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 expectations

  • 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 opportunities.

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 our hemisphere.

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 peoples”

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

Madame Chair
Secretary General
Assistant Secretary General
Ministerial Colleagues
Ambassadors/Permanent Representatives
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 others.

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 survival.

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

  1. 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.

  2. Negotiation of cheaper anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) for the region

  3. 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 support.

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