Mr. President,

On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Malawi and on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate you most warmly on your unanimous election as President of the 57 Regular Session of the General Assembly. I am confident that under your able leadership, buttressed by a pragmatic approach to the proceedings of the session, we will be able to further consolidate past gains on a variety of issues, and also to mobilize renewed international resolve and political will to re-invigorate our continued search for viable responses and solutions to the many pressing challenges that threaten the very survival of humankind.

I take this opportunity also to pay special tribute to your predecessor, Dr. Han Seung-Soo of the Republic of Korea, for the able manner in which he handled the work of the General Assembly during his tenure of office.

Further, I would like to register my country's vote of thanks and special recognition of the invaluable contribution made by the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, in injecting a new impetus and a sharper sense of purpose and direction into the work of the United Nations. His informative and insightful annual reports on the work of the United Nations clearly point to an organization that is moving in the direction that it should and is much more focused on the quest for accelerated growth and socio-economic progress of the disadvantaged poor nations.

Mr. President,

A number of developments have taken place around the world since the last General Debate. While some of these are relatively positive and are, thus far, a cause for optimism, yet a majority others are, at best, disheartening, and tend to cast a long shadow on prospects for long term progress, especially in our part of the world.

As I speak now, for example, six Southern Africa countries, including Malawi, are in the throes of a severe and life threatening food crisis brought on by drought related deficits in grain harvests. Up to 13 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are facing severe food shortage, which has already given rise to a threat of widespread famine and a rise in famine-related health problems. Clearly envisaged here, is a further deterioration in the general poverty situation and the humanitarian plight of the rural masses in these countries. Chances of the food insecurity translating into a serious region-wide security and health catastrophe cannot be overemphasized, especially given that Southern Africa is already the epicentre of the global HIV/AIDS implosion. The current food crisis in the sub-region stands out as the severest in many years. It is poised to inflict incalculable damage on the social, economic and cultural fabric of whole communities, and endangers the efficacy of the financial and economic sustainability of the institutional and public policy frameworks for sustainable development currently under implementation.

Indeed, Southern Africa is facing uniquely different multifaceted humanitarian crises arising not only from civil wars but also from social and economic factors and other natural disasters. The crisis is certain to roll back numerous past gains in many sectors, particularly because of the centrality of agricultural production to GDP and rural employment of most of the affected countries.

The food shortage has placed further serious strains on the already low revenue collection capacities of the affected countries, especially to the extent that budgetary allocations are having to be appropriated from critical social sector services to fund massive grain imports necessary to supplement inadequate local grain stocks, thereby financially starving other equally urgent sectoral needs. Sadly, however, the next harvest due in eight months may not hold much promise either, unless, the drought cycle which is the major contributing factor does not recur.

Mr. President,

Initially, Malawi faced a grain deficit of 600,000 tons caused by two years of a paradoxical combination of drought and devastating torrential rains and floods. This tonnage was urgently required to stave off a rapidly deteriorating famine situation which, then as now, is expected to affect 3.2 million people. The President, His Excellency Dr. Bakili Muluzi, declared the current food shortages a national disaster on 28th February 2002 and a vigorous national appeal for emergency relief has been underway since then.

Mr. President,

The response to this appeal by the donor community, both local and international, has been very encouraging. On behalf of the Government of Malawi, I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and deep appreciation to the local and international humanitarian organisations and governments such as the European Union, the Governments of Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and other friendly Governments who, together have financed nearly 75% of the emergency relief supplies received so far in Malawi. We also wish to thank the UN Funds and Programmes for their timely assistance, end in particular the Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Food Programme and the Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as resident UN Agencies for providing relief coordination and procurement services during this critical hour of need.

In a special way, and on behalf of the six Southern Africa Development Community countries affected by the famine, the Government of Malawi wishes to thank the UN Secretary-General and the UN family for successfully organizing the Consolidated National Appeals for the Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Africa which took place on 18 July 2002, here at the United Nations Headquarters. We are grateful for the outcome of the appeal and we would like to extend similar sentiments of appreciation to all governments and donor organizations that made pledges and commitments towards the funding requirements of the appeal.

In addition, we welcome and applaud the Secretary-General's timely appointment of the Executive Director of the World Food Organization, Mr. James Morris, as his Special Envoy for the Southern African Humanitarian Crisis. Mr. Moms' personal meetings and consultations with the Heads of State and Government of the six Southern African countries, and his tour of the sub-region, has led to useful high-level exchanges that will form an important basis for tackling the problem of food insecurity in future. We undertake to work with him and give him all the support and cooperation necessary for the fulfillment of his mandate.

