Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Saint Lucia on Human Security
OAS 30th General Assembly, June 5, 2000, Windsor, Canada
Distinguished Chairman, Secretary General, delegates. I take a morsel of hope from the fact that we are here to dialogue on themes and first principles at a time when the New Millennium beckons and the Old Order gives place to the New. I am also comforted by the fact that the host country represented by the distinguished Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy should challenge this assembly with a stimulating document, which focuses with remarkable clarity on the dynamics of global development.
I think it was John Milton who lamented, "Plain living and High thinking are no more." In focusing on the theme of Human Security Milton's aphorism is relevant. While Canada's lead paper seems to zero in on the distilled wisdom in dealing with the issues surrounding Human Security it fails to recognize that there must be a tremendous sacrifice and a political volte-face which involves a return to plain living if the personal safety of the peoples of the world is to be secured. By "Plain living" we are certainly not advocating a Quakerite return to an ascetic and deprived existence but we must stop the ferris-wheel of Consumerism, which exacerbates the question of world poverty.
The most damming statistic to greet us at the beginning of the New Millennium is that at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the richest countries in the world were nine times richer than the poorest countries of the world and at the end of the Twentieth Century the rich countries were sixty-nine times richer than the poorer countries. It is often said that death is the great leveler but in the field of development and human growth time is certainly not a great leveler. It is this fundamental fact, which must be tackled seriously and globally if we are to consider the global problem of Human Security. Any attack on Human Insecurity must start with an attack on world poverty and under-development. This new initiative comes at a time when the doors of the world are being closed against economic migrants and asylum-seekers.
One of Jamaica's most illustrious folk heroes Bob Marley insists in his lyrics "A hungry man is an angry man." Logically an angry man is a dissatisfied man. A dissatisfied man is a vengeful man seeking to redress his dissatisfaction on those whom he perceives to be the cause of his indigence and the exploiters of his condition. There could be no Human Security in the world until we have removed the desperation of the hungry and the dispossessed.
In the Introduction to this challenging paper on Human Security in the Americas there is a ringing call to the International Community to respond to the safety and security of people all over the world. Needless to say in order to protect the world's people and make them secure we must feed them. We must educate them and we must make them healthy. Any global agenda for the realization of Human Security must make a frontal attack on these vital areas of human neglect. We cannot target Human Security and ignore the ever-widening gap in development. As the New Millennium beckons the looming prospect of the Digital Divide threatens to make the insecure developing world even more insecure and consequently more desperate. Desperation Mr. Chairman, breeds conflict. In Zimbabwe today desperate black farmers are landless and will ignore the convenient rule of law and order to redress historical injustices. We must find a way to give them land, and opportunity and hope before we can dream of security in that troubled country.
In this General Assembly's search for Human Security we must grapple with the psychology of acquisition and development. The richer a country becomes the meaner and more insensitive it becomes. Fortunately Mr. Chairman, our host country is working hard at giving the lie to this truism. My country Saint Lucia has been on the receiving end of a squalid Banana War with the richest country in the world, which incidentally does not produce a single banana. Our farmers are feeling more and more insecure as the United States touts the merits of Globalization and Free Trade.
Mr. Chairman, to make the peoples of the world more secure there must be an acceptance of the principle of the re-distribution of resources and this concept has for long been anathema to the developed world. There must be a single-minded commitment from the rich nations and International Organizations. Sad to say the track record for all of these is rather in the direction of reducing assistance to developing countries and not increasing such assistance. Some nations even balk at paying their contributions to these institutions.
To achieve the objectives of this paper on Human Security the International Community must make a quantum leap across the Great Divide of man's inhumanity to man. We must accept the equality principle that an African life is as sacred and valuable as a North American or European life. We must accept the strategy of affirmative action in favour of the dispossessed. We must be willing to dampen our materialism and our consumerism. We must re-direct the theory of the firm away from the maximisation of profits to a notion of service, equity and corporate citizenship. We must reach for a philosophy, which would consider that everything under the Heavens should be for the benefit of all the people under the Heavens. Mr. Chairman, how can we galvanise this acquisitive and rapacious world to this culture of sharing love and understanding?
