20th September 2002
Tuvalu Governor General Appealed for International Cooperation at the United Nations
The Governor General of Tuvalu, His Excellency Rt Hon Sir Tomasi Puapua, during his visit to the United Nations last week, appealed to the industiralised countries, particularly those who have not done so, to urgently ratify and fully implement the Kyoto Protocol as a concrete measure of global solidarity, and saving Tuvalu from being submerged in the ocean.
Delivering the Tuvalu Statement at the 57th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday 14th September 2002, Sir Tomasi Puapua reiterated Tuvalu’s grave concerns with the adverse impact of global warming particularly of climate change and sea level rise on the survival and livelihood of the Tuvalu people. His Excellency told the General Assembly that even though many people were already migrating to escape, and suffering from the onslaught of sea level rise, it was certainly not the wish of the people of Tuvalu to be taken as environmental refugees. Rather it was the strong wish of Tuvalu people to remain permanently as a nation on their islands.
His Excellency also drew the attention of the international community to the significant importance of overseas development aid particularly to poor and small island developing States such as Tuvalu, citing that recently concluded UN global conferences like that on the Rights of the Child, Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development held recently in Johannesburg would have no meaning to Tuvalu unless these were followed up with the provision of additional and adequate funding resources for actions. Sir Puapua called on the international community to help address Tuvalu’s special needs in developing quality education, health, access to fresh water, good sanitation, affordable energy and infrastructures.
The visit of Sir Puapua and his delegation, which included his wife, First Lady Riana Puapua, Foreign Affairs Officer, Mr Pasuna Tuanga, President of the Tuvalu Christian Church, Reverend Tofiga Falani, and the President of the Tuvalu National Council of Women, Mrs Katalaina Malua, to the United Nations was coordinated by the Tuvalu Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr Enele S Sopoaga and staff of the Permanent Mission of Tuvalu to the United Nations. Travel expenses for the Governor General and his delegation to New York were all paid for by the United Nations in recognition of Tuvalu’s status as a least developed country. The delegation safely returned to Tuvalu on Monday 23rd September.
Proud as we are that our small island nation of Tuvalu is a Member of this Great Family of Nations, first we must give thanks to God Almighty for His love and for allowing us all to participate in this General Debate. Let me also extend my Delegation’s sincere appreciation to the Government of our host country, the United States of America, for their warm hospitality and support.
Tuvalu warmly congratulates you, Mr President, on your election, and commends highly the outgoing President for his leadership, especially during a very challenging year for the Organisation. Tuvalu also wishes to re-affirm its strong confidence in the Secretary General. In addition, we warmly congratulate the entry of Switzerland to the UN, and welcome that of East Timor later on in this Session.
Tuvalu sincerely joins both in spirit and hearts the remembrance of the great loss, particularly of innocent human lives, following the terrorist attacks on American soil last year. We pray for the victims’ families, and for full recovery in restoring their lives. Within our own organization, we are proud that of this turmoil the United Nations has come out ever more stronger with the resolve to combat international terrorism.
In Tuvalu and many island countries in the Pacific, we know our own unique vulnerability is also fertile ground to forces of terror that threaten the security and survival of the islands. It is in this regard that Tuvalu is committed to the Pacific Islands Forum declarations on regional security highlighted in the Forum Communique, which is circulated as a UN paper. In the same spirit, last year Tuvalu pledged its commitment to the UN anti-terrorism resolutions, and we still do. But we also need both technical and financial assistance from the international community to enable us fulfill our international obligations.
Mr President, joining and being part of the United Nations is never easy. Particularly for a small and poorly resourced island country such as Tuvalu, asserting our place here is made against the many competing priorities of nation building. However, our presence here is proof to our belief all along since our independence that through the UN principles of equal participation our voice on our security and development concerns will be advocated and better heard.
Although new, Tuvalu supports the reforms being undertaken in the Organisation to streamline and ensure efficiency. In particular, it supports initiatives that have been developed on reforms in the Security Council and in the work of the Secretariat, and it is our strong view that these warrant proper support. It is also our view that equitable representation more reflective of the diversity in the UN membership both in the staffing of UN secretariats and in its various working committees needs to be properly considered.
Mr President, as a peace-loving nation Tuvalu firmly believes that the paramount mission of the United Nations must remain the maintenance of peace and security for all nations of the world, as clearly articulated in the Preamble to the United Nations Charter. However, a long outstanding issue that also warrants serious considerations is the question of the Republic of China on Taiwan. As a country with a population of 23 million people, a well defined territory and an established democratic system of government, and as a responsible international actor in world trade and relations, it is our strong opinion that the right and self-determination of the ROC’s people to join the UN should be urgently addressed. The UN cannot be said to be universal, nor can global peace be assured, until the ROC issue is properly resolved
As we progress in the new century, however, we are increasingly challenged by the many changes that are taking place. Never before has the human race faced such complex challenges. We are in a world where the concept of globalisation is in the media everyday. Yet while we share a world where trade, communications and travel appear to have made us a single global community, large parts of the world continue to suffer from poverty, marginalisation and environmental decline. We are far from being a cohesive global community. Unfortunately and more so, Tuvalu and many small island developing states are in a particularly weak position to participate fully and take advantage of the opportunities under globalisation. Mr President, there is a genuine need for special assistance to enhance our capacity in this regard.
