You have been elected to Chair what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging sessions of the United Nations General Assembly in recent times. My delegation congratulates you on your election; we pledge our full support to you; we express our confidence that under your leadership, the work of this Assembly will positively impact on our collective efforts to meet the many challenges facing our world.
My delegation also takes this opportunity to commend your predecessor,
His Excellency Harry Holkeri of Finland, for his commendable leadership
as President of the Fifty-fifth Session of Millennium Assembly.
We are in times of great tragedy, but also of laudable triumphs. Our
Secretary-General and United Nations have rendered outstanding and inspiring
service to the peoples of the world. Mr. Secretary General, we celebrate
with you and this organization the well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize awarded
to you, even as we express our appreciation for the exemplary leadership
you continue to provide to the United Nations.
My delegation also wishes to take this opportunity to express its sincere
sympathy to the Governments of the United States and the Dominican Republic
and to the families of those who lost their lives in the crash of a US
domestic aircraft in New York yesterday.
While recognizing the many challenges the global community would face in the twenty-first century, leaders at last year’s Millennium Assembly nonetheless, were optimistic that peace and prosperity would be important hallmarks of the new century. Their hopes have been severely undermined by the indefensible acts of terrorism perpetrated in the United States on September 11 2001.
The horrific scenes of death and destruction in New York, Washington and Philadelphia, so indelibly etched in our minds have, no doubt, changed the world forever. The Government and People of The Bahamas mourned with those from countries all over the world, including our sister Caribbean countries, which lost loved ones, and expressed our sadness at the senseless loss of life and the wanton destruction of property.
Even as events in Afghanistan unfold, the United Nations and indeed the world, now face a dilemma – how to confront the grave challenge which international terrorism has defiantly issued to the world, and at the same time, meet the Charter obligations to promote human rights and social progress and better standards of life in larger freedoms.
We must, Mr. President, be visionary and creative, in ensuring that
the resources and energies of the United Nations, and of the international
community, are used to implement a balanced agenda that would deal effectively
and resolutely with terrorists and terrorism, and also continue to positively
impact human rights, economic and social development and other common objectives.
The international community has spoken with one voice in condemning international terrorism as a major destabilizing force in the world. The acts of September 11 2001, fundamentally shifted security concerns regarding terrorists and terrorism to the workplace, streets and homes of innocent people, creating anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty worldwide.
Significantly, the terrorist acts have had serious and damaging consequences on a rapidly globalising world economy. The economies of both industrialized and developing countries have been severely disrupted, with grave implications for future economic and financial stability.
The economic outlook, particularly for many developing countries, is indeed grim. The small economies of the countries in the Caribbean have experienced massive disruption, given their vulnerability to external shocks, and heavy dependence on tourism, especially from the North American market. There has been significant loss of employment in the tourism, financial services and related sectors, even as governments’ revenues have fallen, and foreign reserves are threatened.
The countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have moved decisively to assess the implications of the terrorist attacks on its member states. As Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, The Bahamas was host to a Special Emergency Meeting of the Conference held 11 –12 October, 2001, which adopted the Nassau Declaration on International Terrorism. That Declaration sets out the action governments would take to mitigate the impact on the region’s tourism, aviation, financial services and agricultural sectors, which are the major contributors to the GNP, foreign exchange earnings and employment in the countries of the region.
CARICOM Heads of Government also unequivocally condemned terrorism in
all its forms, and reaffirmed their commitment to work with the international
community in the multifaceted fight against terrorism, in accordance with
international law and conventions. It is therefore our hope, Mr. President,
that the international community will support the countries of CARICOM
during this difficult and challenging period.
We in The Bahamas have taken our obligation to co-operate in the fight against terrorism very seriously. We have complied with Security Council Resolutions, including resolution 1333, which calls for the freezing of funds and other financial assets of Usama bin Laden, the Al Queda organization and individuals associated with it. The International Obligations (Economic and Ancillary Measures (Afghanistan) Order 2001, enacted in our Parliament, in September of this year, prohibits any person dealing with any property and any financial institution licensed in The Bahamas from transacting business with Usama bin Laden, Al-Queda or any individuals or entities associated with them, and who, for these purposes, may be designated from time to time.
We have been able to take such timely action because of the comprehensive legislation enacted and implemented, as well as the effective regulatory regime established by my Government to ensure that its financial services sector is not abused by criminals for money-laundering or other financial crimes. It is this decisive action, which resulted in the Financial Action Task Force’s removal of The Bahamas from its list of non-cooperative jurisdictions in the fight against money-laundering in June of this year.
As part of its overall review of the international regime for action against terrorists and terrorism, my Government, in October of this year, signed the United Nations Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. We are following closely the discussions on a comprehensive convention against terrorism, in determining what further action the Government will take in this area. We hope that a comprehensive, practical and implementable instrument would be adopted, that would take into account the existing anti-terrorism regime. In this, we see a clearly delineated role for the United Nations, and particularly the Security Council, which is well placed to articulate a coherent policy for global co-operation in the fight against international terrorism.
Meeting our obligations, however, has not been without sacrifice. The Bahamas, like many other CARICOM countries, has been obliged to divert scarce resources from other critical development objectives to initiate the sweeping security changes required at airports and sea ports and to otherwise mitigate the impact of the September 11 events.
For the Government and people of The Bahamas, the ravages of Hurricane
Michelle have further compounded the significant economic setbacks caused
by the September 11 events in the United States. Just last week that Hurricane
made a direct hit on our Archipelagic state, causing extensive damage to
infrastructure, agriculture and vegetation in some of the major islands.
Government is still determining the extent of the damage, but has already
begun the essential period of reconstruction.
