by H.E. Dr. Patrick A. Lewis
Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda at the
58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York - October 1, 2003
It gives me profound pleasure
to welcome and congratulate you in regard to the lofty position that you
now hold. It was not long ago that you were fighting alongside the Ambassadors
of the Latin American and Caribbean Group. You represent the smallest
country that has ever ascended to the Presidency and for your Caribbean
colleagues there will be additional rejoicing when your photograph appears
on the Wall of Presidents. It is my hope that our younger diplomats will
endeavour to emulate you, and continue to demonstrate the mettle of small
island developing states. But let me also pay tribute to your predecessor,
Mr. Jan Kavan, for the able and skilful manner in which he conducted our
deliberations during the 57th Session. The Secretary General and his staff
must also receive acclaim for their diligence and steadfast work. We mourn
and grieve for the UN staff members killed and wounded in Baghdad, and
indeed for all members of the Staff who have made the ultimate sacrifice
in upholding the ideals of the United Nations.
We have often repeated statistics
to demonstrate human existence, but it seems to be just a recitation.
Nonetheless, in the hope that this year figures may move those in control
to make a meaningful attempt at remedies, let me join the list of other
colleagues who have reminded that almost half of the world's population
subsists on less than $2 a day, and a fifth lives on less than $1 a day.
The point to be stressed is that global inequality has risen. The digital
divide is widening, the populations of refugees and displaced persons
has grown, and the AIDS crisis is devastating numerous societies.
What tends to be ignored, is
what developing countries have been doing for themselves. In the Caribbean,
the CARICOM countries have come to each other's assistance in times of
crisis, whether they be natural devastation by way of earthquakes, volcanic
eruption, drought, or floods. We have used our military forces positively,
to rescue, to stabilise, and to rehabilitate, when suffering the vicissitudes
of nature. Strafed as we are in regard to finances, we have assisted one
another in regard to the severest of economic constraints. If an unbiased
evaluation is made, it will be clear that average gains in human development
in low and middle-income countries-have been substantial and higher than
gains in incomes. Life expectancy has increased by 59 percent, and illiteracy
has been reduced from 39 percent in 1970 to 25 percent at the turn of
the century. Nevertheless, current development trends are not sustainable
and are placing extreme pressures on the environment and its impoverished,
who bear the overwhelming brunt of environmental degradation. Our coastal
systems are threatened, dominant countries are fishing indiscriminately
within our exclusive economic zones, and our coral reefs have not only
been damaged but are disappearing. Yet, AID has declined as a share of
GNP, and World Bank research indicates that without a doubling of development
assistance, the endorsed millennium goals are unlikely to be achieved.
The "experts" of development
appear to be unifocused. We fully accept the necessity for market reforms,
but they are insufficient in themselves. There is need for broad social
reforms. Equitable income distribution and secondary school enrollment
have been found to be insensitive to growth, while air quality has been
negatively correlated to growth. The global institutions continue to listen
to their identified experts, and disregard local experience whether from
the aged and wise or young and brilliant. Sustained development requires
a significant percentage of domestic or local "ownership."
Our religious literature states
that continuance in the life style demands the depositing or planting
of seeds, from which in a relatively short period of time comes new life
and the continuance of organic existence. With that in mind, it is imperative
that development strategies clearly take into consideration those who
will succeed us, and Antigua and Barbuda, which devotes much attention
and planning to the°advancement of its youth, is advocating continued
global focus on this issue, in order to ensure a more harmonious international
atmosphere than the one in which we carry out our activities. With that
in mind, Caribbean Heads of State and Government have met with representatives
of the World Bank and are jointly in the process of: 1) identifying the
risk and protective factors and determinants of youth behaviours and development,
2) demonstrating that negative behaviours of youth are not only costly
to themselves but to society as a whole, and 3) identifying key intervention
points for youth development, underscoring identified risk and protective
Presently, as a result of this
joint thrust, we are targeting sexual and physical abuse, HIV/AIDS as
linked to misguided values about sexuality, incidence of rage, youth unemployment,
and the social misconceptions of the use of alcohol and marijuana. Moving
forward requires modernising the education system and maximising the protective
effect of schools, upgrading public health care systems, making families
a top public policy issue, and strengthening community and neighbourhood
support to adolescents.
