02/11/2001
Press Release
GA/EF/2972



PANEL HEARS RANGE OF VIEWS ON ‘GLOBALIZATION AND THE STATE’


African countries should identify, analyze and diagnose their strengths and weaknesses in light of the opportunities and challenges posed by globalization, the Prime Minister of Uganda, Apolo Nsibambi, said this morning during a panel discussion on globalization and the State.


The best way for African people to participate in and benefit from the game of globalization lay with the internal capacities of its people, he said.  African countries themselves and those that hoped to assist them must first and foremost recognize that fact, and commit resources and energies to harnessing the capacity of the African poor for their development. 


Prime Minister Nsibambi added that the current world, where resources and benefits were concentrated in the hands of very few, was not a comfortable world for anybody.  To sustain it was to breed future insecurity as the mass of poor strove to get a share of the riches.  It was clear that globalization benefited those who had the capacity to harness it, but could be very detrimental to those it found unprepared.  African States must attain the requisite capacities to gain future benefits from globalization.


The panel, held in conjunction with the deliberations of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), was organized by the Division for Public Economics and Public Administration of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).


Globalization, said Ahmad Kamal, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations, represented opportunities only for a few.  Those who currently benefited from it were corporations, most of which were located in the West.  The secondary beneficiaries were governments, also mostly in the West, which tended to impose their models -– whether political, economic or social -- on cultures far older and richer than theirs.  Globalization was putting tremendous pressures on the State.  The question was whether the nation-State would be able to survive the increasing power of corporations.


Given the pressures of globalization, the State seemed to be losing power, said Jesus Posada Moreno, Minister of Public Administration of Spain.  Criticisms concerning the alleged weakness of the State had been of both an economic and political nature.  He believed that the State continued to have great vitality and was accomplishing its essential functions.  He was convinced that those who won would be those who established cooperation, strengthened their institutions, generated trust in their society and improved their economic policies. 


Carlos Genatios, Minister for Science and Technology of Venezuela, said it

was clear that the free market alone would not guarantee development.  What was needed was a new popular capitalism that addressed the concerns of those left out of the free market system.  “We need to turn losers into winners,” he said.  Instead of pretending globalization did not exist, the international community should hold an honest debate on how more people could benefit from it.  One major way to spread those benefits was through technology.  In that regard, governments had to strengthen educational capacities and open opportunities for technological development.


The Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom, Anthony Giddens, said the process of globalization was entering a new phase, which highlighted the role of global communications.  September 11 was not just the horrible murder of thousands of people, it was also a global media event and designed to be so.  Violence was now used to create division and build up a following. 


The great battle was now between cosmopolitanism and fundamentalism, he continued.  Fundamentalists said there was only one right and proper way of life.  Cosmopolitanism respected diversity and differences, which was one of the goals of the United Nations.  The challenge for all was to ensure that the cosmopolitan sprit triumphed.


The panel was chaired by the Chairman of the Second Committee, Francisco Seixas da Costa (Portugal).  Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai served as moderator.


Background


“Globalization and the State” is the topic of a panel discussion held this morning, in conjunction with the deliberations of the General Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial).  Organized by the Division for Public Economics and Public Administration of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the meeting was chaired by the Chairman of the Second Committee, Francisco Seixas da Costa (Portugal), with the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, as moderator.


Presentations were to be made by Apolo R. Nsibambi, Prime Minister, Uganda; Jesus Posada Moreno, Minister of Public Administration, Spain; Carlos Genatios, Minister for Science and Technology, Venezuela; Ahmad Kamal, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations; and Anthony Giddens, Director, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom.


Statements


In introductory remarks, FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA (Portugal), Chairman of the Second Committee, said globalization had brought about, among other things, a decline in transportation and communication costs.  At the same time, it had brought about the internationalization of cross-border problems.  In addition, globalization had produced international disparities.  Its benefits were concentrated among very few countries.  For many, globalization had meant greater vulnerabilities and marginalization.


Globalization was simultaneously both a positive and negative force.  The role of the State in responding to the globalization process would be the focus of today’s discussion.


NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the theme chosen was an issue that had been with the international community for a long time.  During the 1990s, there had been many questions regarding the national State in a globalized world.  There was a sense that there was a need to have a reconsideration of the role of the State.  In country after country, the role of the government was being re-examined.  During the 1990s, there had been a sense that the State was retreating.


