ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER
AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF SURINAME
MRS. MARIA E. LEVENS
ON THE OCCASION
FIFTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE UNITED NATIONS
12 NOVEMBER 2001
My delegation lacks the words to convey the sadness about the plane crash in a residential area in New York this morning. At moments like these silence speaks for itself. From this silence, the government and people of Suriname offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of all the victims. We pray that our love, friendship and peace may comfort all who have been affected by this tragedy and the horrific attacks on the 11th of September.
During the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations the need
for dialogue proves to be most essential in the world. In Suriname we have
always tried to apply the concept of dialogue.
Suriname is a small country with a multi-ethnic population. Our ancestors came to Suriname generations ago from West Africa, China, India, Indonesia, Europe and the Middle East. Owing to mutual respect and understanding we have been fortunate in
Suriname that these groups live and have lived peacefully together. More than ever, we realize that this harmony should be treasured and nurtured, since we cannot take peace and harmony for granted any longer.
Our Government plays a very important role in this peaceful coexistence because we have strongly promoted and actively worked on mutual respect and consensus. We believe that for people to be actively involved in the development of the country, they have to see themselves represented in the national and local Governments. We strongly promote this consensus democracy in Suriname, for this power sharing arrangement has stimulated all ethnic groups to be tolerant and respectful of each others political ideologies, cultures and religions. Our Government and people highly uphold the freedom of religion, as well as tolerance and respect for each others cultural expressions.
In the same vain the indigenous people of Suriname live in the interior with their own cultural and religious beliefs. The needs and rights of indigenous people are dealt with at the highest level in our Government. Views and concerns are shared with the Central Government through continuous dialogue. Therefore, my government looks forward to the first conference of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May 2002.
We know and have experienced that people's primordial attachments deepen in times of need and despair. The grief of families from the United States of America and other parts of the world were deeply felt, and all over the globe many families and groups turned to each other for comfort. Our hearts go out to all victims and their families.
We cannot yet assess all the social and economic effects of these attacks.
However, we have already seen the devastating effects on the Caribbean
in terms of loss of income, in for example tourism and trade.
Natural disasters have also affected our area and my delegation sympathizes with the people of the Caribbean, especially Belize and Cuba who were struck by hurricanes Iris and Michelle recently.
As a member of Caricom we know that we have grave problems in the region. Limited access to global markets because of stringent trade rules and WTO regulations have resulted in increased poverty in our region. Suriname pleads for an institutional arrangement between the UN and the WTO to allow developing countries easier access to this body.
We have further expanded and deepened the regional ties. In this respect we would like to express our gratitude to the countries of the Western Hemisphere, which have offered us assistance and shown their support to include us in the various integration movements.
In the Caribbean, we enjoy a high level of democracy and are guided by the rule of law. Our Governments have been actively involved in creating an environment to attract foreign investors and to increase production of goods and services. We still need assistance. The promises made by the Developed countries in the Millennium Declaration of 2000 have not yielded the increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA). We, the countries in development, need equal opportunities.
If we as the international community agree that human centered development is at the top of our agenda, we need to understand that we have to achieve this together. If our goal is to eradicate abject poverty, we must make an effort to achieve this goal. Cutting by half the number of people living on less than 1US$ a day, by 2015 is one of the main goals we want to achieve for the truly disadvantaged.
The Financing for Development Conference, to be held in March 2002 in Mexico, will give both, Developed and Developing countries, an opportunity to come to concrete agreements and arrangements for resources for development. If we do not take the opportunity of the Financing for Development Conference to work towards sustainable development for all people in the world, we will miss a great chance to achieve a more equitable distribution of global wealth.
We would also have missed a chance to intensify our struggle to combat
deadly diseases as HIV/AIDS and malaria affecting millions in the world.
We committed ourselves to continue the struggle against HIV/AIDS in the
Caribbean Region and in Africa, and we must not lose sight of the people
who still die every day of this disease.
It is up to us, the international community, to find solutions and improve the lives of those billions of people, who are faced with global problems such as: extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, illiteracy, the debt burden, the refugee problem, environmental degradation and the widening gap between rich and poor.
Suriname has made great efforts in gender equality and we have training
programs in gender sensitivity for civil servants with the assistance of
UNDP. We have women in high-level positions and it gives me great pleasure
to tell you that our current delegation consists of mainly women. We are
pleased with this development in my country but we still have a long way
Our Commitment to the role of women has prompted my country to work on a resolution in the third committee of the General Assembly, namely Mainstreaming the Situation of Older Women into Society, to ensure that this part of the population will not be marginalized further in all our societies.
Aging has become a subject of increasing concern to the international community, for it raises significant social and cultural questions, as well as questions of economic stability. My government will join the international community and the UN to address and support the UN initiative of a "Society for all Ages". We should come up with appropriate strategies to collectively deal with these issues during the Second World Assembly on Aging.
Human development constitutes one of the key pillars of the development policy of my government. People, especially our children, are our country's greatest treasure. This is why looking after their well being is placed high on our national agenda. Suriname is looking forward to the Special Session on Children that has been postponed to May 2002.
Suriname hopes that the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)
of 2002, in Johannesburg, and the assessment of the Earth Summit of September
1992, will lead to recommendations and commitments for the implementation
of real sustainable human development in a globally sustainable environment.
Protecting the environment is a responsibility of all countries. Suriname has taken a first step in conserving bio-diversity for contemporary and future generations by establishing the largest protected nature reserve in South America three years ago. With this first step, we hope to encourage other countries in the world to protect the environment, and to work together on the many emerging global environmental threats.
Suriname is extremely concerned about the transshipment of nuclear waste through the Caribbean Sea, but we are pleased to see that so many countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
The ever widening global digital divide that hampers developing countries from benefiting fully from the advancements in information technology is a concern that we have discussed in various international forums.
The effects of globalization have not been favorable to most developing
countries, however, we have come to understand and experience that our
world is an interdependent world, we cannot turn back this clock.
The attacks of the 11th of September have shown us how interdependent we are. The loss of lives was directly felt in the US and in more than 60 countries in the rest of the world. The economic effects are also felt in all parts of the world.
Mr. President, in conclusion,
The Secretary General and the United Nations received the Nobel Peace Prize this year at a time when the world was still trying to comprehend the horrific attacks of September 11th on the United States. Suriname hopes that this distinguished award will encourage the United Nations to continue its important work for human rights, for peace, social justice, human development, human rights education and economic prosperity for all the peoples of the world.
We congratulate the Secretary General with this prestigious award and
his re-election, and Mr. President we congratulate you on your election
and look forward to your guidance and leadership during the 56th General
As a UN family we are called upon to practice tolerance and to live together in peace with one another as good neighbors. Because of the devastating consequences after September 11th, we have the obligation to look closely at the root causes of terrorism. The causes of terrorism have to be discussed and dealt with to protect all our peoples and interests.
For the World is our home and we are the people who live in it.
I thank you Mr. President.
New York 12 November 2001