Antigua and Barbuda has been
stating that, whereas AID is sorely needed, its effectiveness will be
limited, unless a level playing field is provided in regard to trade and
investment into developing societies. There cannot be meaningful progress
by talking about the relative significance and importance of free trade.
We listen and see the dominant countries employ various and divers forms
of agricultural protectionism, while taking away from former colonies
of exploitation vital preferences needed to keep their products on the
market. Why should globalisation be oppressive to the pusillanimous? We
have been listening to the modifications of the philosophies of Cobden
and Bright, but are feeling the yoke of global practices and knowing that
never in modern history has there been free trade.
The fears of developing countries
in regard to the practices and realities of globalisation, as opposed
to its often vaunted philosophy were manifested in Cancun in September
of this year. Cancun, we have been made to understand means "snakepit"
in the local Mayan language, and our hope is that there will be some meaningful
effort to overcome the drawbacks. Developing counties will be hindered
from developing themselves if only lip service is continued to be paid
to poverty. The first step in the elimination of poverty is to adequately
recognise the multifunctional role of Agriculture. This
multifunctional role incorporates food safety, animal welfare, and the
preservation of land. Unfortunately, Cancun proved once again, that the
dominant countries would continue to exempt themselves from the rules
governing free trade, and continue to domestically provide substantive
subsidies to their farmers, while, denying the former colonies of exploitation
the right to preferences.
2004 will mark the tenth anniversary
of the first UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small
Island Developing States (SIDS), which was held in Barbados in 1994. In
looking back at the ten years since that Conference, we hold these following
truths to be self evident: the Barbados Programme attention on the unique
circumstances of SIDS, the corresponding, actions to address these circumstances
by international community has been lacking. This is the opportunity presented
by the International Meeting to review the implementation of the Programme
of Action, that will be held in Mauritius in August 2004. It presents
us with a second chance to identify a set of concrete actions, which will
be needed to further the implementation of the BPOA and thereby regain
momentum lost by SIDS in quest for sustainable development. So far we
have not been satisfied that problems relating to the transhipment of
nuclear waste through our waters, bilging, and fishing indiscriminately
in our EEZs have been given any meaningful consideration.
My Government welcomes the entry
into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on
Biological Diversity, having recently deposited our instruments of ratification
for both the Protocol and for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Pollutants. As a Party to the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention
on Climate Change, we wish to lend our support to call made by the Foreign
Minister of Japan for Parties to the Climate Change Convention to maintain
the international momentum for climate change negotiations, for the early
entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, and for the formulation of common
rules which will facilitate participation by all countries.
The Millennium Development
Goals are an ambitious agenda for reducing poverty and improving lives.
The challenge to implement them is enormous. A case in point is the target
of halving by 2015, the proportion of people without access to safe drinking
water and proper sanitation. To meet this target, the world will need
to connect approximately 200,000 people to clean water and 400,000 people
to improved sanitation each day.
That will require three things:
first, innovative financing mechanisms to assure the necessary doubling
in financial flows to developing countries for water and sanitation --
from current spending of US$ 10 billion each year, to about $20 billion
a year; second, greatly improved governance of scarce water resources,
built around holistic, integrated water resources management strategies
that encompass priorities from drinking to agriculture and industrial
development -- and third, a clear focus on building capacity where it
is needed most: working directly with local communities - - especially
women - - to help craft and implement their own solutions.
And this is just for water.
As the dominant powers repeat
their call for universal democracy, former colonies of exploitation must
remind that democracy is most difficult to achieve among those witnessing
the tears and conditions of hungry children. Democracy struggles to maintain
itself among those who are racked with illnesses and weak from the lack
of adequate nutrition. Democracy is practically an utopian ideal where
there are defined class divisions and insurmountable social barriers.
