NEW YORK – Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller spoke up for middle-income states before the United Nations General Assembly today, calling on the international community not to forget them in aid for development and the fight against disease.
“We urge that middle income countries not be pushed to the margins of the development agenda, nor be put on the fringe of the development assistance provided by the international community,” she told world leaders on the third day of the Assembly’s annual General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.
“We dare not forget that a significant proportion of the world’s poorest citizens live in Middle Income Countries,” she added. “This is a diverse group which includes large developing economies and Small Island Developing States, such as those in the Caribbean.”
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller of Jamaica addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/J Carrier
Prime Minister Simpson-Miller noted that several of the countries are highly indebted and extremely vulnerable to external shocks and natural disasters, face significant obstacles in efforts to spur economic recovery and growth, and are hampered by the volatility of energy and food prices, decreases in export commodity prices, and weak capital inflows.
“Increasing food prices cause untold hardships for many of our people, particularly the most vulnerable in our societies,” she said. “Small countries need greater support to build resilience to economic and environmental shocks. I come to you today from such a nation.
“Jamaica is a nation – small in size but enormous in spirit. A nation with a people whose speed defies the laws of physics, whose musical messages have inspired positive and revolutionary global change and whose minds have provided the world with myriad solutions in areas including science, law and medicine. Yet, many nations like Jamaica have such great possibility and potential that are not reflected in, or reflective of, its present economic indicators.”
The Jamaican leader called for reforms in global economic governance, including the international financial institutions, to take into account the need for special and differential treatment for small and vulnerable economies.
She said women and children are a particularly vulnerable group, with children, especially girls, used as pawns for economic gain, including through human trafficking and other exploitative actions.
“Many vulnerable young women are deceived and lured away by attractive offers to get them and their families out of poverty. They then find themselves in a strange land, with no support, no identity and no hope of returning home; sold into modern day slavery, their very bodies used as a currency of exchange,” she stated, calling on the international community to take bold actions to address the scourge.
She welcomed the considerable investment that the UN and the international community have made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, allowing developing countries, including Jamaica, to make a difference in the lives of those affected, but inadequate human and financial resources still beset efforts to scale-up testing and treatment, and implement programmes to increase awareness and reduce the risk of new infections.
In his statement to the Assembly’s General Debate, President Donald Ramotar of Guyana warned of the serious impact the global economic crisis has had on developing countries.
“Much of the gains that were made in the pre-2008 period have been erased by the continuing difficulties in the world economy,” he said. “The small vulnerable economies of the Caribbean face special challenges, compounded by generally high levels of indebtedness and failing export revenues.”
He called for reform of the aid allocation criteria of international financial institutions to take account of the structural vulnerability and level of economic resilience of small states, measures to ease the debt burden, and renewed access to concessionary financing for highly indebted middle income countries.
President Ramotar added that Guyana was ready to cooperate with the international community in the battle against drugs and people trafficking, and called for urgent action to confront climate change, while also urging immediate help for over one billion hungry people whose plight is worsening as food prices surge once again.
Prime Minister Simpson-Miller and President Ramotar are among scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.