Honourable Pierre Charles

Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

of the

Commonwealth of Dominica

at the

56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Tuesday, November 13, 2001 United Nations Headquarters New York

Check against delivery


Mr. President

I am pleased and honored to address this august assembly on behalf of the Government and people of the Commonwealth of Dominica. I wish to extend my congratulations to you and your country, the Republic of Korea, on your election to the high office of President of the 56th session of the United Nations General Assembly, confident that your proven diplomatic skills will serve you well in guiding the affairs of the General Assembly with efficiency and purpose. Your immediate predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Harri Holkeri, is most deserving of our thanks and appreciation for the very able manner in which he presided over the Millennium Summit and the 55th session of the General Assembly.

Permit me, further, to congratulate the Secretary General His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan on his election to a second term and for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to him and the United Nations.

Mr. President

This general debate is being conducted in unusual circumstances. The horrendous terrorist acts of 11 September 2001 have altered the lives of many in ways traumatic and fundamentally tragic. I must again extend deepest condolences and pledge the full support and solidarity of the Government and people of the Commonwealth of Dominica to the Government and people of the United States of America and to all bereaved families.

The ripple effects of those acts have resonated in locations far removed from New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, aggravating economic and social conditions and seriously disrupting efforts aimed at meeting the many challenges confronting the United Nations and the international community. In short, in one way or another and to a lesser or greater degree we are all victims of those acts of terrorism that were visited upon the United States of America two months ago.

The Commonwealth of Dominica condemns, without reservation, what is undoubtedly the worst terrorist act of our times. We are in strong accord with the sentiments and mandates contained in Security Council Resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001), and General Assembly Resolution 56/1, all of which call upon the international community to take unified and cooperative action "to prevent and eradicate acts of terrorism". We understand the necessity for the exercise of the right of self-defense in pursuit of those objectives and we support the actions being taken "to bring justice to the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors" of the terrorist acts of 11 September 2001.

Cognizant of the importance of international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Dominica has proceeded to establish a task force to put in place the necessary legislative and executive measures for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1373. But to be effective beyond the immediate crisis, counter-terrorism measures, mechanisms, and strategies must be sustained through a comprehensive approach that seeks to create and strengthen, through the United Nations, a legal framework against international terrorism, complemented by strenuous efforts aimed at improving the social and economic conditions which adversely affect the poor and dispossessed.

Mr. President

Beyond the immediate peace and security issues affected by the events of 11 September there was considerable impact on the global economy which has been thrown into accelerated decline, with consequences that are particularly disturbing for small developing countries like the Commonwealth of Dominica. In the Caribbean, there has been strong evidence of damage to vital sectors of our economy such as tourism, financial services and agriculture. Actual and projected loss of jobs in the region are in the thousands and for those countries that were already experiencing fiscal pressures the prospect of higher unemployment and decreased revenues are daunting.

Complicating the problem is the great concern that in the fight against terrorism and in the drive to enforce counter-terrorism measures certain areas in which developing countries in the Caribbean region have a competitive advantage such as the financial services sector may be subjected to inordinate pressure and unfairly targeted and linked to illegal activities such as money laundering. We are convinced that well regulated competitive tax jurisdictions should be treated separately and distinctly from illegal activities such as money laundering. The Commonwealth of Dominica remains firmly committed to the struggle against international terrorism to the same extent that we strive to ensure that our financial services sector, a major pillar of our economic diversification thrust, does not provide support to the perpetrators of criminal activity in the financing of terrorism.

Mr. President

The current effort against international terrorism is important and our focus on that activity is warranted. There are, however, other dimensions of the global agenda which should command the attention of the international community and the United Nations. They cannot be relegated to the back burner of our concerns. They comprise a wide range of economic, social, political, and humanitarian problems faced on a daily basis and for the most part by the poor and disadvantaged of the world. Indeed, some of them are likely to be exacerbated by the fight against terrorism and their successful resolution will continue to be the greatest challenge of the United Nations and the international community.

