Statement by
H.E. Mr. Alfred Capelle
Head of Delegation
Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Marshall Islands
to the United Nations


New York, 30 September 2003

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Delegates,

I am honored to address the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly on behalf of His Excellency President Kessai H. Note and the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Mr. President,

Allow me to extend my sincere congratulations to you on your election to this high office.

At the outset, I wish to take this opportunity to express our deepest condolences to the bereaved families that lost loved ones in the recent bombing attack on the UN Headquarters in Baghdad. This tragic event was also a great loss to the international community. Such horrific acts of terrorism are utterly condemnable, and those responsible should be swiftly brought to justice.

Mr. President,

My delegation is especially pleased that this session of the General Assembly will be presided over by a fellow member of the Alliance of Small Island States, and we wish you well in your endeavors throughout the session. We are hopeful that your Presidency will assist in highlighting the special needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It has long been recognized that SIDS suffer particular disadvantages in terms of both environment and development. This was recently reaffirmed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which called for a full and comprehensive review of the Barbados Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS.

The coming year will be a particularly important one for the Marshall Islands and all SIDS as we prepare for the 2004 International Meeting in Mauritius to review the implementation of the Barbados Program of Action. In preparation for the meeting, the Marshall Islands is currently completing an assessment of the implementation of the Program of Action at the national level. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the international donor and development community to engage with SUDS in the preparatory process and to actively participate in the International Meeting in order that it will produce successful and practical outcomes for all SIDS.

Mr. President,

The Marshall Islands is faced with challenges shared by many small island states. Our land is comprised of small, scattered islands and atolls, spread over vast areas of ocean. Our unique environment is fragile and highly vulnerable to the threats posed by global warming and environmental pollution and degradation. Our natural resource base is extremely narrow, our economy very small, and we are disadvantaged by our remoteness from world markets.

Given these factors, in our interactions within the international community, the Marshall Islands is particularly concerned about the following issues.

Firstly, sustainable development. Pursuing the three pillars of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - poses many challenges for small island states. During last year's general debate we introduced our national blueprint for sustainable development. This document forms the basis of our long term sustainable development plans, which we are currently working hard to implement.

In this context, and in the follow up to the WSSD, we continue to seek opportunities to form partnerships that will assist us in the practical implementation of projects under the Pacific's 14 Type II Umbrella Initiatives. Areas of particular importance for our people include the need for greater access to fresh water; the availability of affordable, renewable and environmentally sound energy sources; and the development of waste management systems that minimize hazardous impacts on society and the environment.

Also in this regard, we welcome the new work programme of the Commission on Sustainable Development. We are particularly pleased that SIDS will be considered as a cross-cutting issue in relation to the themes of each two-year work cycle, and that the theme of the 2014-2015 work cycle will focus on SIDS issues.

Mr. President,

Our second main area of concern is the environment - and in particular the threats posed by global climate change and sea level rise. These threats are felt most acutely by low¬lying island and atoll countries such as the Marshall Islands and many of our Pacific neighbors.

I am pleased to announce that the Marshall Islands has recently completed its ratification process for the Kyoto Protocol. I take this opportunity to commend those States that have ratified the Protocol, and I urge remaining States to do so without delay. This matter is surely the most urgent facing the international community today. If we fail to act now, the future will see the complete disappearance of many small island nations.

Mr. President,

In relation to environmental matters, the Marshall Islands is also particularly concerned about the state of the world's oceans and fisheries. As a nation whose very livelihood depends on the resources of the sea, the Marshall Islands government reaffirms its unwavering support for the regime established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I am also pleased to state that the Marshall Islands is now a party to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement.

The Marshall Islands is seriously concerned about instances of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing within its exclusive economic zone. IUU fishing gravely undermines the livelihood of our people that depend on these resources as their primary means of survival. Regional and international cooperation must focus on addressing this issue.

Within our region, we are pleased to note the recent progress of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. We are also particularly pleased with the development of the Pacific Regional Oceans Policy and we look forward to broad participation in the upcoming Pacific Islands Regional Oceans Forum.

Mr. President,

An ongoing issue of major concern for the Marshall Islands is that of nuclear weapons testing. The people and the environment of the Marshall Islands continue to suffer as a consequence of the nuclear weapons tests that were conducted in our territory between 1946 and 1958.

As we continue to seek resolution of this issue our people continue to suffer from ongoing health effects, the food chain still contains dangerously high radiation levels, and our development capacity is restrained by an inability to use contaminated islands and atolls.

Mr. President,

I have briefly addressed a few issues of major concern to the Marshall Islands. There are, of course, many other significant issues to be addressed during the upcoming session.

One of the most important challenges facing the international community is the need for a comprehensive, unified response to combat acts of international terrorism. I am pleased to be able to say that the Marshall Islands has ratified all twelve of the core Conventions against terrorism. We are continually working to implement the provisions of Security Council resolution 1373, and we have taken many steps at the national level to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. We reiterate our solidarity with all member states that are working to eliminate terrorism in all its forms.

Mr. President,

Another important issue facing this body is the continued exclusion of the Republic of China on Taiwan from the United Nations. The Marshall Islands Government reiterates its concern that the exclusion of a nation of peaceful and law-abiding citizens is not consistent with the inclusive ideal of the United Nations. I strongly urge every Member State to reconsider this important matter.

Mr. President,

The Marshall Islands welcomes the progress achieved by the International Criminal Court over the past year. Many positive developments have taken place, not the least of these being the election of a prominent panel of judges and the chief prosecutor. We look forward to the Court becoming fully operational, and we are confident that the Court will prove to be a valuable mechanism in the administration of justice at the international level.

Finally, Mr. President,

In terms of the need for further UN reform, the Marshall Islands Government wishes to reiterate its support for the expansion of the Security Council. We believe that the number of both permanent and non-permanent members should be increased, and that such expansion should include members from both developed and developing countries. This expansion is urgently needed to increase the representative base of the Council and to enhance its legitimacy in light of the geographic and political realities of the world today. We also wish to emphasize the need for further streamlining of the work of the General Assembly and its six main committees, in order to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.

Thank you Mr. President.