Mr. President, Secretary-General, Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The past two years have been years of near apocalyptic ordeal for the world and this great Organization. In rapid succession, the world and this Organization have been caught in what can only be described as crossfires of terrorism, violence and wars. The uncertainties resulting from these situations are yet to be dispelled. Much of the world is still in the dark, groping for a glimpse of the vision of how the future direction of international relations and this Organisation will look like.

The recent unwarranted attacks against the United Nations Office and personnel in Baghdad, Iraq, should be roundly condemned. It should not break the will of this Organization to provide humanitarian assistance and relief to the people of Iraq.

We in Ghana still believe in the United Nations as the global repository of humankind's aspiration. We believe that the problems of the 21St century cannot be addressed without universal commitment to multilateralism spearheaded by the United Nations. We recommend, however, that fairness, humanity and a sense of balance must characterize United Nations' responses to all events of similar nature, irrespective of where such events occur, if this Organization is to enhance its credibility and ensure its relevance in a sustained manner.

Mr. President, living in the West African sub-region, which has experienced more than its fair share of conflicts, my countrymen are familiar with the negative effects of conflicts, and the pain of insecurity. They also know the importance of multilateral effort in conflict management. Hence, for over 40 yearp, Ghana has demonstrated commitment to international conflict prevention, 'resolution, and peacekeeping missions around the world, under the auspices of the United Nations, and now the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The latest is the country's participation in ECOFORCE, in Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia.

Africa accepts its responsibility for resolving the continent's internal conflicts. Today, there is no doubt that the nations of Africa are rising up to this challenge. But there is also no doubt that the continent suffers massive shortcomings of finance and technological resources. This is why the international community, especially the United Nations, under its charter obligations, must continue to support Africa in its efforts to maintain peace. It is, therefore, hoped that the Security Council's consideration of Africa's conflicts will yield adequate, practical and timely support for them.

Mr. President, in my current capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS, I wish to acknowledge the valuable support of the various Governments as well as international organisations, which have contributed to the efforts of the Community to achieve peace and stability in the sub-region. With this help, the Community is succeeding in resolving the conflicts which engulfed Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and other nations. All of them are now on the way to stability and normalcy. I am, therefore, seizing this opportunity to express appreciation of the Community and myself, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well as the European Union and the United Nations, under the leadership of the Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, to name just a few of these helpers, for the substantial assistance they have given.

Mr. President, while fully appreciating the support of our friends, ECOWAS must nevertheless appeal for some more resources from this Organization and the international community, to enable it to consolidate the peace and normalization process. It is necessary to stress that, in some instances within the sub-region, post-conflict peace building efforts have failed, because the many problems entailed were not addressed in a systematic, sustained and holistic manner. In the main, such problems include disarmament, demobilization and re­integration of combatants into regular society. ECOWAS, therefore, appeals for necessary assistance for effective management of them.

Yet another serious continuing menace is the prevalent illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in the sub-region. In this regard, we note the commendable progress made by the international community in addressing this menace through the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. The truth, however, is that more vigorous and resourceful effort is needed to succeed.

Mr. President, the Human Development Report for 2003 exposes the tragedy that besets sub-Saharan Africa; and this is the most suitable platform to highlight it. The report states that the rest of the world has left sub-Saharan Africa behind, and that it will take 150 years for that region to achieve the Millennium Development Goals which Member States of this Organization had hoped to achieve by 2015. The report indicates that "Unless things improve, it would take sub-Saharan Africa until 2129 to achieve universal primary education, until 2147 (more than a century later than hoped) to halve extreme poverty, and until 2165 to cut child mortality by two thirds. For hunger, no date can be set because the region's situation continues to worsen."

Mr. President, this is the century of the global village. How can sub­Saharan Africa with over 400 million people be condemned to such a fate? Clearly, this must not be acceptable for the globalization process. This is why the international community, particularly, the industrialized nations should appreciate the urgency of the situation, and offer commensurate partnership and assistance to the African Union and its initiative, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to re­launch the continent's development.

The current leadership of the continent has resolved to nurture Africa back to prosperity within the framework of the NEPAD. Good Governance, characterized by democratic constitutional rule, the rule of law, respect for human rights and property rights, accountable government and its recognition and intercourse with civil organizations, freedom of expression, private sector economic independence, religious tolerance, eradication of illiteracy and promotion of gender balance and children's rights, onslaught on highly infectious diseases, especially the HIV/AIDS pandemic, is fast becoming the order of the day throughout Africa. Indeed, Good Governance is an article of faith of the African Union.

Economically, the African Union is calling for partnerships, both within and outside the continent, to pool capital, technological and managerial ideas and also markets, to fast promote and fast track the development of Africa into the mainstream of the global market.

Mr. President, it must be recognized that even as globalization is engulfing all the corners of the globe, in such a manner that no part can opt out of it, free trade and competition, which are the hallmarks of the global market, can prove inimical and disastrous to most nations, particularly the developing and least developed countries. This will be so unless the process of globalization is properly and sensitively managed.

The reality of the situation is that most of the least developed countries are in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa. At the current stage of development, most of Africa is limited to exporting raw minerals and agricultural commodities. This means that unless the developed parts of the world remove subsidies on their agricultural and mineral sectors, Africa cannot be competitive. Indeed, its equivalent sectors may be destroyed with dumping from the advanced parts of the world. It is also being seriously suggested that, even as the World Trade Organization (WTO) recognizes that, Africa must be accorded a status of transition, or a special status for a carefully calculated period, it does not seem to be propagating this necessity enough to give practical effect to it. The failure of Cancun evidences this. The WTO must, therefore, do its homework well to carry the poor nations with it. A combination of trade and aid must be used to assist the African Union and the component nations, to nurture their economies into competitive resourcefulness. This is the way to empower Africa into the mainstream of the world market, without adding to the hardships of the already marginalized people of the continent.

Mr. President, this being a session devoted to the consideration of the biennial budget for 2004-2005, we hope that all Member States would work together positively, to ensure that adequate funding is provided for all prioritised mandates, for implementation, including those for the development and stability of Africa. In this regard, we note the recent establishment of the Office of Special Adviser on Africa to the Secretary­General, and look forward to the positive contribution which this office would make to meet the numerous challenges on the continent.

Mr. President, my delegation is happy with the Secretary-General's renewed efforts to reform aspects of this Organization's operations and welcome his challenge to Member States for a bold effort to restructure this Organization. In this regard, we assure him of our full support during this session for the adoption and implementation of his renewed vision as well as of his Report entitled, "Strengthening the United Nations: an agenda for further change".

We also wish to reiterate the imperative need for the Security Council to be reformed, to ensure that it carries its charter obligations more effectively in the full confidence of Member States. In this regard, we subscribe wholly to the Non-Aligned Movement's position on the question of increase in the membership of the Security Council. We also endorse Africa's claim to at least two permanent seats.

We sincerely hope that the Organization will be empowered to assume a central role in the efforts currently being made to normalize the situation in the Middle East, especially, Iraq and Palestine. The strengthening of the Organization to provide this leadership will re-invigorate it to survive this new century, to promote the cause of peace and security in the world.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, by thanking your predecessor, for having ably guided the deliberations of the General Assembly through what was by all accounts a particularly difficult year. We are also happy to see in the Presidency our brother from the Caribbean, with whom we share profound historical and cultural ties. We are confident that the General Assembly could not be in more competent hands and we wish him well.

I thank you and may God bless us all.