|For information only - not an official document.|
|25 October 2000|
| Key Role of Information and Communication Technology in Addressing Inequalities of Globalization Discussed in Second Committee
NEW YORK, 24 October (UN Headquarters) -- When three billionaires were worth more than 600 million people in 48 countries, no more evidence was needed that globalization was not working, the representative of Saint Lucia told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of globalization and interdependence.
This form of globalization was a crime against humanity, she said. In light of the urgent situation of developing countries, the international community could not continue to hide behind meaningless consensus-building language and ambiguities. Instead, it must take decisive, meaningful action to spread the benefits of the global economy.
The representative of Japan said the driving force behind globalization was information technology. Information technology made it possible for individual and private sector users to participate directly in global economic activities. It also made it possible for the developing countries to pursue economic growth by leap-frogging technological ladders.
The representative of Morocco said his Government recognized access to information and communication technology as a fundamental human right. He stressed the importance of reducing the digital divide separating the countries of the North from those of the South. Access to information and communication technology was far from being equitable or universal. He pointed out that the industrialized countries had 80 per cent of the Internet users and that English was used in 80 per cent of the Web sites, while it was spoken by just 15 per cent of the world’s population.
New Zealand’s representative said that the challenge facing the international community was to ensure that all people, not just the wealthy in the developed world, had the capacity to join the information and communication technology revolution, and to benefit from the opportunities it brought. As examples of such opportunities, he cited enhanced economic growth, new areas of employment and forms of education, promotion of human rights and sharing new developments and discoveries.
In closing remarks, Sarbuland Khan, Director, Division for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, said that clearly globalization had emerged as the central challenge before the international community and the United Nations. The first time that the General Assembly had seriously taken up the issue was in 1998 at the first high-level meeting on the renewal of dialogue. This year, the discussions had moved away from the generalities of globalization to its specificities.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Singapore, China, Kenya, San Marino, Chile, Slovakia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Myanmar and the Philippines. A statement was also made by the observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference
The Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 25 October, at 11 a.m. to consider the implementation of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).
Committee Work Programme
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of globalization and interdependence. (For background, see Press Release GA/EF/2929 issued this morning.)
LOH TUCK WAI (Singapore) said that the information and communication technology revolution appeared to have passed the poor by. However, in some corners of the developing world, the technology revolution was quietly having a positive impact on some of the poor.
The Internet, he said, had been used to save both lives and the environment. Using the Internet, it had taken hours instead of weeks to link groups managing relief supplies in Washington, D.C,. to needy communities in remote Honduras after Hurricane Mitch had hit in 1998. In Jamaica, farmers and students could now go to community cyber-centres to access information about new environment-friendly technologies, all for the cost of a local call. The benefits of the information and communication technology for the poor were, therefore, not just a potential waiting to be fulfilled. Some of the benefits were already flowing.
Another beauty of the Internet, he added, was that the information flow was not one-way. It had, in fact, created more room for dialogue and discussion between distant societies, unrestricted by time and space. Through e-mail and by joining regional chat rooms in Asia, Europe, Africa or Latin America, such information exchanges could help to foster more accurate understanding of local attitudes in different countries.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that, at the dawn of a new century, there still existed serious destabilizing factors in the world and a huge gap between the rich North and the poor South. The majority of the developing countries had been put at a disadvantage with their economic security or even State sovereignty being subjected to severe challenges. Globalization without regulation and a clear purpose would only benefit a small number of people. The first task of the international community was to strengthen effective globalization governance. The new system should represent the interests of the majority of people and have a human face, thus enabling all countries, especially the developing countries, to enjoy the benefits more equitably.
The international community should reform the current international financial and trade system, he said. This multilateral system should work to enhance policy coordination and promote cooperation. At the same time, it should ensure that the particular needs of the developing countries be taken into full consideration. Information technology was developing extremely fast, strongly boosting the process of globalization and bringing about many new opportunities for economic growth. Unfortunately, the vast number of people in the developing countries had no access to information technology. This cast a shadow on the prospect of mankind’s common development and prosperity. Actions at the national, regional and international levels should be coordinated to create digital opportunities for all people.
