ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY MR. FATHULLA JAMEEL, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, TO THE FIFTY-SECOND SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, Mr. President, let me congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of this fifty-second session of the General Assembly - a reflection of the confidence and the hope that this body has in your abilities to guide this session to a successful conclusion.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my delegation's profound gratitude and appreciation to your predecessor, Ambassador Razali Ismail, for the exemplary manner in which he carried out his responsibilities and steered the work of the General Assembly during his term as President.
It is also my privilege to take this opportunity to extend, on behalf of my delegation and on my own behalf, a very warm welcome to the new Secretary-General, His Excellency Kofi Annan. We have no doubt that his long experience as an international civil servant, and his vast knowledge of the United Nations system, will give him all the insides he requires for carrying out his responsibilities fairly and firmly. He deserves every assistance and support from all member states of this organization.
With great enthusiasm to capitalize on the opportunities created by the end of the cold war, we embarked on a journey to revitalize the United Nations, to reform the way it functions, making it more effective and capable to play the central role it is entitled to in maintaining the world order, and perhaps shaping a new world order for the future. However, as the discussions continue, the views remain far from consensus, even on the single issue of restructuring the Security Council, which I agree is important and pivotal. But at this point we should remind ourselves that, in our approach to reform, we should be covering the whole spectrum of political, social, economic and legal activities of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. It is rather disappointing, that the focus is, at present mainly on the restructuring of the Security Council. Furthermore, the proposals made so far on this issue are sadly inadequate, and many suggesting the creation of a new form of idiosyncrasy. In the absence of a formula which is comprehensive and just, we may as well suggest the following: 1. Increase the number of non-permanent members in the Council to an appropriate level, reflecting the growth of the membership and its present diversity. 2. Amend Clause 2 of Article 23 of the Charter to enable the non-permanent member states to be re-elected for any number of consecutive terms, so that those who seek to occupy a seat in this important body on a continued basis can do so, as long as they enjoy the confidence and support of the member states. 3. Encourage the permanent members of the Security Council to agree among themselves on an accord which will remove or at least minimize the common apprehension arising from the fear of misusing their veto power. Mr. President, My delegation applauds the efforts of the Secretary-General to bring much needed reforms to the administrative and financial functioning of this organization. The proposals that he has submitted to this Assembly on 16 July 1997 deserve our careful consideration as they contain far-reaching and constructive arrangements which will, at least, help United Nations emerge from its present difficulties. Mr. President, The enthusiasm, which followed the end of the cold war also provided us the opportunity to meet in several international conferences to deal with some of the issues of true concern to all of us. These issues include the environment, social development, population, women, human settlements and food security. At those meetings, we adopted ambitious Action Plans, reaching the conclusion that sustainable development should be the core to the achievement of our objectives. Yet, without the genuine and sincere will of the international community to honour their commitments, the Action Plans, which bear enormous price tags, cannot be implemented effectively. This stark truth dominated the Special Session of the General Assembly in June this year, when we noted the lack of progress in the international action called for in the historic Agenda 21 of the 1992 Earth Summit. The emission of greenhouse gases are continuing unabated, polluting the environment and warming the global atmosphere more and more. If the latest predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming were to come true, then, by the year 2100, almost 80 percent of the low-lying island countries, including my own would be submerged in the sea. For the Maldives and other small island developing states, which are most affected by the degradation of the world's environment, the lack of progress in international action is most lamentable. We are not only fearful of an impending danger, but we are also anxious that unless the world acts now and swiftly, it may be too late for us to avoid environmental catastrophe. If we care to halt and reverse this lurching threat, we need the unwavering commitment and cooperation of the entire international community. And there is nothing we can do on our own. Ever since my President, His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, apprised this Assembly in 1987 of the impending environmental disaster facing the Maldives by sea-level rise, the Maldives has been warning vigorously, at national, regional and international levels of this problem. Today, I am happy to state that at the national level we are continuing successfully to create environmental awareness by involving the NGOs and the private sector. We have also successfully implemented a few projects to protect and preserve the environment. For instance, under the two-million-tree national program the people of the Maldives have planted eight trees per person in the last two years. I wonder what spectacular impact we could make on our planet