SINGAPORE

TERRORISM & GLOBALISATION
 

STATEMENT

BY

AMBASSADOR KISHORE MAHBUBANI
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SINGAPORE
TO THE
UNITED NATIONS
 

56TH SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
 

NEW YORK,
15 NOVEMBER 2001

Please check against delivery

 

Mr. President,

1. It does seem strange to congratulate you on your appointment as President of the General Assembly so late in this session. But we live in unusual times. The UN needs clear leadership. With your distinguished track record in public service in the Republic of Korea, we are confident that you will provide it to this Assembly. We assure you of our full support. We also congratulate Mr. Hard Holkeri for his commendable leadership last year and the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, and the UN on the Nobel Peace Prize that they received.

Mr. President,

2. The timing of this General Assembly indicates the difficult circumstances we are in. Never before has the UN had to postpone the General Debate. The terrorist attacks of September 11th have already had drastic and immediate international consequences. The long-term consequences are still unknown. But they will be both powerful and wide-ranging.

3. The events of September 11 have shaken an already vulnerable world economy. The developed world is suffering a growing economic slowdown. This is well known. Unfortunately, what is less well known are the damaging effects of the terrorist attacks on developing countries? In the developed countries, who provide the principal engine of the world's economy, the attacks have undermined consumer confidence, disrupted commerce and destroyed wealth. But these are temporary shocks from which the developed world can and will recover. The terrorist attacks have dramatically highlighted the reality of interdependence in today's globalize world. Joseph Stiglitz, a recent Nobel Prize winner, highlighted this interdependence in a recent Washington Post article dated 11 November 2001. He said, "It used to be said that when America sneezed, Mexico caught a told. Now, when America sneezes, much of the world catches cold. And according to recent data, America is not just sneezing, it has a bad case of the flu".

4. The developing countries, which depend on a healthy global economy for their hopes of growth and prosperity, face great dangers. The fear of terrorism may constrict the key arteries of globalization. We have already seen new precautions taken in many countries, at ports, airports, train stations, banks, media offices, government buildings, factories, offices, hospitals and many other public institutions. These precautions are important to protect innocent people in their daily lives. However, they also inevitably impose additional costs. These new restrictions on travel, on shipping, national and international mail, on the free flow of goods and information everywhere, are effectively a tariff imposed by terrorism upon the global community. Tragically, it is also a regressive tariff, one that affects the poorer members of the global community more.

5. If the arteries of globalization become increasingly constricted and cease to function effectively, developing countries will lose their best chance of growing out of poverty. This will only aggravate the hopelessness, marginal isation, ignorance and fear that can breed terrorism. We must avoid this vicious cycle. In developed countries, the economic slowdown is already strengthening protectionist voices, who call for restrictions on imports, the imposition of non-tariff barriers, antidumping duties, restrictions on migration and governmental support for domestic industries. A genuine concern over terrorist use of international financial and information networks could also be used as a justification for restrictions on the flows of international investment and information. Developing countries need these flows.

6. Even before September 11, developing countries were not benefiting sufficiently from these flows. The greater part of foreign direct investment (FDI) flows mainly among developed countries. Of the remainder, 12 major developing countries take 75% of private foreign investment to the developing world, while 140 developing countries share 5%. The poorest nations of the world therefore suffer not from too many connections with the wider world, but too few. The poorest 48 countries account for only 4% of total world trade while Sub-Saharan Africa receives only 5% of the total net long-term private capital flows to developing countries. At the same time, in the developed countries, tariffs on the export goods of developing countries are 30% higher than the global average 2. The poor countries cannot afford any further restrictions to trade.

