SEPTEMBER 26, 2003

Mr. President,

I take especial pleasure in congratulating you on your assumption of the Presidency of the 58th Session of the General Assembly. The unanimous election of the smallest state ever to hold this post speaks not only of the confidence which Member States place in your own ability, but also of their recognition of the critical role which small states play in the multilateral process. We are delighted at your elevation to this high office, and wish to assure you that in carrying out your responsibilities you will be able to count on the unequivocal support not only of St Lucia, but also that of the entire Caribbean fraternity.

1 wish also to thank your predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Jan Kavan, who very ably guided the work of the 57th General Assembly during a most trying and tumultuous year.

Mr. President,

On August 19th, the world was again plunged into shock and despair as we witnessed the heinous attack on the UN Office in Baghdad and the loss of life of United Nations personnel stationed there. A second attempt this week added to the toll of casualties. I extend to the UN family, as well as the delegations represented here, whose compatriots were the victims of that violent attack, the deepest condolences of the Government and people of Barbados.

We specially pause to pay tribute to Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, an international civil servant and diplomat of the highest calibre. His death comes at a time when the world can least afford it. We join with you in mourning his passing as we mourn all those who perished at his side in the service of the people of Iraq.

Amidst the turmoil and carnage that has become a dismal feature of the daily life of so many millions in our global society, this assault on the United Nations was particularly startling in its cruelty and distressing in its intention. As our Secretary General has affirmed: " this was the most deliberate and vicious attack on the United Nations in its history". It is the most cruel of ironies that such an attack could have been conceived and carried out against an organisation in which we all have a stake, and one which epitomizes the principles and ideals to which we all ascribe, and whose primary purpose is peace.

The global environment, over the past year, has teetered on the brink of chaos. We have witnessed increased instances of the pursuit of violence and retribution as first responses to the resolution of conflict and we have experienced the relegation of diplomacy and multilateralism to afterthoughts.

Some of the most intractable problems facing the international community in the year 2003 and beyond, are the divisions, uncertainties and doubts, which have emerged since the US-led invasion of Iraq. Our duty as members of this family of nations is to ensure that we remain committed to the UN, as the only organization that can move us past the current cycle of retribution to a path of sustainable peace. As we search for adequate collective responses to the non­traditional threats to human security, the task ahead will be to bring to bear a comprehensive, multidimensional approach to security, in all its aspects, and to reiterate the continued relevance of this concept to the global agenda.

Mr. President,

The challenges to small states in such an uncertain environment are numerous and at times; overwhelming. We lack the financial dexterity to respond to economic crises as swiftly and decisively as is necessary. We have no military might and so our only avenue for handling traditional threats to security rests squarely within a multilateral framework, which resorts to military action only when, despite our best efforts, peace cannot be achieved through diplomacy.

Our region, the Caribbean, has had, since the end of the conflicts of European empire building, a history of peace and stability, which is sustained through a simple but sure formula - celebration of our commonalities, tolerance of our differences, mutual respect for each other's sovereignty, and adherence to principles of democracy, good governance and the rule of law. We would wish to commend this formula to those who find the key to peaceful co-existence elusive.

Barbados remains unwavering in its commitment to the precepts of multilateralism, and to the belief that no other international institution is better suited or equipped to meet the diverse demands for global peace, security and development as is the United Nations. As members of this Organisation, we are assured that our voice will be heard regardless of our size or economic power. Therefore, while we may not have the capacity to influence situations by way of exerting military, economic or even political power, we do cherish our right to express our opinions about any issue of concern to us, without let or hindrance.

The United Nations is not a third party separate from the member governments but is rather the sum of its members, belonging to them - with all the benefits, problems and collective responsibilities of ownership. Barbados shares the view so eloquently expressed by the Secretary-General that: "the UN exists not as a static memorial to the aspirations of an earlier age, but as a work in progress, imperfect as all human endeavours must be, but capable of adaptation and improvement." We are all accountable for its shortcomings and must all strive to ensure its improvement.

To the extent that the UN represents our collective effort at a mechanism for global governance, it is amenable to the benefits of good governance practices. For we believe that good governance is as important at the international level as it is at the national level. It is perhaps the single most important factor in promoting development, reducing inequalities and advancing the cause of peace.

We should therefore seize this moment in time to recommit ourselves to making the United Nations more effective and efficient. Bold and serious reorganization initiatives, including the revitalization of the General Assembly, and the reform of the Security Council are urgently needed. We must also find effective coordination modalities to give new impetus to the follow-up to the major Conferences and Summits of the last decade, which, in most instances, have simply been reduced to standing items on the annual agenda of this body and rhetoric-filled resolutions reaffirming the status quo.

We must resolve during this session and beyond to take concrete actions toward making the Security Council more representative and transparent, and ensuring that the General Assembly moves beyond the symbolic politics of passing resolutions, to the hard work of negotiating change.

