Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen. It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of my country, to congratulate you, on your election to preside over this august Assembly. Your election to this high office demonstrates the respect and confidence the international community has placed in your ability to guide the work of this session successfully. It also demonstrates the trust and high regard the international community has for your country, the Republic of Korea, and for the important role your country is playing in the international arena to foster peace and security in the world. I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to your predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Harri Holkeri of Finland, for the exemplary manner in which he guided the work of the fifty-fifth session. Allow me also to welcome and congratulate the Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, on his re-appointment to head our Organization for a second term. His dynamic leadership has earned the United Nations the confidence of the international community, and raised fresh hopes about the ability of our Organization in facilitating a better atmosphere in the world for peace, justice and human dignity as we enter the twenty-first century. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Secretary-General and the United Nations is testimony to this confidence. Mr. President, Nearly 13 years ago, the Maldives woke up to the horrors of terrorism, when a band of foreign terrorists attacked the Maldives without the slightest warning or provocation, killing many innocent people and destroying properties. By their faceless act of violence they changed the peaceful life we had in our country for centuries into one full of fear and apprehension. On 11 September, the most powerful country, the United States of America itself became a victim of a horrendous act of terrorism. The world community was shocked and promptly condemned the barbaric attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and the murder of thousands of innocent people. Consistent with its stand against terrorism, the Maldives found itself among the first states to condemn those attacks in the strongest possible terms. Mr. President, The tragedy of September 11th has reminded us that terrorism is one of the biggest challenges facing the world community today. It has emerged as an enemy of nations, be they large or small, and a vicious threat to humanity. In combating such a cruel enemy, it is important that international action against terrorism be supported and complemented by measures at regional and national levels. At the international level, the legal doctrine set out against all aspects of terrorism must be strengthened and universalized. Concomitantly, action at the regional and national level must be brought in line with international obligations in fighting this global enemy. The United Nations, as the global Organization responsible for international peace and security, must play the pivotal role in this fight against terrorism. My country fully supports the early convening of the high-level conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, to formulate a clear definition of terrorism, and draw up a joint and farsighted reaction to the ever growing phenomena of terrorism in its different forms and manifestations. We are also looking forward to the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, and an international convention for the prevention of acts of terrorism using nuclear, biological and chemical material and agents. Mr. President, As a people who have devoted themselves to the practice of Islamic faith and values for nearly a millennium, we are deeply offended by the notion that terrorism is linked to Islam or Muslims. On the contrary, Islam advocates peace, compassion, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. It is a perverted view and a falsification of Islam and its principles. The projection and portrayal of Islam as an enemy of civilization or the free world is an insult to its noble principles. Such perversions are nothing but propaganda, hatched by evil people who wish to breed hatred among human beings, and their claims are no less harmful than terrorism itself. Mr. President, At the Millennium Summit last year, our leaders had charted a course for a better world–a world in which the entire humanity can prosper with mutual respect and dignity. Navigating smoothly along the course will be an uphill task. We have to be ready to boldly address the challenges in our way. Over the past year, we met in several special sessions to address some specific and important issues. On each and every such occasion, we demonstrated our firm resolve to uphold the objectives set forth in the Millennium Declaration. The major crosscutting theme that runs deep in all these issues is the dehumanizing scourge of 3 poverty. Poverty remains the major stumbling block for sustainable social and economic development in the developing world. Eradicating poverty, therefore, is core to the attainment of peace and development. Let us, therefore, make the elimination of poverty our top priority, and pursue vigorously the targets set by our leaders during the Millennium Summit to halve poverty by 2015. Mr. President, Our commitments at conferences involve high price tags. Unless new and additional financial resources are available on a timely and predictable manner, no action plans and programs can be implemented. It is therefore, a collective responsibility of the entire international community, including the private sector stakeholders and the civil society to muster the necessary political will that is so vital in this regard. We are eagerly looking forward to the High-level International and Inter-governmental Event on Financing for Development to be held in Mexico early next year. We hope that this event will provide the international community an opportunity to agree on new, innovative and additional sources and strategies to mobilize funds for development. Mr. President, Globalization is now a reality. Many in the developed world are enjoying the unprecedented yield of globalization while its powerful forces are depressing the fragile economies of many developing and the least developed countries including the structurally weak countries. The uneven playing field has indeed contributed to widening the gap between the rich and the poor. In fact, the obstacles to the development of LDCs have grown in number and magnitude over the years and have marginalized them in the world economy. My country is heartened by the good will and solidarity extended by the international community to the LDCs during the Third LDC Conference held in Brussels early this year. It is now time for delivery of the commitments at the Brussels conference. Unless those commitments are fulfilled the plight of the LDCs will continue to worsen. Mr. President, The special circumstances and needs of the small island developing states (SIDS) have been recognized and acknowledged by this Assembly on numerous occasions. The Barbados Programme of Action very clearly spells out these special needs of SIDS. Although many SIDS may appear to be relatively more prosperous on the basis of per capita income level, it is also a documented fact that due to the special characteristics of small islands, they are generally amongst the most economically vulnerable and handicapped countries in the world today. As a country with little more than a quarter of a million inhabitants spread over more than 200 islands, bereft of natural resources and with a fragile economy based on fisheries and tourism which are sensitive to the harsh realities of ecology and