Mr. Chairman, this point brings me directly into the need to give prominence and to emphasize the Woman's Perspective both in the Declaration and the Plan of Action. The Canadian Paper mentions the Gender Issue but the question now is one of emphasis.
Human Security is an important priority of the Hemispheric Agenda, especially given the increase in transnational drug trafficking and its attendant ills such as criminality and violence. These illegal activities, with their concomitant high profit margins, have the ability to infiltrate smaller economies, where illegal monies floating around in otherwise fiscally strapped economies, have a tendency to create the economic stability of artificial booms in such economies, thereby raising the standard of living by corrupting their institutions. However, the fallout from this is an increase in narco-related violence and criminality in small nations, where due to spatial constraints, the social implication is more intensely felt than in large territories.
The trafficking of women is a growing phenomenon in the Hemisphere spawned from the under-world of drug trafficking and criminality. Although, with regard to smaller state economies, there is still research being done currently as to the prevalence of this phenomenon in the Caribbean, the fact that the region is already being used as a trans-shipment area for drugs, suggests that the region is ripe for spillover activities of narco-trade, involving the illegal movement of women and girls largely for sexual exploitation. Already in many of our islands we are witnessing the upsurge of a thriving sex industry hidden under the guise of exotic dancing, involving female youth who are jeopardizing their health through being put at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, which could decimate the citizens of a small economy.
There seems to be a pervasive and continued blindness to these issues, which affect women, despite the progress which has been made in redressing some of the imbalances and invisibility that women undergo. There is currency to the thought that the emergency of more women on the political front - outside of tokenism - ought to augur well for the advancement of women. There is further validity to the fact that as women become much more a part of the economic thrust of their societies that this will increase the impact that women have on society in terms of being empowered enough to have a voice regarding issues that affect them. Yet, there seems not to be a truly robust and concerted effort to see gender equality and equity as a top priority. There is much congregation and considerable debate on gender issues, but there must come a time when the talk ends and real action is taken hemispherically.
Saint Lucia is particularly concerned with the issue of women's vulnerability as an important one, which has implications for the economy. This vulnerability comes from the dual role women have as producers for the society as well as being reproducers of the society. Women also tend to bear the bulk of care-taking not only for the young, but the elderly, the disabled and the out-of-work which is largely voluntary and unpaid, despite being time-intensive. This demand on female resources, with little remunerative reciprocity, has given rise to the feminization of poverty in small economies. This means that more women are experiencing greater poverty comparative to males. This has an impact on female headed families. Given that women who head households are a dominant social arrangement in our country, it is obvious that the viability of such households is derived from economic, physical and emotional well-being of the householders in question.
As has been argued, human security is affected by conflict and violence. In terms of gender politics, the phenomenon of domestic violence in the region is one of the gravest social ills against women, which affects female security and productivity. For despite the recurring rhetoric and postulated good intentions, this form of gender terrorism has yet to be more than a peripheral hemispheric concern. This leaves one with the perspective that there seems to be tacit endorsement of the view that domestic abuse is a private matter to be resolved in the intimacy of the parties involved. Domestic violence puts the lives and well-being of too many of our women at risk and it should be a primary priority of the human rights agenda of the Hemisphere.
Mr. Chairman, I wish to raise four points relative to our human rights agenda:
We must attack the debt problem to clear the way for sustainable economic growth.
We must expand the Troika to include such groups as Central America and the Caribbean.
If our development must be people-centered we must be instrumental in lifting the inhuman embargo against the people of Cuba and we must welcome Cuba to next year's Summit in Quebec.
We must dampen the fear of One-Policeman to monitor the security of people around the world. We must reinforce the United Nations as the global policeman.
Mr. Chairman, it requires a mammoth global effort to transform mankind, to convert Hobbes' portrait of the life of man as nasty, brutish and short to Rousseau's perception of man in a state of nature as a noble savage. This Canadian Paper has thrown down the challenge - Saint Lucia is willing and ready to attempt the impossible to achieve benefits for the People of the World but such a venture will require us all to be born again.[XXX-OAS-GA-Discussions/tracker.htm][XXX-OAS-GA-Discussions/tracker.htm]