Address by His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo at the Global Convention 99 Organised by the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin Crown Plaza Hotel, New York September 24, 1999

Posted October 8th.1999

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen . . .

Please accept my sincere gratitude for your kind invitation for me to make some brief remarks to this august gathering. Also, allow me to congratulate the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin on its 10th anniversary. A few hours ago I addressed the 54th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I did so on behalf of the Group of 77 and China which Guyana has the honour to chair. This is a very important grouping of developing countries. The main thrust of the developing countries at the juncture, just a few months away from the new millennium, is the fostering of a new global dispensation in which all countries can live in peace, equality and co-operation. The challenges facing developed and developing countries are enormous and sometimes similar. While there are great prospects opening up for further development, there are also uncertainties. In this context, the United Nations has a crucial role to play in bringing all peoples together to resolve the burning issues of the day.

Major catastrophes are occurring at an alarming rate. Natural disasters are increasing and putting severe pressures on the resources of many countries. Unfavourable climatic conditions such as El Nino and La Nina are contributing to devastation and an increase in poverty levels. Additionally, there are the environmental problems such as depletion of the ozone layer and extensive pollution. Very soon the planet will be occupied by six billion people; to make life meaningful for them is an enormous challenge.

Coupled with this are the daily crises caused by conflicts. It is estimated that at this moment there are some 40 such conflicts, most of them occurring within the borders of individual states. The toll on human lives is immense. Millions are being displaced and left homeless. Many are left without a country. Many of these conflicts are ethnic in nature. The reasons for these conflicts are many. Among the underlying cause are widespread poverty, the existence of political extremism and a lack of tolerance. I must also mention that the lack of political will to tackle age old differences among peoples is also a contributing factor.

The world situation is also marked by an increase in organised crime linked mainly to the drug trade. There is also a growing movement of people away from developing countries to the industrialised centres. This phenomenon is particularly stressful for developing countries when already scarce human resources leave for greener pastures.

These problems are global in nature and demand global solutions. The evolution of a inter-dependent world, globalisation and liberalisation create conditions whereby both the negative and positive affect all countries. Many developing countries are today benefiting from this process. At the same time, however, there are inherent problems associated with this system which is causing marginalisation and an increase in poverty.

The time has come for us to stop blaming each other for these problems and search for common solutions which will bring benefit to our respective peoples. Man has the capability, especially with the development of science and technology to eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living of all inhabitants on the planet.

Guyana has always played an active role in the creation of friendly and constructive international relations. In recent times, one outstanding leader from the third world in this respect, has been the late President of Guyana, Dr. Cheddi Jagan. His was a vision of a world free from conflict where mankind can put to the benefit of people the great advances of science and technology. Throughout his exemplary life, both in Guyana and on the international scene, he championed the cause of the developing countries and particularly the poor and disadvantaged. You may very well recall his advocacy for a New Global Human Order when he addressed your convention a few years ago. Today, his call for the humanising of international relations is being taken up by many in different parts of the world. His vision continues to give us strength in Guyana where we are set on a path of human development.

Today, I speak to you as one among many who have had the privilege of working with Dr. Jagan both in the People=s Progressive Party and the PPP/Civic government. Just a few weeks ago I assumed the highest office in our country in unusual circumstances. In August, the then President Janet Jagan, widow of the late Dr, Jagan, due to ill health, stepped down as President of Guyana. It was a remarkable gesture on her part and will go down in history as act of great courage and humility. Mrs. Jagan has been in the forefront of the political struggles for a free Guyana for more than fifty years. To crown her great contribution to the country, she created the condition for the younger people of our country to play their part in the development of our country.

The dramatic changes that have taken place in Guyana is symptomatic of what is happening throughout the world. Young people are becoming more involved in all aspects of societal development and are making a solid contribution. They bring with them vigour, fresh ideas and are willing to work with all sections of their societies to forge alliances which will bring about harmonious national development. This atmosphere of togetherness will obviously impact positively on international relations since the absence of conflict will greatly enhance the stability of the global environment.

Our great Indian philosophers have long visualised the universe as one family. Indians, wherever they are, and for whatever reasons, have been contributing in many ways in making this a reality. Millions have settled in all parts of the world and working together with the native peoples in those countries. Guyana is no exception. My country is a land of sic races, living side by side and carving our a future as one people. In our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, we do not see our present and future as being separate. As our national Motto declares, we are One People, One Nation with One Destiny.

This is not to say that we do not have problems. Like many post-colonial societies, the process of creating a new society is painful. From time to time, there are serious tensions that threatens the social fabric of our society. Many of the root causes of these problems can be traced to our colonial past during which no effort was spared to divide our people so as to preserve colonial rule. The prevalence of poverty and the lack of resources to give people more of their basic needs is also a strong factor that supports instability. Yet, we do not give up the quest for unity. We do not give in to easy answers such as going our separate ways and living in ethnic enclaves. We cannot be lured into quick fix solutions. We must create the conditions for all to feel secure and all must feel that the nations wealth is being managed for the benefit of all. We have to work toward the creation of a society where inclusion, respect and tolerance of each other is the order of the day.

Although we come from different backgrounds, humankind is not without the capacity to interact with people of different persuasions. People can adopt to changes without compromising their own heritage and identity. We are living in a plural world which demands flexibility, tolerance and co-existence - all of which are within the realm of human attainment. On this score I recall the words of Jawaharlal Nehru who said years ago when addressing the United Nations: "The only alternative to co-existence is co-destruction."

As President of the Republic. I am not daunted by our seemingly insurmountable problems, especially in the context of Guyana being among the under-developed countries in the hemisphere. Rather, I am encouraged to build a united country given the overwhelming love of the people for their country and the willingness to put their shoulders to the wheels to get Guyana moving along the road of prosperity.

I have this vision that my country has the potential of becoming a model democratic state. Although we have experienced years of stagnation, the dramatic strides made in the past few years have been encouraging. We have a plural society with a freely elected government and an open economy to benefit from the process of globalisation and liberalisation. Guyana is blessed with great natural resources. This natural condition has attracted investments from various countries and an aggressive campaign is underway to bring in more investments.

Like most developing countries, however, we face real problems such as price fluctuations of prices for our products such as rice, sugar, gold, forest products and bauxite. My government also inherited a heavy debt burden from the past. And because of the poor economic health of the nation for almost three decades, many of our most talented people have left for greener pastures, leaving us with a great human resource problem. But these are issues which we can overcome.

To do so however would mean forging a global alliance which can effectively promote the interest of the developing countries. We do not see the process of negotiating for a better dispensation as being antagonistic. The North and the South must find common grounds and hammer out mutually beneficial relations. At the United Nations, I pointed out that that there is an acute need for a new global agenda with the objective of putting a human face to the marketplace. Policies aimed merely at creating unsustainable social safety nets are hardly lasting solutions. The root causes of the structural and endemic problems of the developing countries which ultimately lead to global instability must be addressed.

I thank you.

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