Press Releases

    GA/9912
    24 September 2001

    SPEAKERS ADDRESS "DIGITAL DIVIDE", INEQUITIES IN GLOBALIZATION, AS DIALOGUE ON INTERNATIONAL
    ECONOMIC COOPERATION CONTINUES

    NEW YORK, 20 September (UN Headquarters) -- Information and communication technology was indispensable in helping the international community cope with globalization, said the representative of Japan this afternoon, as the General Assembly continued its high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership.

    Information technology had the potential to increase productivity and to create and sustain economic growth and employment, the representative of Japan continued. However, it was important to ensure that everyone could benefit from such technology.

    Also on the topic of information technology, the representative of Tunisia warned of creating a "digital divide" between the developed and developing countries. The international community should take measures to avoid such a divide and, in that regard, Africa deserved special attention. It was vital that the international community adopt specific measures to promote trade and to ensure that Africa profited from the advances in information and communication technology.

    A number of representatives also spoke on the inequities of globalization and economic growth. The representative of Brazil said there was currently a "participation deficit" in the processes of globalization. Since all countries may be affected, all of them should have a say in the international decision-making processes. The international community needed more globalization, meaning more consistent and participatory governance of the international financial system.

    The representative of India said the international community needed a positive program of change so that globalization would be seen "as a tide that lifts all boats." Globalization had promised unprecedented wealth and prosperity, but that promise had not been realized. The international community must ensure that globalization worked for all and that it was supportive of economic development objectives of all countries.

    Statements were also made this afternoon by the representatives of the Philippines, Ghana, Malaysia, Norway, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Indonesia, Belarus, Israel, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Argentina and Egypt.

    The high-level dialogue will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 21 September to continue its focus on "Responding to globalization: facilitating the integration of developing countries into the world economy in the twenty-first century".

    Background

    The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership. The theme for this year is "Responding to globalization: facilitating the integration of developing countries into the world economy and generating new public and private financing resources to complement development efforts".

    The dialogue is intended to promote a broader and deeper understanding of global or transboundary issues and to provide impetus for the promotion of international economic cooperation for development. It constitutes the intergovernmental follow-up to, and assessment of, the Agenda for Development, adopted by the Assembly in 1997. The Agenda provides that such a dialogue should also be used as an opportunity to discuss new and emerging issues concerning international cooperation for development.

    ENRIQUE A. MANALO (Philippines) said the objective of development was not only economic growth, but also concrete and sustainable improvements in the quality of the lives of the majority of humanity in both absolute and relative terms. The goal of the high-level dialogue was to provide the political impetus for the fulfillment of the development commitments, particularly those enshrined in the Millennium Declaration. He also expected the dialogue to be an input to the preparatory processes for the Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit for Sustainable Development.

    A holistic and sustainable approach to development was needed, he said. A new consensus model of development must be developed that takes into account the views, needs and priorities of all partners in development, particularly of the recipient countries. Although it is each country's primary responsibility to pursue its unique development process, it must be recognized that the capacity of developing countries to pursue development efforts might be insufficient. The international community should, therefore, promote an international environment conducive to development and integration of developing countries in the global economy.

    There was a need to avoid "overdetermining development" by setting forth an abundance of prescriptions that, in the final analysis, says that everything development brings was a necessary input to achieving it, he said. Enhancing the participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making processes was also necessary. When discussing bridging the digital divide, the importance of strengthening domestic economic fundamentals –- which in most developing countries were linked to countries’ external economic developments and factors -- should not be neglected.

    NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said that coming in the wake of the Millennium Summit -- and on the eve of the International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit for Sustainable Development -- the dialogue took on particular importance. The international community could discuss a strategy to establish a more just, humane and equitable world economy, in which the benefits of globalization would be distributed more equally. The realization of economic well-being for all was far from being achieved.