if we could plant eight trees per person in the entire world over the next two years. At the regional level, the New Delhi Declaration of the Environment Ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), stands as testimony to our regional efforts. The Declaration, which reflected the common position of our region on global environmental issues, was presented to this Assembly by President Gayoom at its Nineteenth Special Session. Another important meeting of SAARC environment ministers is scheduled to be held this month in the Maldives. At the international level, we are working closely with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to pursue our cause. We place utmost importance on the swift and steady implementation of the Barbados Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small States, and once again, we call upon the developed countries to fulfil their commitment and pledge of support. In this connection, we call upon the industrialized countries to follow the examples set forth by the United Kingdom and the European Union during the Nineteenth Special Session of the General Assembly and to commit themselves to legally binding and meaningful targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emission levels. For the Maldives, a country that will get affected severely, if not fatally, by climate change, it is hard for us to accept a target below the 20 percent reduction level by the year 2005, as contained in the AOSIS Protocol, as a meaningful reduction. Mr. President, Last month, the Maldives hosted the 13th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC), which was regarded not only as a very important meeting on the subject, but also a very timely one, as the world is looking forward eagerly and with great optimism to the forthcoming Third Conference of the States Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto. Mr. President, My country and many other small states in the developing world, especially those among the least developed countries, have placed our trust in the United Nations to assist us face and overcome the inherent constraints we have, as we continue our quest towards progress and prosperity. We also look upon the United Nations to develop policies and take effective measures to protect us from threats, whether economic or political, and alleviate our sufferings from environmental calamities. The fact is that we cannot, on our own, face the odds and that our economies are more vulnerable than those of larger and more prosperous states. Protection of the weaker should not be seen as a burden but rather as a shared responsibility of all, recognizing the realities of our diversified membership in this Organization. While liberalization of the world economy may have boosted the prospects for some of the developing countries to successfully integrate themselves into the new international trading arrangements, those with little access to the world market, capital and new technologies find themselves getting marginalized from the mainstream of the world economy. The gap between the rich and the poor is continuing to grow unabated. Several developing countries and, particularly, the least developed of them, are still continuing to suffer from endemic poverty, compounded by the severe debt burden leading to political and economic dislocation. The overall decline in the Official Development Assistance (ODA) over the years has aggravated the conditions of the LDCs. Unless the developed countries fulfill their commitment to reach the United Nations accepted target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA, and intensify their efforts to reverse the present downward trend, hopes for the LDCs will remain as grim as ever. Mr. President, The Committee on Development Planning at its thirty-first session, held in May this year, has proposed, in its report, that the Maldives be graduated from the least developed countries list at the time of the next review in the year 2000, if we continue to prosper at the present rate. We are overwhelmed to see our development efforts being rewarded with a decision of expulsion. Over the years, my country has successfully crossed numerous hurdles in the path of socio-economic development, despite its limited resources. We were able to improve the per capita income, raise the standard of living of the people, and provide basic services to the community and individuals at levels seen higher than many others in the category of LDCs. This success was, in large measure, due to the stable political climate which we enjoyed, and which in turn provided us the opportunity to implement carefully planned, action-oriented policies and strategies. At the same time, we could not have achieved these happy results without the support we received from friendly countries and the multilateral organizations. However, Mr. President, if any one would measure these few achievements against the background of an extremely fragile economy, deprived of natural resources, high dependency on tourism and fisheries, both of which are susceptible to global economic changes, environmental and other external factors, the whole scenario can easily change from a happy and promising one to an obscure and insecure one. Vulnerability of our economy compels us to continue to depend on external resources; to build infrastructures which we can not do on our own, and to develop our own human resources necessary for further development. On the other hand, the smallness of our countries have also made us vulnerable to the activities of drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism and other forms of organized crime, carried out by criminals who are looking for new territories to operate from. We, therefore, need to remain close to our development partners in a relationship of trust, which is far beyond kindness and charity. Therefore, my delegation would like to stress the importance of developing and applying a vulnerability index for the small island