We have detected that the browser you are using is no longer supported. As a result, some content may not display correctly.
We suggest that you upgrade to the latest version of any of the following browsers:
Source: The Presidency
Title: Mbeki: United Nations General Assembly
Address of the President of South Africa and the current
Chairperson of the G77 and China, Thabo Mbeki, at the 61st session
of the United Nations General Assembly, New York
Your Excellency, the President of the General Assembly, Sheikha
Haya Rashed Al Khalifa,
Your Excellency, the Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Once again, we have convened at this seat of the Organisation of
the Peoples of the World, representing the entire humanity and
coming from all corners of the world. Our pilgrimage this year is
tinged with sadness because we also pay homage to one of the most
outstanding servants of the United Nations (UN), a native son of
Africa, Kofi Annan, whose term of office will soon come to an
The G77 and China as well as my own country, South Africa,
sincerely thank the Secretary-General for the selfless and
dedicated work he carried out during one of the most challenging
periods of this Organisation.
In the midst of increasing poverty and underdevelopment during an
era of unprecedented wealth accumulation and technological advances
and, as the river that divides the rich and the poor zones of the
metaphorical global village ever widens, the Secretary-General of
the United Nations never lost focus on the imperatives of our
We thank him for never losing sight of the fact that poverty and
underdevelopment remain the biggest threats to the progress that
has been achieved, and that equality among the nations, big and
small, is central to the survival, relevance and credibility of
this global organisation.
Your Excellencies, we are only six years into the 21st Century.
Those who populate the poorest part of the regions of the world ?
Africa ? have boldly declared that it will be an African Century.
It is a century which billions of citizens of the developing world
and other poor and marginalised people would want to transform into
a Century for all Humanity.
If the wishes of the majority of the world could turn into reality,
this would be a century free of wars, free of internecine
conflicts, free of hunger, free of preventable disease, free of
want, free of environmental degradation and free of greed and
corruption. Indeed, we began the century with great hopes for a
better, peaceful and humane world.
Together, we crafted comprehensive plans and bold declarations to
defeat the scourge of poverty and underdevelopment.
Together, we committed ourselves, with what seemed like renewed
vigour, to transform the UN to reflect the modern reality that is
defined by free, sovereign and equal nations.
However, six years into the 21st century dispassionate observers
would dare us to achieve our noble and lofty objectives, pointing
to the terrorists' acts that welcomed us into the new century. They
would emphasise the unilateralism that threatens to negate the
democratic advances of the last decades of the 20th century, and
draw attention to renewed conflicts and wars that seem to compete
with the destructive fury of the conflicts of the last
They would remind us that for a decade and more, some of the
developed nations have consistently refused to implement the
outcomes and agreements of this world body that would help to
alleviate the wretchedness of the poor.
Thus, Madam President, when you correctly urge us to implement a
global partnership for development, we, the members of G77 and
China, who represent the poor people of the world, understand you
to be communicating a message that we should make real the common
commitments we solemnly made at this supreme organisation of the
nations of the world.
Yet, this common commitment for a global partnership for
development cannot be transformed into reality when the rich and
powerful insist on an unequal relationship with the poor.
A global partnership for development is impossible in the absence
of a pact of mutual responsibility between the giver and the
recipient. It is impossible when the rich demand the right,
unilaterally, to set the agenda and conditions for the
implementation of commonly agreed programmes.
We, who represent the poor, know as a matter of fact that these
billions of poor people are increasingly becoming impatient because
every year they hear us adopt declaration after declaration, and
yet nothing practical is done to assuage the hunger pains that
keeps them awake at night. Only few and selected agreements are
implemented, with outcomes that are clearly insufficient to
alleviate the excruciating pain of their children who cannot cry
anymore because to do so is to invite more pain.
Those of us who were at the 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement
(NAM) in Havana, heard this message very clearly emanating from all
the countries and organisations that spoke.
Those who are capable of listening should take note of what that
great son of India and South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi, said on this
matter: "The test of friendship is assistance in adversity, and
that too, unconditional assistance. Co-operation which needs
consideration is a commercial contract and not friendship.
Conditional co-operation is like adulterated cement which does not
Precisely because of the absence of a global partnership for
development, the Doha Development Round has almost collapsed.
Indeed, because the rich invoked, without shouting it, the slogan
of an over-confident European political party of the 1960's, and
directed this uncaring declaration to the poor of today - "I'm
alright Jack!" - we have not implemented the Monterrey Consensus on
Financing for Development, thus making it difficult for the
majority of the developing countries, especially those in Africa,
to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and have reduced the
Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to an insignificant and perhaps
forgotten piece of paper.
