Cutting of concessionary aid can reverse gains in middle income countries

-Ramotar warns UN General Assembly

President Donald Ramotar yesterday warned against the “graduation and differentiation” policies by the developed world, saying they are wrongfully denying developing countries access to concessionary financing.

In his address to the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Ramotar said that the Caribbean has experienced major setbacks due to the international economic and financial crises, the effects of which are still devastating.

He added that even as the region continues to grapple with the effect of the financial crises, it is now faced with the “graduation and differentiation” imposed by some of its international partners. “We are told that as middle income countries – measured by GDP per capita – we are no longer entitled to concessionary financing,” he said. “This is a recipe for reversing the gains made over years of hard work and sacrifice.

We call for a rethink of this position and urge that greater consideration be given to the special vulnerabilities of our region, where a country can see one hurricane wiping out its entire GDP. Clearly, what we need is increased cooperation with the international community and our development partners and not less.”

The General Assembly is intended to look at the post-2015 Development Agenda and Ramotar noted efforts should be intensified to eradicate poverty.

“The United Nations must not allow this objective to be lost among the many other demands that exist,” he said, while noting that it has a role in ensuring that poorer, smaller, developing countries are not always put at a disadvantage at the level of international economic discourse and action.

“It is critical that this body pursue and encourage multilateral approaches to international and global problems. Experience has shown that even though the multilateral approach is often slow, it is the only approach that can lead to lasting peace, democracy and justice in our world,” he said.

He noted that Income distribution continues to be skewed in favour of the rich nations and rich persons within countries. “This gap has grown dangerously wider. Needless to say inequality leads to great discontentment and social unrest. At the heart of many of the conflicts we see today is the widening gap between the haves and have nots. Sometimes this is not readily visible as the fight for social and economic justice is often clouded by inter-ethnic, inter-religious and other types of conflicts,” he observed.

To defend the gains that have been made and to expand further, he said it is necessary for the United Nations to focus on narrowing the gaps in income, access to social services, infrastructure, land distribution, and in other critical areas. “If there is one lesson to be drawn from efforts to achieve the [Millennium Development Goals], it is that addressing inequality is crucial to the achievement of sustainable development objectives. The approach adumbrated in the UN Resolution for a New Global Human Order remains relevant in the struggle to eradicate poverty and inequality and indeed the post-2015 Development Agenda,” he added.

He also noted the importance of creating an international environment that will facilitate the achievement of the goals that we will set for the future. In this regard, he warned that military intervention in Syria would not bring a solution to the civil war in that country and he welcomed an agreement between the US and Russia to immunise Damascus’ chemical weapons arsenal. He also said that terrorists fighting in Syria should be declared as such – a clear reference to groups fighting the Assad regime. He said these fighters couldn’t be described as terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq but be deemed freedom fighters in Syria.

“After all, they cannot be terrorists when they were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but freedom fighters when fighting the Syrian Government. A terrorist is a terrorist,” he said.

Ramotar lashed out at Western powers for tacitly approving the ouster of the Islamic government in Egypt by the army. “…The major world powers, instead of condemning the use of such means to change governments, chose to remain silent. This gave tacit support to the coup which has led to the violation of human rights and the loss of innocent lives, and may lead to more protests and possible violence,” he argued.

Ramotar also identified climate change as “another serious challenge” to sustainable development, particularly for the Small Island Developing States, some of whom, he said, face an imminent passage to oblivion.

“Climate change is not of our making but sadly as Small Island Developing States and low lying coastal states we remain the victims of its most adverse impacts. Unfortunately, instead of a reduction, emissions of greenhouse gases have risen by nearly 50 percent. This marked failure to take decisive action poses a threat to all humanity. It is tragic that while we all know the dangers that lurk due to global warming and climate change, we seem incapable of stopping ourselves,” he said, while welcoming the initiative of the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene a summit on climate change and hoping that it will result in a strong political consensus.

He also welcomed the observance of 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States and called on the international community to use the occasion to take a serious approach to meaningfully assist such territories, particularly in relation to building resilience and disaster risk management. He suggested a special fund must be set up be easily accessible.

Ramotar also called for the lifting of the blockade on Cuba urged all states to work to assure its early entry into force of the landmark Arms Trade Treaty, which he said opens the door to effective regulation of the international trade in conventional arms.

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