    The people of Africa continued to suffer from a number of scourges, including poverty and conflict, which demanded the establishment of true partnership between the North and the South based on the principle of shared, but different responsibilities. There could not be development without financing for development. He attached great importance therefore to the international conference on that subject to be held in Monterrey, Mexico next March. It would provide an opportunity to discuss the concerns of developing countries, including reversing the declining trend in official development assistance (ODA), external debt and private investment.

    He noted that developing countries had not been able to profit fully from the advances in information and communication technology. The inequitable nature of that technology –- called the "digital divide" -- made it essential to conduct international dialogue and implement measures to improve the capacities of developing countries. In that regard, Africa deserved special attention. African countries had made enormous sacrifices to undertake structural reforms and ensure the success of development plans based on their own resources. Circumstances however had made it impossible to achieve that success without the support of the international community. He appealed for increased resources and true partnership with, among other things, partial or complete cancellation of Africa’s debt. It was also vital that the international community adopt specific measures to promote trade and to ensure that Africa profited from the advances in information and communication technology.

    YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said the role of information and communication technology in helping the international community cope with globalization was indispensable. Information technology had the potential to increase productivity and to create and sustain economic growth and employment. In light of that potential, it was important to ensure that everyone could benefit from such technology. In that regard, Japan had announced the establishment in July 2000 of the worldwide "Comprehensive Cooperation Package to Address the International Digital Divide" for which it would make available a total of $15 billion over five years.

    On the topic of financing for development, he said Japan had been the top donor of official development assistance for almost a decade, having provided a total of more than $100 billion during that time. Japan had provided about one-quarter of the total ODA extended worldwide for almost a decade, despite its severe economic and financial situation, because it fully recognized the important role such assistance played in the economic development of developing countries. Japan was resolved to ensure that ODA projects were implemented in an efficient and effective manner.

    He also stressed the importance of the principle of "ownership and partnership". It was imperative for developing countries themselves to take appropriate measures to cope with the globalization process. At the same time, developed countries, United Nations agencies, international organizations and other developing countries were required to respond to the efforts made by developing countries concerned. It was important to further deepen the dialogue with the private sector as a partner for development, because private companies were leading the information revolution and were the sources of foreign direct investment.

    KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said the international community had to be mindful of the protests over skewed globalization, which had been seen in various world trade conferences around the world. Two years ago only 25 protesters were seen at a World Bank and International Monetary Fund conference. Last year, there were 30,000 protesters and future conferences were expecting more than 50,000 protesters. Very few people believed that globalization had helped the common person. Instead they would say globalization had benefited large corporations the most. A sense of powerlessness fed this mood of anxiety.

    It should be possible to put together a positive programme of change, so that globalization would be seen as a tide that lifts all boats, he said. Globalization and global capitalism were battling today to win the argument. The United Nations had the ability to consider these issues and find how that argument could be won. There was renewed uncertainty due to the global economic slowdown. The era of globalization promised unprecedented wealth and prosperity. That however had not happened. Instead, it had resulted in a world with prosperity in a smaller part and poverty in the larger part. Today 66 countries were worse off than they were a decade ago. There were more rich people than ever before and at the same time 2.8 billion lived on just a few dollars a day.

    The international community must ensure that globalization worked for all and that it was supportive of the economic development objectives of all countries, he said. The choice was not between globalization and isolation. The anxiety about globalization related to inequities and a sense of vulnerability. The international community must ensure that globalization was universally beneficial. For that reason, an international dialogue on trade, debt, private capital flows and official development assistance was needed more than ever.

    NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said that the recurrence of financial crises and economic slowdown in the midst of the market expansion driving globalization, as well as the persistent levels of poverty in the face of the unlimited potential of globalization, was an indication of the failure of the international community to fully harness the opportunities of globalization. To address the challenges of globalization measures were needed to create opportunity for all countries and all people.

    The New African Initiative, adopted by African leaders in Lusaka in July, was anchored in the fundamental principles of African ownership, leadership and accountability, he continued. It also recognized the importance of enhanced partnerships at the international level to enable Africa to achieve its objectives. To accept primary responsibility for its own economic development did not mean that developing countries, on their own, could achieve integration into the world economy.