Part of the problem with this unequal relationship is the
imposition of conditions on developing countries and the constant
shifting of the poles whenever the poor adhere to each and every
one of those conditions.
Among other things, we have recently seen an outbreak of great
social instability across Europe and other reactions of the poor to
their miserable conditions in different parts of the world, always
putting into question the image of seemingly harmonious well-woven
tapestries of diverse groups because, in good measure, we continue
to fail to implement our own decisions of the United Nations World
Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and
Your Excellencies, those who coined the slogan: "I'm alright Jack!"
were communicating, whether consciously or not, a message and an
attitude that said ? 'I don't care about my neighbour as long as I
and my family eat well and sleep peacefully' and that 'it is not my
responsibility to ensure that my poor neighbour also eats well and
Today the attitude among some of the rich also communicates the
same message to the rest of the world that: "I'm alright Jack!"
even when they are acutely aware that many in their neighbourhood
die of hunger, of preventable diseases and abject poverty. This
happens also in a situation of cruel irony, where resources flow
from those who have little to those who have plenty.
Although the rich and the powerful know the miserable life
circumstances of the poor and have solemnly committed themselves to
the collective effort to reverse these conditions, their attitude
and response resembles that of the Biblical Cain who, after killing
his brother, Abel, and the Lord asked him "where is Abel your
brother?", he replied that: "I don't know. Am I my brother's
Perhaps, all of us, especially the rich, should heed the words of
one of the great sons of the United States of America who perished
because of his belief in equality and justice for all human beings,
and whose civil rights movement is currently marking its golden
Martin Luther King warned that: "As long as there is poverty in the
world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As
long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world
cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can
never be totally healthy even if I just got a good check-up at Mayo
Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you
ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or
nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are
The majority of the human race is entitled to ask the question
whether the rich are responding the way they do because the further
impoverishment of the poor is to the advantage of the rich, giving
meaning to the old observation that the rich get richer as the poor
As the divide between the rich and the poor widens and becomes a
serious global crisis we see an increase in the concentration of
economic, military, technological and media power.
Your Excellencies, something is seriously wrong when people risk
life and limb travelling in suffocating containers to Western
Europe in search of a better life.
Something is wrong when many Africans traverse, on foot, the harsh,
hot and hostile Sahara Desert to reach the European shores.
Something is wrong when walls are built to prevent poor neighbours
from entering those countries where they seek better
Something is indeed wrong when all these people, whose fault is
merely the fact that their lives are defined by poverty, try
desperately to reach countries where they believe the conditions of
their existence would improve, only to meet hostile, and at times,
most barbaric and inhumane receptions.
In part, the United Nations is unable to fulfil some of the
objectives set by the founders in San Francisco because, in truth,
it does not reflect the expansion of the global family of free
nations. Because this organisation of the peoples of the world has
grown to encompass the entire world, many had thought that it would
be logical that this custodian of global democracy would itself
serve as a beacon in our continuing quest for democracy in all our
countries. Clearly, for the UN to continue occupying its moral high
ground, it has to reform itself urgently, and lead by practical
example as to what is meant to be democratic.
Even as we face the cold reality of the indifference of the many
among the rich and powerful, this Organisation of the peoples of
the world has continued to offer hope and the possibility of the
fulfilment of the aspirations of the majority of the peoples of the
All of us, including those who are hesitant to implement the
commonly agreed positions, agree that this Organisation has
entrenched the correct understanding that development is both a
right, and central to the advancement of all humanity.
In this regard, all of us, individually and collectively and as
members of the UN, must do whatever is necessary to develop and
implement policies and strategies aimed at the achievement of
It is important that international organisations such as the
Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and
others should, without any equivocation, seriously embark on the
implementation of all the commitments that we have made as the
This Organisation of the peoples of the world cannot merely note
the unacceptable situation that Africa would not achieve the
Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We need further, focused and
concrete programmes to accelerate development in Africa and avoid
the possibility of that continent sinking further into the morass
of poverty and underdevelopment.
Because we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, we have the
responsibility to end the rhetoric and implement programmes that
would ensure that all human beings live decent, humane and
On behalf of G77 and China as well as my own country, South Africa,
I take this opportunity to thank His Excellency, Jan Eliasson, for
the great work he did in steering this organisation during the past
year, as President of the General Assembly.
We are honoured to welcome Her Excellency, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al
Khalifa as the President of the 61st Session of the General
Assembly and wish her well in her important work. Madame President,
we pledge to do whatever is necessary to make your work easier, so
that through your efforts, the poor can regain full confidence in
the ability of the UN to improve their conditions of life.
Everyday the masses cry out in pain, frustration and anger.
Everyday they ask, is there anybody there who stops to hear their
voices? Is there anybody there who listens to and is ready to
respond to their heartfelt plea for the restoration of their