STATEMENT by H.E. Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo
President of the Republic of Guyana to
the Fifty-Eighth Session
of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, September 25, 2003

Please check against delivery

Mr. President, distinguished Heads of State & Government Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure for me to address the General Assembly under the presidency of a fellow citizen of our Caribbean Community. Allow me to extend warmest congratulations and good wishes to you as you discharge the functions of your high office.

To our esteemed Secretary-General, I offer our appreciation for his astute and steadfast leadership in these times of great challenge to the Organisation. I would also like to pay tribute to his dedicated staff, many of whom have lost their lives in service to the United Nations.

Mr. President, in 1953 the people of Guyana for the first time, were allowed to exercise their democratic franchise under universal adult suffrage to elect the government of their choice.

Today, fifty years later, my country has learned, through the painful experience of misrule and mismanagement, the vital importance of democracy to our future as a nation. We recognize that to foster development, reduce poverty and safeguard human dignity, democracy must be allowed to grow and take root. Having laid the basic foundation for good governance through free and fair elections, we now face the task of building a more prosperous and just society.

To this end, my Government has embarked on a process of consultation and collaboration with all sectors of our population including political parties, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. Through the recent reform of the Constitution, provisions have been made to enhance financial transparency, provide greater inclusivity and guarantee the fundamental rights of our people. These include six independent commissions on Human Rights, Ethnic Relations, Women and Gender Equity, the Indigenous Peoples, the Rights of the Child and Procurement.

Moreover, in an effort to foster greater social cohesion in Guyana we recently invited the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism to visit and engage the various sectors of the Guyanese society so that the international community can be informed of the broad perspectives of our multicultural society and of the several measures which the Government has in place to promote inter-racial harmony.

In further consolidation of the democratic process, my Government has embarked upon a programme of reform of the justice and security systems in our society by building capacity for the prevention, investigation and resolution of crime and for the proper administration of justice. Much has been accomplished in this area, but much more remains to be done.

At the same time, we have taken several development initiatives that will lead ultimately to a better life for all our people. Amongst these are the National Development Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy. We have worked hard to provide better housing, health and education facilities for the entire population and have managed to make signal progress in reducing poverty. And by stimulating investment, we are creating new opportunities for development. We now look to the future with renewed hope that we will be able to overcome the many challenges to our political, economic and social progress.

However, in the face of a persistent debt burden, drastically reduced development assistance and ever present protectionist barriers and in the prevailing climate of international tension and uncertainty, many developing countries, Guyana included are made more vulnerable and the prospect for growth severely impaired. The failure of the recently concluded Cancun Conference does not make us sanguine about the future. The international community is now hardly likely to reach the Millennium Declaration targets which were set by this Assembly three years ago.

Mr. President, the fate of nations, especially those as small as ours, lies not in our hands alone. The process of globalization has made us acutely aware of the need for greater interdependence and international cooperation if we are to survive the many threats to our welfare. This interdependence is the basis for multilateralism, and for the United Nations. The Charter of this Organisation reflects our collective commitment to cooperate for the ;promotion of peace and development. We are yet, however, to fully honour this commitment.

Regrettably, the world in which we live now, while placing a high premium on democracy at the national level, fails to live up to this ideal in the international councils that shape our common destiny. We are concerned at this double standard since the aspirations of humanity for peace, security and development cannot be fulfilled without the effective participation of all states in global affairs.

Especially disconcerting is the practice by some countries and international financial institutions of relying on anecdotal or partial information - often from questionable sources - to assess the performance of a given country. Needless to say, this can be very damaging to the particular economy since it effectively deters further aid and investment.

Similarly, we are concerned by the inordinate delay in the release of development funds. The HIPC Initiative which was conceived as a means of assisting seriously indebted poor countries has been unconscionably delayed. Meanwhile, the poor of our countries must face continuing hardship and suffering. They cannot be held hostage for much longer.

Mr. President, the success of international cooperation and indeed of the United Nations system will be determined by how well they respond to the interests and concerns not only of the powerful, but of the powerless - not only of the rich, but, most urgently, of the poor. If truth be told, their record thus far leaves much to be desired. It is imperative therefore that a credible and effective system of global governance be established as quickly as possible. This will require a more fundamental reform of the United Nations and indeed of the entire multilateral system as a whole than we have seen so far.

After several crises in the decade of the nineties, there was a strong call for reform of the international financial architecture to provide greater macro­economic stability. The urgency of the campaign appears to have diminished, however, even though the threat of further calamities remains. Attempts to strengthen the role of the United Nations in the development process now lag behind, denying our countries a greater say in the decision­making on issues that affect our economic and social welfare. Nor have we been able to develop an effective security system to ;protect countries, particularly the small and the weak, from encroachments on their sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Our world continues to be subject to a wide array of threats to international peace and security. Recently, we have witnessed a series of terrible human tragedies. Many thousands have died as a result. If there is one lesson to be learnt, it is that violence accomplishes nothing. Only through dialogue and negotiation, bolstered by political, economic and social justice, can lasting solutions to these problems be found. It is therefore imperative that the United Nations, the multilateral organization to which we all belong, be strengthened to effectively promote peace and development.

It is time that the United Nations Security Council, which has primary responsibility under the Charter for international peace and security be made more representative of the wider international community. The Council must be expanded and the role of developing countries in this organ appropriately strengthened. To this end, Guyana is prepared to support the candidacies of Brazil, India and an African country for permanent seats on the Council and a suitable number of non-permanent seats for other developing countries. This expansion will no doubt enable it to better cope with the challenges which conflicts, both old and new, pose to global peace and development.

Mr. President, neither the many speeches which we make nor the several strategies which we occasionally devise in the hope of building global peace and development will ever accomplish much unless they are followed up by appropriate action. Sad to say, our frequent declarations of intent are not matched by deeds - a failure which can be explained only by the lack of serious purpose on the part of many member states. We are yet to transcend selfish national interests to reach a higher plane of interdependence and multilateralism. I urge the international community to rethink its policies and seriously consider the advantages of a more balanced and equitable system of relations.

The world in which we now live calls for greater international solidarity and cooperation - not less. We must therefore ensure, at this Assembly, that these ideals are at the forefront of our deliberations and that we take practical steps to strengthen our common home -'the United Nations.

I thank you.