Statement by The Honourable Natan Teewe
Minister of Communication, Transport & Tourism Development of the Republic of Kiribati
at the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Wednesday 1 October 2003
(Check Against Delivery)

Mr. President,

Allow me at the outset to offer you my warm congratulations on your election. We are confident that you will guide deliberations during this fifty-eighth session to a productive conclusion. Let me also express my deep appreciation to your predecessor, H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan, for his effective guidance over the fifty-seventh session.

Four years ago Kiribati joined the United Nations as one of its youngest member states. Our membership of the United Nations was an affirmation of our faith in, and support for the noble principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

Since then events have occurred to test the resolve of this Organization. Indeed, the challenges facing the United Nations have been many and trying. More recently, the brutal and calculated attacks on UN personnel in Baghdad resulting in injuries and the tragic loss of lives are to be condemned. We mourn the loss of the Secretary-General's senior representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello and those who perished in the attacks.

Kiribati commends the Secretary-General in his unwavering resolve and determination to ensure that the United Nations continues to perform the role we expect it to play in the international arena.

Security Challenges

Mr. President, we have followed with increasing alarm the "global isation" of terror. No longer can we in the Pacific claim immunity from terrorism. The consequences of terrorist acts are abhorrent. Kiribati condemns terrorism and all acts of terror against innocent people. We do not and cannot condone acts of terror regardless of the purported objective.

Even though we have not and may never be directly subjected to horrors such as September 11, and the terrorist acts in Riyadh, Jakarta and Baghdad we realise that terrorism knows no boundaries and limitations. It is a crime against humanity and the international community as a whole and we must therefore collectively work to defeat it. To do so requires an international response backed by concerted international, regional and national efforts.

At the international level Kiribati fully supports the relevant resolutions taken by Security Council against terrorism.

The Pacific Islands Forum is actively addressing security issues at the regional level. Despite financial restraints, Kiribati is pleased to have contributed, within the framework of the 2000 Biketawa Declaration, Police personnel to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). My Government decided to contribute towards this initiative because of our firm belief in the strengths of regional cooperation. RAMSI is a clear demonstration of the ability of Pacific Island Forum member countries to respond swiftly and cooperatively to requests from fellow member countries for support in restoring law and order.

While Kiribati, like other member countries of the Pacific region, appreciates the recognition of this regional initiative by the UN, we would hope and urge that further assistance would be forthcoming to strengthen and ensure the success of this undertaking.

At the national level Kiribati has introduced new legislation and taken other measures as part of its effort to address the security challenges posed. This is an on-going process that will progress at a pace dictated by our financial, personnel and other constraints. We are confident that with this commitment and appropriate assistance from the international community, in time we will be able to achieve our goals.

While we support the notion that terrorism must be eliminated and that we must fight against those who reject dialogue as a means of securing their objectives and instead resort to terror as their means, we would like to join the many speakers who advocate that we must exercise restraint. We must ensure that in our fight against terrorism we continue to uphold the principles that are the cornerstones of this esteemed body, and which we cherish and so firmly believe in.

Mr. President, while Kiribati fully supports efforts to address the security challenges facing the world today, we are mindful that the ranking of security challenges facing member states differ.

Small Island Developing State

In the case of my country there are many challenges and problems that threaten my people and country. Kiribati is one of the least developed countries and is also a small island developing state located in the Pacific. Our remoteness and insularity, narrow economic base, small population size and high population growth rate are factors that we must contend with.

Like other similar states our characteristics as a small island developing state pose many challenges to national efforts not only in terms of sustainable development but also in terms of beneficial integration into the world economy. These unique characteristics warrant special consideration for sustained and enhanced cooperation from development partners.

Kiribati has benefited and continues to benefit from the various programmes offered through the many UN agencies. In acknowledging with gratitude the support extended by the UN in this regard, I would also like to record our appreciation to our development partners for their continuing support to our efforts at increasing and enhancing the equitable distribution of development benefits to our peoples.

We realise that more needs to be done and more can be done. Kiribati has a vast exclusive economic zone rich in fisheries and marine resources. We are actively promoting the sustainable exploitation of these resources and consider the establishment of an on-shore fish processing facility as an appropriate development.

Climate Change

Mr. President, Kiribati is comprised of low-lying coral atolls and is therefore most vulnerable to climate change, climate variability and sea-level rise. Like other low-lying countries this is an issue of high priority to us. It is an issue that also requires an international response. Political commitment and a high level of cooperation by the international community are called for in addressing this challenge.

There is need for immediate reductions and limits to greenhouse gas emissions at levels that will prevent dangerous interference, consistent with the objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We call upon the major emitters of greenhouse gases to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in a timely manner.

We recognize the need to develop and implement appropriate adaptation response measures and call for support in this respect from international sources including the Global Environment Facility.

International support will similarly be required in the joint implementation of Vulnerability and Adaptation Pacific II Initiatives launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) last year.

Mr. President we look forward to the 2004 International Meeting to be held in Mauritius. This would provide a valuable opportunity to the international community to take stock of what has happened since Rio and in particular Barbados. We would certainly hope that Mauritius provides a roadmap of concrete and practical actions required to achieve the objectives of the Programme of Action. While we accept primary responsibility for our own development, we also realise that the achievement of such aspirations are beyond our reach alone. We require the assistance of our partners in development.

UN Reform

Mr. President, these have been turbulent times for the United Nations. Recent events have brought to the fore the need for the United Nations to adapt. The rapidly changing global environment in which the United Nations operates demands adaptations if the Organization is to continue to be of relevance to member states.

Kiribati joins previous speakers in welcoming the reform initiatives outlined by the Secretary General. We realise that member states must direct and actively support the adaptation process. The direction and support accorded to the UN will enable it to become more responsive to the aspirations of its member states, the communities and peoples they represent.

Kiribati fully supports the notion that the United Nations and its major organs should be more representational and more democratic to reflect the expanded membership of the Organisation. The rules so appropriate for the situations in the 1940s cannot be applied practically and effectively in the 215 Century.

In short, Mr. President, we are faced with new challenges. We must commit ourselves to tackling these emerging challenges meaningfully. We must therefore be ready to introduce and accept changes appropriate to our times.

Thank you.