Papua New Guinea

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United Nations 55th General Assembly

Statement by

The Hon. Sir John Kaputin, KBE, CMG, MP Minister for Foreign Affairs of Papua New Guinea

 

New York September 15, 2000

Mr. President, Secretary-General Excellencies, The Distinguished Heads of Delegation,

 

Distinguished Delegates,

On behalf of the people and government of Papua New Guinea, I wish to join previous speakers in congratulating you, Mr. President, on your election to this prestigious post.

Your unanimous election as President of the United Nations General Assembly at the dawn of the new millennium shows the high esteem in which the international community holds both you, personally and your country, Finland. We are confident that you will guide the historic 55th session of the General Assembly to a successful conclusion.

The skill with which your predecessor, his excellency Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab of Namibia, co-operated to develop the theme and presided over the drafting of the outcome document ensured the smooth management of the recently concluded Millennium Summit has earned our sincere appreciation for a job very well done. We also congratulate him for the very positive contribution he made to our collective deliberations during the previous year.

May I also take this opportunity through you, Mr. President, to heartily congratulate the heads of state of both Finland and Namibia for their magnanimous stewardship and successful conclusion of the recent unprecedented large assembly of approximately 150 heads of state and governments in New York and paving the way forward for our common vision and security into the 21st century.

Beyond the Millennium - A Time for Reflection and Looking Ahead

Mr. President,

 

The Millennium Summit took place on the eve of the 25th anniversary of Papua New Guinea's independence.

The same anniversary also marks the first quarter-century of my country's membership of the United Nations.

It is, therefore, an apt occasion both for reflecting on experience and for looking ahead.

My particular focus is on the changing character, need and potential for international co-operation.

The conjunction of the millennium with Papua New Guinea's silver anniversary invites us to take a number of different time-perspectives - the short, medium and long terms.

For those of us who have been privileged to play an active part in public life during the period, it also provides the opportunity to compare the ambitions we had twenty-five years ago with the challenges we face now.

Mr. President,

As the distinguished Secretary-General has recently reminded us in the very title of the document he prepared to guide and stimulate the Millennium Summit, the United Nations was formed in the name - and with the objective of furthering the common purposes - of "We the peoples of the United Nations".

In similar fashion, the constitution which came into effect when my country became independent was made - and adopted - in the name of "We the people of Papua New Guinea".

As someone who had the honor of participating in making the Papua New Guinea constitution, I am very mindful of the national goals and directive principles we set for ourselves at independence.

While some have a distinctively national character - such as preserving, developing and building on Papua New Guinean ways - others resemble challenges which the United Nations faces today.

They include such universal challenges as promoting integral human development, equity and participation, and sustainable use of natural resources and the environment.

They also include the challenge of maintaining, strengthening and making mutually beneficial use of national sovereignty and self-reliance.

But look at us now.

What have we achieved?

What remains to be done?

The most striking feature of contemporary Papua New Guinea is the way in which we have had to trim our objectives.

Our situation is, obviously, not unique.

But it certainly warrants the most careful consideration.

When the present government, led by Prime Minister The Hon. Sir Mekere Morauta, came to office in the middle of last year, we set ourselves five very carefully defined objectives.

They are to restore integrity to state institutions; to stabilize our national currency - the kina - and the national budget; to remove obstacles to investment and growth; and to continue the process of working for lasting peace in Bougainville by peaceful means.

The national goals and directive principles continue to guide our long-term ambitions and plans.

But experience - and the realities - of governance in the age of globalization have required us to focus on much more specific, short- and medium-term objectives.

We cannot blame others - or even such largely impersonal processes as economic and technological globalization - for every aspect of our current situation.

Much of the responsibility lies with leaders and institutions at home.

Both fortunately - and unfortunately - it is part of the human condition at the start of the 21st century that we are not on our own.

Despite important differences in origins, processes and outcomes, our situation is not unique.

Many other developing countries face similar challenges in the short-and medium-terms.

International co-operation is an important key to collective self-help - both between countries with similar weaknesses and strengths, and between countries which are different and complementary (especially, rich and poor).