For it is a source of the greatest continuing concern to us, Mr President, that too many of the premier multilateral institutions which are charged with the fundamental responsibility of shaping the rules by which the global society is governed, whether in the area of peace and security, or trade, or finance and development, are constrained by structure and tradition to carry out their mandate in a manner that is patently devoid of democracy or transparency. Reform must therefore extend beyond the confines of New York to reach deep into the operations of the International Financial Institutions, the World Trade Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Financial Action Task Force, and all other bodies that seek to prescribe the norms of behaviour for the international community without the full participation of that community in the decision-making process.

If the International Conference on Financing for Development had one failing, it was its inability to conceive a new system for financial governance to redress the deficiencies and imbalances of the past, - yet durable enough to serve for generations to come. In this regard Mr. President, I wish to reiterate the call made at Monterrey by the Prime Minister of Barbados, The Right Honourable Owen Arthur for the creation of a rules based World Financial Authority to better supervise today's complex global financial and capital markets than the Bretton Woods Institutions can, and for an International Tax Organization to oversee global cooperation in cross border tax matters.

Despite a commitment made by all states at Monterrey toward the development of a universal framework to facilitate all-inclusive dialogue on matters pertaining to international tax cooperation, sufficient progress has not been forthcoming. While we are encouraged by, and supportive of recent proposals to strengthen the UN Ad Hoc Group of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, these efforts are insufficient to provide for a truly universal, transparent and legitimate intergovernmental framework to promote cooperation among all states on tax matters.

Equally, Barbados believes that the all important fight against money laundering must now be waged by the international community as a whole, led by a genuinely representative international body, drawing its membership from all the countries of the world, within the family of the United Nations. For while we are most appreciative of the vital work that has been done in this regard by the Financial Action Task Force, that body remains what it has always been, a task force with a limited role, and an even more limited membership of only 31 countries.

An important step would be the adoption of an International Convention against Money Laundering under the auspices of the United Nations. Such a Convention would establish a genuine international consensus on the issue of money laundering within the universal ambit of the United Nations, where the interests and concerns of all member states would be fairly and equally served in a common endeavour against international crime. The proposed Convention would complement the work of the United Nations under the 1988 Vienna Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, as well as the more recent Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.

In this connection, we believe that the greatest lesson to emerge from the experience of Cancun is the clear understanding that strategies and solutions that ignore the concerns and needs of the developing world, or that fail to analyse the implications of those solutions on the most fragile and vulnerable, are doomed to failure. The special needs of small states that have no capacity whatsoever to distort world trade, must be taken fully into account in fashioning the new rules of trade liberalisation. To do otherwise would be to condemn the most vulnerable groups of our global family to the real threat of marginalisation by a multilateral system that is supposed to provide benefits for all. It is vital that focus be restored to the Doha Development Agenda, and the Work Programme for Small Economies.

Mr. President,

Next year marks the tenth anniversary of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. Out of that conference emerged the Barbados Programme of Action which still today remains the essential blueprint for the sustainable development aspirations of all Small Island Developing States. As de facto custodians of the name attached to the SIDS process, Barbados accords great importance to the convening of an international meeting next year in Mauritius to review the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action.

We are convinced that the vulnerability and sustainable development challenges of SIDS as expressed in the Barbados Programme of Action, Agenda 21, the Millennium Declaration and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation are now better understood by the international community. According to estimates, since 1994, SIDS themselves have carried out approximately 70% of the required actions and measures contained in the BPOA. The Mauritius review will present an important opportunity for us to take stock of new and emerging challenges as well as identify additional resources to advance implementation.

Mr. President,

The World Summit on the Information Society is conceived as a high-level dialogue leading to achieving a new kind of society, characterized by universal access to and use of information for the creation, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge. It implies the use of traditional and new technologies, especially information and communication technologies as an essential tool for the enhancement of services, and the promotion of dialogue among diverse cultures toward the attainment of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. We support the principle that the new information society must serve the best interests of all nations and peoples. It must seek through the available technology to empower the most vulnerable sectors of society and eradicate existing disparities within and among states.

Mr. President,

The issue relating to the passage through the Caribbean Sea of ships bearing nuclear material is still unresolved. We are, from time to time, presented With studies and analyses that seek to assure us of the safety of the ships and their cargo. Despite these assurances we all know that there is no guarantee that international terrorism will continue to ignore such a significant target or that that unthinkable accident would not occur. A major explosion on board one of these ships traversing our region would threaten the survival of surrounding States. The most acceptable solution to the problem is cessation of the transhipment of nuclear material through the Caribbean Sea since, on this issue, any risk is too high.

Mr. President,

In your address upon opening of the General Assembly you called for action over inaction. This moment in global affairs will require courage and determination as we face the enormous challenges awaiting us. We may not expect to complete the task but neither are we at liberty to abstain from it.