|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2542|
|Release Date: 13 April 2000|
| Secretary-General, in Havana on Eve of First ‘Group of 77’ Summit Meeting,
Evokes Promises and Pitfalls of Globalization
NEW YORK, 12 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to faculty and students of the University of Havana, delivered yesterday, 11 April:
Thank you for that very warm welcome. It is a great honour to join you today at this distinguished university, one of the oldest in the Americas, which has schooled so many of Cuban's leading artists, scientists and philosophers, and which, over these many years, has always had a keen sense of the national political mood.
I am very pleased to be here for my second visit to Cuba -- and my first as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I am today in Havana to visit one of the founding Member States of the United Nations. But there are also more profound reasons why I am glad to have come.
Cuba may be among the world's smaller nations in terms of population and size, but its geography and history have given it a special place in the global consciousness. Cuba knows first-hand the ravages of colonialism. Cuba knows the fallout of this century's ideological and superpower competition. Cuba knows the scarcity and hardship that are the plight of so much of humankind. And Cuba knows the strains -- but more importantly the satisfactions -- of building a society of diverse peoples and influences. So a visit to Cuba is in many respects an encounter with history itself, and it is gratifying to see at least some of this for myself during my short stay on the island.
The resonance of Cuba's story on the world stage leads me to focus my remarks today on the phenomenon that defines our world at the dawn of a new century. I speak, of course, about globalization.
It may seem ironic for me to broach the issue of globalization here in Cuba -- a country that has been under a wide-ranging embargo for so many years. I do so because the process of globalization affects every single country in the world, and most of the citizens of the world, even those who have not heard the word "globalization". For globalization is not new; commerce and cultures have criss-crossed the face of our planet for centuries. Coca-Cola is often mentioned as the prime example of globalization at work; but the humble potato from the Americas conquered the globe centuries ago. Cuba itself served as landfall for some of the
first transatlantic explorers, and as a destination and entrepôt for one of the earliest global markets: the sordid trade in human beings. Even then, globalization had its darker side. But globalization today is different: its logic seems inexorable, its momentum is profound, and its potential is far greater than in any previous period of accelerated contacts on a global scale.
To those already enjoying them, the benefits of globalization are clear: faster economic growth, higher living standards, the rapid spread of new technology and modern management skills. It is creating wider choices and new opportunities for individuals and countries alike; and it is bringing people together in new and productive coalitions, overcoming barriers of distance, diversity and indifference.
But let me hasten to add that, at present, only a relatively small number of countries are enjoying these gains. Many millions of people are excluded, left behind in squalor not because they have been exposed to too much globalization but because they have had too little or none at all. Developing countries in particular face a range of obstacles to their participation in the global economy: high tariffs for their goods, crushing debt burdens, and their own poverty and underdevelopment. Conflict, corruption and disease -- including the AIDS epidemic, which is quickly becoming a global social crisis -- are other formidable constraints.
Notwithstanding the embargo, Cuba's achievements in social development are impressive given the size of its gross domestic product per capita. As the human development index of the United Nations makes clear year after year, Cuba should be the envy of many other nations, ostensibly far richer. This success does not, of course, alleviate the need for a global economic and political environment that is more conducive to the countries of the South. But it does demonstrate how much nations can do with the resources they have if they focus on the right priorities -- health, education and literacy. Cuba has created much to build on when the day comes -- soon, I hope -- for it to play its full part in globalization.
If exclusion is one serious failing of globalization as it stands today, another is the imbalance that has emerged between what global markets can and cannot do. Globalization cannot be regarded or pursued as a solely economic phenomenon, separate from the complex fabric of social and political life. It must mean more than creating bigger markets, because market forces alone, shooting off on their own trajectory, will never ensure that the needs of all people and their societies can be met. Much has been done to devise, and enforce, rules that facilitate the expansion of global markets. But attempts to address equally urgent social objectives -- such as eradicating poverty, protecting the environment and promoting human rights and labour standards -- have lagged behind.
The result is a growing backlash. Many millions experience globalization not as an agent of progress but as a disruptive force, capable of destroying jobs, traditions and even a society's cohesion, sometimes with lightning speed.
Even in the countries which others see as the driving force of globalization, ordinary people often feel they are at the mercy of unpredictable forces. Our central challenge is clear: we must ensure that globalization becomes a positive and equitable force for all the world's people.
The issue, in my view, is primarily one of governance: how the international community of sovereign States and multilateral organizations copes with global challenges; and how individual nations manage their own affairs so as to play their part, pull their weight and serve their peoples. Governance at the international level is, of course, very much the concern of the United Nations. The multilateral system that exists today is a major achievement, given the terrible period of isolationism and world war which preceded it before 1945. What is not widely known today is that rules and institutions do exist which enable States to manage many different forms of global activity. Shipping, aviation, telecommunications, weather-forecasting, trademarks, patents, statistics, pharmaceuticals -- all these and more fall within the purview of United Nations agencies. The more we find ourselves living in a single economic space, the more we will depend on such essential services, norms and rules.
But the multilateral system as we know it needs updating and strengthening. We need changes in key decision-making structures such as the United Nations Security Council and in the international financial system. We need to open the international public domain to the diverse forces of civil society. We need private companies that show a stronger commitment to corporate citizenship. And we need a robust international legal order, with effective bodies such as the International Criminal Court and far better adherence to international human rights treaties, which are the accepted yardsticks of progress in the human condition. Indeed, international law is the language of the global community -- the means by which sovereign States can relate to one another and jointly steer the course of their common destiny.
But in a globalized world -- a world in which borders and sovereignty are becoming more fluid in both conception and practice -- States have a dual role. They are responsible simultaneously to their citizens and to the community of nations. It is not just that national behaviour has international ramifications; we have seen this in many different contexts, from refugee flows to cross-border pollution. More crucially, there is an essential link between how well a State organizes its affairs and how much its people can benefit from economic change. A well-functioning international system -- open, democratic, equitable -- can create vast new opportunities for States. Creating that system is our mission. But even if we achieved that goal today, some nations would be better equipped than others to seize those opportunities. Ultimately, national action is the determining factor. If there is a single idea that embodies the sum total of national action, that idea is good governance.
Earlier today, in my meeting with him, President Castro urged with passion that in speaking of governance, we should not overlook those actions of a government which promote the well-being of individuals in society -- such as accessible and affordable education, universal health care, and the availability of various means to fulfil human potential. Low infant mortality and universal literacy are themselves indicators of successful human development. I do not think that any fair-minded person would disagree with President Castro on the importance of these factors.
Now the principles of good governance, if not universally practised, are at least accepted: they include the rule of law, transparent and accountable public administration, respect for human rights, effective State institutions such as independent judiciaries, and the participation of all citizens -- including women and minorities -- in decisions that affect their lives. With such an enabling framework, a nation's creative energies can be liberated; without them, a nation will be unable to compete in the global economy. With them, a nation is more likely to have confidence in itself, and to enjoy the confidence of others, including outside partners and investors. Without, a nation is more likely to stagnate, and be unable to realize its potential. A State that denies itself open, democratic processes and institutions will thereby impede the development and progress of its people, denying them the chance to interact fully with the larger world. So, if the United Nations is to help its Member States to manage the forces of globalization successfully, it must also help them, when they invite it to do so, to meet their internal challenges.
I would now like to say a particular word to the students gathered here today.
I know that the passage from a student life to a full professional life, with greater responsibilities, is a transition that gives rise to hopes, enthusiasm, and also uncertainties. You are more privileged than students in many other countries for, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 60 million young graduates around the world are searching in vain for work. There is nothing more devastating and disheartening than joblessness among people with such energy and passion for social change. In partnership with other multilateral organizations, including the ILO, I am convening a policy network of the most creative leaders in industry, civil society and economic policy to explore solutions to this difficult challenge and create more opportunities for youth.
The United Nations has to deal with grand themes and grand projects. We have done so at greater length in the Millennium Report I have just presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations. These themes and initiatives will be on the agenda, throughout this year, as non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, religious leaders gather in New York for a series of millennium events aimed at nothing less than agreeing on a common vision for the new era. This series of forums will culminate with the opening at United Nations Headquarters, on 6 September 2000, of the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, which is likely to be the largest ever gathering of heads of State and heads of government. The Summit, which will last three days, will be convened under the overall theme of "The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century". I am confident that the outcome of the first Summit Meeting of the Group of 77, which will open tomorrow in the beautiful city of Havana, will be a positive contribution towards the Millennium Summit of the United Nations. I am most grateful to the Government and people of Cuba for hosting the South Summit.
As I look around this room, this beautiful Aula Magna, I am inspired by the breadth of learning that occurs at this institution, and by the hope that you will come of age connected to the rest of the world -- through trade, travel and the Internet -- in a way no previous generation has been. Most of all I am inspired by the sense that you can make a real difference in putting this ambitious agenda into effect.
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