There was also a need to further strengthen and improve an international framework in which globalization could be made to work positively for all, he said. As a relatively isolated country, with a heavy reliance on the agricultural sector for its export earnings, New Zealand was acutely aware of the importance of access to all markets, but particularly to developed countries markets for goods and services. Equally strong emphasis must be placed on the centrality of the environment, human rights and labour standards in international decision-making. Global cooperation and consensus in meeting those challenges was crucial to managing the demands of globalization.
ADAM ADAWA (Kenya) said globalization should be designed and used to benefit the development of developing countries. His Governement was concerned by the unfavourable external economic environment and wished to stress the importance of strengthening international economic cooperation. It was essential that the international community, including the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, strive to help the efforts of the developing countries in realizing the benefits of globalization.
Kenya attached great importance to creating a favourable international and national environment for development, he said. In that context, it was necessary to establish and strengthen an open, rule-based, equitable, secure, transparent and predictable multilateral trading system. The new global partnership should further enhance effective support for the weakest and most vulnerable members of the international community through favourable treatment in trade and finance. He reaffirmed the importance of the United Nations as the universal forum for dialogue, negotiations and policy-making on issues relating to development and international economic cooperation.
ENRICA TADDEI (San Marino) noted that the policy of the World Bank was firmly rooted in poverty eradication and structural reforms in order to try to make societies able to function and develop. That was the challenge to be faced in the next 25 years, when the world’s population would reach 8 billion, most of whom would be in the developing world. That challenge was to be faced through partnership between the Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as with other actors, such as the private sector, international and bilateral donors and civil society.
Every country and every person could benefit from globalization provided that they adopted the necessary changes and abided by the relevant rules that would allow them to be competitive, he said. Transparent rules and the possibility for every State, no matter its size, economic or political power, to participate in the debate to establish those rules was what was needed. For globalization to be truly enriching for all, every effort must be made to preserve the different cultures and peculiarities of every nation and region. Globalization offered the opportunity for people to know one another better and to reach a greater understanding among different civilizations. It would be a missed opportunity if that only meant the disappearance of cultures, lifestyles and diversity.
JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said that globalization affected the very nature of relations between States. For Chile, the current technological transformation was a positive phenomenon. Another aspect of globalization was the increase in trade exchange. This represented a chance for countries living in the South to become integrated. In just over 10 years, Chile had doubled the size of its economy. Globalization was important as a social factor as well. It should be used for a true dialogue among civilizations and for the broadening of tolerance.
Globalization could also lead to inequities, as populations were left aside in the process, he said. That meant that inequity would only continue to increase. Globalization would never have a human face if the international community did not create the necessary structures to regularize it. It was no longer acceptable that global decisions be made by an exclusive group of States. It was time for concrete action in the area of global governance. This General Assembly should act with a view to the future.
HIDEAKI KOBAYASHI (Japan) said that the driving force behind globalization was information technology. Information technology made it possible for individual and private sector users to participate directly in global economic activities. It also made it possible for the developing countries to pursue economic growth by leap-frogging technological ladders. While the private sector had the primary responsibility for the development and promotion of information technology, public sector organizations also had an important role to play. Developing countries should assume ownership over the promotion of information technology within their own borders and should use information technology as a means of achieving their policy goals.
Bridging the digital divide was necessary if all countries and people were to enjoy the benefits, he said. Specifically, developed countries could assist the efforts of developing countries to promote information technology through technological transfers, infrastructure development and advising on legislation and policy aimed at attracting investment. Japan for its part had announced at the Okinawa Summit that it was preparing a comprehensive cooperation package consisting of non-official development assistance (ODA) and ODA public funds with a view to extending a total of $15 billion over five years. The United Nations could assist the efforts of developing countries by promoting the use of information technology while also mobilizing such technology in its operational activities.
