President Barrow’s Maiden Speech At The UN General Assembly

The recent political crisis that took place in my country created a new democratic beginning and the experience thought us useful lessons that Gambians will not easily forget. We learned that will power and national unity, decisive regional intervention as well undivided and clear support of the International Community, could produce positive outcomes. Also of importance was the coordinated International action inspired by our common values of solidarity, democracy respect for human rights and the rule of law, which was critical in sending the right message to the former president, to respect the will of the people and leave without bloodshed. During those difficult times, we knew we had friends; the ones who came to our aid and who have since kept faith with us. We therefore would like to seize this great opportunity to thank the leaders of ECOWAS for their timely and firm intervention in bringing peace to the Gambia. We also thank all our regional and international friends, who stood by us in a critical hour of need. Thanks to your collective efforts, the Gambia is now on a solid path to peace and good governance and ready to take over our traditional role among the Champions of human rights and democracy.

Gambia had made an irreversible choice to close a dark chapter in our history and today our national agenda is one of reform and transformation. Like any other restored democracy, we are facing enormous challenges in the revival of our economy, a comprehensive reform of our laws, our administrative and judicial institutions, the modernisation of our security sector, consolidation of the rule of law and human rights. It is only by overcoming these challenges, that we can reinforce our democratic gains and my government is committed to deliver a new Gambia that is fit for our children to be proud of. Indeed, young people were all along at the fore front of our democratic transition and addressing youth unemployment which is a top priority of my government, will no doubt create enormous opportunities. We also recognised the crucial roles of Gambians in the diaspora, in contributing to the transformation of our motherland. Let me seize this opportunity to sincerely thank our development partners and friends, for the invaluable budget and policy support they are providing to government to help address the challenges of job creation and youth irregular migration. My government is committed to using such resources wisely for sustainable socio-economic development.

We may be a small country but one with huge needs, and as a matter of urgent priority, we have developed a National Development Plan, in line with the transformative agenda of the new Gambia. This development blue print is designed to put the country back on track to economic growth and prosperity, following two decades of mismanagement, corruption and wide spread human rights violation. This new plan is built on sound micro economic and fiscal policies that will lead to stabilise the economy and grow over the medium and long term. It has also incorporated the sustainable development goals and other commitments contained in Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Paris Agreement is critically relevant for the Gambia because climate change means a lot more in our situation. When land productivity declines and water shortages intensify, young people from rural communities are often sent away to ease the burden on families and to find new sources of income. These sadly explain why many young Gambians have been forced to make the long and dangerous journey to Europe. The journey is so risky that many perish at high seas and never reach their destination. Countless others disappear into immigration detention centres or vanish in the sands of the Sahara Desert. Those who are able to complete the journey are often dismiss as economic migrants and sent back home. These sense of hopelessness and frustration also provides fertile ground for smugglers and extremists groups to recruit innocent youths into the criminal underworld. Young people do not deserve this experience. They deserve the chance to enjoy a safe and prosperous future at home by creating new employment opportunities that provide young people with sustainable incomes and connect them to revitalise lands, health and a productive environment, as an investment in the future of the nation. This is a key priority in our National Development Plan.

Over the last decade, we lost many of our friends and development partners through wrong policy choices. But since the restoration of democracy and good governance, many of our long standing partners are all coming back to work with us. We are in the process of re-joining the Commowealth and the International Criminal Court. We are also committed to be part of the African Peer Review mechanism. We are finalising plans for a round table donor conference to mobilise resources for the long term development of the country. Your continued support, solidarity and partnership will be critical to the success of that conference. Although the Gambia did not go through armed conflict, the political crisis that we experience came as a result of decades of bad governance, weak state institutions, rule of fear and growing intolerance. We were on the bridge of political violence and armed conflict. We therefore express our deep appreciation to the United Nation’s Office for West Africa, The United Nation’s Peace Building Commission and the Peace Building Support Office for the initial critical support, that they have rendered to my country.

The pursue of peace and security in Africa and the world, will always be a major foreign policy goal for the Gambia. We will pursue good neighbourliness and cooperation with the sister Republic of Senegal and the countries of ECOWAS will remain strategic partners. West Africa is on the march towards consolidating democratic gains but as a region, we are facing serious threats to our peace and security. Terrorism, extremism, religious intolerance, organised crime and drug trafficking, are seriously undermining our development efforts. Recent attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and the Sahel in general, underscore the urgent need for greater regional and international cooperation in addressing these challenges. The indifference, the injustices and indignities in isolated parts of the word, create real threat to Global peace, prosperity and democracy. We need to take a bigger and bold step to close the gap between the north and South, as the world is too imbalance.

Mr. President we remain deeply concerned that the Israel Palestian conflict still defies resolution. My government firmly subscribes to the idea of two a state solution for the two people to leave side by side in peace and harmony. We therefore call on the UN Secretary General to vigorously pursue this formula in the interest of lasting peace. Your continue support in the areas of transitional justice and security sector reform, will certainly go a long way towards entrenching peace, justice and democracy in the Gambia.

Mr President there is neither a shortage of ideas nor resources, to fix the major problems facing the human race. What has always been, scares the political will and unless adequate resources are invested, the pace of development will remain slow and minimal impact achieved. It is against that back drop that I am calling on the private sector to emulate the philanthropists for their generosity towards the most isolated, marginalised and deprive sections of the world. Providing safe drinking water, roads, power, health care and education, is key to regaining human dignity.

In our Foreign policy, as part of our historic friendship, we fully recognised the One China Policy. The People’s Republic of China is the sole representative of the Chinese people and a true friend of the Gambia. Our two countries continue to strengthen cooperation on the basis of a win-win approach, build on mutual trust and respect, within the framework forum of Africa-China cooperation.

Mr. President an organisation like the United Nations, by virtue of its functions will always require some level of reform of it’s management system. The intergovernmental character of the mandate entrusted to the secretariat, requires the existence of trust and accountability between member states and the secretariat. As you embark on your propose reforms, we stand ready to give you our full support in the interest of an effective and more relevant world body.

Last but not the least, one of the long-standing issues is the pending question of Security Council reform. Former Secretary General Kofi Ann once said that “no reform of the United Nations is complete without the reform of the Security Council.” That remains true today. Africa will not give up its legitimate request for representation on the Security Council and The Gambia fully supports The African Union’s demand for the long overdue reform of the Security Council. Mr. President I want to conclude by reaffirming my optimism and confidence in our collective ability to uplift mankind from the crunches of poverty, to institute a global order of peace, firmly held together by justice and love, caring and tolerating each other.

In tune with our National Anthem we pledge our firm allegiance to these values we hold ever true!

Best wishes from the people of the Gambia, the smiling coast of West Africa!

I wish you all a successful 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly!
God Bless the World!