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President James Michel yesterday addressed the United Nations General Assembly

26.09.2008

The annual general debate, which traditionally features statements by Heads of State and Government as well as Ministers, began on Tuesday 23 September to conclude on 1 October, 2008 at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York.

This year, the debate of the 63rd session of the assembly is being held under the overarching theme:

'The impact of the global food crisis on poverty and hunger in the world, as well as the need to democratise the United Nations'.

In his speech, the President called for strong action to address issues of trade, food security, global challenges arising from climate change, development constraints faced by SIDS in an increasingly globalised world, and reform of the UN.

Mr. Michel placed particular stress on the fact that the adverse effects of climate change are a major barrier to achieving sustainable development goals in SIDS like Seychelles, which are recognised as being the most vulnerable to such changes.

"It is not right that small island states have to run the risk of being submerged by rising sea levels, while some nations refuse even to acknowledge their responsibility for the high levels of environmental pollution which are now threatening the planet's resources," he told his audience.

He insisted though that Seychelles, despite its small size, would continue to be a leader.

"We shall lead by example.

By our example we have shown, and will continue to show to all, that sustainable development is achievable in our present generation," he said.

On the question of the global trade regime, the President pointed out that the existing unbalanced trade relations, which favour the world's major economies, further hamper the development efforts of SIDS and other developing nations.

"It seems acceptable to some that wealthy countries are allowed to give subsidies to their farmers, as a result of which exports from developing countries become uncompetitive," he said.

"Yet developing countries are obliged to follow World Trade Organisation rules to the letter, even to the extent that they may undermine domestic economic policies formulated to protect vulnerable sections of society."

Mr Michel also called on world leaders not to allow the "middle income trap" to hold back the development aspirations of countries such as Seychelles.

"The fact that we have a high human development index, ranked 50th in the world, and that we fall in the middle-income group of countries excludes us from access to grants and soft loans that would have helped our country develop even further and faster," he said.

"This is despite the fact that donor organisations have confirmed that all aid, grants or loans that were given to Seychelles have been properly and accountably utilised for the benefit of our people.

"It is as if we are being penalised for our success in raising the standard of living of our people.

We have fallen into the so called 'middle-income trap'."

The President also stressed the need for revitalisation of the UN in a manner favourable to the needs of SIDS, an evolution that should reflect the ideals and address the pressing needs of today.

He called for more concerted effort, making best use of resources, and more global action, rather than global debates, to address the pressing issues of high food and energy prices.

"Our deeds have to be governed by firm commitments and perseverance to find sustainable, pragmatic and equitable solutions to these complex issues that threaten our very existence," said Mr Michel.

"We should abandon 'solutions' which continue to enrich the rich and impoverish the poor and the vulnerable."

The General Assembly is continuing to address the following key issues:

  • Democratising the UN, including evaluating the work of the Security Council and of the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as revitalising the General Assembly;
  • Finance for development to end hunger;
  • Poverty and lack of access to clean water and basic health services;
  • Climate change in a divided but ecologically interdependent world;
  • Achieving the goals of the UN Decade: Water for Life (2005-2015);
  • Implementing the counter-terrorism strategy, with full respect for human rights;
  • Human security as a part of international peace and security, including disarmament and nuclear control.

The assembly is also examining these priorities from a gender perspective and will continue to consider issues relating to sustainable development and HIV/Aids.

President Michel also took the opportunity whilst in New York to hold a number of bilateral meetings.

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