VANUATU

STATEMENT BY
THE HON. SERGE VOHOR RIALUTH, MP

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, EXTERNAL TRADE,
ECONOMIC
COOPERATION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY - FIFTY SEVEN SESSION
NEW YORK, 18 SEPTEMBER 2002


Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,

I begin by bringing to this august gathering greetings and thoughts from the people of the Republic of Vanuatu. Our future will be determined by nations who are represented here today.

Mr. President,

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your assumption as the President of the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. You assume the Presidency during a turbulent time in international relations and my delegation fully pledges its support and cooperation as you guide this noble Organization through this difficult period. May I further take this opportunity to acknowledge with deep gratitude the contributions of your predecessor who so competently steered the work of the 56th Session to its conclusion.

I must also acknowledge with much gratitude and admiration the outstanding leadership and diplomatic skills of Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. His incredible wisdom has ensured the United Nations continues to retain its credibility and relevance not only in maintaining peace worldwide, but also in ensuring that this Organization continues to progress in addressing the development challenges confronting the developing world, including Vanuatu.

Furthermore, I am pleased to welcome the Swiss Confederation as a member of the United Nations and I am looking forward with great delight to the imminent admission of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, a nation where Vanuatu was most honoured to have participated in the United Nations administered peacekeeping process.

Mr. President,

The shocking events of September 11 will long be remembered as one of the most tragic days in modern day history. At this juncture, and on behalf of the Government and People of Vanuatu, I have the solemn duty of conveying to the Government and People of the United States of America, including families of the innocent victims of September 11 2001, our sincere condolences for the many lives that were lost on that fatal day.

The barbaric and cowardly acts of September 1 I have shaken the foundations and principles on which this Organization is built. It has ushered in a new period of global uncertainty and insecurity. Terrorism has become the scourge of modern day humanity. It has become a complex phenomenon that has scared the face of this earth and we the responsible members of the international community must work closely together in eradicating this.

However, any actions and punitive measures must first receive universal support through established multilateral and international structures, and this must begin with the United Nations, the most universally represented organization. Any retaliatory action outside this umbrella is perilous because it would present suitable conditions that could ignite an already very delicate situation. We are appealing that any action must foremost serve its purpose, which must be in the interest of future global justice, peace and security.

We are particularly calling on the instigators of military action against any perpetrator to exercise great wisdom and responsibility to ensure any decisions they take does not create a new world order of insecurity, hatred and conflict, delineated by cultural, ethnic and religious divisions. Any actions must thus be consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and established international law.

Mr. President,

While the fight against terrorism takes center stage, it must not deflect attention from critical development issues and other serious security concerns affecting the developing world and in particular those of small island states. Resources will inevitably be diverted towards this emerging security phenomenon but this must not overshadow the development agenda of the developing world. It is against this background that our delegation wishes to associate itself with statements made by my other distinguished colleagues from the Pacific Island Countries to endorse Pacific Islands Forum declarations that have been circulated as a UN paper.

The recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in beautiful South Africa has starkly reminded us that much remain to be done in addressing the development challenges of many of the worlds developing economies. The environment and the adverse impact of climate change are of extreme concern and we urge those countries that have not yet done so to ratify as soon as possible the Kyoto Protocol. The ratification by Japan, the European Union, China and Russia is very much welcomed.

Mr. President,

Aggressive and domineering policies from the developed world continue to marginalize many of the world's very small developing economies, like Vanuatu. It is our position that binding commitments to established international and regional declarations and legislation form the basis and cornerstone of building a peaceful and just world where justice, in all its definitions, prevails for ALL. There must exist an equal partnership and cooperation to muster support and confidence from all of us.

While small nations, like Vanuatu, are being forced to comply with conditions set by developed countries it befits me to state that at the same time some of these very same nations resort to bullying tactics by pursuing active policies that invade national and regional positions.

Vanuatu is firmly opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in any form. In that context my Government again condemns without reservations the continuous shipment of radioactive materials through the Pacific Ocean.

The blatant disregard for national and regional opposition is a clear demonstration of power politics manifested in the foreign policies of powerful nations.

This ignorance puts to shame many of the ideals and principles being advocated by this Organization and its other relevant entities. With the recent adoption of the Pacific Islands Regional Oceans Policy at the Pacific Island Leaders Forum in the Republic of the Fiji Islands I am strongly calling on shipping states to respect the efforts of the Pacific Island Countries in safeguarding its largest resource, the sea.

