7 September 2006
Effective Partnerships for Human Security, Sustainable Development Theme, as Annual DPI/NGO Conference Opens at Headquarters
NEW YORK, 6 September (UN Headquarters) -- The fifty-ninth DPI/NGO Conference kicked off today at United Nations Headquarters in New York with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society activists from over 50 countries set to tackle the unfinished business of implementing the Millennium Development Goals and to spotlight strategic partnership-building -- with United Nations agencies and each other -- to help ensure human security and sustainable development for all.
As an annual three-day meeting ahead of the opening of the General Assembly, this year's Conference, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with associated NGOs, will look at Unfinished Business: Effective Partnerships for Human Security and Sustainable Development and aim to build on what has already been accomplished by greater NGO, private sector and civil society participation in many of the debates taking place at the United Nations, including informal interactive hearings convened by the General Assembly President during the past two years.
"We need your voices, we need your contributions", said Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden, welcoming the NGOs as partners working with the United Nations for the basic pursuit of life and dignity for all. NGOs were an inspiring and strengthening element, whether they supported the United Nations or pushed it further, and indeed, civil society was the link to "We the peoples," the phrase that opened the Charter. "Without passion, nothing happens in life, but without compassion, the wrong things happen in life", he said, stressing that the NGO community was guided by those two words. It was only through the combination of those words that they really worked.
Keynote speaker Álvaro García Linera, Vice-President of Bolivia, speaking on behalf of Bolivian President Evo Morales, urged the civil society representatives to press their home Governments, particularly in the north, to stop perpetuating the centuries-old, "one size fits all development" myth. Addressing the Conference via live video-link, he said that the industry-first myth had been used to systematically marginalize or even destroy agricultural livelihoods for years. But, it was clear that the earth simply could not sustain a linear pattern of consumption disguised as development.
Development was not something that belonged to only one social group or tribe, he said. It was time to do away with mechanisms that sustained discrimination, marginalization and even neo-colonialism, which would require comprehensive debates and discussions between Governments and their peoples. In that endeavour, the contribution of NGOs and civil society partners would be crucial. Such organizations were open-minded and understood that pluralism was the way forward, he added.
In a special address touching on the Conference's human security theme, Katsutoshi Kaneda, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the dynamism sparked by today's unprecedented technological progress and economic development created numerous opportunities, but also new tensions. The traditional framework of State security -- protecting national borders against external dangers -- could not by itself protect citizens from new threats such as environmental degradation and transnational organized crime.
Therefore, the international community urgently needed "a new paradigm of security, one redefined from the citizen's perspective," he declared. NGOs and civil society had a major role in implementing human security, since they best embodied the people-centred approach. They were ideally suited to putting human security into practice on the ground through community based development and, as providers of humanitarian assistance, were also indispensable for ensuring human security in emergency situations. He expressed the hope that the NGOs' presence would energize the debate and lead to meaningful contributions to human security and sustainable development -- "two of the great challenges of the twenty-first century".
Raymond Sommereyns, Director, Outreach Division, DPI, gave a brief overview of the Conference's aims and schedule of events. He said that some 2,500 NGO and civil society representatives had registered to participate, and he thanked all those that had come to New York, from all points on the map, as well as those who would be watching the simultaneous webcast. He also reminded everyone that online participants would be able to submit questions via the Internet during plenary sessions.
After the opening statements, several NGO representatives took the floor, including Renate Bloem, President, Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), who highlighted crucial issues related to cooperation. She said the Conference's provocative title suggested that effective partnerships had yet to be built in the fields of human security and sustainable development. It was worthwhile, therefore, to cooperate with DPI and have consultative status with the United Nations.
Focusing on the role of youth in forging partnerships for a better future, Conference Chair and Co-Chair of its Planning Committee, Michaela Walsh, asked everyone in the room under 30 years old to stand and to introduce themselves to a "more mature" NGO representative. "Exchange names and e-mail addresses," she said, urging them all to reconnect before the Conference ended Friday to exchange at least one new idea about how to tackle human development and security issues at the grass-roots level. If only 25 per cent did that, it would go a long way towards changing the way the United Nations worked and the way the world thought.
Joan Kirby, Chair of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, said the Committee -- which aimed to disseminate information about the United Nations to NGOs worldwide -- was in fine condition and prepared to move forward. She updated the Conference on the panel's work during the past year, and stressed that excellent summaries of weekly briefings on the work of the United Nations, including of the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as events such as World Health Day and the commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, had been e-mailed to NGOs and had fast become a handy and accessible resource and information tool.
