Statement by

Hon. Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat,

Minister for Finance and Leader of the Nepalese Delegation

at the General Debate of the 
56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 14 November 2001

Check Against Delivery

Mr. President
Mr. Secretary-General
and Distinguished Delegates,

At the outset, I wish to express, on behalf of His Majesty's Government and the people of Nepal, and on my own, our profound condolences to the Government and people of the United States as well as to the families who lost their loved ones in the unfortunate crash of American Airlines flight 857 on November 12.

Let me congratulate you, Mr. President, at your well-deserved election to steer the 56 th session of the General Assembly. I have full confidence in your ability to guide our work through the session. My felicitations also go to the other members of the bureau.

Your predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Harri Holkeri of Finland, will be remembered for his outstanding leadership in the last session of the General Assembly.

I also congratulate the Secretary-General for his_ election to a second term and for his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of this year, together with the United Nations.

Mr. President,

We are meeting against the backdrop of the September 11 terrorist attacks that took innumerable lives and caused colossal damage in the host country and host city. The Nepalese people have full solidarity with the American people in this hour of grief and support the American-led war on terror.

The horror's powerful ripples have been felt beyond the US. borders and around the world as well. They have pushed the already slumping global economy into a recession that is sure to unleash misery and starvation on millions of peoples and kill thousands of children in the developing world.

In the wake of the terrorist onslaught, the United Nations was quick to act. It approved fresh measures, including Security Council resolution 1373, calling on Member States to stem the channels of communications and freeze the finances of terrorists, to deny them refuge and support, to strengthen domestic and international law against them, and to collectively take all necessary steps to prevent and defeat them.

A broad coalition of states united around a common goal has launched a global campaign against terrorism. Itself being a victim of terrorism, which has taken nearly 1800 lives and grossly undermined development efforts over the past 5 years, Nepal understands the challenges and cost of defeating this elusive enemy that has no borders, no territory and no standing army. Yet with collective resolve and determination and with preventive and curative actions we can sniff out the forces of terrorism if we only refrained from political expediency and moral relativism.

Enforcing all the existing relevant conventions and resolutions is as crucial as is the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on terrorism to achieve the objective.

Mr. President,

The 21st century begins with a new and uncertain security environment. No sooner had we put the wars and Cold War of the last century behind and begun to grapple with internal conflicts, terrorism has emerged as a grave threat to international peace and security. It should be tackled decisively and without delay.

As we engage in the war on terror, we must not forget that the edifice of durable peace can be erected only on the fundamental pillars of prevention of conflicts, peaceful resolution of disputes and persistent efforts at disarmament, of poverty reduction and development, and of respect for diversity, fairness and justice. And the culture of peace and dialogue should advance the process.

We now live in a global village where we all are interdependent. A fire in one house may consume the entire village, if left unchecked in time. That is why concerted efforts to secure peace and stability are critical in the troubled nations of Africa, Asia, Europe and elsewhere that have suffered wanton instability and violence, pernicious to their national integrity, social harmony and economic progress.

In particular, we will have to end the cycle of violence and deaths in the Middle East by finding a durable solution to its festering problem. The war on terror and restoration of stability will imminently succeed in Afghanistan if  its people are saved from starvation and unwarranted hardship now and assured of their country's reconstruction when the struggle is over.

Criminal acts such as the present anthrax scare in the United States and the sarin gas use in the Tokyo sub-way few years back are a strong testimony to the necessity of abolishing biological and chemical weapons before an appalling catastrophe befalls us. More importantly, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and increasing likelihood of their use by terrorists, together with the successful NPT review conference, constitute compelling reasons to follow complete and general nuclear disarmament.

And at no cost should we let the dark clouds of renewed nuclear arms race loom alarmingly on the horizon, jettisoning some of the bulwarks of strategic, though uneasy, stability and threatening to weaponise outer space.

