Articles on Dr. Jagan's New Global Human Order
by Clement Rohee
Address by The Honourable, Mr Clement Rohee, The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guyana, to the High-level Symposium on the call for a New Global Human Order, Georgetown, Guyana, August 26-27, 2000.
The Government of Guyana welcomes you all and thanks you for your attendance at this symposium on the New Global Human Order, a concept that was articulated by the late Dr Cheddi Jagan. It is our hope that this initiative will take root in the international community. To those of you who have travelled from other parts of the globe to be here, I want to express special greetings. I would like to take this opportunity on your behalf to express a word of appreciation to the United Nations Development Programme and particularly to its Resident Representative for the cooperation received in hosting the Symposium and for the many indications of support that we have received for the principles enshrined in the concept of the New Global Human Order.
As we enter the 21st Century we need to defuse the high levels of tension in the governance of the global economy. Many analysts have acknowledged that the world is characterized by the economic globalization, which dictates global regulation. This has been viewed as the underlying source of problems in the international economy, which requires a consensus on the ground rules to govern global relations. This has been the source of the rising public protest so dramatically expressed in Seattle and which has spread to almost every city where the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Trade Organization have tried to hold meetings.
It is important to point out that as the Secretary General of the United Nations has said in his Report to the Millenium Assembly governance does not mean world government, but rather, a commitment to consensus and collaboration. On this basis, the problems we face are not merely confined to development thinking. Just as important, is the task of translating concepts into action and the political will required to ensure that the system works for every citizen in the world.
One of the striking features of the 20th Century has been the level of economic growth achieved when compared with preceding centuries. Yet, the gap between the richest and poorest countries has widened dramatically during recent years. This is partly because the international economic system allows the rich countries to get richer and the poor countries to become poorer at a rapid pace. Looking at some of the statistics that have recently come out of the World Bank, it has been estimated that of a world population of some six billion people:
* 1.3 billion people live on a dollar a day or less
* 3 billion people, that is half of the world’s population live on $2 a day or less
* 80% of the six billion people live in substandard housing
* 70% of the six billion people do not know how to read
* 50% of the six billion people suffer from malnutrition
* Less than 1% of the six billion people has access to the Internet
Despite this situation, discussions on inequality and the rising tide of economic insecurity have slipped from view over the past two decades. In 1969 the International Commission (known as the Pearson Commission) chaired by the former Canadian Prime Minister, Lester Pearson brought to our attention that: “The wider gap between the developed and the developing countries has become the central problem of our time”.
This statement is as valid now as it was in 1969 as global inequality exacerbates political instability in poor nations, encourages migration to the developed countries, damages the environment and facilitates the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
Our world continues to be plagued by a multiplicity of conflicts, both old and new, inter-state and intra-state, that not only imperil global peace and security but also sap our economic and social vitality.
Accompanying these threats to international security and stability are strong economic and social forces, which impact negatively on many countries. While globalization and trade liberalization have benefited strong economies, it has also exposed weaker states to marginalisation from the world economy. Severe economic and social dislocations have followed in its wake, accentuating the particular vulnerabilities of small developing countries, many of whom are dependent on a single agriculture crop - like bananas or sugar - for the livelihood of their peoples.
The challenge, therefore, for the international community and for policymakers in the new millennium is to redress these imbalances in the global economy in a comprehensive and sustainable manner so as to ensure the smooth integration of developing countries, in particular the smaller economies, into the globalizing world economy on an equitable basis.
To benefit from the international trading system developing countries must receive significant debt relief and necessary ODA to boost their overall productive capability. Consequently in the face of rampant globalization, it is imperative that the international community should come together to create a modern development vision and strategy aimed at bridging the dangerous division which now separates the prosperous from the poor nations. This new approach should be based on an international consensus on development and on the rights and obligations of the partners. In this respect North-South relations must be reviewed to see how they may be enhanced and put on a new basis for mutual trust and advantage.