A panel discussion in the afternoon on "Moving development forward: Accountability, Transparency, Equitable Trade Policies", was highlighted by a detailed presentation by Hans Blix, Chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, who stressed that many NGOs "spoke in a direct way" to promote and defend common global needs and values. Governments inevitably saw global issues through the lens of their national interests. NGOs were doing great work in demanding facts and transparency and waking the world up to the reality that the process of arms control and disarmament had stagnated. They rendered invaluable service by critically examining information and Government action -- and inaction -- in that regard.
He said the security of States and people must be sought through more cooperation and negotiation, and less through military threats and force. The disasters in Iraq and Lebanon had shown the consequences of an exaggerated belief in, and reliance on the military. Among the many steps that could be taken to that end was the full use of the potential of the United Nations and the Secretary-General to help solve controversies. The Charter, drafted at the end of the Second World War, did not rule out the use of military force in some situations, but, its authors had seen the effects of war, favoured disarmament and were not trigger happy.
Katherine Marshall, Senior Advisor, Development Dialogue on Values and Ethics, World Bank, served as the panel's moderator. Other panellists were: Grace Nshemeire, Low Unit Pack Champion, Unilever; Mal Nuhu Ribadu, Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Government of Nigeria; Lester Salamon, Director, Centre for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies; and Christopher Sinckler, Executive Coordinator, Caribbean Policy Development Centre.
The Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m., Thursday, 7 September.
The fifty-ninth DPI/NGO Conference, entitled "Unfinished Business: Effective Partnerships for Human Security and Sustainable Development", met today to begin its annual three-day session.
The gathering, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI) in cooperation with associated non-governmental organizations (NGOs), brings together more than 2,500 NGO representatives and other civil society partners from all over the world to discuss ways and means for strengthening collaboration between local communities and global institutions, with speakers being asked in particular to illustrate their work on the ground by real-life examples of effective partnerships to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
RAYMOND SOMMEREYNS, Director, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), said that the audio visual presentation that had kicked off today's events, How Are You? The Millennium Development Goals, had been scheduled to be screened at the closing session of last year's Conference, but, due to technical difficulties, that "very moving and still relevant work" had not been shown.
Turning to the current Conference, he said that, as of this morning, some 2,500 non-governmental organizations and civil society representatives had registered to participate in the three day event, entitled "Unfinished Business: Effective Partnerships for Human Security and Sustainable Development". He thanked all those that had come to New York, from all points on the map, as well as those who would be watching the simultaneous webcast. He also reminded everyone that online participants would be able to submit questions via the Internet during plenary sessions.
He added that for the first time, the Conference's registration process had been environmentally friendly by allowing participants to register online. Finally, he briefly ran through the Conference's meeting and discussion schedule, noting, among other things, that, this year, the number of round tables had been increased from four to six, and that those talks would cover issues ranging from education to health, human security and civil society partnerships.
JAN ELIASSON, President of the General Assembly, said NGOs brought life and vitality to the Organization. During his United Nations reform efforts, he had always said that the realities had to be brought into the building, such as realities of hunger and repression, but also the dreams and expectations people had of the Organization. The NGOs were an inspiring and strengthening element, whether they supported the United Nations or pushed it further, they were the links to "We, the peoples". They were also partners in the three great Summit pursuits: to work for peace and security, sustainable development and respect for human rights. There was a growing interdependence between those three pillars. By strengthening one pillar of the Organization, the other pillars were also strengthened.
Taking a sip of water, he said for 1.2 billion people in the world, that action was a luxury. Concrete areas such as clean water and girls' education were where the NGOs came in. The United Nations had to pass a huge test, namely the test of multilateralism. It had to be proven that "the world together is more powerful than the world alone". It had to be proven that strengthening the United Nations was a good thing for the world. If the value of multilateralism was not proven, others would push for unilateralism. That was why reform of the United Nations was important.
He said it had been a hectic and enriching year. More had been done than had been expected, including establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Human Rights Council, and the Convention on Disabilities. The counter-terrorist strategy and the revitalization of the General Assembly were still left to do. "We need your voices, we need your contributions", he said, welcoming the NGOs as partners in working for the basic pursuit of life and dignity for all. "Without passion, nothing happens in life, but without compassion, the wrong things happen in life", he said, emphasizing that the NGO community was guided by those two words. It was only through the combination of those words that they really worked, which proved that "together, one is more powerful than alone".