    He said an essential component of any new strategy to integrate developing countries into the global economy must include the strengthening of the international monetary and financial system through greater transparency on the part of all participants -– public, private and multilateral. It should also include increased participation in decision-making in both formal and informal processes by developing countries, including through regional mechanisms.

    GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said that, in regard to international trade, the international community needed to move from rhetoric to the practice of liberalization. Regrettably, protectionism persisted. A number of tariff and non-tariff barriers severely hindered the exports of developing countries, among them tariff peaks and tariff escalation, quotas and the abusive utilization of anti-dumping measures. Those policies had been used against agricultural goods, steel products and textiles, to mention just a few. Even worse, subsidies in the agricultural sector in developed countries amounted to $1 billion per day.

    Over the last decade, Brazil had opened its markets, but had not met reciprocity, he said. If free trade was a characteristic of globalization, then indeed there must be more globalization, which meant a fair world trading system that provided developing countries with better opportunities.

    He added that, unfortunately, the risks of instability continued to hover over the international financial system. Since all countries might be affected, all of them should have a say in the international decision-making processes. However, there was currently a "participation deficit". Globalization consisted not only of certain new trends, but also of the need to establish appropriate frameworks for those trends. In that way the world could avoid a lack of governance and make it possible for everybody to benefit. The international community needed more globalization, meaning more consistent and participatory governance of the international financial system.

    HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that one of the features of the current economic situation was the disadvantaged position of the South vis-à-vis the North -- despite a much-trumpeted spirit of cooperation, complementarity and integration with the global economy. Nevertheless, globalization had been embraced by the developing countries, firstly, because the process was perceived to be unstoppable and, secondly, in the hope and expectation that it would benefit the South. Globalization was not a universal remedy, he said. The Asian financial crisis was a telling reminder that playing by the rules of globalization, for example by liberalizing the economy, did not automatically translate into more trade or faster growth and development for the developing countries. Nor did it ensure the protection of hard-earned prosperity, he added.

    Recognizing that ICT could become a powerful and effective tool for development, and in order to exploit the opportunities presented by the advances in information technology, the Malaysian Government had embarked upon an ambitious programme for the full utilization of ICT in the country's development. It had developed an IT hub called the "Multimedia Super Corridor" (MSC), measuring 15 km by 50 km and stretching from the capital city to the new International Airport. This offered a conducive environment for companies wishing to develop innovative information technology and multimedia products and to harness the full potential of multimedia.

    He recognized that the development of ICT did not hold out prospects for accelerated growth in all developing countries. The digital divide would continue to pose a challenge for many developing countries. In fact, less than five per cent of the world's population was engaged in activities related to ICT. Many countries were still grappling with severe shortages of telephone lines, lack of electricity and high levels of illiteracy. Unless these and related problems were tackled, information and knowledge gaps between developed and developing countries would continue to widen.

    OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said that the most imminent challenge was to ensure that the poorest countries did not continue to miss out on positive political, economic and technological opportunities offered by global integration. That would be unfortunate for industrialized and developing countries alike. One of the most important issues was financing for development. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had estimated that direct foreign investments to developing countries amounted to about $240 billion for the year 2000. This was more than five times the total volume of official development assistance from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries for the same year. Unless more resources were provided, the poorest countries would continue to be locked into their poverty traps.

    One of the main problems in many poor countries, he said, was that domestic savings were not channeled to productive investments at home, depriving the private sector of investment capital and the public sector of much needed tax revenues. The reason was that investments in some countries were seen as risky by the countries’ own citizens, especially in Africa. In 1990, up to 40 per cent of all African private financial assets were invested outside the continent. Reforms that could bring those resources back to Africa were the purpose of the proposal for a multilateral set of investment rules under the WTO, requiring all countries to accept binding WTO commitments.

