MR. BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA
THE 56TH SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
13 NOVEMBER 2001
Let me at the outset congratulate you, Mr. President, on your unanimous election to preside over the Fifty-Sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly. With your wealth of experience and wisdom, we have no doubt that our deliberations will always be crowned with success. Please be rest assured, Mr. President, that in carrying out the important mandate entrusted to you, you will not find the cooperation of the Gambian delegation wanting.
On behalf of my delegation, I would also like to pay a special tribute to your predecessor for a job well done.
As for our indefatigable Secretary-General, I would add my voice to
those of previous speakers in congratulating him and indeed the United
Nations on winning the Nobel Prize for Peace. In addition to that,
my delegation commends him for his effective and inspiring leadership,
turning the United Nations around in such a way that much of the hope that
was lost has since been restored. Mr. Secretary-General, you deserve
our respect and admiration.
The circumstances in which we are meeting this time are far different from previous Sessions for reasons well known to all of us. The terrorist attacks on New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania on the 11th September 2001, took the whole world by surprise because of their cataclysmic proportions. Nothing can ever justify such barbaric acts. Unfortunately, like so many countries present here today, we too were bereaved following the attack on the World Trade Center. I would like at this juncture to express profound gratitude to President George W. Bush for his kind remarks. The Government and people of The Gambia as well as the families concerned are deeply moved by the President’s thoughtfulness. This shows that terrorism has no boundaries and, worse still, it has no respect for the sanctity of Life. It is incumbent upon all of us, therefore, not to offer sanctuary to any terrorists and their sponsors.
In The Gambia, His Excellency the President Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh declared three days of national mourning and requested all Mosques and Churches to pray for the deceased in solidarity with the friendly people of the United States and their Government. Whilst we continue to pray and mourn individually and collectively, we in The Gambia subscribe unreservedly to United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001) of 12th and 28th September 2001, respectively. Similarly, we welcome the adoption of the Dakar Declaration on terrorism by the Conference of African Heads of State and Government, held in Dakar, Senegal, on the 17th October 2001.
Having said that, I would however hasten to point out that it is one thing to adopt resolutions and declarations but it is quite another to implement them fully. It goes without saying that the fight against international terrorism is neither an easy one nor the business of a select group of countries alone. Certainly not, Mr. President. This international scourge can only be dealt with effectively through concerted international effort. However, it will serve no useful purpose to request Member States to report on measures taken in the fight against terrorism when the requisite means to do so are not available. This is going to be a long and difficult engagement but at the same time, Mr. President, it is not an impossible task. Though, in the process, no country should be excluded. Consequently, as a first step, the Security Council should enquire from Member States all that they need (at the national level) to equip them in the fight against terrorism, especially in terms of training and logistics. That in our view, is the priority of priorities because no category of countries can be considered safe unless and until all categories of countries are seen to be safe.
Let me, en passant, Mr. President, mention one very important point. The Gambia where I come from is predominantly Muslim but we do not at all subscribe to the misleading concept that the struggle against terrorism is one between Islam and Christianity.
It is for this reason that we in The Gambia are committed to signing
and ratifying all the relevant UN Conventions against Terrorism.
Allow me now to dwell a little bit on some domestic issues. As was widely reported all over the world, the Presidential elections that were held in The Gambia on the 18th October 2001, received unanimous endorsement by the entire International Community as free, fair, and transparent. All the international observers present in the country expressed the same views. The 1996 elections were also free, fair, and transparent but we were given a mere pass. In the 2001 elections, we passed with flying colors. As of right therefore, we expect our principal partners in development who were still skeptical in 1996 to now show the way forward by embracing the Government and people of The Gambia in a new spirit of solidarity geared towards a fresh and reinvigorated partnership. We have kept our part of the bargain as a Nation. We have delivered what was expected of us – in fact, we did more and better than was expected. What happened immediately after the election results were announced constitute an ample demonstration of political maturity? Let me give you a graphic illustration of what I am talking about by borrowing a paragraph or two from H.E. President Jammeh’s victory statement.
“ Fellow Gambians, […] I would want to enjoin you all after the celebrations to put the campaign and all the euphoria and the differences and misunderstanding of politics behind us and come together as one people to work with my Government, supporters and non-supporters alike, to further develop this country. […] ” End of quotation.
President Jammeh then went on to thank the principal leaders of the opposition for their courage and maturity displayed in extending their congratulations to him in a telephone conversation.
The President then said, I quote:
“ The gesture was indeed most welcome and I would want to restate my expectation that with the elections now behind us, we would put our differences of political ideology aside and work together as members of the same family to pursue the development agenda we in this country have set for ourselves, in the best interest of our beloved people.” End of quotation.
