Volume 4, Issue 5 , October-November 2000



General Assembly Supplement


In this issue:

Highlights of the General Debate of the 55th Session

Analytical Summary of the General Debate (Economic, Social and Related Aspects)

Statement of Mr. N. Desai to the Second Committee
Statement of Mr. N. Desai to the Third Committee


Highlights of the General Debate of the 55th Session of the General Assembly
(Economic, Social and Related Aspects)

The general debate reiterated many of the themes that had figured prominently during the Millennium Summit, and provided a first opportunity for Member States to expand on the economic, social and related issues and goals contained in the Millennium Declaration, and to put forward concrete action proposals which are now expected to be taken up in the Second and Third Committees for further consideration.

Compared to last year's general debate, there was a stronger and more sustained emphasis on the mutually reinforcing links - both positive and negative - between peace and security and economic and social development. Many speakers called for a broadened security concept that would encompass military security as well as human security.

The debate confirmed that with regard to economic and social issues, globalization is the one theme, and the eradication of poverty the one task that have to be addressed by Member States and the United Nations as the twin challenge of development. The commitments to halve the proportion of the world's poor by 2015 and ensure that the benefits of globalization be accessible to all on an equitable footing, as well as the attention devoted to Africa were the most frequently reiterated aspects of the Millennium Declaration.

Concerns and expectations with regard to globalization received priority attention in many statements. Many developing countries were concerned about the uneven spread of the benefits of globalization. LDCs and SIDS in particular showed heightened concern about the risk of their marginalization within the global economic, financial and trading system and further loss of ability to participate effectively in decision-making processes in these areas. Speakers called for the strengthening of the General Assembly and reaffirmation of its leadership role in development issues, the democratisation and review of the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization, and improved partnership based on international solidarity between rich and poor countries. The growing role of civil society and the private sector in these efforts were acknowledged by many, and the Global Compact initiative was commented upon positively by a number of speakers.

Delegations from all regions stressed the need for increased policy coherence and a new development dialogue encompassing all relevant issues in a holistic manner, rather than a piecemeal approach to individual aspects. These elements needed to include debt relief, including debt cancellation for LDCs and African countries, increased ODA flow, increased foreign direct investments, open markets for products from developing countries, new partnerships and, for some delegations, good governance. The high-level event on financing for development in 2001 was considered by a number of developing countries as the currently "missing" link in the development and poverty eradication agenda.

The international trade regime , and especially the WTO, was singled out for criticism by many speakers from developing countries, who pointed to a lack of fairness and equity in existing trade rules.

There was extensive recognition of the disastrous impact of the AIDS pandemic on development, and support for a special session of the General Assembly on this subject in 2001. A number of environmental issues were raised, including hope for entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, and concern about the precarious environmental situation of small island states. The contributions of the Beijing+5 Special Session, and of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to the realization of gender equality were welcomed. Delegations supported recent steps to better harness the potential of ICT for development .

A number of speakers made specific proposals for action . These included the proposed establishment of a Global Development, or Solidarity, Fund (Guyana and Tunisia, respectively), as well as the creation of a holistic framework, a "New Global Human Order" to contain threats to peace and development (Guyana). Several speakers called for a strengthened ECOSOC by transforming it into a Human Development Council (Venezuela), or an Economic Security Council (El Salvador). There was also a call for improved cooperation between the ECOSOC and the WTO, along the lines of ECOSOC's cooperation with the Bretton Woods Institutions (Jamaica).

A more detailed summary of the general debate, and a compilation of action proposals follows.

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Analytical Summary of the General Debate of the 55th Session of the General Assembly
(Economic, Social and Related Aspects)
12 - 22 September 2000

A total of 178 speakers , including 7 Heads of State and Government and 148 Foreign Ministers, took the floor. Many speakers referred to the Declaration adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the Millennium Summit, and reiterated their commitment to the goals and objectives contained therein. With regard to the economic and social goals contained in the Declaration, the commitment to halve the proportion of the world's poor by 2015 was the most frequently reiterated target.

With regard to economic and social issues, matters that received the most attention included globalization, interdependence and the need for new partnerships, poverty eradication, international trade and financial systems, financing for development, including ODA and debt relief, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, ICT, past and future UN conferences, the situation in Africa, and participation of NGOs, civil society and the private sector in economic and social development.

Many speakers reiterated the Summit Declaration's emphasis on ensuring that the benefits of globalization be accessible to all on an equitable footing. Compared to last year's general debate, there was stronger and more sustained emphasis on the mutually reinforcing links - both positive and negative - between the maintenance of peace and security, and economic and social development.

