— President Ali tells UN, calls for improved access to development financing for developing countries
By Navendra Seoraj
INCLUSIONARY democracy is a critical element of any progressive economy and while there has been more rhetoric than action on this front, in the past, President Dr. Irfaan Ali has assured the United Nations (UN) that the new People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is committed to greater political inclusion.
Dr. Ali’s government was sworn in on August 2, 2020, five months after Guyanese would have voted in the General and Regional Elections. The process was stymied because of a slew of legal challenges, which were seen as attempts to derail the process.
Regional and international intervention compounded by local resilience pushed Guyana “over the line” and ensured that democracy prevailed.
In addressing the UN, President Ali said: “I take this opportunity to commend the international community, including the United Nations for defending the democratic rights of our citizens.”
He further said his government is committed to greater political inclusion and to enacting institutional reforms to ensure that democracy, the rule of law and constitutional rights are respected.
Coming off of a “testing period” which was exacerbated by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the President said his government recognises the dignity and worth of the human person and is determined to secure a higher standard of living for every citizen of Guyana.
On a global level, President Ali said multilateralism is the key to unlocking solutions to humanity’s problems. The ongoing public health and climate crises have demonstrated that it is in the common interest of humanity that the world fully embraces the ideals of multilateralism.
As a testimony to Guyana’s commitment to multilateralism, in January of this year the country assumed the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China. The country’s statement to the world is that a state’s capacity for leadership is not constrained by its size.
A product of multilateral efforts is the UN development agenda. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains a viable plan of action to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. In this critical Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development, President Ali said leaders must be fully focused on eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions as no one must be left behind.
“At this time, an earnest and thorough assessment of the development agenda is warranted, with a view to recommitting ourselves to its aims,” said the president, adding: “It is therefore regrettable that we missed the opportunity to adopt a robust outcome document at the conclusion of the 2020 High-Level segment of the Economic and Social Council and the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development.”
Global partnerships for development have never been more urgent in order to mobilise the means to implement the ‘agenda’.
Ali said his government believes that the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council should play a more proactive role in catalysing partnerships and should serve as platforms for ensuring coherence in the joint economic, environmental, and socio-political initiatives being undertaken.
“Now more than ever, we need a resurgence of political will and commitment to protect the multilateral architecture and institutions, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” President Ali advised, noting that Guyana reposes confidence in this institution.
In March 2018, Guyana filed its application in the ICJ seeking an affirmation of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the international boundary that it established.
“We are happy to report that, on the 30th of June, 2020, the ICJ held its first virtual hearing on the controversy involving Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Regrettably, Venezuela has refused to participate in the hearing. Guyana now awaits the determination of the ICJ on whether the Court has jurisdiction to proceed to hearing the merits of the case,” said President Ali.
Among the changes which the UN has witnessed was the proliferation of newly-independent states, following the end of the Second World War. Many of these newly-independent states are developing countries which account for more than half of the world’s states and population.
The UN make-up, inclusive of the Security Council, must reflect this reality. The Security Council, in particular, should be reformed to increase the number of developing countries that are permanent members, said President Ali.
Developing countries continue to face constraints associated with limited access to development financing.
“Improved access to such financing is vital for the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The United Nations must continue to champion the need for great access to development financing for developing states,” said President Ali.
The UN, he said, has a special duty to ensure that members’ obligations under international agreements are fulfilled and that setbacks in meeting commitments are reversed.
“Guyana applauds the ongoing work on reform of the United Nations development system (UNDS). We believe, however, that there should be greater focus on reforms that are tailored to allow the UN to respond adequately to existing and emerging gaps in development and to find solutions to existing threats,” said the President.
One of the main challenges right now, is the COVID-19 pandemic which presents implications for the progress and prosperity of the world.
“The pandemic has launched an attack on the health and well-being of our people while the economy has become a causality of this assault. This pandemic is reversing our gains on health, poverty and education,” President Ali lamented.
More than ever, the resolve of the UN is being tested and it is evident that no single country can overcome the debilitating effects alone. This reality, the President said, must encourage the trajectory of the UN so that it can support the efforts of developing countries to rebuild and to become more resilient.
He believes that a strong multilateral system is required for collective action to stem this pandemic.
“I acknowledge the support of UN agencies in my country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. We trust and support the efforts of the UN system to ensure fair, transparent and timely global access to preventive tools, equipment and materials for testing,” said President Ali.
In this regard, he recognised the important role of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in coordinating the response of the UN system and in global public health preparedness and response.
Competing and compounded by the pandemic is climate change. Every year is another record breaking year for extreme weather conditions and climate events. As a low-lying coastal state, Guyana is aware of the high toll of these extreme weather conditions. But also knows building climate resilience is costly.
President Ali believes that the only way to ease this burden is through concerted and balanced climate actions, especially through mitigation, climate financing, technical cooperation and capacity building.
He urged all states to set ambitious targets in their “nationally determined contributions” under the Paris Agreement and to work earnestly towards them.
Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) reflects the national development agenda, as this strategy will ensure that the nation fulfills its nationally determined contributions and place the country along a path of sustainable and climate-resilient development.
President Ali, however, warned that progress on the sustainable development agenda could be impeded by conflicts, so nations must continue to devote their collective efforts towards the achievement of peace in every region of the globe.
“The future we want and the United Nations that we need are in our hands. It is ours to fashion. History must not find us victims of inaction or succumbing to failure.
“Multilateralism is the pathway to achieving our ends. We must collectively work to preserve this instrument and to strengthen the United Nations as we build a better world for our generation and those to follow,” said President Ali.