Mr. President

In congratulating you upon your assumption of high office, I must also praise your predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Harri Holkeri of Finland for an outstanding tenure as the President who ushered in the new Millennium.

If the Millennium Summit and its Declaration could be considered the hallmark of Mr. Holkeri's presidency then yours already has one of equally impressive terms with the Organization and its Secretary General being bestowed with the Nobel Peace Prize. Therefore the re-election of His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan to a second term as Secretary General is sure testament not only to his own personal dedication, creative leadership and unwavering sense of spirit but also to the vision and faith of the Organization's Member States.

Mr. President

I take this occasion to offer Tonga's solace to all affected delegations and in particular the delegations of the Dominican Republic and the United States for whom the tragedy that has befallen their communities on Monday 12 November has such a profound bearing.

Mr. President

Like other Member States, Tonga takes this occasion to express our sympathy and condolences to the President and people of the United States for the suffering and loss of life during the attacks of 11 September. In doing so, Tonga condemns in the strongest possible terms these acts of terror that remain without moral or lawful justification.

The events of 11 September have focused our Organization on terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and more importantly the need to address this issue comprehensively. As such, Tonga commends the timely and decisive action taken by the Security Council with respect to the events of 11 September. In doing so, we fully support the work of the Counter Terrorism Committee and its mandated efforts to combat terrorism.

It has been stated that terrorism offends the core values of our Organization and that is true. The irony is that inasmuch as the events of 11 September were an affront to one's sense of humanity, it is this very humanity that has risen to prevail over extreme adversity. If last year's catch cry during the Millennium Summit was "we the peoples..." that call is all the more pertinent this year in our collective efforts to combat terrorism.

As part of its contribution to these efforts, Tonga is taking steps to carefully study and consider the UN Conventions on Terrorism that it is not party to. However merely becoming parties to Conventions will not be sufficient. Concrete steps will be needed for small countries like ours to fully and meaningfully take part in these efforts. For example, Tonga's efforts to develop implement and maintain counter terrorism measures will require sustained financial and expert technical assistance on a solid foundation of a network of information exchange between relevant law enforcement and aviation agencies. In this regard our efforts in combating terrorism will be but a microcosm for addressing a wider plethora of development issues.

Mr. President

As much as the Millennium Declaration concerned new commitments or re-commitments in some instances, Tonga commends the report of the Secretary General for its innovation and detail as to how implementation of the Declaration might be taken forward.

We look towards the International Conference on Financing for Development as a further opportunity to pursue a wide range of crucial thematic issues, critical, particularly to the developmental aspirations of developing countries. The balance required for forging consensus on these thematic issues is as important as the balance between official development assistance (ODA) and say mobilizing limited domestic resources.

Whilst the recently concluded Declaration of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Doha might give rise to optimism, Tonga seeks a simplified, streamlined, and expeditious accession process for small island developing States like ours who wish to join the WTO. In this regard, we congratulate the People's Republic of China upon their entry into the WTO. A more flexible approach and time frame within which to meet obligations is needed to enable countries like Tonga to adopt measures so as to fully participate in the WTO system and to fulfill the obligations of the WTO Agreements whilst minimizing any adverse impacts upon our populace. Such an accession process can only be achieved with continuing technical and financial assistance.

We further look towards the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) as a complementary step in the developmental path to reinvigorating targeted commitments to sustainable development, especially those concerning small island developing states, as contained in Agenda 21. In this regard we continue to call on the international community for refocused commitment and implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. Preparing for this Summit will for Tonga through its national assessment report include identifying areas for specific and priority capacity building needs as well as avenues by which to take increased advantage of financial and technological support.

Mr. President

Whilst Tonga recognizes the merit of the economic vulnerability index as a measure for economic impacts, its application should encompass all small island developing States and not operate as a means to draw superficial differences between them. After all, the economic vulnerability index is an accurate reflection of the true realities of small island developing States which if not fully addressed, we shall continue to perch precariously on the edge of the precipice. As such we continue to support the development of an appropriate environmental vulnerability index for small island developing States and commend the ongoing work of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in this regard. It is our belief that such an index will provide accurate indicators of vulnerability to which small islands are exposed such as natural disasters, sea level rise and climate change. As such Tonga welcomes the consensus reached at Marrakech at the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the further opportunities for progress that it presents.

As a developing ocean State, we continue to seek our fair share of the "harvest" from the ocean that bounds us on all fronts. We welcome in particular the preparations for giving effect to the Western Pacific and Central Pacific Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. In this respect we urge the distant water fishing nations in our region with a real fisheries interest to make every effort to become a party to a Convention that is the hallmark of our commitment to the conservation and sustainable management of a critically important resource. Tonga continues to value this year's work and decisions of the Twelfth Session of the UNCLOS Meeting of States Parties, the International Seabed Authority and UNICPOLOS.

Mr. President

We continue to view information and communication technologies (ICT) as "the way to go" and are making our own efforts to bridge the digital divide and by doing so take full advantage of the digital revolution. In order to maximize such efforts will require complementary efforts in tandem with the international community and the United Nations. We urge in this respect continued support for SIDSNET and efforts to strengthen its capacity to support and assist small island developing States.

Tonga welcomes the adoption of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS as well as the establishment of the global fund to combat this scourge. In this regard we look forward to the implementation of the Declaration and commend those Member States who have pledged their financial support to the fund.

Mr. President

We continue to support the effort to reform the Security Council. In this regard, as was presented by a delegation at the debate on Security Council reform, we could support either proposal for an expansion of the number of permanent seats by two with an expansion of the number of non permanent seats by three or alternatively we could support an expansion of the number of permanent seats by three with an expansion of the number of non permanent seats by four. Whilst cognizant that issues pertaining to the veto and its exercise in such an expansion would continue to demand handling of the utmost sensitivity and care, we urge that where there are issues of convergence that steps be taken to consolidate such convergence and where there remains unresolved issues then these may be the focus of continuing dialogue and discussion.

Finally Mr. President with respect to pertinent regional issues, Tonga endorses the views expressed in the Nauru Communique that is now a United Nations document A/36/388 that is the outcome of the annual meeting of Pacific Island Forum Leaders at Nauru in August 2001.

I thank you