Concerns and expectations with regard to globalization received priority attention in many statements. While many addressed primarily its economic aspects (free trade, global financial flows, open markets, technological developments especially ICT), others used more expansive concepts of globalization, including dimensions such as human security, humanitarian intervention, human rights, access to information, and migration. The negative sides of globalization such as trafficking in human beings, drug trafficking, and terrorism, were also mentioned.

While speakers from all regions saw globalization as an opportunity, many focused on the risks it brought to people in all countries. Consequently, its challenges needed to be addressed and negative effects countered so that its benefits could be shared more equally between and among nations. This was expressed with calls to "globalize globalization", "democratize globalization", or to "give globalization a human face" (economic reforms with social responsibility). Several statements linked the national and international dimensions of globalization, stating that democracy and social justice within states needed to be accompanied by democracy and social justice between states and in the international community.

Many developing countries were concerned about the uneven spread of the benefits of globalization , pointing to a widening gap between rich and poor countries and deepening inequities. There was a heightened expression of concern, especially by LDCs and SIDS, about the risk of their marginalization within the global economic, financial and trading system and further loss of ability to participate effectively in decision-making processes in these areas, and about new exclusions from the emerging global knowledge economy. Despite drastic economic reforms in developing countries, obstacles to their participation in the globalized economy persisted, including the challenges of the trading system and a deterioration of terms of trade, limited access to international financial flows, crippling debt burden, low capacity to assimilate IT, weak private investment, declining ODA, natural disasters, and lack of employment generation. Some spoke firmly against using globalization to introduce new conditionalities in international cooperation, especially human rights considerations, and to interfere in their countries' internal affairs. Developing countries should be able to pursue globalization at their own pace, where the opening of their markets would depend on their stage of development. The particular challenges of integrating of LDCs, SIDS and land-locked countries into the global economy were brought up with the hope that solutions would be sought at LDC III in 2001.

Speakers from all regions drew the link between globalization and the role of the United Nations . Stressing that the UN needed to continue to be in the vanguard of development, they called for it to manage these trends, and to adopt and implement common rules to ensure that globalization worked for the benefit of developing countries. Developing countries demanded equal partnership in decision-making that affected the whole of humanity. Reform of UN entities, especially a strengthening of the GA and a reaffirmation of its leadership role in development issues was called for, as was a democratization and review of the BWIs and WTO based on universally accepted rules to regulate "relations between unequal partners", and to create a predictable and transparent financial system, together with social protection mechanisms. Greater cooperation between the UN, and the BWIs and WTO was needed.

Improvements in North-South relations , partnership and dialogue between rich and poor countries, as well as widened South-South cooperation, were seen as critical elements in spreading the benefits of globalization to developing countries and broadening their access to and participation in the global economy. Many stressed the need for intensified South-South cooperation, which was not, however, a substitute for a North-South partnership.

The need for new partnerships between the UN, NGOs, civil society and the private sector in the era of globalization also figured prominently in many statements. In this regard, the Secretary-General's Global Compact initiative was commented upon positively by several speakers. The Netherlands, for example, devoted its entire statement to the need to develop ties between the UN and the private sector. In referring to NGOs, some speakers emphasized the need for compatibility of their participation with the intergovernmental character of the UN.

Most delegations called for increased debt relief, including debt cancellation for LDCs and African countries . While some highlighted the failure of all existing strategies, others stressed the need to expand the scope of the HIPC initiative and to increase the number of eligible countries.

Increased flow of ODA was unanimously called for, and many urged that agreed- upon commitments be fulfilled. Several countries announced an increase of their contributions towards or beyond the target of 0.7 % of GNP. The need to support UN Funds and Programmes was stressed, particularly in view of their role in supporting poverty eradication and the implementation of the outcomes of major UN conferences of the 1990s.

However, it was repeatedly said that ODA had to go hand in hand with debt relief, increased foreign direct investments, open markets for products from developing countries and, for some delegations, good governance. Emphasis was placed by delegations from all regions on the need for increased policy coherence and a new development dialogue encompassing all relevant issues in a holistic manner, rather than a piecemeal approach to individual aspects. In that sense, many delegations advocated the creation of an enabling environment for development -without using this term- rather than simply for an increase in resources. Such a holistic approach was also seen by many as essential for successful poverty eradication , which was reiterated as the main objective of the international community in the economic and social sphere.

The financing question was considered by a number of developing countries as the "missing" critical link in the development and poverty eradication agenda. In this regard, the high-level event on financing for development was considered by many as an important opportunity to elaborate a holistic approach to development involving all development, finance and trade stakeholders, including NGOs and the private sector. Precise conditions and criteria for the participation of the latter in the event should be elaborated. Many delegations welcomed the involvement of the Bretton Woods Institutions in the preparatory process, and urged the WTO to join it fully.