    One of the most important contributions developed countries could make to poverty reduction was to open their markets to products from poor developing countries, he said. Developed countries could both walk the extra mile in international trade negotiations and unilaterally reduce or abolish tariffs on products from developing countries. Norway had abolished all tariffs on goods from the least developed countries under the "Everything but Arms" initiative. There was also a need to emphasize the potential for developing countries to reduce their own trade restrictions within the framework of the WTO. The next WTO round should explore and take action on the special problems of developing countries to develop as fair a set of rules as possible.

    ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said that the high-level dialogue should contribute to the preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, next March. One of the main concerns for developing countries was how to achieve and maintain economic growth and development in a demanding international environment marked by globalization. Colombia was among those countries that had felt the negative impact of globalization. He believed that the primary objective should be to ensure that the progress achieved through great efforts were not undermined by future international financial crises.

    While it was true that all countries were responsible for their own development, it was also true that the world was becoming increasingly interdependent, he said. Colombia was committed to taking action to tackle such problems as drug trafficking, organized crime, money laundering and terrorism. At the same time, it was necessary to tackle them together, with the support of all governments based on the principle of shared responsibility.

    In that context, he continued, economic cooperation had an important role to play and should be strengthened. Together with the multilateral financial institutions, the United Nations should build a new mechanism to deal with financial crises. Developing countries would be able to integrate better when their needs were met and when they could take part in the decisions that affected them directly. With regard to technological development, which had accelerated the pace at which the world worked, it was essential to channel resources and use ecologically sound technologies. Solidarity, tolerance, equity, and above all freedom must prevail if globalization were to benefit everyone equally.

    MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) called for strengthening normative, legislative and organizational frameworks to ensure the stability and predictability of the world economy, since the process of shaping the international trade system contributed to international economic growth. Multilateral efforts under United Nations auspices should continue for further liberalization of international trade, in conjunction with technical assistance to developing countries.

    She said Kazakhstan was preparing to join the WTO. Uniting some 140 States, it needed reform to liberalize and democratize trade relations -- and not be a controlling and selectively discriminating body of world trade policy. Similarly, the BrettonWoods institutions should be reformed for openness, democratization and competence. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was known for an arm-twisting policy of conditioning loans on political factors unrelated to economic situations.

    As they were integrated into the world economy, the countries with economies in transition would become increasingly important, she said. Competition in the world energy markets had directed Kazakhstan’s focus onto construction of oil and gas pipelines. Since development of the Caspian Sea’s hydrocarbon resources was also a priority, the legal status of the sea was of fundamental importance. United Nations support in strengthening economic cooperation in Central Asia was vital to expanding trade, attracting investment, promoting competitive enterprise and improving both employment and income prospects. The remoteness and small size of domestic markets called for the development of regional markets and for promoting inter-regional trade and development. Trade and specialization increased the size of the economic pie to benefit all countries, while prosperity offered new opportunities, attracted foreign investments, created business prospects and promoted regional stability.

    YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that the unification of respective aspects of national legislation, including the elaboration and conclusion of multilateral agreements, would facilitate the smoother integration of developing countries and countries with economies in transition into the world economy. The lack of modern Information and Communication technologies had prevented several developing countries and countries with economies in transition from effectively integrating into the globalizing world economy.

    Despite the Armenian aggression and its severe consequences, the Republic of Azerbaijan was striving to contribute to the positive development of globalization through participation in global, intra-regional and regional cooperation initiatives, he said. He added that, in order to ensure reliable and safe transportation of the increasing volumes of oil recovered from the national sector of the Caspian Sea, his country used alternative routes of export pipelines. In October 2000, the sponsor group for the construction of the Main Export Pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan had been established. Additionally, his government was conducting consultations on the construction of the gaspipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum for the export of large volumes of the recovered natural gas.

    He said Azerbaijan suffered from a lack of access to the open sea, remoteness from major international markets and high transportation costs, all of which inhibited the development of international trade. Azerbaijan had signed the multilateral agreement on the development of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor, which had connected the participating countries of both continents. This would, no doubt, contribute to the economic development of the participating countries, strengthen economic cooperation and facilitate the realization of other related projects.

