Powerful nations skew global forums such as UN – South African President
The powerful countries of the world continue to dominate global forums such as the United Nations to the detriment of freedom, justice and equality, ensuring that while there is often lofty talk of solving major international problems, little is actually done to fix them, South African President Thabo Mbeki told the General Assembly today.
In an address to the Assembly’s annual high-level debate, held at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Mbeki said “the skewed distribution of power in the world – political, economic, military and technological and social – replicates itself in multilateral institutions, much to the disadvantage of the majority of the poor people in the world.”
On issues from climate change to the international terms of trade to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he said, the UN can and does diagnose the problems and the appropriate solutions, but wealthy nations only respond positively if it coincides with their own narrow interests.
“The rich and the powerful have consistently sought to ensure that whatever happens, the existing power relations are not altered and therefore the status quo remains… The cold reality is that it will be difficult for the UN in its present form fully to implement its own decisions and therefore help the poor achieve urgently the MDGs.”
The result is that the poor and disenfranchised “can be forgiven for thinking that this important global leadership many a times sounds like an empty vessel,” he said.
“Indeed, until the ideals of freedom, justice and equality characterize this premier world body, the dominant will forever dictate to the dominated and the interests of the dominated, which are those of the majority of humanity, would be deferred in perpetuity.”
Mr. Mbeki stressed the importance of tackling climate change on a united, global scale, saying that any delay in action would hit poor countries and communities hardest. He called for a significant advance at the major summit on climate change in Bali, Indonesia, scheduled for December.
That meeting seeks to determine future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol – the current global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in 2012.
The South African President said the starting point for any future regime must be equity, striking a balance between environmental imperatives and ensuring sustainable development.
“Any deal on the ‘fair use of the ecological space’ will have to be balanced by a deal on giving all countries a ‘fair chance in the development space’,” he said.
Mr. Mbeki also called for the rich countries of the North to increase their official development assistance (ODA), investment, trade and technology transfer so that countries of the South can achieve the MDGs.
“As history teaches us, it was because of the massive resource transfers in the aftermath of World War II that Western Europe recovered and was set on its development path. A similar intervention helped put a number of Asian countries on to their own development trajectory.”
“The question we should ask is why is there an absence of the same resolve to assist poor nations today?”