STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR ODEEN ISHMAEL OF GUYANA AT THE ANNUAL COORDINATION MEETING OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC), UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK, 15 NOVEMBER 2001
Posted November 17th. 2001
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Foreign Ministers, Ambassadors, Members of Delegations . . . .
The global consequences of the attacks on the United States on September 11 have been almost immediate, but the full long-term consequences are still indeterminable, and no doubt the effect on poor economies will be highest. The magnitude of the consequences of the terrorist attacks is evident in the World Bank's assessment that there will be an economic downturn affecting developing countries around the world in 2001 and 2002, and as many as 10 million more people will be condemned to live in poverty.
No terrorist act in any form is justifiable, regardless of its perpetrator, and it should be the obligation of each State to take the measures necessary to ensure that such attacks are not repeated and that a safe haven is not provided for terrorists within its borders.
Immediate consequences of the attacks include misplaced racial and ethnic victimization and tightened security measures around the world. Believers in Islam could become targets and as members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference it is up to us to speak out against the targeting of persons based on their religion, ethnicity or nationality, and to encourage States not to shut their borders to those who have to travel to other States for employment or other legitimate reasons. In the current global economy we have become interdependent and we should not allow ourselves to become isolated because of the actions of those bent on inflicting terror.
For Asia, the region directly affected by efforts aimed at bringing terrorists involved in the September 11 attacks to justice, the economic and social consequences will no doubt be severe. We are concerned about the innocent victims in the fight against terrorism, particularly the civilian population of Afghanistan. Already, innocent civilians have died and thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. The current situation is untenable, and when one considers the impending winter season, the scenario portends of a humanitarian crisis. Guyana therefore calls upon members of the OIC and the international community to provide urgently an increased level of assistance to the Afghan people. This assistance should not be confined to those in Afghanistan, but also must include the millions of refugees in neighboring countries including Pakistan and Iran.
Indeed, our desire is to see the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. This of course requires action both at the political and economic levels. We commend and pledge our support for the work of Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, and anticipate that when the dust is settled, a well thought out post conflict plan for rehabilitation and reconstruction would be implemented.
With the removal of the Taliban regime, we now look forward to the setting up of a transitional administration which should eventually result in the formation of a Government of national unity in Afghanistan. Tangible support must be provided to this administration by the OIC and the United Nations.
We hope that peace processes in the region would not be affected by recent activities affecting the region and that the parties in the processes would undertake with new resolve to combine their efforts to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts.
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. It is disappointing that little progress has been made over the past year despite efforts made by the United States Director of Central Intelligence and the United Nations Secretary-General to move the process forward. The report prepared by the Sharm el-Sheik Fact-finding Committee headed by Senator George Mitchell also offered hope that the parties would act on its recommendations to advance the peace process.
Since the intifada began over a year ago we have been seeing incursions by Israel into areas under full Palestinian control, assassinations of Palestinian leaders by the Israeli military, demolition of Palestinian houses and other public and private property, road closures, and restrictions of movement of Palestinians throughout the occupied Palestinian Territory including Jerusalem. These events have had a negative effect on the Palestinian economy, causing considerable income loss and reversing several years of economic gain. For the people of Palestine the closures and restrictions have caused greater unemployment and have increased the poverty rate.
The role of the United Nations system has become increasingly important in addressing the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians, given the deteriorating economic conditions and the plight of the Palestinian people. The humanitarian work performed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides Palestinian refugees in the Near East with social services, health care, and schooling, is now even more vital. It is unfortunate that at this time the Agency is encountering difficulties when performing its duties due to the closures and restrictions, but we hope that efforts will be made to ease restrictions so that the staff can perform their duties unhindered. We also hope that the Agency would be provided with the funding necessary to enable it to continue to perform its humanitarian work.
Guyana unequivocally supports the struggle of the Palestinian people to attain their inalienable rights, including their right to return to their homeland and to peacefully exist in an independent state. A peaceful solution to the conflict offers the only hope for the Palestinian people, and we hope that the parties would commit to resuming dialogue as soon as possible, and that every effort would be made to advance the process beyond the state of affairs reached before September 28 2000.
United by our common faith in the teachings of Islam, we, the members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference should undertake to rise to our new challenges by working together at strengthening our economies and acting collectively to ensure that the image of our great religion and civilization is not tarnished by recent occurrences. Our strength should lie in our unity, and we should resolve to make a greater effort to end conflict and to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman