PERMANENT MISSION OF GHANA
TO THE UNITED NATIONS
HIS EXCELLENCY MR. JAMES VICTOR GBEHO
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF GHANA
55TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
SEPTEMBER 18, 2000
On behalf of my delegation, I wish to congratulate you sincerely on your election as President of the 55th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Session is indeed historic, coming as it does in the wake of a Millennium Summit that witnessed the presence of the largest-ever gathering of political leaders of the international community. I also wish to commend the other members of the Bureau on their election.
May I also take this opportunity to pay a richly deserved tribute to your predecessor, Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, Foreign Minster of Namibia, whose deep sense of duty and commitment to social justice helped shape the UN agenda for the new century. Indeed, the General Assembly gave impetus to such an agenda when in December 1998, it decided to hold the Millennium events, believing strongly that the turn of the century "was a unique and symbolically compelling moment to articulate and affirm an animating vision for the United Nations in the new era".
Barely a fortnight ago, world leaders met here in New York, following that commitment, to address the challenges of the new century, reaffirm their commitment to the Charter of the UN and demonstrate political will for the new process. The message that emerged from the statements of the Heads of State and Government at the Millennium Summit was the reaffirmation of the unique role of the United Nations in offering the best and only universal framework for confronting the challenges of the millennium. It recognized a UN that is capable of promoting a new development agenda that is people-oriented and which also guarantees greater participation of stakeholders, particularly women, the youth, the private sector and civil society at large; a UN that has been revitalized to play a more meaningful role in helping developing countries meet the challenges of poverty reduction, political pluralism and the ongoing process of globalisation; a United Nations that boldly plays its role as an organization working for the good of all, with the confidence of the world's people.
The conjunction of the Fifty-Fifth session of the General Assembly and the beginning of a new millennium provides a symbolic departure point for the international community to seek to do better in all areas of its endeavour. Today, there is no greater challenge facing our world and no greater issue defining this millennium than the debilitating inhumanity of poverty, its heavy hand on wealth creation, its fast spread across the world, the deadly effect of economic insecurity on peace and security and its impact on the environment. It is thus perplexing that under the effect of globalization, deprivation and inequality are accelerating globally with as much speed as innovation, technological progress and integration, although in different directions. Our collective ingenuity is called upon, both developed and developing, to produce answers that will bring us closer more than ever before to the purposes of the Charter.
We have encountered disappointments as the international community strived for peace, security, development, and respect for human rights. We have also sought ways of dealing with the impact of globalisation on international trade and investment. We should not resign ourselves to these reversals nor should we accept to live with them. To do so would defeat the objective of development. The way forward is not only to revitalize the UN to enable it strive more boldly for a more equitable global society but also to work together to ensure that equity, fairness and solidarity characterize international relations.
On the important question of maintaining international peace and security, the role of the UN has been, without doubt, that of facilitating conditions under which countries and peoples may live. together securely and harmoniously in order to give free rein to their creative talents. One important means of achieving this objective in the midst of violent conflicts that keep erupting has been to undertake peacekeeping all over the world. Ghana has been and will continue to be a major contributor to this effort as conflicts in Africa especially pose a major challenge to the UN's efforts to bring about global peace and prosperity. The situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone, to name only two examples, amply demonstrate the complexities of the challenges which the United Nations must show it can handle. In the West African sub-region, for example, we must all cooperate in imposing a ban on the purchase of small arms and especially diamonds that are not controlled by the Certificate of Origin regime from countries in conflict. Unless the international community helps out by implementing this aspect of Security Council resolutions international peace and security will continue to be prejudiced by the greed and ambition of individuals.
Enhancing Africa's peacekeeping capacity to cope with challenging missions, through training, logistic and financial support, as well as stronger partnership between the UN and the OAU mechanisms on conflict resolution is a crucial goal, if we are to return the continent to peace and security. That is one of the reasons why Ghana attaches importance to regional and sub-regional peacekeeping initiatives. However, such initiatives should not become the excuse for the UN or the Security Council to shirk its primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security in Africa.