The inability of the Conference on Disarmament to agree on its program of work for last several years raises serious doubts about our commitment to disarmament. This forum entails to be activated without delay and tasked to negotiate new disarmament treaties, including one on nuclear disarmament, and to strengthen the existing ones.

For UN peace efforts have become instrumental in promoting global peace, Nepal has lent them moral backing, contributed nearly 40,000 troops, and sustained. 42 casualties in the line of duty. Nepal is willing to work for the improvement in peacekeeping operations taking into account both the Brahimi Panel report and our collective experience.

Mr. President,

While we are preoccupied with the immediate steps against terrorists, we must not overlook or abandon other equally pressing issues central to durable peace such as the need to remove poverty, create jobs, and provide education, drinking water, health and other basic services in poor countries. The reason is simple. Terrorists and anarchists often exploit the vulnerabilities of the impoverished and unemployed, of the excluded and disaffected, to carry out their sinister design.

Of course, poor countries have no choice but to undertake painful reforms to improve their._ governance and performance. Decreasing assistance to the poor in the face of increasing prosperity in the rich nations defies our understanding. Therefore, equally urgent and essential is increased support for them from their development partners.

For example, rich countries need to reverse the decline in development assistance and meet the aid targets, fully fund and expand the HIPC initiative to cover all least developed and worst affected countries, and facilitate investment in the South. Their trade barriers ought to be dismantled and markets opened to spur exports and help broaden production capacities of developing countries.

Warranted is also a fundamental change in the international trade regime and financial architecture to make them poor-friendly. And the necessity to launch a genuine development round of trade negotiations cannot be overemphasised in this respect.

As the advanced nations seek to hammer out a stimulus package to extricate their economies from the dark shadow of the present economic downturn, they must also be mindful of the much greater needs of poor nations at this time of economic hardship.

Undoubtedly, all developing countries face serious obstacles to their development journey. But landlocked developing countries suffer from the additional impediments of remoteness, transit-transport difficulties, and lack of access to sea-based resources.

However, nowhere the trauma of deprivation and dispossession and problems of development are more staggering than they are in least developed countries, virtually all of them in Africa and Asia. Globalisation has further marginalised them and information revolution has hardly touched them. The UN special programmes of the past two decades were apparently inadequate to make a difference, as many of these countries have become worse-off over the last decade.

Nepal is committed to vigorously implement the outcome of the third LDC conference. We sincerely hope our development partners will leave no stone unturned to carry out their commitments, including the European Union's "everything but arms" scheme.

Conflicts and chaos, deprivation and disasters continue to spawn humanitarian problems and create situations in which human rights are compromised. Today, there are 22 million refugees, including 100,000 in Nepal, and many more internally displaced persons around the globe. Responding to such exigencies is naturally a priority, as the war on terror is, but we must bear in mind that humanitarian assistance by no means prevents recurrence of crises until people are empowered and their vulnerabilities are addressed.

I take this occasion to express our appreciation to the international community for the assistance it has extended in the maintenance of refugees in Nepal. We urge them to continue their assistance until the resolution of this problem leading to the repatriation for which we have engaged ourselves in dialogue with the Royal Government of Bhutan.

The need for protecting refugees, maintaining ecological balance, preserving the environment, and promoting sustainable development as well as making sure this planet remains at least as liveable for our children as we have had never become so urgent as now. Strengthening the existing global treaties on the environment, particularly adopting the Kyoto Protocol is urgently required.

Mr. President,

Nepal, a least developed and land-locked nation, has accorded its topmost priority to poverty reduction, spending more than 70 percent of its budget in rural areas where the most poor live, and has adopted a marketled development with a two-pronged strategy. The government has focused on building critical infrastructure and developing such basic services as education, health, drinking water, and sanitation. The private sector is encouraged to invest in trade, industry and now increasingly infrastructure. Besides, non-governmental organisations have largely concentrated their activity on advocacy, social investment and community development.