The international trade regime , and especially the WTO, were singled out for criticism by many speakers from developing countries. They noted grave distortions in the international trade regime, suggesting a lack of fairness and equity in existing trade rules, as reflected in restrictions in access to markets of developed countries for textiles and agricultural products, and new forms of protectionism such as social (health and labour) and environmental standards. They called for institutional reforms in the WTO so as to democratize the Organization and liberalize trade relations. Several speakers from different regions called for a new round of multilateral trade negotiations, which should be a "development round". Several developed countries suggested that LDCs should be granted market access with the greatest possible exemption from duties and quotas.

Speakers from different regions expressed their deep concern about the situation in Africa , which posed the "biggest development challenge". They pointed to the links between peace and security and development, and called for a renewed commitment and funding by the international community to support African Governments to address conflicts, foreign debt, environmental degradation, poverty, economic backwardness, epidemics such as AIDS, and to strengthen democratic institutions. At the same time, opportunities for trade and free market access needed to be improved. Several African delegations welcomed the attention devoted to Africa in the Summit Declaration.

Several speakers highlighted gender equality issues and the contribution of Beijing+5 and the Optional Protocol to the Women's Convention to its realization. Women Foreign Ministers drew attention to their Summit message, which inter alia focused on the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and the need to address these challenges. The focus on girls' education, and the SG's initiative in this regard, received strong support.

The AIDS pandemic , and its disastrous impact on development, was also a recurrent theme in many statements, especially by African and Caribbean speakers. A number of countries commented positively on the attention given to this disease by UN entities, the IFIs as well as the Security Council, and called for partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to combat it, especially in order to achieve reasonable prices for medications. Several supported the convening of a special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS in 2001, while others called for a stronger leadership role of the UN in fighting the disease, including resource mobilization for research, treatment and prevention.

A broad range of environmental questions were raised. Several speakers hoped for the early entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol (by 2002), and for a forward-looking outcome of Rio+10 in 2002. Japan supported the convening of the event in Indonesia. Better management of water resources, the need to switch to renewable sources of energy, and questions of transport, especially in land-locked countries, received particular attention. Several small island states highlighted their precarious environmental situation, such as the rise in sea levels, and called for the early development of a vulnerability index, to be used by BWI and WTO to accord them special and preferential treatment. Caribbean States called for an end to transshipments of nuclear and hazardous wastes through the Caribbean Sea.

Caribbean countries expressed strong dismay over the recent unilateral OECD "harmful tax competition" initiative, which labeled Caribbean countries' tax regimes as harmful tax havens.

With regard to ECOSOC , its development towards a policy forum, and its role in follow-up to major UN conferences and summits received support. Rationalization of its subsidiary machinery should be pursued. Its management role, coordination and policy guidance function, especially vis-à-vis the UN Funds and Programmes and its subsidiary machinery, required further strengthening, especially in conjunction with conference follow up. The Council was encouraged to continue its recent ICT initiative and its efforts to overcome the digital divide, including mobilization of resources. The SG's proposal for UNITeS also received support. Likewise, the Council's efforts at coordination with the BWI was praised, and should be further strengthened and expanded to include WTO.

Specific action recommendations emanating from the general debate

Globalization

  • Recommends that a special session of the General Assembly regarding globalization should be held (Moldova)
  • To contain threats to peace and development, a comprehensive and holistic framework is needed. To this end, an item "A New Global Human Order" has been introduced (Guyana)
  • Requests the early adoption of a vulnerability index by the international community and the provision of assistance to these countries based on their specific vulnerabilities (Suriname)
  • Call for agreement at LDC III on quota- and duty-free market access of products from least developed countries, welcoming the SG's proposal in this regard (Ghana, Uganda and others)
  • Calls for special and differential provisions in the international trade regime for LDCs and developing countries, and their operationalization (Kenya and others)
  • Notes that small countries are required to do trade liberalization within too short a period of time, and argues for a longer phase-in periods to apply the changes in the global trading regime (Barbados)
  • Urges the GA to adopt the recommendations of UNCTAD X (Uganda)
  • Asks that a study be done on the effects of globalization on developing countries (Antigua and Barbuda)

Resources for development

  • Calls for the creation of an International Solidarity Fund to complement existing mechanisms, funded from donations and voluntary contributions, to fund poverty eradication programmes (Tunisia)
  • Notes the need for new and additional resources through the establishment of a Global Development Fund , along the lines of a Marshall Fund (Guyana)
  • Calls for the launching of a Marshall Plan at this session of the GA to turn the Millennium Summit's objectives into reality (Philippines)
  • Calls for the creation of an institutional mechanism , in collaboration with the UN, to address the indebtedness of developing countries (Lebanon)
  • Suggests that developing countries should be allowed to utilize resources allocated for debt servicing for the development of the social sector , especially education and the health sector (Pakistan)
  • Notes the need to make a comprehensive review of the international banking system through holding an international conference , in which all countries would participate, with the aim of establishing a pilot policy for the world economy in the new Millennium and directing investment and capital for development (Qatar)
  • Would find it useful to establish the difference in development that would be made if there were universal adherence to the ODA target of 0.7% of GNP, within a specified time frame (India)
  • Suggests that the UN mobilize available resources and encourage the international community to narrow the digital divide and assist developing countries to reach this goal (China)

