Statement by his Excellency Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, head of the delegation of the Republic of Guyana, at the twenty-sixth session of the Islamic Conference of foreign ministers, Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, June 27th- July 2nd.1999

Mr. Chairman, Honourable Foreign Ministers, distinguished Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen . . .

Assalam-o-alikum. May the peace and blessings of Allah be on all of you.

On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Guyana, I extend fraternal greetings to all delegates attending this meeting. It is indeed a pleasure to be here, more so because my country is participating for the first time as a member state. I take this opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the Government of Guyana to the principles and purposes of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and to assure you that we will work closely with all members in pursuit of its objectives. I am confident that our meeting will be successful and I thank our gracious hosts, the Government and people of Burkina Faso, for the warm hospitality that is being provided to my delegation.

I wish also to express my sincere appreciation for the welcome accorded to Guyana to this meeting by many heads of delegations who have spoken earlier.

For the Guyanese delegation, our presence at this meeting is of another special significance since Burkina Faso, as part of the West Africa region, forms part of the ancestral home of over a third of my country's population. You are aware, Mr. Chairman, that from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, in the heyday of colonialisation, people from West Africa, including this country which was then known as Upper Volta, were forcibly seized and transported to the Americas as slaves. For me, it is a special privilege to come to this West African country and to meet with and enjoy the hospitality of the distant relatives of so many of our Guyanese citizens.

Mr. Chairman,
The extensive agenda that is before us demonstrates how strongly the Organisation of Islamic Countries is involved in international affairs and, certainly, this makes our role more important. In the Middle East we are concerned about the Arab-Israeli conflict, the occupation of southern Lebanon and the Syrian Golan, and the plight of the Palestinians. In Africa we worry about Somalia. In Eastern Europe, the problems in Kosovo have attracted our attention. In Asia, the Jammu and Kashmir dispute gives u s another matter to address. As we deliberate during this week, there are many issues that we must consider and our decisions must lead to action. There is so much suffering in our world today and yet there is hope spawned by meetings like ours today which give us an opportunity to get even more involved and to make a difference, not only for the Islamic Ummah, but for all citizens of this planet.

The situation in Kosovo stands out at present. It is a regretful tragedy. Human lives and other resources have been wasted and the cost of reconstruction will create further hardship for the besieged population of that region. The Government of Guyana welcomes the agreement that has brought the aerial bombardment to an end and calls on all parties to cooperate fully so that lasting peace and security can be achieved there. The United Nations playing the primary role should coordinate the multilateral action that is needed to resolve the situation and the OIC must ensure that it is in the vanguard of that international process.

I urge Muslim Kosovars, as they move to reclaim their homes, to shun all attempts to exact any form of revenge. Any action of this type is contrary to the ideals of Islam. An eye for an eye, if I may paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, will only make everyone become blind!

The question of Palestine also requires further attention since it is unresolved after more than half a century. The deadline for the final status talks has come and gone with no action being taken and Palestinians remain unable to exercise their inalienable rights. The Conference of the High Contracting Parties on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, is yet to be convened and the entire Middle East process remains stalled. The OIC must strengthen its support for the Palestinians and make it clear that it will accept nothing less than a just lasting and comprehensive settlement in accordance with the provisions of all relevant United Nations resolutions.

These are just a few of the equally important matters that our Foreign Ministers must contemplate. As our strategies for future action are plotted, we must ensure that our actions in all instances are in tune with those of other international fora which are working alongside us to achieve peace, security and development not only for those troubled countries but all others too. Our principled positions will enhance the credibility of our organization and fortify our position in the global arena as we implement our decisions and try to further our goals.

Mr. Chairman,
In my own country, we are on the course of rebuilding democracy after restoring it six years ago. However, this itself is not an easy process since we have been plagued by remnants of the old order which still cannot respect the democratic will of the majority. We are currently in the midst of a constitutional reform process which is expected to address the political, economic and social distinctions of our own situation an hopefully develop a document which will allay any existing or inherent fears that some sectors of our population may harbour, and allow our country to settle down and move along the road to economic prosperity.

Mr. Chairman,
With the recurring problems of debt, ethnic conflicts, unemployment, hunger, homelessness, urban disorder, environmental degradation, crime, disease and narcotics facing so many societies across the globe, it is clear that we need a New Global Human Order. Under this Order, the United Nations system, with the support of international organisations like the OIC, has to play a more central role in global economic management and should have access to larger financial resources.

Urgent action is needed to utilise the gains at the end of the Cold War by further reducing military expenditure. By doing so, there will be a "peace dividend" which will give the wealthy countries a chance to direct more resources to a social agenda and to assist poor countries through debt relief. At the same time, a Human Development Fund, managed by the United Nations, and financed by demilitarisation funds and global taxes on energy, pollution and global speculative foreign exchange movements, can be used for human development world wide. Payments for services provided by poor countries can also be made to ensure global human security. This can be for environmental controls including the protection of forests, destruction of nuclear weapons and controlling communicable diseases and narcotics. Compensation should also be paid for brain drain, exclusion of unskilled labour and restrictions on trade.

Mr. Chairman,
In today's international environment which is driven by globalisation, regionalisation and the steady advances in information and communications technology, developing countries like ours are increasingly at a disadvantage. The costs of functioning in this environment are rapidly depleting our resources and forcing us deeper in debt. It is becoming increasingly imperative that we use every platform to represent our interests be they political, social, cultural, or economic.

As the world marches towards the end of the twentieth century, we should ensure a fitting conclusion to our deliberations that would have a memorable impact on this era. Even as I speak I realise that the magnitude of our task is no small challenge. However, as I said at the beginning, I am confident that we will succeed, and the Guyanese delegation looks forward to collaborating with all delegations and participating in all activities.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Wa Salaam.