Press Releases

    DSG/SM/121
    12 February 2001


    DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL DESCRIBES CHALLENGES OF GLOBALIZATION IN ADDRESS TO OTTAWA LEADERSHIP FORUM

    NEW YORK, 9 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the first annual Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs Leadership Forum and Awards Dinner in Ottawa on 8 February:

    Thank you for that warm welcome. It gives me great pleasure to join you today, for many reasons.

    I am pleased to be associated with this new institute, which is dedicated to public affairs at a time when the pursuit of private gain seems paramount and the choice of public service is one that our young people are making less and less. Your mission -- luring the public back into public affairs and public life -- is daunting, indeed, but I have every hope that you will succeed.

    I am also here because I just can't seem to say no to Arthur Kroeger, a former colleague and a great civil servant who has dedicated his entire life to the pursuit of public good. The number of distinguished people at this Forum is just one measure of his renown and his ability to inspire us all to give and do our best.

    Most of all, I am pleased to be here because the issue that so many of you and your organizations have been exploring -- the challenge of globalization in a rapidly changing world -- is at the top of the agenda of the organization I represent, the United Nations.

    You are no doubt aware that last September the United Nations held the largest-ever gathering of world leaders -- a Millennium Summit attended by 147 heads of State or government, and 191 nations in total -- at which a far-reaching and ambitious declaration for the new century was adopted. The meeting was an attempt to step back from the press of daily crises, to reflect on the broader, long-term direction in which humankind is headed, and to decide on the core priorities for the United Nations in addressing those challenges.

    The main message to emerge was the need to make globalization work for all people, not just a privileged few. The common refrain was that for far too many people in the world today, globalization is seen not as an opportunity, but as a threat to their livelihoods and ways of life.

    Just a few days ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Secretary-General stressed that this is something that should concern all of us, in rich and poor countries alike. "If we cannot make globalization work for all", he said, "in the end it will work for none".

    So you are far from being the only ones to take a good, close look at the nature and implications of globalization. It is the prevailing context of our times, a force that is transforming our world. Your session considered whether Canada is ready for it. I would like to ask: is the world ready for globalization?

    Let me first explain what I mean by globalization. Essentially, two things:

    -- First, the opening of national economies, and the linking of those economies to each other, through trade liberalization and investment;

    -- Second, the instant communication made possible by technological advances such as cell phones, 24-hour news channels and, of course, e-mail and the Internet.

    As obstacles of distance shrink, and barriers of time disappear, our planet is suddenly a much smaller place. Our lives are being affected by events taking place halfway around the world. Insularity is less and less of an option. No individual, and no country, exists in isolation. All of us live simultaneously in our own communities and in the world at large. This interdependence -- of people and products, information and ideas -- means that more and more of the challenges we face can no longer be addressed at the national level alone. More and more, the forces of modern life escape the control of national governments. More and more, the playing field is international.

    Of course, globalization is not new. As far back as we can trace human history, people have traded, been on the move, colonized and migrated, and in the process have transformed both the places they came from and the places to which they journeyed. Indeed, the late nineteenth century saw levels of interdependence among nations and markets that in some aspects rivalled what we see today.

    What makes our era different is the degree of inter-penetration, and the speed with which change is taking place. We must respond -- not just as individual nations, but as a true world community. Are we doing so?

    Do we have the instruments and institutions we need to deal with common problems and challenges -- problems that can only be solved together? Have we adapted to the communications revolution, which has created a world of instant stock-market-response to faraway events, of living rooms filled with scenes of war and suffering from distant nations, and of powerful cyber-coalitions among people who may never have met each other, yet can work together to influence the global political agenda?

    The picture is mixed.

    Globalization has profoundly affected the way the world manages issues of international peace and security.

    Greater economic interdependence alone would be reason enough for people to be preoccupied by issues of conflict and political instability beyond their national frontiers. But there is no doubt in my mind that the global public's increasing preoccupation with human rights and humanitarian emergencies -- one might call this the globalization of values -- is also largely the product of the information revolution. The immediacy with which scenes of suffering and acts of barbarity can make an impact on public awareness, and the effective use of the Internet as an advocacy tool by non-governmental organizations, means that governments come under pressure from citizens to help, to speak out, to send troops and aid, in short, to "do something".

