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     STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT OF KIRIBATI, HIS

EXCELLENCY TEBURORO TITO TO THE

UNITED NATIONS MILLENNIUM SUMMIT

NEW YORK, 8 September 2000

         

Distinguished Co-Chairpersons,

Honorable Colleagues,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen


I bring warm greetings from the people of Kiribati in the Central Pacific to
our wonderful hosts, the President and people of the United States, and to
all leaders and peoples of the world present here today. I also take this
opportunity to offer my congratulations to the Government and people of
Tuvalu, our good neighbor, for their admission as the 189th member of the
UN.

I am very grateful for this opportunity to meet and share with you some
thoughts on the theme ' The role of the United Nations in the 21st century'.
251 days ago the world watched Kiribati and the other Pacific nations lead
the celebration of the first dawn and sunrise of the new millennium. Our
celebration theme was 'World Peace in Harmony with Nature' which perfectly
matched the natural and pristine beauty of Millennium Island. The people of
Kiribati welcomed the new millennium with songs and traditional dancing
expressing their desire and hopes for a better world rich in human love,
peace and happiness.

Mr. President, I feel that this unprecedented Summit symbolizes a strong
commitment by the United Nations family to renew the dream of humankind for
a better world free of wars and other man-made disasters, a dream, which
began 55 years ago with the founding of this world body. Never before has
the world witnessed the largest gathering of political leaders and never
before have the world' leaders been challenged to collectively review and
re-chart the future of mankind and the planet earth in which it lives.

Twelve months ago, when Kiribati was first admitted to this global family, I
expressed our hopes and desire for a more democratic, a more united and a
more proactive United Nation to help create a more humane world. I come to
this Summit to seek inspiration and guidance as to how my small country,
Kiribati could work with other nations and peoples of the world represented
in this global family to build a better world for all. I continuously ask
myself - Can the world be a better place for our children and future
generations? Should we be concerned about the pains and sufferings of
helpless human beings beyond our homes and boundaries? Can we help build a
world with less human pains and sufferings? I strongly believe that we can
answer YES, to these and other related questions, a belief reflected in the
magnitude of this gathering and the history of the United Nations.

The most difficult question for me is "How can we do it?" While we
individually know how to improve the lives of our peoples in our respective
villages, towns or countries, we cannot escape the fact that the building of
a better world requires us as leaders and peoples to think, talk and walk
together. Our individual remedies and approaches resonates our differences
in values and situations, however our common destination is a better world
for all, one in which all human beings feel loved and needed, a world free
of human injustice and cruelty, a world in harmony with nature.

To be able to combat the dynamic challenges of this new century, we need to
act immediately. I would like to propose that the building of a more humane
world be set as the collective goal for this millennium. Kiribati stands
ready to contribute to this goal by focussing on the needs of its people,
the families, villages and the community at large. It would be futile
talking about building a more humane world when there is still great turmoil
within our own families, villages or communities, leading to instability and
more serious problems. It is true that globalization is the order of today,
however we can never hope for a humanized global planet if our people
continue to live in misery, poverty and fear of abuse and war. Let us begin
the building process within our smaller worlds, and with the assistance of
this body, which we have established to serve our needs and those of our
people.

There is no denying that much was achieved in the last millennium and there
is much to be grateful for as stated in the report of the Secretary General.
The greatest achievement has been the success to free humanity from the
painful threat and fear of another world war, and providing a relatively
peaceful world within which major scientific inventions and technological
innovations needed for the improvement of human life have been made
possible. However, we cannot forget the tragic events of the 20th Century
and in particular the loss of innocent human lives as a result of war. I say
this with great feeling because in Kiribati, as in other countries, many of
our innocent people have lost their lives because of war. Those who survived
the war are scarred for life both physically and emotionally. My people
therefore are saddened to hear about the plight of innocent victims of
on-going armed struggles, terrorist activities and of violent behaviour the
world over and share the hope that there is no more repeat of the tragedies
of the 20th Century.

In this connection we support that the United Nations should continue its
good work in areas like peacekeeping and conflict resolution, but it should
further expand into supporting the efforts of member states in cultivating a
culture of peace to strengthen underlying cultural and religious values and
practices that contribute to peaceful living and the establishment of
democratic society; and in the cultivation of responsible citizenship and
good leadership at the various levels of society.

History has shown that peaceful existence cannot be possible if people are
not satisfied. I believe the main causes for dissatisfaction includes, among
other things, economic disparity, social and cultural displacement, disease,
casualties of natural or man made disasters or government's failure to
adequately address serious problems. I agree with the view that perhaps the
UN could be a more effective organization if it tries to understand these
issues from the perspective of concerned countries. Previous speakers have
touched on many of these issues, and I would therefore just like to address
some.

We in Kiribati believe that the advocated economic and financial models
intended to enhance GDP growths and better living standards for all, in most
instances tend to advantage those more able to compete for limited space,
markets and resources regardless of political systems, cultural values and
the nature of the playing field. Whether we like it or not the outcomes
normally favor those already advantaged, hence breeding ill feeling and
leading to undesirable behavior for those who are not part of the success.
Thus, we argue that current economic and financial theories originating in
industrialized countries support the needs of these societies, their
institutions and peoples, where individualism and the accumulation of wealth
is a way of life. The success of these models in some countries does not
necessarily mean they are the solutions for the entire world. Many aspects
of such models are not compatible with the needs and beliefs of many
societies. For instance, the people of Kiribati perceive communal and
village ways of life where protection and sustenance of human life and the
glorification of human values is as equally important as becoming wealthy.
We must not disregard the importance of social values, which are the very
essence of our existence as a nation and as a people.

