His Royal Highness Prince ‘Ulukalala Lavaka Ata

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Prime Minister of the Kingdom Of Tonga

New York Saturday, September 14, 2002

On the Occasion

of the

Fifty-Seventh Session of the United Nations General Assembly

September 12 – 19, 2002

Thank you Mr. President,

In offering my congratulations to you upon your assumption of this high office, there must also be praise for your predecessor, His Excellency Dr. Han Seung Soo, for a truly exemplary tenure marked at the outset by the Nobel Peace Prize for the Organization and which closes with the promise of the recently concluded World Summit for Sustainable Development. Together with the continuing leadership of the Secretary General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, and the support of the Organization's Member States, I look forward to that tradition of excellence and achievement continuing under your Presidency.

I add my voice to the chorus within this Assembly, warmly welcoming and congratulating East Timor and the Swiss Confederation to our fold. Tonga very much looks forward to working with both of them as fully fledged Member States of the Organization.

Whilst "9/11" will for all of us be ever present, it is fitting that we pause to remember those who fell in the line of duty and those loved ones who perished that terrible day. Those horrific events should serve to inspire us to rededicate ourselves and galvanize our collective efforts to fight the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Mr President,

My government continues to formulate measures in compliance with Security Council resolution 1373. These measures have both national and regional dimensions as a number of workshops have been held in the Pacific during the year to ensure and assist Pacific Island countries formulate viable counter terrorism measures. A number of key government agencies including Civil Aviation, Immigration, Police, Finance, and Customs have already adopted measures including financial and rapid security reaction measures to tighten the security aspect of the resolution. Obviously the sustained assistance of developed countries in our region has been very useful in our endeavors. It is our earnest hope that our requisite country report will be before the Counter Terrorism Committee by year's end. In this respect, I am grateful to the Committee and to the Security Council for their patience.

Mr. President,

Since I last addressed this august Assembly at the Millennium Summit, there have been further signposts to add to the developmental path. These are signposts so readily identifiable as Doha, Monterrey and now Johannesburg. These names epitomize the vision and the as yet unfulfilled promise of our collective developmental aspirations in this globalization era. In this regard I commend President Fox and the people of Mexico for their sterling efforts earlier this year. It was pleasing that consensus prevailed on the critical thematic issues of particular import to developing countries and we therefore look forward to the opportunities that Monterrey will afford. I further commend President Mbeki and the people of South Africa for their wonderful achievement earlier this month. I am particularly pleased that the Summit in Johannesburg gave prominence and profile in the Plan of Implementation to the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States. In this regard, Tonga looks forward to the ten-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) in 2004 as a further signpost in the developmental path that will give impetus to what has been achieved in Johannesburg. In preparing for that review, Tonga will continue its national efforts to refine and identify areas for specific and priority capacity building needs as well as opportunities to take increased advantage of financial and technological support.

Mr. President,

As a developing ocean State, we are encouraged by the particular commitments in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation on fish stocks and fishing practices. In order to implement these time bound commitments requires responsibility and good faith from all parties so as to ensure that States like mine obtain its fair share of its most vast and bountiful resource. We were pleased that the UN Fish Stocks Agreement has entered into force and welcome the informal meeting of States Parties that took place here in New York recently. In this respect we urge other Member States to become a party to this important agreement. Within this context, we continue to also welcome the preparations for giving effect to the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This Convention is testament to our commitment to conserving and sustainably managing a critically important resource. As such, we continue to urge the distant water fishing nations with a real fisheries interest in our region to make every effort to become a party to this Convention. Tonga continues to value the work and decisions this year of the UNCLOS Meeting of States Parties, the International Seabed Authority and UNICPOLOS III. We look forward to an important milestone later this year, which is the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I hope that Member States consider the upcoming anniversary as opportune to becoming a party to the Convention.

Mr. President,

Our region has further endorsed a first ever regional oceans policy that elaborates some guiding principles that should serve as a template for countries like Tonga to consider developing national ocean policies that strengthens coordination and complementarity in our ocean related activities. An activity that continues to give rise to deep concern is the transshipment of radioactive material through the waters in our region. In this regard, whilst we might understand the needs and requirements of those States who engage in this activity, it is just as important that the necessary framework for prior notice, consent, safety and compensation for countries like Tonga not be ignored.

Mr. President,

Tonga continues to support the development of an appropriate environmental vulnerability index for Small Island Developing States and commends the continuing work of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in this regard. With the participation of States, it is our belief that such an index has the potential to provide accurate indicators of vulnerability to which small islands in particular are exposed to such as natural disasters, climate change and sea level rise. As such, Tonga welcomes the commitment by certain Annex I countries during the Johannesburg Summit to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and the further opportunities for progress that such positive action presents.

Mr President,

On 30th and 31st December 2001, Tropical Cyclone Waka traversed the northern group of Tonga with wind velocity in excess of 100 miles an hour and resulted in substantial and horrific damage to those islands. To be sure, the damage was estimated at over TOP$140 million (US$ 63,319,765) but thankfully there was no loss of life. The inevitable and difficult task of relief, recovery and reconstruction was compounded by the geographic distance of the northern group from the capital and the sheer scale of the damage sustained. Luckily, action by traditional donor governments and our neighbors within the region, territorial governments, regional and international organizations, such as the Pacific Island Forum and particular UN agencies, was swift and generous and provided much needed assistance to my Government. Two weeks after the Cyclone, nature, who had wrought such devastating winds, now caused more favorable weather to prevail that greatly helped the replanting phases of the recovery effort. We expect a resurgence of the critical agricultural, tourism and fisheries sectors by the end of the year. I am therefore deeply grateful to such governments, organizations and agencies as Australia, Canada, China, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Samoa, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU), American Samoa, French Polynesia, UNDP and the World Bank as well as NGOs and the Churches for their valued assistance in our time of crisis.

Mr. President,

Whilst information and communication technologies (ICT) remain "the way to go", we continue with our own efforts to bridge the digital divide and take maximum advantage of the digital revolution. To take full advantage will require joint efforts in tandem with the international community and the United Nations, particularly through the efforts of the UN ICT Taskforce as one avenue. Such effort must be characterized by partnership and inclusion in the ICT process so that all developing States in every region can benefit. The UN's role of bridging, coordinating and integrating activities is therefore crucial. We urge in this respect continued support for SIDSNET and efforts to strengthen its capacity to support and assist Small Island Developing States.

We welcome the fruitful outcome, earlier this year, of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children. Whilst we recognize the promise it holds for the welfare and well being of all children, like the outcome of the recent Special Session on HIV/AIDS, commitments must progress beyond the rhetoric into concrete actions.

Mr President,

Tonga fully supports the work of the Security Council and, like other speakers before me, calls for the full implementation of all of its resolutions to ensure an enduring peace in the arena of conflict and to lift the veil of doubt where this could pose conflict.

In one such arena, we join the call for an end to violence, a return to the negotiating table, and the building of confidence so as to realize the co-existence of two States, side by side in secure and recognized borders.

Tonga also supports efforts to streamline the work of the General Assembly so that it can play the pivotal and focused role that we desire. In like terms, we support the call for reforming the Security Council where both the number of permanent and non-permanent seats are increased to accord with and respond to today’s realities.

Finally Mr. President with respect to pertinent regional issues, Tonga endorses the views expressed in both the Nadi Declaration, in document A/56/1015, and the Suva Communiqué, in document A/57/331. They are the respective outcomes of the Summit of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States held in Nadi in July 2002 and the annual meeting of Pacific Island Forum Leaders held in Suva in August 2002.

I thank you.

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