Allow me on behalf of the delegation of Lesotho, to congratulate you and other members of the bureau on your assumption of the high office of the President of the 56TH Session of the General Assembly. Allow me also to pay a well deserved tribute to your predecessor Mr. Harri Holkeri, President of the 55TH Session and commend him for spearheading efforts to reform and revitalize the GA with a view to strengthening its role as the chief deliberative policy making and representative body of the UN.
We congratulate our Nobel Peace Award winning Secretary General for the award and for his re-appointment to head the Organization. This will no doubt enable him to continue his efforts to make the UN more relevant to face today's challenges. We commend him for continuing to place such a high premium on the need for the Organization to develop better tools for conflict prevention, management and resolution and encourage him to continue developing concepts and strategic frameworks for the Organization's activities in the areas of conflict prevention and peace building.
We particularly wish to commend the Secretary General for his relentless
efforts and commitment to reform and transform the UN into a functioning
Organization with a new management culture. We reiterate the view shared
by many in this Assembly that the UN would be more democratic if the Security
Council were made more representative of the membership as a whole. Regrettably,
while we all agree on the need for reform, agreement on details for such
reform continues to elude us.
Lesotho reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of the barbaric acts
of terror committed against innocent civilians on September 11 and extends
her condolences to the relatives of all those who perished during the attacks.
Ideological differences are no excuse for such unspeakable acts neither
can such evil acts be justified on the grounds of expediency. Those responsible
for these acts must be punished.
One year after the unprecedented Millennium Summit is a good time for us to reflect and take stock on how we are responding to changes brought about by our ever growing interdependence and the ever increasing interconnectedness of our economies. In this changing world in which all forms of economic, social, cultural and political activity have become dependent on access to telecommunications and information services provided by the global information infrastructure, what progress have we made towards making globalization truly global and in ensuring that people everywhere share in its benefits?
The truth of the matter is that there remains a gaping digital chasm between the industrialized and developing countries, especially in Africa where the majority of the people are yet to reap the benefits of information and communication technology. To close this digital abyss, ICT has to be made an integral component of the developing countries' national and regional development agenda through the establishment of necessary economic, institutional, social, legal and fiscal environment that will boost ICT in these countries. In this regard, much still needs to be done to jump-start the introduction of ICT in primary schools in order to enable the developing countries to respond to the changing needs of society and the economy.
The United Nations system thus has to redouble its efforts in assisting
developing countries, particularly in Africa, in building their capacity
in curriculum development to ensure improvements in the quality of education
and access to information and communications technology, including through
the transfer of technology. In this way, we can accelerate the creation
of an international environment that will help developing countries derive
benefit from globalization. We thus call upon all international partners
to treat ICT as a special priority for Africa's development.
Despite the many difficulties that the developing countries continue to face in addressing their urgent development needs, solid progress is being made towards establishing strong institutional capacities for sustainable development including a sound macroeconomic foundation, effective governance, peace and stability. Following many years of undemocratic military dictatorships and coups d'etat in Africa, the continent has begun to take bold steps to climb out of the rut and to-day strong winds of democracy continue to reverberate throughout the continent. This deepening of democratic principles has led Africans to shun all leaders who come to power through extra constitutional means. There is also a growing awareness within Africa that sustainable development can not take place in the midst of actual or potential conflicts, that armed conflict is retrogressive and inevitably destroys the achievements of many years of national development, hence conflict management is now assuming greater importance.
Development is also beginning to take firm roots as many African countries
formulate their development strategies and pursue greater cooperative relations
with their development partners. The key role played by the United Nations
in helping to re-energize the momentum for international partnership between,
in particular, the least developed countries and the international community
will remain crucial for addressing poverty and sustainable development.
Africa is not only determined to overcome its problems, but it is determined to ensure that the future development of the continent is shaped and designed by Africans themselves. Many of the evils that have continued to plague Africa, including economic decline, internal unrest and civil wars, uncertainty, corruption, and disintegration of states have been major obstacles to development and the establishment of viable societies in Africa. All these have made us realize that the only way of achieving sustainable development of the continent is to ensure that people live and work in stable conditions under the rule of law. Transforming the OAU into the African Union should thus be seen as a milestone step which will pave the way for the establishment of strong institutions endowed with necessary powers and resources that will enable them to discharge their duties and responsibilities efficiently and effectively.
It is against this background that the launching of the New African
Initiative in Lusaka in July was also a turning point in Africa's efforts
at ensuring that appropriate Africa-wide and regional economic and social
reforms are carried out with a view to eradicating all social injustices.
