SENATOR the HONOURABLE JULIAN R. HUNTE
PRESIDENT - ELECT
FIFTY EIGHT SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
TO THE FORUM OF SMALL STATES (FOSS)
York, September 4th, 2003
Kishore Mahbubani, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
ladies and gentlemen:
me to thank the Forum of Small States (FOSS) for continuing
its tradition of inviting the incoming President of the
United Nations General Assembly to address the Forum prior
to taking up office. It is a singular honour for me to speak
to you in my capacity as President-elect of the Fifty-eighth
Session of the General Assembly. My country, St Lucia, is
an active member of FOSS and I therefore speak to you as
a member of the FOSS family
I propose to speak to you about small states' concerns in
the context of the changing international environment. I
will then briefly share my priorities for the forthcoming
session with you and suggest ways in which we can work together
cooperatively in ensuring that we accomplish the goals that
we have set for the General Assembly, including those of
particular interest to small states.
states are prominent among the world's states, comprising
a significant constituency in international organisations,
including the United Nations. Less than twenty years ago,
the concept of small states as a group, was only grudgingly
referred to in the global political, socio-economic, development
and security debate.
to that, when small states generated a measure of debate,
the discussion in most circles centred largely on the issue
of political viability. And this centred basically on the
ability of small states to exercise sovereignty and to fulfil
the responsibilities associated with membership in the international
this situation has changed. There is now wider recognition
of small states as a group and the debate has been broadened
to include issues of concern to small states.
speed, scope and intensity of change in the global environment,
as well as the increasing interdependence of states, seriously
challenge all countries. Whether large or small, developed
or developing, all are seeking to deal with the ever-expanding
and increasingly complex international environment. Issues
such as globalisation and trade liberalisation, debt, sustainable
development, poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS, transnational
crime, and terrorism, have engaged our collective focus.
It is clear, however, that this range of critical issues
does have a greater impact on small states than on large
ones, in several ways. In many cases, the effect of these
issues erodes or reverses many socio-economic gains that
Small States have made over the past half-century.
is one of the significant factors affecting the development
of small states. To proponents, globalisation is progress;
developing countries must accept it if they are to grow
and fight poverty effectively. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate
and former chief economist of the World Bank summarises
the message of globalisation proponents this way: "open
your economy, liberalise, and, you will grow, and as you
grow, poverty will be reduced".
globalisation has brought some benefits to some countries,
large and small. Yet, it is fair to say that the benefits
promised by globalisation have not materialised for many.
Inequality is widening. Indeed, in its World Development
Report 2003, the World Bank estimates that the average income
in the richest 20 countries is now 37 times that in the
poorest 20. In that same report, the Bank estimates that
close to 3 billion people in developing countries live on
less than $2 a day.
and gentlemen, we need to consider the question; does the
global economy constitute a level playing field? Let us
look at some of the facts. Enterprises producing for export
in many developing countries are invariably small by global
standards, and hence unable to realise economies of scale.
Additionally, the commodities market has not fared well
for small states, and for many, commodity prices have hit
all time lows. Increased opportunities for engagement in
the international economy are countered by a strong rules-based
regulatory regime, barriers to trade and agricultural and
other subsidies. This situation militates against the full
and effective participation of a majority of small states
in the global economy.
of small states have sought to counter the one-size-fits-all
approach to developing countries by proposing special and
differential treatment within trading regimes such as the
WTO, FTAA and the ACP/EU. In making this call small states
are not only looking for the removal of obstacles but more
importantly for the establishment of interim measures that
would facilitate their effective participation in the global
of the special and differential treatment proposition is
proving to be an uphill battle; a battle which underscores
one of the most significant challenges facing small states
- to secure the commitment of the international community
to approach small states' issues from a different perspective.
The Right Honourable Owen Arthur, Prime Minister of Barbados,
put it this way:
have an unprecedented opportunity to create a new
global society which, for the first time, embraces the concerns
of the very powerful and the very poor within the same paradigm
of development, and which by respecting diversity and special
circumstance, can establish that a high quality of human
development can take place within the context of social
a perspective would recognise the vulnerability of small
states to external shocks, including natural and man-made
disasters and other environmental threats. It would recognise
that diseases such as HIV/AIDS do halt and reverse development
gains made by affected small states. It is, after all, within
the most productive sector of small economies that HIV/AIDS
is taking its toll. In the Caribbean, a region comprised
primarily of small states, it is estimated that more than
half a million people are living with HIV/AIDS. The fact
is HIV/AIDS is more than a health problem. It is a major
key issue that must be examined is the use of per capita
income as a means of assessing levels of development. Not
only does it distort the true picture of development in
many countries, but it also impacts negatively on small
states in many other ways. Two pertinent examples are the
level of the assessment of contributions to international
organisations and premature graduation from access to concessionary
resources on the basis of per capita income performance.
This latter point is particularly challenging given that
access to private capital is not assured.
those small states in which the services sector constitutes
a principal engine of growth, the impact of crime, both
national and transnational, and the possibility of being
seen as "soft targets" for international terrorism,
present serious impediments to growth and even to maintaining
the sector at its current level. Further, small states must
often contend with a system in which some have abrogated
unto themselves the right to impose their rules on the international
system, for example, in international taxation policy. The
external pressures on the services sector have had, and
can continue to have a serious impact on national development.
ladies and gentlemen, while economic issues have tended
to dominate the international debate, we must not forget
that there is also a key social and cultural dimension,
which needs to be addressed. Global economic forces can
and do adversely affect pluralistic cultural expression.
