6 September 2000


6 September 2000

Press Briefing



Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of Singapore and Chairman of the first roundtable of the Millennium Summit, said at a press conference this evening that the central theme of the discussions was the challenges posed by globalization and how its forces could be moderated.

The roundtable was the first of four interactive sessions designed to allow for more informal and open discussion during the three-day Millennium Summit that ends on Friday, 8 September. Such roundtables involving heads of State and government have never previously been held at United Nations summits or conferences. It was closed to the media and the general public.

The participants returned again and again to that question, and how the force of globalization could benefit their own countries, he said. He added that the leaders had accepted that globalization was a fact. Some ideas were put forward on moderating the effects of globalization, such as how the United Nations could be involved with certain multilateral institutions to study the question; and how the Organization could be provided with resources to help countries build up their capacities to cope with globalization.

Prime Minister Chok Tong said a second issue raised at the roundtable dealt with peace and security and conflict management and how the United Nations could do a better job in terms of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace operations. The participants had an hour to discuss any issue they chose.

He said that peace and security issues were not discussed at as great a length as globalization. The leaders returned again and again to the fundamental issue of its challenges. That was the central theme of the discussions, he reiterated.

Asked what, in his view, was the significant content of the roundtable and its effect as a United Nations forum, he said there was a good flow of discussion. The leaders were comfortable and cooperated in making their remarks concise and in some cases incisive. He was happy with the results and hoped that it would pave the way for other roundtables to improve upon the performance of the first. “It is important that we generated interest in the first roundtable.”

He told a questioner that ideas were put forward on ways of strengthening the United Nations. Another was the examination of institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the other entities established under the Bretton Woods Agreement. It was

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time to review them, it was suggested. He also said that one participant had proposed a “radical idea” about the imposition of a kind of international tax which could be used to help poor countries build up their capacity to improve their economies. It was an idea which the United Nations could study.

Asked whether there was any discussion of the "global compact" which the Secretary-General had proposed, he said the term was never used in the discussion. Asked whether the United Nation relationship with corporations came up, he said that was not discussed, but it was quite clear that implicit in the contributions of the leaders was a concern about the role of huge multinational companies in the world economy. “So in a sense, the global compact featured indirectly in the discussions.”

He went on to say that there was a concern that globalization would result in the ability of big companies to destabilize economies, especially by means of huge flows of capital. There was a general concern that such flows were beyond the control of countries. Asked whether there was any proposal to control such flows, he said the United Nations must be strengthened to moderate them. The question was how to get the Organization to begin to study ways of moderating the impact of such volatile flows on economies.

Asked whether he sensed a political will on the part of governments to strengthen the United Nations, he said some leaders made the point that political will was necessary for that purpose. For example, some countries in arrears must pay up their assessed contributions to the Organization. If they did not, where then was the political will? “Some leaders did inject a sense of realism in the discussions”, he said.

He told a correspondent that there was one contribution on the importance of conflict prevention and peacekeeping. That participant said peacekeepers must be strengthened to manage conflicts.

Regional institutions had to work together, and coordinate their activities with the United Nations to improve on what they could do together in areas such as moderating the forces of globalization, or in peacekeeping, he said in response to a question. The emphasis was on the need for a global approach to global issues. The question was how that could be done. Some leaders also touched on environmental issues. Water resources constituted an important issue for many countries. Many of the leaders however returned to the fundamental problems they saw for their countries which was the phenomenon of the information technology revolution which was dividing the world into those who could cope with globalization and those who could not. “It was the new divide which we are all now facing”, he said.

Asked whether there were plans for a follow-up to the roundtable, he said one participant had asked whether there would be a follow-up plan of action. He said the question was addressed to the Secretary-

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General who was present at the roundtable. The Secretary-General assured them that the various proposals would be studied and that there would be a plan of action. The United Nations took the discussions seriously, and proposals which were implementable would be formulated into a plan of action.

There was a "slight disagreement" over the approach to the question of information technology, he went on. The proposal on the international tax was “just an idea”. The leader who proposed it did not give any specifics. He would not identify him, he said, as he had promised the leaders not to do so. He also told a questioner that the leaders spoke candidly because they knew that the media were not present.

There were some concerns about the issue of sovereignty, in view of the influence of big multilateral institutions on economies and institutions, he said.

The scheduled participants in the first round table were Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine, Uruguay, Yemen and Zambia.

The chairmen of the other round tables are: Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland (second); Hugo Chavez Frias, President of Venezuela (third); and Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria (fourth).

By General Assembly resolution A/54/281 of 15 August 2000, Member States that are not members of any of the regional groups may participate in different roundtables to be determined in consultation with the President of the General Assembly. The Holy See and Switzerland, in their capacity as observer States, and Palestine, in its capacity as observer, as well as the intergovernmental organizations listed in the resolution may participate in different roundtables to be determined also in consultation with the President of the General Assembly.

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For information media. Not an official record.