Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first congratulate you, Mr. President, on your election as President of the 57th Session of the General Assembly, and for the excellent manner in which you have been presiding over our deliberations since the beginning of the Session. With the caliber of leadership you have displayed, added to your vast experience and wisdom, I have no doubts that our deliberations will be easily guided to a successful outcome.
Let me also express my delegation's thanks and appreciation to your predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Han Seung-soo for his efficiency and effectiveness in conducting the business of the 56th Session of the General Assembly.
I would be remiss if I did not pay homage to our Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, for another year of fine stewardship to our Organisation and to humanity at large. Thanks to his leadership, our Organisation has been able to cross a number of important frontiers in the year since we last met.
Lastly, my delegation warmly congratulates East Timor on its full transition to democracy, its successful conduct of democratic elections, its recent accession to independence and its subsequent admission into our United Nations family. Our congratulations also go to the Government and people of Switzerland on acceding to full membership of the UN, as the 190th and newest Member State.
Our session is being convened at a time when the anniversary of the dastardly September 11 attack on the United States is being observed. We join the rest of the world including the families of the victims in remembering those who lost there lives, and pray that the Almighty God grant them eternal rest. Gambians were among the thousands from many nations of the world, who were victims of the attack. It only goes to show that terrorism knows no national boundaries. In commemorating September 11, H.E. President Jammeh declared a public holiday for people to stay home and pray. We must therefore harness all our efforts and co-operate effectively to address this wicked phenomenon and its root causes.
Let me take this opportunity to commend the counter-terrorism Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) for the good work that it is doing in enhancing co-operation in the field of counter terrorism. In the course of this year, The Gambia was able to accede to all the major treaties relating to terrorism and currently we are in the process of implementing resolution 1373.
The year 2002 has been a busy one for us all. First we came here for the Children's Summit. Then we went off to Monterrey for the World Conference on Financing for Development. And we just recently concluded our deliberations on sustainable development in Johannesburg, South Africa. At each one of these important fora, we were offered the opportunity of rededicating ourselves to the noble objectives of our Organisation, especially those that were so strongly evinced at the Millennium Summit and enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals, which we all espoused. Through our deliberations at these meetings in the course of this year, we have re-committed ourselves to striving in a more purposeful and determined manner, to spread and deepen democracy throughout the world; do better in protecting human rights, fundamental human freedoms and the rule of law; strengthen our co-operation in the fight against hunger, poverty and disease; do more to protect the weak and vulnerable in our respective societies, particularly children, the aged and the handicapped; and redouble our efforts to sanitise and preserve the physical and human ecology and environment. These are some of the important pillars on which world peace and security are built, and which we must consciously work toward strengthening, and preserve from crumbling. That is the only sure way that global security and development, which are at the core of our Organisation's mandate, can be assured.
We in The Gambia have been doing all we can to stay the course in the uphill task of nation building under the inspired and dynamic leadership of His Excellency President Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh. In the area of good governance I am pleased to inform this august body that with special reference to the democratisation process, following the much acclaimed presidential elections held last October, National Assembly elections were held on the 17th January 2002, and Local Government elections held on the 25th April 2002. Mindful of the need to cultivate the culture of democracy and good governance the Government of The Gambia had since developed and adopted a National Governance Policy and programme. The main components of the policy framework are:
1. Constitutional Review and Reform of Electoral Processes;
2. Enhancing Parliamentary Structures and Processes;
3. Civic Education;
4. Reform of legal and judicial processes and Constitutional Review;
5. Public Sector Management and administrative Reform; and
6. Decentralisation and Reform of Local Government Systems.
Clearly, governance constitutes an important component of our poverty reduction strategy.
Halfway through the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, and in spite of all the commitments we have made over the years to reduce poverty and accelerate the pace of social and economic development throughout the world, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and the absolute number of poor people, especially in the developing world, is increasing. The scourge of poverty is insidious. It contains within itself, all the elements that militate against its victim's ability to rise above his or her condition. Therefore, fighting poverty calls for conscious, deliberate interventions that only the strong can provide to help the weak, These interventions come, for the most part, in the form of resource flows. Unfortunately, these have been dwindling over the years, and in spite of the recent commitments made by the G8 countries in Kananaskis in support of the new African initiative - the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), for which we are grateful - overall, the shortfalls in the fight against poverty are still huge and growing.
