THE HON. LT.-GEN. M.S. MERAFHE
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND HEAD OF THE BOTSWANA DELEGATION
TO THE FIFTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NOVEMBER 14, 2001 - NEW YORK
Before I deliver my statement, please allow me to express the heartfelt
condolences of my delegation to the Governments of the United States of
America and the Dominican Republic, and the families of the victims of
the tragic air crash in New York on Monday. Our sympathies are with those
who lost their beloved ones, during this hour of grief and sadness.
It is with great pleasure that I extend to you and your country, the Republic of Korea, the warmest congratulations of my delegation on your election to the Presidency of the Fifty-Sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly. We are confident that under your able leadership, we will have a very productive session. You can rest assured of the full cooperation of the delegation of Botswana in the discharge of the noble task entrusted to you.
I should also like to pay tribute to your predecessor, Mr. Harri Holkeri of Finland. The skillful manner in which he guided our deliberations during the Fifty-Fifth Session of the General Assembly speaks for his wealth of diplomatic experience and diligence in his work.
To our Secretary-General, may I express the full support and confidence
of my delegation as he begins a second term of office. We congratulate
him for the highly esteemed Nobel Peace Prize for 2001 bestowed jointly
on him and the United Nations System. This special Award is not only to
the Secretary-General personally, but also to the many dedicated men and
women who continue to work tirelessly for the United Nations System.
It is regrettable that even as we are assembled here to forge a common future within the same halls where just twelve months ago, our leaders proclaimed the arrival of a brave new world full of hope and promise, our attention should be drawn to acts of international terrorism not far from where we are meeting.
My delegation wishes to add its voice to those of other speakers who have condemned in the strongest language possible, the bombings that occurred in New York and Washington resulting in huge loss of human life. Immediately after learning of these attacks, my government issued a statement in which we condemned these terrorist attacks and those who conceived and perpetrated them. A unified and concerted effort is required from the International Community in order to eliminate the scourge of international terrorism from the surface of the earth, once and for all.
Among other things, we need to reaffirm our commitment to the full implementation
of all conventions on the combat of terrorism. My delegation is convinced
that the international community collectively, has the necessary resources
to win the war against terrorism. This is a challenge of our age.
The other major challenge that presents extraordinary danger to humanity is the HIV/AIDS pandemic, whose devastating impact on our societies and our economies, particularly in Africa, is well documented.
According to recent estimates, of the 36.1 million people living with HIV globally, 25.3 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 5.3 million people infected with the virus during 2000, 3.8 million were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 3.0 million people who died of HIV/AIDS in 2000, 2.4 million were in Sub-Saharan Africa. These statistics present an extremely grim picture of the HIV/AIDS situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. As distinguished delegates are no doubt aware, my country is one of the worst affected in the continent.
Unless we join forces to tackle this pandemic, it will continue to have a devastating impact on our societies and economies. The funding for the HIV/AIDS programmes is grossly, inadequate and has to be increased in order to mitigate the impact of the scourge.
Indeed, the Twenty-Sixth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly underscored the imperative of intensified global action to combat the pandemic. The global HIV/AIDS and Health Fund could not have come at a more opportune time. It is our sincere hope therefore, that the donor community will respond positively to the financing of the Trust Fund.
I want to stress the need to strengthen the role of the United Nations
in this fight. Our efforts at prevention and treatment of the disease need
to be augmented and strengthened by concrete measures of support and resources
from the international community if we are to turn the tide of the spread
The third issue I wish to highlight is that of "conflict diamonds" versus "development diamonds". Botswana deplores the fact that diamond resources in a number of countries in Africa are being plundered by rebels to purchase weapons which are used to cause enormous suffering to innocent people.
I, however, want to underscore the fact that "conflict diamonds" constitute
only 4% or less of the world trade in diamonds. Legitimate, conflict-free
diamonds, such as those produced in my country, are used to generate socio-economic
and development. I am glad that the contribution of conflict-free diamonds to the economic growth of countries such as mine, and indeed other countries in Southern Africa, is being appreciated.