ARTUR KLOPOTOWSKI (Poland) said that globalization had become a code word to describe the tendencies that had emerged in the world economy over recent decades, resulting in the establishment of strong and multiple links between individual economies and societies. Globalization meant international interdependence, which in turn meant greater international cooperation. There was a close connection between liberalization of the world economy and the increased prosperity of the world population. Globalization was not yet truly global; it was more regional than global.
The many challenges posed by globalization revealed the weaknesses of global institutions, which were originally founded to regulate different aspects of international affairs, he said. If globalization was to fulfil its great promise as an effective instrument for development, it must entail a greater degree of solidarity in international economic relations. The new model of cooperation for development, and the elimination of the negative consequences of globalization had been at the centre of consultations between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions. Such an approach might eventually bring new impetus to the discussion on development issues in the era of globalization.
AHMED AMAZIANE (Morocco) said that his Government recognized access to information and communication technology as a fundamental human right. He stressed the importance of reducing the digital divide, which separated the countries of the North from those of the South. Access to information and communication technology was far from being equitable or universal. The industrialized countries had 80 per cent of the Internet users. Furthermore, English was used in 80 per cent of the Web sites while it was spoken by just 15 per cent of the world’s population.
The Havana Summit, the Ministerial Meeting of the Economic and Social Council, and the Millennium Summit had all contributed to the dialogue of this policy sector, he said. Morocco welcomed the Task Force and Information and Communication Technology Trust Fund, which had been designed by the Economic and Social Council to promote digital technologies in developing countries. It also recognized that the bodies within the United Nations system were using information and communication technology to strengthen capacities of developing countries.
He wished that the Secretary-General’s report on information and communication technology had included information on the financial commitments made in that area in order to appreciate the efforts taken in that direction. It was clear that the necessary financial resources needed to be rapidly mobilized. His delegation hoped that the process under way would provide the international community with the opportunity to make brave decisions to establish greater equity in international relations.
IGOR VENCEL (Slovakia) said that from the development perspective, it was imperative that the international community, in the field of information and communication technology, give priority to the needs of the least developed countries. The implementation of international initiatives in that domain should be based on a system-wide, thorough inventory of information and communication technology and related activities undertaken by the United Nations entities and other forums. Having learned from its analyses and experiences, the international community could facilitate its work by elaborating best practices and providing advisory services in the formulation of foreign direct investment policies.
In order to succeed in that objective, all potential players had to be mobilized in a more coordinated manner on the international, regional and local levels, he said. He commended the United Nations system, particularly the regional commissions, which had been engaged in attempting to close the digital divide. He particularly welcomed their activities aimed at overcoming the major impediments faced by developing countries and the countries in transition. Lack of basic human and physical infrastructure and limited prospect of returns on private capital were among the major obstacles that needed to be tackled to ensure broad-based access to and use of information and communication technology.
ZUFFRI HAJI SANI (Brunei Darussalam) said that human resource development geared towards information and communication technology was extremely important for optimizing the process of globalization. That was especially so in the era of a digital revolution, which had already transformed economies, trade and other factors of production. Countries had an important role to play in equipping their people to grasp the opportunities offered, by investing in education programmes. Such programmes were crucial in the new global economy, as they would create a solid foundation on which a country could construct its future.
However, that was not sufficient, he said. Strengthened international cooperation was also needed to promote development in the context of globalization and interdependence. The United Nations was in a unique position to do all of that. He urged the developed countries to play an active role in providing the necessary assistance to all countries in need and in ensuring that everyone benefited from the process. He said that his country wished to be added as a co-sponsor to the draft resolution on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people over their natural resources (document A/C.2/55/L.7).
