Marshall Islands

Statement by
H.E. Mr. Alfred Capelle
57th SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY GENERAL DEBATE
New York, 20 September 2002

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General
Distinguished delegates,
Good afternoon to you.

I bring to you warm greetings from His Excellency President Kessai H. Note.

On behalf of the Republic of the Marshall Islands I am honored to congratulate you on your election to this high office. Let me also take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General for the hard work that he and the Secretariat have undertaken in preparation for this General Assembly.

I am also greatly pleased to extend a warm welcome and congratulations from the Marshall Islands to the people of both Switzerland and East Timor, as the newest members of the United Nations.

Mr. President,

It is unfortunate that this, the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, meets under the shadow of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that shocked our host country - and the world - on September 11, 2001. Modern terrorism is an issue of concern for all peoples, regardless of nationality or religion. It is an issue that no nation can afford to ignore.

Whilst sharing in the horror and sorrow caused by the terrorist attacks in the United States, the people of the Marshall Islands are hopeful that the member states of the United Nations will continue to join together in working towards global peace and security. I urge this body, which collectively represents the moral force of all member states, to do everything in its power to eliminate the threat of terrorism.

Mr. President,

I am pleased to announce that the Marshall Islands have recently completed a process of national priority setting and assessment of Government policy. We have thoroughly reviewed the state of our nation through the holding of a National Economic and Social Summit, the findings of which have formed the basis for our long-term sustainable development plan, entitled "Republic of the Marshall Islands Vision 2018".

This process of review was guided by consultations with all stakeholders and all sectors of our society. Extensive discussions and interviews were carried out in order to ensure that all members of the Marshall Islands community would have the opportunity to contribute to our vision for the future.

The Marshall Islands Government has determined that all development policies and objectives will be guided by the vision generated from the Summit, and we are now in the process of implementing the core ideals of this blueprint for sustainable development.

Mr. President,

In developing our national vision, the Marshall Islands Government has also responded to the international agenda as set by the United Nations. We have ensured that our policies will reflect the all-important priorities of good governance, respect for fundamental human rights, protection of the environment, and conservation of natural resources. We have also taken account of social development objectives and the need to invest in the areas of health and education. By linking our national priorities to the international agenda we are confident that the correct policy decisions will be made.

Mr. President,

During the 1990's the Marshall Islands went through a period of structural adjustment and reform at the demand of the international donor community. We have faithfully carried out these costly and socially disruptive reforms, with the hope that some form of reward would be forthcoming. We now have in place a forward looking and pragmatic set of policies, and we are eager to translate these policies into action, for the betterment of the lives of our people. Yet there are few who are willing to assist us in achieving this goal.

I therefore stand here at the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for a new international paradigm: one that recognizes both the unique' challenges facing Small Island Developing States like the Marshall Islands, as well as the unique resources and gifts that these nations possess - resources that can only be brought to bear upon the whole of the international community through substantive and sustained partnerships.

It is time to re-conceptualize the relationships that exist between more-established and less-established nations, from one of donors and recipients to one of mutual beneficiaries and collaborators. Only in this way will it be possible to fully realize the promise of true international cooperation and development.

The Marshall Islands has so much in the way of native intellectual, environmental and cultural resources to share with the international community. We look forward to forming new forms of partnerships with entities around the world - partnerships that will redound to the benefit of the global community and all its residents.

The partnerships that are most meaningful to us are ones of a practical nature. Our communities, and those of many other nations like the Marshall Islands, are seeking partnerships of action that offer pragmatic and practical solutions that are coordinated and targeted for maximum effect.

Mr. President,

The Marshall Islands share challenges that are uniquely peculiar to many small island states: a precariously fragile environment that is highly sensitive to the threat posed by global warming; a narrow economic base that imposes constraints on the potential for progressive and sustainable development; and an institutional milieu that is slowly developing the capability of harnessing the benefits of science and technology.

In relation to our international partners, the Marshall Islands is particularly concerned about the following issues.

Firstly, the Environment. The Marshall Islands Government recognizes the need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach in seeking appropriate solutions to the challenges posed by environmental degradation and pollution.