This African owned and African led economic centred recovery program and
framework for action is a pragmatic vision of how Africa wishes to be included
as a partner and not as a recipient of the benefits and opportunities offered
by globalization. This Initiative by Africans which sets out the right
priorities and focal points for the sustainable development of the African
continent does not only deserve commendation, but support from this Assembly
and the international community as a whole.
In embarking on this new path of recovery, Africans have no illusions and are fully aware of the mammoth task that they have set for themselves. Nevertheless, we Africans strongly believe that the goals we have set ourselves are achievable. Progress towards their achievement will have to be driven by the people and governments of Africa themselves. We will have to create the necessary conditions to allow the poor to become agents of change, using their own talents and capacities to raise their production and increase their income. The poor will have to be given access to assets such as land, technology, fair market, health, education and economic services including credit.
For all this to happen, Africa needs resources. The international community must provide support not only through development cooperation, but also through improved trade access for African countries in the markets of the developed world. The "Everything but Arms" initiative adopted by the European Council of Ministers in February is a first important step towards scrapping customs duties on imports from Africa and other developing countries and needs to be emulated.
We express our gratitude for the support and commitment already given
to this Initiative by the G8 and the EU and call upon other donor countries
and agencies to join Africa as it embarks on its new path of recovery.
The Millennium Summit reaffirmed the Copenhagen Social Summit goal of reducing by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. Despite this, abject poverty, a narrow resource base and hence broad dependence on overseas development aid, unsustainable levels of debt and the deleterious effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic continue to be an everyday reality for the majority of the people in the world. In some regions of Sub-Saharan Africa poverty has actually increased, posing a serious threat to democratic governance processes through the erosion of human rights and human dignity as well as the deterioration of the already narrow natural resource base.
In addition, the number of "Least Developed Countries" has more than doubled since 1971 when the UN set up this category of countries. This doubling is not only a grim reality of the deterioration in living conditions that has occurred in a number of countries in the South, but is also a clear indicator of the persistent economic and social problems these countries continue to experience.
A more rapid and sustainable exit from debt is thus imperative. This
calls for urgent implementation of an enhanced and expanded Highly Indebted
Poor Countries Initiative (HIPIC). It further calls for more comprehensive
measures including converting the remaining bilateral debts of LDCs into
grants; widening HIPIC to benefit more countries; increasing the levels
of ODA, ensuring markets for LDC products and encouraging greater volumes
of foreign direct investment to Africa. Lesotho thus looks forward to a
further discussion of these measures during the forthcoming Conference
on Financing for Development, the convening of which we fully support.
We believe that the Program of Action for the Least Developed Countries
for the Decade 2001 -2010 is a benchmark framework for accelerating the
sustained economic growth and sustainable development of the poorest and
weakest segment of the international community. We call on all concerned
- civil society, including the private sector, multilateral organizations,
development partners, and the LDC governments to summon the necessary political
will to implement the Program and to alleviate the human suffering, degradation
and wanton deaths from malnutrition of innocent children, women and men.
Housing remains a critical pillar of sustainable economic development. It is the single most important and obvious indicator of individual aspirations and their fulfillment. Testimony to this, is the renewal of our commitment, earlier this year, to the principles of the Habitat Agenda encapsulated in adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development. Poverty continues to be a major factor for developing countries' failure to realize these twin goals of the Habitat Agenda.
In the same vein, a healthy population is an absolute requirement for
social and economic development. We thus recognize the enormous challenges
posed by HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases. For Africa, which is
host to 70 per cent of the people infected with HIV/AIDS world wide, this
scourge is reversing hard
won gains in economic and social development. Political commitment and leadership are thus essential for building national capacities to develop and implement comprehensive national strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, support and treatment, all of which require mobilization of resources. We thus welcome the outcome of the Special Session of the Fifty- fifth Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS and hope that the Global Aids Fund announced by the Secretary General will soon become operational to provide funding on a grant basis to the most affected countries.
Lesotho welcomes the global movement to ensure that every child enjoys a better beginning, hence a better future, and has undertaken to renew its commitment to fulfill the children's rights. Our most auspicious endeavour to that end has been the progressive introduction in 2000 of Free Primary Education beginning with standard 1 pupils. This we believe is a step forward in ensuring sustained economic growth and poverty reduction. The agreed new dates for the postponed Children's Summit should ensure that we do not loose the momentum for creating a better world for children.