    LYONPO OM PRADHAN (Bhutan), addressing the Assembly for the first time in its fifty-sixth session, conveyed condolences to the United States for the terrorism it had suffered on 11 September. He said his country condemned such inhuman acts and had declared a day of mourning. Those who represented their countries in New York considered it their city. All had been affected, had lost and had suffered from the act of terrorism.

    The integration of developing countries into the global economy must be equitable and beneficial to them, he continued. They were all at different stages of development and were differently endowed with natural or other resources. Some faced the debilitating impact of diseases, poverty or natural disasters, including manmade calamities. In the international community’s efforts to achieve the targets and objectives set out in declarations and initiatives, the question of resources was fundamental.

    The international community must provide the resources to tackle the highest priority issues, he said. Those included overcoming geographic disadvantages, eliminating abject poverty, winning the war against disease and bringing basic health and education to those who didn’t have them. International priorities must be clear. Also, the means to an end in achieving them should not be confused with the end itself. Without undue proliferation of activities, the developing countries must be brought into a twenty-first century global economy that was based on justice and equity.

    MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia), said that despite important initiatives undertaken by the international community, such as the launching of the Agenda for Development, multilateral cooperation for development had continued to retreat. Therefore, there could be no viable alternative to the renewal of the dialogue, so as to revitalize international cooperation for development through a constructive North-South dialogue. The key development issues for such negotiations included trade, finance, debt and information and communications technology, which should be negotiated on the basis of mutual interests, shared responsibilities and genuine interdependence.

    Concerning financing, the private sector at both the domestic and international levels must be mobilized, he said. International assistance was needed to help countries adopt policy measures and strategies that made them more attractive and conducive to private financial flows and investment. With regard to information and communications technology, the United Nations ICT Task Force must explore ways to significantly improve accessibility and connectivity, particularly for the rural poor. To do so, it must be ensured that the requisite infrastructure -- such as telephone wires, telephone systems and community center internet access -- were in place.

    While developing countries recognized their primary responsibility for promoting their own economic growth and sustainable development, they were also very much aware that, in an era of globalization, they could not go at it alone, he continued. They needed international assistance and a conducive external environment supportive of development. In addition, governments recognized that they could not deliver without the cooperation of key actors in the global economy, such as the private sector and civil society.

    ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV, Belarus, said there was a need for a new consensus on economic globalization, because more than one-fifth of the world remained in poverty. The International Conference on Finance and Development had become an important body in promoting sustainable development efforts and it should continue to propose further solutions to the problems of globalization and mobilization of resources for developing countries.

    He added that expanding access to information technology was especially important in furthering the goals of economic liberalization. It was particularly important that the international community take steps to reverse the so-called digital divide between developing and developed countries. Information technology will be a key factor in bringing developing countries closer to their development goals.

    RON ADAM (Israel) said that, although the available tools for development had expanded over the past 50 years, Israel remained committed to the same principles that had enabled it to achieve a rapid rate of sustainable development over many years. By mainstreaming its focus on bottom-up solutions, human capacity-building and cooperative arrangements with other organizations, Israel will remain committed to helping other emerging nations develop their resources and successfully integrate themselves with the rest of the world.

    If ever an event could demonstrate the urgent need to alleviate poverty and provide greater economic opportunity for a greater number of people, it was the tragedy experienced in New York less than 10 days ago. Once the time for mourning had passed, the world would face, amidst numerous other challenges, the need to work for the alleviation of conditions that drive individuals to commit extraordinary evil.

    In that regard, he said, the Agenda for Development of 1997 had a broader objective than economic advancement. The Agenda was meant to foster greater understanding of emerging global issues and promote the international cooperation necessary to address them. With proper resolve and the necessary cooperation, the current discussion will succeed not only in outlining important steps towards economic development and integration, but would contribute to the strengthening of peace and security in all parts of the world.

    MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that the multilateral institutions had adopted development policies aimed at promoting the integration of developing countries into the world economy. What remained now was their speedy implementation. The decisions taken should have clear quantifiable targets to free the world of poverty. The International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held next year in Monterrey, Mexico, should consider ways to best mobilize resources. Financing for development would enable developing partners to reform and enhance the effectiveness of ODA and create conditions conducive for foreign investment. For its part, Burkina Faso was working to bring about robust economic growth in the long-term.

    New information and communication technology was one of the pillars of globalization, he said. However, one could not talk of them without mentioning the paradox; despite technological progress, the development gap continued to widen between developed and developing nations. In developing countries, especially in Africa, ICT continued to be a luxury for only the "haves". What was a country like Burkina Faso to do? The response to that question could come from the recently established ICT Task Force. The United Nations should make use of the impetus from the Millennium Summit to channel efforts to advance development in developing countries. Ultimately, the efforts of multilateral organizations would only be successful if accompanied by the political will of individual countries.

    IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said that, in response to globalization, addressing the question of integrating developing countries into the world economy had inevitably brought about stronger inter-linkages between the work of various bodies in the United Nations. Although much had been achieved at the United Nations in the last decade in the direction of coping with the shape of globalization, deepened cooperation with the other international regional organizations needed to be enhanced in a non-hierarchical way.

    He added that, despite the benefits of globalization, the fragility of Western economic forecasts, highlighted by developments over the last six months, would adversely affect the prospects for economic growth in the Central and Eastern European economies. From the integration perspective, a slowdown in Western European markets carried serious risks for the prospects of European Union enlargement for the region as a whole.

    The United Nations had a pivotal role in building the necessary international consensus for a strengthened and stable international financial system, he added. In that regard, there was a need for a more prominent role for the Economic and Social Council in the field of sustainable development and economic cooperation. Enormous effort was needed to consolidate a global agenda for a strengthened and stable international financial system that was responsive to the priorities of growth and development in a socially and economically equitable manner.

    ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina) said that his country had endeavoured to achieve sustainable economic growth and leave behind the recession that had begun three years ago. It was fully aware that the primary responsibility was its own in the area of development and that it was up to the countries themselves to create the conditions necessary for economic growth. Argentina had enacted the Zero Deficit Law, which prohibited the Government from spending more than it collected. However, with globalization, it was obvious that national efforts were not enough when countries were faced with difficulties in the area of trade. The persistence of obstacles to the markets of developed countries had systematically frustrated the efforts of developing countries. A number of countries continued to be highly protected.

    The liberalization of agricultural markets was a key ingredient in Argentina’s development strategy, he said. The upcoming WTO Ministerial Meeting in Doha, Qatar, must address that matter. That was essential before it embarked on a new round of trade negotiations. Argentina had been working to expand its markets, focusing especially on its relations with neighbouring countries. It was working towards hemispheric integration of the Americas, which he hoped would be concluded soon.

    Even if countries were able to achieve significant advances in internal reforms, he said, international cooperation for development continued to be essential for developing countries. He hoped that the ODA target of 0.7 per cent of GNP would be achieved and that the Monterrey Conference would tackle all such issues. The great risk with ICT was that the digital divide would further marginalize the developing world. He hoped the ICT Task Force would ensure universal access to ICT.

    AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said it was not possible for any national effort to achieve economic growth and for development to succeed without the existence of an international enabling environment that promoted development. An international environment that assigned due priority to correcting existing imbalances within the international economic systems was crucial. Such imbalances could be a result of the negative impact of policy decisions by large developed economies on smaller and weaker ones.

    True partnerships, he said, required a sincere and constructive engagement to correct imbalances on the national, as well as the international level. It also meant that the international community should overcome the existing views with regard to the assigned roles and start formulating a more positive role that was more responsive to the development needs of developing countries. He said that such revised roles should be honest in recognizing both the responsibilities and duties of all parties on both national and international levels, within a true spirit of partnerships that puts into consideration the right of all people of the world to develop and prosper.

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