Global Co-operation

Mr. President,

As a member of the global community, Papua New Guinea is able to draw on support from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, our development co-operation partners in Europe, and the Asia-Pacific countries which have formed themselves into the Friends of Papua New Guinea.

While my delegation has come to New York to discuss global issues - and explore the potential for global co-operation - Papua New Guinea also participates in various forms of regional, inter-regional and bilateral co-operation.

Papua New Guinea recognizes the value - and is firmly committed to further strengthening - of global co-operation through bodies like the World Trade Organization (WTO).

My government is disappointed that the next round of WTO negotiations has been delayed, and calls for them to be held at the earliest possible opportunity.

As one of the countries where increasing areas of land are already becoming unusable or actually disappearing as a result of rising sea levels caused by climate change, we believe in the urgent need for full implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

On an issue where the very survival of certain members of the global community is clearly at stake - and where global security depends on co-ordinated global action - there must be no backsliding, no compromises, and no special cases allowed because of inability or unwillingness to honor global agreements for whatever reason.

Mr. President,

Papua New Guinea is pleased to welcome our close island neighbors and very good friends from Tuvalu to membership of the United Nations.

What a terrible tragedy it would be if the international community were to fail them at the very time when they, together with other small island states - including the countries which joined the United Nations last year - are assuming the responsibilities which go with becoming full participants in the organization's affairs.

Mr. President,

Certain security issues, such as climate change, require a global approach.

So do efforts to limit the proliferation - and bring about the complete elimination - of nuclear weapons.

Global co-operation is the only means by which the international community can realistically hope to achieve the objective which the distinguished Secretary-General set for the Millennium Summit of ensuring "that globalization becomes a positive force for ... people, instead of leaving ... them behind in squalor", especially in developing countries.

However, as the Secretary-General has also suggested in his report to the 54th General Assembly, different regions have different problems.

Even similar problems in different settings may require different approaches.

"Security policies that work in one region may not work in others."

The road to success can require complementary national, regional and global efforts.

Thus, Papua New Guinea is addressing the unwelcome spread of small arms and light weapons by imposing a complete ban on the issuing of new gun licenses.

We support efforts to deal with the spread of illegally obtained or held arms through the Pacific Islands Forum.

We look to the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons to provide a global framework - and global support - for the efforts that individual states and regional organizations are taking to deal with the problem within their respective jurisdictions.

When it comes to the management of ocean resources, Papua New Guinea sees regional and inter-regional co-operation as complementary to measures designed to ensure the sustainable harvesting of fish in national waters.

 

We, therefore, welcome the agreement recently concluded under the auspices of the Multilateral High-level Conference on Fisheries with the purpose of ensuring sustainable fishing for tuna and highly migratory species throughout their ranges in the Western and Central Pacific.

Papua New Guinea would also like to see both broader and deeper co-operation between coastal states in other aspects of oceans and ocean-bed management, including deep-sea mining.

Regional Co-operation

Mr. President,

Regional co-operation is indispensable to dealing successfully with many important global - and national - issues.

But regional co-operation can itself have a variety of different dimensions - and employ different means.

 

In the South Pacific, for example, two of our closest neighbors, Fiji and Solomon Islands, are experiencing internal difficulties which have given rise to serious concern on the part of their friends.

We do not condone the illegal overthrow of democratic and constitutional governments, or other threats to the security of the governments and citizens of other states.

But, regrettably - and despite repeated efforts by previous Papua New Guinea governments and other states - the main intra-regional body engaged in promoting regional co-operation in the South Pacific, the Pacific Islands Forum, does not have a mechanism for dealing promptly and effectively with challenges to the security of states in the region.

It has, therefore, been unable to arrange consultations - let alone to facilitate a co-ordinated approach - to the situations which have arisen following armed challenges to the governments of Fiji and Solomon Islands.

Some of our neighbors have responded by looking for support outside the region.

With the recent addition of six additional pacific members to the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states party to the Lomé Convention, fourteen Pacific Island states now have access to a very practical mechanism for dealing with such situations.

The upshot is that, when ministers and ambassadors from Pacific ACP member-states met in Cotonou, Benin, in June for the signing of the new framework agreement between the ACP and the European Union, we decided to set up a ministerial mission to report on the situations in Fiji and Solomon Islands.