ÁLVARO GARCÍA LINERA, Vice-President of Bolivia, spoke on behalf of Bolivian President Evo Morales, the country's first modern indigenous leader, who was sworn in last January promising to fight for human rights, peace, freedom and the right to cultivate the coca leaf as a natural resource for the dignity of Bolivians. Addressing the Conference via video-link, Mr. Linera said that the idea that there was only one type of development had been a myth perpetuated for more than two centuries. That view, which had systematically diminished and even wiped out agricultural ventures, cultures and livelihoods, had been promoted by the major powers. But it was clear that this notion of "single-form development" was no longer sustainable.
The Earth simply could not sustain a linear pattern of consumption disguised as development, he said. A new view was emerging that aimed to counter efforts to subordinate small countries to the wishes of the major Powers. There was now the understanding that all peoples, irrespective of geography and culture, had the right of access to knowledge and goods to address the vital needs of their societies. Everything that human beings produced was "universal property" and should contribute to the betterment of all humankind, he said.
Bolivia believed that the relativistic view of development, as well as the positive aspects of the linear development could be synthesized to end dominance and subordination. Development was not something that belonged to only one social group or tribe, he added. It was time to do away with mechanisms that sustained discrimination, marginalization and even neo-colonialism. That would require comprehensive debates and discussions between Governments and their peoples, and in that endeavour, the contribution of NGOs and civil society partners would be crucial. Such organizations were open-minded and understood that pluralism was the way forward.
KATSUTOSHI KANEDA, Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the world today was marked by unprecedented technological progress and economic development, as well as by the rapid global movement of goods, services, finances and people. That dynamism had created numerous opportunities but also new tensions, including poverty, conflict, infectious disease, environmental degradation, transnational organized crime and terrorism. The traditional framework of State security -- protecting national borders against external dangers -- could not by itself protect citizens from those new threats. The international community urgently needed "a new paradigm of security, one redefined from the citizen's perspective".
He said the concept of human security aimed at protecting the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhanced human freedoms and human fulfilment. It tried to give each individual the building blocks to protect his or her own safety, livelihood and dignity and was people-centred. While States had the principle responsibility for protecting their citizens, human security sought to play an active part in helping citizens to define and exercise their freedoms. Non-governmental organizations and civil society had a major role in implementing human security, since they best embodied the people-centred approach. They were ideally suited to putting human security into practice on the ground through community-based development and, as providers of humanitarian assistance, were also indispensable for ensuring human security in emergency situations.
Governments, international organizations and public and private institutions had made individual efforts to address various crises, but their responses had been fragmented, he said. It was essential to integrate responses based on real demands on the ground. One such attempt was the Trust Fund for Human Security established at the United Nations in 1999 through Japan's initiative. It was open to United Nations agencies and assisted them in implementing projects aimed at addressing human security concerns. The Trust Fund placed a major emphasis on partnership with NGOs and civil society. Over 150 projects had been carried out across the world.
He said that today, the United Nations was struggling to meet challenges in complex emergencies and crises and also carrying out sustainable development initiatives -- two interrelated issues. The whole reform effort at the United Nations should take a people-centred approach and seek to create an Organization that could provide efficient, effective and timely assistance. Today's fragmented responses to current threats needed to be integrated by protecting and empowering people. As actors working at the grass-roots level, NGOs and civil society organizations would have an increasingly important role in that process.
"We [the international community] need a clear acknowledgement of the challenges we face, the interconnectedness of the issues and the need to deal with them in an integrated, not fragmented, manner." Early action was important, he said -- "to engage in such action, we need to build a strong global partnership that can be a platform for everyone. The annual DPI/NGO Conference is a precious opportunity to mobilize our energies towards that end." He expressed the hope that the NGOs' presence would energize the debate and lead to meaningful contributions to human security and sustainable development -- "two of the great challenges of the twenty-first century".
JOAN KIRBY, Chair of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, said the Committee -- which aimed to disseminate information about the United Nations to NGOs worldwide -- was in fine condition and prepared to move forward. She updated the Conference on the panel's work during the past year, and stressed that excellent summaries of weekly briefings on the work of the United Nations, including of the General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as events such as World Health Day and the commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, had been e-mailed to NGOs and had fast become a handy and accessible resource and information tool.
