THE RIGHT HONOURABLE PAKALITHA MOSISILI,
PRIME MINISTER OFT HE KINGDOM OF LESOTHO
GENEVA, 26 JUNE, 2000
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Ladies and Gentlemen
Allow me, Mr. President, to express my delegation's satisfactions with having you in the chair during this most important Special Session of the General Assembly,, " World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalising world". You can count on the full support and co-operation of my delegation. Allow me also to extend our deepest gratitude to the Government and people of Switzerland for so graciously hosting the special session.
Mr. President, five years ago in Copenhagen one of the largest gatherings of heads of state and government took place to chart a new course for humanity's collective response to the challenge posed by the triple scourges of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. The commitments that the heads of state and government made on that occasion were momentous as they marked a new era in which the centrality of people in the development process was recognised.
Here we are, five years
later, to take stock on how far we have gone in meeting the tasks that we set
ourselves; how far we have succeeded in reducing poverty; advancing access to
gainful employment and accelerating
social integration. A backward glance is important not only for identifying
the failures and successes of our past efforts, but also for creating a strong
basis for future programmes.
The one phenomenon that has caused the most ripples in the period between the Copenhagen and Geneva Summits has been globalisation - this runaway horse that has the ability to carry very far those who are strong and are skilled enough riders and who can cling to its back as it hurtles forth at great speed and with tremendous force. The selfsame horse, however, can also throw off the weak and unskilled riders with dire consequences.
Unfortunately, the great majority of us are such weak and unskilled riders who need to be helped to be able to stay on the horse and travel the great distance that is possible.
The need to enable the weaker developing countries to mitigate the punishing consequences of failing to stay on the horse of globalisation was most dramatically demonstrated. by the reversal of the gains that the countries of South-East Asia had made in poverty reduction when these gains were wiped off in one fell swoop during the financial crisis of 1997. That crisis underscored these countries' incapacity to offset the ravages of volatile movements of short-term capital.
Progress at National Level
Permit me, Mr. President,
to briefly share with you the efforts that we are making as a nation to fulfil
our Copenhagen commitments. The strategy for Lesotho's development endeavours
since Copenhagen, has been to emphasise sustainable human development. In this
regard, we have designed a poverty reduction plan whose basic premise is that
people should be enabled to live long healthy lives, acquire knowledge and have
resources that are necessary to accommodate their human needs. The plan has
identified as priority areas: good governance, poverty reduction, improving
social services for the poor, creating employment and income opportunities for
the poor, and addressing poverty-related environmental degradation. The Lesotho
Social Fund for Community Development has thus been established with our own
resources for the purpose of funding these activities.
Regarding employment creation,
we are diminishing our reliance on the public sector as the largest employer
in favour of creating an enabling environment for the private sector to complement
the public sector. Government is also streamlining its own institutional framework
for undertaking public works to make them more efficient and better able to
absorb the large numbers of the unemployed. Furthermore, as a greater number
of domestic labour force increasingly derives employment from the informal sector,
we are in the process of strengthening linkages between the formal and. informal
sectors, improving rural infrastructure, providing opportunities to enhance
entrepreneurial skills, and expanding market opportunities and access to credit,
in particular micro-credit.
For the health sector,
a well developed network of services is in place through co-operation among
the government, the churches and NGO's and with the support and assistance from
several development partners. Access to health services has been improved even
in the most remote areas as priority is given to primary health care. Eighty
per cent (80%) of the population now has access to health facilities and an
estimated 56% has access to safe drinking water. Significant improvements have
also been made in
raising life expectancy and reducing infant mortality. Indeed, infant mortality
has decreased from 85/1000 in 1986 to 74/1000 in 1996 while life expectancy
has increased from 55 to 59 during the same reference period.
Further, a comprehensive health reform programme is under implementation. This plan derives from the realisation that the health gains that were made in the past have been eroded due to, among others causes, the advent of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the resurgence of tuberculosis, increasing population, and insufficient resources.
In education, Government has given priority to early childhood development and basic primary education. Starting this year, free primary education has been introduced for the first grade and will be introduced in succeeding grades from year to year. The improvements in the quality of education have also been achieved through higher teacher/pupil and classroom/pupil ratios. A deliberate effort has also been made to increase budgetary allocation for Education by 4% annually until we reach the desired level of quality and efficiency.
In this connection, the budgetary allocation for Education has increased from 81.2 million Maloti in 1990 to 518 million Maloti this year, which represents 28% of the national budget and easily the largest allocation to any sector. The pressure on Lesotho's meagre financial resources resulting from this mammoth undertaking cannot be over-emphasised.
The empowerment of women is a necessary condition for attaining our objectives in the social field. Discrimination of women , therefore, inhibits our efforts in this field. In an effort to combat all forms of discrimination against women, Lesotho has amended a number of laws. For example, the Land Act of 1979 has now been amended to give widows the full right to inherit their husbands' residential property.
Similarly, the Pensions Act of 1966 has been amended to allow women to receive pensions on a basis similar to their male counterparts. In addition, our new Labour Code unequivocally prohibits discrimination against women and makes it a crime to dismiss women from employment on the grounds of pregnancy.
