17 March 2003

Globalization Today Has 'Winners and Losers'; Challenge for Tomorrow Is to Make It Work for All, Says Secretary-General

NEW YORK, 14 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as he introduced Jagdish Bhagwati, Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz at the Headquarters lecture, "Globalization: Winners and Losers", on 14 March:

Let me thank all of you for coming to this session. Our subject today is as vast as it is controversial: globalization.

Human beings have travelled, traded and interacted across borders and large distances for millennia. But globalization today is different. It is more rapid. It is driven by new engines, such as the Internet. And it is governed by different rules -- or, in too many cases, by no rules at all.

Globalization is bringing many of us more choices and opportunities. Yet millions around the world do not share those opportunities. Instead, they find that globalization is disrupting their lives, threatening their jobs or sweeping away their traditions. Moreover, the same open borders, free markets and technological advances that are the hallmarks of globalization can also be exploited by terrorists, drug traffickers and other criminals. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people are being left out of globalization altogether.

Globalization may seem as immutable as a force of nature. But that does not mean it cannot be shaped. Globalization is the product of choices and decisions made by men and women. As the economist Karl Polanyi famously wrote, "laissez-faire was planned". If today there are winners and losers, that need not be the case tomorrow. Our challenge is to make globalization work for all the world's people.

That has been the major preoccupation of each of our guests today. They need very little introduction. Each has distinguished himself in academia, and all are currently ensconced at Columbia University.

But, each has also journeyed from the ivory tower of abstract thought to the muddy trenches of policy-making, as advisers to governments and international organizations. And each, I am pleased to say, has been part of the United Nations family -- Jagdish as an advisor on globalization, Jeff as an advisor on health and the Millennium Development Goals, and Joe as Chief Economist at the World Bank.

Passionate, prolific and provocative, they are, one might say, among the leading gladiators of globalization today. They wrestle not so much with each other -- although that happens from time to time -- but they do wrestle with the major issues of our time.

I hope today's jousting will remind us that, even amidst anxiety over the possibility of war, the heart of the United Nations' work remains the quest for economic development and social justice, so that each and every human being can live in dignity.

So let me stop here and let the intellectual fireworks begin.

Jagdish, you have the floor.

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