She also highlighted the series of NGO/civil society hearings that had been held with the General Assembly during the past year. Further, she informed the Conference that an ad hoc panel had been set up to liaise with the NGO community as the Organization ramped up its efforts to implement the Capital Master Plan. Still, she stressed that there was a need to broaden the United Nations NGO outreach, as well as its efforts to partner civil society groups with each other to tackle relevant issues.
A recent survey on the level of recognition of the Committee's work had revealed a real need to get beyond New York and North America. Some suggestions to address that concern included holding a yearly round table, or appointing regional chairs that at least covered the six United Nations-established regional groups. She urged the participants to fill out the evaluation sheets that had been circulated so that the Committee could get a better idea of their experience over the next three days.
RENATE BLOEM, President, Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), said the aim of CONGO was to empower civil society to better contribute to the United Nations and to strengthen the United Nations in a consultative way. It was complementary to the Executive Committee.
This year's Conference title was provocative, suggesting that effective partnerships had yet to be built in the fields of human security and sustainable development, she said. At the same time, it was worthwhile to cooperate with DPI and have consultative status with the United Nations. That cooperation was also a necessity for the United Nations. Multi-stakeholder partnerships were broader, however. Therefore, not only the United Nations needed to evolve, the NGOs had to evolve as well.
She said she knew that many NGO activists were reluctant to cooperate with other civil society actors, such local authorities, trade unions and the private sector. The difficulties in cooperation between NGOs and trade unions, for instance, were well known. But in order to achieve human security and sustainable development, the NGOs and unions had to work together.
Non-governmental organizations' responsibilities were growing, she continued. The international community of Governments was shifting to a global community of various actors, including civil society actors and the private sector, to implement the multi-stakeholder approach initiated in Johannesburg in 2002 and culminating in the International Conference on Information and Communication Technology. During the last Conference, Governments, private sector and civil society had worked together on equal footing for the first time. It was the responsibility of NGOs to increase the interest of the private sector in the activities of the United Nations, keeping in mind that every actor had its specific role. Implementing the Millennium Development Goals was the number one issue where the most effective multi-stakeholder partnerships had been initiated.
Although airings of NGOs' views during the General Assembly high-level session were very important, she said they should not replace any existing mechanism of civil society participation. She noted that NGOs were beginning to have good cooperation with the newly established Human Rights Council. The Security Council also needed to become more open to people. The knowledge of NGOs on specific situations on the ground was unique and should be heard. "New and stronger partnerships are an unavoidable necessity and as yet unfinished business", she said in conclusion.
MICHAELA WALSH, Conference Chair and Co-Chair of the Conference Planning Committee, said that many had asked why she had accepted the challenge of heading up the Conference, and to all she had stressed that it was important to redefine the links between civil society, the United Nations and communities in the developing world. This was not a conference for political statements and recitation of statistics -- speakers were invited to share grass-roots experiences highlighting their ideas about changing the lives of others. Indeed, she had found that grass-roots activists -- particularly women -- always knew more about real life needs and concerns than Government agencies or experts, United Nations-affiliated or not.
But the United Nations was still the only global corridor for civilized conversation, she said, urging all those that had come to New York, particularly the large number of youth representatives, to participate actively in the scheduled events over the next three days. The world's youth had a lot to add to the Conference as they represented a generation that did not know life without instant messaging, text messaging, the Internet and countless other methods of connecting with their counterparts worldwide in the blink of an eye.
She urged everyone to think about and exchange ideas on how to comprehensively address the pressing concerns of the day, including the digital divide, lack of electricity and clean water, as well as global warming and other issues that affected sustainable development and human security.
One of the aims of the Conference had always been to facilitate and boost civic networking opportunities. With that in mind, she asked everyone in the room under 30 years old to stand and to introduce themselves to a "more mature" NGO representative. "Exchange names and e-mail addresses", she said, urging them all to reconnect before the Conference ended Friday afternoon to exchange at least one new idea about how to tackle human development and security issues at the grass-roots level. If only 25 per cent did that, she said, it would go a long way towards changing the way the United Nations worked and the way the world thought.
