Africa's problems come to fore in General Assembly debate

24 September 2003

The problems of Africa, including AIDS, hunger, poverty and underdevelopment, came to the fore of the second afternoon session of the annual high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, with six Heads of State or Government from the continent among the 15 leaders to mount the rostrum.

The session's first speaker, President Domitien Ndayizeye of Burundi, appealed for a change in the global financial and trade systems to help poor countries develop in their struggle against poverty. "The economic and social imbalances resulting from the inequitable and non-inclusive character of the international financial architecture do not permit an efficient response to today's very complex challenges," he declared. "The interests and needs of developing countries are not sufficiently taken into account. The gulf between rich and poor is growing. It is therefore our collective duty to create an environment favourable for all the poor."

Noting the high level of misery and suffering in Africa, President Ndayizeye said less advanced countries were marginalized in the international financial system and deserved "special attention in terms of public development aid, direct foreign investments, debt relief, capacity strengthening and access to international markets." He called for the elimination of all forms of export subsidies by rich countries that distort trade as well as various non-tariff barriers. Another major challenge is the battle against the AIDS pandemic, which "decimates whole populations, turns millions of children into defenceless orphans and drowns all development efforts," he said. "Faced with such a danger, action is urgently needed." imageVideo


President Svetozar Marovic

For his part, President Svetozar Marovic of Serbia and Montenegro stressed the importance of the UN in the battle against terrorism and solving other conflicts. "We can defeat terrorism only if we all join forces. That is why multilateralism for us has no alternative and the United Nations is a guarantee for that. Both today and tomorrow," he declared. Referring to the fighting between Albanians and Serbs that tore Kosovo apart four years ago, he said: "The activities of the United Nations in Kosovo demonstrate that with good intentions on all sides there is hope to create preconditions for dialogue, instead of hatred and conflicts, so that people discuss and resolve the problems instead of creating new ones. We are glad that one of the crucial issues to the stability of the entire region - the issue of Kosovo - is at a threshold of dialogue, as we have called for."Referring to the fierce Balkan wars of the past decade, President Marovic said: "From our own recent experience we know a lot about victims and suffering. That is why we call for an end to violence in all parts of the world - in Baghdad and Iraq in Jerusalem and in the Middle East. We are convinced that the international community and the United Nations, primarily the Security Council will find a way to stabilization and life in peace and freedom for all people. The human race has only one world to live in." imageVideo


President Boris Trajkovski

The President of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, said reforming the UN - particularly the Security Council - and revitalizing the General Assembly were of crucial importance and should be pursued in an effective and efficient manner. It is obvious that all Member States needed to be more vocal in their support for multilateralism, particularly to ensure the eradication of poverty, combat HIV/AIDS, protect the environment and prevent conflict. He went on to say that terrorism was the most serious contemporary threat for humanity and must remain the highest priority.Looking homeward, President Trajkovski said his country had launched numerous regional initiatives in order to contribute constructively to cooperation with and among its neighbours. Macedonia had also recognized that the country could move beyond its unfortunate past by promoting the significant links among the people living in southeastern Europe, he added. In the Balkans today, President Trajkovski said the spirit of collaboration and mutual respect was now emerging, even between "yesterday's enemies and opposing factions." While expressing deep concern for the recent upsurge in inter-ethnic violence in Kosovo, he said in other areas, there had been gradual but steady reconciliation. imageVideo


President Leonid D. Kuchma

Speaking next, President Leonid D. Kuchma of Ukraine emphasized the major role the UN could play in a comprehensive strategy for conflict prevention. "In my opinion, peacekeeping operations with preventive mandate of the United Nations Security Council could become one of the key instruments of such a system," he said. "There is also a need to further develop and improve the principles and mechanisms of application of international sanctions aimed at curbing the supply of weapons to zones of conflict."President Kuchma also called for stronger action to prevent terrorism, including effective measures to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as UN reform. "Effective response to new challenges requires urgent actions in reforming the United Nations and, first of all, its Security Council," he said. "I am confident that further delay in the long-overdue reforms can result in a serious crisis of confidence for the United Nations. We cannot let it happen. There can be no viable alternative to the United Nations as a singular global organization." imageVideo


President Abdoulaye Wade

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said the threat of terrorism required a collective response and his country believed that Africa should not be the “soft underbelly” in the fight. Senegal had demonstrated its commitment to the resolution of conflict in Africa and, by urging the parties in the Côte d’Ivoire conflict to commit to the French-brokered January peace accords, had proclaimed that the time for coups d’etat on the continent was past. Legitimate power should be acquired, conserved and transmitted only through elections, not through force of arms, he stressed.As Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, he said Senegal continued to be concerned about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East where too much blood had been shed. President Wade stressed that negotiations on the basis of the Quartet’s Road Map must be resumed and that Israel must be warned that any attack on the physical integrity of President Yasser Arafat would bring incalculable consequences. On development, he said the problems of globalization made a new type of partnership necessary if the insidious cycle of poverty was to be broken. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), on the basis of clear parameters, aimed at fostering peace, stability and good governance, he said. imageVideo


President Joseph Kabila

The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Joseph Kabila, joined the wider international community in reaffirming total condemnation of terrorism. Turning to the situation in his country, he briefly outlined the events of this past spring and summer when ethnic violence swept the resource-rich northeastern Ituri province and devastated the main town of Bunia. While the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force had quelled the violence in Ituri, the fighting had left a gaping wound and the slightest slip could reignite the hostilities, he warned. South Kivu in particular required close monitoring as violence had recently flared there.Mr. Kabila said the DRC was pressing forward with its efforts to ensure reconciliation and reform, which would culminate in the holding of free and fair elections. He hoped the international community would provide assistance at all stages of the electoral process. DRC for its part was making strides toward ensuring economic and regional integration, as well as open and honest dialogue and reconciliation among all the people of the Great Lakes, he said. While his country was determined to promote good neighbourly relations and sharing to combat HIV/AIDS, the proliferation of small arms and anti-personnel mines, Mr. Kabila said he would reject interference and destabilizing forces. He called on neighbouring countries to respect his country's sovereignty. imageVideo