African countries should not be led to disenchantment by the international community. The HIPC initiative on debt is, for the most part, still good only on paper largely speaking. Protectionist policies and heavy subsidies continue to frustrate our efforts to earn a decent living through production and trade. And the promises of increased ODA and other forms of assistance over four United Nations Development Decades have remained largely unfulfilled. In fact, this session of the General Assembly will look into the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the development of Africa in the 1990s and the main conclusion will be that, by and large, the commitments made by Africa's development partners have not been met. We missed another opportunity for the multi-lateral system to work towards poverty eradication and social and economic development.
With special reference to the plight of LDCs, Mr. President, I would like to add The Gambia's voice to those of previous Speakers in calling for a renewed commitment to implementing the Programme of Action for the LDCs for the Decade 2001-2010. In this connection, we commend the General Assembly for the decision taken to establish the Office of the High Representative for the LDCs, landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. We look forward to working closely with the High Representative.
The recently held Ministerial Meeting of LDCs in Cotonou was indeed timely and we call on the rest of the International Community to lend their full support to the LDCs so that we implement fully the decisions taken. We cannot however, discuss the issue of poverty alleviation without mentioning the problem of women and children. With regard to our women folk, we need to focus more on the 12 critical areas of concern laid out in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including gender inequalities. As for the issues concerning children, we hope that the follow-up summit held here in New York recently will strengthen us in our resolve to achieve the noble goals that we have set for ourselves to give our children a brighter future.
For our part in The Gambia, Mr. President, we have evolved a strong and focused policy on poverty, which we have articulated in a Programme of Action for Poverty Alleviation. The strategy is anchored on my Government's commitment to eradicate poverty in the long term, by increasing incomes through economic growth and empowering the population with the capacity for sustainable development. Our fight against poverty stands on five pillars: the creation of an enabling environment for economic growth and development; enhancing the productive capacity and social protection of the poor; improving coverage of basic services; political empowerment of civil society; and strengthened partnerships with development stakeholders. My Government is committed to relentlessly pursuing these objectives in line with the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals. And in this, we shall be counting on the wholehearted support of the international community.
At this juncture, Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to express my Government's most profound gratitude to our principal partners in development and the Donor Community at large for their active participation at the sixth Roundtable Donors' Conference for The Gambia held in Geneva on the 18th and 19th September 2002. We are confident that all the pledges made will be honoured so that together, in the true spirit of international solidarity, we implement smoothly and successfully, our National programme of Action for Poverty Alleviation.
This is all the more urgent considering the fact that during the rainy season this year, we experienced a long dry spell, initially, resulting in the poor performance of both crops and livestock.
It is our hope that all nations of the world will redouble their efforts to live up to the commitments they made in Rio and, just recently, reaffirmed in Johannesburg. Even as we search for ways of taking our peoples out of poverty, we should also be mindful of the need to conserve our natural environment. Of particular concern to my delegation is the destructive fishing practices, in the South Atlantic. Despite the adoption of numerous international instruments to regulate fishing with a view to conserving fish stocks, unsustainable - and often illegal - fishing continues unabated in our coastal waters. The unbridled pursuit of profit without due regard to sustainability and long term food security is the only reason for this undesirable situation. My delegation therefore calls on all Member States to co-operate with us to address this serious state of affairs and to provide us with technical and other forms of assistance to enable all affected countries better police their waters in order to arrest these unsustainable and harmful fishing practices.
The momentum generated in Johannesburg must not be allowed to wither away. It must be recognised, however, that there can be no meaningful development without peace and stability. This is why we attach great importance to the issue of peacekeeping.
In the field of peacekeeping our Organization continues to score remarkable successes. We appreciate the efforts of the Security Council to put in place a rapid response mechanism through which a multi-national force could quickly be deployed to any part of the world. However there is need to ensure that adequate resources are made available so that no peacekeeping operation is disrupted on account of lack of funds, thereby plunging the countries concerned back Into a vortex of violence. Funding availability is also important to bridge the gap between peacekeeping and national reconstruction.