Afternoon Panel Discussion on "Moving Development Forward"
KATHERINE MARSHALL, Senior Advisor, Development Dialogue on Values and Ethics, World Bank, served as Moderator for a panel discussion on "Moving Development Forward: Accountability, Transparency, Equitable Trade Policies", in which the following also participated: Hans Blix, Chairman, Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission; Grace Nshemeire, Low Unit Pack Champion, Unilever; Mal Nuhu Ribadu, Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Government of Nigeria; Lester Salamon, Director, Centre for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies; and Christopher Sinckler, Executive Coordinator, Caribbean Policy Development Centre.
Ms. MARSHALL said the objective of the panel was to look at new thinking and new insights. The basic theme was partnerships and how partnerships were affected not only by the new dimensions of the information age, but, also by the changing kaleidoscope of actors. The discussion would have a particular focus on poverty and equity, and, also at aspects of human security. During last week's World Conference of Religions for Peace, the concept of human security had been framed in terms of shared security. Security could not be achieved without addressing the issues of poverty in the world and without shared security for all. There was no individual security. The discussion would be focusing on the significance of accountability and transparency in the light of information age.
Mr. BLIX said many NGOs provided direct and vitally needed help and spoke in a direct way to promote and defend common global needs and values. Governments inevitably saw global issues through the lens of their national interests. NGOs were doing great work in demanding facts and transparency and waking the world up to the reality that the process of arms control and disarmament had stagnated. They rendered invaluable service by critically examining information and Government action -- and inaction.
He said, rarely had the need for critical thinking been so clearly demonstrated as after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and rarely had the reports of international fact-finders, views of NGOs and public opinion been as ignored as before that invasion. The world had been told that the invasion would lead to the "moment of truth". It did, and the truth was that there were no weapons of mass destruction. "In 2003, a State and a people were sentenced -- not by the world but by some of the world -- to war and invasion on erroneous grounds, 'faith-based' -- even 'fake-based' -- intelligence". It was not "peace through truth", but "war through untruth".
There was a strange irony that Iraq -- and Saddam -- could probably have avoided the war, if the international inspectors had been enabled to stay in Iraq, he said. There was another irony that the alliance of willing States would probably have refrained from their invasion, if they had paid more attention to the truthful reporting of the international inspections. "An important lesson to draw is that, international professional inspections such as it has been practiced under the United Nations, the IAEA and the Chemical Weapons Convention, is an important tool in the search for truth," he said. The inspections were in nobody's pocket and were done openly and legally under the control of the international community.
He said, from the time of The Hague Peace Conferences of the 19th century to the present, many NGOs had campaigned against the use of indiscriminate and particularly cruel weapons and had arms control and disarmament on their agendas. A few months ago, the independent international Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction had presented its report, with a central message that in the last decade the arms control and disarmament process had stagnated. It must be revived and pursued in parallel with the efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to further States and to terrorist movements. NGOs needed to renew and reinforce their work to push that process.
It might have been expected that arms control and disarmament would have become easier after the end of the cold war, but the opposite seemed to be true, he said. Several treaties and conventions had been adopted. Among them, the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 had made a global bargain. Non-nuclear weapon States committed themselves not to acquire those weapons and five nuclear weapon States committed themselves to negotiate toward nuclear disarmament. However, the treaty and the fundamental bargain were under strain today. Iraq, Libya and North Korea had ignored their non-proliferation pledges and the five nuclear weapon States were not living up to their pledges for nuclear disarmament. Worse, the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was left in limbo and would remain so, unless the United States and China and some other States ratified it.
Mr. Blix said that, not surprisingly, the 2005 Review Conference of the NPT had ended in bitterness, with many non-nuclear weapon States feeling cheated. The 2005 World Summit had not been unable to agree on a single line regarding arms control, disarmament or non-proliferation. "Sadly, in the last ten years, we have been witnessing not only a stagnation in the sphere of arms control and disarmament, but, also an attribution of greater importance to nuclear weapons and interest in their development." Such developments included development of a missile shield and development of new types of nuclear weapons. It was hard to see now the development of new types of nuclear weapons could be meaningful in countering terrorism or dissuading States, which might be bent on nuclear proliferation. "Preaching arms control to others while practicing rearmament is not a recipe for success," he said.
