Media Center



December 15, 2004 - Washington, DC

Mr. Chairman,

Let me on behalf of my delegation thank you for your very warm welcome. I wish also to say how pleased I am to see you in your position as Chair of this Council, and wish to underscore my confidence in your extraordinary skills to advance the very important work assigned to this body.

With your indulgence Mr. Chairman, I would like to pay tribute to Her Excellency Ambassador Carmen Marina Gutierrez of Nicaragua, for her excellent stewardship of the Council during the period July to September, 2004. Her superb leadership skills, fine intellect and commitment to promoting democracy, security and social justice in the Hemisphere have impressed us all.

At the end of your term as Chairman, the Head of Mission of Paraguay will assume the responsibility in the new year to guide the affairs of this Council. I wish to take this opportunity to pledge the full support of my delegation in working with the Paraguayan Representative to continue addressing the critical issues on the inter-American agenda.

Mr. Chairman, I am deeply honored today to join the ranks of the distinguished Ambassadors to the Organization of American States (OAS).

Many here present will know that my association with this hemispheric body is not new.

I previously served as Alternate Representative of Antigua and Barbuda from 1995-2000, before being transferred to Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in New York.

You will therefore appreciate Mr. Chairman that returning to the OAS as my country’s Permanent Representative gives me enormous pride.

In this context, I am not only the fourth Antiguan and Barbudan national to be placed in this position, but also the first female to be appointed Permanent Representative to this multilateral body - and as a matter of fact, to any multilateral body in which my country has opted for membership.

Mr. Chairman, I am sure you fully understand when I say that this historic development has conferred upon me a very special honor.

Mr. Chairman, by an act of providence, the geological make up of Antigua and Barbuda shows that it comprises of three distinct rock formations, namely, limestone, coral and volcanic. Each of these rock types has given rise to differing, yet enchanting physical features such as the topography of the land, soil type, the number and kinds of vegetation and the existence of small gullies embedded in the sides of the sloping hills.

This varying makeup of Antigua and Barbuda is but a microcosm of the 34 member countries which comprise this multilateral body. The sedimentary rocks that were formed in layers and compressed together to produce one solid and unbreakable structure is also symbolic of the cumulative efforts of our countries working in stages and at varying times to arrive at a common outcome that benefits us all.

In this context Mr. Chairman, the acceptance by member countries in this organization of the multidimensional concept of security comes to mind.

For approximately a decade, the Antigua and Barbuda delegation helped to champion and promote this expanded view of security. It is most gratifying now to witness the fruits of our labors and equally satisfying to see that the foundation has been laid for an all embracing approach by the OAS on the issue of security.

Mr. Chairman there were many layers of efforts that came together to cement this outcome.

I wish to recall a few:- the Regional Conference on Confidence and Security Building Measures, held in Santiago Chile in 1995; the San Salvador Regional Conference on Confidence and Security Building Measures in 1998; a meeting on Security held in Washington, D.C., in 2000; the Declaration of the Quebec Summit in 2001; the Declaration of Barbados on the Multidimensional Approach to Security, in 2002; the Special Meeting on Security of Small Island States in St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2003; and the Special Conference on Security held in Mexico in 2003.

My delegation feels a great sense of satisfaction that because of our pioneering work in expanding the meaning of security here at the OAS, the UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes are now looking at the multidimensional approach to security.

This Mr. Chairman attests to the vision and vibrancy of this body.

The achievements by the OAS in the area of hemispheric security have helped to further strengthened my country’s resolve and confidence in multilateral diplomacy.

It also demonstrates quite clearly that in this and other multilateral settings, the voices of small states are not only heard, but their collective voices can have a catalytic and profound effect that not only reach into our hemisphere, but also spread to the International Community as well.

It wish Mr. Chairman to interject that Antigua and Barbuda believes that in fighting terrorism, our actions should be decisive and deliberate, but always within the rules of international law and accepted international norms.

In this connection, my government believes that the fight against terrorism requires countries to deepen their level of cooperation and collaboration with the Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), between each other, with permanent observer states, the Counter Terrorism Committee of the United nations Security Council, and other regional organizations and members of civil society.

