For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2601
Release Date: 27 June 2000
Economic Growth About People -- Their Health, Education, Security,
Says Secretary-General to Forum Geneva 2000

NEW YORK, 26 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the opening ceremony of the Forum Geneva 2000 in Geneva on 25 June:

Thank you all for your kind words.  I don't want to make a long speech to you this evening.  As you know, I have to speak tomorrow in the special session -- and the special session is the reason why we are all here.

Your presence is at least as important as mine.  If there is one thing we have all learned from the experience of the 1990s it is that no special session of the General Assembly, and indeed no major United Nations gathering of any sort, is complete without the vital contribution of civil society.

In the present case, "Copenhagen plus Five", you and I will be delivering very similar messages to the official delegations. 

We will be reminding them that economic growth is not mainly about numbers, but about people -- their health, their education and their security.

That does not mean that growth is not needed, particularly in developing countries.  It is essential, if men and women in those countries -- especially women -- are to earn the money they need to spend on food, and indeed on health care and education, for themselves and for their children. 

But however vital it is, and however broadly we define it, growth alone cannot guarantee that most people in a country have the chance to live lives of dignity and fulfilment.  A healthy society is one that takes care of all its members, and gives them a say in decisions that affect their lives.

That was the essential message of Copenhagen.  If anything, our experience since then has made it more relevant than ever. 

Most people have now realized that globalization is not a purely economic affair.  It has a social dimension, and a cultural one too. 

I remain convinced that globalization can benefit humankind as a whole.  But clearly at the moment millions of people -- perhaps even the majority of the human race -- are being denied those benefits.  They are poor not because they have too much globalization, but too little or none at all.

And many people are actually suffering in different ways -- I would say not from globalization itself, but from the failure to manage its adverse effects. 

Some have lost their jobs, others see their communities disintegrating, some feel that their very identity is at stake.  Even in the richest and most democratic countries, people wonder if the leaders they elect have any real control over events.

I think these fears can be answered, but not by any one nation alone, and not by governments alone either.  The State and civil society should not see each other as enemies but as allies.  The strongest State is one that listens to civil society, and explains itself to civil society in a way that encourages people to work with the State, of their own free will.

When I speak about civil society, I don't mean only non-governmental organizations, though they are a very important part of it.  I also mean universities, foundations, labour unions and -- yes -- private corporations. 

Private corporations produce most of the wealth in the world.  If only for that reason, we would be foolish to ignore them.  We would be foolish not to seek to engage them in a search for something beyond short-term profit -- the search for a better, more equitable world in which everyone has the chance to participate in the global market, as both consumer and producer. 

On their side, many corporations now recognize that they have something to learn from us, as well as we from them.  We all have to learn from each other, and it is only through dialogue that we can bring about change. 

But partnership between the United Nations and the corporate sector will not exclude others.  Labour unions, and you, the non-governmental organizations, will also have an important role to play.

Similarly, the Bretton Woods institutions, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and World Trade Organization (WTO), are there to help manage the world economy and ensure that its benefits are more widely enjoyed.  If some of them have pursued mistaken policies, haven't we all at one time or other?  If some have not always paid enough attention to the views and interests of developing countries, how are we going to change that, except through dialogue?

At a press conference tomorrow I shall launch a report signed jointly by the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and OECD.  This means that the other three institutions accept the targets for reducing extreme poverty in the world adopted at United Nations conferences, including Copenhagen. 

It means they have come together with us to review progress towards these goals, and so give us a better idea of how to move faster towards them in the years ahead.  But of course we will only be able to do that if, as I have repeatedly urged them, the OECD countries do more to open their markets to products from developing ones, as well as giving more generous debt relief and official development assistance.

The report is called "A Better World for All", and that indeed is the objective we all share.  All these institutions have a part to play -- as do multinational corporations and labour unions -- in seeing that the new global market is embedded in a true global society, based on shared global values.

I know that is an aim shared by you, the non-governmental organizations, just as it is the aim of my report, "We the Peoples".  I hope fervently that the world's leaders, when they come to New York for the Millennium Summit in September, will not only espouse that aim, but adopt some of the concrete decisions that are needed to move us towards it. 

But your support is vital, because in the end most governments do respond to clear, constructive demands from civil society in their countries.

I know I can count on that support, and I thank you all very much.

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