The Guardian September 13, 2000


Need for equitable globalisation

The United Nations Millennium Summit ended its second day of 
presentations by top political leaders, with the question of how to share 
the benefits of globalisation among all the world's peoples  and to 
control its negative effects  as the dominant theme.

For many leaders, the UN stood to play a key role in helping to 
redistribute the benefits of globalisation through its capacity for 
bringing together main actors  governments, civil society and the private 
sector  to tackle the challenges posed by a globalising world. But to do 
so, the UN would need to be significantly strengthened, most leaders 
agreed.

Paul Biya, President of Cameroon, said it was imperative that the UN be 
given the means to help the "peoples of the UN" to reach their aspirations 
by strengthening the Organisation's financial capacity.

Echoing similar sentiments, Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said the 
UN's credibility depended on its ability to overcome the divide between 
weak and strong nations.

He said radical efforts should be made to reduce poverty, especially in 
Africa, through debt cancellation and economic policies favouring less 
advanced countries.

As "no nation can tackle the challenges of globalisation alone", the UN 
must be "updated and strengthened", Goh Chok Tong, the Prime Minister of 
Singapore said, suggesting that the Organisation provide the leadership 
within the community of multilateral organisations to help poor nations 
develop the capacity to profit from globalisation and the knowledge 
revolution.

Calling for a "new international contract", Amre Moussa, the Foreign 
Minister of Egypt, stressed the importance of linking legislative bodies 
with civil societies, to allow for decisions to be taken not only on 
matters pertaining to international peace and security, finance, economy 
and trade but also on matters related to women, children, population, 
social development, health, diseases.

Noting the power shift from politics towards finance and the economy, 
Haitian President Rene Prival said the flows of capital and trade "seem to 
mock States and give birth to supranational entities" that were not chosen 
by the people.

"Are we making democracy utopian, since we only elect the politicians, not 
the financiers?", he asked, adding that globalisation was not new, as 
slavery and the two great wars of the last century clearly demonstrated.

"What is frightening today is that globalisation tends to be the 
privatisation of all powers", he said.

The tendency for globalisation to overflow from the realms of technology 
and finances into the areas of culture and national traditions was a 
serious concern for many of the speakers, particularly those from smaller 
nations.

Crown Prince Albert of Monaco said that, in the framework of the 
"irreversible process of globalisation", the UN should engage itself to 
respect the diversity of cultures and languages through which peoples have 
"nourished their roots and built their identities".

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov warned that the impact of globalisation 
on the sensitive areas of culture and customs should be studied thoroughly 
and ways of controlling it should be sought through new relevant 
legislation in the area of intellectual property protection, including 
traditional knowledge and biodiversity.

Warning that information technology was "dangerously poised to become a 
powerful force of exclusion", Jamaica's Prime Minister, Percival J 
Patterson said that the digital revolution should be exploited for human 
development, to create a global knowledge-based economy with effective and 
meaningful collaboration among all stakeholders.

A recurring plea in many of the leaders' speeches was for developed 
countries to nix the debt owed by poor countries.

Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh reminded the Summit participants 
that in several regions, particularly in Africa, many countries found 
themselves in a "spiral of pauperisation and social disintegration".

To achieve a real recovery, the terrible problem of the debt burden must be 
resolved, he said.

In addition to increased assistance, he urged the establishment of 
equitable policies and mechanisms capable of both boosting development and 
strengthening the world economy as a whole.

Along a similar line, Zambian President Frederick J T Chiluba said it was 
totally unacceptable that, in an age of modern technology and the Internet, 
squalor, misery and disease continued to ravage millions of people.

Measures to address the situation were self-evident: deep and broader debt 
relief, improved market access, foreign direct investment and financial and 
technical support in the trading system, he said.

The cause-and-effect relation between globalisation and poverty was 
highlighted by many of the speakers.

Nepal's Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, said the current wave of 
globalisation, though holding promise, had widened the disparity between 
rich and poor.

He urged for the world community to help poor countries to finance 
investment by meeting agreed aid targets, broadening debt relief and 
encouraging foreign investment.

Noting globalisation's "dark side"  growing disparity between poor and 
rich countries  Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said there was a 
need to ensure that the era of "inexorable progress of communication" 
favoured culture and education, and would not be transformed into an era of 
"information chaos".

Turkmenistan's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Batyr Berdyev noted the link 
between globalisation-induced poverty and the potential for violence.

Argentine President Fernando de la Rua also stressed that eradicating 
poverty was an essential factor in preventing conflict and that measures to 
perfect a system of conflict resolution should fully take into account that 
correlation.

Giving priority to the development of the less advanced countries, while 
not the only prerequisite for resolving disputes, was an essential 
component, he said.

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