 7. In this regard, we are relieved that the WTO meeting in Doha, Qatar, has finally agreed to launch a new round of trade talks that keep the global economy on track towards freer trade and investment. Today's Wall Street Journal (which is a conservative journal) drew this link between the events of September 11 and the Doha results: "In an effort to keep poorer nations on their side in the war on terrorism, U. S. and European negotiators went further than anyone expected to meet the demands of the developing world. ....... Ultimately, the U.S. and Europe made big concessions to the developing world - concessions fiercely resisted by pharmaceutical and steel companies in the U.S. and farmers in Europe. "

8. This Doha meeting confirmed that the needs of poorer countries will have to be addressed. As a result of September 11, poorer countries will suffer relatively more than richer ones. To give an obvious example, tourism from richer countries is a major source of income for many developing countries. The fear of flying engendered by the recent terrorist attacks has already caused airlines all over the world to cut flight schedules and in many cases terminate them altogether. It is already much harder to get direct flights from New York city to many Latin American destinations. The World Travel and Tourism Council has estimated that the events of 11 September may cause job losses in the travel and tourism industry of up to 8.8 million. Of these, only 2.3 million losses will be in the US and Europe. The impact on developing countries dependent on the tourist trade will be enormous.

Mr. President,

9. The record of the past 30 years shows clearly that countries better integrated into the global economic system enjoyed greater long-term growth than relatively isolated countries. As the Secretary-General has said, "success in achieving sustained growth depends critically on expanding access to the opportunities of globalization. The countries that have achieved higher growth are those that have successfully integrated into the global economy and attracted foreign investment."

10. In a recent book "The End of Globalization: Lessons from the Great Depression", Harold James examines the fallout from a collapse of the integrated world in an earlier era. He provides a sobering historical perspective for what we are experiencing today. In the era before the First World War, the world was in many ways a well-integrated place. Movement of capital, knowledge and labor among both rich and poor countries was much less restricted. The rise of protectionism and isolationism in response to this phenomenon led to the Great Depression of the first half of the 20th century. This long lasting global recession ended only with the outbreak of the Second World War. This is not a cycle that we should repeat in the 21st century.

11. One big lesson of September 11 therefore is that globalization, far from being an all-powerful, irresistible force, is actually a fragile construct, dependent on the will of its participants for its continuing existence. If it collapses, developing countries could suffer more. The terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center could also seriously damage the global economic system that represents the best chance that the developing countries have of long-term development, growth and prosperity. If they succeed, we will all be worse off.

12. Hence at the recently concluded APEC Summit in Shanghai, APEC Leaders representing 21 countries, both developing and developed, from three continents unequivocally condemned terrorist acts as a profound threat to the peace, prosperity and security of all people, of all faiths of all nations and pledged to cooperate fully to ensure that international terrorism does not disrupt economies and markets. We are not engaged merely in a struggle between a few developed nations and a few terrorists. The whole world is involved.

13. Following September 11, we in the international community must therefore act together to safeguard what we have achieved and what we have yet to achieve. The struggle against terrorism itself will take much time and stamina. To track down the terrorist groups and rip up their networks will be a difficult, long, messy and tedious business, requiring the co-operative effort of many countries. Countering terrorism must be an international endeavor.

 14. The United Nations has a critical role to play. The United Nations remains the indispensable forum to mobilize international opinion and a strong political consensus against terrorism. Through the Security Council, it also provides a platform for practical co-operation. Within the UN system several bodies are already seized with the various dimensions of terrorism. One useful course of action would be for the various international law enforcement and other agencies dealing with terrorism to get together to examine existing norms and practices, and examine areas for further co-operation. Where such co-operation is already taking place bilaterally among countries, the UN can serve as a useful disseminator and clearing-house of information and best practices.

15. In the longer term, the economic and social conditions that encourage terrorists must also be addressed urgently. International economic integration, while ultimately the only guarantor of prosperity, is both incomplete in scope and uneven in its distribution of costs and benefits. Many developing countries remain imperfectly integrated into the world economy. These problems must be addressed, by capacity building and infrastructure development within developing countries, with whatever international assistance is necessary, and by the elimination of trade barriers and protectionism in the developed countries. The latest World Bank report reinforces this point in its estimates that abolishing all trade barriers could boost global income by $2,800 billion and lift as many as 320 million people out of poverty by 2015. We hope that the WTO negotiators will bear this in mind in the New Round of Negotiations.

Conclusion

16. To conclude, Mr. President, please allow me to quote the Secretary-General once again, "in an increasingly globalize world, none of the critical issues we are dealing with can be resolved within a solely national framework. All of them require co-operation, partnership and burden-sharing among Governments, the United Nations, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and civil society." Global actions, facilitated by consultative leadership, are needed to address challenges of global dimensions. Let us make a small beginning to achieve this at this General Assembly.