On the issue of governance,
we are committed to developing and maintaining a high-quality civil service
that will undertake the core activities of maintaining law and order, ensuring
protection and respect for human rights and delivering social services. Thus,
Government is implementing a civil service reform programme which will ensure
represents 28% of
the national budget and easily the largest allocation to any sector. The pressure
on Lesotho's meagre financial resources resulting from this mammoth undertaking
cannot be over-emphasised.
The empowerment of women
is a necessary condition for attaining our objectives in the social field. Discrimination
of women , therefore, inhibits our efforts in this field. In an effort to combat
all forms of discrimination against women, Lesotho has amended a number of laws.
For example, the Land Act of 1979 has now been amended to give widows the full
right to inherit their husbands' residential property. Similarly, the Pensions
Act of 1966 has been amended to allow women to receive pensions on a basis similar
to their male counterparts. In addition, our new Labour Code unequivocally prohibits
discrimination against women and makes it a crime to dismiss women from employment
on the grounds of pregnancy.
On the issue of governance, we are committed to developing and maintaining a high-quality civil service that will undertake the core activities of maintaining law and order, ensuring protection and respect for human rights and delivering social services. Thus, Government is implementing a civil service reform programme which will ensure the right-sizing of the civil service, improve conditions of service and boost morale.
Although considerable progress
has been achieved as indicated above, the battle is by no means won. Poverty
remains pervasive in Lesotho and is the greatest constraint to human development.
For this reason, our strategy will continue to be focused on sustainable human
development in the years to come. A deliberate effort will be made to continue
to target national resources to the areas where the poor are mostly concentrated
as well as continue to implement special schemes for employment generation:
Despite efforts to increase access to education, the overall enrolment trend continues to be of concern to the Government of Lesotho. Latest data indicate that 69% of children aged 6 - 12 years were in attendance in 1997 compared to 75% in 1990. Furthermore, a disparity continues to exist between the enrolment for girls and boys. Generally, primary school enrolment for girls is higher than that of boys because traditionally boys are expected to herd livestock. Another problem is the high drop-out and repetition rates which we hope the introduction of free primary education will redress. The Government of Lesotho continues to monitor these developments closely and will aim to increase the allocation of resources to the Ministry of Education, particularly for primary education.
Although I mentioned earlier
that there is considerable progress in the area of health, I wish to stress
that the HIV/AIDS pandemic will have disastrous consequences for our development
endeavours. The number of cumulative cases has risen while our difficulty in
this area is compounded by lack of accurate data. However, what data is available
indicates that the 15 - 49 age group is the hardest hit. The pandemic is also
rising among expectant mothers. Recognising this problem, our approach is that
HIV/AIDS is not an issue for the health sector alone and that all sectors should
make a concerted effort in the fight against it. In this connection, we are
finalising our national HIV/AIDS control and prevention policy and strategic
plan that will encompass all sectors and thus make our response a truly national
Regarding access to safe
drinking water, although there has been progress, only about 56% of the rural
population has been served. The
not only the shortage of resources but inaccessibility of some of the remote
areas. With respect to sanitary facilities, the poor find their cost prohibitive.
Finally, we are making efforts to assist the poor by providing them with necessary
health education in order to empower them to make informed decisions about their
The Government of Lesotho
is fully committed to developing a culture of democracy, good governance, observance
of human rights, and constitutionality. In 1993 Lesotho, after over twenty (20)
years of unelected governments, held an election which marked a return to democracy.
Another election was held in 1998 but that election was, unfortunately, disputed
by three of the losing political parties and their protest resulted in violent
actions leading to the looting and burning of businesses. These, coupled with
a mutiny by junior army officers, brought the country to the verge of collapse
and SADC troops were brought in to restore order.
This situation had a negative
impact on the economy because of the closure and liquidation of several businesses
and consequential loss of jobs. Lesotho's economy was plunged into recession
with the growth rate
declining from 8% in 1997 to 5.5% in 1998. Again, through SADC intervention,
all political parties have come together to constitute a body which is called
the Interim Political Authority (IPA) which is charged with the responsibility
of preparing for fresh elections. These elections are now scheduled to take
place some time in the first half of next year.
In the meantime Government
is pursuing a programme of reconstruction which includes: the creation of a
climate of political reconciliation on which the consolidation of democratic
gains and democratic culture can rest; the redirection of energies to laying
the foundation of sustainable human development; the realisation of the major
national objectives of poverty alleviation, employment creation, social integration
and conservation of
land; the creation of an environment conducive to economic growth, the attraction
and expansion of foreign investment; and the supporting of efficient service
delivery at all levels by ensuring good governance, respect for the rule of
law and human rights; and increased civil participation in development.
Globalisation is driven
by market forces and the vehicle for these is the private sector, especially
multinational corporations. However, the sectors of education and health, which
are the bedrock of our social development
programme, do not easily lend themselves to private sector funding. If we are
to win the war against poverty, therefore, developing countries cannot be expected
to fight solely with their limited financial resources increased Official Development
Assistance and debt reduction, not only for heavily indebted poor countries
as present global debit reduction strategies contemplate but also for all debt-stressed
Least Developed Countries, are an overwhelming imperative. As we review the
extent to which we have been faithful to the spirit of Copenhagen one thing
is clear; and it is that the commitment to cooperate
as one human family if far from being realised. The continuing inadequacy of
resources for development in developing countries cannot be a basis on which
to true war against poverty can be fought . If nothing else, at least that one
reality must change in the post-Geneva era.
I thank you for your attention.