Statement by the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of
St. Kitts and Nevis at the
Thirty-Second Regular Session
of the General Assembly of the
Organization of American States in Bridgetown, Barbados
on Tuesday 02 June 2002 regarding the
“Follow-up and Development of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”
Madame Chair, our forebears endured the yokes of slavery and
indentureship, and as a result, we as a region are heirs of a shameful
system in which poverty and social inequity were entrenched. After the
abolition of slavery, our colonizers developed for us a skewed system of
democracy biased in favor of their preferred class and race.
This is the foundation, Madam Chair, on which the pillars of our
present system of governance were laid, and in which they are rooted - a
system in which unjust social conditions prevailed and in which there
was programmed under-development consistent with what was considered
appropriate for our people.
Today Madam speaker we stand as an independent small state truly
democratic and free, with justice and equal opportunity for all. But
though we are proud of the developmental strides we have made, Madam
Chair, there remains with us residues of this social inequity which a
mere nineteen years of full sovereignty have not afforded us the
unfettered opportunity to fully correct.
There remains with us as Kittitians and Nevisians, and indeed as post- colonial Caribbean people:
- Pockets of poverty, including extreme poverty
- Health conditions which though considerably improved
still reflect indices which are not synchronous with our developmental
- The need for a human capacity enhancement sufficient to ensure our self reliance
- The need for affordable housing
- The need, in short for the means to ensure livelihoods and more comfortable living for all our people.
It is primarily in this context Madam Chair that St. Kitts and Nevis
wishes to encourage the promotion of the Democratic Charter and to
support its principles. For in the absence of such considerations, in
addition of course to the many other sound tenets enshrined in that
document, then representative democracy would be but a farce.
The development of the Inter-American Democratic Charter must
facilitate our steps on the road to achieving our goal of social and
economic development, thereby averting social discontent and dissonance,
eliminating poverty and hunger, enhancing health care and educational
We have come this far by dint of hard work, maximization of
educational opportunities and implementation of sustainable social
programs for all of our people. We have striven to eliminate poverty
while endeavoring to consolidate the democratic principles we have
learnt to hold so dear.
There is, I understand, a call for the consolidation of
democracies throughout the hemisphere. This, Madam Chair, must be
synchronous with the call for the reduction of poverty and the
eradication of extreme poverty. The acknowledgement of the
interdependency of these two ideals in the Inter-American Democratic
Charter should compel us to pursue with fervor, those endeavors that
create opportunities, open doors and build societies where none is
excluded. The marriage of these two concepts must move from the pages
of the document and from the realm of rhetoric and must translate into
tangible action plans that impact each city, town and village throughout
The manifestation of this would be productive employment
resulting in better living standards, good governance, sustainable
development and respect for the rule of law. All of which are hallmarks
of true democracy.
Madam Chair, the structures that exist for the protection of our
democratic ideals and principles must co-exist with mechanisms developed
for our social agenda and so the success of our efforts to consolidate
and preserve our democracies should mirror the enhancement of social
services for our people and advances in our battle against poverty.
The question which might be asked, Madame Chair is: “Do we have
the political will to deliver on this commitment, or will be stuck with
an impressive treatise for which no application could be found?” Urgent
attention is demanded lest we be perceived as conveniently turning a
blind eye or deaf ear to those for whom life is merely an existence,
because we lacked the courage to truly strengthen our democratic
institutions. Indeed, democracy must be the glove into which the hand
of effective social programming and assistance must fit.
There can be no doubt that our democratic process and structures
must be preserved and strengthened so that they can embrace and shelter
all of our citizens and that the structures must be built on the solid
economic foundations so that growth would buttress whatever progress is
made in this building exercise. We must solidify and consolidate these
democratic structures and processes alongside the fulfillment of the
essential purposes of our organization as contained in article 2 of the
OAS Charter, which entreats us to put into practice the principles on
which the OAS was founded and to fulfill its regional obligation under
the charter of the UN, and thereby “to eradicate extreme poverty, which
constitutes an obstacle to the full democratic development of the
Our commitment to our instruments must be unwavering and our
strengthening and protections of the ideals enshrined therein must be
pursued with zeal and vigor. Nevertheless we should refrain from
engaging in activities that would retard each other’s progress and avoid
situations that could tend to aggravate negative conditions.
Madame Chair, the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis has made
education its main thrust in the fight against poverty and social
inequity and recognizes the role of education as a sure vehicle for the
upward mobility of the citizens of our Federation. As Minister of
Education as well as Foreign Affairs, I note the importance of the
fellowship program and the impact that this program has had on the lives
of many of our citizens. Tremendous benefits have been derived from the
opportunities presented within the program and many have in turn
contributed to the improvement of the society in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
To build on its success we must strengthen the program, by partnering
with corporations and private enterprises in leveraging available
resources to augment the program.
Trade liberalization policies which take into account the unique
characteristics of the smaller economies of developing states is another
medium by which the countries of the hemisphere can enhance
partnerships and promote economic growth. To that end, we must
challenge ourselves to support countries particularly the small island
developing states whose economies are beleaguered as we transition to
absorb the new global realities.
We, Foreign Ministers from across the hemisphere assembled here
in Barbados, should renew our commitment to the reduction of poverty and
elimination of extreme poverty, and our unwavering support to the
strengthening of the ideals of democracy, while charging the OAS to
undertake specific activities within the framework of the Units of the
OAS to achieve our stated goals.