He highlighted three reasons why it was necessary to re-examine the role of the government in the context of globalization.  The first was the events of

11 September, which had reinforced the classic role of the State -– the maintenance of order and security.  The crucial role of global cooperation had been re-emphasized following those events.  The second reason was the slowdown in the world economy.  It was no accident that, today, government after government was planning economic stimulus packages for their economies.  The third reason was the growing consciousness of the negative impacts of globalization.  However, in re-examining those issues, the issue of public responsibility should not be confused with that of doing everything within the public sector.


APOLO NSIBAMBI, Prime Minister, (Uganda), said globalization opened people’s lives to other cultures and all their creativity to the flow of ideas and values.  However, as cultures interacted, some cultures were being diluted and/or destroyed at the expense of others, and negative values were being spread all over the world with relative ease.  Globalization had eased international trade and commerce, facilitating foreign investment and capital flows.  But it had also encouraged illicit trade in drugs, prostitution, pornography and the depletion of the environment by unscrupulous entrepreneurs.


The effect of globalization in Africa was not only of an economic nature, he said.  The process and the outcome of globalization involved much more than economics.  It included permeation of political ideas and practices across borders, and the permeation of cultural and religious beliefs and practices which resulted in dilution of some cultures.  There was also the permeation of administrative/managerial concepts and practices across borders and organizations.  It involved internationalization of conflicts and wars that would otherwise remain local.


The State decision-making and policy-making process itself, and therefore the influence and power of the State, had been globalized and shared among the various world decision-making bodies, he said.  There were international courts, international human rights organizations, international laws, rules and regulations to which the State was subjected.  All those combined to reinforce the phenomenon of globalization and force the State to shift its behavior and the way it related both with its subjects and its internal and external partners.


The strategic attitude to be taken by African countries in light of the phenomenon of globalization should not be to seek apportioning blame between developed and developing countries, he said.  Those countries should, rather, think in terms of strategic analysis to identify, analyze and diagnose their strengths and weaknesses in light of the opportunities and challenges posed by globalization.


Such an attitude would create a mindset for self-assessment to see how the weaknesses could be overcome.  The best way for African people to participate in and benefit from the game of globalization lay within the internal force and that internal force, lay within the capacity of its people.  African countries themselves, and those who hoped to assist them, must recognize that fact and commit resources and energies to harnessing the capacity of the African poor for their development.


He said for globalization ultimately to be beneficial to everyone –- the rich and the poor -– all must have certain levels of capacity that permitted them to effectively participate in the game.  The current world, where resources and benefits were concentrated in the hands of very few, was not a comfortable world for anybody.  To sustain it was to breed future insecurity, as the mass of the poor strove to get a share of the riches concentrated in the hands of a few.  It was clear that globalization benefited those who had the capacity to harness it, but could be very detrimental to those whom it found unprepared.  Most African States were not prepared, especially in terms of having the requisite capacity.


JESUS POSADA MORENO, Minister of Public Administration (Spain), said that because globalization was something that could not be restricted, there had arisen anti-globalization movements, which paradoxically were becoming increasingly globalized.  Globalization could not be reduced merely to economic terms.  Current events had proved that the international community should not move away from globalization but link it with international standards.  Globalization was an adherence to new realities, which had both positive and negative effects.


In the economic arena, globalization was characterized by an increase in international capital flows and financial speculation, he said.  In the social and political areas, global information had torn down borders and created new needs for citizens of all States.  Globalization was not a single phenomenon but the consequence of a complex process with multiple dimensions.  It was not a global concentration of economic power.


It had been claimed that, given the pressures of globalization, the State had been losing power, he said.  Criticisms concerning the alleged weakness of the nation-State had been of both an economic and political nature.  He believed that the State continued to have great vitality and was accomplishing its essential functions.  One of the consequences of globalization had been the urgency of moves by States to maintain sound macroeconomic policies.  The phenomenon of regional integration was a good response to globalization.  The European Union was committed to a process of enlargement which would offer other European countries greater economic development, social justice and closer cooperation.  It was important to continue in that direction.


To respond to the main problems of the current international order, he said, globalization must include an ethical dimension.  That was what should be explained to protesters, who mistakenly equated capitalism with globalization.  While globalization had an economic dimension, it also had political and social dimensions.  Spain had tackled the phenomenon successfully by facilitating great political decentralization.  Today’s globalization required the promotion and protection of human rights as well as sound national policies.  He was convinced that those who won would be those who fostered cooperation, strengthened their institutions, generated trust in their society and improved their economic policies.


