His Excellency Mr. Enele S Sopoaga

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Tuvalu to the United Nations Chair of the Tuvalu Delegation

at the General Debate of the Fifty-Sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Friday 16th November 2001

(Check Against Delivery)

Mr. President

I thank you for the honor of addressing the General Assembly.

Speaking on behalf of the people and government of Tuvalu, I extend Tuvalu's greetings to the Fifty-Sixth Session, and our congratulations to you and Co-Chairs of the General Assembly, on your election. I also pledge Tuvalu's full support and cooperation during your term of office.

As we come to the end of this General Debate, we are still overshadowed by the loss of many innocent lives and property from the barbarous terrorist attack on America. Since early this week, we are further saddened yet again by the losses from the plane mishap in our host state, NY and our host country, America. Tuvalu therefore joins others to renew to the people and Government of America our own strong condemnation of the terrorist attack, and to pledge our strongest solidarity behind the USA.

Let me also convey Tuvalu's deepest sorrow and sympathy to the families of the victims of the plane crash, and offer our prayers to the people and government of America, and equally to the people and government of the Dominican Republic. We wholly share their bereavement and grief.

Mr. President

Being the newest Member of the United Nations, having joined on the eve of the historic Millennium Summit last year, Tuvalu is more than ever aware of its responsibilities to the UN, and what the UN stands for.

In June this year Tuvalu established its Permanent UN Mission here in New York. Although this has been costly, Tuvalu believes the cost is offset by what the UN stands for. Our presence here in the General Assembly reflects a basic belief we hold true: that the UN, through all its franchising operations, can help Tuvalu and other countries like us by being an advocate to decide on issues that concern us most.

Tuvalu is proud that the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to our Secretary General and the United Nations itself. This award is a telling recognition of the vast contribution the UN has made in so many fronts: to peace around the world; to the protection of the individual no matter their origin or circumstances, and to the upholding of the basic UN principle that every human being should have every opportunity to lead a better and fulfilling life. We congratulate the Secretary General and our Organization for this recognition.

Mr. President

There is no doubt in Tuvalu that peace and stability are indispensable to the well being of freedom-loving people everywhere. The world cannot ignore threats to peace and stability, no matter their base, be they economic, social, or environmental.
The terror attacks in the USA and what has ensued around the world since September 11th has made those of us here in this great Hall today feel very anxious. But the very cause of this anxiety is proof enough of the role of the UN. The General Assembly must be a strong advocate of what the Secretary General is calling in his new road map a "new culture of conflict prevention".

In our view, the pursuance of this new "culture" is worthy, and must take advantage of the new spirit of cooperation that is now emerging to facilitate the removing of causes of terrorism and threats to peace and stability. Imperative in this regard is the addressing of problems in an open and representational dialogue fashion based on consensus and mutual respect and understanding.

The consensus-building approach we in the Pacific often term as the "Pacific Way", may well prove useful in our collective venture for universal cooperation.

Tuvalu is committed to its UN obligations to adhere to the UN resolutions to eliminate terrorism, and as such is taking steps to accede to the 12 UN and international conventions on terrorism. But to honor such obligations in practice it is easier said than done. We need technical and financial support from the international community to build up our legislative, surveillance, and enforcement tools if we are to have any hope of meeting these obligations beyond our present capabilities.

Also, we must not loose sight of the necessity of strong coalitions against other pressing global issues: including against conflicts and wars, against the challenges of globalization, against poverty and under-development, and against the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.

Mr. President

Universal cooperation against threats to peace and stability, however, cannot be fully achieved as long as the UN lacks the will to recognize fair and just representation in it of a democratic and economically developed state, with a population of 23 million people. The Republic of China on Taiwan, too, is suffering in the aftermath of the September 11th terror attacks, having lost innocent lives and property. Just like us here they also suffer from the onslaught of natural disasters, epidemics and diseases, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and other threats of instability.

Yet in all these crises, and despite their enormous contribution to the world economy and international' development including technological advancement, and despite their consistent demonstration of international responsibility, the people of the ROC on Taiwan have been left to fend for themselves, denied of the right for proper representation and collaborations not only in the UN and its specialized agencies such as the WHO, but in just about every other inter-governmental bodies. Their voice to share their plight and to benefit from world cooperation is silenced.

The irony though is that for more than 50 years, no authority other than the ROC themselves have had full sovereign control over Taiwan and its population, and over the running of their affairs. To visit the country for example it is impossible to enter with a passport or visa other than the ROC own immigration papers issued by their own authorities.

Whilst we welcome the wise decision of the WTO last week to admit the ROC on Taiwan, it is Tuvalu's strong view that the UN must take the lead from the WTO and seriously reconsider the ROC's UN membership beyond the politics of exclusion, but on the basis of the reality of things.

Mr. President

In Tuvalu and many in the Pacific, we know our economic vulnerability is also fertile ground to forces of terror that can threaten the security and survival not only of the islands, but also of the region and the world. We are worried about a growing global interdependence, and what that may bring to our shores.