Disarmament lies at the heart of the UN efforts to ensure and sustain international peace and security, conditions necessary for all productive human activity. The nuclear threat of the cold-war era still looms large over all of us and will continue to do so until the nuclear powers and militarily significant countries disarm. It is therefore reassuring that despite the gloom which has beclouded the UN disarmament machinery over the past years, positive results have been achieved at the 6th Review Conference of the State parties of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The United Nations must thus capitalize on this momentum and continue in its search for new ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament and arms non-proliferation. It must also embark on confidence-building measures in order to enhance the process. In this regard, the Disarmament Commission and other relevant machinery on Disarmament established by the General Assembly should be given every opportunity to fulfill their mandates through the demonstration by Member States of commitment, flexibility and the necessary political will.
Ghana would therefore use this opportunity to reiterate its support for the proposal by the Secretary-General to convene a major international Conference on the nuclear threat. We will also play an active part in the preparatory process leading to the UN Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects in 2001.
Ghana believes that the efforts of the United Nations to promote and maintain international peace and security should rest on a firm international legal framework, hence the need to maintain support for the useful work being done by the International Law Commission and related institutions in the UN system. We believe that the tremendous progress made in the establishment of legal frameworks for the pursuit of crimes against humanity for example must continue if our societies are to be maintained.
In the particular case of Africa, support for the international Criminal Court is not only desirable; it is a must, since censure by the international community is now very necessary in dissuading warlords and rebels from committing the heinous crimes that we continue to witness in countries such as Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ghana recommends, therefore, that international law should ensure that there is punishment for perpetrators of such crimes and also that they do not enjoy amnesty from all countries.
The spirit of compromise, which led to the overwhelming endorsement of the Rome Treaty of the International Criminal Court, must be kept alive to achieve our objectives in this field.
The situation in the Middle East continues to engage the serious attention of us all. Ghana acknowledges the propitious climate currently in the Middle East as a result of the revival of contacts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the highest levels. The withdrawal of Israeli Defence Forces from Southern Lebanon has given these talks a sense of optimism and so have the meetings between Chairman Arafat and Mr. Ehud Barak. While commending President Clinton's efforts, the two leaders of the Middle East are urged to show flexibility and also stay the course as the obstacles to peace cannot be removed without compromise, painful sacrifices, diplomacy and the strong desire for durable peace. Both sides should remember that this is perhaps the finest hour for reaching agreement. The negative forces in Israel especially, are regrouping while the younger generation in Palestine are growing more and more impatient. No sacrifice should therefore be too great for success.
In this new era, we must have the boldness to end attitudes and situations that are no longer helpful to the process of globalisation. In spite of the regular acknowledgment by world leaders, and other influential policy makers of the need for poverty alleviation, those in a position to do so have failed to offer credible arrangements for debt relief, market access and financing for development which would go a long way in enabling developing countries to build viable socio-economic systems capable of overcoming the fragmentation and marginalisation being suffered as a result of globalization. On the contrary, they are using their pre-eminent political and economic positions to try to control and manipulate developing countries, especially in countries whose governments they do not support.
It seems to me that the world community is yet to translate the traditional parochial affirmation of the need for equity, fairness and solidarity for national development into concrete international actions. Furthermore, the United Nations will be able to teach lessons of equality and justice to its members only when it practices those norms itself.
At the end of the Cold War, the people of the world heard a lot about the peace dividend. Only a decade after this new concept was trumpeted from rooftops, it has turned out to be nonexistent. But that concept can be real if the tenor of our negotiations would reflect an awareness of our common humanity and its highest values rather than the diplomatic stock in trade of an era shaped by competitive warfare and unequal advantage of the rich and powerful over the poor and militarily insignificant countries. International cooperation for development must replace inequity and war.
Transforming the context of international cooperation for development depends as much on the level of commitment of individuals and groups in our respective countries as it does on what we do as political leaders and policy makers. In this connection, reinforcing and enhancing the network of linkages between the United Nations and civil society is of fundamental necessity. Unless our actions reflect this strategic understanding of the nature of decision making in the world today, we are unlikely to benefit from the mistakes of our past efforts.
We accordingly urge the Secretary-General to examine ways of ensuring common, acceptable standards for accountability and transparency even in the operations of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with respect to their participation in the UN. In addition, greater effort should be made to build the capacity of NGOs in developing countries so that NGO participation in the UN could reflect the diversity of interests across the world.