We need to ensure that the individual social and indigenous
cultural identities of small states remain vibrant and intact.
ladies and gentlemen, the challenges to small states are
clear. I wish to reiterate that the situation has changed
in that there appears to be some light at the end of the
tunnel. There is now increased awareness of the vulnerabilities
of small states and that international action is required
to address these issues. I believe that much of the progress
that has been made, is due to small states' themselves having
taken the initiative in these areas` For example, largely
through our efforts we have been able to get the question
of a vulnerability index on the agenda in several international
fora including the United Nations; but we need to intensify
our efforts to get action.
states generally do not have significant military capability
and little economic or negotiating power. The era of multilateralism
offers small states the best hope for socio-economic development,
for peace and security and for the opportunity to participate
actively in setting and implementing the global agenda.
This opportunity for increasing the role of small states
should not be missed.
Commonwealth Advisory Group noted in its Report, "A
Future for Small States, Overcoming Vulnerability",
"the United Nations is the most important international
organisation for small states". As you are aware, the
United Nations is the sole multilateral organisation open
to all the world's states. It is the world's most important
deliberative forum, and as such, critical for initiating
global action and the resolution of global problems. It
has the legitimacy to address the full range of global concerns,
and its agenda is unparalleled by any other international
organisation. The United Nations is, therefore central to
the resolution of the challenges confronting the global
community in general, and small states in particular.
General Assembly is the United Nations only universal organ:
the only United Nations organ in which small states, like
large states, are full and equal members. It is to the General
Assembly that small states come to work cooperatively to
achieve national and international objectives. And, it is
the General Assembly that has given me, representing St.
Lucia, a small member state, the honour to provide leadership
to the premier policy-making and supervisory organ of the
United Nations. I have taken the honour and responsibility
that leadership brings into serious consideration in determining
my approach to the Presidency of the Fifty-eighth Session
of the General Assembly.
my strongly held view, however, that all countries have
a stake in ensuring that the United Nations keeps its Charter
obligation to work for the socio-economic development of
all the world's people. My consultations with Permanent
Representatives, regional and other groups and senior Secretariat
officials have indicated broad agreement with this position.
Therefore, I have put development and rebuilding the confidence
of developing countries at the top of the list of priorities
for the Presidency.
also placed priority on a successful outcome for the High-level
Plenary on HIV/AIDS, bearing in mind the negative impact
of this deadly disease on development. Priority will also
be given to the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development
and the preparations for the SIDS+10 Conference, to be held
in Mauritius in August 2004. Importantly, we will seek to
advance initiatives to implement, in an integrated way,
the outcomes of United Nations Summits and Conferences,
including the Millennium Development Goals. While we believe
that specialised and other agencies have a vital role to
play in delivering development commitments, we see the United
Nations General Assembly as having a critical coordinating
and policy-making role.
believe, however, that the General Assembly must be strengthened
to enable it to deliver its development and other objectives
in an effective manner. To achieve this, all members will
need to participate actively in setting and implementing
the global agenda. Revitalisation of the Assembly features
prominently in the priorities we have set for reform of
the United Nations. We also hope to facilitate consideration
of the future direction of reform of the Security Council,
ongoing for some ten years now, following our assessment
of where this matter currently stands.
the role and function of the General Committee has been
among ideas long in our contemplation. I believe that the
Committee can be a source of significant support to the
Presidency. Together with Committee members, we are seeking
to determine how best to give practical effect to an enhanced
role for the General Committee.
and Security have assumed increasing importance, especially
following the bombing of the United Nations Headquarters
in Baghdad which resulted in the death of the Secretary-General's
Special Representative, Sergio De Mello and a number of
other United Nations staff members. Our sympathy goes out
to the family of Mr. De Mello and to the families of all
who died, as well as to those injured in the bombing. In
an international environment charged with the tension of
internal conflicts, war and terrorism, we have undertaken
to facilitate consideration of the situation in Iraq, to
support and promote peace in the Middle East and conflict
resolution in Africa.
that FOSS member states fully understand what is required
to carry forward the priorities of the General Assembly,
including those that I have identified for priority consideration.
I say this with confidence, because small states have, indeed,
proven themselves fully capable of advancing issues of interest
both to themselves and to the international community. This
is borne out by our sound record of accomplishments and
the major voice we have had in international organisations,
such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Organisation
of American States, where Small States have often taken
a lead role in stimulating and coordinating action in areas
of particular concern.
current international environment, however, there is much
more that we can, and must do. Small states must continue
to unravel and make sense of the increasingly rules-based
trading system. We must also act to have an input in international
policy. We must insist that decisions and resources be matched
more precisely, to enhance our prospects for implementation
of the outcomes of multilateral deliberations.
and friends, I will be counting on you to assist me in meeting
the goals and objectives of the Fifty-eighth session of
the General Assembly. I urge you to focus on the issues
and to propose and negotiate outcomes that will help us
to realise those goals and objectives. Specifically, I would
request members of FOSS to:
the lead in advancing priorities for the session, in the
areas of development, United Nations reform and peace
systematically to garner support for, and understanding
of concerns to small states, through regional and other
groups and organisations, where FOSS members are represented.
to the development of a strong support system among member
states of the General Assembly for the SIDS + 10 programme;
bilateral partners, particularly those in the developed
world to participate; and
to bring forward the matter of the vulnerability of small
states, including the initiative for a vulnerability index.
and friends, the mission is clear and the objectives have
been outlined. We must work collectively to achieve our
me again thank Ambassador Mahbubani for inviting me to address
the FOSS and to thank you all for the warm welcome that
you have given me here today.