PRESIDENT OF THE FIFTY-EIGHTH SESSION
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
H.E. MR. JULIAN HUNTE
LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY (LIU)
Wednesday, 25 February 2004
"Promoting Sustainable Development:
A Perspective from the United Nations General Assembly"
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Moderator, President David Steinberg and scholars of
Long Island University: good afternoon.
has been my privilege, in the months since my election
as President of the Fifty-eighth Session of the United
Nations General Assembly, to address a wide range of
fora on the work of the Assembly and of the United Nations.
I particularly welcome invitations from university communities
- they provide the opportunity to dialogue with students
probing the broad range of academic disciplines that
will prepare them to become concerned citizens of the
world. It is a dialogue that includes faculty members,
those who provide the education and training so essential
to that preparation.
I therefore thank you, Mr President, and the faculty
and students of Long Island University, and particularly
Professor Dr Yusuf Juwayeyi, for this opportunity to
speak with you today. I do so on a matter of critical
concern in today's world - how to promote development
of a kind that would bring maximum benefit to all people
and that can be sustained. How, indeed - in the simplest
definition of the term "sustainable development"
-, we can meet our development needs in the present
without compromising the needs of future generations
to meet their own needs.
we were to examine media reports on the work of the
United Nations today, and perhaps any day, it is not
likely that critical sustainable development issues
would feature prominently in lead stories. Lead stories
are generally reserved for conflict and war, crisis
and confrontation - issues considered to be more immediate
and more urgent. Particular focus is generally given,
in this context, to the issues for which the United
Nations Security Council has primary responsibility
under the United Nations Charter - the maintenance of
international peace and security.
Yet, socio-economic development is an essential cornerstone
of the United Nations, one on which clear pronouncements
are made in the Charter. In fact, it can be said that
development underpins other ideals enshrined in the
Charter - self-determination, peace and security, enjoyment
of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and justice
and the rule of law - and offers real hope that we can
accomplish the Charter's lofty ideals.
United Nations General Assembly is the organisation's
sole universal organ - all 191 Member States of the
United Nations have a seat in the Assembly, and each
has a vote. It is in the Assembly that the equality
of nations large and small is a reality, a reality that
ensured that St Lucia, one of the organisation's smallest
states, could hold the Presidency of this important
follows, therefore, that the framers of the Charter
would have given the Assembly an important role in the
organisation's policy-making and coordination processes,
including in respect of development. This pivotal role
of the General Assembly was recognised by Heads of State
and Government in the Declaration of their Millennium
Summit in 2000, when they resolved "To reaffirm
the central position of the General Assembly as the
chief deliberative, policy-making and representative
organ of the United Nations
Charter did not leave promoting "better standards
of life in larger freedom" to chance - institutional
arrangements were put in place to position the United
Nations to meet development objectives. The United Nations
Economic and Social Council has lead responsibility
for the coordination and promotion of coherence on development
issues. It has developed a network of commissions, committees
and other mechanism to advance initiatives in this complex,
but critical area.
Agencies - bodies including the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), the Food
and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the International
Labour Organization (ILO) - each play an important role
in advancing development objectives of the United Nations
system. It is to the General Assembly that responsibility
has been given to receive, consider and provide policy
guidance on reports from these various institutional
earlier referred to the development area as being a
complex one. It is particularly so in today's world
in which globalization and trade liberalization, underpinned
by rapid advances in technology and communications have
become the principal driving forces in the global economy.
Earlier, the prevailing wisdom had been that once markets
were opened, trade was freed up, new mechanisms such
as the World Trade Organization (WTO) were put in place
and new terms of trade replaced existing systems such
as regional preferences, there would be development
however, has challenged these assumptions, demonstrating
beyond a doubt that these processes are not so straightforward.
For the most part, those benefiting from globalization
and the rules based system of the WTO have been the
more economically advanced countries of the developed
world. Increasingly, a direct correlation is being recognized
between poverty and inequity in the global economic
system, the degradation of the environment, the ravages
of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other serious global
Indeed, disparities between rich and poor nations are
marginalizing many countries, particularly in Africa,
among Small Island Developing States and in other areas
of the developing world. In the Caribbean, for example,
we have seen investments move out of the region to areas
of lower costs, as the prices of the region's commodities
fall and its efforts to diversify into financial and
other services are challenged. At the same time, official
development assistance from richer to poorer countries
continues to decline markedly, and seeds of instability
and conflict seem to be strewn worldwide.
Lest I be accused of painting a picture of doom and
gloom, let me say that countries, developed or developing,
have a primary responsibility to promote their own development.
Where there are fair rules of engagement, developing
countries do. Many have risen to the socio-economic
development challenges, and have made progress.
Let me also say, however, that in the current global
environment, international cooperation and solidarity
is needed, if indeed we are to improve the standards
of living of all the world's people. This is a fact
that has been recognised by the United Nations General
Assembly, as we address issues such as poverty eradication,
the provision of freshwater, climate change, renewable
sources of energy and the development of marine resources
and sustainable fisheries.
with the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment
and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the
concept of "sustainable development" began
to gain a foothold. While pointing to the urgent need
to step up the United Nations development agenda, it
was also accepted that development had to proceed in
a manner that was sustainable.
UNCED, the General Assembly embarked upon a decade of
international summits and conferences, aimed at fostering
cooperation and consensus in addressing development
concerns. It is important to emphasize here that these
summits and conferences touched upon virtually all areas
of human endeavour, including the protection and preservation
of the environment, population, social development,
women, children, and housing.
am sure you will recall gatherings such as the Millennium
Summit, the World Summit for Sustainable Development,
the World Summit on Social Development, the International
Conference on Population and Development and the Fourth
World Conference on Women, to name but a few. These
summits and conferences serve as a catalyst for the
current United Nations development agenda, which includes
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
significance of major gatherings, however, is not the
convening itself - it is what happens after the debates
have ended, the commitments have been made, and the
reports have been delivered. It was clear to all, particularly
the developing countries, that a strategy was needed
to fund the development initiatives emanating from these
various conferences and meeting. The international community
took up this challenge at the 2002 International Conference
on Financing for Development, which took place in Monterrey,
stands as a watershed in respect of financing for development.
There, all partners - governments, civil society, the
business sector and the international financial and
other institutions such as the World Trade Organisation
- agreed on the means for delivering development financing.
Now, we have in place modalities for realising the development
agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals,
which themselves set realistic targets to be implemented
within agreed time-frames.
had an opportunity to review obstacles encountered and
progress made in delivering on commitments made in Monterrey
at the High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development,
which the General Assembly convened in October 2003.
Our findings were mixed, but left us with no doubt that
the clock is ticking, progress or new action has been
limited, and more needs to be done.
therefore, is an important time for the United Nations
and for the General Assembly, as we move towards 2005,
the first agreed time frame for reviewing our successes
or otherwise in meeting our development objectives.
As I speak, the Assembly is holding consultations to
determine the format and procedure of our review. Whatever
decisions are taken, the developing world, in particular
would be urging further commitments to implement the
development agenda and to put in place strategies that
would ensure that development remains at the centre
of the United Nations endeavours.
I thank you.