    Along with the end of the cold war -- which allowed greater scope for agreement among the members of the United Nations Security Council -- this helps to explain the proliferation of peacekeeping operations that we have seen since the late 1980s.

    Those new missions, such as the current one in Sierra Leone, have tended to be more ambitious than the old ones, which consisted essentially of observer forces with the relatively simple task of monitoring a ceasefire line between two regular armies. This expansion of the peacekeeper's role has culminated in the unexpected position we hold today in Kosovo and East Timor, where the United Nations is actually entrusted, temporarily, of course, with full governing authority over these territories.

    This is a brave and daunting new world in which there remains enormous uncertainty about whether, and when, the international community should intervene: to what extent, with what tools, towards what ends and under what authority. Even when there is agreement that intervention is necessary and justified, the instruments at our disposal are still weak. The United Nations, for its part, is not equipped to stage a full-scale intervention or to command and control a full-fledged fighting force. So there are times such interventions would be better undertaken, with Security Council authorization, by other organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or by Member States working individually or in coalition.

    But often the United Nations is expected and called upon to act -- not to fight wars, but keep the peace, or build it in countries torn by conflict. Here the Organization has encountered difficulty in recruiting and deploying the right kind and right number of personnel, be they peacekeeping troops, police or civilian administrators. Moreover, the resources -- financial and human -- needed to help countries rebuild their devastated infrastructures and institutions are always in short supply. We are working to improve all of this, since when crisis erupts, people continue to turn to the United Nations, and most regional institutions, except perhaps in Europe, lack the wherewithal or resources to do the job.

    The proliferation of peacekeeping is not the only response the international community has given to the globalization of values.

    We are seeing the extension of human rights law through new legal instruments covering, for example, violence against women or human rights defenders. We have also expanded the technical assistance and educational programmes of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose post was itself created only in the last decade. And, after the important work done by ad hoc criminal tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, we have seen agreement to establish a permanent International Criminal Court. I am very glad that Canada has been among the first States to ratify the Statute of the Court. We now have 27 such ratifications, and when we reach 60 the Court, which has been called the "missing link" in the international criminal justice system, will be able to start work. The globalization of values will have taken an enormous leap. We shall enter a new era in which those who commit the gravest crimes against humanity can and will be held accountable.

    The economic dimensions of globalization have posed equally difficult challenges for the world community.

    Here, there are two broad issues to be addressed.

    First is the fragility of the system. Consider the biggest financial crises of the 1990s: those in Mexico in 1994, and East Asia in 1997-1998. These began as financial crises, but it quickly became clear that they had very serious economic, social and political consequences, not only for the people of the countries directly affected, but also for the international system, and thus for countries far from the regions involved, including those with apparently much more solid economies.

    There has since been much debate on the policy and systemic implications, and some actual adjustments aimed at ensuring that the global economy rests on a sound foundation. It is increasingly recognized that countries need to be able to move at their own pace in liberalizing and in opening themselves to a highly competitive environment, and that it is important to take such measures in the right sequence. It is understood that a single model of liberalization, or of democracy for that matter, cannot be imposed. And there is wide agreement that a stronger international safety net is needed. However, there is still a long way to go before we can relax, or be assured that our institutions have fully grasped the nature of the challenges we face and have both the capacity and legitimacy to act.

    Yet even more troubling than the fragility of the system is its inequality. Some parts of the world are now getting richer at almost vertiginous speed, while others are falling further and further behind. Sixty per cent of the world's income is now earned by 1 billion people living in developed countries, while the 3.5 billion in low-income countries earn less than 20 per cent. Nearly half the world's population has to make do on less than $2 per day. And some 1.2 billion people -- including 500 million in South Asia and 300 million in Africa -- are struggling on less than $1. At present, the vast majority of the world's poor are also being left out of the new knowledge-based global economy. Half the population of the developing world has yet to make or receive a telephone call, let alone log on to the Internet.

