BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE
FIFTY EIGHT SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
AT MEDGER EVERS COLLEGE
CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
17 NOVEMBER 2003
A VIEW FROM THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Excellencies, Faculty Members, Government Officials, Distinguished
Guests, and Students: Good evening.
Jackson, it is my pleasure to be here at Medgar Evers College
tonight. I wish to thank you for hosting this reception
in my honour, and to express my appreciation to Mr Eugene
Pursoo and all those who made this visit possible.
Evers College is an outgrowth of the Community it serves.
Here, people from countries of the Caribbean and of Caribbean
descent in significant numbers, have joined their African-American
brothers and sisters and people from all over the world
to build a strong and diverse community that all can call
Coming as I do from St Lucia, I am sure that tonight, I
am in the company of family and friends.
it fitting that this College, in this community, should
be dedicated to the memory of Medgar Evers. Medgar Evers
was a man of immense courage, a committed and dedicated
leader and stalwart champion of the rights and dignity of
African-Americans, and of racial equality in America. He
paid the supreme price for a cause in which he passionately
believed. This College is living testament that the spirit
and values of Medgar Evers lives on.
United Nations was also built on the premise of community
- the community of nations. The Charter of the United Nations
states that within this community, all nations, large and
small, should have equal rights.
Lucia has taken the United Nations at its word, and it has
not been disappointed. I had the honour, in June of this
year, to be elected President of the Fifty-eighth Session
of the United Nations General Assembly, as the representative
of the smallest country ever to hold this post.
I took up the Presidency, which is universally regarded
as an onerous task. All of the United Nations 191 member
states have a seat in the General Assembly, the only universal
organ of the United Nations. Other organs - the Security
Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship
Council and the International Court of Justice - are limited
membership bodies, to which member states must be elected.
Lucia did not aspire to the Presidency because we were striving
for power, pre-eminence or dominance. In an Assembly in
which the powerful and the mighty sit as equal members,
this would not be a practical proposition. We sought and
accepted the Presidency because we were confident that we
could provide global leadership, render useful service and
effectively manage the affairs of the General Assembly.
We are, after all, a country with no hidden agenda, and
no national interests at odds with those of the wider international
community. Therefore, St Lucia could assume the role of
honest broker in addressing the complex, wide-ranging and
challenging issues on the Assembly's Agenda.
is, in many respects, an innovative one. My Prime Minister,
the Honourable Kenny Anthony, agreed that the Presidency
should be treated both as St Lucian and CARICOM. CARICOM
Heads of State and Government supported this approach. I
therefore have a Cabinet comprised of accomplished St Lucian
and CARICOM diplomats and professionals. Altogether, nationals
of some ten CARICOM countries, including St Lucia, are in
pleased to say that two interns from Medgar Evers College
also serve in my Cabinet, and are making a contribution
to the important work we are doing. I trust that the hands
on experience in international relations they are acquiring
will add value to their tertiary education and assist in
preparing them for the future.
is making a further contribution to the St Lucian Presidency.
CARICOM Ambassadors to the United Nations have formed a
five member Ambassadorial Advisory Group, to counsel me
on matters of critical import on the Assembly's agenda,
and to otherwise assist me in carrying out the responsibilities
of the Presidency.
leadership of the General Assembly at a very testing time
for the United Nations. You will no doubt recall that earlier
this year, some were questioning the relevance of the organisation.
The matter centred on the Security Council's inability to
reach agreement on what would be the best course of action
to pursue in response to Iraq's unwillingness to comply
fully with previous United Nations resolutions. There was
also, at that time, a very real fear that Iraq possessed
weapons of mass destruction.
passage of time and events still unfolding have underscored
that despite its shortcomings - and yes, these do exist
- the United Nations is still an essential actor in international
affairs. It is only the United Nations that can confer legitimacy
on collective action in response to threats to international
peace and security, whether taken by a group or by the international
community as a whole. The United Nations also has unparalleled
strengths and experience in the area of humanitarian relief,
and more importantly, in the sensitive and complex area
of nation-building in post conflict settings, where its
neutrality and objectivity are critical advantages.
having been said, it is quite clear that people the world
over are sending a message, through their Governments, through
civil society and through other channels that they want
the United Nations to more effectively live up to its Charter
principles. Sustainable development, poverty alleviation,
globalisation and trade liberalisation, arms and narcotics
trafficking and other forms of transnational crime, terrorism
and pandemics such as HIV/AIDS are among the pressing global
problems on which demands are being made for action. Above
all, the organisation is being called upon to better carry
out its responsibilities to maintain international peace
and other developments have been challenging. They have
had the effect of heightening the sense of urgency to revitalise
the General Assembly and generally, to reform the United
Nations, to better implement its Charter functions; to bring
development back to centre stage on the organisation's agenda;
and to better maintain international peace and security.
therefore seized the opportunity to move forward with priorities
I have set in these areas, with encouraging results to date.
my Presidency, the General Assembly has held two successful
events: a High-level Plenary on HIV/AIDS and a High-level
Dialogue on Financing for Development. In the context of
this latter issue, the General Assembly has focussed especially
on commodities and tax cooperation, two issues of particular
importance to the Caribbean, and to the developing world
in general. I had the honour of inviting Uganda's President
Yoweri Museveni to address the Assembly on the commodities
issue - he did so in a manner that should give incentive
to further international action in this area.
have also been important developments in respect of the
General Assembly's consideration of matters relating to
international peace and security. While primary responsibility
in these areas rests with the Security Council, the General
Assembly may discuss any questions of peace and security
that member states bring to it. Member states have twice
during my Presidency brought issues concerning the situation
in the Middle East to the General Assembly, when the Security
Council could not reach agreement on them. I have, therefore,
reconvened and presided over two Special Emergency Sessions
is a significant ground swell of support for reforming the
now fifty-eight year old United Nations, so that it might
more effectively carry out its mandates in all areas. The
more than eighty Heads of State and Government who addressed
the General Assembly's General Debate at the opening of
the session all emphasised this point. I have, therefore,
taken the initiative to advance the reform agenda in respect
of the General Assembly. A Group of Facilitators that I
have appointed are currently examining the question of revitalisation
of the Assembly, with a view to adopting a resolution on
this matter sometime in December.
of the Security Council is another issue, as this bears
centrally on the matter of permanent membership of five
countries - the China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom
and the United States - and of their right to veto decisions
of the Council. We are now engaged in a process of stocktaking
on reform of the Council, and hope to put these matters
before the membership shortly.
meantime, I am actively implementing other reforms proposed
earlier, but which had not been implemented. Notably, I
am summing up important debates in the Assembly, and organising
briefings for the general membership on critical issues
before the Assembly.
that this brief snapshot of activities to date of the St
Lucian Presidency will give you a general idea of the work
we are doing and the leadership we are endeavouring to provide
to the General Assembly. I am ever conscious, however, that
we began with only a year, and now down to only ten months,
to achieve the results on which our Presidency will be assessed.
We want our report card to be a good one, and are working
assiduously to attain this objective. But we are fully aware
that the complexities of the General Assembly and of the
United Nations as a whole will challenge us until the day
our Presidency comes to an end. I am reminded, in that regard,
of the saying that, "if you are not be able to make
a world of difference, you should strive to make a difference
in the world". The St Lucia Presidency will do its
utmost to live up to this adage.