The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities of the Republic of Cape Verde
H.E. Mrs. Maria de Fatima Veiga

at the

Fifty-Eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

New York, 29th September 2003


Mr. President
Mr. Secretary General,

Ladies and gentlemen

Let me at the very outset, offer my warm congratulations to Your Excellency, on your election to preside over this 58th session of the General Assembly. Coming from an island state, it gives me great satisfaction to see Your Excellency, a distinguished son of the island of Saint Lucia, leading us in searching ways and promoting actions to face the new and complex challenges ahead of us.

With your our proven skills in the field of international affairs and your wide-ranging experience we are confident, Mr. President, that we will deal effectively with the many crucial tasks facing this Assembly.

Let me assure you of the full support and best wishes of my delegation, as you carry out the task of your high office.

Let me also extend our appreciation to outgoing President, H.E. Ian Kavan, whose committed efforts have guided the 57th session of this Assembly to a successful conclusion and led important deliberations aiming at revitalizing its work.

I wish to express my delegation's appreciation for the indefatigable efforts undertaken by the Secretary General to preserve and enhance the role of our organisation during the preceding year that proved to be one of the most difficult in its existence.

A sad sign of this was the bombing against the United Nations headquarters in Bagdad last month that took the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello as well as 21 other persons of different nationalities. It was a monstrous act that deserved strong and universal condemnation. Nothing could justify such a senseless attack against the civil personnel of an Mission whose aims were no other than helping the Iraqi people face the dramatic situation in which they are living. We thus pay our respectful homage to the memory of those dedicated persons that lost their lives in the tragedy.

Mr. President,

Difficult challenges are ahead of us and our organization needs to adapt so that it keeps the purpose for which it was created and, most of all, lives up to the expectations "we the peoples of the united nations" place on it.

Concerns about security have taken center stage in the world of today. We share these concerns, as being a small island nation makes us extremely vulnerable. Small and poor nations are often victims of criminal acts by terrorist organizations. My country fully cooperates with the United Nations bodies in the combat against terrorism and organized crime.

However the fight against terror should not lead the international community to downplay the importance of promoting development and fighting poverty and everything associated to it: hunger, illness, illiteracy, environmental degradation. Nor should the international community forget the need to guarantee the respect of the rights of the peoples and individuals, combat discrimination and all aspects that deprive human beings of their dignity.

Successful policies aimed at development and empowerment of the peoples deprive terror from breeding grounds and contribute to a more stable and just world.

This Assembly heard very interesting proposals made by the Secretary General, concerning the future of our organization. He stressed the need to act urgently in the way of reforming the UN, adapting it to the realities of the world in which we live, namely the addressing the question of enlargement of the Security Council and increasing the number of its Permanent Members, the strengthening of the General Assembly and the reinvigorating role of the ECOSOC, as well as of the UN as a whole, including its relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions.

By their size, economic power, regional and international influence, there are obvious candidates to be permanent members of the Security Council. Their weight in international affairs can no longer be overlooked in the face of today's realities. And their contribution to peace, security and development can bring more legitimacy to the organ. The time is ripe to welcome those countries in an enlarged and more representative Security Council, in which our continent should have at least two permanent seats. Being a member of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, Cape Verde is also of the view that Brazil should take a permanent seat in the Council.

The issues relating to the reform of the United Nations have been subject of a longstanding debate that points to an overwhelming consensus among the States that comprise the United Nations. Now it is time to act and take concrete steps towards the reforms that the world is calling for. My delegation supports the proposals made by the Secretary General and hopes that the momentum provided by acknowledgement of the challenges threats and dangers faced by the world will be seized by this Assembly and instill its members with the sense of urgency to come with appropriate, binding and pragmatic decisions relating to these issues.

Mr. President,

As you rightly pointed out at your inaugural speech as President of this General Assembly "many developing countries do not have a wide range of development choices available to them, and in fact face serious challenges due to their special circumstances."