The Cologne Initiative to expand the scope and provisions of relief for the heavily indebted poor countries was a welcome step forward. Unfortunately, however, it does not go far enough to alleviate the debt burden which the developing countries still bear. The situation of many low-income countries has been made even more acute by the rapid decline of ODA in the wake of globalization’s spread and over-reliance on the market to promote development. Nothing short of the cancellation of some of these countries’ debt will be sufficient to improve their circumstances to the point where they can be active participants in the world economy.
Indeed, there is an acute need for a new global agenda with the objective of putting a human face to the market-place. Policies aimed merely at creating unsustainable social safety nets are hardly lasting solutions. The root causes of the structural and endemic problems of the developing countries, which ultimately lead to global instability, must be addressed.
Speaking for Guyana, our efforts at influencing the international development agenda must be informed by our experience here at home. These efforts must in turn inform the strategies we pursue at the domestic level for our political, social and economic upliftment. In other words we must pursue appropriate actions locally while we think globally. This was precisely the spirit and context in which the New Global Human Order was initiated and is being promoted by Guyana.
For example in the Draft document of our National Development Strategy (NDS), which is now in the public’s domain for discussion, the first two listed objectives of the Strategy are stated as:
* to attain the highest rates of economic growth that are possible
* to eliminate poverty in Guyana
No one can deny that these objectives - to which the New Global Human Order speaks most profoundly - are laudable, realistic and very relevant for the modernizing of our nation as much as they are pivotal and of critical importance to the smooth integration of the Guyana economy in the international economy.
In Guyana, in 1999, about 35% of the population were estimated to be living below the poverty line with 19% living under conditions of extreme poverty. Such conditions cannot be good for us and should continue to be the target of specific public policy actions. It is however not enough to assert that the statistics represent a decrease of 8% in absolute poverty levels and a 10% decline in extreme poverty levels over the seven-year period from 1993 - 1999.
As is, we stated in the Government’s Interim-Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, which was recently compiled, “reducing poverty to very low and tolerable levels will take time...... In addition, systemic issues such as weak land administration and a non-responsive public sector persist and continue to adversely affect the business environment.” Against this background, therefore, the following goals have been identified in the Strategy Paper for the reduction of poverty in Guyana:
* creating opportunities for income generation;
* job creation;
* reducing mortality rates;
* achieving primary universal education; and
* eliminating gender disparity in education.
These goals are broadly consistent with international development goals and attainment of these targets, among other things, is predicated on high and sustainable growth rates and the full support of the international donor community. The Government of Guyana is committed to working with all stakeholders towards the achievement of these conditions which, I daresay, are basic and absolutely necessary for any civilized society in the 21st century.
In a statement to the UNCTAD X Conference in February this year, UNCTAD Secretary General reflected: “For developing countries, struggling to cope with these wrenching changes, the challenge is straightforward even if it is not easy. Rather than reconcile themselves to the need to adapt to a supposedly unmodifiable global system, they must strive to shape it according to their own development needs at their own pace and in line with their own strengths and weaknesses. This process will, of necessity, go hand in hand with the struggle to integrate themselves successfully into a transformed and more open economic system..... Contrary to what one frequently hears, it is not the amount and pace of international integration that counts but its quality. There is such a thing as too much and too rapid integration of the wrong kind”.
The New Global Human Order (NGHO), I wish to suggest, is about quality, is about human development, and most certainly is about integration of the right kind.
In calling for a New Global Human Order (NGHO), the late President Jagan recognized that peace and development concerns are interlinked. The concept links Third World issues with concerns in the developed countries and suggests common solutions to common problems. In this regard it includes North-South Cooperation, a sound economic and fiscal system; partnerships between the government, private sector and civil society; and strategic strengthening of capacity building of institutions and human resources.
At the first South Summit, held in Cuba in April of this year, G-77 Governments declared the following: “We.... Call on the international community at the dawn of the new millennium to give priority to the development agenda of developing countries and adopt urgent and resolute actions which will help them to overcome the obstacles to their development objectives. In this context we stress the need for a new global human order aimed at reversing the growing disparities between rich and poor, both among and within countries, through the promotion of growth and equity, the eradication of poverty, the expansion of productive employment and the promotion of gender equality and social integration”.