Mr. President,

The high levels of poverty and the deepening scourge of HIV/AIDS pandemic and other transmissible diseases afflicting our people, continue to ravage populations in the developing countries, particularly those of Africa. We take no relief from the annual reports for the year 2002 released by UNCLAD and the World Health Organization, whose graphic statistical data and hard facts portray an unabating vicious and complex interplay between structural poverty and a startlingly high HIV/AIDS prevalence in poor countries. The resulting humanitarian crisis threatens millions more lives over the next few years.

As home to one of the largest numbers of the victims of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the world, Southern Africa needs closer attention and concrete actions, as well as deeper resource commitments by the international community to help build sustainable capacity to address the critical poverty issues and excessive mortality from HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases. These are extremely sensitive issues which the international donor community should consider, on an emergency basis, the difficult moral issues end the choices involved.

Mr. President,

It is extremely troubling that some member states and donor institutions have suddenly taken a minimalist approach to the central role played by United Nations funds and programmes in tackling the health problems in the developing countries. I refer, in particular, to the recent decision of the Government of the United States to withhold funding to UNFPA. Needless to remind this Assembly of the work of UNFPA in tackling the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and in the implementation of ICDD, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS is very crucial. The impact of the withdrawal of the US financial support to this agency is inexplicably crippling and therefore, a major cause for concern. We call upon the United States of America to reconsider its decision and restore funding to the population agency.

Further, we call upon multilateral donor institutions and industrialized countries to grant deeper debt relief and forgiveness. Transnational organizations, which extract huge profits from their business operations in poor countries, have the moral responsibility to invest in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, support and treatment. International pharmaceutical corporations, too ought to show more compassion by expanding access to antiretroviral drags and other fife-sustaining medicines, including meaningful concessions for price reduction as well as voluntary donations. We note, with gratitude, the positive steps taken by some pharmaceutical companies in this direction.

Mr. President,

My government acknowledges the important role played by the United Nations in mobilizing support and resources for the development process in the poor countries. It is not enough, however, to hold one conference after another without effective follow-up and implementation mechanisms. There is need, therefore, for supportive global processes that would ensure shorter time lags between the adoption of programmes of action and their implementation.

It is our hope that the establishment of the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed countries in the UN Secretariat, will promote regular consultations and closer follow-up of agreed programmes of action to ensure their fulfillment. Such programmes of action include the Brussels Declaration and Programme of Action of the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed countries, the Financing for Development Conference and other commitments flowing from recent General Assembly Special Sessions on HIV/AIDS and Children. An earnest attempt is necessary to link up the commitments and agreed outcomes of the Brussels Programme of Action and the Monterrey Consensus in order to create a rich resource base for the implementation of the Johannesburg Programme of Action for Sustainable Development.

Mr. President,

Other major problems and challenges faced by poor countries and which stifle their progress have previously been extensively covered and debated in this august Assembly and in various other international fora. But, some of these need to be mentioned again. The transition of poor countries from continued dependence on international charity to self-reliance is contingent on certain factors such as free and open trade. Agricultural and other commodities from developing countries need to gain access to Western markets without unnecessary barriers. It is ironical and morally unacceptable for products from the West to be freely offloaded on our markets but not the other way round. Fair trade is a two-way transaction and every endeavor must be made to ensure that it remains so.

Equally important factors for our progress are capital flows, intensified foreign direct investment and overseas development assistance, which remain the key ingredients for growth and development. Although we have in place a sufficient enabling environment and infrastructure and friendly policy regimes across much of the developing world, we still need supportive institutional structures and absorptive capacity to translate the foreign capital flows and investment into tangible benefits for our economies and peoples. I hope that the UN, friendly governments and multilateral institutions will give appropriate consideration to this aspect and exploit the synergy among them to attract more resources for our development.

If we are to be able to protect and consolidate existing gains in the area of democratisation and good governance, we need to address the sensitive bread and butter issues facing our people so that their legitimate expectations are met. Again, the security risks and political stakes of inability to deliver in this regard would be too high for those societies engaged in the democratising process.

Mr. President,

On an optimistic note, we welcome the commendable progress that has been achieved in an effort to bring some conflicts in Africa to resolution. This engenders the hope for eventual restoration of stability and a chance for decisive peace on the continent. The ceasefire agreement reached on 4 April, this year, in Angola, the peace agreement signed on 30th July 2002 between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, represent notable historic milestones to bring to an end the conflicts In the Great Lakes region. I am confident that the United Nations will use this opening to step forward, as it always has, to strengthen its involvement and that of the international community to consolidate these agreements and closely monitor their implementation.

