12 April 2000


Press Release
SG/SM/7358



SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN ADDRESS TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ‘SOUTH SUMMIT’, CALLS FOR STEPS TO MAKE GLOBAL ECONOMY MORE EQUITABLE

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Following is the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the “Group of 77” developing countries South Summit in Havana, Cuba, on 12 April:

It is a great honour for me to address this South Summit. It is also a special pleasure, for several reasons.

First, I have always believed that we, the peoples of the South, should play a more active and influential part in world affairs. We could do so with great benefit to ourselves and to the world as a whole.

But, in the last resort, our doing so depends on our own efforts -- those each nation makes on its own behalf, and those we make to assist and learn from each other.

That belief has been the guiding principle of the Group of 77 from its beginnings. And it has long been a guiding principle for the United Nations, which was always at the side of the developing world in its struggle against colonialism. Since the 1960s, newly independent States have formed the majority in our Organization, and have sought to use the United Nations as one of the mechanisms for coordinating their development efforts. To assist that coordination and cooperation is one of the main purposes of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), within which there is a Special Unit for Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries. And now, UNDP is making South-South cooperation a pillar of its new approach. I myself, as Secretary-General, have also repeatedly stressed the need for it.

Another reason why I am pleased to be here is my gratitude for the chance to visit Cuba once again -- a State which has shown that even a poor country need not leave its people defenceless against some of life's worst hardships. On the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures education and life expectancy as well as income per head, Cuba consistently ranks above other countries whose per capita product is much higher.

Its efforts for public health are particularly impressive. As was acknowledged last year by The Economist newspaper -- a source hardly to be suspected of partiality towards a communist State -- "Cuba maintains levels of health care unknown to most poor countries; and, rarer still, does so in the countryside as in the cities". In this area, at least, our hosts have set an example we can all learn from.


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A third reason why I am pleased to be here is the timing. You could not have chosen a better moment to convene this South Summit. In less than five months' time, the Millennium Summit will offer us all a unique chance to mobilize the world's energy behind a common agenda. In that gathering, the voice of the South will be heard, and heard good and loud. But what is even more important is that the Summit should lead to real improvements in people's lives, especially in those of the poor. And that means the South's voice must not only be loud but clear, consistent and constructive.

I have tried to help by outlining a common vision for humanity in the twenty-first century, and suggesting practical measures for bringing that vision closer. My Millennium Report is meant to be comprehensive in scope, but focused, in its choice of priorities, on issues that bring us all together, rather than those that divide country from country or region from region.

Humanity would not be well served by a Summit at which world leaders confront each other and rehearse their grievances. My aim is, instead, to help them agree on a positive, practical agenda. I very much hope, Excellencies, that you will all find time to read the report, if you have not already done so. It is short, but is the fruit of intensive research, consultation and reflection. I should particularly like to receive your reactions to my proposals -- notably those on ways to reduce poverty, to curtail the illegal trade in small arms, and to enable people in poor countries to benefit from the revolution in information technology.

I would also draw your attention to the section on "sustaining our future". It is sometimes suggested that concern for the environment is a luxury, which only the affluent can afford. That is the reverse of the truth. It is those who live in hot climates, close to sea level, and who cannot afford to move, that are in greatest danger from global warming. It is they, therefore, who have the strongest interest in seeing the Kyoto Protocol adopted and implemented, as a step towards reducing "greenhouse gases".

Similarly, the more than 1 billion people who lack access to safe drinking water live overwhelmingly in developing countries. It is for their sake that we must stop the unsustainable exploitation of water resources. And it is for the sake of the poor and hungry that we need a "Blue Revolution" in agriculture, focused on increasing productivity per unit of water, or "more crop per drop".

I should also like to draw your attention to my recommendations for halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS -- a health crisis that threatens to reverse a whole generation of human development. My fellow Africans are well aware of the magnitude of this crisis since, out of nearly 36 million people now living with the virus, more than 23 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.

But the epidemic is spreading far beyond Africa -- for instance into eastern Europe, where five or six years ago the virus was almost unknown. In Asia, new HIV infections increased by 70 per cent between 1996 and 1998. India is now estimated to have more people living with HIV than any other country in


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the world. Even in the industrialized world, the rate of new infections has held steady for the last 10 years. The crisis has become global.

I urge every seriously affected country to work with UNAIDS and other partners to develop and implement national action plans. I urge the Millennium Summit to adopt an explicit goal of reducing the rate of infection in young people by 25 per cent -- to be achieved in five years in the most affected countries, and 10 years throughout the world. And I challenge the developed countries to work with their pharmaceutical industries and other partners to develop an effective and affordable vaccine.

I mention this both because the problem is so important in itself, and as an example of the approach I am advocating. I believe governments need to work together to make change possible, but that governments alone will not make change happen. We have to engage the power of private investment, the generosity of philanthropic foundations, the knowledge and inventiveness of scholars, and above all the creative energy of ordinary people.

History will judge us by what we do, now and in the next few years, to liberate the energies of people in developing countries, so that they can leap aboard the train of a global economy that is rapidly gathering speed.

It is now widely accepted that a country's economic success depends in large measure on the quality of governance it enjoys. Good governance comprises the rule of law, effective State institutions, transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs, respect for human rights, and the participation of all citizens in the decisions that affect their lives.

That means, above all, ensuring that they have access to basic education. But it is also vital, if countries are to join the new global economy, that they have access to the new information technology. This technology is far less capital-intensive than old industrial technology, and therefore may enable poor countries to leapfrog some of the long and painful stages of development that others had to go through. It should also be of particular interest to this meeting, because of its potential for improving South-South cooperation.

Many developing countries are already showing the way -- India with its booming software industry; Costa Rica with its microchip exports; Mauritius, using the Internet to position its textile industry globally; Mali, using an Intranet to give its citizens more effective administrative services. These are just a few examples.

In my report I announce two specific initiatives for putting information technology at the service of people in developing countries. One, a "Health InterNetwork", will establish and operate 10,000 on-line sites in hospitals, clinics and public health facilities throughout the developing world, giving them instant access to relevant and up-to-date medical information, tailored to their needs. The other, a consortium of high-tech volunteer corps, will train groups in developing countries in the uses and opportunities of information technology.


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Both will take the form of partnerships between the United Nations system, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and public-spirited individuals in both North and South. And both will help the peoples of the developing world to benefit from, and find their place in, the new global economy.

But this also depends on our success in making that global economy more equitable, by underpinning it with rules based on shared social objectives and institutions in which the South is fairly represented and its interests protected. First and foremost among those institutions should be a renewed and strengthened United Nations -- the one global forum in which all countries are represented.

The more fortunate countries have a strong interest in establishing such a world, because it will be both more prosperous and more stable than the present one. They also have an indispensable role to play in bringing it about.

I urge them to grant free access to their markets for the products of the least developed countries. I urge them to wipe off their books all official debts of the heavily indebted poor countries. We must applaud those countries which have led the way, and those that are in the process of doing so. And I urge them to grant more generous development assistance, particularly to those countries which are genuinely applying their resources to poverty reduction.

I am sure those demands will be echoed by this Summit. And I hope this Summit will adopt positions that make such demands more credible and cogent.

In that spirit, Mr. President, I wish you all -- indeed, us all -- a most successful Summit.

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