We have been active participants in the Kimberly Process in which Governments of diamond producing countries of Southern Africa, and other interested governments, the diamond industry and civil society organizations are working together to institute a certification scheme designed to eliminate from world trade, that small percentage of conflict diamonds.
We sincerely want to see the suffering inflicted upon the people of
Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others brought
to an end.
Regrettably, many more countries in our continent continue to be torn by war and conflict. We applaud the efforts of the United Nations and other international players to enhance the capacity of African countries to prevent conflicts and maintain peace and stability in the continent.
We are convinced that the determination of many in Africa to consolidate
democracy will go a long way in ensuring that conditions of security and
stability are instituted throughout the continent. The establishment of
the African Union, which will be launched next year in the Republic of
South Africa, is the most positive expression of a new solidarity, which
is based on an urgent search for collective economic security and political
partnership. Without underestimating the hurdles we still face as we move
our continent towards integration, it is our fervent belief that an era
of hope has been ushered in our continent.
The most talked about undertaking by Africa in recent weeks has been the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which is aimed at achieving socio-economic development by alleviating poverty as well as promoting peace, security, democracy and good governance.
Unlike other initiatives that came before it, the New Partnership for Africa's Development challenges African countries to take primary responsibility for their own development by ushering in a political environment guaranteeing peace, security and stability, respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.
The initiative underscores the need for a policy framework and regulatory structures that will enhance governance in Africa. I must say, all these are achievable objectives, and we as a continent, have unreservedly committed ourselves, our Governments and peoples, and the required resources to their attainment.
We also believe that the initiative will usher in a new concept of technical cooperation between Africa and our development partners. The United Nations will have to play a critical role in the implementation of the initiative.
My delegation attaches importance to the United Nations International
Conference on Financing for Development scheduled to be held in Mexico
in the spring of 2002, and the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable
Development which will be held in South Africa in September 2002. These
conferences will offer us an opportunity to examine issues of development
in a holistic and pragmatic manner. Issues of environment, trade, domestic
policy-making, international cooperation and partnership with the Bretton
Woods Institutions as well as the private sector will have to feature prominently
at these conferences.
Recent developments in Sierra Leone give us hope that peace will now be given a chance in that country.
The agreement between the Government and the RUF that will see the latter
transform into a political party, is a major achievement and an important
step forward. The RUF must now translate its promises into action, because
this is the only way that the international community will be able to provide
the much needed support for the holding of the envisaged national elections,
which will provide the basis for the restoration of peace and stability
in Sierra Leone.
There is a real window of opportunity for peace in the Democratic Republic
of Congo. After many years of bloody conflict, which has inflicted immense
suffering on the people of the Congo, the political players and other stakeholders,
have embarked on a National Dialogue that should bring peace to the country.
Permit me to underline the fact that it will require dedication and
perseverance on the part of those concerned for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue
to be crowned with success. We, therefore urge them to see the process
of negotiations through, because the alternative is a slide back into the
suffering and misery that the Congolese have endured for so long. I also
wish to call upon the international community to provide the necessary
support and resources to the Office of the Facilitator, former President
Sir Ketumile Masire, to enable the facilitation process of the Inter-Congolese
Dialogue to succeed.
The peace process in Burundi is moving in the right direction after
many years of a painful war. The deal brokered by former President Mandela
has provided a way-out of the stalemate. The resolve of the parties to
remain committed to the peace process is the only way forward.
We continue to be concerned that prospects for peace in Angola remain
distant. At the heart of the impasse are UNITA's continuing acts of destabilisation
and sabotage. UNITA must understand that there can be no military solution
to the crisis in Angola. We, therefore, wish to appeal to UNITA to reconsider
its position and choose the path of dialogue.
My delegation is seriously concerned at the recent escalation of violence
in the Middle East. It is our sincere hope that the Government of Israel
and the Palestinian Authority will recognise the urgent need to resume
negotiations towards a comprehensive peace agreement. A lasting resolution
of this problem is essential.
In conclusion, let me re-affirm my country's commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. We are committed to working with others to strengthen this Organization to surmount the challenges that face us all as nations and peoples across the globe. The United Nations is our only hope for a stable and prosperous world.
I thank you.