ASDA JAYANAMA (Thailand) said that globalization, a fact of life and part of the economic and technological landscape, was unstoppable. If not handled properly, it would harm the international community, as Thailand had learned with sorrow The economic crisis of the last three years had showed that globalization was market and technology driven. While those aspects were well known, other aspects were sometimes forgotten. First, globalization was not a one-time event, but a process. Second, globalization gave States a choice. If States were not ready, it was possible for them to join step-by-step with a varying degree of readiness.
If States were too slow in joining the globalization process, developed countries, international financial and trading institutions, and the United Nations should help them to participate. To some extent, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the IMF had already given some assistance. The Secretary-General had also advocated the idea of a global compact for the private sector. All of these activities were important contributions towards providing developing countries with a reasonable chance of success in the globalization process.
His delegation felt that for globalization to have a human face, it should not be a process that encouraged a “rat race”, where the strong and rich rats won over the weak and poor rats. Instead, it should encourage more coherence and harmonization among its many classes of rats.
MOHAMMAD KAMAL YAN YAHAYA (Malaysia) said that the emerging and rapidly changing lifestyle and work practices associated with information and communication technology and knowledge-based societies had indeed posed a greater challenge to women and other marginalized groups. In its vision to achieve an informed and computer-literate society, Malaysia had made every effort to ensure that all segments of its society, men and women, urban and rural, had access to new information technology, particularly computer and Internet facilities. Recognizing that women should not become bystanders in the information revolution, measures had been taken to enable them to play a greater role with regard to information and communication technology.
Effective development required a careful balancing of the roles of government and the private sector across a broad range of policies and actions, he said. Through good and difficult times, Malaysia had emphasized a strong public-private partnership. That policy had enabled his country to leap-frog to a new level of international competitiveness, and participate more actively in the emerging global information economy. In order to be at the winning end of the information revolution it was imperative to continue to examine, in a more realistic fashion, the opportunities and obstacles presented to developing countries with regard to benefiting from information and communication technology.
JEONG-SIK KANG (Republic of Korea) said that doubts about current global economic relations were coming from different corners of the globe. Many of the world’s people were falling behind and becoming marginalized. Others were being forced to exchange a sense of security for the cause of competition and efficiency. People with limited access to information technology faced the danger of being trapped in the widening income gap. It could not be denied that enormous inequalities existed across the globe and often within each country. Such challenges were real and needed to be addressed promptly and effectively.
The global challenge of bridging the digital divide required a global response, he said. The United Nations was in a unique position to provide leadership at the international level. He highlighted three dimensions of the role of the United Nations. First, the United Nations should play a catalytic role in formulating integrated and coherent policy responses to the challenges of globalization. Second, it should fill any institutional deficit resulting from greater international integration.
In that regard, he added, the partnership between the United Nations and bodies such as the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO should be strengthened. Third, the United Nations should develop effective partnerships with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society.
SONIA LEONCE-CARRYL (Saint Lucia) said that as the word globalization implied, numerous initiatives and policies had been pursued on a worldwide scale with the hope of attaining peace, security and development. The United Nations had played a central role in many such endeavours. Unlike other processes of globalization, the United Nations was not leading in the globalizing of the economy. The globalization of the economy had been left to exclusive institutions, few decision-makers and the private sector. It was no wonder that the result of the globalizing economy had been the widening of the gap between developed and developing countries and an increase in poverty and underdevelopment in developing countries.
It was interesting to note that of the 100 biggest economic units, 51 were corporations and 49 were countries, she said. This meant that Mitsubishi was bigger than Indonesia and Thailand, and Exxon was bigger than Finland. This was the result of the corporate global economy. At a time of such glaring disparities, inequities and injustices, when the United Nations and governments should be championing the cause of globalizing the benefits of the global economy, there was instead a weakening of the role of the United Nations in the global economy.