Policies and measures have been instituted to attract foreign investment and to harness the creative potential of people by means of economic liberalisation, investment incentives, decentralisation, and rationalisation of public spending priorities. Of late, we have taken steps for land reform, empowerment of women through education, inheritance rights and political participation, together with special developmental programs to uplift weak and vulnerable people and regions.

Yet the progress has been slow in coming with its attendant serious consequences. Nepal's per capita GNP of $220 is one of the lowest in the world; 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line ; and the ratio of the government's foreign debt stock to government revenue is 410 percent and to annual exports 350 percent. This statistics is incredibly disheartening even among the least developed countries.

Despite this, Nepal is left out of the HIPC initiative. I urge the donor community, therefore, to include Nepal in the initiative to help release our resources from debt servicing obligations that will enable us to implement poverty reduction programmes more effectively. But, it will in no way substitute the need for increased development assistance.

Mr. President,

The United Nations has an elemental role to play in meeting all these challenges. To prepare it to address them, Nepal seeks to revitalise the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council and to augment cooperation and co-ordination among various UN organs. Likewise, we see the imperative to enlarge the Security Council, to improve its methods of work, including deepening its co-operation with troop contributing countries.

Veto power militates against the basic tenets of equality and democracy; it reflects the reality of a bygone era. Nepal is convinced about the necessity to remove the veto and understands the profound difficulties in achieving this goal. Until it has been eliminated, this power ought to be rationalised by defining the contours and parameters for its application.

Welcoming the system-wide reforms initiated by the Secretary-General so far, we encourage the United Nations to pursue relentless reform to enhance effectiveness in its delivery and increase efficiency in resources use, reduce overhead expenses, remove duplication, increase decentralisation and streamline procurement through outsourcing and competitive bidding, to mention a few. Member States should also ensure sound financial footing for the Organization.

Mr. President,

The Millennium Declaration has given us visions and benchmarks for a peaceful, decent, just and viable global society and indicated how the United Nations could be instrumental to achieve them. It is our collective obligation to implement them sharing burdens and benefits equitably. Nepal welcomes the Road Map to carry out the Declaration.

The implementation review of various global compacts has unmistakably established the shortage of financial resources as the principal reason for lack of progress. Nepal hopes that the World Summit on Sustainable Development and International Conference on Financing for Development to be held next year will do their best to chalk out a blueprint for financing developmental activities, which is the foremost concern of the developing world.

As regional co-operation is an effective vehicle for broadening markets and production as well as building collective competitiveness, Nepal and other South Asian countries have been working together under the umbrella of SAARC. I am happy to inform that Nepal will have the privilege of hosting its next summit in January 2002 after it was postponed two years back.

Again in the spirit of regional solidarity and of its abiding commitment to peace and disarmament, Nepal is looking forward to early relocation of the Asia-Pacific Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Kathmandu where it belongs. We have on our part completed all necessary preparation for the effective functioning of the Centre from Nepal.

Mr. President,

Democracy, development and human rights are integral to society's advancement. Therefore, Nepal is engaged in promoting democracy and freedom, human rights and justice for all, particularly of women, children and vulnerable groups. We cherish these values crucial to preserving human dignity and bestowing on human beings the opportunity to rise to their full potential.

In the aftermath of the agonising Royal massacre in Nepal early this year, our people's faith in democracy has been further reinforced, as it ensured smooth succession and stability in the face of agonising crisis. I thank all our friends for their solidarity, and support at a time of national tragedy in Nepal.

Mr. President,

We have witnessed unprecedented unity among nations to fight major wars in the past and terrorism at the moment. If we show the same kind of resolve and dedication, we can successfully fight poverty, deprivation and discrimination. The United Nations should brace itself to face them effectively and Member States to assume greater sense of responsibility. Committed to the principles and purposes of the United Nations, Nepal will continue to do its best to help the United Nations achieve its goals and to make a difference in our people's lives.

I thank you, Mr. President.