Press Releases

    DSG/SM/140
    11 September 2001

    DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, ACCEPTING HONORARY DEGREE FROM UNIVERSITY OF TURIN, OUTLINES
    CHALLENGES OF GLOBALIZING ERA

    NEW YORK, 10 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of today’s address by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette upon receiving an Honorary Degree from the University of Turin, Italy:

    I am truly delighted to receive this honorary degree from the University of Turin, and I wish to express my profound gratitude for the privilege of addressing this distinguished audience today. Turin holds special significance for the United Nations, as it hosts a major ILO office as well as our staff college, which has trained many of our leaders, and has long benefited from close cooperation with this University.

    Around the world, Turin is respected and admired not only as a centre of learning, but as an engine of growth and industry. This combination of action and reflection, of scholarship and business, should give you a good perspective on the challenges facing the world in the era of globalization –- which is what I should like to talk to you about today.

    As obstacles of distance shrink, and barriers of time disappear, our planet is a much smaller place. The opening of national economies and advances in communications have transformed the concept of distance –- with cell phones, 24-hour news channels, e-mail and the Internet becoming a part of daily life -– at least in the North. Our lives are being affected by events taking place halfway around the world. Insularity is less and less of an option, and modern-day travel is creating a constant exchange not only of goods but also of peoples from one part of the world to the other. 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. 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. 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.

    Today, I wish to suggest one response to this challenge by speaking about an aspect of globalization that is often ignored, but is, if anything, becoming increasingly important. I refer to what has been called the ‘globalization of values’. By this I mean the need to ensure that the globalization of economies and societies is supported and sustained by a ‘globalization of community’ –- to create a wider, more expansive definition of our duties to our fellow men and women in the global village, and to ensure that globalization benefits them all -– economically, politically and socially.

    The question before us, therefore, is not whether globalization is good or bad, but rather how we adapt our policies, priorities and personal choices to account for the realities of a new era. We need to manage common affairs in common -– we need to arrive at common principles with which to address challenges that all peoples have in common. In a world without walls, we can no longer think and act as if only the local matters, as if we only owe solidarity and allegiance to those within our own city or State.

    Such a world demands that we tear down the walls in our own minds as well –- those separating us from them, rich from poor, white from black -- so that we are able to recognize the untold ways in which we all can benefit from cooperation and solidarity across lines of nationality, race or economic development. Whether it is the area of crime, health or the environment, interdependence has ceased to be an abstract concept, and become reality in our own lives. From the drug trade to rising sea levels to the spread of AIDS, the fate of people in the North in increasingly intertwined with that of the South.

    This poses a real challenge not only to political leaders, but to businesses, labour unions, and particularly private citizens. We need to rethink what belonging means and what community means in order to be able to embrace the fate of distant peoples and share our wealth and privilege with them as well. This may sound idealistic to you, but to me it is a basic matter of realism. There is an old American saying: "All politics is local". We need to turn this idea upside-down, and recognize that all politics -– in our era -- is global. This means that politicians and leaders in every sector need to present the choices facing the public in a different light. They need to make the difficult, but necessary case that we cannot exclude the poor of the developing world -- no more than we can exclude the poor of our own societies -- and still hope to secure lasting peace and prosperity.

    Let me say at the outset that I do not imagine this will be easy. We all feel a deeply rooted sense of loyalty to those closest to us -– families, friends, fellow citizens of city and country. To say that we –- and here I think in particular of those of us privileged to live in the developed world -- should include citizens of poor and distant countries in our circle of concern -– to suggest that we have an obligation to help them achieve their rights and opportunities -- is to ask a lot.

    But I believe globalization leaves us with little choice. Either we help the poor and developing countries today, out of a sense of moral obligation and enlightened self-interest, or we will find ourselves compelled to do so tomorrow, when their problems become our problems, in a world without walls.

    Ensuring that globalization not only benefits the developing world -– but will continue to benefit the developed world in the next decade as well –- is a task 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 NGO community -- could undertake alone. All voices must be heard, all sides must play their part in addressing globalization in the widest sense of the term.

    To think globally -– and to consider not only domestic factors, but also international ones as integral to decision-making today, in governments, businesses and organizations -– does not mean a uniformity of thought, or just one approach. There are, quite naturally, a great variety of ways that we can think and act globally, and in so doing celebrate and strengthen global diversity. In this sense, the local is not in opposition to the global, but is infused and enriched with global impulses and influences. Essential to realizing this new reality is a dialogue across nations and cultures based on common values and common concerns.