After the cold war, the whole world -- including the great powers -- needed to get serious about security through cooperation, development, the rule of law, and arms control and disarmament, in both conventions, weapons and weapons of mass destruction. The security of States and people must be sought through more cooperation and negotiation, and less through military threats and force. The disasters in Iraq and Lebanon had shown the consequences of an exaggerated belief in, and reliance on, military surgery. Many steps could be taken, including the elimination of chemical and biological weapons, ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by the United States and other States; and conclusion of a treaty, prohibiting the production of fissile material for weapons, and providing for effective international verification.
Another step was the full use of the potential of the United Nations and the Secretary-General to help solve controversies. The United Nations Charter, drafted at the end of the Second World War, did not rule out the use of military force in some situations, but, its authors had seen the effects of war, favoured disarmament and were not trigger happy.
GRACE NSHEMEIRE, Low Unit Pack Champion, Unilever ( Kenya), said when reference was made to fair or equitable trade practices, discussions usually touched on labour practices and rarely touched on micro-level issues. In Africa, she said trade was driven by temporary stands, stalls or retail outlets selling fast-moving consumer goods like flour, cooking oil and sugar, often on one or two appointed days a week. Such "retail operations", small though they were, affected local economies at the "bottom of the rung" level because they were often family-run, and they were often located inside neighbourhoods, thus negating the need for transportation or fuel use. Often, families even lived in the outlet. Overhead was low and the start-up costs were minimal.
That was important in communities where people were living on less than $1 a day. They were the first steps for entrepreneurship, particularly because they were a more predictable source of income than subsistence and agricultural farming that was dependent on the weather. She said that the "low unit pack" strategy -- packaging items such as shampoo, detergent or toothpaste in small or single-use quantities -- had become a successful tool to spur sales.
But, there were problems, she continued. Many of the structures were semi-permanent and many retailers were harassed by local councils, who could force a stall to close down at any given moment and charge exorbitant fees to reopen the same stall the next day. She called for better licensing procedures, enhanced marketing and linkage -- particularly to local farmers -- for the supply of some ingredients, and increasing food production and training in best-agricultural practices in target communities throughout Africa.
MAL NUHU RIBADU, Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Government of Nigeria, said that any discussion of "moving development forward" must not only focus on ways to help everyone overcome hunger, poverty and development challenges, but, on ways to fast track sustained development for all, so that no country would be left behind. For Africa, which had been plagued by a host of corrupt leaders -- from Nigeria's General Sani Abacha to Liberia's Charles Taylor -- that meant ensuring accountability and good governance. The main difference between African countries and developed countries was simply the difference in how the affairs of State were handled, he declared.
With that in mind, he said. Nigeria was turning up the heat on bad actors and sparing no effort in ensuring good governance and the rule of law. If anyone asked him, he would say to African leaders "Why don't you make poor governance history and, through that, you will make poverty history." In that way, they could end the hunger and disease that were ravaging the continent's villages and cities.
If governance wasn't cleaned up and, accountability and transparency ensured at every level, Africa would never get value for the goods it produced. Nigeria had begun to turn itself around. The people and the Government were angry and had said "enough is enough". The Government was actively convicting corrupt officials and other bad actors, and had been able to recover well over $5 billion. He called on civil society to become the foot soldiers in the battle against corrupt officials.
LESTER SALAMON, Director, Centre for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, said there was a strategy for solutions for complex problems, which had implications for the civil society sector: collaboration by the different social sectors, namely government, business and civil society. That strategy recognized that the government entity could not solve all problems alone. It was a deconstruction of public action and had produced an array of options for public policy, which brought new energies and opportunities for civil society organizations. Challenges included development of new procedures and new protections against corruption. There were opportunities to expand the range of action of civil society organizations. They would, however, need to address three challenges: consciousness, conscientiousness and competence. Consciousness was a matter of bringing civil society out of the shadow. Conscientiousness referred to the challenge of transparency, not only of Governments, but also of the civil society sector. Competence was the challenge of being effective.
The consciousness challenge was the most basic one, he continued. In many parts of the world, civil society had been hidden and ignored. However, in recent years, the visibility of the civil society organizations had increased and it had been recognized that they represented an enormous economic force around the world, with 48.4 million people working in the sector. Expenditures stood at $1.9 trillion, rivalling the fifth largest economy of the world, if it were a country. He called on all to seize an opportunity arising from the adoption by the United Nations Statistical Commission of a new handbook called the "Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts". Twenty-six countries had already committed to implement the Handbook's prescriptions and nine had assembled the data in question. Giving examples of the power of civil society as an economic entity, he said the civil society sector was also a dynamic force, growing faster than the gross domestic product in many countries.