It has been my long-held conviction that in our eager pursuit for economic
prosperity, and because of the rapid changes many of us are pressurized to
adopt, we have seriously overlooked the significance of social and cultural
values. Subsequently, there is continuous erosion of strong family and
cultural ties, important ingredients of human integrity and peace, hence
reducing respect for human life and leading to conflict and instability in
many parts of the world. I therefore urge all partners in development that
we should not be too eager to impose solutions and should also not act under
duress, but let us take time to work together to re-define the advocated
theories and models, to better accommodate the situations of our peoples.

In this connection, I commend the past and ongoing efforts by the UN and its
various agencies, together with other international bodies in developing
development models that are more human centered and more supportive of
fundamental human attributes and values required for the building of a more
humane world. I also urge the UN and the international community to
concentrate more on this matter because it could certainly assist in
achieving the objectives, of poverty alleviation and sustainable development
being I pursued by all.

Let us also remember the extent of damage to our environment, caused mainly
from the advancements in technological and economic advancements.
Globalisation is advocated as the order of today, however there are adverse
effects that can cause irreparable damage if no corrective action is taken
immediately. Coming from a small island state like Kiribati, which is made
up of narrow strips of coral atolls rising no more than 2 meters above sea
level. Global warming, climate change and rising sea levels seriously
threaten the basis of our existence and we sometimes feel that our days are
numbered. I join other small island states in pleading for the cause of the
endangered peoples and to urge all concerned to save this planet from any
further damage, harmful to life to ensure our future generations continue to
enjoy the resources and beauties of this planet.

The importance of human rights as a vital component of peace and security
should be further enhanced. On this note, allow me to applaud the previous
and continuing work of the UN in this field, evident in the numerous
international treaties and agreements, covering the many aspects of human
rights. Needless to say, we have made significant progress in advancing the
cause for human rights as seen from the perspective of modem civilization,
but there is also a need to take into account the perspective of traditional
societies that have had their own systems of rights and duties intact and
have survived the test of time peacefully for hundreds of years. We must examine
the possibility of blending the two perspectives.

I am aware that there have always been differences in opinions between those
from the so-called developing countries and the developed nations. The
former strongly argue that many of the conventions forming the international
human rights regime is biased to the beliefs and the practices of the
latter. The developed world, on the other hand, criticises the other side of
lacking the commitment to effectively implement human right policies and
practices. It is not my task to determine which side is correct,
nevertheless I believe that we can only achieve a certain degree of success
if there is mutual understanding on the parts of all those concerned, and
that perhaps it is not always in the best interest of the mass to pass
judgement on the actions of others without really understanding their
position.

To better illustrate, I take a specific example from Kiribati. In 1995 my
Government acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child with some
reservations. The underlying reason for these reservations was that whilst
we had no problem with the main thrust of the Convention, my Government
feared that it focussed entirely on the obligations of parents to their
children without due concern for the protection of parents from their
children. In my culture, as in many others, children are, taught from an
early age to respect their parents and to care for them also at old age. In
some cases the CRC advocates the rights of children to the point where it
can be seen as encouraging them to lose their respect for their parents.
This is a cause for great concern to many parents who believe that the CRC
provision is detrimental on the natural order embodied in the family
hierarchy. There was great opposition to our reservations from certain
countries without properly understanding our cultural values vital for the
harmonious existence of our people.

So whilst there is no doubt about the value of human rights, governments and
the modem civil society should work together with traditional civil society
to ensure that human rights as defined from the many different perspectives
is properly understood. If there is cooperation, mutual understanding and
respect among the vital actors, then perhaps the UN can more effectively
pursue its good work in promoting acceptable human right values.

For the 21st Century, we want the United Nations to continue working to
enforce and promote the noble principles enshrined in the UN Charter, but I
would urge the UN to pursue these with understanding and sympathy to those
who most need assistance. We want the UN of the 21st Century  to be truly an
organization advocating the needs and the rights of the peoples of the
world, and let the UN of the new millennium be an organization that truly
stands for the diverse cultures and circumstances of the peoples it serves.
At the same I make a plea to all of us here today to provide the appropriate
guidance, support and commitment to this body. Furthermore, let us
understand each other better, so that we can reach agreement on the best
path forward to free the peoples of the world from misery, abject poverty
and fear of abuse and war. This world body needs to adapt and restructure so
that it can effectively meet the dynamic challenges of our ever-changing
world, but this can only be possible if there is a determined will to better
comprehend the specific circumstances of individual regions, countries,
communities and families. Only than can we determine a clear mandate for the
UN to pursue on our behalf and together with us.

Within the UN system itself there should be a wider and more democratic
representation of the circumstances and the views of the peoples of this
planet. For example, Kiribati fully supports the move to democratize and
rationalize the organisational structure of the United Nations, in
particular the expansion of the Security Council membership, the creation of
the Pacific Regional Grouping and the inclusion of at least one
representative from each regional grouping in the membership of the
Security.

Mr. Chairman, your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen these are the small
and humble contributions of Kiribati on the role of the UN in the 21st
Century towards the building of a more caring, peaceful, prosperous and just
world for the peoples of the world. May God bless the United Nations and all
of us gathered here today.

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