That indeed was the icing on the cake. It can now be proclaimed
without any fear of contradiction that The Gambia, despite all the odds,
is consolidating its position among the leading Democracies in Africa.
Elsewhere on the African Continent, whilst we cannot claim that the same pattern of free and fair elections and the rule of law prevail, we can note with satisfaction that the signs are encouraging although a lot more remains to be done.
In neighboring Sierra Leone, we commend UNAMSIL for what has been achieved
so far. As elections are fast approaching, it becomes even more urgent
to accelerate the process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.
The importance of regional approach to conflict resolution cannot be over-emphasized. We will have to blow our own trumpet by commending ECOWAS for the preponderant role that it plays in the quest for a lasting solution to the problems in the Mano River area.
With regard to another neighboring country, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia in its capacity as coordinator of the Group of Friends of Guinea-Bissau would like to launch an appeal to the Donor Community to cooperate closely with the Group with the view to convening the long overdue roundtable donors’ conference.
As stated in the Faal Report following a mission to West Africa sometime ago, certain countries in transition like Guinea-Bissau need special and urgent attention. I am referring to the important Report by Assistant Secretary-General Ibrahima Faal. We’re not done with that Report yet for it raises serious issues such as the regional approach to conflict resolution.
We are also following very closely the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is gratifying to note that the Security Council has adopted Resolution 1376 (2001) by which it gave the green light for the launching of phase III of the deployment of MONUC (United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC).
My delegation also encourages the parties concerned to pursue the inter-Congolese dialogue with renewed vigor and to cooperate with the Facilitator.
We are however saddened by the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth in the DRC. There is obviously a direct link between such practices and the prolongation of the conflict.
Still in the Great Lakes region, we pay a special tribute to former President Mandela for his laudable efforts to bring peace to Burundi.
Concerning the situation in Angola, my delegation continues to believe that UNITA’s ability to wage war must be further reduced through tighter sanctions. In this context, we note with satisfaction the extension of the mandate of the monitoring mechanism.
Turning to other parts of the continent, Mr. President, my delegation welcomes the decision of the Security Council to terminate the sanctions that were imposed on the Sudan.
We are calling on the Council to also take the bold move and lift the
sanctions imposed on Libya. The international community demanded
the Libyan Authorities to hand-over the Lockerbie suspects for trial in
exchange for the lifting of sanctions. The international community
must now honour its obligations and stop moving the goal posts.
Outside Africa, we also continue to express concern over a number of conflict situations.
The seemingly most intractable of the lot is the situation in the Middle
East, notably, the Palestinian problem. There can be no lasting peace
in the Middle East without resolving the Palestinian question. We
in The Gambia have always held the view that whilst recognizing the right
of Israel to exist within secure borders, we also believe that the relevant
UN Resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict should be implemented, culminating
in the creation of an independent Palestinian State.
In the situation between Kuwait and Iraq, we in The Gambia have always
maintained that the international community should as a matter of urgency
find ways of alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people. But,
at the same time, the Iraqi leadership must be accountable for the Kuwaiti
POWs and Missing Persons. The families of the POWs and Missing Persons
have also been suffering for too long, and therefore, we would like to
call upon the Iraqi Government to respect and comply with the relevant
Security Council Resolutions in order to achieve peace and stability in
the Gulf Region.
It is an irony that long after the end of the cold war, the situation in the Korean Peninsula remains the same basically. We in The Gambia were however very much encouraged by the visit to North Korea by President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea in June last year. It is only through dialogue and the exchange of such high-level visits that the peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula will be achieved.
Similarly, Mr. President, it is our fervent hope that one day the Republic of China (on Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China will unite but, as the saying goes, first things first. As clearly stated by my delegation during the meeting of the General Committee, the Government of The Gambia would like to reiterate that the exceptional situation of the Republic of China on Taiwan needs to be reconsidered by this august body. Only a few days ago, the R.O.C./Taiwan was granted admission into the W.T.O. This is no mean achievement, and therefore, my delegation would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government and the 23 million people of the Republic of China on Taiwan. We in The Gambia have no doubt that they will make constructive contributions to the work of the W.T.O. It will be recalled that the R.O.C./Taiwan is now the world’s 17th largest economy in terms of GNP, and, the 15th most important trading Nation. Considering that the R.O.C. possesses the 3rd largest amount of foreign reserves in the world, in addition to its strategic position as the 16th largest Foreign Direct Investor, it does not make sense to continue to exclude them from the UN. Politics aside, Mr. President, the R.O.C./Taiwan has a lot to offer to the international community. For instance, in the crucial area of ICT, the real revolution of our times, the R.O.C./Taiwan is in the vanguard. We all know that the issue of ICT is among the top priorities of the UN and therefore, we look forward to the special event on Tuesday, 20th November when the Secretary-General will launch the UN Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force. How are we going to benefit from the expertise of the R.O.C./Taiwan when they are excluded from the work of the UN?
