Policy Statement by H.E. Dr. Patrick Albert Lewis

Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda


the 56th General Assembly


the United Nations

November 16, 2001

Check against delivery


Mr. President:

Antigua & Barbuda is pleased that this is the United Nation's Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. It is most appropriate that this is so. However, we can have meaningful dialogue only if the dominant countries reach out with genuine understanding when others speak. We can dialogue only if the basic principles of the United Nations are made into the core of reality. We cannot dialogue if multilateralism is to remain selective, and if the principle of rotation continues to be based on demography, military might, and economic wherewithal. The people of my country represent an integral part of human civilization, and we wish to contribute our voice and our ideas to the debate on the future of the journey of humankind on this planet.

The tragic events of September 11 in this the Host Country of the United Nations has presented a challenge to world civilization. The Parliament of Antigua & Barbuda on Thursday, October 18 passed strong anti-terrorism legislation. Also, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), meeting in Special (Emergency) Session in the Bahamas, 11-12 October recognized terrorism as a global problem requiring a resolute global response. The Heads of Government stated: "We are conscious that the unprecedented and barbaric terrorist assaults of September 11 will require of us extraordinary vigilance and coordination in the future, to ensure that our territories, our institutions and our citizens, are not used in any manner to facilitate the activities of terrorists or to undermine our national and regional security."

We share the agony of the United States, for we too had nationals who perished in the 11 September atrocity. We fully support UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which makes it obligatory for all states to impose far-reaching measures to combat the scourge of terrorism. We support the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee. International terrorism is in reality an act of war against the world's peace-loving peoples. It is imperative that all countries of the world address in a more meaningful manner the underlying social, economic, and political problems that cause human misery and perpetuate injustice. We must act to ensure that the entire global society lives in an environment of freedom, and to be free from fear. The fight against terrorism will be a long and arduous one, but it is one in which we must thoroughly and completely engage ourselves.

Antigua and Barbuda has now ratified the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court. The citizens of my country believe that in the prospect of an international criminal court lies the promise of universal justice, as the Court will have the power to indict individuals. Antigua & Barbuda is certainly disappointed that crimes pertaining to drug trafficking and terrorism have been put on the back burner in relation to the ICC, but we are prepared to continue our dialogue to bring them under the ambit of the ICC when it comes into effect. The cancer of drug-trafficking will continue to threaten human civilization until we fashion truly global responses to its menace.

Mr. President:

The battles in Seattle, Windsor and Quebec are an integral part of world civilization's struggle to humanize globalization. Interestingly, we find ourselves agreeing with the statement by the IMF's Managing Director in his address to members of the Deutsche Bundestag on April 2, 2001 in Berlin. Herr Kohler declared that "it is political and economic madness for OECD countries to spend $360 billion a year on agricultural subsidies, while poverty rages in developing countries especially in the rural and farming regions. It is also overdue for industrial countries to honour their commitment to provide 0.7 percent of GNP for official development assistance."

At the UN Millennium Summit, my own Prime Minister Lester Bird castigated the OECD for its unilaterally devised set of standards for international taxation to be imposed on other jurisdictions; and for demanding that States change their domestic laws to suit OECD purposes. The rule of law had become the rule of the jungle, where rules do not apply, and only might is right. In reality, the OECD Harmful Tax Competition project had nothing to do with money laundering, but more to do with the fact that the OECD believed that its member states would lose capital to other states with more competitive tax regimes.

Globalization has left states like my own with a feeling of exclusion, a feeling of being pushed aside and outside, from which we observe the gains of the dominant. It is a feeling of not participating in the determination of our destiny. The Green Room process evident at WTO Ministerials has done nothing but increase our apprehension. We call for serious reform to be undertaken of the global political and economic architecture, both at the United Nations and at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The multilateral trading system needs to be transparent, fair and equitable, and all countries should be able to share in its benefits.

Mr. President:

Antigua & Barbuda, as a small island state, is extremely vulnerable to many natural disasters. The most prevalent threat is hurricanes, three of which impacted our sister states of Belize, Cuba, and the Bahamas. A single hurricane can set back the development of a small-island state ten years. Between 1995 and 2000, Antigua & Barbuda was hit by seven hurricanes.