The determination with which we have dealt with threats to peace has paid handsome dividends in the period since we last met. This is why, Mr. President, we welcome the great efforts made to put out the theatres of conflict in Africa, notably, in Sierra Leone, the DRC, and Angola.
With regard to the Sudan, my Government applauds the signing of the Machacos Protocol between the Government and the SPLA. We hope and pray that the process now started would finally bring to an end this protracted conflict.
And while we may rightly commend ourselves for these achievements, we must not rest on our oars. There are still some significant areas of uncertainty and volatility in our own West African sub-region that we need to address. It requires a relentless effort.
In our capacity as co-coordinator of the Group of friends of Guinea-Bissau, here at the United Nations, we are calling on the rest of the international community to provide more assistance to this Sister country. In this way, the democratisation process will be consolidated and the country's economic performance enhanced.
We must bear in mind that ending hostilities is one thing and getting the system on the right path to social and economic development of the type that would eliminate the causes of conflict, quite another. In like manner, a successful transition into a democratic dispensation does not necessarily, in and of itself, usher in peace and security. In many of the countries where conflicts have ended, political stability remains fragile, and uncertainty and instability prevail. In these countries, there is need to go beyond the immediacy of the political requirements for consolidating peace, to address governance in its broadest sense, including its economic and financial aspects, as well as the capacities required for strengthening it. And this is the emerging challenge for the international community. We must devise mechanisms for follow-through into peace-building and be ready to provide the resources to progressively restore confidence and strength among those at the frontline.
President Yahya A.J.J. Jannneh, the Government and people of The Gambia are fully committed to the search for peace and the resolution of conflicts everywhere, but particularly so in our immediate subregion. That is why, we not only open our doors to our neighbours in distress, hosting many refugees, but we also work actively with them as well as with other members of the International Community including the Secretary General and his able team to remove misunderstandings that could easily lead to the flare up of conflict.
The situation in the Middle East still remains a matter of grave concern to my delegation. The Security Council must show more leadership in the efforts of the international community to contain and resolve the serious tensions between Israel and Palestine, which pose a grave threat to the stability of the nations in the region and the peace of the whole world. It is unacceptable for the world to stand back and watch as helpless civilians are attacked in refugee camps or are killed or maimed by suicide bombers. The suffering of innocent people in the Middle East must be brought to an end immediately.
My delegation strongly urges therefore that all the relevant UN resolutions on Palestine and the Middle East notably, Resolution 242 and 338 be complied with without any further delay. We also fully support those who have called for the recognition of the State of Israel by all nations as well as the creation and the recognition by all, of a State of Palestine.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, there are still some unresolved issues. The situation between Iraq and Kuwait has still not been fully resolved. And we are still seeking a satisfactory resolution of the question of the Kuwaiti prisoners of war and missing persons, as well as the return of the Kuwaiti national archives.
Within Iraq itself, we in the Gambia have always called for the alleviation of the suffering of the innocent Iraqi people. With regard to the other unfinished business of weapons inspections, my delegation applauds the decision of the Government of Iraq to invite the UN weapons Inspectors to return to Iraq to resume their work. We have always upheld the view that parties to any dispute should allow the United Nations to assume its responsibility unhindered in our common quest for amicable closure to situations of conflict. We therefore note with satisfaction the important statement by President Bush recognising the central role of the United Nations and calling on the latter to assume its responsibility. But let us also remember that we - all of us, nations big and small, rich and poor, constitute the United Nations. It can only be what we the member states want it to be. The choice is ours.
In South Asia, we cannot be indifferent to the prevailing situation between India and Pakistan. These are two great countries with which The Gambia has always enjoyed excellent relations. We are therefore calling on them, out of this friendship, to exercise restraint at all times and to withdraw their troops away from their respective borders.
After years of hard work and tough negotiations, we finally succeeded in establishing the International Criminal Court with the entry into force of the Rome Statute. We salute the tireless efforts of all those who contributed in one way or another to this huge success. It is our fervent hope that the Court, with the active collaboration of all like-minded states, will act as an effective instrument in the fight against international crimes of all sorts and by extension, extinguish the culture of impunity.
