ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Honourable Louis Straker
the Fifty-Eighth Session
of the United Nations General Assembly
1st October 2003
Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
This occasion of the 58th Session of the General Assembly affords me the special privilege, honour and pleasure of congratulating you, Mr. President, on your assumption of the office of President of the General Assembly. As a distinguished son of our neighbouring Island, Saint Lucia, you do honour to your Country and to the whole CARICOM family. As my colleague Foreign Minister and my dear friend, I take great pride in your accomplishment and trust that under your astute leadership this 58th Session will chart the right course which will enable this organisation to fulfil the expectations of mankind for a secure, peaceful and prosperous world. Who knoweth but that by some divine order you have come to the Presidency of this august body for such a time as this.
Let me first of all convey, on behalf of the Government and people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, our deepest sympathy to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the entire UN family on the loss of Sergio Vieira de Mello and other United Nations personnel in the terrorist attack in Baghdad. These dedicated UN workers strived for peace and justice for the people of the world. They lived for that cause and, tragically, they gave their lives for that cause. We share the pain and bewilderment of this loss and here pay tribute to all those United Nations Staff members who put duty before self in the service of mankind. My government would like to acknowledge with appreciation the sterling work being done in difficult conditions all over the developing world by UN agencies - from peace-keeping and the restoration of democracy, to development cooperation and humanitarian aid. I also wish to single out for particular mention the United Nations Development Fund for Women and the United Nations Population Fund. We urge member states to continue to give support and assistance to these organisations which make such a difference, particularly in the lives of women and children, in the poorest sectors of the world.
UNITED NATIONS REFORM
Mr. President, we have heard speaker after speaker, over the course of the past week, suggesting that the United Nations is in crisis. Many have proposed solutions for the rectification of this unhappy state of affairs. It is my Government's contention that the United Nations General Assembly needs to retake its place as the central platform of the organisation because it is the only truly democratic arm of the UN. In this regard, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines intends to participate fully in the ongoing debate on reform which will be led by you, Mr. President, and we are hopeful that, with your able guidance, some real progress can be made in this 58th Session. Of particular concern to small Missions like my own is the volume and variety of work between September and December every year. The way the work of the General Assembly is designed makes it difficult for us to make the kind of contribution we would wish for the efficient and effective operation of the organisation. The Secretary-General, in his report on the revitalisation of the General Assembly said, and I quote:
"The proliferation of meetings and official documents places excessive demands on both the Secretariat and Member States. Many smaller member states now find it practically impossible to play a meaningful role in even the most crucial activities of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council".
If, Mr. President, the work of the General Assembly could be redesigned so as to spread the work load more evenly throughout the calendar year, it would enable small Missions like that of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to participate fully in the work of the organisation.
The debate on the reform of the Security Council is fraught with many difficulties and challenges. It is my Government's view that the simple enlargement of the representation on the Security Council may not necessarily, and by itself, lead to greater democratisation of that body. No matter how many reform theorems are advanced, the will has to come from the Permanent Members of the Council who wield the veto. My Government has already urged an increase in the membership of the Council, both permanent and non-permanent, but it seems to us that, as long as the veto continues to exist, the Council will not be truly representative of the wishes of the member' states of this organisation and multinational diplomacy will be endangered. The government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines makes bold to say that the solution may also well lie in the removal of the power of veto, to allow for more democracy, greater participation, openness and transparency. Only then, perhaps, will this Organisation regain its integrity and respect.
Mr. President, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines cherishes the relationships it enjoys with all countries both large and small represented here at the UN. The United Nations Charter confers that freedom of representation on all peace loving and democratic states. Yet my country continues to be deeply troubled that Taiwan is still being excluded from this body.
While we seek to make the UN more efficient and effective through much needed reform, we can advance the cause and the call for reform by making the UN more inclusive through the admission to membership of Taiwan and its twenty-five million people who have no voice in the United Nations. Taiwan is an exemplary global citizen that maintains friendly relations with almost every country in the world. We would wish for this organisation to be the catalyst that promotes constructive dialogue and friendly engagement so that the Taiwan situation can be resolved in a peaceful, just and equitable way to the benefit of the entire global family.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
Mr. President, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is proud to be a State Party to the Rome Treaty of the International Criminal Court. We believe in the fundamental role the ICC has to play in our collective quest for peace and the promotion of the rule of law and justice. We, Mr. President, are determined to uphold its integrity.
POVERTY AND DISEASE - WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Mr. President, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is proud of our contribution to the emerging Caribbean civilisation. Let me quote from a recent speech by our Prime Minister, Hon. Ralph Gonsalves:
"The reassembling of the African, Asiatic and European
fragments forms the basis of our very Caribbean civilisation itself
which is at once shaped and yet evolving. Fundamentally, too, our Caribbean
Civilisation, like all civilisations, has been built on labour - the
producers - and the contours of the society fashioned by the social
organisation of labour".
Our banana industry, which is the engine that drives our economy, is shortly to succumb to the greed of certain multinational companies with the active assistance of the WTO. Without the banana industry, whose doomsday rapidly approaches, our hardworking peasant farmers will become just another casualty of globalisation. The European Union mandates that its sugar farmers get paid 50 euros per ton - or five times the world market price. Their farmers then dump their product on the market thus depressing prices for farmers elsewhere. So we may shortly have to bid farewell to the sugar industries of developing nations like Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Mozambique and Guatemala. The USA spends over $3 billion dollars of its taxpayer's money every year to subsidise its cotton growers. This, naturally, signals death to the cotton farmers of Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, Chad and other developing nations. How can the developed world that continues to subsidise its farmers, and touts globalisation as the cure for all economic ills, continue defending the indefensible?
Cancun, as we all now know, was an abysmal failure. We went there hoping to be led into the Promised Land - only to find ourselves lost and abandoned in the wilderness. Mr. President, we will continue our crusade for economic stability and democratic harmony in our Country but it is self-evident that we need the help of the developed part of the World in order for us be viable. It will benefit no one if small countries like Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are marginalised and left to flounder. We are a vulnerable country. The reasons why Small Island Developing States are especially vulnerable are too well known to be repeated here. Our requests for "Special and Differential Treatment" in the WTO are completely justified and, for the most part, largely ignored.
My government is cognisant of the fact that terrorism threatens us all. We are therefore fully engaged in the process of implementing Security Council Resolution 1373 - a process which has stretched our limited resources. The oft-repeated promises of help in this process are proving to be - like so many other promises made within these hallowed halls - just that - promises. Yet we read with grave concern in the New York Times just last week that between them, two of the giants of this organisation export arms worth nearly twenty billion dollars every year, the majority, of course, to developing nations. What do arms do in developing nations?' They are the fuel that fans the flames of conflict and terrorism.
Mr. President, unless we can collectively find the courage and vision to tackle the problems of poverty, disease and despair, all the weapons in the world will not prevent the spread of terrorism. We need to move beyond using the United Nations as a talk shop and come together as responsible nations to tackle the root causes of terrorism.
The security which the poorer nations of the world desire is not obtained through the force of arms but in relief from burdensome debt, employment opportunity, shelter, food, clean water, a healthy environment and access to medical care and life-giving drugs.
Mr. President, despite its imperfections, the United Nations is the forum that gives us hope. Let us work together so that we can bequeath to our children, and to our children's children, an organisation that can be used, in the words of the Secretary¬General "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, to establish the basic conditions for justice and the rule of law, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom".
I thank you, Mr. President.