In doing so, we were mindful of the need - and grateful - for the support of the European Union (EU).

The offer made by the French Minister for Economic Co-operation at the ADEAM regional forum to ensure that the European Commission will defer making a final decision on sanctions until the Pacific ACP Ministerial Mission has reported was especially welcome because of the meaning and support it gave to our effort at regional co-operation.

The imposition of sanctions against a country can be a very blunt instrument indeed - causing innocent and powerless people to suffer at the same time as the complicitous and influential, and sometimes disadvantaging them even more.

Even "smart sanctions", so-called, can have wide, unintended effects - while leaving their objects largely unaffected.

When a small group of armed men try to take over a government, imposing sanctions which affect innocent men, women and children can be not only ineffective but even counter-productive.

Sanctions might leave armed youths unaffected - and in a position where they are even unable to appreciate, or are indifferent to, the wider consequences of their actions.

The underlying causes of inter-group tensions in Solomon Islands and the events which followed the attempted civilian armed coup in Fiji can be difficult to identify, and beyond influence by sanctions.

It is, therefore, vital that serious difficulties such as those currently affecting Fiji and Solomon Islands are properly studied and carefully addressed.

Sometimes, the people best equipped to understand such situations - and identify underlying causes - are neighbors with similar cultures or other shared values.

Pacific ACP Ministerial Mission

Mr. President,

At the request of other Pacific ACP states, I have recently had the honor of leading the Pacific ACP Ministerial Mission to Fiji and Solomon Islands.

My colleagues included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Cook Islands, Dr. Robert Woonton, and Vanuatu, Hon. Serge Vohor, as well as the Minister for Education from Samoa, Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.

With the active support of the governments of both countries, we followed a crowded itinerary of meetings with the Prime Minister, Ministers and officials in Fiji and Solomon Islands; members of the previous governments of both countries; business and trade union leaders; as well as a wide cross-section of other elements of civic society, including women's organizations.

We were also able to interview victims in towns and rural areas, and to examine instances of destruction at first-hand.

My colleagues and I are currently working on our report.

We expect to present it to the European Commission, the ACP-EU Joint Assembly and other ACP, EU and joint bodies in October.

The commitment made by the French Minister of Economic Co-operation (whose country currently holds the Presidency of the EU) means that the region - or, at least, our report - has been given the opportunity to influence events.

The process on which we have embarked is, therefore, more meaningful than any existing alternative.

The Pacific ACP members' offer to share our report with the Pacific Islands Forum - and the support our initiative has received from the region - make clear our commitment to wider co-operation (not to mention our unwillingness to become involved in even the appearance of competition between rival regional bodies or groups).

The initiative has been welcomed and praised both in the region and further afield.

It sets an example which is worthy of close study both for the precedents it sets for co-operation among Pacific ACP states and as a possible model for similar efforts in other regions.

Bougainville

Fiji and Solomon Islands are not the first states in our region to experience serious internal difficulties - though we pray not only that they will experience real improvement very soon but that they will be the last.

After more than eight years of armed conflict - from 1989 to 1997 - the part of Papua New Guinea known as Bougainville is now at peace.

The progressive political settlement is moving ahead.

The Lincoln Agreement on Peace, Security and Development on Bougainville commits the parties to peace-building in several dimensions - from weapons disposal and re-establishment of civil authority; through reconciliation among former combatants; to reconstruction of infrastructure, restoration of services, economic and social recovery, and early resumption of the kinds of development which are part of the return of normalcy.

The National Government is committed to such a multi-dimensional approach.

It is the way by which we hope to co-operate in building for lasting peace by peaceful means.

The priority which the Prime Minister gave to the Bougainville peace process more than twelve months ago remains in place.

Evidence of its continuing significance can be seen in the initiative he has recently taken to meet key Bougainvillean demands within the framework of the Papua New Guinea constitution.

The government which took the initiative in inviting our neighbors - Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu - to set up the neutral, regional Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) values the contribution its unarmed personnel make to promoting mutual confidence on the ground.

The PMG's success can be judged from the peaceful way in which it is now beginning to disengage by substantially reducing in size.

