HIS EXCELLENCY MR. JOHN AGYEKUM KUFUOR
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, NEW YORK
13 SEPTEMBER 2002
Mr. Secretary-General, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
A year ago, the entire world watched in horror as terror was visited on the city that plays host to the United Nations. It is a city that has welcomed people from all corners of the world for hundreds of years and still remains for many, an irresistible magnet as the place for opportunities.
We watched, all of us, from our different parts of the world, as the terrible events unfolded. And if there had been any doubt before, that experience convinced all of us that indeed, our world had become a global village.
Modern technology enabled all of us to watch the events as they unfolded, at the same time. The devastation and drama of those events have since forcefully brought grief to our individual hearts, across continents, races, religions and political ideologies. If ever there was any doubt about mankind's shared humanity, that catastrophe conclusively negated it.
A year on, we still bear the deep scars; we have not forgotten, and we dare not forget, because what happened was not exclusively against New York and the American people. Nationals of many countries, including Ghanaians, perished in that tragedy. What happened was indeed an affront to civilization itself.
Throughout the ages, whenever humanity has found itself confronted with great danger, it is the sense of unity and common purpose that has pulled us through. This is no exception. Indeed, the resilience of New York, and the people of America, has brought about a spirit of solidarity and generosity that is just as awesome to behold, as the tragic event itself.
It is for this reason that I am optimistic about the future. The work of the United Nations, the NGOs, and the growing acceptance of the principles of good governance, human rights, tolerance for diversity of views and the rule of law around the globe, make me optimistic. I can already see, in my mind's eye, in the near future, a world where there is more openness, more forbearance and less categorization of mankind.
Our nations have been brought together by science and technology, and by conscience and also by adversity, and the acknowledgement of interdependence amongst all peoples, has become a reality. And now, we are moving from the concept of "beggar thy neighbour" to one of "prosper thy neighbour", which should become the hallmark of the Global Village.
Sadly, the continent of Africa still lags behind in many spheres, as poverty and disease plague the continent. But there is a new spirit abroad among the African countries.
Africa has never wanted to be perceived as the "scar on the conscience of the world". We do not want to be the objects of pity and charity, and we do not want to provide the grisly images of war, disease, ignorance, famine and poverty on the world's television screens. It was largely as a result of our determination to shed this unacceptable image that many a country on the continent, on attaining independence, desperately rushed into one or other of untried ideology or economic model, that only tended to worsen the woes of self-doubt, left by exploitative or unconscionable colonialism. Today, under the aegis of the African Union, the rejuvenated continental grouping, our countries have resolved to tackle the continent's problems to enable us join the mainstream of the world's development. We have pledged to endeavour to be honest with each other, and under the Peer Review Mechanism, there will be no hiding behind claims of sovereignty, to tolerate abuses of human rights in individual countries.
We are determined to strive for democracy and good governance, not because these are fashionable buzzwords but because we are convinced, that is the path to the surest, if not always the most rapid, way to development that we require to uplift the conditions of life of our peoples.
The technology exists, and the human expertise abounds, in the world to end the degrading poverty and debilitating diseases that sap the confidence of the peoples of Africa. This world assembly must rally to help Africa in its genuine efforts to tap into the intellectual, financial and moral resources of the globe, to be a worthy partner within it. The NEPAD concept provides the framework within which African countries can be assisted to become part of the mainstream. It provides a great opportunity for world leaders to move from rhetoric to purposeful action.
Education has served as the route out of poverty for people throughout the ages, and it should be the way out for us in Africa as well. We have an essentially young population that is ready and anxious to learn. Fortunately, the Information and Communications Technology provides the avenue to help Africa leapfrog into the modern world. Let the world community therefore assist Africa to join in the mastery of this powerful tool.
Ours is a well-endowed continent. Our raw materials keep the manufacturing engines of the world running. Investing in Africa, therefore, need not be for charitable reasons but for sound economic considerations. The market potential of a thriving and economically viable Africa will do wonders not only for Africa but also for the world economy at large.
I am optimistic, because I think of what Ghana and the African continent have contributed to the development of the world. We have and continue to provide personnel of various calibre to all kinds of institutions in the world. Ghanaian academics and citizens from many African countries can be found in many top Universities and companies around the world contributing significantly to the development of cutting edge enterprises. Africans are in various jobs and are making considerable contributions to the running of those organizations, including the United Nations. Perhaps, Mr. President, this provides me the opportunity to express Ghana and Africa's deepest gratitude to the international community for the confidence shown by the re-election of Mr. Kofi Annan, our Secretary-General, to a second term.
In all these endeavours, however, the missing link for Africa has been the solid and sustainable framework for good governance to support the purposeful evolution of prosperous and stable nations on the continent.
It is for this reason that Ghana, like other African nations, is trying to put her house in order to take advantage of emerging prospects. We are nurturing our infant democracy, and the citizens are passionately committed to the defence of the Constitution. We are putting in place mechanisms to support good governance. The institutional framework is being created to ensure an efficient public sector that can interface effectively with an enterprising private sector to create wealth and eliminate poverty.
But, Mr. President, Ghana, like other developing countries cannot alone, achieve the dramatic rate of growth that is required, unless there are significant injections of outside investment in our economy. We need affordable and sustainable sources of energy to be able to achieve rapid development. We need the partnership, markets and support of the international community to sustain our development. This is the message of NEPAD. We are working to develop a positive economic environment to receive and to integrate foreign direct investment as a tool for regional development. This is the sure path for Africa to connect effectively into the Global Market.
We in Ghana do appreciate our share of the responsibility to protect the earth's resources that nature has given our country for the sake of all humanity. The world cannot and must not operate on the basis of the survival of the fittest. Weaknesses caused by history and other factors must be taken into account, and above all, our common humanity must inform all international dealings.
We in Ghana see a lot of potential in globalization. We wish to recommend, however, that an organization such as the United Nations should provide the regulatory framework to ensure that the benefits of globalization are more equitably distributed. The opportunities are enormous for those who can take advantage of the move to more liberalized markets and increased flows of investment capital.
But nature did not make all the peoples equally competitive. The Global organization must, therefore, evolve systems of safety nets to guarantee all humanity an acceptable minimum of dignity and respectability. The United Nations Organization must respect this challenge.
Mr. President, for a cleansed and proper development of the Global Village, certain initiatives by this Organization, must be commended and encouraged. Ghana is in full support of the UN's effort to curb the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. We urge the Member States to join in the early implementation of the Programme of Action that was adopted in 2001 to stop the trade. Much of the instability in Africa stems from this trade.
Women and children need our protection. It is for this specific reason that in Ghana we have created a Ministry for Women and Children's Affairs to enable us tackle issues that affect these two groups. We have embarked on a vibrant educational campaign and are pursuing policy initiatives that will create awareness and reduce the incidence of discrimination against women and help improve their livelihoods. We are also striving to banish child labour and enforce free and compulsory education for all children up to the Junior Secondary School level as enjoined by Ghana's national constitution.
I must mention the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is threatening the survival of our countries. The spread of the disease is compounding our difficulties even further. I wish to pay tribute to the Secretary-General for his interest, and the setting up of the special fund to help us fight the menace. The Ghana Aids Commission is constantly seeking new ways to change attitudes at all levels toward the disease, and we seek to learn from the experience of others in combating it. We support the efforts of the international community to provide more affordable antiretroviral drugs for the most needy.