Statement By Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, Head Of The Delegation Of Guyana, to the Thirtieth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers - Tehran, Iran, May 28-31, 2003

Posted June 4th. 2003

Mr. Chairman,
Honorable Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
Distinguished Secretary-General of the OIC.
Ambassadors, Members of Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen . . . .


It is indeed a great honor for me to represent Guyana at this thirtieth session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers. I wish to extend fraternal greetings to all delegations present, and to convey our best wishes for success in our deliberations. To our host country, the Islamic Republic of Iran, we offer our profound thanks for receiving us with such warmth and care for our comfort. I want to assure you that Guyana attaches great importance to the work of and decisions taken by this august body; and it is important to note, as we have stated on previous occasions, that many of our closest friends are to be found in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Let me take this opportunity to express my Government's deepest sympathies to the Government of Morocco and Saudi Arabia for the tremendous loss of lives in the recent terrorist attacks. I would also like to extend our condolences to the Government of Algeria and the families of the deceased for the deaths, injuries and destruction caused by the powerful earthquake that fraternal country just over a week ago.

Mr. Chairman,

As one of only two states of the continent of the Americas enjoying membership of this Organization, we wish to remind this ministerial meeting that the Islamic faith is making relatively rapid growth in our part of the world. While Guyana and Suriname have substantial proportions of their populations adhering to the Muslim faith, we are also seeing a steady growth of Islam in the United States of America, Canada, and some parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. This Ministerial Conference and the OIC have to be cognizant of this situation and must expand programs to embrace the expanding Muslim population in the continent of the Americas. This is especially important at this time when there is growing prejudice expressed against Muslims by official and non-official circles in some countries in the Americas.

Mr. Chairman,

Coming as it does at a critical juncture in time, this Conference offers us a timely opportunity to examine current developments and trends in order to better prepare our countries to face today's challenges. The process of globalization and trade liberalization which now prevails in international economic relations has undoubtedly brought new opportunities for development. Unfortunately, however, many of the countries within the Islamic Conference have not been able to take advantage of the potential benefits, and instead, have been threatened by marginalisation from the global economy.

International peace and security are key goals of the Islamic Conference, as they are within the international community. But peace and security do not connote, alone, the absence of war. We must focus upon the conditions by which civil society is molded and shaped. We must seek to eliminate want by maximizing the resources available to our people, even as we enhance the transparency of our governments. Through that transparency, we have to demonstrate our essential fairness to the citizenry, engendering, in the process, greater legitimacy and, hence, the stability and continuity of government. It is in circumstances such as these that people will have available, conditions for the realization of their full potential. They will then come to understand, with good reason, that war, civil unrest and sheer terror, are inimical to the continuation of these conditions which can together end hopelessness and despair.

Nevertheless despite our best efforts over the years, coordinated at the UN, regional and other levels, these goals remain elusive. Extreme poverty persists, affecting more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, the majority of whom are women and children. The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to decimate the lives of millions. Differentials in the distribution of the economic benefits of globalization continue to wreak havoc upon the conditions of life in developing countries, even as we suffer severe deficits in access to information and communications technology. In many of our countries, social services are severely lacking, even as unlawful trafficking in arms and drugs continue to undermine national stability and security.

This dismal situation can only encourage us to redouble the efforts of this Conference, through Islamic solidarity and cooperation, to strengthen our collaborative efforts to safeguard the dignity, independence and natural rights of our peoples.

Mr. Chairman,

It is natural for the international community to strive for the improvement of cooperation, climate for peace, and conflict, which are all essential in today's world of economic, social and political instability. Seeking to foster a culture of peace, based on respect for human rights, tolerance, participation and solidarity, Guyana addresses this body full of hope and perseverance in search of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the regions of conflict.

The situation in the Middle East in general, and the plight of the Palestinian people in particular, continue to cause my Government great concern. Just over a year ago an increase in violence made any chances for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem remote. The Road Map peace plan is a chance to achieve a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict for a very long time, since ongoing terror radicalizes both communities while Israeli settlement expansion makes creation of a viable Palestinian state ever more difficult.

Guyana unequivocally supports the struggle of the Palestinian people to attain their inalienable rights, and to peacefully exist in an independent state.

