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    For information only - not an official document.
    Press Release No:  UNIS/GA/1635
    Release Date:  23 May 2000
    Learn to “Govern Better Together”, Secretary-General Urges
    Participants At Millennium Forum

    Speakers at Forum, Scheduled for 22-26 May, Stress
    Need for NGOs to Help Redress Balance between Winners, Losers
     

    NEW YORK, 22 May (UN Headquarters) -- The overarching challenge of the times was to make globalization mean more than bigger markets, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning in his keynote address at the opening of the Millennium Forum, which will be held at Headquarters from 22 to 26 May.  

    It was essential to learn how to govern better together, he stressed.  If there was a lesson to be learned, it was that while globalization had produced winners and losers, the solution was not confrontation –- it was to ensure that nobody sank, that “we swim together with the current of our times”.  Billions of people were currently marginalized and must be included -- new opportunities must be extended to all.

    Juan Somavia, Director General of the International Labour Organization, stressed the speed with which globalization was moving.  The information and communication revolution was profoundly changing the way people found and applied for jobs, schools and even mates.  Digital divides abounded, however.  That side of the equation was known far too well.  Over 3 billion people subsisted on less than $2 a day.  With rare exceptions, they were not participating in the global revolution, nor had they benefited from the dramatic changes. 

     “Work is a core issue in the global economy”, he said.  Globalization was changing the way work was done and also where it was done, but not the need for work.  He was convinced that if a better world was to be built, there had to be a sea change in the attitudes of those responsible for public and private policy at all levels.  

    Martin Khor, Executive Director, Third World Network, said globalization’s assumptions and paradigms must be debated.  While it was true that the benefits only accrued to some and that large numbers of people lost, the problem lay with the fact that the people who won might actually be causing the losses.  Behind the rhetoric of the benefits of the new global system lay the reality that the rich wanted to maintain and extend their powers almost to the point of total monopoly.  Double standards must be eliminated.  Local communities must be empowered to take control of their own economy and society.  The power of the United Nations needed to be rebuilt as a democratic and participatory institution, by ensuring the participation of non-governmental organizations and the voice of developing countries in all areas.

    Maj-Britt Theorin, President, Council of Parliamentarians for Global Action, noted that there were four critical areas -– peace and disarmament, eradication of poverty, human rights and democracy -– in which the United Nations must realize its potential.  The prohibition of the use of force was fundamental in the United Nations Charter, and finding effective uses for non-violence must be given priority.  Furthermore, nuclear weapons still constituted a serious threat to peace and security and the survival of all humanity -- all States must negotiate and conclude a nuclear-weapon convention for the eradication of such weapons and prevention of their use. 

    She added that the independent efforts of civil society must be recognized and its role in peacemaking must be given greater weight when setting priorities.  The voices of women must also be heard in the fight for peace, as well as in the fight against poverty.  

    The Co-Chairman of the Millennium Forum, Techeste Ahderom, said that as a result of the meeting, civil society would be able to present its views more consistently and coherently to world leaders when they gathered for the Millennium Summit later in the year.  One feature of the draft Millennium Forum Declaration and other documents before the Forum was their focus on concrete actions for achieving peace and security.
     
    Statements were also made by Graciela Robert, Vice-President, Médecins du Monde, and Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, President, Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations.

    Forum Work Programme

     Remarks at the opening of the Millennium Forum, to be held from 22 to 26 May, were scheduled to be made by Techeste Ahderom, Co-Chair, Millennium Forum, followed by a keynote address by the Secretary-General.  Opening statements were also expected to be made by Juan Somavia, Director-General, International Labour Organization; Graciela Robert, Vice-President, Médecins du Monde; Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, President, Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations; Maj-Britt Theorin, President, Council of Parliamentarians for Global Action; and Martin Khor, Executive Director, Third World Network.

    Statements

     TECHESTE AHDEROM, Co-Chairman of the Millennium Forum, said in opening remarks that the Forum was being held to enable participants to grasp the urgent challenges posed by the processes of globalization, which had potentially both good and bad effects requiring coordinated efforts to ensure that only the former prevailed.  Also, as a result of the meeting, civil society would be able to present its views more consistently and coherently to world leaders when they gathered for the Summit later in the year.  One feature of the draft Millennium Forum Declaration and other documents before the Forum was their focus on concrete actions that could be used to achieve a world of peace and security, in which there was no hunger or violence, and where justice was the guiding principle.

