H.E. the Honourable Louis Straker
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs
General Assembly Fifty-Sixth Regular Session
NOVEMBER 14, 2001
Check Against Delivery
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mr. President, I bring you greetings from the small and beautiful Country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Please accept my congratulations on your appointment as President of the 56th Session of the General Assembly. You are assured of my Country’s full support for a successful session. I also offer heartfelt congratulations to Secretary General Kofi Annan on his re-election to a second term; and to the United Nations body and the Secretary General for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize received in honor of their efforts to ensure a better and more peaceful world. It is impossible to think of more deserving recipients of this award as this coalition of nations and our beloved Secretary General strive to ensure that the organization fulfils its charter.
I commend the President of the United States of America for the statesmanship and resolve with which he continues to deal with the difficulties at hand. I also salute the civic leaders of this great city of New York for the inspirational leadership during this problematic time. The city has been visited by tragedy once again this week. I offer on behalf of the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines sincere condolences to all those touched by this latest disaster not least our neighbors and friends in the Dominican Republic.
Our government stands firm with the international community on Resolution 1373 of the Security Council against Terrorism. We are working closely with governments of CARICOM, Latin America and the United States in an effort to fight the scourge of terrorism. Our government has tightened security and implemented measures intended to close any possible avenues that criminals and terrorists may exploit. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that barbarism is defeated. Compliance with Resolution 1373 is difficult and expensive for small states with limited means and technical expertise. But we will comply.
Mr. President, the international community has mustered an impressive effort to fight the plague of terrorism. In this midst of this, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that terrorism will not be eradicated by one victory in one war. It behooves us as world leaders to look deeper into the causes of violence and terror. It is the firm belief of my Government that marginalization of the poor and underprivileged create a hotbed for extremism and lawlessness.
We of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the wider Caribbean have triumphed through the evils of slavery and colonialism to emerge with a truly noble civilization. We are a people made up of races from the four corners of the world who have melded into one beautiful whole. We are democratic in our governance and tolerant in our attitudes. We are a hard working, industrious people. We are proud. It is not in our nature to seek alms from the rich. But Mr. President, it is self evident that an economy such as ours, which is almost totally dependent on agriculture and tourism, needs help if we are to survive and prosper.
The influence of the multi-national Chiquita and Dole banana companies has been working for years to destroy the industry of our peasant banana farmers. The WTO, of which we are a member, seems bent on widening the gulf between rich and poor. We are not optimistic about the outcome of this week’s summit in Doha. A farmer working one or two acres of mountain land and eking out a living cannot compete with the giants who control thousands of acres in the Central American countries. Mr. President, if you take away that which feeds us, you must offer something in return. That is why the upcoming conference in Mexico on financing for development is of seminal importance to the small and developing countries of this world. It is time for the economic giants of the world to stop paying mere lip service to the idea of financing for development and put into practice real and workable means for the poor, underprivileged and vulnerable nations to join the mainstream. We need the commercial barriers erected by those intent on maintaining their hegemony to be removed. We adhere to the adage of “Trade, not Aid”. But this is not yet a realistic option and in the present climate will not be for the foreseeable future. We hate asking for charity. We merely ask that promises be kept and commitments adhered to. As a Small Island Developing State we need relief from the burden of our foreign debt, high interest rates and other unfair international trade constraints. We need the Bretton Woods Institutions to perform their function in a democratic and just manner.
Mr. President, HIV/AIDS remain rampant worldwide. The recent grave disaster in the United States of America has pushed other burning issues of the day off the world agenda. But people have not stopped dying of AIDS. The twenty-six million who have been forecast to succumb to the scourge in the next ten years will still succumb. In the same way that the U.S.A. and the European Union were able to “persuade” drug companies to produce drugs to combat Anthrax at a fraction of their normal price, the same drug companies must be “persuaded” to produce affordable treatment for this plague which is causing a national security threat to many poor countries. The state of affairs of HIV/AIDS has reached circumstances of extreme urgency in our country. The Caribbean is now only second to Sub-Saharan Africa as having the fastest rise in the incidents of HIV/AIDS. We are not equipped to handle this crisis. We are not able to afford the drugs to treat our people. Therefore, Mr. President, they are dying – dying in their hundreds and thousands. This world crisis, Mr. President, unlike terrorism, is one of which we know exactly what is required. Do we have the will to provide the necessary? The UN special session of the General Assembly last June on HIV/Aids ended with a global commitment to combat this disease. Are we living up to our commitment?
Prior to September 11, our government implemented sound fiscal policies that resulted in positive economic growth for our country. However, after that infamous day, the economic outlook turned extremely bleak. Our burgeoning tourist industry has suffered tremendously with employment taking an especially heavy blow. Hotel occupancy dropped to a fifteen-year low. There seems to be no end to the ripple effects on the industry. Just as people were beginning to fly again, we had the tragedy in Queens on Monday. This plunges us deeper into economic gloom and the real and frightening possibility of recession looms ever closer.
Following the admission of Tuvalu to the United Nations last year, we are very close to realizing the principle of universality set forth in our charter. Now, only one remaining country awaits admission to the United Nations. That country, as we all know, is the Republic of China on Taiwan.
The ROC’s impressive record of economic and political development is one of the most persuasive reasons to eliminate the UN’s sole exception to universality. Fifty years ago, Taiwan was a poor and underdeveloped society. Fifty years later, the ROC has become an affluent and prosperous country with a per capita GNP of around $14,000, annual trade of over $300 billion, and a GNP of $320 billion.
Although the ROC is only the 138th largest country in the world in terms of lands and the 46th largest in terms of population, it is today the world’s 17th largest economy, 15th largest trading nation, eight largest investor, fourth largest holder of foreign exchange and third largest exporter of IT products.
Under our principle of universality, we cannot continue to exclude a country with such an impressive record of achievements. The time has come, Mr. President, to open our doors to the Republic of China on Taiwan.
The situation in Afghanistan calls for immediate action on the part of the United Nations to fill the power vacuum left by the departure of the ruling Taliban from the capital Kabul. We must make sure that the new administration is representative of all factions and we must further ensure that the suffering and starving people receive immediate humanitarian aid to ensure their survival through the coming winter months.
Finally, Mr. President,
I must reiterate that I am encouraged by the efforts undertaken by the United Nations to work toward a society that ensures security and human dignity for all in the future. The future looks good if we all work together for the betterment of mankind. I assure you that my Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are fully committed to supporting you in these endeavors, and may God direct all of us in this path.
I thank you Mr. President.