April 18, 2000

 

Annan Blasts 'Shameful' Imbalance in Globalization

April 18, 2000- ©Reuters

 

 UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secretary-General Kofi Annan told finance ministers and diplomats on Tuesday it was ''shameful and unacceptable'' that most people are excluded from the benefits of globalization and new technology.

 

 ``I think we all recognize our duty to change this state of affairs, and more importantly our interest in doing so,'' he said.

 

He was addressing an annual session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council attended by ministers and other financial experts who have been taking part in meetings in Washington of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

 

On Sunday and Monday, demonstrators opposed to World Bank and IMF policies took to the streets of the capital in an effort to disrupt the meetings.

 

Police arrested 600 demonstrators on Monday and hurled tear gas and sprayed pepper to crush protests. The arrests brought to about 1,300 the number of people detained in a week of protests.

 

The arrest total was more than twice the 525 people who were arrested late last year when riots and vandalism helped sink trade talks in the port city of Seattle.

 

Annan said he started from the proposition that, ``in an age when globalization and new technology are bringing hitherto unimaginable benefits to one part of humankind, it is shameful and unacceptable that another part -- and by most reckonings the larger part – remains excluded from those benefits,'' subjected to a life of grinding poverty often accompanied by malnutrition and disease.

 

AIMING AT THE ROOTS OF POVERTY

 

Annan outlined economic and social recommendations contained in an ambitious report he issued earlier this month for a millennium U.N. General Assembly session to be attended by world leaders in September.

 

These included:

 

          -- ``reducing by half, before the year 2015, the proportion of people in the world living on one dollar a day or less,'' even though there would ``still be 600 million people living in abject poverty;''

 

          -- policies to encourage private investment, ``which create job opportunities, especially for young people; which harness the power of the new information technologies; and which improve the effectiveness and transparency of governments themselves;''

 

          -- steps to end war, which is ``calculated to perpetuate and aggravate poverty;''

 

          -- action by governments, ``especially, but not only, those in sub-Saharan Africa (to) face up to the mind-numbing devastation which HIV/AIDS is wreaking on their economies and societies;''

 

          -- investing in education, with the aim of adopting universal primary school enrollment by 2015 and closing a gender gap in which girls account for two-thirds of the 110 million children worldwide who are not in school;

 

OTHER CORE ISSUES RAISED

 

Only if given ``full and free market access for their products can developing countries attract the investment they need to achieve high growth and trade their way out of poverty,'' Annan said.

 

``Only if they are freed from the shackles of debt repayment and debt servicing can the poorest countries devote an appropriate share of their revenue to anti-poverty programs,'' he added.

 

``And only with generous financial assistance from the industrialized world can countries that have worked hard to reform their economies provide their poorer citizens with the basic social services they so desperately need,'' he said.

 

Alluding to the street protests in Washington, Annan spoke of the ``ongoing vehemence with which people are debating the merits and de-merits of globalization, making demands on our organizations and telling us that we must do more, and do it better.''

 

``We need to turn this unease, this ferment, this confrontational energy, into something constructive -- into something that benefits all people and which all people can support,'' he said.