STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR ODEEN ISHMAEL, HEAD OF THE DELEGATION OF GUYANA, TO THE TWENTY-NINTH ISLAMIC CONFERENCE OF FOREIGN MINISTERS KHARTOUM, SUDAN, JUNE 25-27, 2002
Posted July 3rd, 2002
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 twenty-ninth session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers. 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 that many of our closest friends are to be found in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. To our host, the Government and people of this beautiful country, Sudan, I express our deepest gratitude for their warm hospitality and for the splendid arrangements they have put in place for this Conference.
Let me take this opportunity to express my Government's deepest sympathies to the Government and people of Iran over the great loss of lives suffered in the recent disastrous earthquake. We pray that the Iranian people will quickly recover from this ordeal.
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 maximising the resources available to our people, even as we enhance the transparency of our Government. 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.
As we consider the plight of the Palestinians, this Conference cannot but be concerned about the plight of these long-suffering people in their woefully unequal struggle with Israel. The United Nations Secretary-General has already cautioned us against the political dangers of confusing the term "terrorism" with the struggle of the Palestinian people to win their right of national self-determination guaranteed by international law a right which every single state represented here is already savoring and enjoying. President Yasser Arafat has condemned the activities of suicide bombers, not only on humanitarian grounds, but also as being inimical to the interests of the Palestinian people. And isn't it ironic and a cause for lamentation that repeated calls are made upon President Arafat to put down terrorism? He is pressured to do so even as the tanks and soldiers of the Israeli side are bombarding his own offices and residence, placing him at risk of life and limb. And demands are also made on him to rein in political factions that are beyond his control.
My Government notes with great interest the peace proposal and concessions that the Palestinian Authority has presented to the Bush administration. The main elements of this proposal include Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 armistice line, with an allowance for minor, reciprocal adjustments and security cooperation arrangements in which international forces will play a central role in monitoring operations. This plan more or less is in line with that proposed by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a few months ago.
All of these have to be achieved by dialogue, and the sooner this process can begin, the better it will be for not only both sides, but for the entire Middle-East region.
Guyana believes that it is only through the pooling of the world's varied strengths, ingenuity and resources, that the more vulnerable in our midst can be protected. It is because of this realization that Guyana is a member, not only of the United Nations, but also of that body's Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, of the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Limited though our resources are, we have consistently devoted our efforts, over the years, to the cause of peace, development and justice in all regions of the world and, particularly, in the Middle East.
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 urges 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 of the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth. Guyana cannot support any resolution presented to the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is at variance with the resolutions of the UN, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth.
In Afghanistan, we are seeing new and, hopefully, positive developments. With the setting up of the national legislature and a working Government in Afghanistan, we expect that increased tangible support will continue to be provided to this administration by the OIC and the United Nations.
While we address these important issues, 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.
I wish to draw to the attention of this meeting that the OIC now has a South American group in the member states of Guyana and Suriname. This is significant because it indicates the growth of Islam and its influence on the American continent.
But there is also a worrying political concern in our part of the world. There is a growing trend of questioning the outcome of general elections. Elections are democratically held, fairly determined and observed by a multitude of reputable international organizations, but then the outcome is not respected by some of the parties involved. What happens next is that threats are expressed to make the country ungovernable and programs for economic and social development are seriously hampered.
We must stress that the responsibility for maintaining democracy rests not only with the Governments, but with the opposition parties as well. While we agree that Governments have a greater responsibility, they cannot alone guarantee democracy, particularly if opposition political parties hold Governments to ransom.
In my country, Guyana, this situation has persisted. With the return to democratic government from 1992, numerous international and local observers have pronounced on the freeness and fairness of elections since then. However, the main opposition has determined not to recognize the will of the people, and now some of its leaders are calling for the removal of the government by unconstitutional means. Clearly, this is a dangerous development, and international organizations such as the OIC must firmly condemn such attacks on democracy.
Despite the limitations of elections, there should never be attempts to discard elections and try to arrive at Governments by non-constitutional means. Such attempts are very dangerous and destabilizing. We have to develop a democratic culture in our societies to allow democracy to grow, and for citizens to want to defend it.
At the international level, we must also pressure the bigger powers to democratize international institutions of which we form a great part of the membership. Because the democratization process is seen to be lacking in international institutions, small countries have almost no role in the decision-making, and have almost no power in multilateral institutions to determine their own economic development.
With these factors in mind, and in the context of solidarity within our membership, the Government of Guyana again raises at this forum the importance of the establishment of a New Global Human Order. We believe that such an Order aimed at reversing the growing disparities between rich and poor, both among and within countries, offers a viable solution to many of the global social and economic ills.
The Guyana proposal for the establishment of a New Global Human Order has been endorsed in a number of international fora, including the Caribbean Community, the Movement of Non Aligned countries, and by the Group of 77 in its South Summit Declaration. In November 2000, in the wings of the Millennium Summit, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 55/48 on the role of the United Nations in promoting a New Global Human Order.
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 promotion. The attention of OIC members is also drawn to the call in the UN General Assembly resolution for views of UN Member States on the promotion of this proposal. We urge all OIC members to respond to this call as early as possible.
In concluding, Mr. Chairman, I emphasize that it is important for us in solidarity to redouble our efforts for a just world. Such efforts will sure help to improve the lot of all our peoples and cause them to prosper.
I thank you.