CARLOS GENATIOS, Minister for Science and Technology (Venezuela), said the indexes that demonstrate the quality of technological development focused on such factors as research, education, development of content, access to technology, private sector development and productivity.  Venezuela had implemented policies to improve performance in all those areas.  Of particular importance had been efforts to increase access to and usage of the Internet.  That usage had increased 1,167 per cent over the last five years in Venezuela, the highest increase among South American countries.  One obstacle to the Internet, however, was the high costs of attaining access.  It was much more expensive for the average person to access the Internet in Venezuela than in the United States.


Venezuela had implemented aggressive policies to stimulate its capacities for information technology development, he said.  Those efforts were focused on five main areas:  electronic government, content development, digital economy, connectivity development and education.  Such efforts to stimulate growth in technological development were necessary for the modernization of the State.  To promote interest in technologies, there had been a presidential declaration in Venezuela on the importance of the Internet.  His country had also created a legal framework for the fight against cyber-crimes.  Another major focus had been on creating greater access to information technology in rural areas, particularly for those involved in agriculture.  There was an aggressive programme to provide free Internet access, especially to those in rural areas.


The establishment of “infocentres” around Venezuela had also been a very positive experience, he said.  There were currently 240 infocentres around the country, which offered free public access to the Internet for everyone.  They were a source for communities to get access to public services and information.  It gave the opportunity, to those who had never had Internet access, to learn about the Web and its benefits.  Within globalization there was a need for actions at the local and regional levels.  Such actions were one way for countries to survive in the globalized world.  Venezuela was working with other South American nations to promote Internet usage and share information technologies.


AHMAD KAMAL, former Permanent Representative of Pakistan, said that globalizaton was, unfortunately, the flavour of the day.  In essence, it was a shrinking of the world both in time and space.  However, if that was all it was, then there was nothing new about it. The difference today was in the level of speed and awareness, both of which had changed dramatically.  There was a general unhappiness about what was happening because it was felt that the benefits of globalization were unequally shared.  Not only had globalization led to a globalization of opportunities but it had also led to a globalization of poverty.  In the last 30 years, all globalization had done was double the gap between the rich and the poor.


He went on to describe three examples of unequal opportunity within the context of globalization.  The first was in the area of human rights, which in recent years had taken centre stage and penetrated national sovereignty.  Human rights were not just about freedom of speech and assembly but also involved the question of the right to development.  The second example was trade, which was a vital aspect of today’s world as it was the engine of growth.  While several rounds of negotiations had sought to bring down tariffs and non-tariff barriers, protectionism was rampant in today’s world.


The third example, the Internet, was vital because for the first time in history, everyone with access to it had equal access to information, he said.  The problem lay in the level of that access.  The vast majority of the world did not have access to the Internet and would not have access in any foreseeable future.  In Africa today, 90 per cent of Internet access was in one single country.  Thus, the opportunities were lopsided where access was concerned.  Added to that was the homogenization that was taking place.  Ninety per cent of the information on the Internet was in English.


Globalization, he said, represented opportunities -- but only for the few.  It was an opportunity currently of benefit to corporations, most of which were locating in the West.  The secondary beneficiaries were governments, also mostly in the West, which tended to impose their models –- whether political, economic or social -- on cultures which were far older and richer than theirs.  Globalization was putting tremendous pressures on the State and engendering great frustrations.  The answer lay in an exchange of cultures and a dialogue among civilizations.  The question was whether the nation-State would be able to survive the increasing power of corporations.


ANTHONY GIDDENS, Director, London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom, said the debate over globalization was going on all over the world.  There had been two phases in that debate.  The first phase was an academic debate over whether globalization existed at all and whether it differed from previous periods.  It was basically a debate over whether the end of the twentieth century had been different from the end of the nineteenth century.  That phase of debate was now over.  And it was clear that the answer was that the current global age was different in many respects from any other age of history.  This globalization was much more dynamic and comprehensive.


The second phase of the globalization debate was based on what the consequences of globalization would be, he said.  That second phase had drawn people out into the streets in Genoa, Seattle and other places.  Neither the protesters nor the people in this room had an understanding of what globalization really was.  It was not just a phenomenon of the market place or of financial institutions.  It was driven by the technological revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  For the first time it was possible to have instant communications between one side of the world and the other side, which was very significant.  It was crucial to recognise that globalization was not a single thing.  It pulled power from the nation down to civil society, but it also pushed power out past national borders to regions.


