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29 April 2005

PRESS CONFERENCE ON HELSINKI PROCESS ON GLOBALIZATION AND DEMOCRACY

29/4/2005
Press Briefing

Press conference ON HELSINKI PROCESS ON GLOBALIZATION AND DEMOCRACY


The problem was not a lack of solutions to the many problems arising from globalisation, but the lack of political will and the resources to implement the solutions, United Republic of Tanzania’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abdulkader Shareef said today at Headquarters, as he briefed correspondents on the “Helsinki Process”.


The Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy, an initiative of the Finnish Government in cooperation with the Tanzanian Government, was launched in 2002 at Helsinki at a conference on global governance and the future of North-South relations, with the aim of finding novel and empowering solutions to the problems brought on by globalization, through promoting innovative cooperation among Governments, civil society organizations and the corporate sector.


Joining the Deputy Foreign Minister was the Foreign Minister of Finland, Erkki Tuomioja.  Both co-chaired the High-Level Helsinki Group, which addressed the interconnectedness of the five issue areas of the Millennium Declaration and their use as a basis for looking beyond 2015.  Their shared view is that, by working together, the stakeholders -- Governments, the private sector, and international and civil society organizations -- could pool the diverse resources available for change, thereby multiplying their efforts to reach a more equitable and sustainable future.


Mr. Tuomioja said that one phase of the work of the Helsinki process had been concluded today in New York, namely the work of the high-level group.  At its fourth and final meeting, a declaration had been finalized.  It would be published in June in printed form, together with other material, in three capitals -- Dar es Salaam, Helsinki and London.  A second Helsinki Conference would be held in Helsinki in September, at which broad attendance was expected, and the report would serve as the basis for discussion.   


Each member of the Helsinki Group (their names and affiliations could be found at the web site:  www.helsinkiprocess.fi/HelsinkiGroup/members.asp), acting in his or her personal capacity, had sought to bring together a wide range of stakeholders on globalisation and democracy issues, he said.  By working together successfully, they had evolved some very concrete measures.  He had expected the process to continue, with the participation of Governments and other actors. 


He said that the Tanzanian and Finnish Governments had worked to bring together a group of friends of the Helsinki Process, or about 12 like-minded Governments, to meet in the margins of the conference in September.  The Governments from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas were a ready-made network for globalisation issues and would hopefully provide added value to the ongoing work to achieve better management or governance over the globalisation process. 


All in all, he said, the Helsinki Process had not reinvented the wheel.  Rather, it had built on the work of other commissions, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, and others, including the high-level panel on United Nations reform.  Hopefully, the multi-stakeholder approach would give added value to everyone’s work.  He also hoped that the ready-made bridge between ideas and follow-up through the group of Governments could add to the ongoing reform of the international agenda. 


The timetable for the Helsinki Conference was optimal, he said, explaining that it would be held just a few days before the major event here in New York -- the September Summit to review attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  Hopefully, the Helsinki Conference and Process would continue beyond September, in a form and with participation that was presently being discussed. 


Mr. Shareef added that the Helsinki Process had been trying to encourage actors and stakeholders to coalesce around the outcomes of various related commissions and processes, and see how those could be implemented.  The uniqueness of the Helsinki Process was its emphasis on mobilizing political will.  It was not intended to compete with any other initiatives, past or present.  Rather, it saw them as mutually reinforcing. 


In a brief question-and-answer session that followed, the panel, joined also by another member of the Group, Vijay Pratap of the World Social Forum of India, was asked about the degree of focus on the issue of violence against women. 


Asserting that the problem was evident in almost every country and culture, Mr. Tuomioja said that domestic violence against women was a persistent problem, which every Government should recognize and take seriously.  In fact, that was one of the themes to be taken up by the Group at its September conference. 


Finland’s domestic criminal legislation did not differentiate between violence against men and women, but the Government recognized that women were most often the victims of domestic violence, he said.  At the same time, however, violence against men should also be addressed.


Mr. Shareef added that what was important to the Helsinki Process was to see what was being done on the ground to solve that problem and what should be done.  He did not have all the answers, but something would emerge from the Conference, where, together, the participants would try to push implementation of a solution.  That was the difference between the Helsinki Process and other initiatives. 


To a series of questions about the emphasis on the environment, the panellists indicated that issues of the environment, deeply connected to the Millennium Declaration, had been very much at the centre of the Group’s deliberations.  The question of the environment was taken very seriously.


You speak of political will, but what about the economics of the solutions? another correspondent asked.  Finland’s Foreign Minister said that development, in all parts of the world, would benefit the world economy as a whole.  So, if there was stagnation or problems in the North, for example, leaving the South unattended was not going to help.  On the contrary, growth and development in the South would also help the North. 


Asked about the commitments to 0.7 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) for official development assistance (ODA), he said he believed that all countries were committed to that goal and to the Millennium Development Goals.  The ODA question was very high on the agendas.  His own Government today had received a motion of confidence in its Parliament for the first time ever on whether it was meeting its ODA goals fast enough.  He welcomed the interest of the opposition in raising that issue in such a fashion.


Mr. Shareef added that a uniqueness of the Helsinki Process was to try to push those who had committed themselves to implementing certain goals to fulfil their commitments. 


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For information media. Not an official record.