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Explanation of vote by St Vincent and the Grenadines at United Nations on Territorial Integrity of Ukraine

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Tue Apr 1, 2013

Mr. President, As a small state with a tiny population, open borders, and no standing army, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines owes its continued peaceful existence as an independent and sovereign nation to a robust and universally-accepted body of international law, which includes the United Nations Charter.{{more}} As active members of the United Nations General Assembly, we take seriously the 1998 assessment by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the contributions of small states “are the very glue of progressive international cooperation for the common good.” We also agree wholeheartedly with the 1963 assertion by former United States president John F. Kennedy that “Small nations. . . can and must help build a world peace.”

One of the essential contributions to be made by small states like ours is the tireless advocacy for timeless principles enshrined in international law. With no ideological or geostrategic axes to grind, we consider it our solemn obligation to not only articulate these principles, but to ensure that they are applied consistently and upheld in the international community as universal truths, rather than selective, uneven and unpredictable tools to further hegemonic or great power ambition. Such a jaundiced view of international law would weaken the integrity and legitimacy of our Assembly, and, ultimately, the existential pillars upon which small and militarily weak states rely. Accordingly Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has viewed the recent events in Crimea and Ukraine with great concern. We reiterate the call made by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in the March 5th Statement for pacific settlement of disputes and respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Mr. President, Secessionist referenda, and referenda on sovereignty by ethnically or historically distinct inhabitants of a particular geographic space, should not be manipulated or selectively accepted by would-be imperial powers. We note the sad irony that those most supportive of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence now reject that of Crimea, while those with the strongest arguments against the ICJ decision on the legality of the Kosovar UDI now cite it approvingly. We note also that those who have advised Argentina to take “careful note” of views of 99% of the residents in the Islas Malvinas are now branding as invalid the opinions of 97% of the residents of Crimea.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also recalls that the principles advanced to justify intervention in Ukraine are eerily similar to those posited 31 years ago in the context of our CARICOM neighbour Grenada. However, this time, the legal defenders and dissenters have switched places.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has long advocated and advanced the principle of territorial integrity, even in the case of ongoing civil war and sectarian unrest. Similarly, Saint. Vincent and the Grenadines stoutly defends Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. We also view the principle of self-determination for non-implanted populations – particularly in the context of decolonization – to be sacrosanct.

Unfortunately, the nature of today’s resolution, and the arguments of its chief proponents have called into question the universal and consistent applicability of international law in these and similar instances. Despite our real and continuing concerns with the events that have taken place in Crimea and Ukraine, we view today’s resolution as motivated more by the principals than principles. Many of the major powers on either side of this particular dispute have reversed their longstanding positions on similar conflicts and are now on record as contradicting themselves, notwithstanding their efforts to find legal and factual distinctions. Also, it is regrettable that this Assembly has failed to consider the historical context of this particular geopoltitical dispute, and the nature of the recent change of regime in Ukraine.

These concerns have compelled Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to abstain on this Resolution.

H.E. Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations

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