Among these developing countries the international community recognized SIDS as a special case of development and environment. It will be during your mandate as President of the General Assembly that, by happy coincidence, an international meeting will be held in Mauritius to assess the state of implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action.

Earlier this month, Cape Verde hosted the second regional preparatory meeting in anticipation of the Mauritius event. In this context, I would like to underline the meaning of my country's commitment to the process of global support to the sustainable development of SIDS, a process to which my Government is fully dedicated.

The SIDS denomination has now been in existence for nearly a decade. The work accomplished by the United Nations toward a greater international awareness of the problems of SIDS has been generally successful. I take this opportunity to express my Government's gratitude to the entire United Nations system for the central role it has played in cultivating and maintaining the high degree of international awareness that is essential to our countries.

However, the recognition of a special category of countries cannot be justified only for the sake of awareness. One should expect that the special denomination leads to a minimum amount of special treatment concerning the relevant countries, commensurate with their specific disadvantages and handicaps. Regrettably that is not the case with the SIDS: in fact, island specific special treatment is almost non-existent even though many SIDS are in dire need of greater differentiation in the current pattern of international cooperation.

Already in 1999, at its 22°d special session, this Assembly heard the plea for a special treatment of SIDS on grounds of economic vulnerability, a case your own country, Mr. President, advocated with particular strength.

I therefore wish to convey my Government's hope that the Barbados + 10 process, culminating into the Mauritius international meeting, will constitute a landmark in the history of the differentiated treatment of developing countries, particularly of SIDS.

To appreciate the importance of granting SIDS a special treatment that is commensurate with their intrinsic problems, one must remember the situation of economic vulnerability to natural disasters and adverse economic shocks most SIDS suffer from, in addition to the context of their environmental fragility.

The need for special consideration that is most commonly shared by SIDS is the need to see market access preferences preserved, not eroded. Such need is no luxury, but a prerequisite, in many SIDS, for maintaining competitiveness and economic viability in response to the structural disadvantages resulting from remoteness and smallness.

In short, Mr. President, we believe that permanent handicaps such as those faced by SIDS ought to justify permanent responses. While several SIDS do enjoy a fair amount of special treatment, such as the treatment derived from Least Developed Country status or the ACP and AGOA statuses, there are still areas of international cooperation in which the absence of reference to islandness is difficult to understand. One of these areas, of direct relevance to the question of trade preferences, is the ongoing debate under the Work Programme on Small Economies in the World Trade Organization, a debate in which SIDS, regrettably, have not been able to advocate their case under the SIDS denomination.

While I do not intend to discuss a situation affecting SIDS outside the United Nations system, I would like to illustrate the need for island-specific treatment by pointing to a peculiar issue within the competence of the U.N., and of utmost importance to my country, that is, whether or not Cape Verde should be "graduated" from Least Developed Country status.

As you know, Mr. President, for the second time Cape Verde is deemed to qualify for graduation in the light of the criteria and graduation rules used by the Committee for Development Policy and the Economic and Social Council. As stressed by my delegation in the substantive session of ECOSOC in July, we anticipate that a decision to graduate Cape Verde from LDC status at this juncture would give the international community a gravely erroneous signal of structural progress and prosperity, whereas Cape Verde still is one of the most economically vulnerable and aiddependent countries in the world.

In fact, in the light of the Economic Vulnerability Index used by the Committee and ECOSOC our country is recognized to be one of the most disadvantaged economies in the world. Therefore, it is difficult to understand that a country regarded as highly vulnerable can simultaneously be seen eligible to lose a status that provides it with the means to help it fight its vulnerability.

We are here faced with a peculiar paradox: in the context of its support to SIDS the United Nations system recognizes the permanent handicaps of a country, but, at the same time, it envisages to withdraw the special treatment this country has been eligible for, without leaving any alternative treatment available.

This, in the particular case of Cape Verde, could lead our economy to regress and fall back into the poverty trap.