The UN in the new Millennium, including the role of ECOSOC

  • Proposes the establishment, as soon as possible, of an open-ended working group to follow up the Millennium Summit, and to examine the ways in which it could be put into practice (Uruguay, supported by Venezuela)
  • Calls on this GA to adopt decisions to reactivate the process of UN reform (Colombia)
  • Suggests that within UN, consideration be given to the establishment of a Development Council (Burkina Faso); that the mandate of ECOSOC be revisited, and the initiative to create an Economic Security Council , responsible for dealing with development problems, should be reexamined (El Salvador); to strengthen the ECOSOC, the UN's principal organ in the field of development, by turning it into a true Human Development Council with authority and action tools comparable to those of the Security Council (Venezuela)
  • Suggests that a review of the UN, based on the SG's Millennium report, must result in the strengthening of the coordination role of the ECOSOC as well as a rationalization of its subsidiary machinery (Bulgaria)
  • Notes that the large TNCs are absent from the UN's economic fora. Like in the ILO tripartite system, it would be desirable that within ECOSOC, Government and TNC representatives should sit next to each other . This would improve the efficacy and impact of the ECOSOC (Togo)
  • Applauding the evolving relationship between ECOSOC and BWIs, suggests the establishment of similar relationship between ECOSOC and WTO (Jamaica)
  • Calls for the realization of the principle of rotation in major decision-making bodies, particularly the ECOSOC (Antigua and Barbuda)
  • Urges the SG to examine ways of ensuring common, acceptable standards for accountability and transparency in the operations of NGOs with respect to their participation in the UN. Greater effort should be made to build the capacity of NGOs in developing countries so that NGO participation in the UN could reflect the diversity of interests across the world (Ghana)

Environmental issues

  • Considers it necessary to consolidate the international legal regimes on environmental protection (Argentina)
  • Recommends that the UN assume a greater role in mobilizing support to implement a policy towards transports of toxic and hazardous waste , which pose a serious threat to eco-systems (St. Kitts and Nevis)
  • Calls for every country to adopt, under bilateral and multilateral treaties, legislative and administrative measures with regard to transboundary water resources and their management (Kazakhstan)
  • Calls upon the private and public sectors to contribute to a well-structured Disaster Relief Fund that can respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters (Grenada)
  • Expect action on implementation of outcome of the 22nd special session of the GA, especially through initiatives such as global disaster management strategies and the early adoption of a (environmental) vulnerability index (Bahamas, and SIDS)
  • Offers to host the Secretariat for the International Forum on Forests (Costa Rica)

Africa

  • Proposes to hold a summit of post-conflict African States to develop a realistic approach to debt relief for these countries (Liberia)
  • Calls for a comprehensive strategy for Africa to address poverty eradication in all its aspects, and including a compendium of measures aimed at capacity building in the development process, including social services (Tanzania)

HIV/AIDS and health

  • Supports the World Bank's idea of establishing a fund for the purchase of vaccines (Germany)
  • Support the convening of a special session of the GA in 2001 on HIV/AIDS (Iceland, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, Mali, Thailand)
  • Notes that an International Solidarity Fund to fight AIDS would greatly help the victims (Gabon)
  • Recalls that OAU has launched an appeal to UN to declare the period 2001-2010 as the decade against malaria , and hopes this will be done (Togo, Chair of OAU)

Other

  • Call on others to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (New Zealand, Germany), and for CEDAW ratification and withdrawal of reservations (Ghana)
  • Calls upon all States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed conflict (Sri Lanka)
  • Proposes to give consideration to the creation of a convention within the United Nations, under international law, which meaningfully promotes genetic engineering and safeguards the freedom to research and its findings while defining an ethical basis and guaranteeing protection against abuse (Germany)
  • Proposes to host the ITU Summit on the World Information Society in 2003 (Tunisia)
  • Proposes that GA proclaim a policy of "Zero Tolerance" of all types of corruption and urges a ban on laundering of illicit funds (Pakistan)
  • Calls for a solidarity pact to find the best and most effective way of balancing the supply and demand of labor while fully respecting the diversity of the people concerned (Italy)
  • Will propose that August 31 be declared "International Solidarity Day" (Poland together with other sponsors)
  • Proposes to establish an international committee answerable to the United Nations, empowered with the necessary authorities and resources, to undertake the tasks of inspection and implementation of United Nations programmes (Libya)