     The draft Declaration would issue a comprehensive call for action -- divided into three areas -- to the world at large, he continued.  The first, directed to governments, requested that they honour the commitments and principles they had articulated at the great global conferences during the past decade.  The second area addressed the United Nations and indicated what the Organization could do to achieve the goals of peace and security with its current structure.  The Forum would also discuss and state what structural changes the United Nations would need to make to equip it to deal with future challenges.  Finally, the Forum would address the role of civil society in creating a better world, even without assistance from governments or from the United Nations.  

     Civil society, he said, had no limitations in its contribution to realizing the goals for global inclusion.  It was not enough to say that poverty would be cut in half by 2015.  The reality was that no one should be allowed to go to bed hungry for a further three decades.  Extreme poverty should be completely eradicated by the year 2020.  Also, the current peacekeeping regime was ineffective and inadequate.  The threshold for action to be taken by the Security Council to stop carnage or war was very high.  Hundreds of thousands had to die or thousands of women endure rape before the Council.  In that light, governments must commit themselves to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction, also by 2020.

    KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the participants in the Forum brought to life the concept of "We the Peoples" enshrined in the United Nations Charter -- and represented the promise that people power could make the Charter work for all.  In some circles, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had acquired a bad name -- which overlooked their pioneering role in a number of fields.  Non-governmental organizations had set the pace on many issues and had done so through advocacy and through action.  They had used the tools of information technology to connect and interact across almost all frontiers.  The NGO revolution was one of the happier consequences of globalization.

    While globalization had provided new tools, it had also spread deep anxieties, he said.  In Seattle, at the recent World Trade Organization summit, he had heard the message that many people felt lost and vulnerable in this fast-changing world. The overarching challenge of the times was to make globalization mean more than bigger markets.  It was essential to learn how to govern better -- and, above all, how to govern better together.  If there was a lesson to be learned, it was that while globalization had produced winners and losers, the solution was not confrontation -– it was to ensure that nobody sank, but that “we swim together with the current of our times”.  

    Whatever the concerns of individual NGOs, he said, the benefits of globalization must be spread.  Billions of people were currently marginalized and must be included -- new opportunities must be extended to all.  He had asked Member States to make that question their priority at the Millennium Summit in September.  He reiterated the goals, set out in his Millennium Report, of achieving worldwide freedom from want and fear, a sustainable future and the need to renew the United Nations.   He asked NGOs to work with governments to help translate their goals and those of his report into practice.  

    New norms of international behaviour needed to be implemented, he said.  The NGOs could help individuals participate in the global economy and make sure that policy choices had an impact on daily lives.  By summer, he hoped to announce the first business leaders who had committed to help make the global compact a daily reality.  By supporting it, they would help give global markets what they had so far lacked -- social and environmental pillars.  

    He noted that half the human race had yet to make or receive a phone call, let alone use a computer.  Less than 1 per cent of Africans had used the Internet.  The NGOs were surely well placed to share information technology with others.  They could also help educate girls.  There was no more effective tool of social or economic policy than the education of girls.  For the initiative to succeed, the expertise, energy and expansive reach of NGOs were needed.  Worldwide alliances of NGOs -- on a much wider and more continuous basis -- were the shape of things to come.

    He also stressed the need to address the issue of the illicit traffic in small arms, which he called a threat to human rights, development and good governance.  A United Nations conference would be convened next year, and he hoped civil society organizations would be invited to participate fully.  He also drew attention to the need to participate in the fight against HIV/AIDS -- to the need to keep spreading the message of prevention and underlining the importance of breaking the conspiracy of silence that surrounded the epidemic in some countries –- silence was death, he said.  

    Once international treaties and conventions were ratified, NGOs could help in the implementation of the norms they contained, he said.  The Summit would provide special facilities for governments to sign any of the international conventions and treaties of which he, as the Secretary-General, was the depositary.  The treaties had the potential to improve peoples’ daily lives.

