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Globalization ‘best hope’ to cure world’s problems, Annan tells World Economic Forum

Globalization ‘best hope’ to cure world’s problems, Annan tells World Economic Forum

Rather than being the cause of poverty and other social ills, globalization offered the best hope of overcoming such problems, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the World Economic Forum in New York today as he urged business leaders to do more to ensure that all the world’s people benefit from the phenomenon.

“The perception, among many, is that this is the fault of globalization, and that globalization is driven by a global elite, composed of – or at least, represented by – the people who attend this gathering,” the Secretary-General said in an address on the final day of the Forum, which brings together political and business leaders to examine world economic growth and social progress.

“I believe that perception is wrong,” Mr. Annan said. “But it is up to you to prove it wrong, with actions that translate into concrete results for the downtrodden, exploited and excluded…You must show that economics, properly applied, and profits, wisely invested, can bring social benefits within reach not only for the few but for the many, and eventually for all.”

The Secretary-General noted that increasingly, business leaders were recognizing that there were many small and poor countries in which they did not invest enough – not because these countries were badly governed or have unfriendly policies, but simply because they were too small and poor to be interesting markets or to become major producers, and because they lacked the skills, infrastructure and institutions that a successful market economy needed.

“The unpleasant truth is that markets put a premium on success, and tend to punish the poor for the very fact that they are poor,” he said, warning that left alone in their poverty, these countries were all too likely to collapse, or relapse, into conflict and anarchy, a menace to their neighbours and potentially – as the events of 11 September so brutally reminded – a threat to global security.

“Yet, taken together, their peoples represent a very large potential market – and many of their disadvantages could be offset if international business and donor governments adopted a common strategy aimed at making them more attractive to investment and ensuring that it reaches them,” he said.

Mr. Annan also urged governments to work in that spirit for the success of the International Conference on Financing for Development next month in Monterrey, Mexico, stressing that there must be real movement forward on four key issues that were of vital importance to all developing countries: trade, aid, debt, and the management of the global economy.

“All these issues can no longer be settled in private conclave among the rich and powerful,” the Secretary-General said. “The developing countries have as a big a stake as anyone in the future of the world economy. Their views should count for something when decisions affecting it are taken.”

Echoing those themes in an opinion piece published in today’s edition of the Financial Times, the Secretary-General wrote that political and business leaders would have the chance to show, by tackling these issues seriously, that they intended to make sure globalization offered the poor a real chance to escape from poverty.

“They can strike a truly decisive blow against the forces of envy, despair and terror by sending out a clear message of solidarity, respect and – above all – hope,” he said.