Continued cooperation at this level and working to address issues such as racism, discrimination, deprivation, poverty and injustice in every country will go a long way to minimize the threat posed by international terrorism.

Mr. Chairman, the coral reefs that continue to attract thousands of undersea enthusiasts and explorers are known to be the most precious and beautiful rock formation in the geological composition of Antigua and Barbuda. Though protected by the tranquil waters that bathe our twisting coastline, they remain exceptionally vulnerable and fragile.

But Mr. Chairman, these coral rocks, fragile and vulnerable, sum up in more than metaphoric terms the true vulnerability of small states. Our vulnerabilities are not only geographical, physical and environmental, they are also political, financial, economic, social, cultural and humanitarian.

Small States must content in a fierce struggle with the rising incidents of crime. Crime that is made prevalent by a growing drug trade that continues to permeate our region. And Crime that now threatens to overcome the capability of our law enforcement agents because of the proliferation of weapons, particularly small arms that have their true origins outside the region.

Our vulnerability is further highlighted by our smallness and our small population that together lessen our prospects for meaningful economic development. That we find it so difficult to achieve economies of scale in our production is a fact that makes many of our operations inefficient and unfeasible.

Unfortunately Mr. Chairman, our small population has served to distort the true measure of our development, and inflates our GDP per capita. This inflated measure is used by the international financial institutions to graduate us from concessionary borrowings, while exposing us to the vagaries of the global market place, where our ability to complete is severely handicapped.

Rising global temperatures and their effect on the earth’s atmosphere expose us to the fury of nature and reveal why our location bordering the western reaches of a major ocean makes us so vulnerable.

Small States now ponders ways to keep the ocean from swallowing up increasing acres of dwindling land space, as rising sea levels force waves to break way above the water mark – a development that threatens the livelihood of our people and the commercial viability of our industries.

We are resigned to accept the possibility that at least one Eastern Caribbean island could be hit by a major hurricane every year. We also have to live with the advent of natural disaster phenomena such as flooding, earthquakes and fires.

Mr. Chairman, the complete devastation that recently came upon Grenada, and the destruction that fell upon Haiti, Jamaica, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and others in our region, defines ever so clearly and so deadly the meaning of vulnerability and fragility.

In this connection, my delegation supports the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group, chaired by Ambassador Gordon Shirley, Permanent Representative of Jamaica that is now formulating recommendations to the Organization on natural disaster reduction. This Mr. Chairman is an area that commands the full support of the OAS.

Mr. Chairman, permit me to address the issue of the most vulnerable groups in our population – women, children, the poor and indigenous peoples.

My delegation believes that the OAS has a moral obligation to address the growing plight of these groups. We are supportive of the organization’s efforts thus far. However, my delegation insists that this is a matter deserving of the undivided attention of the OAS, because of the human element that is involved. Moreover, improving the lives of the citizens of the Americas is a goal that should remain at the very center of the organization’s activities in the hemisphere.

In this regard, Antigua and Barbuda is of the view that the Council should vigorously play its part in promoting the fulfillment of Resolution 1948 on “Fighting the Crime of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women, Adolescents and Children”, enacted by the Thirty-Third General Assembly in 2003. It is also important that the Council gives its political support to the work of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) in carrying out the terms of this resolution.

Mr. Chairman, the southwestern region of Antigua is composed of volcanic rocks and where some of the highest hills can be found. The gradual erosion of these rocks have given rise to some of the most fertile soils on the island, and from it springs some of the country’s most succulent fruits and vegetables. The Antigua Black Pineapple that has been made famous by its sugar-like taste grows only in this fertile region.

The fertility of the soil and its ability to produce a product of such high fame and quality may be likened to the productive nature of this organization and the range of good products its has produced to the benefit of all the peoples in the Americas.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Colleagues, Alternate Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen, the promotion and strengthening of representative democracy throughout this hemisphere is the finest of all products that his organization can help to manufacture and nurture.

I wish to applaud the fine work of the Office for the Promotion of Democracy (OPD) in this regard. My government will continue to support those initiatives that are designed to build a culture of democracy throughout the Americas.

