H.E Mr. Somsavat Lengsavad, 

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 
Head of the Delegation of the Lao PDR

at the 56th session 
of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 
14 November 2001

Check Against Delivery

Mr. President,

On behalf of the delegation of the Lao PDR, allow me to associate myself with the previous speakers in congratulating you on your brilliant election to preside over this 56th session of the General Assembly. It is a tribute to the important contributions your country, the Republic of Korea has made throughout the past years, to the work of our Organization.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pay homage to our Secretary General, H.E Mr. Kofi Annan, for his good and effective leadership of our Organization. The prestigious Nobel Peace Prize conferred to him is both a recognition of his personal achievements and an affirmation of the great and legitimate mission undertaken by the United Nations. We wish him well and a lot of successes in performing his second term as Head of the United Nations Organization during the next five years.

The General Debate of the 56th session of the UN General Assembly was not able to proceed as planned, as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, which had caused thousands of deaths. In the wake of this tragic event, the Government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic condemned these terrorist acts while reaffirming our consistent policy to cooperate with the international community in fighting against terrorism in all its forms. In this respect, in late October, the Lao PDR has decided to become party to five international Conventions concerning the fight against terrorism.

This tragedy has generated a set of ensuing events. The government of the Lao PDR views with great concern the current situation and considers it is high time that our Organization must play an increasing role in conformity with the UN Charter in the combat against terrorism for peace and security of the peoples all over the world.

Mr. President,

Since its inception, the United Nations has made an important contribution to the maintenance of world peace and international security as well as the promotion of cooperation and development in all areas of human endeavor. Last year, in a historic Summit, the World leaders reaffirmed the relevance and importance of our organization in the present new globalized world. In that same Summit, we also pledged our commitment to ensuring that the United Nations adapts to the new area and strengthens its capacity to deal with the challenges of maintaining world peace and promoting development of all countries.

Several issues inherited from the last century failed to be addressed. Although the open-ended Working Group on the reform of the Security Council has spared no effort to fully perform its mandate, the key issues of reform of the Council remain unsolved. Therefore, we reaffirm our position on the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent membership of the Security Council. Equally, we support the efforts to address the issue related to the Right of Veto and find a solution to it to be acceptable by all Member States.

Mr. President,

The recent situation in the Middle East has reached an increased violence, which causes the lost of life, inflicts destruction and damage of property, generates a deep sorrow and a desire to revenge among both Palestinian and Israeli peoples. The Lao PDR reaffirms its support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State and the respect for the right to existence of Israel. This would contribute to guaranteeing a long-lasting peace and security in the Middle East.

With regard to the Caribbean question, almost every year the UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted the Resolution on lifting the Trade and Economic Embargo against the Republic of Cuba. However, the said Resolution has not been effectively implemented. The Government of the Lao PDR appeals to the United States and Cuba to jointly resort to a rapid solution in the interest of the peoples of the two countries, which would contribute to promoting peace and development cooperation in this region as well as in the world.

In the Korean Peninsula, several events have marked the steps and progress made towards the unification of Korea such as meetings and exchanges of visits of leaders at all levels, visits of families, which were long time torn apart, humanitarian assistance, etc.... The Lao government has followed closely this evolution and commends the positive results. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about the situation prevailing in this region and hope that under the wise guidance of the leaders of the two countries, the peaceful unification of an independent Korea will be achieved so as to meet the strong aspiration of the Korean people and to contribute to peace, stability and cooperation in East Asia and in the world.

In South East Asia and Asia-Pacific, several outstanding activities to promote peace and cooperation have gained prominence in the region and in the world. In Hanoi, the ASEAN Regional Forum reaffirmed the importance of preventive diplomacy and confidence-building measures and to avoid military confrontation, the Fourth APEC Meeting in China was a historical rally for unity in fighting against terrorism and setting goals for economic recovery; the ASEAN Summit and the ASEAN Summit plus China, Japan and the Republic of Korea held in Brunei early this month stressed the need to combat terrorism in all its forms, overcome economic recession and promote development cooperation.

