World leaders from the North and South met at United Nations Headquarters in New York today in an effort to pave the way to a more equitable globalization, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling for a fairer say for developing nations who "feel excluded and threatened" by the process.
The meeting, on the eve of the opening of the UN General Assembly's annual general debate to be attended by some 100 heads of State or government, was hosted by Presidents Tarja Halonen of Finland and Benjamin William Mkapa of Tanzania, who co-chaired the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization.
In a landmark report, the Commission highlights fair globalization as essential for global prosperity, peace and security. It advocates strengthening the UN multilateral system to ensure coherence among international, economic, social and environmental policies.
Addressing participants, the Secretary-General recalled that at the UN's 2000 Millennium Summit, national leaders from across the planet adopted a declaration pledging to make globalization a positive force for all the world's people. "I have no doubt that, in next year's review of the Millennium Declaration, it will be clear that we have a long way to go to meet that goal," he said.
The meeting comes just a year after the collapse of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Cancun, Mexico, where African nations walked out in protest at the refusal of developed countries to open up their agricultural markets by eliminating subsidies and other barriers.
Noting the uneven distribution of globalization's benefit, Mr. Annan said: "Many of its burdens have fallen hardest on those who can least protect themselves. Too many people, particularly in developing countries, feel excluded and threatened by globalization. They feel that they are the servants of markets, when it should be the other way around."
He called for summoning the political will to fulfil pledges made in a range of areas - including trade, financing for development and debt relief. But he also told leaders of developing nations that to harness the benefits of globalization, they must strengthen the rule of law, build democratic political systems, respect human rights, invest in education, health care and infrastructure, and promote social equity.
The meeting stressed that global efforts to fulfil the Millennium Declaration and Development Goals by 2015 will fail unless new ways are found to create job opportunities and decent work. "After all, the best anti-poverty programme is employment. And the best road to economic empowerment and social well-being lies in decent work," Mr. Annan declared.
The Declaration and Development Goals seek to restructure the world's social fabric, from slashing extreme poverty and hunger to curbing infant mortality and major diseases to improving access to education and health care for all - all by 2015.
Addressing the gathering, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for eliminating trade barriers used by rich countries to restrict agricultural imports from developing nations.
"How many more times will it be necessary to repeat that the most destructive weapon of mass destruction in the world today is poverty?" he asked, stressing that strengthening the UN multilateral system is essential to address the multiple challenges ahead.
French President Jacques Chirac said the unprecedented wealth offered by globalization must become a vehicle of integration, not exclusion for those who now have the least.
"A globalization which would permit the pillaging and monopolization of its fruits by a minority has no future," he said. "A globalization which would destroy the social and environmental equilibrium, crush the weakest and deny the rights of man has no future. It is our duty to reject such a deviation."
UN Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia, and Presidents Halonen and Mkapa presided over the meeting.
Video of high-level meeting [2hrs]