Press Releases

    28 October 2004

    Nations Will Need Strategies to Survive Emergence of Real Technology Revolution, Keynote Speaker Tells Second Committee

    NEW YORK, 27 October (UN Headquarters) -- Nations must develop strategies to survive in a new flat world that would evolve with the beginning of the real technology revolution, and as other nations moved in to control their industries, research and jobs, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said this morning in a keynote address to the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

    Outlining the key themes of his next book -- The World is Flat:  A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century -- he said more people than ever before were working together as globalization hit a new high in a flat platform of collaboration.  The world had begun to flatten with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which had removed a huge obstacle to global progress.

    Next, he said, Netscape had gone public and the Windows operating system had come up, bringing the Internet and creating a set of common transmission protocols.  Those technological advances had triggered the dot-com boom and the dot-com bubble, leading to the accidental over-wiring of the world with fibre optic cable and bringing global connectivity to a whole new level.

    He said that new technology had begun to threaten local jobs and industries as the world progressed to “work flow”.  Software, from Microsoft Word to Novel had connected fibre optic cables to PCs, allowing people to send work to multiple parts of the globe.  Applications had been connected to applications, creating an entirely new global platform for collaboration.  Job outsourcing and off-shoring of industry had followed, sparked by China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the moving by global companies of whole factories to that country.

    Other forms of collaboration, he said, included “supply chaining”, with products being sold in one part of the world and simultaneously produced in another, and “in-sourcing”, as firms like United Parcel Services (UPS) and Federal Express entered other companies and took over their internal supply chains.  In addition, the world now had such search engines as Google for “informing”, as well as voiceover Internet protocols (VOIP) and wireless technology, which turbocharged all other forms of collaboration.

    Sometime around the year 2000, he said, all the collaborators had begun to work together to reach a tipping point that had flattened the world.  That flattening had coincided with the opening of India, China and the former Soviet empire.  A mere 10 per cent of their populations may now be contributing on a global scale, but that proportion was equal to the size of the combined workforces of the European Union and the United States, and would be seminal in shaping the twenty-first century.

    Responding to delegates’ questions on how to create socio-economic opportunities for sub-Saharan Africans as globalization continued, Mr. Friedman said that the most effective anti-poverty programme was economic growth.  Larger numbers of people in India and China had moved out of poverty at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world, but that process had occurred at unequal levels.  In the so-called flat world, the countries with the best basic technological infrastructure, most educated workers and most transparent, supportive governments were the most likely to attract investment.

    He added that increasingly smaller forces or entities were driving globalization.  First, a country’s horsepower was largely responsible for globalization, followed by the expertise and equipment of companies and, most recently, individuals or software.  The next phase of globalization would not be about countries, companies or individuals; it would focus on molecules.

    Asked whether helping sub-Saharan African countries gain a bigger share of the globalization pie was in the best interests of the West, he said there was indeed an overriding interest on the part of the West despite the expected shift of jobs from the West to those developing markets.  The outsourcing of jobs from the United States to India had resulted in a near-doubling of bilateral United States-India trade, contributing to economic growth.

    In other Second Committee business this morning, the representative of Qatar, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced draft resolutions on implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (document A/C.2/59/L.6); the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (document A/C.2/59/L.7); and international cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Nino phenomenon (document A/C.2/59/L.8).

    He also introduced draft resolutions on the further implementation of the Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States (document A/C.2/59/L.10); natural disasters and vulnerability (document A/C.2/59/L.11); the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/C.2/59/L.12); protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind (document A.C.2/59/L.13); implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification (document A/C.2/59/L.14); report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme on its eighth special session (document A/C.2/59/L.16); and integrated management of the Caribbean Sea region and its natural resources (document A/C.2/59/L.17).

    Japan’s representative then introduced draft resolutions on the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (document A/C.2/59/L.9), while the representative of Tajikistan introduced a text on activities undertaken during the International Year of Freshwater, 2003, and further efforts to achieve the sustainable development of water resources (document A/C.2/59/L.15).

    The representatives of Guyana, Guatemala and Cameroon then reported on the status of the Committee’s negotiations on draft resolutions under its agenda items on macroeconomic policy questions and the International Conference on Financing for Development.

    When the Second Committee meets again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 29 October, it is expected to hear a keynote address by Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor at Harvard and 1998 Nobel Laureate in Economics, on the theme “Forging coherence to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the context of globalization”.

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