Press Releases

     

    SG/SM/9011
    18 November 2003

    ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, DEMOCRACY, SOCIAL JUSTICE
    MUST ADVANCE HAND IN HAND, SECRETARY-GENERAL
    TELLS IBERO-AMERICAN SUMMIT

    NEW YORK, 17 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the thirteenth Ibero-American summit in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, on 14 November:

    It is a great honour to be invited to join you at this summit.

    I do so with great humility, as someone coming from another continent, but also as someone who has long admired the vitality and diversity of Latin American culture with its rich indigenous, African, Spanish and Portuguese roots.

    This moment is for me the culmination of a very exciting 10 days.  I have enjoyed the most dazzling hospitality in four of your countries -- countries which, despite their many domestic problems, have given me and my team an unforgettable welcome.

    That is particularly true, needless to say, of the country that is our host today -- Bolivia.  We all know the very difficult time Bolivians have lived through in recent weeks, and the very serious problems they still face.

     

    Mr. President, I’m sure I speak for everyone here in saying that we appreciate all the more the generous hospitality that you and your people have shown.

    Let me add that the warm welcome I have received in this region comes as no surprise.  Most Latin American States were founder Members of the United Nations.  Many contribute troops to our peacekeeping operations, and over the decades the world has benefited from the services of many outstanding Latin American diplomats, thinkers and statesmen.

    I think especially, of course, of my distinguished predecessor, Javier Perez de Cuellar, but also of my dear friend Sergio Vieira de Mello, who helped so many people in so many parts of the world, and died, less than three months ago, doing his utmost to help the people of Iraq.  The shared pain of his loss brings the United Nations and the Ibero-American world closer together.

    Had he lived longer, Sergio would undoubtedly have achieved much more as High Commissioner for Human Rights.  And that would have been fitting, because Latin America helped to build the global human rights movement as we know it today.

    Your peoples showed great courage in standing up to the military dictatorships of the 1970s.  They showed the world that non-violent forms of resistance require at least as much courage and skill as violent ones, but can be more effective, and that an active civil society is an essential element in building democracy.  And they continue to show courage in their efforts to achieve reconciliation by ending the legacy of impunity.

    Indeed, this is the one region in the developing world where democracy is now almost universal.  That achievement inspires the world.  It must be preserved.  The whole world has a stake in Latin America’s democratic success.

    It is, therefore, very worrying to learn that recent surveys show a decline in support for democracy in the region.

    Why should that be?  I believe we all know the reasons.

    Twenty years of efforts to adapt your economies to the new global market have succeeded in combating inflation, increasing and diversifying exports, and attracting significant amounts of foreign direct investment.  But they have not, for the most part, delivered the improvement in your peoples’ lives for which they hoped.

    Latin America as a whole is doing comparatively well in its efforts to implement several of the Millennium Development Goals -- for instance, reducing mortality rates among children and mothers, achieving gender balance in the school system and primary education for all.

    Overall, you have increased social spending and targeted it better.  And here I must particularly salute President Lula for his imaginative programme to feed all the hungry in Brazil.

    But your efforts to implement the first and most important Millennium Goal -- the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger -– have been thwarted throughout the region by a vicious circle of disappointingly low economic growth and persistent inequality.

    While 10 per cent of households enjoy roughly 50 per cent of national income, the poor have increased both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the population -- reaching 43 per cent last year.  Such sharp inequalities slow down economic growth, as well as depriving the poor of their share in what growth there is.

    Job opportunities have been limited over the past two decades, especially for the poor, who now overcrowd an informal sector that is far too large.  Even during the growth period from 1990 to 1997, seven out of 10 new jobs were created in the informal sector, where small entrepreneurs and employees get little or no support in terms of training, technology, credit, or protection of their property rights.

    Land remains concentrated in a few hands, while the rest of the rural population barely ekes out a living.  Many have forsaken the countryside, to live in crowded barrios or favelas, with minimal public services.

    Certain groups suffer disproportionately.  People of African descent continue to be marginalized, as do indigenous people, whether majorities or minorities.  The rain forest, which indigenous peoples have preserved for many centuries as one of the lungs through which the whole world breathes, continues to shrink year by year.

    Women, too, in almost all communities, are denied full access to the labour market, and to the decision-making process -- which means that society is denied the full benefit of their talents.

    And the poorer people are, the more they suffer from pervasive violence and lawlessness, and the more they feel exploited and oppressed by those whose power and wealth they cannot share.

    Despite your intense efforts to eliminate the cultivation of illicit drugs, the drug industry continues to thrive, defying the rule of law with parallel networks which, in many of your States, control whole swathes of territory and whole sectors of the economy.  The Andean region, in particular, is deeply afflicted.

    Too often, it seems, the people believe that some of you, their elected rulers, are indifferent to their plight.

    That is bad in itself, but I do not need to tell you that it also threatens your stability.  In country after country, and most recently here in Bolivia, you have seen acute social tensions give rise to political upheaval.

    It is greatly to your credit that you have managed these crises through constitutional procedures, without reverting to military rule.  Your peoples have shown a dogged belief in democracy, however imperfect.  But can you take this for granted indefinitely, if you do not succeed in tackling the deep social problems that cause so much discontent?

    Some may be tempted, given the poor results so far, to turn their backs on the global market, or even on pluralistic democracy.  But there is little in recent history to suggest that any country can achieve better results by isolating itself from the world economy, or by denying its people free political choice.  Indeed, there is much to suggest the opposite.