We need to improve our ability to share and disseminate information on transnational crimes, particularly those involving drug trafficking, money laundering, bogus investments, and other dangerous and dubious schemes that often land in the Pacific islands under the pretext of being legitimate.

Left on our own, we believe these threats will continue to expose Tuvalu and other Pacific Island countries to forces outside our control. It is vital, therefore, those individual Pacific Island governments are given the backup that is needed to boost their ability to tackle security threats and fight crime.

The existing regional security arrangements under the Pacific Islands Forum and its sister regional agencies in the Pacific can indeed play a vital role. However, they need to be further strengthened to enable them compliment national efforts on security more effectively.

Further solidifying of cooperations between our regional organizations and the UN, moreover, is fundamental to the success of national and regional efforts vital for regional and global security.

Mr. President,

Tuvalu is not in a good position to take advantage of the opportunities offered by trade liberalization. Like many island countries Tuvalu presently lacks the know-how, trained people and adequate infrastructures, to reap the benefits we might enjoy that are out here. If there is benefit for Tuvalu in a free-trade world, and we believe there is, then surely Tuvalu must have in place the means that would allow us reap that benefit.

In more ways than one, small islands developing States like Tuvalu are at the sharp end, the cutting edge, of development. For Tuvalu, overseas development aid is indispensable to the development and sustenance of basic services necessary for our security and survival. Our priorities remain to be education, health services and fresh water.

Whilst we commend with great appreciation the generosity of our development partners, particularly our traditional partners, it has to be noted that Tuvalu and small island developing states, like the land-locked and least developed countries, will for sometime continue to rely on external financing through ODA to address their unique development needs.

In our view the upcoming conferences on Financing for Development and the World Summit for Sustainable Development next year, must also capitalize on the premises laid out under the reviewed Barbados POA on Small Island Developing States, the Conference on LDC's and the Secretary General's `Road Map' to implement the Millennium Declaration as the key tools to address the unique circumstances and vulnerabilities facing the SIDS. Ultimately, they must lead to more effective delivery of assistance, flexible and more responsive to the sustainable developmental needs of the small island states and the developing countries.

With limited exploitable resources, Tuvalu like many small islands developing states also relies heavily on the surrounding seas for its food security and economic development. The proper protection of the oceans from hazardous pollution therefore is vital, and the sustainable management and exploitation of fisheries and other marine resources is extremely important to our sustainable development and survival. Building local capacity to conserve, manage and harvest marine resources in a sustainable manner is crucial, and therefore should be supported.

Mr. President

As has already been said in this debate, the biggest, long-term threat to the people of Tuvalu is the effects of climate change, in particular the rising sea levels. Recent reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have confirmed beyond doubt the correlation between accelerated atmospheric warming and sea level rise. In Tuvalu also, it is our strong belief that the weather is growing more severe, hotter, drier, and there is unusually high seas eroding foreshores and intruding into fresh water lenses. We believe the cumulative effect of C02 emissions in industrial and other countries into the atmosphere have in sum created a future that is very uncertain in Tuvalu.

It may not be known in this Hall but unique within the UN membership are the Maldives, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Tuvalu: the four countries are the only Member States that consist entirely of low-lying coral atolls and reef islands. In the event of further rising sea levels, where are we to hide.

Asking countries to take us in, eventually, as environmental refugees, is not what Tuvalu is after in the long run. What we prefer is that our great grandchildren grow up the way I did, and the way my wife and our brothers and sisters did, in our island communities, learning the traditions, customs, and culture of Tuvalu, and living out our way of life.

Tuvalu is not alone in sharing this view. Tens of millions of people who live on islands or in coastal communities face the gloomy onslaught of rising sea levels. The vulnerable geography is everywhere. How ironic it would be if decades from now the last Member to enter the L IN, Tuvalu, was the first Member State to withdraw because it has disappeared without a trace.

In a shrinking world we live in, environmental pollution has never known artificial boundaries. The presence of higher-than-normal greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a legacy of development in industrial countries spanning the last two hundred years. I hope industrial countries realize that nature is now imposing a penalty on that development - unfortunately it is Tuvalu and others having little or nothing to do with the causes who are now forced to pay.

Whilst we are heartened by the positive outcome of COP7 in Marrakesh and looking forward to the full implementation of the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol commitments, we would also hope that goodwill would prevail beyond the instruments of the conventions to assist those affected most adapt to the immediate and long-term effects of climate change.

This is not the time to shrink from environmental and survival responsibility. Like the international war being waged against terrorism, global solution to the threat posed by climate change and sea level rise will save Tuvalu and many small island States from disappearing. Our collective resolute to remove causes of terrorism, and threats to peace and security including poverty and underdevelopment, HIVIAIDS and environmental degradation, will ensure a truly peaceful and secured "village" for all of humanity.

May God bless the UN and its peoples.

Thank you, Mr. President.