Mr. Chairman,

The importance of an enabling environment for further dialogue aimed at finding permanent solutions to conflicts is equally relevant in regions and countries such as Cyprus and Kashmir, which face threats to their domestic unity and territorial integrity. We support efforts by the United Nations Secretary General and the Good Offices Mission to seek a political settlement to these disputes. We hope that all parties involved will continue to dialogue and that the differences will be resolved in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions.

In this regard, Guyana particularly is concerned over hostile actions in Kashmir and encourages both India and Pakistan to resume a political engagement that would allow peace to prevail in Kashmir.

With respect to the situation in Cyprus, Guyana supports all the relevant resolutions and declarations of the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth. In Iraq, we hope to see new and, hopefully, positive developments. We expect that increased tangible support will continue to be provided to the new Iraqi administration by the OIC and the United Nations. With respect to the immediate role of the OIC, we wish to express support for the setting up of an OIC Ministerial Group on Iraq.

We wish to state very firmly that violence offers no satisfactory answer to the root causes of these problems. Indeed, it compounds their enormity and complicates solutions. Only diplomacy, good-faith negotiations and respect for international law can bring about a definitive and durable settlement of disputes. Member States of the OIC have a duty therefore to reinforce this lesson wherever conflict threatens to divide the Islamic family. We should be prepared to examine other mechanisms that may offer peaceful solutions.

The Government of Guyana sees political dialogue as the way forward to achieve political stability and social and economic development. Political intransigence has disrupted social and economic progress in Guyana. But we have seen some positive developments recently. A political stalemate which arose after the main opposition party refused to participate in the Parliament for more than one year was brought to an end earlier this month through dialogue and political will from the sides of both the Government and the Opposition.

While we address issues such as those we are experiencing in Guyana and elsewhere, we must always be reminded about the pressures on development faced by many of our nations as a result of the debt burden they are forced to carry. We call on the international financial institutions and the rich countries to re examine their policies regarding debt as a matter of urgency, and institute policies to drastically reduce the debt burden of the world's poorest countries, including my own and those on the African continent.

Mr. Chairman,

All around the world, countries are debt-strapped and are being offered packages of reforms by international financial institutions - structural adjustments, foreign direct investments, economic liberalization - all part of the leaping acceleration in the globalization of world trade, and many are also resisting this pressure. Organizations and governments share a view that the present trend towards a global market dominated by unregulated, over-powerful and unaccountable transnational companies threatens homes, jobs environment and futures.

With this in mind, and in the context of solidarity with our membership, the Government of Guyana again raises, at this meeting, the importance of the establishment of a New Global Human Order. We believe that this Order, aimed at reversing the growing disparities between right and poor, both among and within countries, offers a viable solution to many of the social and economic ills by which we are all affected.

Guyana's proposal for the establishment of the New Global Human Order has been endorsed in a number of international fora, including the Caribbean Community, the countries of the Non-aligned Movement, and by the Group of 77 in its South Summit Declaration. In November 2002, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 57/12 on the role of the United Nations in promoting a New Global Human order. (Unfortunately, even though we have made attempts over the past three years to have a resolution on this issue presented to this Conference, we have not yet been successful).

The question has been asked: What is the New Global Human Order and what is it all about? The New Global Human Order is not merely a philosophical concept but a practical agenda for development. Among its concrete proposals are the following: A comprehensive and definitive solution to the debt problem; the fashioning of a new development assistance policy; the mobilization of new and additional resources; the strengthening and if necessary the reshaping of global institutions; the development of a more central role for the United Nations in global economic policy making. Around the globe, market economies are not the "one-size-fits-all" model and we should not accept that globalization is a fact of life.

In searching for basic well-being, equality, peace and security, the Government of Guyana invites all members of the OIC to lend their valuable support to the proposal of a New Global Human Order and to its further promotions.

Mr. Chairman,

Today, security and counter-terrorism concerns perhaps understandably overshadow any other issue with which we grapple. And these concerns must be dealt with through multilateral initiatives. At this critical time, the OIC must come together to resist the growing threat to multilateralism. We must therefore intensify our efforts to democratize and develop our international institutions through genuine reform and restructuring. If we apply ourselves to these tasks at this meeting, we can be sure that our efforts will eventually bring us closer to the achievements of the principal goals of our Organization.

I thank you.

Return to Speeches