    So what more can you do?  Carlos Fuentes wrote more than a decade ago that “democratic States in Latin America must do what until now only revolutions were expected to do:  bring economic development along with democracy and social justice”.  That remains true today.  Public spending should be more firmly directed to the benefit of the poor.  Corruption and abuse of power must be curbed.

    A development strategy worth the name cannot ignore the glaring inequalities between different social groups -- and that is even more true when socio-economic differences coincide with ethnic divisions.  Special attention should be paid to the needs of all those -- whether minorities or majorities, of African descent or native Indian origin -- who share the bitter experience of marginalization.  And inequities of land ownership must be addressed through imaginative agrarian reforms.  Some of you have already taken steps in that direction.

    Since most of your countries are classified as “middle-income” rather than least-developed, I urge you not to be satisfied with the Millennium Development Goals, but to aim higher.  Should you not aim, by 2015, not just to halve but to eradicate extreme poverty in your countries; to halve poverty of any description; and to significantly reduce inequality in wealth and income?

    In education, the Summit of the Americas has already gone beyond universal primary schooling, setting targets and indicators for secondary education as well.  I applaud that.  But I urge you to go further:  aim for universal secondary schooling, and aim at equal access for men and women to jobs, at all levels, as well as to positions of power in both public and private sectors.

    This work should form part of wider efforts to expand citizen’s rights.  Democracy means more than elections.  It also means democratic citizenship, which rests on the expansion of civil, political, economic and social rights.

    Those are some of the major themes of the alternative agenda worked out by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean -- CEPAL -- which aspires to overcome the weaknesses of the “Washington Consensus”.  And the United Nations Development Programme is doing a study on the state of democracy in the region, to which many prominent Latin Americans have contributed.  I expect this study to be a catalyst for efforts to strengthen democratic institutions in the region.

    I know middle-income countries do face some specific problems, such as special vulnerability to volatile financial flows, inadequate international mechanisms to deal with debt burdens, the need to upgrade their technology and develop the right export mix for world markets, and social tensions that arise when globalization enables some sectors or groups to develop very rapidly while others stagnate or face sudden ruin.

    We need new guidelines for international cooperation with such countries.  I am asking the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs to work on this, in the context of the Finance for Development process, and I hope that the Spanish and Portuguese Governments, among others, will be our allies.

    Indeed, you should not feel alone in facing any of these problems.

    In this Ibero-American community, you are already working to give each other the benefit of your different experiences and advantages -- in economic and social affairs, in human rights, in culture and technology.

    You can also work with your fellow members of the United Nations to realize the eighth Millennium Goal:  a global partnership for development.  Indeed you did so, at the Monterrey conference in Mexico last year, which brought new commitments of finance for development -- and you will do so again when you return to Mexico next month to sign, in Merida, the United Nations Convention against Corruption, one of the biggest obstacles to development.

    You can also work together to assert the interests of the developing world in the global trading system -- as you did at Cancún in September.  It was frustrating that the Doha round came unstuck there, but we can get it back on track if the developing world combines unity with flexibility, and the developed world responds in kind.  Indeed we must, so as to end the scandal of unequal access and unfair competition in agricultural trade, which denies your economies their best chance of growth.

     

    There are many other ways that you can improve your prospects by working with and through the international community -- particularly the United Nations.  I am thinking, in particular, of your efforts to reduce the burden of debt and improve the support given by international financial institutions.  I am thinking, too, of your endeavours to persuade the developed world to accept its share of responsibility for the scourge of illicit drugs and act to curb demand, as well as supply, as well as giving farmers a fair chance to cultivate and export alternative crops.

    During my travels in the Andean region, I have become even more keenly aware of the intensity of your discussions on the need for new forms of international cooperation to assist the region.  These discussions are important, and they are generating new ideas.  I am willing to assist you in the effort to develop concrete initiatives through which the international community would help meet the special needs of the Andean region.

    I also look to this region, with its strong multilateral traditions, to make a vital contribution to the great global debate on peace and security which has now started.

    With the Treaty of Tlatelolco, you showed the world that weapons of mass destruction can be eliminated through multilateral agreement.

    Throughout this difficult year, under acute and often contradictory pressures, Mexico, Chile and Spain have borne heavy responsibilities as members of the Security Council.

    Several of you have already made important interventions in the General Assembly.

    I believe all of you share my view that new threats must be met, not with unilateral pre-emption but with a collective response, and I am delighted that two distinguished Latin Americans have agreed to join the High-Level Panel which I announced last week.

    The Panel will study the threats to international peace and security that we currently face, define the elements of a collective response, and recommend ways in which our international rules and mechanisms, including the principal organs of the United Nations itself, may need to be adapted to provide that response.  I have asked it to report in time for me to submit recommendations to the next session of the General Assembly.

    I am honoured to be with you today. This Ibero-American community is a wonderful example of mutual accountability and support, among countries which are at different levels of development and have different styles of government, as well as different perspectives on world affairs.

    I know you are seeking even greater cohesion and continuity, through your efforts to create a permanent secretariat.  Let me offer you my encouragement in that important endeavour.  The whole world will benefit if the peoples of Latin America and their Iberian cousins can cooperate ever more closely in the search for solutions to problems that we all share.

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