HONOURABLE FREDERICK A. MITCHELL, M.P.
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND THE PUBLIC SERVICE OF THE COMMONWEALTH
OF THE BAHAMAS
AT THE FIFTY- SEVENTH SESSION THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
SEPTEMBER 15, 2002
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1. On behalf of Prime Minister Perry G. Christie, the Government and people
of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, I congratulate you most warmly on
your election to the Presidency of this the 57th session of the United
Nations General Assembly. The Bahamas is confident that the session will
be steered to a fruitful conclusion under your able guidance. You and
the other members of your equally competent Bureau may be assured of The
Bahamas' full support in the performance of your duties. I take this opportunity
also to congratulate your predecessor, Dr. Han Seung-soo of the Republic
of Korea for his skillful leadership during the 56th Session which undoubtedly
was one of the most challenging sessions of the United Nations.
2. The right to self-determination and the full, fair and unhindered expression
of the will of the people are principles held in the highest esteem by
The Bahamas. The Bahamas looks forward to welcoming the Democratic Republic
of East Timor to the United Nations when it takes its place in this Assembly
in just a few weeks. The Bahamas is pleased to welcome Switzerland to
this family of nations.
3. The world has agreed that the United Nations is a place where nations,
large and small, are equal, where disputes of an international character
may be resolved peacefully, and where the use of force is supported only
in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The Bahamas and all nations
represented here, have signed on to this contract, a contract that, in
our view, is inviolate and must be honoured. This should not be a matter
of convenience and in our view applies to all nations, large and small.
Today, I reaffirm The Bahamas' commitment to the United Nations Charter,
and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Government and people
of The Bahamas believe in, and will continue to support the United Nations
and to uphold the founding principles on which its effectiveness and success
4. We reaffirm our commitment
to the rule of law, and an abiding respect for the right to self-determination,
the sovereignty of nations, and the right of people everywhere to expect
that their Government, freely and democratically elected, will protect
their rights. We urge world leaders to accept that the freely expressed
will of the people is their sole claim to legitimacy and that the will
of the people should not be subverted by any means. We reject parochialism
as a justification for obfuscating the true intent and will of a people
as expressed through the ballot box.
5. The Government of The Bahamas believes in good governance at all levels,
as a fundamental human right. As an adjunct to that right, we have committed
ourselves to deepening our longstanding democratic tradition. General
Elections are not the end of the story. The citizen must continue to have
a role in the governance of the country. Civil society must be actively
encouraged to develop and engage in the affairs of the country. The Bahamas
is committed to consulting its people on all matters of national importance.
This becomes critical as our country examines its role and fulfils its
obligations to other member states on a bilateral and a multilateral level.
6. The first anniversary of
the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon
near Washington, DC and the tragedy in Pennsylvania was commemorated just
a few days ago. On that occasion, The Bahamas reiterated its condemnation
of these heinous acts, as attacks on our values and on our civilization.
Such acts must not go unpunished - We therefore, support measures to bring
the guilty to justice, and to combat terrorism and all its forms and manifestations.
We are resolute in our views on this. We pause to remember the families
and friends in countries around the world who lost loved ones in those
7. In our own country, we are seeking to recover from the knock-on effects
of the unemployment the attacks caused. We are taking steps to rebuild
our economy. We have initiated changes to our domestic law and have in
the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Organization of American
States, we have become parties to international conventions to bolster
our capacity to play our necessary role in the fight against these attacks
on our way of life. We will continue to give our full support to international
efforts to eliminate this scourge. At the same time, we are keen to ensure
that in this fight the fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens
are not eroded.
8. The Bahamas believes that
there is no better legacy that we can leave to the generations to come
than an earth that is safe, secure and that can sustain life. We firmly
believe that there can be development without harm to the environment,
a point we emphasised at the recently concluded World Summit for Sustainable
Development. The environment is not only the biological medium that supports
the life of the people of The Bahamas, but it is also the central reason
for our economic success and our accomplishment, of which we are indeed
proud. My Government has therefore, given high priority and has taken
practical steps, to preserve and protect the environment.
9. We reiterate our concern
expressed at the Summit, about the threat posed to small island developing
states by all manifestations of climate change including the rise in sea
levels. We have repeatedly expressed our grave concern to some of our
industrialised partners about the transhipment of nuclear waste through
the Caribbean and the disastrous effect this might have on the economies
of The Bahamas and the Caribbean. Tourism is our primary industry, and
an accident involving spent nuclear fuel will almost certainly destroy
it. We do not accept that because the risk of accidents is remote that
the transhipment of nuclear waste should be allowed to continue. We make
the assertion today and ask for the transhipment to cease.
10. The Bahamas joins in urging the early ratification and implementation
of the Kyoto Protocol and in reaffirming commitment to sustainable development,
and to the Political Declaration and the Plan of Implementation of the
World Summit on Sustainable Development.