developing states as a basic and meaningful criteria for determining the status of Least Developed Countries, recalling the content and the spirit of resolution 51/183. Mr. President, I cannot amply emphasize the important role that the regional organizations are playing in international relations; fostering mutual trust and understanding, opening up greater prospects for the promotion of peace, stability and socio-economic cooperation within the region. The activities of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), to which my country proudly belongs, are no exception. In fact, I am happy to state that the Ninth SAARC Summit held in the Maldives in May this year, has adopted far-reaching and bold initiatives, which will bring the countries of South Asia closer to each other and enhance further cooperation between them on economic and technical fields. Among other important decisions, we have pledged to eradicate poverty from our region as early as possible, preferably by the year 2002. We have joined hands to accelerate our efforts to achieve trade liberalization and establish a free trade area by the year 2001. We have also, for the first time, decided to begin informal political consultations in order to enhance and foster good neighborly relations, relieve tension and build trust and confidence between and amongst member states. Mr. President, The alarming level of tension that exists in the international political scene is of utmost concern to us. In the recent past, we have witnessed in various regions of the world, the re-ignition of old conflicts and the emergence of new and serious ones, which possess the intensity to stretch the United Nations to its limits. The dangerous developments unfolding in the region of the Middle East has questioned, once again, the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations. The arrogance and utter disregard of the present Israeli Government towards United Nations resolutions and the agreements that they themselves have reached with the Palestinians in the Oslo Accord, have shattered even the little hope the people of Israel, Palestine and the international community at large had for a lasting solution to this age old conflict. Recent events have drastically diminished the confidence that is so essential for the success of the process leaving us wonder if peace would come to this region. The General Assembly had met twice in emergency session this year to consider the issue. At these sessions, the international community had almost unanimously rallied behind the Middle East peace process and had demonstrated their genuine and unwavering support. While my delegation fully shares the view that continued negotiations in good faith between the two parties is essential for a permanent solution to the conflict, we strongly believe that the United Nations also has an important and a crucial role to play in the peace process. The decisions of the General Assembly and the Security Council must be respected and fully implemented without any pre-conditions. We call on both parties to respect the agreements reached so far, and to exercise maximum restraint in resorting to activities that may undermine the peace process. Mr. President, The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina may have faded a little from the headlines of the international press. However, we must realize that our job will not be complete unless and until the perpetrators of genocide and other brutal crimes in that country are brought to justice. In the field of disarmament and arms control, the international community has achieved considerable success. The indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the adoption of the Comprehensive-Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty (CTBT) and the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention stand testimony to this. The Maldives attaches utmost importance to the efforts of global and regional disarmament and arms control and vehemently supports them. It is in this spirit that we signed CTBT two days ago. Mr. President, Contrary to our expectations, the era of peace and economic prosperity of the post cold war, so far, have proven elusive. Outbreak of violence and ethnic strife in several parts of the world have precipitated unbelievable levels of human suffering. Conflicts within states have crossed national boundaries and ignited conflicts of international proportions. Unless the United Nations is equipped to act swiftly on such symptoms of rupture, large numbers of people will remain in the shadow of conflicts. We should re-double our efforts to deliver the promise for peace, human rights, fundamental freedoms and economic prosperity contained in the Charter of this Organization. Mr. President, The United Nations should not be solely a political forum. It was meant to cover the wide spectrum of all human activities with institutions for social as well as economic matters. The disparities vividly observable around the world, even a half-century after the creation of the United Nations, prove that none of the institutions has diminished in importance. They were created to remedy these imbalances among states and to contribute to justice, equity and peace. They were established to build and consolidate a climate of cooperation, to help each other on the basis of moral and ethical obligations and not merely as charity. They were erected to help the poor - not some of them and neglect others; to help children - not some of them and neglect others; to consolidate human rights - not some aspects of it and neglect others; and to further peace and prosperity for all mankind - not to certain segments of humanity. Mr. President, If we want the United Nations to perform the duties that we have entrusted to it, then we should ensure that we honour our financial obligations to it. My delegation is convinced that without a firm and sound financial footing, even our reform efforts would be totally meaningless. Thank you.