CHRISTOPHER SINCKLER, Executive Coordinator, Caribbean Policy Development Centre, said that the Caribbean region had often been exemplary in implementing good governance and sound economic policies, but, economic policies decided outside its sphere of influence had an impact on the level of poverty. The multilateral trade system was more certain to destroy a job than to create one and it had created more trade deficits than trade surpluses. During the period from 1960 to 1990, the Caribbean region had done quite well, both economically and socially, as all had been categorized as middle-income countries. However, nowadays several countries had very weak economies, as they were totally dependent on tourism. Hardly any country had an industrial base. Those weaknesses were sustained by such impediments as lack of economies of scale, limited domestic markets, high costs of inputs, reliance on a narrow export base, and vulnerability to natural disasters.
He said one would hope that those issues would be recognized in the international trading system. However, the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision on two disputes, namely on bananas and sugar, had lead to the loss of millions of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars. A reduction in tariffs on rice had turned Haiti, a former rice exporter into a rice importer. Because of cheap and subsidized European dairy products, the dairy industry in Jamaica had been destroyed. It was, therefore, possible for countries to be good international citizens, with good macroeconomic policies, to be democratic, members of the WTO and the United Nations and, following the liberal prescriptions for management, to be "graduated" back to poverty.
Responding to a question about the way forward in dealing with the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, Mr. Blix said that, ultimately, it was important to overcome the current stalemate facing the disarmament movement. There had been some movement in that regard, particularly in the area of biological weapons. But, the promise of forward momentum following the end of the cold war had not been fulfilled. He called on the NGO community to start the drumbeat to bring about total disarmament. And, while it was clear that 2006 would not be the year that that would occur, the situation "couldn't get any worse," so perhaps the time for action was now.
To a question about ensuring good governance, Mr. Ribadu said the critical issue for Africa and poor countries was establishing justice structures, so that locals had faith in their Governments and, most importantly, felt that they were not being cheated by corrupt officials. Illegal moneys must be taken out of the pockets of corrupt officials, particularly since bribery and graft were wrecking communities and lives just as much as guns and ammunition.
When asked if dealing with corruption was as important as addressing outside threats to development, like trade imbalances, Mr. Ribadu agreed that correcting market inequities was indeed important, but, said that, at the same time, it was critical for countries and Governments to address head on the problems that they brought on themselves.
Mr. Sinckler added that corruption bred uncertainty, and that was what made eradicating that scourge so critical. It was impossible to construct modern societies and economies, if ordinary people could not trust the systems and officials on which they depended on a daily basis.
On the accountability of civil society, Mr. Salamon said the most obvious way to address that serious issue was to promote transparency on the part of civic organizations. He favoured, in that regard, Government regulations that required organizational accountability. But, at the same time, it was important to ensure that civil society organizations remained outside Government control.
Asked if he had any advice for Iran, Mr. BLIX said it would be desirable for Iran to suspend its quest to enrich uranium, because if it continued, it would increase tensions in the region. At the same time, he felt that the international community's approach had not been constructive. The European Union and the United States must clearly define all options on the table. All sides should sit down and talk, he said, adding that all efforts at negotiation must be exhausted.
On the "oil for food" programme, he said that there had been a huge misconception about that controversy. It had been his experience that the United Nations was not corrupt. It was a huge Organization that, at times, might be poorly managed, but overall, it was not corrupt. He added that the loudest hue and cry on the matter should have come from, and been directed at, "our rulers" -- the Security Council -- who knew exactly what was going on and yet did nothing about it.
Wrapping up the panel, Ms. Marshall said the discussion had opened on a "gloomy" note, focusing on the issue of disarmament, the failure of governance and corruption, as well as the lack of clarity on matters related to trade and avoidable misery, highlighted by the global scandal of poverty. But, overall, the panel had evinced a feeling of the "possible", the "doable"; the idea that new paradigms were emerging that could hopefully jump start worldwide change on the development and human security fronts.
She noted that there had also been some interesting comments made about the emergence of various "new governance" structures in the twenty-first century, and the need to integrate the potential of civil society into that new dynamism. The panellists had also emphasized the importance of international institutions, such as the United Nations, and their role at ensuring a better world for all.
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