to the

Fifty-Sixth Session

of the
United Nations General Assembly


H.E. Mr. Amraiya Naidu
Ambassador/Permanent Representative
of the Republic of the Fiji Islands

to the United Nations

New York, NY
16 November 2001

Please Check Against Delivery

Mr. President,

Fiji mourns the recent losses and world-changing tragedies, which the United States of America has endured. We remember the many lives lost in these adversities and may peace and goodwill prevail. Now is the time to make haste and galvanise collaborative efforts of developed and developing nations in the global fight against terrorism.

We congratulate you and the Government of the Republic of Korea for your assumption of the Presidency of the 56th General Assembly. We pledge complete support under your term, fully confident that the qualities that mark your eminent and distinguished career promise a resounding conclusion to the 56th session of the General Assembly despite its difficult start.

Fitting tribute is also due to your predecessor, President Harri Holkeri of Finland. His leadership over the past year successfully concluded a truly hectic and full schedule of business, including some difficult issues and Special Sessions in the 55th session.  He leaves an indelible mark in the UN records.

My government congratulates His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan on his reappointment as Secretary-General of the United Nations for a second term signifying the trust and confidence that the UN entrusts in him. He is aptly decorated with the Nobel Peace Prize award shared with the United Nations, prior to taking up his second term of office. Fiji welcomes the roadmap he has outlined for the organisation, which, under his creative and competent leadership would deliver the needed reforms to launch the organization into the 21st Century.

Mr. President,

In the wake of the political crisis that triggered instability in Fiji in 2000, my government set itself two immediate tasks: to restore constitutional democracy and stabilize our fragile economy. These goals are being achieved. Moreover, my government is continuing to pursue strong economic performance through increased investment and development.

I am honored to inform this august assembly that only 18 months after its political crisis Fiji successfully concluded the general elections and formed a multi-party government in September 2001. With the support of the United Nations and the international community, my government is confident that its forward-looking policies will steer Fiji ahead on a path of democratic rule and sustainable economic development.

Fiji acknowledges the support rendered to us by the United Nations and Member States, in the deployment of the United Nations Electoral Observation Team, during our elections.  The team discharged its duties professionally and impartially.  We are confident it will avail this assembly with a positive appraisal of the conduct of the elections as fair and free to which our electoral history is well accustomed.

I convey my governmentís deep gratitude to Member States that supported Fiji and those that co-sponsored resolution A/55/280, which enabled the participation of the United Nations observer team.

Mr. President,

Our Leaders are committed, under the Millennium Declaration 2000, to the principles of human dignity, equality and equity especially to the most vulnerable, in particular, the children, who are our future. It is a timely and constructive commitment, laying the necessary global framework for addressing the plight of the poor and vulnerable who face the accelerating impact of globalization and trade liberalization.

Poverty is at the root of many social problems.   As the most powerful destabilising force, it threatens democracy and good governance. It is thus our most insidious enemy. Successive Human Development Reports amply document abysmal poverty accounts and indicators.  1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day, more than a billion people in developing countries lack access to safe water, and more than 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation.  Progressively we talk, not in millions, but in billions.

Poverty reduction is therefore our greatest challenge today.  The Millennium Declaration set a target to halve global extreme poverty by 2015.  This goal must be the cornerstone of all development efforts. It demands on-going commitment and effective measures by the international community.

In this connection my Government has created a new Ministry for Poverty Alleviation, which is a key policy factor in our triennium Strategic Development Plan. We recognize that economic, social and political stability are inextricably tied to reducing the gap between the rich and poor. That equation must also recognize the unique vulnerabilities that beset fragile economies of developing countries like Fiji.

Complementary legislation is also being developed in the Social Justice Bill, to translate into policy the constitutional provision for social equity. Primarily, the Bill will regulate affirmative action policies for disadvantaged groups in the areas and in the manner prescribed in the Fiji Constitution. This is a critical road for Fijiís strive to national unity and nation building to address issues for social, ethnic and economic development and harmony.

Today, our journey in this world meets with unprecedented challenges and uncertainties, ranging from widespread global conflict to escalating terrorism activities and economic marginalisation. This assembly and the UN system must devise appropriate creative responses to these difficult questions, in ways that are compatible with the goals for world peace and security as are enshrined in the UN Charter.

Mr. President,

The current organisational reform plans present constructive and necessary platforms for meeting these specific challenges. An amicable agreement on the expansion of the Security Council permanent and/or non-permanent membership may well present us with new and refreshed avenues for solutions. My delegation reiterates our full support for the expansion in both membership categories of the Security Council. We congratulate the Security Council for the momentum of support and application enjoyed by its landmark Resolution 1325 marking increased involvement of women in security and peace processes.