    He stressed the need to work through consensus, rather than confrontation.  With a strong and united voice, NGOs could help make globalization work in favour of all people.  He himself would strive to ensure that the other partners in the international community would work towards those goals.  He looked forward to hearing the outcome of the Forum’s deliberations.

    JUAN SOMAVIA, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), stressed the speed with which globalization was moving.  Globalization was having an effect on people’s daily lives and work.  The information and communication revolution was profoundly changing the way people found and applied for jobs, schools and even mates.  Digital divides abounded, however.  That side of the equation was known far too well.  Over 3 billion people subsisted on less than $2 a day.  With rare exceptions, they were not participating in the global revolution, nor had they benefited from its dramatic changes.  Clearly, the global economy was not producing enough jobs in good conditions for all that needed them.

     “Work is a core issue in the global economy”, he said.  Globalization was changing the way work was done and also where it was done, but not the need for work.  Job creation was at the heart of any strategy to eliminate poverty.  He was convinced that if a better world was to be built, there had to be a sea change in the attitudes of those responsible for public and private policy at all levels.  

     “We must start by building a social floor -– by constructing a consensus on a common set of basic standards that we all acknowledge have universal value in our different societies”, he said.  To achieve that goal, a holistic approach was called for.  Decent work was a universal aspiration of people everywhere, North and South.  The long-term objective was to promote such work in a sustainable environment.

     He emphasized the gender dimension of that work.  Gender equality must be championed as a matter of rights and social justice, as well as efficiency and good business sense.  A fundamental part of that agenda was to ensure that women workers could also be mothers.  

     He concluded by underlining the need for a global civil-society movement embracing all actors for social change -- all champions for change.  What was required was a global civil-society movement that promoted and accepted accountability, and that was open, transparent, legitimate, autonomous and pluralistic.

     GRACIELA ROBERT, Vice-President, Médicins du Monde, stated that protection of civilians must now be placed in the forefront of the international agenda.  Their vulnerability in crises and conflicts was on the rise.  New and emerging conflicts were also rendering people hostages to situations they could not control.  Since the end of the cold war, new types of undefined conflicts had emerged.  Those were becoming increasingly complex, and some were even being privatized.  Civilians often served as human shields.  They were often deported and expelled or exposed to other scourges.  An example was the Sudan, where civilians were being starved to death to attract humanitarian assistance.  Women and children were also increasingly being subjected to the atrocities of war and other conflicts.

     She said humanitarian action was presently at a standstill.  Over the past 20 years, international society had been establishing more legal instruments to protect people who were affected by war and conflict, as well as other vulnerable populations.  However, humanitarian law was constantly being flouted.  Even United Nation staff was directly affected by that kind of disregard for humanitarian norms.  Furthermore, increasingly diverse actors had been providing humanitarian assistance.  But the urgency of the situation was increasingly ignored by States when setting their policies.  Insufficient data was being provided, and such data was often supplied by the belligerents themselves, thus, hampering a quick and urgent solution.

    The humanitarian field must come up with an instrument to count victims, assess the situation and recommend action to be taken, she suggested.  Her organization was recommending the establishment of a humanitarian commission that could be accountable to the Security Council, and would be the specific instrument to be used in the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.  It would complement the work of similar organizations already in existence. 

    Prince TALAL BIN ABDUL AZIZ, President, Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations Development Organizations, said the current issue was linked to the future of humanity.  Of paramount importance was the achievement of a comprehensive peace.  On many occasions, a deepening of the dialogue of civilizations and the culture of peace had been called for.  The twentieth century had witnessed great achievements -- among them, the advances in information technology.  In spite of those advances, however, there was a deficit in the century’s balance sheet due to war and widespread poverty in developing countries.  Combating poverty was a central goal of the international community, as well as individual countries and civil society.  

    The United Nations had realized the importance of civil society and had contributed to the positive increase in the impact of NGOs.   Today, issues related to women and children generally had their rightful place, thanks to the work of NGOs.  He appealed to the governments of developing countries to open the door wider to enable the real participation of NGOs. 

    While all present were concerned with development, there were millions awaiting with great hope the outcome of the Forum.  Unfortunately, most did not know what was going on in this hall -- but they should be receiving the attention that would bring them out of their present situation and allow them to benefit from the positive aspects of globalization.  