Still in the Great Lakes region, strong efforts are necessary to encourage much enhanced and frequent official exchanges and consultations at all levels, between the national leaderships in Rwanda and the DRC, to ensure that focused attention and commitment are paid to the letter and spirit of the peace agreement. Quick deployment of MONUC III and the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces, regardless of which side they support, would enhance mutual trust between the two countries. Continued support by the United Nations would provide the much-needed catalytic effect in bringing together the DRC and Rwanda, along with the rebel groups currently aligned to the latter. Much work remains to be done on the situation in Burundi, another conflict area that continues to cause concern. Malawi fully supports Tanzania's facilitation of the peace talks between the Government of Burundi and the rebels, and would encourage the two sides to seize this opportune moment so that this conflict is brought to a quick, substantial resolution.

Mr. President,

I wish to congratulate the people of Sierra Leone for successfully holding democratic elections. We also congratulate President Ahmed Tijan Kabah for coming out victorious in the elections. May I appeal to all those that took part in the elections to bury the past and work together in the challenging task of reconstructing and rehabilitating their war-ravaged country.

Mr. President,

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the people and the Government of East Timor on their attainment of independence after many decades of dehumanising subjugation. My government welcomes East Timor to the membership of the United Nations. It is our hope that the country's attainment of self-determination will inspire early concrete international action on the other unresolved cases, including the Western Sahara and the Palestinian question.

In the same vein, I congratulate Switzerland on its admission to the membership of the United Nations. The significance of this historic development to the world body cannot be over-emphasized, especially given the invaluable contribution the Government and the people of Switzerland have made over the years to the progressive development of international humanitarian and human rights affairs.

My government will fully cooperate with the Swiss Federation in working towards strengthening the work and universality of the United Nations.

My government is concerned at the unrelenting bloodletting in the Middle East, particularly the senseless carnage among innocent civilians. We encourage both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to give peace a chance through dialogue. We call, in particular, for the cessation of hostilities, provocation and incitement, which only serve to inflame the delicate conflict situation. As a starting point, we call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from all areas currently under the control of the Palestinian Authority followed by an immediate resumption of security and peace talks. As it is evident that peace in the Middle East will not be achieved through armed uprising or military might, let alone terrorist acts, it makes sense to give a chance to a negotiated settlement through the implementation of all Security Council resolutions and other international mediation efforts.

Mr. President,

Malawi believes in the principle of universality of human rights. One of the basic rights that every member of the global community is expected to enjoy is the right to freedom of association. It is on the basis of that, and in a spirit of reconciliation, that Malawi believes that the United Nations should seriously reconsider the question of re-admission of the Republic of China. Over 21 million people of Taiwan should be allowed to freely participate in the affairs of the United Nations without any hindrance as that is what this organisation stands for. After all, Taiwan, through its rapid growth in economic, political and social sectors has demonstrated that it has got a lot to offer for the good of humanity through this august body.

Mr. President,

The tragic and atrocious events of 11th September, 2001, shall always remain a reminder of the dangers of terrorism. The world today is still grappling with the effects of those grievous terrorist attacks, which have translated into suffering of millions of people worldwide. As we struggle to come to terms with the impact of the attacks, let us continue with the concerted approach that we have shown, so far, to check against a repeat or, indeed, any form of terrorism.

Malawi believes that the Security Council resolution 1373 of 28th September, 2001, provides a solid basis on which our cooperation in the fight against terrorism should be premised. Considering that the task before us requires enormous resources, which in some developing countries, including my own country, Malawi, may not be readily available, the success of the fight against terrorism shall surely depend on the cooperation and support of developed partners to developing countries. Let us show no relaxation in our unanimous resolve to deal with the problem before us in a decisive and concerted manner so that it is completely rooted out on the face of the earth.

Mr. President,

Africa is on the threshold of a new beginning aimed at making a lasting clean break with the errors and political missteps of the last five decades. The promulgation of a development blueprint, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), provides a very comprehensive, dear focused roadmap for economic revitalization of the African continent. NEPAD, as a framework for development, contains broad-ranging measures and actions that are reflective of a new vision for long term development requirements, as well as constructive and beneficial participation in regional, international and other multilateral processes for effective integration of Africa into the global political and economic order.

It is gratifying, therefore, that the international community is willing to support this newly-emerging pragmatic framework for partnership and ownership of development on the continent. I would like, once again, to encourage our development partners to join in and support Africa's new quest for economic recovery and sustainable development.

In conclusion, Malawi, along with other African countries, would like to express deep gratitude to the leaders of the G8 countries for voicing unequivocal support for NEPAD. We are thankful for the creation of the G8 Africa Action Plan adopted at the recent Summit in Kananaskis in Canada, which will operate as the platform for enhanced cooperation and partnership between Africa and the industrialized G8 countries. We are confident that strong international networking and support for NEPAD will provide a solid basis for growth and progress, as well as decisive peace and political stability in Africa.

I thank you for your attention.