We commend the Barbados Program of Action, which, in conjunction with the outcome forged at the Johannesburg Earth Summit, will provide a guiding framework for sustainable development for small islands states such as the Marshall Islands. The wide divergence of views expressed in Johannesburg posed many challenges, but also produced rich insights into areas where our common strengths lie, and how these might best be utilized.

Further, it is vital that the international community recognize the great challenge to life and culture that is posed by global climate change. This threat is felt most acutely by nations such as the Marshall Islands - nations that face the very real threat of complete obliteration if our oceans rise by even marginal levels.

On behalf of the Marshall Islands, I commend those States that share our concerns, and therefore have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. May I also urge those remaining States to consider the vital importance and urgency of this issue. If the international community does not act now, the future will see the disappearance of many small island nations, which in turn will have immeasurable economic, environmental, and immigration consequences for the entire global community.

Secondly, an issue that is particularly relevant to the Marshall Islands: Nuclear cleanup and non-proliferation. The Marshall Islands seeks partnerships with members of the international community that will help raise to new levels the dialogue about nuclear weapons and their testing.

The people of the Marshall Islands have suffered greatly at the hands of a world that is continually preparing for war. We are restrained by the persisting legacy of toxic nuclear waste, which poses challenges far beyond our financial and scientific capability to solve. Our food chain continues to be affected, and our development is thwarted by our inability to use damaged lands.

I am pleased to state that the US Congress is currently reviewing our situation and we are hopeful that the outcome will contribute towards amelioration of this problem. Nevertheless, we believe that our hard-learned lessons can help to inform and instruct the international community in future debates about the use and testing of nuclear weapons.

And thirdly, another issue that is particularly pertinent for our people: Oceans and Fisheries. As a nation whose entire livelihood depends on the resources of the sea, the Marshall Islands Government pledges its unwavering support for the Law of the Sea Management Regime. In particular, we emphasize the importance of Article 63 (1) of the regime, which speaks of the need for states to agree on measures necessary to coordinate and ensure the conservation and development of shared stocks.

The Marshall Islands is also pursuing the establishment of national fisheries industries that gradually allow for the replacement of foreign fishing fleets; the delineation of our own Exclusive Economic Zone; and the establishment of international guidelines that protect our oceans for generations of future fishermen and the people who count on the work they do for survival.

Mr. President,

I have mentioned only a few of the priorities that my delegation will be seeking to raise at the appropriate moments in upcoming committee debates, and in our interactions with United Nations agencies and our development partners.
There are, of course, many other issues of concern to both the Marshall Islands and the international community as a whole - issues that we will all wrestle with over the coming years.

Among the most important challenges faced by this body is the continued exclusion of the Republic of China (Taiwan) from the United Nations. The Marshall Islands Government reiterates its concern that the exclusion of a nation of peaceful and law-abiding citizens is not consistent with the inclusive ideal of the United Nations. I therefore urge each and every one of us to overcome our biases and to allow the admission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the United Nations.

Mr. President,

Another important challenge faced by this body is that of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. The Marshall Islands considers that urgent diplomatic action is required in order to work towards a peaceful solution to this threat to international peace and security.

Mr. President,

The Marshall Islands wishes to emphasize its support for the expansion of the United Nations Security Council. We believe that there should be an increase in the number of both permanent and non-permanent members of the Council, and that such expansion should include members from both developed and developing countries. This would significantly broaden the representation base of the Council, and thus reinforce its ongoing validity.

Finally, Mr. President,

May I take this opportunity to congratulate the international community on its support for the newly established International Criminal Court. The Marshall Islands is hopeful and confident that the Court will prove to be a powerful mechanism in the administration of justice at the international level. We are, however, currently considering the making of a Bilateral Agreement under Article 98 of the Rome Statute, and will determine this issue after a careful assessment of the implications of such an Agreement.

Mr. President,

Kindly allow me to conclude this statement with the following prayer:

God, our Father, You guide and govern everything with order and love. Look upon this assembly of our world leaders and fill them with the spirit of your divine wisdom. May they always act in accordance with your will and may their decisions be for the peace and well being of all peoples. We pray in your name. Amen.
And finally, I wish to re-affirm the strong commitment in fellowship and solidarity of the Marshall Islands with all the member states of this body.

Long live the United Nations. God bless the United Nations.

Thank you.