Ghana welcomes the contribution of NGOs to the work of the United Nations and individual countries but must at the same time caution against replacing the genuine and democratic voice of a people with those of externally controlled NGOs and the Private sector. NGOs and the Private sectors are vital agents of change in developing countries but should not replace the voice of a people, if democracy should retain credibility.
In an age of globalisation and of our increasingly knowledge-based society, we feel the UN has a major responsibility to support the development efforts of the developing countries, and that the international community should provide the necessary resources for it to do so. We therefore call once again on all Member States to fulfill their financial obligations under the Charter in full and on time.
The challenges facing the international community, such as the growing income and technology gaps between the North and the South, poverty and deprivation, point to the need for stronger cooperation between the developed and developing countries. A concerted effort will be required to promote a systematic dialogue between the two groups to find solutions to these problems.
It must be the vocation, indeed the commitment of the North-South partnership, to ensure that in the new millennium, governance, nationally and globally, rests on the recognition that the wealth of some must not lead to the impoverishment of others, and that every person on this earth must have access to certain basic social services, - health care, education, food and safe water - no matter which corner of this earth he or she inhabits. Thus the rich countries have an indispensable role to play by further opening their markets, by providing larger and faster debt relief and by giving more and better focussed development assistance, which would enable poorer countries to sustain a meaningful level of development.
It is only fitting that as a developing economy, Ghana identifies itself with the cause of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), most of which are in Africa. In this connection, we fully subscribe to the impending preparatory session of the Third United Nations Conference on LDCs, which will take place in New York this month, and expect that it will reach a consensus on the accessibility of products of LDCs to the developed markets.
Our comments on this occasion would be incomplete without touching upon the crucial question of the empowerment of women and the attainment of gender balance. We also wish to express concern about the persistence of discrimination against women in most parts of the world in spite of the progress achieved since the Fourth World Conference on Women held in 1995. The challenges to the achievement of gender balance can be eliminated through a renewed commitment to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. We therefore call on all countries which have not yet ratified the Convention to take steps to do so, and urge prompt implementation of the provisions of the Convention. We also urge those who have entered reservations, which are incompatible with the purpose of the Convention to reconsider their stance in the interest of advancing the cause of women.
The promotion and protection of the rights of children are of equal concern to my delegation. They are the compelling reasons for the co-hosting jointly with the Government of Canada of a workshop on Children in Armed Conflict. It is our expectation that member states will endeavour to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child before the General Assembly Special Session in 2001 that will review the implementation of the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and the Plan of Action. It is also our hope that the positive outcome of the just ended International Conference on War Affected Children, held in Winnipeg, Canada, will be fully implemented to ensure the worldwide protection of children during conflicts.
Let me now turn to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, whose impact has been greatest in SubSaharan Africa, where it is estimated to have affected the modest gains in social development. Statistics released during the 13th International Aids Conference in South Africa in July showed that almost a third of all people with HIV/AIDS are between the ages of 15 years and 24. Every minute, six people under the age of 25 catch HIV, with girls more than 50 per cent likely to contract the virus than boys. Based on this data, UNICEF has emphasized that to defeat the disease, Governments must "commit the largest mobilization of resources in their history, and organise themselves as if they are fighting a full-blown war of liberation with young people in the forefront".
This staggering situation must prick the conscience of the entire international community to render full support to efforts to control and minimize the spread of the disease. Ghana lends support to the Secretary-General's proposal for the adoption of 2005 and 2010 respectively as dates to reduce the rate of infection of young persons through the easy availability of inexpensive vaccines by the developed partners and their pharmaceutical industries. To reach that goal, we must also invest in education, publicity, open discussions and moral counseling of our youth in particular. They must understand that it is indeed possible to avoid the disease by exercising care, since this fatal disease is transmitted in a very limited number of ways. We appeal to our developed partners for their full cooperation.
Finally, Mr. President, there is no doubt that the United Nations remains the only instrument for confronting the challenges of this millennium. However, it can only surmount these challenges by sustaining the good will and credibility it enjoys among Member States and this can only be achieved by expediting the process of democratization of the organization. May the new vision which our leaders have charted for the Organization in this new century spur us to concrete action to free our peoples, whose faith and trust reside in us, from fear, want and exclusion.
I thank you for your attention.