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STATEMENT TO THE SECOND COMMITTEE
by MR. NITIN DESAI
UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL
FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

3 October 2000

Mr. Chairman,

May I first congratulate you on taking over the chairmanship of this very important committee and, through you, congratulate the other members of the Bureau who will be working to ensure a successful outcome to this session of the Second Committee.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

The General Assembly this year meets in the glow of the Millennium Summit. The convergence of so many leaders from all parts of the world in New York, the attention that it gave to the Secretary-General’s report "We the Peoples" , the Declaration that came out of this process, the discussions that took place in the Roundtables and the contributions that were made by the many parallel events around the Millennium Summit have all helped to focus the attention of the world on a few key issues and to reassert the confidence that the world has in the future role of the United Nations in meeting these challenges and issues.

From the perspective of the Second Committee the most important point that one would have to note is that if there was one theme that dominated discussions in the Millennium Summit, it was globalisation. If there was one goal that dominated the commitments which were voiced at the Millennium Summit, it was the eradication of poverty.

Both of these are matters which connect directly with the agenda of the Second Committee. In many ways, this focus on globalisation as the major factor that the international system has to cope with, and on poverty as the primary goal of policy, particularly development cooperation policy, was something which was also asserted very strongly at the Copenhagen+5 and the Beijing+5 processes which took place in June. I believe this is the challenge that we have to rise up to in the Second Committee.

The Secretary-General’s report for the Millennium Summit , "We the Peoples – The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century", took globalisation and related issues of governance as its major theme. It recognized the benefits of globalisation; it also drew attention to the backlash to globalisation and suggested certain responses. I will not go into the details, which were discussed in great length in the Millennium Report, but I summarize it in the one phrase from this report: "Globalisation must mean more than creating bigger markets". That I believe is the challenge which the Second Committee has to respond to. What I hope to do in a few minutes is to connect these broader themes of globalisation with the specific items which are on the agenda of the Second Committee this year and to perhaps suggest how this opportunity can be used to advance the debate on globalisation in a constructive manner.

First, the dimensions of globalisation. Fifty years ago the world traded around a billion dollars per day. Today, trade is a billion dollars every ninety minutes. Two billion dollars a day move as foreign direct investment, which means that the six to eight billion dollars that Africa gets is the flow of four days of foreign direct investment. Foreign exchange markets operate now at the level of 1.5 trillion dollars a day. These economic dimensions of globalisation – the growing trade and financial interactions between economies is something that we have long talked about in this Committee. There is a technological dimension – the rapid decline in transport and communication costs. The cost of air travel has decreased by a seventh from before the Second World War. A three-minute transatlantic phone call before the War would have cost something in the region of $250.00. Now, if you pay full rate, it will cost you around $3.00 and if you don’t pay full rate, it could be even cheaper.

The interconnectivity of people is in some ways the most powerful product of globalisation. Air travel has increased a hundred fold. Every day, two million people cross national boundaries. There is, of course, a flip side to this as evidenced by the twenty million plus refugees. And there is another part of this interconnectivty – the growing interaction of people in the form of global and multinational activist, interest and pressure groups. According to the Union of International Organisations, the number of international NGOs or NGOs with a presence in at least three countries has gone up from something in the region of 985 in 1956 to 23,000 in 1998. This is an enormous increase, and we in the United Nations have seen the impact of this growth in what I would describe as an international civil society. The Second Committee has played a powerful role in creating a space where this international civil society can express itself.

Finally, I would draw attention to the ecological dimension. Interactions between national economies are having an impact on national eco-systems, through climate change, ozone depletion problems, hazardous waste, damage to fisheries and increased health risks. All of these are matters which the Second Committee needs to address.

What then is the nature of the problem that we have to address? First, I would say, paradoxically, the problem is "incomplete" globalisation. Many of our problems arise from the fact that the basis of integration varies from area to area. Let me give the example of trade. We have talked about the tremendous expansion of world trade, the opening of barriers, liberalization, the reduction of tariffs. But at the same time, we have a situation where in areas of particular interest to poor countries, like agriculture and textiles, we have not had that same pace of opening up or of liberalization. We have opening up of capital markets and a growing pressure for liberalization of capital markets. But we have not had the same degree of liberalization when it comes to the movement of natural persons, a factor of particular importance with the growing importance of services in national economies. When it comes to technology, much of the focus at the global level has been on protection of technological rights. Even here it is combined with a desire to maintain access, for instance, to biotech resources in developing countries. Many of the concerns that are expressed today arise from what I would describe as incomplete globalisation, globalisation in which the agenda reflects some part of what is happening in trade and finance liberalization, but in which important aspects of particular interest to poor countries are not receiving the same attention, and are in fact are not being liberalized in the same way. It is for these reasons and other reasons that we have a backlash.

