Statement by Ambassador Dr. Odeen Ishmael, Head of the delegation of Guyana, at the 27th session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 27-30 June 2000.

Posted July 5th. 2000

Mr. Chairman,

Honourable Foreign Ministers and other Heads of Delegations, Distinguished Secretary-General of the OIC, Distinguished delegates and observers.


It is an honour for me to represent the Government and people of Guyana at this important meeting. On their behalf, I extend fraternal greetings to all delegations present, and convey our best wishes for success in the deliberations of this Conference. To our host country, Malaysia, the members of the Guyana delegation offer profound thanks for receiving us with such warmth and hospitality. The comfort provided by our hosts will surely stimulate us to deal with our agenda with determination and expedition.

As we meet today, we must recall with sadness the great loss which the Arab World and the entire OIC have suffered with the passing of three great leaders - their Majesties King Hussein of Jordan and King Hassan of Morocco, and more recently of President Hafez Al Assad of the Syrian Arab Republic. Their lives can only inspire us to pursue our common objectives.

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 globalisation and trade liberalisation 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, but instead, have been threatened by marginalisation from the global economy.

However, while globalisation and liberalisation are breaking trade barriers they are also threatening preferential market arrangements from which many poor countries benefit. For Guyana, the costs are real since about two thirds of our exports and foreign exchange earnings, and a third of our labour force benefit from existing preferential trade arrangements. Should we lose these preferential arrangements we certainly will face serious social, economic and political problems as the economy is forced to adjust to the globalisation and trade liberalisation trends.

As countries which are also members of the Group of 77, we can be pleased that the first ever Summit meeting was held in Havana, Cuba, last April to consider the issues of globalisation, knowledge and technology, South/South Cooperation and North-South relations. Out of that meeting emerged a strong political declaration accompanied by an elaborate programme of action which offers our countries a practical framework for cooperation to reduce poverty and generally improve the economic and social welfare of our peoples. Our Organisation will do well, I believe, to explore the results of the South Summit to see how best relevant decisions and recommendations could be implemented.

Within the ranks of the Islamic forum stand countries of varying strength and capacity which, through unity and cooperation can assist each other to form a stronger and more effective coordinating organisation. Many of the countries of East Asia which were buffeted by a serious financial crisis some time ago, have resumed their progress to full development. Our host country Malaysia has been exemplary in this regard. Equally progressive have been the many countries in the Middle East which, through a greatly energised OPEC, have been able to negotiate better markets and prices for their products. All our countries can learn from these experiences and work together to coordinate their negotiating positions when dealing with the countries of the developed world. As agreed by our Heads of Government, we should ensure that when the G-8 countries meet next in Okinawa, Japan, they are fully sensitised to the problems of our developing countries.

Mr. Chairman,
Many of our countries, including my own, continue to service debts with a relatively high proportion of their export earnings thus reducing the proportion of resources needed for national development. There is an obvious need to stop this from happening. As such, Guyana is urging bilateral donors and multilateral financial institutions to agree that there should be a ceiling placed on debt servicing at a level of 10 percent of export earnings, especially for the heavily indebted poor countries.

By agreeing to this, the donor countries and institutions will be allowing debt-burdened nations to release more funds into their own economies for their own development. It is possible that arrangements can be worked out to determine for how many years this 10 percent ceiling should be applied. The end result is that the debt repayment ceiling will assist the poor countries to boost their development and, in a few years down the road, will be even better able to service debts without placing severe hardships on the social and economic welfare of their peoples.

Mindful of the dangerous divide which continues to exist between the developed and developing worlds, my own Government continues to call for the establishment of a new Global Human Order. The concept of this Order which was the brainchild of the late President Cheddi Jagan of Guyana, seeks to address the major issues of poverty and underdevelopment and to lay the foundation for a new system in international relations based on social equity and justice. The Review of the Copenhagen World Summit in Social Development which is currently under way in Geneva should advance our efforts to humanise international cooperation. We urge all states of the OIC to join us in this campaign for a new Global Human Order.