It was also incorrect to say that globalization had increased inequalities, he said.  Since 1960, global inequality had in many respects become less, not greater.  It was a more complex picture than the protesters perceived and more complex than those at the United Nations perceived as well.  It was also not true to say that globalization eroded the power of the nation-State.  With the demise of the last empire, the Soviet Union, the nation-State was now the strongest form of government in the world for the first time in history.  What had happened, however, was that the nation-State was too big to solve the little problems and too small to solve the big problems.  There were almost no problems that could be solved solely by a single nation.

There had been a movement from the regulatory state to the investment State, he said, the first of which was more interventionist.  Now States needed to intervene only to aid democratic development.  There was also a movement from privatization to publicization.  It was clear that privatized industries did not deliver services and goods as effectively as desired.  There was also a movement from the State to public institutions.  It must also be recognized that government, the State, and public institutions were not the same.  The State was often detrimental to public institutions and, in that regard, governments often needed to reform the State to support public institutions.


The process of globalization was entering a new phase, he said, which highlighted the role of global communications.  September 11 was not just the horrible murder of thousands of people, it was also a global media event and designed to be so.  The point of violence now was not to kill people in order to subdue the enemy.  Violence was now used to create division and build up a following.  The great battle was between cosmopolitanism and fundamentalism.  Fundamentalists said there was only one right and proper way of life.  Cosmopolitanism respected diversity and differences, which was one of the goals of the United Nations.  The challenge for all was to ensure that the cosmopolitan sprit triumphed.


Question and Answer Session


Responding to questions, Mr. GIDDENS said that the anti-globalization movement embraced many groups.  It was hard to say whether their protests helped or hindered people in the developing countries.  The only way to improve the position of the poor was through economic development in which the poor participated.  The key question for poor countries was their terms of engagement with the greater world economy.


On whom the protesters represented, Mr. KAMAL said that they were from both the North and the South.  However, they were standing in the streets for totally different reasons.  Some of those from the North were there because they feared losing jobs to the developing world.  Others from the North were there because they actually cared about issues such as labour rights and the environment.  Those from the South also came for two reasons, for advantages not obtained from the Uruguay Round, and because of implementation difficulties with the agreements reached.


On how to build up confidence, he suggested two objectives.  First, developed countries must meet the agreed official development assistance (ODA) target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).  Secondly, non-tariff barriers, which were illegal and were killing the developing countries, must be removed.


Some of the panellists then made concluding remarks.


Mr. GENETIOS said it was clear that the free market alone would not guarantee development.  What was needed was popular capitalism that addressed the concerns of those who were left out of the free market system.  “We need to turn losers into winners,” he said.  Instead of pretending globalization did not exist, the international community should hold an honest debate on how more people could benefit from it.  One major way to spread those benefits was through technology.

In that regard, governments had to strengthen educational capacities and open opportunities for technological development.


Mr. MORENO said globalization was an irreversible a phenomenon.  The anti-globalization movement included many trends, but it was not a movement of clear ideas.  The current meeting was an example of an effort to create a better world.  Efforts to improve trade regulations and the economic infrastructure were also important.  The State had an important role to play, and it must be prepared to confront globalization.  That meant greater efforts to reform education, advance technologies and strengthen the private sector.


Prime Minister NSIBAMBI said the starting point in Africa was to build an efficient State.  States such as Somalia and Liberia lacked the ability to ensure territorial integration.  How could such States benefit from the global village?  The first responsibility was to help those countries that lacked the minimum requirements to attain the benefits of globalization.  If not, globalization would remain a myth for such countries.  Also, the elite in charge of many States were fragmented and did not pursue the public interest.  They were decadent and they suffered from premature senility.  Such leaders could not address the State’s needs under globalization.


He added that the international community must establish what was in the public interest of the global village.  Without such a consensus, it was unlikely to enjoy equal distribution of that cake.  “My people were tired of slogans,” he said.  They wanted the benefits of globalization equally distributed.


Mr. GIDDENS said people must not rally around the term globalization as if it was one “thing” and that thing could be blamed for negative factors.  There had not been increasing polarization over the last few decades.  Also, the difference between rich and poor had to do with technological changes, class changes, changes in the role of women and many other factors.  “The kind of rhetoric that says globalization was to blame, will get one nowhere,” he said.


Mr. DESAI said the anxieties about globalization were not limited to people in the Western industrialized world.  People all over were concerned about its effects, even if they were not at the protests in Seattle and Genoa.  Among the problems of the globalized world was that not all sectors had been liberalized at the same time.  For example, while capital markets had been liberalized and opened, the textile and agricultural industries had not.


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