The Millennium Summit report recognizes the sources of concern. One is disparity as reflected in the persistence of absolute poverty in the world. This is a matter which we will revert to when we discuss this agenda item in the Second Committee and we will have more to say at that time.

Certainly, one of the very positive features of what has happened over the past few years, particularly since the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, is the recognition that poverty eradication must become a central element of policy at the national level and in global cooperation. This is a positive feature, something which does try and address one of the reasons for the backlash against globalisation.

But the backlash is not just because of the persistence of poverty and the continued marginalization of certain groups in countries from this process. It is also due to a perception that the gains from globalisation are not evenly distributed, that even the people who gain, protest when they find that others are gaining faster or more than they are. Many of the protestors you saw in Seattle, in Washington and in Prague were not people who are being marginalized by globalisation. They were often people who are part of the new integrated global economy but who had the perception that their gains were significantly less than others. I give the example here of an experiment that was done in some U.S. universities where two students were brought into a game. Student A was given $100 and decided how much of this $100 he would retain for himself and how much he would share with Student B. Let’s say Student A would get $80, Student B would get $20. Then Student B had to decide whether the bargain is accepted or not. The study showed how Student B consistently rejected something which he felt was an unfair distribution of this $100, even though it meant he would get nothing as a consequence. I share this story to give you a sense that even people who gain from globalisation can have a grievance if they perceive that others are gaining far more. This is a dimension of the backlash we have not adequately addressed either in national policy or at the global level.

The second part of the backlash arises from vulnerability, the fact that growing integration exposes economies to greater uncertainty. This is a complex area; it is not an area where answers are easy. Take trade, for instance. In many ways the vulnerability of an economy to trade may even decrease as it opens, expands and diversifies. The real vulnerabilities of trade may arise more in countries which have not fully integrated and depend only on one or two products and on one or two markets. Nevertheless, there are vulnerabilities which arise from growing integration, particularly on the financial side. We saw these in the Asian crisis, and this Committee has devoted a great deal of attention to this.

Part of the backlash is also due to the ecological consequences of globalisation. There is a feeling that the rules of the game as they have been defined for trade, finance and other areas do not pay sufficient regard to the ecological consequences of globalisation. This is again a matter which this Committee has often addressed. And there are other issues, like cultural impact. Many of these areas of backlash have been identified in this Committee.

Where do we go from here? What do we do in order to meet these concerns?

First, we must recognize that the concerns that arise from marginalization and from the persistence of poverty require growth. The greatest justification of globalisation is economic growth and employment generation. It is therefore vital that we address the question of how to revive the processes of growth. In DESA’s recently released World Economic and Social Survey , there is a review of growth performance, particularly of least developed countries. The Survey identifies some of the factors at the national level rather than at the global level which are central and which we need to support. The record of growth is quite depressing in many of the developing countries. Very few have achieved the consistent 3% growth which is needed to double per capita incomes over a period of twenty-twenty four years, or one generation. If we want to double income in one generation, that is what you are going to need. The World Economic and Social Survey also provides into a closer analysis of the few countries which have been able to show relatively long periods of sustained 3% plus per capita growth. I invite you to look at this. Essentially, it focuses on the importance of an agricultural breakthrough in countries where a large percentage of the population continues to depend on that sector. It stresses the central importance of education, of creating technological capabilities and the role of institutions and institutional change. In this Committee, we have also focused attention on the global dimensions of these approaches, and on the fact that the efforts of developing countries need to be supported with overseas development assistance, debt relief, and with sustained technical assistance and support. I hope that we can address this issue here.

While growth is central, we need to have an assessment of what type of growth will address the disparities, the vulnerability, the ecological consequences which have provoked the backlash against globalisation. If globalisation means simply reproducing some of the social inequalities which exist in some places on a widespread scale, that backlash will continue.

However, revived growth with an attention to disparities, with an attention to vulnerability, with an attention to ecological consequences is vital - but is not enough. We also have to recognize that there is a "governance deficit" and a related "democracy deficit" in the management of globalisation. And we have to address this problem. The governance deficit arises partly because of the shift in power, if you like, from governments to the private sector and most particularly to transnational corporations, which have increased to over 50,000 with 450,000 foreign subsidiaries. We have not found a way to influence activities of transnational corporations which operate in multiple jurisdictions. We have, of course, the emergence of certain standards in global trade law, environment law, commercial law and other areas. But we need something more than that, something which influences the mindset of corporations, so they internalize the types of concerns about the social dimension and about the ecological dimension which have driven our thinking of development in the United Nations and through that the thinking of regional organizations and governments. That is part of the reason for the development of the Global Compact which the Secretary-General put forward a couple of years ago and which is being developed further.