Mr. Chairman,
As you know from experience, development cannot be achieved where there is political instability. And unfortunately, in far too many of our countries, conflict and violence continue to deny our peoples the prospects of a better life. While much of this disruption stems from economic causes, there are certainly other factors at play which make it difficult to reach a peaceful solution to these problems. Our agenda is full of cases in which greater political will is needed to put an end to conflict and to reach accommodation between the parties.

The situation in the Middle East - and more particularly, the question of Palestine - remains resistant to a just and definitive settlement. The Sharm Al Sheikh agreement which was signed between Palestine and Israel called for confidence-building-measures that could lead to a negotiated peace. We encourage the parties to persist in their search for an end to their differences in accordance with the provisions of the Madrid Conference and within the UN Charter and Resolutions, particularly Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 425. As a member of the UN Standing Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people, Guyana pledges its full support for the legitimate aspirations of the people of Palestine to a homeland of their own and to a safe and secure existence.

The recent withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon has generated fresh prospects for peace throughout the Middle East. All sides should now converge towards the "land for peace" formula and strive to fully implement all agreements to which they have committed themselves. In this context, we urge Israel to comply with Security Council Resolution 497 calling for its withdrawal from occupied territories and its observance of the rules and principles of international law. With political will and mutual respect, peace may yet bloom from the arid soil of conflict.

The Islamic Conference is still seized with the uncertain situation that exists in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. As recommended in the report of the Contact Group which was charged with a review of recent developments and to monitor the implementation of all relevant international peace accords, we must continue to safeguard the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-communal state. In this regard, the Dayton Peace Accord must be scrupulously implemented. So too must Resolution 1244 of the Security Council on Kosovo to allow and assist all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes and to normal lives.

Elsewhere in Asia and parts of Europe, communal strife has posed serious problems for our attention. In Jammu and Kashmir, there has been a build-up of tensions which can erupt into wider conflict. We urge all sides in this dispute to meet at the discussion table and strive to work out a peaceful, just and lasting solution to this problem which has continued for over half a century.

Because of internal divisions, Cyprus remains prey to an uncertain future. Guyana firmly supports the positions on this issue by the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement, and any resolution this Conference passes must be consistent with those adopted by these three international bodies. We reaffirm our support for the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. Efforts must be intensified towards reaching a just and viable solution must be based on the implementation of all United Nations resolutions on Cyprus in accordance with the principles and positions of the United Nations Charter and the rule of international law. We consider any attempt for a change of the basis of the inter-communal dialogue held under the mandate of the Secretary General of the United Nations as unacceptable. In this regard we welcome the recent rounds of discussions held under the auspices of the United Nations as called for by the relevant Security Council resolution. We call on both sides to participate in talks in a positive and constructive spirit in order to pave the way for a solution to this long drawn-out problem.

In Afghanistan, the continuation of hostilities among the various factions has resulted in grave loss of lives and property and endangered not only domestic unity and territorial integrity, but also regional and international peace and security. And in Africa, the case of Sierra Leone where the population has been caught up in a nightmare of cruel proportions, remains to be resolved.

Clearly, violence and armed aggressive actions offer 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. The device of contact and coordinating groups has thus far proved useful to focus attention on particular cases and to suggest ways and means by which the Conference may assist belligerent parties to settle their quarrels. We should be prepared to examine other mechanisms that may offer peaceful solutions.

Most importantly, as member states of the United Nations, we must seek to strengthen the world organisation so that it can fulfil its mandate to preserve peace and secure development. As such, the OIC should continue to emphasise the leading role of the United Nations and work unitedly to implement decisions and resolutions of the world body.

Mr. Chairman,
At this critical time, the OIC must come together to resist the growing threat to multilateralism. This year's Millennium Assembly and Summit will be crucial to the future of the United Nations System, We must therefore intensify our efforts to democratise and develop our international institutions through genuine reform and restructuring., Apart from ensuring more equitable and effective representation on the Security Council, we must ensure that the General Assembly where all our countries have an equal voice, is allotted to perform fully the role given to it under the Charter.

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 Organisation.

Wa Salaam.


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