Fiji has excelled in the peacekeeping goal of the UN Charter.  We remain fully committed to it, and to the Brahimi recommendations for reform.  Our military is serving in various UN missions including Lebanon (UNIFIL), East Timor (UNTAET) and Kuwait (UNIKOM). Our police officers are serving in Bosnia (UNMIBH) and Kosovo (UNMIK).  It is gratifying to see positive conclusions of several peacekeeping mandates and their impending withdrawals or downsizing. We however caution against exits without strategy, to give credence to the huge investment of goodwill and resources by the UN and the international community, and to avoid double jeopardy to the people trapped in armed conflict.

In this regard, we support new measures to strengthen the protective regime of the Convention on the Security and safety of UN and Associated Personnel.  Its scope needs to reach UN and humanitarian personnel on the ground who need real protection and security whilst attending to the safety and care of civilians.

Mr. President,

Fiji has long advocated for decolonisation and self-determination since joining the UN.  We note the delay in the Implementation of the Declaration on Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.  Fiji supports the on-going work of the C24 and recognizes the political and diplomatic constraints thereto.

Early on in this Second Decade for Decolonisation the 17 non-self governing territories, mostly small island territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific regions need our focused attention to recognize their legitimate aspirations for self-determination.

Mr. President,

The Declaration of Commitment on the HIV/AIDS pandemic demands greater vigilance and sincere focus to safeguard our development gains and future goals.  We in the Pacific guard our low infection rate trend as we stand to lose the greatest if we fail this Declaration. Collaboration and solidarity at the international, regional and national levels will save humanity from this invasive scourge.

Despite recent political disturbances in Fiji our sense for the rule of law and respect for the international standards of human rights have maintained. The continued existence and independence of the Fiji Human Rights Commission is a testament of our commitment to Human Rights.

Fiji, along with several Pacific Island neighbours, is for the first time facing the dilemmas of refugees and asylum seekers. International human trafficking has brought them to our shores despite the vast distances between our lands. International refugees are direct products of human rights violations and breaches. As a state party to the Convention on the Status of Refugees and to its Protocol Fiji pleads to member states to respect the rights of refugees, and support the work of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. At the very least member states are obligated to protect the rights of their citizens in their homeland.

Fiji had co-sponsored the resolution on the Korean Peace, Security and Reunification in the 55th General Assembly. We are elated to see peace and reunification initiatives in the Korean Peninsula.

Likewise, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) seek to continually enhance our international participation. Strengthening future relations between the UN and the Pacific Islands Forum is a mutually beneficial avenue. This would engender our effective participation in the UN systems. It also affords the United Nations with a unique and authentic Pacific perspective and voice. Cooperation between the Pacific Islands Forum Group and the United Nations is a welcome addition to this sessionís agenda and promises greater returns, with the support of member states.

Mr. President,

Our Pacific Islands Forum Leaders will meet in Fiji in 2002.  It is therefore opportune to renew to His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General, earlier invitations for him to pay a visit to the Pacific Islands Forum region. Recent political events in the Pacific, and successful domestic, regional and international initiatives to address these concerns can only be positively reinforced by such a high-level goodwill visit, to take place earlier, rather than later in the second term of office.

Our global development agenda demands an increased facilitating role by the UN in the coordination of economic, financial, trade and social issues. At the High Level Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002, the stakeholders will deliberate on enhancing coherence and coordination between development and social objectives. Fiji hopes that this conference will inspire the international community and the Financial Institutions, including the Bretton Woods Institutions, to support and devise new standards and indicators, like the vulnerability index, to effectively address poverty and other disparities.

Growing imbalances and marginalisation in the world economy is a threat to humanity, in particular for Fiji and other SIDS.  With our fragile economies sustainable development depends on a given level of resources to propel these economies forward. Moreover, these are needed to sustain long-term, sound socio-economic and environment-friendly developments. The critical role of the international community is to assist us in nation building and efficient resource utilization to deliver our social obligations.

Fiji has long expounded to the international community of how vulnerable and heavily dependent our economies are on the vagaries and whims of the global economy.  Our small size, extremely remote distances from the international markets and increasing susceptibility to natural disasters do not lend themselves well to economies of scale of production, to building an export-based trade, nor to gain access for our products into foreign markets, competitively.  Clearly, our ability to benefit fully from globalization is doomed from the start, further aggravating the rich and poor divide. It is my governmentís aspiration that the scope for equitable and tangible benefits from globalisation and trade liberation remain to be fully realized, if we are to meaningfully tackle global and human poverty.

As a member of the World Trade Organization, Fiji is concerned with the fast erosion of trade preferences in world trade on agricultural products, sugar being a mainstay of our economy.  Increasingly, we fear that small island states like my own, which depend on predominantly agricultural export commodities, will be seriously affected without adequate market safeguards.  We are forced to question the efficacy of multilateral trade framework as a fair rule to promote the interests of SIDS like Fiji.

In this context, we welcome the current work on Financing for Development and preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Targeted assistance and programmes, through ODA, to enable us to fully implement and strengthen investment and productivity, must necessarily complement our efforts through regional or multilateral trading agreements.  We are optimistic that these high level conferences next year will flag our concerns in line with the Barbados Programme of Action, and the development goals that are set out in the Millennium Declaration.

I thank you.