In light of the urgent situation of developing countries, the international community could not continue to hide behind meaningless consensus-building language and ambiguities, she said. Instead, it must take decisive, meaningful action to globalize the benefits of the global economy. The United Nations agencies in charge of development had to be strengthened with adequate resources commensurate with the increasing needs of the developing countries. When three billionaires were worth more than 600 million people in 48 countries, and half the world’s people lived in poverty, there needed to be no more evidence that globalization was not working. This form of globalization was a crime against humanity that must be tried and sentenced to the dark pages of this closing century.
AUNG HTOO (Myanmar) said that there was an urgent need to provide global connectivity at affordable prices. The first step to achieve universal connectivity would require a large amount of investment beyond the means of developing countries. In addition to public funds, private and foreign direct investments as well as development assistance were required. The United Nations must play a critical role in closing the digital divide by providing an interface between the information technology community and the development community.
Another step in achieving universal connectivity was to further the idea of establishing integrated multi-purpose and multi-media community information centres, as suggested in the Economic and Social Council’s Ministerial Declaration, he said. Those centres would not only provide affordable connectivity in developing countries but would also serve as education centres for the dissemination of information and communication technology at the grassroots level. To fully utilize the potential of information and communication technology at the country level, the respective United Nations agencies on the ground must assist and provide advisory services to developing countries in the formulation of policies for the acquisition of technology, and the creation of legal, fiscal and institutional frameworks, including an intellectual property rights regime.
MIGUEL R. BAUTISTA (Philippines) said information and communication technology had not only dramatically increased productivity in many sectors, but it had also opened up new vistas for commerce and business. His delegation believed that it was the primary responsibility of each country to put measures in place to maximize the benefits of globalization in general, and information and communication technology in particular. In that regard, the Philippines had embarked on an information technology programme to enter the digital world of the twenty-first century.
As with most of the developing world, it would not be possible for the Philippines to integrate into the digital world without help, he said. To that end, the Philippines had established three information and technology parks as special economic zones, which were envisioned as prime His delegation appreciated the Ministerial Declaration of the Economic and Social Council, which called for advancing development by closing the digital divide through fostering digital opportunity. It was important for information technology to complement and enhance the development and basic sectors of the economy.
S. SHAHID HUSAIN, observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that the OIC, in collaboration with its specialized and affiliated institutions, especially the Islamic Development Bank and Islamic Chambers of Commerce and Industry, was developing initiatives to facilitate the spread of information technology. One example was the development of the OIC Information System Network or OICISNET project, whose primary objective was the interlinking of OIC member countries through a portal on the Internet. Another initiative being undertaken by the Islamic Development Bank was the creation of information technology centres in OIC member countries.
The twenty-seventh session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, held in Kuala Lumpur in June, in its attempt to accelerate the process of development, urged industrial countries to facilitate the transfer of technologies to developing countries and to lift all obstacles that impeded that transfer. To facilitate the process among its own member States, the OIC was reviewing the problems internally and continuing to refine policies and programmes aimed at strengthening technical cooperation among its member countries.
In closing remarks, SARBULAND KHAN, Director, Division for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, said that clearly globalization had emerged as the central challenge before the international community and the United Nations. The first time that the General Assembly had seriously taken up the issue was in 1998 at the first high-level meeting on the renewal of dialogue. That, in turn, had given rise to the Assembly’s decision to put the item on its agenda. Last year’s debate had resulted in a comprehensive resolution on the issue. This year, the discussions had moved away from the generalities of globalization to its specificities.
He said that the Secretary-General’s report had sought to emphasize three elements -– the regulatory environment, how to achieve connectivity and access in a way that was equitable, and finding ways and means to develop the human capacity needed to fully utilize information technology. With the help of high-level advisers, the United Nations was seeking to develop an approach that would not only be of interest to governments and Member States but also attract the participation of the private sector and multilateral institutions. One challenge of globalization that the United Nations was working on was to carve out a clear and effective role for the United Nations system in bringing connectivity and access to developing countries.
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