by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS
during the Ministerial Dialogue at the XXX General Assembly of the OAS,
Windsor, Canada, June 3-6, 2000.
In discussing the issue of Human Security, it is significant to note that many of the ideas expressed in the paper presented by the Canadian Government coincide with those presented since 1993 by the late President of Guyana, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, in his proposal for the establishment of a New Global Human Order. I am therefore very pleased to give support to the Canadian proposals since I feel they are complementing the Guyanese proposal for a New Global Human Order.
The persistence of fundamental problems associated with the development in may of the poorer countries in the hemisphere need urgent global solutions.
While we continue to act locally and regionally to provide good governance, uphold democracy and facilitate economic growth, we have to think globally and take common action.
It is estimated that at present about 40 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean are below the poverty line. There is obviously urgent need for change.
We do not see democracy, regional integration, free trade and economic growth as ends in themselves. For even in democracies, it is possible to have economic growth with the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor. Democracy is essential for economic growth and human development. Equally, human development is necessary for the sustenance of democracy.
Free trade, by itself, does not bring universal prosperity. Nothing in theory or in practice tells us this is so. The net costs and benefits to the constituent parts are very different. The weaker and smaller economies cannot be equal partners in hemispheric free trade, even allowing for longer phasing-in periods.
Considering all this, Guyana is of the opinion that there is need for:
1. A Regional Integration Fund under the ambit of the Free Trade Area of the Americas to provide assistance for the smaller economies to help them level the playing field;
2. A high level Working Group on Debt Reform;
3. A Forests Monitoring and Management Training Fund for Sustainable Development;
4. A Human Development Fund to be managed by the United Nations; and
5. An Hemispheric Corps of Development Volunteers.
With respect to the Regional Integration Fund, I want to emphasize that both the European Union and NAFTA provide for special assistance for transitional costs of enterprises adjusting to free trade. The concept of such Fund has also been introduced in the European Union (EU) for its less developed members, and the EU has provided for aid through the Lome Convention to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. In this manner, countries in this hemisphere can undertake structural adjustment necessitated by the transition to hemispheric free trade, thereby enabling them to access goods and services from the industrialized North.
I want to explain a little about the proposed Corps of Development Volunteers. A few years ago, the President of Argentina, Carlos Menem, proposed the establishment of a volunteer group known as the White Helmets to be deployed to assist in emergency situations in various countries. This group has since been established and works under the control of the United Nations. At the first Summit of the Americas in 1994, Guyana proposed that the White Helmets program should be expanded to also assist in special social and economic programs in the Americas. It was from Guyana that the idea of a "development corps of volunteers" emanated. We envisaged a hemispheric corps of volunteers, more or less like the US Peace Corps, but drawn from specialist volunteers from all the countries of the hemisphere to be deployed to assist on special social and economic development projects in various countries. This amendment was agreed to, and is included in the Action Plan, but even though the White Helmets has now been organized and assisting in emergency situations in a number of countries in and out of this hemisphere, the development corps aspect of it is still not yet off the ground, ostensibly from a lack of funding. It is hoped that the third Summit in Quebec next year will give impetus to the implementation of this Corps of Development Volunteers.
A matter of the greatest urgency is the onerous and intractable debt burden on many of our countries. In countries like Guyana where a great portion of government revenue as well as of export earnings must be devoted to servicing external debts, our capacity to direct resources to the attack on poverty is severely affected. Currently, Guyana is receiving a number of debt write-offs, but much more of such write-offs will be needed.
I feel that debt forgiveness must also be linked to trade since as I have mentioned a great proportion of our export earnings is used to service the burdensome debt.
We must elaborate a rational and scientific approach to development, not simply for economic growth, but also for human development. As the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan said at the Miami Summit, "We need growth with social justice and eco-justice. There will be no solution to environmental questions, for instance, if the boundaries of poverty continue to expand."
Our hemisphere faces numerous problems. These include recurring problems of debt, ethnic conflicts, unemployment, hunger, homelessness, urban disorder, environmental degradation, crime, disease and narcotics. To find solutions for these problems, in this hemisphere and in the wider world, it is clear that we need a New Global Human Order. Under this Order, the United Nations system, with the support of international organizations like the OAS, has to play a more central role in global economic management and should have access to larger financial resources.
Urgent action is needed to utilize 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, 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, labor and restrictions on trade.
In today's international environment which is driven by globalization, regionalization 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.
June 5, 2000