A second area of governance which is widely recognized as a problem is coherence. Given the interconnections between trade and finance, between these areas and the ecological dimension, between these areas and the concerns about poverty, we need a mechanism to ensure greater policy coherence so that decisions about ODA, debt relief and trade concessions are taken in a coherent way when it comes to North-South relations. More generally, we need to ensure that decisions about macro-economic stability, growth, etc. are also taken in a more coherent way.

Third, we need a system which reflects and gives a greater voice to those who do not necessarily have a strong voice in institutions which today play a major role in shaping the parameters within which globalisation takes place. We have to amplify the voices of small countries, poor countries, and equally important, we have to create the space for non-governmental organizations.

I believe this year’s agenda of the Second Committee affords you opportunities for addressing all of these issues. We have before us the prospects of a major meeting on Finance for Development. That meeting has an ambitious agenda and the potential to address many of the concerns about globalisation that I have outlined so far. We will be having a major conference on Least Developed Countries next year, which you will be discussing later. I believe that also affords opportunity. Your discussions on Rio+10 give you the chance of reinstating the ecological consequences as a major item which needs to be included in discussions on globalisation, the discussions on poverty that we will have, on debt, all of these can feed into this process. Most important of all, the discussion the ECOSOC had this year on information technology, which we take up again here when you discuss the outcome of ECOSOC, will allow you to respond to some of these concerns about globalisation in a constructive and positive spirit.

Mr. Chairman,

Let me conclude with a positive note. In some ways, the very fact that we have a forum like the Second Committee, the very fact that we have these protests in Washington, Seattle and Prague, is itself a product of globalisation, of the improvements in interconnectivity and communication that globalisation has made possible. Development cooperation is in some ways a product of globalisation. Globalisation itself generates the tools with which we can address the concerns that we have. So the answer does not lie in saying globalisation should end. The answer lies in understanding how the potentials generated by globalisation, not just in the economic sphere, but more importantly, in the political sphere, can be used to address these concerns. I believe the Second Committee has shown its capacity to do that in the past. I have every confidence that it can continue to do so and we look forward to working with you closely in this area.

Thank you very much.

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STATEMENT TO THE THIRD COMMITTEE
by MR. NITIN DESAI
UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL
FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

25 September 2000

 

Chairperson,

May I begin by congratulating you on your election to the Chairmanship of this very important Committee particularly this year when we will be looking at the outcome of the review processes of the Beijing and the Copenhagen Summit. I would also like to congratulate the other members of the Bureau and to assure them that we look forward to working very closely with them in ensuring a successful meeting for the Third Committee.

Chairperson,

The Third Committee does not have a tradition of a general debate; you clearly are very business like and go directly into the agenda items before you. But I thought I would take this opportunity to place your agenda this year in the broader context of the discussions on development which are taking place at the global level, and particularly, in the United Nations.

Distinguished delegates,

The current session of the General Assembly is meeting in what I would describe as the glow of the Millennium Summit. This event was by all standards exceptionally successful - in the level of participation that it attracted, in the nature of the discussions that took place both in the Plenary and the Roundtables, in terms of the reception accorded to the Secretary-General’s report, "We the Peoples " ;, and in terms of the outcome as reflected in the Declaration of the Millennium Summit. In many ways this is the framework within which all the Committees of the General Assembly will function this year. One of the challenges is to carry forward the momentum generated by the Millennium Summit, a momentum which focused much attention on the strengthening of the United Nations so it can respond better to the types of global challenges outlined in the Secretary-General’s report.

From the point of view of development, if there was one theme that dominated discussions in the General Assembly, and in fact also dominated discussions in the Beijing+5 process as well as Copenhagen+5 this theme was globalisation. Wherever one went, this was what was the principal area of concern voiced by the leaders who who came to the Millennium Summit, and by the others who came to the +5 processes. It is also a theme which is dominating the concerns of a large number of groups outside governments, particularly activitist groups. You saw this in Seattle, in Washington and you are seeing this right now in Prague.

I believe this theme is relevant for the entire agenda of the Third Committee, not only for the agenda which my Department is directly responsible for, the agenda which deals with social development and the advancement of women, but also for the agenda which concerns human rights, drugs and transnational crime.