    He stressed the need to build systems for deliberating and networking among NGOs at the international level.  To avoid the negative fallout of globalization, he recommended the conclusion of a universal code of honour for civil society, along the lines of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  He also stressed that information technology should be used to provide solid education for the poor and other disadvantaged groups. 

     MAJ-BRITT THEORIN, President, Council of Parliamentarians for Global Action, said civil society was the link that kept communities together.  Peace would never become sustainable unless all key participants were able to negotiate.  Therefore, a strong and democratic United Nations was the appropriate forum for those negotiations.  The Charter was the basis on which the international community was built.  When its tenets were undermined because of national interest, that became a serious issue.  Article 7 governing the use of force must only be accessible to the Organization.  In addition, the only super-Power must be balanced, not by another super-Power, but by a strong and functioning United Nations.  She noted that there were four critical areas -- peace and disarmament, eradication of poverty, human rights and democracy -- in which the United Nations must realize its potential.  

     Often, she noted, governments relinquished their responsibility in the quest for peace.  Many were often unwilling to provide peacekeepers -- the more recent examples were in Sierra Leone and Srebrenica.  Prohibition of the use of force was fundamental in the Charter.  Finding effective was of non-violence must be given priority.  Also, nuclear weapons still constituted a serious threat to peace and security and the survival of all humanity.  All States, including the United States, must negotiate and conclude a nuclear-weapon convention for the eradication of nuclear weapons and prevention of their use. 

     The United Nations had often failed to incorporate civil society in its peace efforts, she pointed out.  The independent efforts of civil society must be recognized, and its role in peacemaking must be given greater weight when setting priorities.  The voices of women must also be heard in the fight for peace.  Also, their input must be incorporated in the fight against poverty -- the second important area for a successful United Nations.  To ensure poverty eradication, the Organization was also an important factor in efforts to ensure debt cancellation for impoverished countries.
     
     On the issue of human rights, she said that its definition must include economic rights.  She called on the Organization to refrain from imposing economic sanctions on States.  Civil society was responsible for speaking on behalf of those under dictatorial regimes, and the United Nations must listen.  Civil society would continue to push for the apprehension of war criminals, but the rights of civilians must also be protected.  International relations must be democratized, she stressed, and the democratic shortcomings of the United Nations must be corrected, particularly those regarding the veto powers of the Security Council.  Moreover, it was most important for the Organization to be more accessible to the general citizenry.  

    MARTIN KHOR, Executive Director, Third World Network, said globalization’s assumptions and paradigms must be debated.  While it was true that the benefits only accrued to some and that large numbers of people lost, the problem lay with the fact that the people who won might actually be causing the losses.  Colonialism had benefited a few at the expense of the many.  Globalization today repromoted colonization.  That was why the term recolonialization had been coined.   Globalization was primarily a process by which companies, increasing their market share, got bigger and aimed to get even bigger in the future.  It was not a natural process -– it was achieved through policy decisions at the international level. 

    Double standards abounded, he said.  Developing countries were asked to pay their debts while the United States owed so much.  Countries were told to get rid of landmines, while nuclear Powers kept their weapons.  Transparency and democracy at the local level were called for, but what about the tyrants at the  international level?  Liberalization was discussed as a good, but protectionism continued in the rich countries, in the realm of information technology among other areas.  The spread of technology had been blocked through intellectual property laws, he noted.  

    Behind the rhetoric of the benefits of the new global system lay the reality that the rich wanted to maintain and extend their powers almost to the point of total monopoly, he said.  The double standards must be eliminated.  Local communities must be empowered to take control of their own economy and society.  The power of the United Nations needed to be rebuilt as a democratic and participatory institution, by ensuring the participation of NGOs and the voice of developing countries in all areas.  The powers of the Bretton Woods institutions and of the World Trade Organization must be reduced to the appropriate level, so that they could play a positive role.  The power of the G-8 highly industrialized countries must be shrunk, and the veto power in the Security Council must be above abuse.  “We have to get rid of the double standards and put ourselves on the right course”, he said.  He invited the United Nations to join NGOs in the struggle for a better world.

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