In this context, Mr. President, and in the light of the international recognition of the special handicaps of SIDS my Government urges the General Assembly to request the relevant bodies of the U.N. system to re-examine with care the rule whereby a Least Developed Country will be seen as qualifying for graduation. We believe that such re-examination ought to result into a methodological reform that will do justice to the least developed SIDS.

Mr. President,

Africa has made a remarkable effort to respond positively to the call of the international community and its own peoples to foster development, promote democracy, transparency, good governance, the rule of law and accountability.

In the wake of this call the African leaders agreed to establish the New Partnership for African Development - NEPAD, in whose success we are all engaged in order to lead our continent out of poverty and conflicts, ushering in a new era of prosperity and peace.

NEPAD is the great hope for the peoples of Africa. Its adoption not only by the African governments and civil societies but also by the international community, particularly the G-8 and other world economic powers as a framework for African development will help establish common goals and clear commitments that will lead our continent in a promising new journey.

We believe that the NEPAD project should pay special attention to the situation of the island states.

Mr. President,

Noticeable progress has been achieved, both on the way of installing democratic governments throughout the continent and to put an end to conflicts.

In this particular we are heartened by the recent accord between the Sudanese government and the SPLA. This constitutes a very significant step toward putting an end to the suffering of the Sudanese people. If as we all anxiously hope, this agreement brings peace to this great African nation it will add to the successes already registered in Mozambique, Angola, and Sierra Leone along with the ongoing processes in the DRC, Great Lakes and Liberia.

We must be prudent, though. Conflicts result from unsettled social and political issues. If these are not adequately tackled, the risk of new conflicts will persist.

It is important to remind that democracy and the rule of law can only develop unhindered when and if the minimum survival conditions are assured for the populations, there is respect of the rights of individuals and groups, including minorities.

Mr. President,

The events in Guinea Bissau two weeks ago illustrate the fragility of the institutions in a country that cannot address the basic problems of the populations. If it is true that political leaders must be held accountable for not assuring good governance, in an environment of poverty, lack of resources and indebtedness, good governance is easily put aside.

These events point to the need of a stronger commitment of the international community to help countries in distress face the tasks of fighting poverty, consolidating democratic institutions and promoting economic and social development - not only with promises and advices but also with concrete means.

Mr. President,

Notwithstanding the serious menaces that hover over mankind, a safer, more just and more peaceful world is at the reach of our living generations.

Never before had mankind such an array of means to face the great challenges that continue to defy the human kind as hunger, poverty, illiteracy and curable diseases.

Hunger is a case in point. Several experiences in different regions of the world prove that hunger can be eliminated if there is determination and resources are made available. It is therefore unacceptable that, in a world awash of food, one in three sub-Saharan Africans continues to suffer from chronic hunger.

Last July, at the Second Session of the General Assembly of the African Union, held in Maputo, Mozambique, Heads of States and Governments of the African Union adopted a Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.

In this Declaration African leaders, once again, showed their firm commitment to combat hunger on the African continent.

Our country keeps painful memories of the devastation that hunger brought to a large percentage of Cape Verdeans until a few decades ago. That is why fighting hunger, which was set as one of the main priorities by the first government of Cape Verde immediately after the independence, continues to have a prominent place in government policies in the framework of the poverty reduction strategies.

That's why we support the plea made by H. E. the President of Brazil to set up a World Committee to Fight Hunger.

Mr. President,

Three years ago world leaders made available to themselves the important political tool that is the Millennium Declaration.

There is no excuse that the promised resources and the proclaimed will are not put to work to achieve - and even surpass - the arduously negotiated but unanimously agreed goals adopted in this very Hall.

Despite the difficulties and uncertainties lingering over the organisation, the eyes of the world are set on the United Nations because all believe that our organization can and should be the carrier to achieve those goals.

Let's work together to make it happen!

Thank you Mr. President.