Press Releases

    4 September 2002


    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    JOHANNESBURG, 3 September -- The proposal on the Summit table for a voluntary solidarity fund was not enough to fight that "monster with a thousand heads"-- poverty, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela asserted this morning at the second round table discussion designed to provide a forum for interaction at the highest levels of government.

    Organized around the theme "Making things happen", 12 heads of State and government, joined by other senior representatives, aired concerns and offered proposals on: development of human resources as an integral part of fighting poverty and sustaining development; altering consumption patterns; reform of international financial institutions to meet the requirements of modern times; climate change effects; the need for a more equitable approach to the relationship between gender and development; access to energy and electricity; and technology transfers aimed at bridging the digital divide; and a massive increase in investment in health.

    President Chavez pressed for the creation of an international humanitarian fund, with monies diverted from corruption, drug trafficking and a tax on major financial transactions. Those monies could multiply by at least 10 available funds and be truly and completely devoted to dealing with problems such as disease and vaccinations, portable water, education -- the very failings keeping the poor between "life and hell, literally", he said. "It's a lie when people say we have actually made progress"; there was more poverty and misery in the world than 10 years ago.

    "The world is standing on its head," he said. He questioned the process whereby technicians negotiated texts that would affect millions of people, while heads of State and governments were invited to provoke discussions. If 40 heads of State took a decision here on a specific proposal, what sort of impact would that have at the level of the technical people and ministers? he asked. He said he was talking about the anguish of millions of people represented in this room, not by technical people, but of heads of State and government.

    Echoing his call for clarity about the round table process, Vice-President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana asked what happened to specific proposals made here, such as the one made by President Chavez for the establishment of an international humanitarian fund. If agreement was reached here on principle, leading to a discussion of how resources would be provided, "did we just leave that, or any other proposal made here today, hanging?" he asked.

    United Nations Under-Secretary General for Social and Economic Affairs, Nitin Desai, said he hoped that when negotiators negotiated the texts, they had received instructions from the heads of government. The negotiations "downstairs" were only a starting point; implementation required political will. One idea behind the group had been to highlight and influence issues that had not been adequately tackled. Those were not plenary statements, and inevitably heads of State focused on what was most important to their countries.

    In the happy event of an agreement, the leaders could instruct their inclusion into the declaration or elsewhere in the outcome texts, he said, adding that the round table was not a negotiating forum, but an interactive discussion.

    Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso told participants the financial institutions created at the end of the Second World War should be recast, as they did not have enough strength to face current challenges. A fund was needed to enhance the self-sustaining basis of development, and neither the Bretton Woods institutions nor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were able to do that. During his eight years as President, his country had faced five financial crises around the world, including in Mexico, Russia and the United States. With so much turbulence, it was extremely difficult to tackle the problems of poverty and development.

    In Mongolia, President Natsagiin Bagabandi said, the winters were becoming colder and summers hotter. The climate was already harsh, but in last decade maximum winter temperatures had decreased by 10 degrees and risen in summer by 10 degrees. Animal husbandry, one of most important sectors of the economy, had suffered untold losses, leaving many thousands of households without income. Small island States and small countries in the heart of the mainland had suffered the worst effects of climate change. Enhancing the capacity of local people and communities was a most effective solution, which should be properly reflected at the Summit.

    If sea levels rose to predicted levels, the Maldives, a nation that had existed for many centuries, might well drown in this century or the next one, its President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom warned. He was doing everything to protect his country's environment, from prohibiting coral and sand mining to declaring certain species of fish and birds as protected. But he was concerned about events beyond his control, such as poaching, pollution from oil spills and coral bleaching. Economic growth had been remarkable in the past two years, but now the Maldives might be removed from the list of least developed countries, a decision that would thwart development.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand said the developing world must develop in a way that the "West" had not. Developed countries, through technology transfers and other steps, must make it possible for developing countries to move ahead without making the mistakes made by their western development model. Her country would ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which meant some sacrifices: since 60 per cent of New Zealand's greenhouse emissions came from animals, ratification meant finding a way to feed animals in a way that did not emit methane, so damaging to the low-lying countries in her South Pacific neighbourhood.

    Capacity-building was the cornerstone of action and technical know-how was at the heart of that drive, said the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. Expressing serious concern about the equitable sharing of benefits, he said developed countries must share their entire technologies with his and other developing countries, including for biodiversity. But a serious problem lay ahead in terms of what role could be found for developing countries in electronic or e-commerce, which would be the engine of growth for this century. Those nations had been left behind in the industrial age; the digital divide, if not bridged, would be the cause of future poverty.

    In China, continued reliance on scientific and technological advancement, with strong management, had been emphasized as an element for sustainable development, the Premier of its State Council, Zhu Rongji, said. As the world's largest developing country in terms of population and land area, he attached great importance to sustainable development. In addition, it emphasized harmony between economic development and resource and environmental protection, adherence to the road to human-oriented development, and active in international environment and development cooperation. Efforts should also be made to enhance the capacity-building of developing countries and utilize multiple means to raise funds.

    The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Central African Republic called for an "unambiguous condemnation" of coups and civil war. If everyone here truly wanted the decisions made here to become concrete, it must be ensured that peace would reign for one and all, and not just for one category of States. He also sought, among other steps, the strengthening of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which should include the confiscation of diverted funds and "dirty money" hidden in the main banks of developed countries.

    Emerging from a war in which it had been totally defeated and a devastated economy in 1945, Japan had invested heavily in education, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said. However poor an individual family might be, there was no school-age child in Japan who could not attend primary school. Reducing poverty was vitally important, and the basis for its eradication was education. Growing the economy after the war, no one cared much about polluting the air and the rivers -- until people started becoming sick. In the course of achieving economic success, his country had made the "terrible mistake of environmental pollution", and he urged developing countries never to repeat those mistakes.

    Concerned that the relationship between social advancement and environmental protection had not received priority attention here, the Vice President of Hungary said he was not satisfied with the concreteness of the present agreement or of the level of common understanding. She had gone along with proposals of the European Union to set concrete targets and timetables, especially with respect to cooperation with developing countries, and when she went home she would speed up the formulation of much more coherent strategies for sustainable development. Of further concern had been the inattention to the gender issue; there were the same gaps in women's representation in her country as in this room, she said.

    Adding to the discussion, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed with previous speakers that it was crucial to invest in people, especially in terms of education, but equally vital to poverty reduction was health. And WHO needed a manifold increase in present funding levels, which she thought possible for many countries not doing so today. Disease was a drain on economies and hampered development. Investments in global health could save 8 million lives per year and secure an annual return of $360 billion. Sustainable development was not possible without a "massive scale-up" of efforts.

    Other participants listed at the level of heads of State and government included: Armenia, Belgium, Burundi, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, Honduras, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Romania, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    Additional heads of delegations were from: Australia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Finland, Greece, India, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Malta, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Republic of Moldova, Singapore, Slovakia, Syria and Turkey.

    Specialized agencies represented were: United Nations Development Organization (UNIDO); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); World Health Organization (WHO); and Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

    Major groups listed were: Bahrain Women's Society; Youth; Khoi San Indigenous Peoples Organization; World Wildlife Fund Denmark; International Council for Local Authorities; Malaysian Trade Union Congress; ESKOM/Business Action for Sustainable Development; International Council for Science; Kenya National Farmers Union.

    United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan also attended part of the discussion, a summary of which will be included in the Summit's final report.

    * *** *