For democracy to thrive and prosper all sectors of the society have to
participate fully with regard to economic growth and an adequate distribution
of income. It is therefore incumbent that society should work toward integral,
equitable, and sustainable social and economic development. In Antigua
and Barbuda, in the midst of our trials and tribulations we have maintained
democracy and it is a hallmark of our existence.
The products of science, technology,
and innovation have to be harnessed and designed to add value to the real
components of development. Wealth must be generated in order to raise
the dignity and esteem of mankind, and to garner respect for the internationally
recognised fundamental rights and principles of labour. Without such,
socio-economic development, and resultingly, the full enjoyment of democracy,
will be held in abeyance.
My country is at a loss to
fully comprehend why some of the major countries of this world oppose
the International Criminal Court. It is vital to our security and development.
The Court represents a revolution in legal and moral attitudes toward
some of the worst crimes on earth. Whereas many developing states have
suffered under the yoke of globalisation, the International Criminal Court
represents a plus for the globalisation process, for its principles of
justice and the rule of law in international affairs. The Rome Statute
has sufficient checks and balances to allay all fears, and we remain convinced
that the ICC will be a legitimate judicial institution to adequately judge
individuals for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. We
reiterate that this can be done while guaranteeing states their rights,
as they are protected from any interference by the Court if they pursue
the given crimes at the national level, and that the prosecutor's autonomous
power is accompanied by guarantees against using the Court for specious
or politically motivated endeavours.
The non-governing territories
of the Caribbean look to Caribbean members of the Special and Political
Committee, more commonly known as the Committee of 24 (C24) to give guidance
in regard to their constitutional evolution. This year there was a breakthrough
in Anguilla as the United Kingdom agreed to have the regional seminar
held in one of the non-self-governing territories (NSGTs), and for the
first time the UN Secretariat agreed to write the local representatives
directly rather than through the representatives of the administrative
powers. But more importantly the United Kingdom sent a senior official
from the Commonwealth and Overseas Office, who was to gain the respect
of the seminar participants.
The non-self-governing territories
greeted this development and all sent delegations which were vocal, and
explained that their options had never been explained to them. They were
eager to remain in touch with the UN Secretariat, and sought to take advantage
of whatever experiences, educational and otherwise, that the UN could
provide. In an atmosphere of cordiality the administrative power and the
NSGTs expressed ways and means of development and advancement for the
territories. Quite significantly the NSGTs hailed the new policy of the
United Kingdom for consultation with the elected officials of its territories
on the appointment of governors as forwardlooking.
My country would not like to
give the impression that we are only concerned with development, as this
would be far from the truth. We are cognisant of other global issues,
particularly with reference to peace and security. The images that are
constantly before us with reference to Iraq and the Middle East, leave
us questioning the brotherhood of mankind. The United Nations has to be
unified with reference to the rehabilitation of Iraq, and the transition
of its administrative structure into the hands of its nationals. We subsequently
give our support for the peace process in the Middle East based on the
respective resolutions of both the General Assemble and the Security Council.
Likewise we give wholehearted support to the preservation of the role
of the United Nations and other organisations in working toward the stabilization
and security of Afghanistan. In the same vein we support and encourage
the efforts made to resolve the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, and the stabilisation of peace in parts of West Africa and
the Balkans. We continue to press for the revitalisation of the process
of disarmament, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and general arms
These are indeed perilous times,
and when an event occurs in a distant part of the globe that can drastically
affect us domestically, to totally disregard the need for tolerance will
not onlyproduce resentment but also the dangerous practice of intolerance.
For such times it is far better to remember the words of Thomas Paine,
who stated that "the world is my country, all mankind are my brethren,
and to do good is my religion."
In closing, Mr. President, let
me once again state how happy my country is in having you in the Chair.
You, of course, were the choice of our Group. So let me through our languages
And, especially for you Mr. President:
Eika Alay Bien!