President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

For his part President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea lamented the global economic disparity and the loss of UN authority, and he called for the moral and political reform of the world body. “The efforts undertaken to establish a new international economic order ensuring global cooperation for the development of the planet have resulted in the division of the world into North and South, while cooperation and aid is offered under imposed political conditions,” he said. “We believe that globalization should necessarily provide for a programme of sustainable development for developing countries so that they can acquire a certain maturity that allows them to get some advantage from such integration.”Turning to UN reform, Mr. Nguema said: “At the same time, the United Nations is without authority because there is no democracy in its decision-making bodies, and its ability for humanitarian aid is limited by the proliferation of disasters caused by war and terrorism. In our opinion, lamentably, humanity is now dehumanized and the United Nations has lost its authority. Today it is our duty to assume the responsibility of reconstructing this organization politically and morally, giving it back its authority. It is the only world organism capable of representing humankind with authority and the only one where we can achieve universal consensus.” imageVideo


Prime Minister Pakalitha B. Mosisili

Underlining the huge problems of AIDS, poverty and debt afflicting Africa, Prime Minister Pakalitha B. Mosisili of Lesotho called for the developed countries to meet the commitments made at all the major UN conferences and at the 2000 Millennium Summit. "In our part of the world, southern Africa, governments are overwhelmed by the high levels of morbidity and mortality, especially among the working age group in all sectors, including health and agriculture. HIV and AIDS have become the leading cause of food insecurity and famine that plagues so many of our people today," he said. "We therefore stress the need for urgent assistance to Lesotho and to the southern African region, with increased supplies of the anti-retroviral and other related HIV and AIDS drugs, in order to curb the scourge."He also stressed the need for the international community to review the list of heavily indebted poor countries and those on the borderline, "so that all poor countries like Lesotho, which face debt servicing difficulties, could be considered under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) debt initiative. My delegation also shares the view that debt cancellation for Least Developed Countries should be considered as a viable option for enabling the said countries to inject that money into their economies," he added. imageVideo


Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga

The recent wave of terror attacks and the havoc they have created worldwide have instilled a sense of fear and uncertainty, Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Saufatu Sopoanga, said. He said as a small island developing country, Tuvalu's biggest fear is the resolve of developed countries to also address developmental and environmental issues so fundamental to lasting world peace and security. Mr. Sopoanga said the isolation and lack of infrastructure of the Pacific islands leaves them vulnerable to terrorism and threatens their security, "especially the security of our traditional and cultural practices upon which our very existence depends."Mr. Sopoanga pointed out that as Tuvalu moves into the 21st century, it is challenged by the many changes that are taking place in the world, especially through globalization. The recent breakdown in discussions on international trade in Cancún, Mexico, clearly shows developing countries are no longer "willing to accept the rhetoric of those who want to impose a trade regime that tends to favour the wealthy and marginalize the poor," he said. He stressed the genuine need to better recognize the special case of small island developing states, as their best efforts to escape the cycle of poverty and marginalization are doomed without the support of the international community, civil society, and the private sector. imageVideo


Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth

For his part, the Prime Minister of Mauritius Anerood Jugnauth said the attack on the UN compound in Baghdad underscored the urgent need for the major overhaul and reform of the world body. Calling on member States not to undermine the UN, he said as a small island, Mauritius was highly vulnerable to terrorist threats and it was only through international cooperation that it could effectively fight the war against terrorism. Addressing the situation in the Middle East, Mr. Jugnauth deplored the international community's failure to find lasting solutions in the region. He said Yasser Arafat was an essential part of the solution and that any attempt to sideline him would be detrimental to any peace initiative. He also deplored the long running conflicts in Africa and called on the countries that manufacture and market the weapons "to ensure that Africa does not continue to be their killing fields." Mr. Jugnauth also called on the Assembly to lend the necessary support to next year's meeting to review the Barbados Programme of Action, which addresses a host of challenges faced by small island developing states. imageVideo


Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev

For his part, Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan stressed that the only response to terrorism should be the "uncompromising fight" against anyone who resorts to such tactics, "no matter what goals are used as a cover." The success in the fight against terrorism could not be achieved without eradicating its underlying roots and eliminating factors creating a favourable environment for its dissemination. "On the other hand, it is not possible to resolve conflicts throughout the world, including in the South Caucasus, under conditions of the continuing practice of terrorism and support for it on the state level," he added.Prime Minister Aliyev said Azerbaijan had fallen victim to aggression, occupation and terror unleashed by Armenia and that its appeals to the international community to unite in efforts in combating terrorism went unheeded. "Ten years have elapsed since the Security Council adopted four resolutions, demanding the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian occupying forces from the Azerbaijani territories," he said. "Azerbaijan has on many occasions declared its commitment to the peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of norms and principles of international law. We are determined to continue with our efforts in this direction and we count on the active participation on the part of the international community." imageVideo

Also addressing the Assembly during its afternoon session were the Vice-President of Costa Rica, Linnette Saborio, and the Foreign Ministers of Denmark, Per Stig Moeller, Lebanon, Jean Obeid, and Romania, Mircea Geoana.


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