At the Millennium Summit last year there was general agreement on the issues that needed urgent attention and the goals to be achieved. One year later those goals appear to be as far from being realized as ever. Commitment appears to be lacking on all fronts. The objective of a 50% reduction in the number of persons living in poverty worldwide by the year 2015 suffers from the perennial tepid effort at dealing with the root causes of poverty. Contributions from the industrial countries are woefully inadequate and the required adjustment of the strategies of the international financial institutions are slow in coming. The outcome is a less than desirable creation and maintenance of the enabling environment for more effective management of projects geared to poverty reduction.

Mr. President

That lack of commitment is evident in other areas. A year after the Millennium Summit and six months after the United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, the international community seems to have lost interest in a crisis that the Secretary General labeled the greatest public health challenge of our times'. As front page news, HIV/AIDS had a short attention span after the special session but the disease claimed millions of lives last year and created millions of orphans in sub-Saharan Africa which continues to have the highest rates of infection; the Caribbean region ranks a close second.

The Global AIDS and Health trust fund proposed by the Secretary General is clearly not realizing its spending target of $7 to $10 billion. And achieving the stated goal of bringing to a halt, and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 as declared by world leaders at the Millennium Summit, is now very much in doubt.

The majority of people infected with HIV/AIDS live in the developing world and the high incidence of HIV/AIDS infection is considered a function of poverty. The circularity of the problem has tremendous implications for economic development, poverty reduction and the efforts at raising the living standards in developing countries.

The accepted premise that international development cooperation plays a vital role in the development of the mechanisms necessary for the enhancement of trade competitiveness of developing countries, the strengthening of financial systems and the development of human resources are clearly undermined by the declining trend in official development assistance (ODA).

Once again we see the lack of commitment to the fulfillment of a stated goal. It is generally accepted that were industrialized countries to meet their promised official development assistance of 0.7% of GNP the developing world would be much further along in solving many of the problems with which they are plagued. As a substitute for the failed promise, developing countries have been told to place greater reliance on foreign direct investment (FDI), most of which bypasses the most needy and the smallest economies. The Commonwealth of Dominica falls into that category of states for which official development assistance is vitally critical to the development of their economies.

That is why the Commonwealth of Dominica and other states in the Caribbean region attach such importance to the convening of the International Conference on Financing for Development which will be held in Mexico from 18 to 22 March 2002. Given the changing global realities that are impacting adversely on the economies of developing states, the conference will provide an opportunity for us to assess the impact of declining ODA and for creating new mechanisms for financing development.

Over the past several years and in many different foray particularly in the WTO, we have been calling for the formal recognition of the special problems facing small vulnerable economies. We fear that without such recognition it will be impossible for most small states to be fully integrated into the multilateral trading system of the globalize world. Our fears have been confirmed both by the generally poor performance of small states under WTO arrangements and in a very authoritative report by the World Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat on the issue of smallness and vulnerability.

The unique characteristics of small vulnerable economies, which have been articulated in numerous studies, give a clear indication of the challenges that these economies face in improving their development prospects and in adjusting to liberalization and globalization. Many of these economies are at the crossroads. The reality is that trade preferences are eroding; official flows are declining, while historical ties with former partners in development are fading. It is therefore imperative that in order to prevent further marginalisation of small economies, steps must be taken in the multilateral trading system and elsewhere to address the concerns of those economies and to ensure their growth and development.

Mr. President

The exclusion of the Republic of China on Taiwan from membership of the United Nations makes little sense in today's world of globalization and interdependence particularly in light of the fact that this sovereign state with a democratically elected government is the world's 17 th largest economy, the 15th largest in international trade, the 8th largest foreign investor, the 4 largest in terms of foreign exchange reserves and the 3rd largest exporter of IT products.

The Commonwealth of Dominica intends no interference in the internal affairs of any member state, nor can such interpretation be validly applied to our action. Our plea is a simple call for justice of twenty-three million people of the Republic of China on Taiwan and an appeal for the recognition of their right to be treated, in international affairs, no differently from citizens of any other country.

Mr. President

11 September 2001 will undoubtedly be remembered for the horrifying nature of the terrorist acts, the magnitude of the senseless destruction of lives and property and the forced recognition of our common vulnerability. But the heroism, the extraordinary fortitude and selflessness of ordinary men and women, and the demonstrated triumph of the human spirit over the worst manifestations of evil inspire us to hope that, with dedicated commitment, we can create for all of mankind a world that is measurably better that that which we have today. The time to begin is now.

Thank you, Mr. President