Chairperson,

I believe the Third Committee has made a major contribution in bringing this broad set of concerns about the consequences of this phenomena we call globalisation into the policy agenda. I sometimes remind people that many of the concerns now being expressed were actually articulated very effectively in the debates which took place in the Third Committee in the run up to the World Summit on Social Development in 1995. The World Summit on Social Development and its outcome anticipated many of the concerns today being much more widely recognized and expressed. But my purpose here is not to say "I told you so". What we ought to ask ourselves now is what are the areas where we need to take action in order to address these concerns.

I am not going to go into the morphology of globalisation – its trade, investment, technology, the social and cultural dimensions. I would just like to stress one aspect of the morphology: in many ways the reaction to these processes of trade and financial integration by the NGO movements, and as reflected in the discussions which take in the United Nations in the Third Committee and in the processes concerned with the World Summit on Social Development and the World Conference on Women, is also part of globalisation. It is precisely the mechanics of the globalisation which have made it possible for us to find the mechanisms and political processes for addressing the problems connected with globalisation.

And what are these problems? What is it that is of concern to people? I will focus on some of the ones which are directly relevant to the work of the Third Committee and which I believe you can address very effectively in your policy debates.

First, there is clearly a concern about inequality, about the fact that the processes of globalisation are adding to global inequalities, both between countries and within countries. The numbers are well known. Twenty per cent of the world’s population commands 80% of its income. The difference between the income level of the top 20% and the bottom 20% has been widening and is now around 1 to 37. When you look at the very top and the very bottom the gap is even greater. And when you have inequality, even the person who is gaining perceives a sense of unfairness and injustice when somebody else is gaining far more. This major area of concern, the focus on inequality, has to a certain extent has been lost in public policy both at the national level and at the international level.

Second, there is deep concern about the persistence of poverty and deprivation. It is widely accepted that globalisation has expanded the potential of the world economy, and has generated additional jobs and income in many parts of the world. It is precisely because globalisation is generating new possibilities of growth of production, of income, of solidarity that the persistence of poverty, the 1.3 billion who live on less that $1.00 a day, seems less and less acceptable. A related area of concern which I believe is worrying people is the fact that the positive contributions of globalisation are not necessarily getting reflected in the actual flows of support and assistance for anti-poverty programmes at the country level, at the regional level and at the global level.

A third area of concern is a weakening of social cohesion as a result of the increasing inequality and the persistence of poverty. When inequalities start being associated with groups which can acquire political salience, this can translate into social stress and anarchy. Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, has social consequences which have been recognized frequently in the work of the Third Committee.

Linked to this there are concerns about the processes of managing globalisation. There is a perceived governance deficit, a feeling that there are many elements of decision-making that are now increasingly outside the purview and influence of national governments and international organizations. The growing transnationalisation of ownership of capital, the growing shift of influence from the public sector to the private sector, are examples. Even more important, there is a perceived "democracy" deficit - a feeling that whatever processes of governance that do exist for these mechanisms of integration in the spheres of trade, finance, technology and other areas, are mechanisms which are not fully democratic, which do not fully reflect the perceptions, concerns and interests of all countries, small and large, rich and poor.

These perceived deficits are in the minds of groups outside governments, which is precisely why those groups are increasingly demonstrating outside council chambers, in the streets as they did in Seattle, as they did in Washington, as they are doing now in Prague. The Millennium Summit has focused attention on the potential of the United Nations, of this universal institution, which in many ways was ahead of the curve in identifying, for instance, the need to integrate the social and the economic dimension of policy, to provide the world with the type of political process necessary to manage these processes of globalisation. The United Nations has the democratic structure and the concern about the social and environmental issues, about the advancement of women, which are central concerns being expressed about the globalisation phenomena outside. I sense that at the Summit there was a willingness to renew the capacity of the United Nations to address these concerns. You have an opportunity to do so in this session itself. When you look at the outcome of the five-year review of the Beijing conference, you will see many of these concerns reflected. When you review the outcome of the World Summit on Social Development you will see many of these concerns reflected and many specific proposals for addressing them.

I hope you will be able to deal with these issues during your discussions and not only in terms of the outcome of the five-year review processes. Other areas that are on your agenda, such as the issue of ageing, the question of youth employment, the issue of disability, are also connected with this agenda of increasing the focus on people-centered development, an agenda which has long been a basic theme of the work of the Third Committee and the work of the United Nations. The United Nations has done an enormous amount to place these issues on the policy agenda and it has the potential in this Committee and elsewhere to provide the world with a credible forum for addressing these problems. That, I believe, is the common theme which has to underlie your work both in the areas that are dealt with in my Department, the advancement of women and social development, as well as in the other areas that you will be considering - human rights, drugs and transnational crime.

I look forward to your continued involvement and hope that just as you have played a pioneering role in placing these on the policy agenda, you will continue to play a pioneering role in helping the world to identify viable options for addressing many of the concerns that you have articulated.

Thank you.

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