Madame chair, our efforts at creating strong democratic
structures and true social equity must be visibly displayed and
perceived in our national institutions. In order to solidify and
strengthen the democratic processes we must endeavor to create the
social climate that would permit democracy to flourish unfettered and
improve the standard of living and the upward mobility of all the
peoples of our hemisphere. In our deliberations we must have no
dissonant sounds as far as these fundamental principles are concerned.
Our Charter mandates us to combat poverty and all forms of social
inequity in our hemisphere. Indeed our very survival depends on it and
we must not be found wanting.
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Intervention on behalf of the Caribbean Community
by the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saint Christopher and Nevis,
with regard to the challenge of HIV/AIDS for the region and
its implications as an issue of human security
Assistant Secretary General
Other Distinguished Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen
The challenges of human security have preoccupied mankind for
longer than our written history can bear testimony to. And as these
challenges to our security have taken on new dimensions, mankind has
always ingeniously contrived ways of protecting himself and those dear
to him, within his limitations, from threats, pestilence and disasters,
natural and unnatural.
At no time in our history however Madam Chair, has our security
concerns on many fronts been so overwhelming. We are now confronted
with a security challenge more formidable than any we have known before -
the challenge of HIV/AIDS. It seems to me and to many others Madam
Chair, that no security challenge facing mankind has ever had such
comprehensive impact and such far-reaching implications as this
challenge. As a social phenomenon this challenge seems to subsume all
For us in the Caribbean, the challenge of HIV/AIDS and its
meaning in relation to our security as a people cannot be exaggerated.
This is not merely another health challenge. Left unchecked HIV/AIDS
will destroy not only individuals and families, it will decimate the
most productive sector of our population - the 15 to 44 years age group -
leaving us nations of orphans. It will comprehensively weaken and
ultimately destroy the sheer fabric of our Caribbean society -
medically, psychologically, socially, economically, demographically and
in every other conceivable way.
As is widely known, the Caribbean as a region, is second only to
Sub-Saharan Africa in reported cases of HIV/AIDS, the overall prevalence
being about 2.1%. About 80% of the reported cases in our region are
secondary to heterosexual transmission, ie normal and socially accepted
modes of sexual expression. Contrast this if you will Madam Chair with
the 13% rate of heterosexual transmission in North America where drug
use and homosexual transmission together account for over eighty percent
of the cases - a complete reversal of trends. And whereas in North
America prevalence rates are on the decline, in the Caribbean these
rates are rising.
UNAIDS estimates that currently about half a million people in
our region are living with the virus and some surveys report that the
number of new cases among women is greater than among men. The
peri-natal transmission of HIV in OAS member states is highest also in
CARICOM States - 7%. Contrast this again if you will with rates in
North America of 1.1%. Our children too are dying.
Madam Chair, we cannot legislate behavior but it seems to us that
short of a cure, survival requires that substantial investment must be
made in strategies for modifying the sexual behavior of our people.
Whether or not a cure is found, we as a people face the serious
challenge of ensuring that our knowledge and attitudes are harmonized
with good judgment, in the interest of our health, our welfare and our
Madam Chair, the security of the peoples of CARICOM is under
severe threat. Preliminary research data from the Health Economics Unit
of the University of the West Indies demonstrates that the impact of
HIV/AIDS on productivity, economic growth and competitive capability are
in danger of serious erosion. Given what we know and the real
prospects with which we are faced, we are constrained to make an urgent
appeal for a level of understanding, collaboration and assistance in
this matter befitting the magnitude of this challenge. Such
understanding must take into consideration
- The fact that the indebtedness of some of our CARICOM
partners stymies their ability to respond to this catastrophe and in
other instances small population size makes it difficult on a per capita
basis to absorb the cost of care.
- And the fact that there is a widening gap between the
resources available and the resources required to deal with the minimum
estimated costs of prevention, care and treatment. With further delays
in investments this gap will widen.
My Prime Minister, Madam Chair, in his capacity as CARICOM's
spokesman on Health, has aggressively sought partnerships, bilaterally
and with international agencies as he continues to champion the cause of
obtaining adequate funding for prevention strategies to minimize risk
behaviors and for affordable treatment and support options for Caribbean
persons who are infected or affected.
CARICOM recognizes the particular contributions to the Pan
Caribbean Partnership from the USA, Canada, UK, and we recognize other
contributions to our struggle with this challenge from many of our OAS
partners. We are pleased with the establishment of a global fund for
HIV/AIDS, and with the overall goodwill shown towards us as we attempt
to address this challenge and we salute the work of PAHO, CAREC, UWI, in
coordinating our response.
We lament however the fact that some assistance is taking
uncomfortably long to bear results and some others are scheduled to come
into effect, in years rather than months. We urge this body and the
Secretariat to hear what CARICOM is attempting to say and to work with
us in any way possible to bring solution to this tumultuous challenge.
Madam Chair the health, social and economic implications of the
HIV/AIDS phenomenon for CARICOM are wide and far reaching. Many related
issues loom large and they require attention. Issues such as
- Training and capacity building. In this context we welcome
the proposal by CDC and HRSA for the Caribbean HIV/AID Regional Training
Initiative (CHART) a resource center for training professionals.
- Negotiation of cheaper anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) for the region
- Revision of procedures for assessment of grants. We
make specific reference to CARICOM in this regard, since our countries
may be sidelined from benefits because the criteria of Human Development
Index and GDP indicators. Mr. Chairman, our small states require that
indicators which take into consideration our vulnerability and our
capacity for recovery be used in any assessment of eligibility to access
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