The R.O.C./Taiwan is active in other important areas as well, especially
development cooperation by providing experts, and through international
financial Institutions. Likewise, in the humanitarian field, by providing
disaster relief to countries in need.
The case of the R.O.C./Taiwan is unique. It is exceptional and
should be treated as such. Quite apart from observing the principle
Another country which has a lot to offer to the international community
is Cuba, ranging from medicine to sports. After more than three decades,
the sanctions imposed on Cuba should now be lifted. These sanctions
can no longer be justified. In fact, they are counter-productive.
Prior to the tragic events of September 11, we had already identified a number of areas for increased international cooperation within the framework of the Millennium Declaration. Foremost among these is the eradication of poverty. It is made a priority of priorities in the Millennium Declaration, not to say THE priority. In the World Development Report 2000/2001 entitled “Attacking Poverty”, the President of the World Bank in his Foreword stated that “Poverty amid plenty is the world’s greatest challenge”. We are also of the view that poverty constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security knowing that 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day. This is why our Leaders undertook to cut by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by the year 2015.
Out of the 1.2 billion who live on less than a dollar per day, 300 million are in Africa. Under these circumstances, the New Initiative for Africa is indeed a timely response. We only hope that unlike previous blueprints for Africa’s socio-economic development, the New Initiative will not be left to gather dust. It would appear, for the first time, that we the Africans are in the driver’s seat. This is a clear demonstration of ownership and commitment. Our principal partners in development should also complement our efforts by providing the necessary resources as a matter of urgency. The Economic Commission for Africa should work closely with the various regional economic groupings to ensure proper and effective coordination.
We are confident that the momentum generated by the adoption of the New African Initiative [New Partnership for African Development] will be intensified with the convening of the International Conference on Financing for Development at Summit level in Monterrey, Mexico, next year. This Conference would provide a unique opportunity to the international community to translate into reality the global solidarity spelt out in the Millennium Declaration, especially in such vital areas as ODA, FDI, and DEBT Reduction / or outright cancellation in some cases, and market access only to mention a few.
Similarly, the World Summit for Sustainable Development (Rio+10) to
be held in South Africa next year would also provide a golden opportunity
for stocktaking, notably, for a comprehensive review of the implementation
of Agenda 21.
All efforts geared towards the eradication of poverty would be incomplete without addressing the issue of food security. My delegation therefore looks forward to the convening of the World Food Summit in June next year.
A related issue is Health. We in West Africa particularly we in
The Gambia would like to eradicate Malaria as a matter of urgency, and,
as a first step our Leaders have adopted “The Rollback Malaria Program"
We will need the support and solidarity of the entire international community
in this endeavour, especially within the context of the Global Alliance
for Vaccines and Immunization.
With special reference to LDCs, it will be recalled that the Third UN Conference on the LDCs held recently adopted yet another Program of Action for the decade 2001-2010, aimed essentially at the eradication of poverty. We hope that the rest of the donor community would support this program fully by making available the resources necessary for its implementation.
In any poverty eradication program, the most vulnerable groups – that
is women and children should be given special attention. This is
why the Government of The Gambia remains committed to the Beijing Declaration
and Platform of Action including the further actions and initiatives that
emanated from the Beijing+5 Conference held last June. The same applies
to the Nairobi Forward-looking strategies for the Advancement of Women
and all other initiatives that promote the advancement of women and the
Girl Child. In fact, H.E. President Yahya Jammeh has now decided
that all girls from grades 1 – 12 in virtually all parts of the country
will no longer pay school fees. The measure affects public schools
Experience has shown that our collective security can only be guaranteed if and when all members of the comity of Nations are equally guaranteed freedom from want and freedom from fear. That can only be achieved through genuine international solidarity. The tendency to look the other way when another needs a helping hand should be a thing of the past. Each time in our history when we are faced with major difficulties, we suddenly realize how much we need one another. We close our ranks and take up the challenges together. We are again at a crossroads. This is why we are all here to renew faith in multilateralism. There is no alternative to the United Nations. We are now strengthened in our conviction that our Organization is nowhere near a sunset Organization. It is a sunrise Organization. But, it would shine even brighter once the Security Council is reformed to reflect the realities of the 21st Century. Unless that is done, the Security Council runs the serious risk of becoming irrelevant because it is anchored in the past. We do not want that to happen. It is too vital an organ to be sidelined but it must adapt and adjust. It is time to move on. Let us be forward-looking. Whatever the outcome may be, Africa must be adequately represented.
Thank you for your attention.