Mr. President,

The conditions imposed by the powerful in regard to OECD initiatives is another outright demonstration of power play where we see the `big nations' manipulating the world order for their own gain. These abominable policies stretch the boundaries of national sovereignty to the extreme and to the advantage of the developed world. We must put an end to all this hypocrisy if we the small nations are to be treated fairly as equal partners of the international community.

In totality, Vanuatu opposes such discriminatory and mandatory policies that expose our vulnerability to a very volatile global environment. Some of our national efforts to stimulate economic growth are stifled by extraordinary pressures from the `rich' club who will go the extent to ensure their position prevails. Where does that leave us? I must emphasize this because Vanuatu has gone at lengths to comply with OECD initiatives, including enacting legislation that prevents money laundering and to ensure transparency in financial transactions but yet that rich and influential organization continues to place further demands.

We are ready to negotiate within a time frame that must first suit our economic and political requirements but at the same time OECD must be ready and able to provide immediate relief and solutions. Any decision by OECD to blacklist countries like Vanuatu is premature and unwarranted, and serves only the interests of the OECD club. Vanuatu is confronted with a dilemma because those countries that introduced this tax haven policy during the colonial era have continued to place very unreasonable demands on our already weak economy.

On this note I must also mention the complicated and extreme difficulties my country is facing as it labours through its reform process. Against a backdrop of millennium priorities is the acute shortage in financial assistance that is required to effectively implement national development priorities. We have become accustomed to receiving plenty of foreign advice that unfortunately is not supported by real financial support and this has placed an extreme burden on the already scarce resources available in the country. I believe it is important for our development partners to try to understand more about the unique peculiarities and characteristics not only of Vanuatu, but other small and extremely fragile economies in the Pacific.

Mr. President,

The existing ban of kava exports to Europe and the United States of America is another indicator of the unfair and discriminatory policies being practiced by the powerful nations. It is believed that other countries will follow suit in introducing the ban. While there is no proven scientific evidence to justify these trade sanctions this has impacted negatively on the Vanuatu economy. We therefore wish to seek the support and understanding of the international community to allow proper scientific research to be undertaken prior to imposing such trade restrictions. The kava products exported to Europe and other destinations have been mixed with other non-kava products, and at this point in time it is totally unfair and discriminatory to impose such bans.

Mr. President,

My government fully supports efforts to reform the United Nations system to ensure a stronger and more effective organization. On this note my delegation wishes to endorse the views of other delegations on the need to review the membership of the Security Council that will better reflect geographical representation and the underrepresented group of member countries of the United Nations, without affecting the authority of the Council.

Mr. President,

The question of Taiwan must also be adequately addressed here. Resolution 2758 of the 2e Session of the General Assembly in 1971 resolved the legal and political representation of the People's Republic of China as a member of the United Nations therefore any attempt by Taiwan to gain admission to the United Nations or any of its subsidiary organs and special agencies will not be supported by my Government. The United Nations must ensure it does not contribute to the conflict between China and Taiwan.

I also wish to take this opportunity to press again the question of West Papua. At the Millennium Summit the then Prime Minister of Vanuatu touched on this important matter, that of the principle of self-determination for the people of West Papua. The special case of West Papua has always been high on Vanuatu's foreign policy agenda. The Charter of the United Nations espouses the principles that continue to guide the Organization's efforts in the process of self-determination.

It is our strong conviction that in order for the United Nations to be consistent in its decisions for the recognition and respect of the fundamental rights to self-determination we are again strongly requesting that the case of West Papua be placed for discussion on the agenda before the Committee of 24. The closed-door policy towards the pleas of West Papuans is continuing to undermine the credibility of the United Nations in addressing an outstanding matter. I believe it is in the best interests of the international community that the case of West Papua must be revisited. We are also requesting if a commission of enquiry can be conducted to verify information on atrocities alleged to have been committed in West Papua.

In conclusion, Mr. President,

We must continue to support the pivotal role of the United Nations in striving towards a world that is fair and just. We must stem the tide of a growing gap between the developed and developing world to ensure economic and social prosperity for all, critical prerequisites in ensuring global political stability, peace and security. The effective implementation of the United Nations Agenda for Development, and in particular the Millennium Declaration, Monterrey and Johannesburg will push this process forward.

A conducive international environment will assist the development priorities needs of developing countries, as well as to address the wide economic imbalances prevailing today. More importantly, there must also exist genuine goodwill, respect, tolerance and equality if we are to strive forward. The role of the United Nations will be vital here but only if support is forthcoming from its members.

I thank you Mr. President.