Inspired by this vision and leadership, the Government of Guyana's initiative for a New Global Human Order address the ineffectiveness of the current approaches and existing arrangements in handling global issues. Looking back at the evolution of development thinking, one is struck by the manner in which theories and strategies have moved in and out of fashion in a seemingly circular movement. Nonetheless, there is a growing consensus that the causes of underdevelopment are neither just home-made nor exclusively attributable to the international system but derive from a combination of internal and external factors. The existing neo-liberal model advocated by the Bretton Woods institutions and imposed on developing countries often end in disaster. A viable alternative model is required to facilitate developing countries’ participation in the global economy. The United Nations Conferences of the 1990s drew attention to the importance of people-centered development and that abstract blueprints are not useful as development strategies. Experience has demonstrated that development strategies are multidimensional and must be adjusted to the particular situation of a given country. This has been key to facilitating the dialogue on development beyond ideological boundaries and on the basis of analyses of the socio-economic realities and country-specific interests. It is this momentum that the international community ought to seize and focus attention on the challenges of integrating the economic, social, environmental and good governance dimensions of development into a comprehensive concept of sustainable human development.
In 1999, Gallup International sponsored and conducted a Millennium Survey of 57,000 adults in 60 countries. Allow me to relate, briefly, the people’s responses to five key issues.
First, what matters most in life?
* People everywhere valued good health and a happy family life more highly than anything else. Where economic performance was poor, they also stressed jobs.
* Where there was conflict, people expressed a strong desire to live without it. Where corruption was endemic, people condemned it.
Second, Human Rights:
* Respondents showed widespread dissatisfaction with the level of respect for human rights.
* In one region fewer than one in 10 citizens believed that human rights were being fully respected, while one third believed they were not observed at all.
* Discrimination by race and gender were commonly expressed concerns.
* Two thirds of all the respondents said their government had done too little to redress environmental problems in their country.
* Respondents in the developing countries were among the most critical of their government’s actions in this respect.
Fourth, The United Nations:
* The survey showed that most people around the globe consider the protection of human rights to be the most important task for the United Nations. The younger the respondents, the greater the importance assigned to this goal.
* United Nations peacekeeping and the provision of humanitarian assistance were also stressed.
* Globally, less than half of those interviewed judged the performance of the United Nations to be satisfactory, although a majority of the young were favourably inclined.
* In most countries the majority said their elections were free and fair.
* Despite this, two- thirds of all respondents considered that their countries were not governed by the will of the people. This opinion held even in some of the oldest democracies in the world.
In an effort to promote a discussion on how best the New Global Human Order initiative may be advanced, we have prepared a paper on the subject. It is at best tentative and incomplete and must therefore be considered a work in progress. I hope that the discussion, which we will have today and tomorrow will serve, to enrich the ideas, contained in the paper and, more importantly, suggest a strategy for taking the idea forward.
If it is deemed feasible, the Government of Guyana would like, together with other like-minded and supportive states, to take the proposal to this year’s Millennium Assembly for consideration. We have been encouraged to do so not only by the prevailing disenchantment with the slow implementation of the Development Agenda, but by the fact that the idea of a New Global Human Order appears to be finding increasing resonance among certain developed countries and leaders. The road ahead will not be easy but we are convinced that the initiative must now be launched if we are to make any headway in forging a new international consensus on development.
I wish to reaffirm the Government of Guyana's intention to continue working for the creation of a New Global Human Order aimed at the eradication of poverty and the establishment of a just and more humane system of international relations. As part of its strategy to advance the initiative, the Government of Guyana considered it necessary and timely to hold this Symposium.
Let me again welcome all the participants to this Symposium and express the hope that coming out of it will come a clear and action oriented strategy for establishing a New Global Human Order.
I thank you.