Globalization and trade liberalization are, and must remain, central issues on the world’s agenda. Generally, globalization has presented significant opportunities, and has had positive impact for many countries. However, for others, particularly in the developing world, the freer flow of capital, technology, finance, goods and services across national boundaries - the essence of globalization - has not met the stated objectives of improving overall economic prosperity, reducing poverty and closing the technological gap.
To the contrary, the social costs of globalization - poverty, inequality, and unemployment – remain serious challenges for many of the countries of the developing world. These challenges are further compounded by factors including an onerous debt burden, limited or inadequate export infrastructure to effectively participate in the global trading system, and inability to access the markets of the developed world.
My Government, nevertheless, is cognizant that the international trading
regime of the World Trade Organization (WTO) provides a significant framework
within which countries may benefit from globalization and trade liberalization,
and work towards appropriately addressing the costs and risks they may
import to the global trading system. In July of this year, The Bahamas
submitted its application for accession to the WTO. WTO membership is a
priority for my Government, and we hope that our application will receive
the requisite support.
We are in the period leading up to late 2002, during which the United Nations is defining its economic and social development agenda with greater precision, through a series of assessments of international action in specific areas. The Bahamas was pleased to have participated in the organization’s review of its work, and setting of its agenda, for further action in the areas of racism, racial discrimination and human settlements and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. My Government believes that every effort should be made to consolidate those areas in which progress was made at the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that took place in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 8 September of this year. Global objectives in respect of Human Settlements received considerable impetus from the Special Session on Human Settlements that took place in New York in June 2001. The Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, adopted by the Conference, should prove invaluable in addressing chronic problems of inadequate shelter.
The United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and
Light Weapons in all its Aspects addressed a problem that for the small
countries of the Caribbean is a particularly serious one. We would
have wished for the Conference to have been more forthright in its adoption
of measures to better address these critical issues, but readily accept
the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade
in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects as an essential first
step. Decisions taken at these and other United Nations meetings,
Mr. President, are indeed decisions of the organization, which The Bahamas
hopes will be implemented as such by all member states.
Few countries in the world, if any, have been spared, the vagaries of HIV/AIDS. The statistics are compelling – over 30 million people affected. With respect to the developing world, they are even more compelling - more than 95% of those affected live in the developing world. The Caribbean region has not been spared, but we are taking decisive action. Our Pan-Caribbean Partnership, launched in February of this year, has the full support and commitment of Heads of Government for effective action against HIV/AIDS in the wider Caribbean. The Government of The Bahamas welcomes the contribution of the Government of Canada to the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Programme.
The recent Special Session on HIV/AIDS, held in New York in June 2001 gave Heads of State and Government the opportunity to set an agenda for slowing and reversing the destructive impact of HIV/AIDS around the world. It is an agenda that must be implemented, to halt and reverse this tragedy that is devastating populations and threatening to reverse development gains made in many developing countries. The developing world will, and must, look for help and support to those having the technology, research capacity, and resources, and which have themselves been able to control the spread of this deadly disease.
The year 2002 will also be an active one both for United Nations benchmark assessments and readjustment of priorities, and for addressing significant issues on the international agenda. The International Conference on Financing for Development will be convened in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002. As plans develop, we hope that all members of the United Nations will come to appreciate the need to ensure that the Conference provides the framework within which commitments can be made such that technical assistance could be provided to poor countries for basic infrastructural development, the standards of people worldwide who live in endemic poverty can be raised, developing countries can be assisted in attracting foreign direct investment, and information and technology would be more freely transferred to developing countries. My Government, for its part, is of the view that small developing, middle-income countries such as The Bahamas, because of their economic and ecological vulnerabilities, would not be excluded from development financing.
It is also the view of my Government that the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be convened in South Africa in September 2002, should be complementary to undertakings made in the International Conference on Financing for Development. Ten years after the Rio Summit of 1992, the ever increasing fury of natural disasters, climate change and sea level rise, and the depletion of biological resources, and overall environmental degradation are but some of the issues begging reassessment, that must be part of the blueprint for determined action emanating from South Africa.
Likewise, The Bahamas hopes that the Second World Assembly on Ageing,
to be held in Madrid, Spain in 2002, and the Special Session of the United
Nations General Assembly on Children, postponed to 2002, should assess
progress, but more importantly, must emphasize action that will provide
guidance for national, regional and international policy and planning in
their respective areas.
The initiatives the United Nations will take up in 2002 to review and assess progress in a significant number of areas should bring clearly into focus the actions that must be taken by member states and by the organization to accomplish agreed economic and social objectives. It is the hope of The Bahamas that these reviews will be followed by a period of intense implementation of decisions that have been agreed, so that qualitative and quantitative improvements may be realized in all areas.
We believe that such improvements are essential, but must be in concert
with United Nations initiatives to meet demands in other critical areas,
such as conflict resolution, war and humanitarian crises worldwide. They
should also be in concert with the organization’s efforts to address effectively
and comprehensively issues such as illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs
and psychotropic substances, the illicit trade in small arms and light
weapons, alien smuggling and refugee flows which do not respect national
boundaries. In all such cases, the danger of inaction could have dire consequences,
particularly for international peace and security.
The current preoccupation with terrorism has fortunately not paralyzed
the United Nations. What it has done is to emphasize the need for an effective
and cohesive United Nations, capable of responding flexibly to unexpected
and contradictory events in a timely and effective manner with little or
no disruption of its programmes in other areas. We believe that the United
Nations Charter constitutes a viable and firm foundation for the organization
to balance and achieve its objectives, to maintain international peace
and security and promote economic and social progress. The Bahamas fully
supports the United Nations in all its endeavors.
I thank you, Mr. President