    Globalization, in this form, is almost certainly unsustainable. A major part of the responsibility lies with developing countries themselves, of course. They must put in place the legal, regulatory and governance frameworks that will create reliable, investment-friendly climates. They must do all they can to liberate their peoples' creative and entrepreneurial energies, especially so that they can seize the opportunities of the digital revolution. Too often, for example, State monopolies charge exorbitant prices for the use of band widths, thereby putting the new world economy beyond the reach of most of their citizens.

    But it is also true that the developed countries have largely failed to do their part. Their markets remain closed to many developing country products. They have been slow to offer real debt relief, even to those among the poorest countries that have made great efforts to adjust their policies. And very few of the developed countries are anywhere near the 0.7 per cent target they set themselves many years ago, for official development assistance as a proportion of their gross national product.

    Other ills, while not the product of globalization, have spread more easily because of the open borders, open markets and technological advances that have brought so many benefits to some of the world's people. Terrorists, criminals, drug dealers, traffickers in people and others take advantage of these new freedoms and new capabilities. Moreover, they thrive in countries with weak laws, institutions and safeguards against corruption.

    And then there is the quintessential global issue -- protection of the environment. Climate change and water pollution show no respect for borders. Unsustainable practices remain deeply embedded in the fabric of our daily lives. Yes, legally binding treaties have been adopted covering global warming, biodiversity and depletion of the ozone layer. Voluntary efforts by valiant individuals and citizens groups have spread public awareness. But the inescapable global reality is that we are plundering our children's future. Half the world's jobs depend directly on the sustainability of ecosystems, yet the need for environmentally sustainable development is failing to register on the political radar screen.

    It gives me no pleasure to recite a litany of globalization's discontents. Nor do I think that globalization is in itself responsible for most of these problems. What I do mean to suggest is that globalization is not an immutable force, moving in one inevitable direction. It is a human creation, and as such it is subject to human agency. We may not be able to control it. But we can steer it and shape it into something more beneficial, for more of the world's people, than it is today. That is the task before us.

    And that task is one that none of us -- not the most powerful or popular governments, not the most innovative members of the private sector, not the most passionate members of the non-governmental organization community, and not even a fully reformed and resourced United Nations -- could undertake alone. All voices must be heard, all must play their part.

    International institutions face a special challenge in this regard. There remain key parts of the international system such as the Bretton Woods institutions or the United Nations Security Council, the composition and functioning of which, it is widely felt, reflects the geopolitical realities of half a century ago. This under-representation of many of the world's people in the institutions of global governance has long been a matter of concern, but it has become even more troubling as globalization and interdependence grow more and more entrenched.

    We will also need partnerships -- a true mobilization of the world public, real coalitions for change -- governments, international organizations, private sector businesses, academic institutions, civil society groups and others, all joined by a belief in the need for action that goes beyond the local or national.

    The Secretary-General, for his part, has reached out to all of these constituencies. I hope by now you have heard of the Global Compact, a special initiative of his, targeted at the private sector. It is based on the premise that the business community, like the United Nations and the world's people in general, shares an interest a global economy that rests on a strong foundation, in a trade regime that is free of unnecessary burdens and restrictions, and in the overall fight for development and against poverty.

    The Compact asks businesses to embrace and enact, in their business practices and operations, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards and the environment. The principles are based on international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization's agreement on core labour standards, and the Rio Declaration on the environment.

    The Compact is not a code of conduct and not a set of legally binding arrangements; rather, it is a voluntary initiative, designed as a learning forum, and as a platform for showcasing corporate citizenship. Already, leading companies from every industry and every continent are supporting the Compact. Let me urge the business leaders in this audience to associate themselves with the Compact, if they have not already done so, and join in bringing these principles to life and giving a human face to the global market. This is an excellent chance for them to demonstrate global leadership.

    Indeed, forging such global alliances is the new century's main leadership challenge. Yet, while this may be a new task for leaders, the qualities that leaders need will remain much the same. They need to be the kind of people who can tell others unwelcome truths. And they need to believe in what they do with a practical enthusiasm that inspires others. Progress and change do not come about spontaneously. They happen because people give generously of their time, energy and convictions -- and inspire others to join them. Surely, in this audience, there are leaders who can take us beyond business as usual. I look to you with great hope, and I thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you tonight.

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