However, in building a democratic culture, we should bear in mind that democracy is more than just holding free and fair elections.

It is really more about building the faith and strengthening the confidence of our people in a system of governance that guarantees their constitutional rights and individual freedoms.

Mr. Chairman, I am referring to a democracy that creates institutions and structures that combine to make the workings of government transparent and accountable. A democracy that works untiringly to combat corruption and devious practices in government.

In this connection Mr. Chairman, the government of Antigua and Barbuda takes the issue of governance in a democracy very seriously. It is committed to provide good governance, consistent with the mandate it received from the electorate only nine months ago.

That is why my government has recently passed a series of legislative measures into law that included the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Integrity I Public Life Act, and the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. Chairman, this is a demonstration of the willingness to break with the past, and to usher in a new thinking and a new attitude in governance and in government.

Mr. Chairman, the fertility and productivity of the OAS can also be seen in the work of the Inter-American Drug Abuse and Control Commission- an agency that is engaged in supporting and coordinating the anti-drug efforts of the 34 member countries of the organization.

In this connection, the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism has emerged as the most effective multilateral peer-based regime that evaluates the programs to deal with illicit drugs across the hemisphere.

Mr. Chairman, Antigua and Barbuda is committed to the multilateral evaluation process, and will continue to cooperate with the Governmental Expert Group as well as with the CICAD Secretariat not only to strengthen its national efforts to combat licit and illicit substances, but also to fight the scourge of drugs at the hemispheric level.

Mr. Chairman, another product that the organization must continue to promote, support and nurture is development cooperation. The organization’s charter requires that this product be promoted among all its member states, but with special regard to the smaller and more vulnerable States.

In support of development cooperation, my delegation calls on the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD) to give the highest priority to attracting more grant financing for quality projects and the execution of national and multilateral programs particularly in training, education, trade, tourism, employment generation and natural disaster mitigation and prevention.

Additional grant financing will help to bolster the scholarship and training programs and allow for more of our nationals to pursue higher education. Mr. Chairman, Antigua and Barbuda understands that an educated, skilled and highly adaptable work force is indispensable for the growth and development of small economies.

Mr. Chairman, we should be clear. The successful growth of the Antigua Black Pineapple is not only due to the fertile nature of the soil in which it grows. Its success is also due to the nurturing and expert care it received during its growth stage.

In this context, and with reference to development cooperation and technical assistance, the OAS National Office in Antigua and Barbuda, and in may small states as well, has become the technical arm of the organization providing the requisite guidance and assistance to the project coordinators and managers on the ground. This an indispensable operation, and Mr. Chairman, I wish to commend the Director of the office in Antigua, Miss Cicely Norris for the excellent work she continues to do on the technical cooperation front.

Mr. Chairman, after millions of years of existence, clutched between a big ocean and a wide sea, the twin-island State of Antigua and Barbuda stands firmly on the rocks that form its foundations – rocks that are at the core of its physical existence.

Antigua and Barbuda has weathered the onset of natural disasters of all kinds and with varying intensities.

Its vulnerability to global political, economic and financial developments have been well documented.

In all of this, Antigua and Barbuda continues to forge ahead, because there remain so much positive elements in its geography, in its geology, in its history and in the enthusiasm expressed by its people.

So to must this organization continue on its never dying quest to forge ahead with initiatives that will bring democratic enlightenment to the hemisphere;

This multilateral body must continue to give due attention to mattes of security of the hemisphere, in light of the global war on terrorism and the critical role of this organization in promoting security and confidence building measures between and among states in our region.

The OAS must continue to develop programs and strategies that cater to the needs of vulnerable groups, so that no one becomes a victim of racism, discrimination or indiscriminate violence, and no citizen of the Americas falls through the economic and social safety net;

And above all, this organization should lead the way in promoting the protection and defense of individual freedoms and liberties of every citizen in the Americas, so that what is written in their constitutions becomes enshrined in their daily living.

If the OAS maintain its focus on these critical areas, its relevance in the hemisphere and its value to the peoples of the Americas will never be in doubt.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.