Mr. President,

The Lao PDR notes with satisfaction that the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries held in May this year adopted a more realistic Plan of Action to enable the least developed countries to emerge decisively from the abject poverty and integrate into the global economic system. We very much hope that the international community will devote joint efforts to achieving the development objectives as enunciated in the said Plan of Action.

For many years now, the international community has recognized that the Land-locked Developing Countries are one of the three vulnerable and disadvantaged groups among fellow developing countries. The vulnerability and disadvantage are attributed to the lack of access to the sea, remoteness from world markets and prohibitive transport costs averaging 14 per cent of the export earnings compared to only 8.8 per cent of that spent by other developing countries.

The Lao PDR, in its capacity as Chairman of the Group of Land-locked Developing Countries, would like to appeal the General Assembly to endorse the recommendation made by the Fifth Meeting of Governmental Experts from Land-locked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Community to convene in 2003 an International Ministerial Meeting of Land-locked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor community on Transport Cooperation with the objective of addressing the special problems and needs of the Land-locked Developing Countries. In this connection, it wishes to welcome the government of Kazakhstan for its offer to host the said Meeting.

Mr. President,

By the end of 2000, there were 36.1 million people worldwide tested HIV positive, of which 90 per cent live in developing countries. It is our hope that the international community will take necessary and drastic measures, including through the provision of additional and sustained resources to implement the Declaration on HIV/AIDS Eradication that was adopted by the last Special Session of the General Assembly.

Another issue of global concern is narcotic drug. The production and abuse of drugs have increased in quantity and quality and have become a cause of crimes that affect many social dimensions. Realizing their own responsibilities, ASEAN governments and China convened an international conference in October 2000 in Thailand, where a Plan of Action to make ASEAN a drug- free zone by 2015 was adopted. Apart from this, a Ministerial Meeting between four countries namely China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand was held in August this year with an objective to curb drug production, trade and import of chemical precursor in the sub-region.

In the Lao PDR in particular, in an effort to achieve the goals and targets set forth by the political declaration of UNGA Special Session held in 1998 and to fully eradicate opium production, the government has mobilized the people and together with donors and international organizations has taken various measures through tailoring projects involving crop substitution, preventive education, drug addict rehabilitation, law enforcement and etc... As a result, in the course of only 3 years between 1998 and 2000, the opium cultivated area has been reduced from 26,000 hectares in 1998 to 17,000 ha in 2000. The aggregate opium production has also declined from 140 tons to 117 tons for the same period. Moreover, on October 12, 2001, the Lao government launched a National Anti-narcotic Campaign chaired by the Prime Minister with a view to ensuring that Laos is a drug free country with social order and bright future for the next generation.

In general, over the last year, the Lao PDR has enjoyed a firm political stability and progressive development in all sectors, especially in food security. All this was reflected in the solemn celebration of the 25th Founding Anniversary of the Lao PDR and the successful conclusion of the 7th Congress of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party. These historic events have profoundly enhanced national patriotism, a sense of self-reliance, self-resilience and ownership of the Lao people. In carrying out our mandated task, we have concentrated all efforts and untapped strength to achieve the goal of poverty reduction by halving the number of families currently living under poverty line, by stopping slash-and-bum practice and fully eradicating opium cultivation by 2005, and by all means, creating an enabling environment for the country to quit once and for all the status of least developed countries in 2020.

Mr. President,

The first year of the 21th century has witnessed new challenges, which impose anxiety and concern upon all people worldwide. However, the 20th century has created institutional foundation for strengthening the legal and cooperation framework, modern technology and partially reforming our Organization. In addition, dialogue and cooperation in economic, social and cultural fields and in other areas between countries continue to be a general trend in the World. In this spirit, I believe that the United Nations - a unique and truly universal organization, reaffirmed by the World leaders at the Millennium Summit last year, should play a significant role in addressing these new challenges so that we can turn our world into a peaceful, happy and prosperous one.

Thank you.