Lesotho also remains keenly aware of the important role that women play
in the advancement of the nation's social and economic development processes
as well as the need to sustain their involvement and participation at all
levels. To this end, we have heeded the call to States Parties to the Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
that entered reservations to the Convention to review those reservations.
Our reservation to CEDAW has been amended with a view to withdrawing it
at a later stage.
The events in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda as well as the gruesome images of women and children whose limbs were hacked by rebel forces in Sierra Leone have shown that accountability for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and universal jurisdiction over these crimes are key to bringing an end to the circle of impunity which we have witnessed over the years. Lesotho's veritable contribution in helping to end this culture of impunity is demonstrated by its support and assistance to the activities of the international tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda in bringing those responsible for the most egregious crimes to justice, as well as its support for the creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone for which Lesotho has pledged $100,000.00 over three years. A payment of $40, 000.00 in respect of the first year has already been deposited.
We call on the international community to provide adequate funding for the Special Court for Sierra Leone to come into operation.
While the pace of ratifications for the ICC Statute is encouraging, more needs to be done if this Court is to become a reality soon. The challenge is to make sure that the Statute enters into force without delay. We therefore encourage all those who are yet to ratify the Statute, to do so.
As the pace of ratifications intensifies the next few months will be
critical for the ICC Preparatory Commission to finalize all documents necessary
for the operation of the Court in its formative years. Adequate time and
resources should thus be made available for the Preparatory Commission
to fulfill its mandate within the first half of 2002.
International peace and security continue to be a major challenge for the United Nations in the 21st century. While some positive developments have been recorded on various issues which are crucial to the security of the international community, much more still needs to be done in pursuit of a more peaceful world- a world free from all categories of weapons of mass destruction, a world free from the arsenals of illicit small arms and light weapons and a world with strengthened global norms for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
Universality of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as well as full compliance with its provisions are essential for its effectiveness. We thus renew our call to those who remain outside to join the Treaty and urge the Nuclear Weapons States to ensure full compliance with obligations assumed under the Treaty.
The recent spade of bio-warfare threats have highlighted the urgent need to devise effective compliance measures that will make proliferation of biological weapons much harder and prevent their falling into the hands of terrorist groups. The Review Conference of the BWC should thus intensify efforts to enhance the Treaty's value as an instrument of international peace and security.
The historic UN Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons has succeeded
in highlighting the human suffering and insecurity engendered by excessive
accumulation and illicit transfer of these weapons. Though not fully satisfactory,
particularly to those of us who have suffered most from this scourge, the
measures envisaged in the Program of Action are a historic first step towards
curbing this menace. It is now up to all of us to forge meaningful partnerships
to ensure effective implementation of the Program as we move together to
free the world of these weapons.
While peace has continued to hold in many regions of the world, Africa has experienced setbacks in that regard as violent conflicts continue unabated. The sad legacy of our colonial past wherein state-sponsored activities facilitated the systematic plunder of Africa's resources have been replaced by foreign companies and individuals in pursuit of so called "bottom line". The link between conflicts, easy availability of arms, abundance of natural resources and their plunder by outside forces to fuel these conflicts has become even more apparent.
We call upon the same collective conscience of the international community that condemned and succeeded in eradicating slavery to speak with equal vehemence against this evil.
This continuation of violence and armed conflicts particularly in some African countries is regrettable and so is the volatile and explosive situation in the Middle East. Lesotho supports the creation of two States of Israel and Palestine based on Security Council resolutions.
We call on all parties to conflicts around the world to intensify efforts to create conducive conditions for the implementation of their agreements and relevant Security Council resolutions as well as for the effective engagement of the UN. The people of the countries and regions which continue to be engulfed in endless violence deserve no less. We are encouraged by developments in the DRC, Burundi and Sierra Leone and applaud the efforts of all the parties to bring peace to their countries.
We are however saddened by lack of progress in the implementation of agreements related to the settlement, once and for all, of some of the oldest running conflicts in both Angola and the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). We in Lesotho are convinced that the Houston Accord on SADR remains the foundation stone for self-determination of Sahara whilst undoubtedly, the Lusaka Protocol on Angola remains the only viable basis for peace in that sisterly country.
In conclusion, Mr. President, Lesotho renews its commitment to multilateral
cooperation and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. The current
difficult times call for strong support of the UN and the multilateral
processes if the Organization is to effectively address the new global
issues and challenges that confront it.