We call on the international community to acknowledge in a meaningful way the vulnerability of small states like Antigua & Barbuda. We point to our lack of capacity in financial and human resource terms to bounce back from natural disasters and from external shocks to its economy caused by economic recession in the major economies of the world, our main trading partners. It is therefore imperative that we are able to continue to access concessionary financing through the World Bank.

Our social and economic development needs, including infrastructure, seem not to register in the boardrooms of the international financial institutions.

Countries like Antigua & Barbuda are viewed as middle-income because of the per capita income criterion, but this is a flawed measurement and should be abandoned. Financing for development should take account of a mix of factors, and should be linked to the vulnerability index, on which UNCTAD has done important work.

No account is taken of the considerable transaction costs faced by small states because of their remoteness and the disproportionate burden they bear in order to effectively participate in world trade. No account is taken of the openness of our economy to goods and services from all over the world, without corresponding market access for our own limited range of goods to the markets of Europe and North America. An inhospitable stranger called non-tariff barriers continues to slam the trade door in our face.

In these circumstances, Mr. President, we cannot over-emphasize how important it is for the IMF and the World Bank to apply special and differential treatment to measuring the fiscal and economic performance of small island states. Our limited capacity to raise revenue, our necessity to spend at a disproportionate level in order to maintain a decent standard of living for our people, should lead the IMF to have special and differential programmes of assistance for small island states. These programmes should not merely prescribe the traditional formula of large-scale public-sector dismissals and reduction of public sector investment programmes.

Instead, innovative ways should be found to provide long-term financing at repayment periods and rates of interest that would allow small states to maintain democracy, human rights, low crime rates and economic growth.

My country welcomes the successful conclusion of the Climate Change meeting in Marrakesh, where the parties to the UN Climate change Convention finalized the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol, thereby opening the way to widespread ratification by governments and the Protocol's early entry into force. It was the result of several years of tough negotiation in which Antigua and Barbuda was most active. What we now have in place are the institutions and detailed procedures of the Kyoto Protocol, and the next step is to test their effectiveness in overseeing the five-percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries over the next decade.

The agreements reached in Marrakesh also made important progress on strengthening the flow of financial and technological support to developing countries so that they can move towards a sustainable energy future, and sends a clear signal to business, local governments and the general public that climate-friendly products, services, and activities will be rewarded by consumers and national policies alike.

The meeting also adopted the Marrakesh Ministerial declaration as an input into next September's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The Declaration emphasizes the contribution that action on climate change can make to sustainable development and calls for capacity building, technology innovation, and cooperation with the biodiversity and desertification conventions. With the Summit a little less than a year away, small island developing states such as my own, which are amongst the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, continue to urge the speedy ratification of the Protocol. This will require a global coalition among states to ensure that it enters into force and become legally binding after it has been ratified by at least 55 Parties to the Convention, including industrialized countries representing at least 55% of the total 1990 carbon dioxide emissions from this group. While it remains true that those with the highest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions should take the lead, it is also incumbent upon all countries to work together to ensure that there is full compliance with commitments contained in the Protocol.

A paramount concern is the transhipment of nuclear waste through the Caribbean Sea. The countries of the Caribbean have been insistent that it be stopped, all to no avail, and our populations live in constant fear of an accident. We call on those who engage in this deadly traffic to respect the rights of transit states such as Antigua & Barbuda.

The most populous democracy in the world, India, spoke on the first day of the General Debate and highlighted concerns which we reiterate: there needs to be a more determined movement toward the liquidation of external debts of low income and highly indebted countries; there should be poverty alleviation programmes designed for countries facing financial crises; and the stabilization of international prices of primary commodity exports.

Mr. President:

The measures we have outlined above are essential for building a just and equitable international order. Anything less would simply be the imposition of the will of the powerful on the weak. All societies are measured by the way they treat their most vulnerable members, and the international community of nations is no different. I call on all delegates here assembled to heed the plea of the victims and to construct an international order which can lift human civilization to achieve the highest ideals of the United Nations.

I thank you, Mr. President