Secretary-General and his staff, and the principal organs of the United Nations in building firm foundations for a future in which the peoples of the world can develop and prosper in a climate of peace and cooperation.

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