11. The international community faces a broad range of political, economic,
social and cultural issues. We have made inroads, Mr. President, but not
sufficient to stem the spiral of persistence of poverty, hunger, human
rights abuses, crime and diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS and to address
the vulnerability of small island developing states. The Bahamas is particularly
concerned about HIV/AIDS and the slow progress in fighting the disease.
12. The critical question on HIV/AIDS and all the other issues is where
do we go from here? This body has made important commitments to the world.
There are reviews, platforms and programmes of action. Our respective
publics may be forgiven for their cynicism and the criticism levelled
that the United Nations is a talking shop. Our view is that it is better
to talk than fight. Talking is in fact, a form of action, and there is
no doubt that with regard to HIV/AIDS discussion of the problem is central
to the solutions. But our respective publics are looking for and require
more immediate money and direct action. We must not be accused of inaction
in the face of human suffering and adversity.
13. We in The Bahamas have ably demonstrated our determination to play
our part in these endeavours. We have been credited, regionally and internationally
for our model programmes, particularly in respect to our treatment of,
and efforts to control the spread of HIV/AIDS. We especially wish to thank
the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization,
now celebrating its 100"' year, for the cooperation they have extended
to The Bahamas and for their stellar work in the area of international
health. We wish to commend the recent initiative to provide antiretroviral
drugs to countries of the Caribbean to assist in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
14. The Bahamas is concerned about the present global economic order.
We raise questions about whether globalisation and trade liberalisation
can, indeed, function as a vehicle for progressive change in all countries
large , and small, developed and developing. We are committed to adapting
to change but at a pace and in a manner and form that is consistent with
the way we live. The Caribbean Community of which the Bahamas is a part,
has taken up the challenges of ensuring a degree of stability among its
member countries in the face of globalization. But The Bahamas believes
that more can and must be done to assist our Caribbean Community to adapt
to these externally imposed changes, through equitable and sensitive trade
policies and by reform of the international financial institutions and
their lending practices.
15. The Bahamas is the unwitting transit point for illegal activities;
the smuggling of human beings and the illicit trade in narcotic drugs
and psychotropic substances. The United States is the ultimate target.
We are also suffering from increased violent crime from guns smuggled
into our country from the United States. These guns are terrorizing our
society. The Bahamas is working closely with the United States and other
neighbouring countries to address these issues. There must be a stronger
effective action to reduce demand for drugs in the receiving country.
There must be more effective action taken to stop the flow of illegal
16. The Bahamas has taken an active interest in the peace and stability
of its sister Caricom state, Haiti. Given our longstanding and developing
relations with Haiti, positive steps taken to provide assistance and support
for Haiti give us great hope. We are especially pleased with the efforts
of the Inter-American Development Bank to work with the Government of
Haiti to remove the existing financial hurdles that impede development
efforts. We also welcome the recent OAS resolution and the announcement
by the United States that it would contribute additional resources to
the OAS Special Mission in Haiti. Illegal migration from Haiti causes
a serious drain on the resources of The Bahamas. In addition to Haitian-Bahamian
bilateral efforts to address this problem, The Bahamas believes that targeted
international initiatives, with the cooperation of the Government of Haiti,
represent the best hope for the Haitian people.
17. Illegal immigration from Cuba also adversely affects us. The Bahamas
continues to call for the normalization of relations between Cuba and
the United States of America. We believe that such normalization would
be central to solving that dimension of the migration problem.
18. The Bahamas welcomes the
entry into force of the Rome Statute on 1 July 2002, and the establishment
of the International Criminal Court as a critical tool in the fight against
violations of humanitarian international law and crimes against humanity.
20. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people is a matter
of concern. There should be peace between them. We support the peaceful
settlement of this issue in accordance with all applicable United Nations
resolutions. Every people deserve to have a state to call their own in
peace and security.
21. The Bahamas is concerned about developments in Africa. As part of
the African Diaspora, we wish to see Africa prosper, wars cease and equitable
policies applied for all of the many and varied people of that continent.
22. We support the reform
of the Security Council. The Bahamas believes that the time has come for
us to take the hard decisions and agree to a practical programme of reform,
that take fully into account the need for equitable membership and for
a more democratic and transparent Council.
23. The Bahamas is a small
country, whose voice, without the indispensable forum provided by the
United Nations would otherwise be lost, or at best ignored. Here, irrespective
of size and wealth, we have the ability to speak with equal voice and
vote with equal power on matters that affect the quality of our lives
today, and that will impact the type of world that we leave in place for
future generations. This is why it is vitally important that we preserve
and respect the integrity of this organization. Member states are bound
to come here for redress and should not act unilaterally outside the bounds
of the charter. The Bahamas reaffirms its commitment to the purposes and
principles of the United Nations as enshrined in its charter. I leave
you with that commitment here today.
I thank you Mr. President.