    The United Nations itself was created in the belief that dialogue can triumph over discord, that diversity is a universal virtue, and that the peoples of the world are far more united by their common fate than they are divided by their separate identities. Without this dialogue taking place every day among all nations –- within and between civilizations, cultures and groups –- based on a genuine globalization of values, no peace can be lasting and no prosperity can be secure. That is the lesson of the United Nations’ first half-century. It is a lesson that we ignore at our peril.

    While it may seem somewhat vague to speak of the globalization of values, the vision of the world it seeks to create is quite clear. It is a world defined by solidarity and understanding, tolerance of dissent, celebration of cultural diversity, an insistence on fundamental, universal human rights, and a belief in the right of people everywhere to have a say in how they are governed. It is a world characterized by the belief that the diversity of human cultures is something to be celebrated, not feared.

    This vision is based on an understanding that we are the products of many cultures and impulses, that our strengths lie in combining the familiar with the foreign. That is not to say that we cannot rightly take pride in our particular faith or heritage. We can and we should. But the notion that what is ours is necessarily in conflict with what is theirs is both false and dangerous. In contrast to what some would suggest, we can love what we are without hating what we are not. That is the essence of a globalization of values –- diversity within a global community joined by a common concern for a common fate.

    I have spoken today about the globalization of community, by which I mean the need to embed the new global economy in a true global society, based on solidarity, tolerance, co-existence and other shared values across the great divide of rich and poor, developed and developing. I recognize that this is a great challenge demanding real sacrifices for distant goals that will take decades to realize. But I believe it is a basic test of our humanity –- whether we believe that the peace and the prosperity of the least fortunate of the world is our business, too.

    Fortunately, however, we have begun to assemble the tools for global cooperation over the past half-century –- tools that can allow us to create a genuine global community, if only we are able to change our priorities, from the local to the global. I refer here, of course, to the United Nations, but also to the treaties, conventions and international organizations that allow countries to work in concert across a vast spectrum of issues –- from development to the environment to peace and security.

    More recently, there has been significant progress in the area of human rights and justice, through new legal instruments covering such issues as violence against women and the soon-to-be realized creation of a permanent International Criminal Court, ready and able to try the most serious crimes against humanity –- a task that is, alas, all too pressing in our own time.

    As we in the North continue to enjoy the fruits of globalization, it may seem oddly anachronistic to be focusing on the prosecution of crimes that many had imagined would never again take place. And yet, no one –- especially here in Turin, the city of Primo Levi –- should be surprised by the persistence of evil in the world. In his last essay before his death, that great writer spoke plainly about it. ‘It happened,’ he wrote ‘therefore it can happen again. It can happen. And it can happen anywhere.’

    As we now know, he was tragically prescient. The last decade of the twentieth century witnessed –- in Bosnia and Rwanda -– the recurrence of genocide, even as Western Europe and North America prospered in peace.

    It can happen again, but it should not. We have the ability to prevent it, and we must do so. That we failed to do so in those two places is a source of eternal shame that throws doubt on the whole notion of an international community. If we are to talk of global values in future, we must be prepared to act on them.

    I have quoted your fellow citizen. Let me now quote one of mine -– Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led the peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the genocide -– and whose pleas for reinforcement went tragically unheard until it was too late.

    In a letter to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last year, after what was apparently an attempted suicide, he wrote of the duty of the developed countries to move "beyond self-interest, strategic advantages, and isolationism, and raise their sights to the realm of the pre-eminence of humanism and freedom".

    Those words came from deep in the soul of a man traumatized by a collective failure, which he himself had striven harder than anyone to prevent. They should inspire us all to reflect on the nature of global values, and the courage needed to defend them.

    If globalization is to succeed, ladies and gentlemen, it must succeed for poor and rich alike. It must help prevent the worst that man can do, as it encourages the best that he aspires to. It must deliver rights no less than riches. It must provide social justice and equity no less than economic prosperity and enhanced communication. It must embrace global diversity even as it makes us raise our sights to see what unites all nations and peoples. It must be harnessed to the cause not of capital alone, but of development, peace and prosperity for the poorest of the world

    This is, undoubtedly, a tall order. But it is one that must be met, if globalization is not to be recalled in years hence as simply an illusion of the power of trade over politics, and human riches over human rights.

    The students of this great university are the globalization generation, and it will fall to them to make the globe a true community. I wish them the best of luck, and great success in whatever part they choose to play.

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