On the issue of conflicts prevention, Tuvalu like other vulnerable small island nations is particularly weary of conflicts and wars. It is our humble view that too often many countries seem compelled to resort to military and violent action to resolve conflicts rather than to understanding the root causes of these conflicts. We strongly feel this approach needs careful consideration. The build up of arms and the massive expenditure on the so-called ‘defense’, completely overshadows all efforts to resolve underlying causes of poverty, unrest and instability. For us to survive as an international community we must reverse this trend. And we must learn to listen to each other.
In this respect, Tuvalu firmly believes we must place greater faith in the United Nations as the source of meaningfully addressing poverty, conflicts and instability and effects of environmental degradation. It is here, in the ‘common house of the human family’ where countries should come, put down their arms, listen to each other and resolve their differences together. We believe this is the only way forward to ensure long lasting world peace, security and sustainable development.
Mr President, Tuvalu agrees with the importance of sustainable development, and subscribes to the goals espoused in the Millennium Declaration particularly on poverty eradication. It also welcomes the holding of the United Nations international conferences, including, on the Rights of the Child, Financing for Development and the review of the implementation of Agenda 21 through the World Summit on Sustainable Development. In addition, Tuvalu also appreciates commitments made recently to replenish the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) so vitally important to many countries, especially to small island developing states.
However, whilst Tuvalu appreciates these considerations for small island developing states in the respective processes, we appeal for more concrete recognition, particularly by the donor community, of our “special case” situation to enable us cope with the challenges that we face, particularly with regards to capacity building through quality education and health, access to fresh water and affordable energy, infrastructures and sanitation. Without additional and adequate resources, partnership initiatives arising from these processes will have no real meaning especially for those within communities that are most in need like the women, children and people on rural and outer island areas.
It needs not be repeated, Mr President, but for Tuvalu, development aid is indispensable to development. For us ODA is the development budget. The maintenance of vital services to our people through innovative partnerships such as the Tuvalu Trust Fund, for example, would not have been possible without ODA, and I would like at this juncture to acknowledge with great sincerity Tuvalu’s appreciation to all its development partners, particularly our traditional donors, old and new, like Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Japan, the European Union and the Republic of China on Taiwan.
Mr President, on our part having progressed as a sovereign nation with relative peace and stability over the past twenty-four years, Tuvalu is strongly committed to the UN principle of good governance. The recently elected Government of Tuvalu is fully committed to the principles of good governance, democracy and respect for the rule of law. It is also committed to accountability and transparency in harmony with Christian values, and traditional and cultural norms. As in the past, we are also committed to prudent management of finances and to further work on reforms to improve our systems.
Tuvalu is surrounded by the huge Pacific Ocean, and is well aware both of its rights to its vast marine resources and also its responsibility to ensure proper and sustainable management of the potentials of the ocean. We therefore fully associate ourselves with the Pacific Islands Forum Regional Ocean Policy recently adopted by our leaders.
Finally, Mr President, efforts to ensure sustainable development, peace, security and long-term livelihood for the world will have no meaning to us in Tuvalu in the absence of serious actions to address the adverse and devastating effects of global warming. At no more than three meters above sea level, Tuvalu is particularly exposed to these effects. Indeed our people are already migrating to escape, and are already suffering from the consequences of what world authorities on climate change have consistently been warning us. Only two weeks ago, a period when the weather was normal and calm and at low tide, unusually big waves suddenly crashed ashore and flooded most part of the capital island.
In the event that the situation is not reversed, where does the international community think the Tuvalu people are to hide from the onslaught of sea level rise? Taking us as environmental refugees, is not what Tuvalu is after in the long run. We want the islands of Tuvalu and our nation to remain permanently and not be submerged as a result of greed and uncontrolled consumption of industrialized countries. We want our children to grow up the way we grew up in our own islands and in our own culture.
We once again appeal to the industrialized countries, particularly those who have not done so, to urgently ratify and fully implement the Kyoto Protocol, and to provide concrete support in all our adaptation efforts to cope with the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Tuvalu, having little or nothing to do with the causes, cannot be left on its own to pay the price. We must all work together. May God Bless you all. May God Bless the United Nations. TUVALU MO TE ATUA