the environment, the Maldives, provides a perfect example of this dilemma of the SIDS. The stable political environment that the Maldives has enjoyed for the past two decades, combined with the continued flow of assistance from our development 4 partners have indeed given us the opportunity to improve the quality of life of our people. However, our efforts towards development have remained relentless as the structural constraints we face are both persistent and formidable. Mr. President, Given these realities, my country is convinced that the present criteria for identifying least developed countries, needs to be refined to reflect the impediments in full. We appeal to the Committee for Development Policy and the international community to consider these ground realities and to look beyond abstract indicators into the inherent vulnerabilities of SIDS in determining the criteria for graduation. Mr. President, We do not wish to remain in the LDC category indefinitely. However, should graduation be thrust upon us prematurely, its negative consequences could easily overwhelm us and result in serious erosion of our achievements. We need to strengthen the capacity of our human resources and institutions to cope with existing and emerging challenges to our developmental efforts. We need to find ways and means to diversify our economic base and strengthen its sustainability. Mr. President, We welcome the recent resolution adopted by the ECOSOC to extend our transition period until the next triennial review of the list of least developed countries in 2003. At the same time, we wish to reiterate our belief that ensuring a smooth transition for graduating countries in accordance with General Assembly resolution 46/206 is an essential obligation of the entire international community. Indeed, a decision that affects the future destiny of a nation should not be based on hastily compiled information, which may contain erroneous assumptions and dubious facts that could mislead the competent authorities to reach questionable conclusions. Mr. President, The state of the global environment remains a major concern of the international community. A decade after the adoption of Agenda 21, its effective implementation has proven to be a difficult task. The pleas of SIDS for new and additional resources to implement the Barbados Programme of Action remain to be heeded. The Kyoto Protocol is yet to come into force. Meanwhile, scientific predictions on the future of the global environment remain alarmingly critical. Unless swift and concrete action is forthcoming, global environmental degradation will continue to threaten the survival of mankind and of our planet. The consequences of a mere one-meter rise in the mean sea level on SIDS like the Maldives is now a well-documented fact. We, therefore, urge the international community to accelerate its efforts to agree on a legally binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction regime and to facilitate the Kyoto Protocol’s early entry into force. In this connection, we are encouraged by the positive developments achieved 5 in Marrakech last week and hope that these developments will facilitate an early entry into force of the Protocol. A year from now, we will gather in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the Rio plus 10 Summit, to take stock of our labour over the past decade to protect and preserve the global environment. My country believes that this would be an excellent opportunity for the international community to reinvigorate its efforts and to rededicate its commitments to protect and preserve the global environment. Mr. President, The Maldives attaches great importance to the efforts of the international community to foster sustainable social development. The five-year review of the Copenhagen commitments and Beijing Platform for Action, carried out last year, and the recently concluded reviews of the HABITAT Agenda, as well as the world conference against racism have added renewed impetus to the efforts of the international community to achieve social harmony. HIV/AIDS pandemic has become a major impediment to social development. The Maldives too has not been immune to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Although the number of cases may be relatively low in the Maldives, we are fully aware of the potential threat that looms over us. We pledge our full support to the Programme of Action adopted by the special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS early this year, and we call on the international community, including the private sector stake holders, to commit the financial resources required to implement the Programme of Action. Mr. President, My country whole-heartedly supports the just struggle of the Palestinian people. The flagrant denial of the rights of the Palestinian people and the continued refusal by Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab Territories in accordance with Security Council resolutions have destroyed the hopes that emanated from the Oslo Peace Accord and other subsequent agreements. We are appalled by the brutal attacks on the unarmed Palestinian civilian population, and the systematic destruction of Palestine by the excessive force unleashed by Israeli forces. The provocative targeted killings and illegal seizure and forceful occupation of several Palestinian properties under the control of the Palestinian Authority, have exacerbated already high tensions and increased regional instability. My country commends the efforts of the cosponsors of the Middle East peace process to help put the talks back on track. We strongly believe that the Mitchell Report should be implemented urgently to pave the way for restarting the stalled peace process. We are heartened by the recent statements of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair clearly expressing the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own state. 6 Mr. President, Disarmament and arms control measures continue to remain a high priority in the international agenda. While we were encouraged by the positive out come of the NPT review conference last year, we would like to reiterate the need for continuing our efforts to strengthen and enforce the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Similarly, we look forward to the day when the Convention on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will come into force. We hope that the Conference of the States Parties to the convention currently taking place will help pave the way in this direction. The recently concluded International Conference on Small Arms has given added impetus to the efforts of the international community in curbing the indiscriminate spread of small arms, which fan localized conflicts and threaten international peace and security. Mr. President, Reforming the United Nations to reflect the present day realities should remain a high priority of the international community. We are concerned over the slow progress in the reforms of the Security Council. We have repeatedly stated our belief that the momentum of the process cannot be maintained indefinitely. Therefore, it is imperative that the international community redoubles its efforts to reach an early consensus on these reforms. Mr. President, In conclusion, allow me to reiterate the firm commitment of the Maldives to the principles and objectives enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We will work with the other members of the international community to uphold and promote these lofty objectives. We continue to remain convinced that the United Nations is the only Organization that is capable of creating a more peaceful and prosperous world for humanity. Thank you Mr. President.