The process needs greater support from the Bougainvillean parties in avoiding the vacuum which has followed the departure of similar peace-keeping operations elsewhere - by co-operating in the re-establishment of policing, courts, and correctional institutional services, as well as strengthening institutions at community level which help to maintain public order, dispense justice, and uphold the rule of law.

As the initiator of the request for the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville - and its host - Papua New Guinea appreciates the support which the Security Council and other organs of the United Nations provide for the Bougainville peace process.

We are determined to keep on working for lasting peace by peaceful means - within a flexible framework which will allow Bougainville a high degree of autonomy consistent with the integrity, security and sovereignty of the nation.

Social and Economic Issues

Mr. President,

As a developing country with twenty-five years of independence, Papua New Guinea is experiencing very great difficulty in improving national performance as measured by human development indicators (our record on some is actually becoming worse).

The current government's five main objectives are intended to focus attention and effort where they are most needed.

Our determination to pursue them is already making a very real difference, especially as far as economic management and the delivery of government services are concerned.

Structural adjustment, including quite fundamental public sector reform, is one of the key means of bringing about often long-overdue change.

We need the continuing support of our economic partners to succeed - including access to markets; increased investment in priority areas such as downstream processing which provides increased opportunities for productive employment; and aid on concessional terms.

The recently concluded partnership agreement between ACP countries and the EU is an example worthy of much wider emulation.

Mr. President,

As a developing country only a quarter-of-a-century from achieving independence, Papua New Guinea is firmly committed to proper preparation for orderly decolonization.

Impressed with the progress being made to implement the Noumea Accords, we continue to believe very strongly that the rights of the indigenous Kanaks of New Caledonia must be respected.

Conscious of the consequences of other forms of decolonization, we welcome the re-emergence of East Timor as an independent entity.

We look forward to receiving a delegation later this year to discuss how we might develop technical and other forms of mutually beneficial south-south co-operation.

Meanwhile, even as we continue to deepen and broaden co-operation with other pacific island countries, we respect the integrity of our other neighbors - and continue to benefit from the exchanges which flow from our status as a Special Observer at ASEAN meetings.

In the broader arena of Asia-Pacific co-operation, we value our membership of APEC - and continue to work towards honoring the reciprocal commitments APEC members have made to liberalize markets.

APEC includes some of our closest bilateral partners and friends.

Common membership - and developing economic ties - with other APEC economies do not detract from other aspects of Papua New Guinea’s foreign relations.

They do not affect the commitments we have made to such good friends as the People's Republic of China.

We will not allow them to do so.

Conclusion

Mr. President,

Twenty-five years after independence, Papua New Guinea has one of the longest, unbroken histories of constitutional and democratic government among countries which have become independent in the last fifty or so years.

We have experienced difficulties -and had some near misses.

The stresses and strains, which have affected our system of government, have tested our strengths.

In doing so, they have increased our understanding of countries experiencing serious internal difficulties - though not our sympathy for those who deliberately violate democratic principles or established constitutional practices - while reinforcing our commitment to good governance, both at home and abroad.

Apart from the obvious consequences this commitment has for Papua New Guinea's response to countries experiencing serious internal difficulties - including our preference for a positive, forward-looking approach, not negative sanctions - it also underlies our support for United Nations reform.

The reform must extend from improving administrative performance to making the Security Council more representative of United Nations members as a whole.

It must, in fact, extend to the performance of United Nations' members themselves, especially when it comes to paying their dues in a timely way and in full.

Mr. President,

The millennium marks an important turning point in the calendar - and, because of my country's silver anniversary, in Papua New Guinea's history too.

The United Nations is also at a critical turning point - with the Secretary-General drawing members' attention back to the original basis and focus among the people the organization should serve.

The recent review of United Nations peace and security activities has produced an excellent report which challenges us to turn another corner too -and ensure that the increased responsibilities which the organization has assumed since the end of the cold war help to keep and build peace in very different conditions.

Let me conclude, then, by paying tribute to the vision, which participants in the Millennium Summit have expressed on our behalf.

In doing so, let me add that the real challenge we face is, emphatically, not to make more speeches - but to turn their wise words into practical forms of co-operation which help us to achieve common purposes without sacrificing the diversity which is the basis of our need and ability to engage in global self-help.

Thank you.

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