Turning now to the issue of sanctions, my delegation firmly believes that the time has now come for us to review the procedure being used to impose them on countries and individuals. The Permanent Members of the Security Council who determine who should be placed on a sanctions or travel ban list, do not usually provide evidence either to the individual concerned or to his government, to justify their decision. We have come to see that in many cases, this decision is based on speculation or conjecture and that the individuals in question really did not deserve to be punished and humiliated. Thus far, most of the governments have been very co-operative and, while repeatedly requesting to no avail, that evidence of wrong-doing be made known to them, have nonetheless gone along with the rest of the international community in respecting the decision taken by the Council. Some of these Governments - mine included - are getting to the point of exasperation, and have resolved that, unless the evidence being requested of the Security Council is provided, they will refuse to comply with any ban or sanctions imposed on their nationals. We sometimes wonder whether someone out there doesn't have a hidden agenda. As sovereign nations, we demand more transparency before acquiescing to our nationals being punished for wrongdoings we have not been shown they have committed. The United Nations Security Council must not be a bully.
In like manner, the multifaceted sanctions imposed on Cuba are still in place despite numerous resolutions calling for their lifting. A window of opportunity now exists for them to be finally set aside. It is in nobody's interest to continue to pursue policies against Cuba that have lost their appeal.
Sabres are rattling on one side of the Taiwan Strait in the face of 23 million souls, for merely claiming their god-given right to be recognised as a political, economic and social entity. The Republic of China on Taiwan is today, the only country on earth that is not represented in the United Nations, contrary to the main guiding principle of the United Nations - the principle of universality. Article Four of the Charter invites "all peace-loving states" to become members of the Organisation. The people of Taiwan have demonstrated over the years that, not only are they peace-loving, but also they can contribute to all the objectives of the United Nations in the fields of global security, financial stability, culture, industrial and technological growth and sustainable development. Taiwan is not an insignificant player in the world production and trade arena. It is the world's 16th largest economy. It is equally highly developed in the field of scientific and medical research.
In recognition of its importance as a trading nation, it was recently admitted into the WTO. Logic demands that for the very same reason it should also be admitted into the WHO, in recognition of its importance as a highly sophisticated and developed health entity; into UNESCO, because of its exceptionally high standing as a scientific and cultural entity; into UNIDO because of its most advanced industrial and technological development; into UNICEF because of its highly developed child development policies and programmes; into FAO, MAD and WFP because of its extremely well developed agriculture and its importance as a food producer; into UNDP because of its huge ODA to developing countries for capacity building and poverty alleviation; in short, into all branches of the United Nations family, because of the tremendous contributions it could make to the ideals and programmes of the UN.
Taiwan is a vibrant democracy with high ratings for human rights, press freedom and the observance of the rights of the individual. It could contribute immensely to global security and the fight against terrorism. It is therefore baffling that this highly developed, friendly, and peace-loving nation has been barred from membership of the United Nations for purely political reasons. My Government will not rest until this injustice is undone and the Republic of China on Taiwan is granted its rightful place among the comity of nations.
Still in the same region, with regard to the Korean Peninsula, Mr. President, my delegation would like to reiterate once again our unflinching support for all the efforts geared towards peaceful unification.
Finally, Mr. President,
My delegation believes that the General Assembly needs to be strengthened so that it could play an even greater role in our quest for a just and equitable world order. We welcome the moves being made to reform this important organ of the UN in ways that would render it more effective in discharging its mandate. This is particularly true of the UNSC. We in the Gambia will continue to add our voice to the clamour for the Security Council to be reformed in order to make it more democratic and more in tune with the realities of and requirements for global security in the 21st century. The credibility and relevance of the Council now depends on the reforms that we all have been calling for. The developing countries must be allowed a much more effective participation in this powerful organ of the United Nations. Africa should have a minimum of two permanent seats.
In conclusion, Mr. President, we urge all nations, great and small, to work relentlessly towards preserving the ideals for which our organisation was set up. We should all eschew behaviours that undermine the objectives of the United Nations and frustrate its efforts. Multilateralism is the only hope left to mankind for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the maintenance of international peace and security. Let us cherish and nurture it. Multilateralism will thrive only if there is mist and confidence among all the actors. But, a system that repeatedly frustrates and lets down one portion of its membership will malfunction and eventually become ineffective and irrelevant. We must therefore all do more to ensure that such a fate does not befall our Organization.
I thank you for your attention.