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The Human Development Magazine

September 2000


The Millennium Summit, which took place from 6th to 8th September at the United Nations in New York, brought together more than 150 Heads of State and Government. They pledged to work together for a more equitable world, Choices and editor Ashali Varma, invited several leaders to give their views on the role of the united Nations in the new Millennium: poverty eradication; bridging the digital divide; curbing the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and globalization.  We would like to thank the leaders who gave us their time and shared their views.



On the United Nations: The UN has accomplished a considerable body of work in the service of the international community in decolonization, codification of international law, protection and promotion of human rights and disarmament.

The organization must still meet a number of major challenges at the dawn of the 21st Century. These are democratization of decision-making through comprehensive reform of the Security Council; rehabilitation of the role of the General Assembly; addressing the development problems of the majority of member states due to globalization; defence of a more universal approach to human rights that attaches greater importance to economic, social and cultural rights; promotion of disarmament in the field of weapons of mass destruction; and efforts to involve non-governmental organizations in its work.

On poverty: The reality is shocking: 2.8 billion people on the planet live on less than US$2 per day; six percent of all children do not live to see their first birthday and eight percent die before the age of five.  The vast majority of least developed countries are in Africa. In order to reduce poverty in Africa by 2015 it needs rates of growth of approximately seven percent annually. Africa is not capable of achieving this without strong support from the international community.

A first initiative is debt cancellation of poor and heavily indebted developing countries. Poor countries need to be able to use all of their own resources to meet their needs in health and education. However, in Africa for example, debt repayments annually consume one-third of export earnings. It would therefore be futile to attempt to achieve lasting development in these countries and to reduce poverty without addressing this problem in an urgent and effective manner. Debt write-off must be accompanied by adequate contributions of resources from outside in the form of more meaningful official development assistance (at least 0.7 percent of the GDP of donor countries) and fairer remuneration for the exports of developing countries.

On new technologies: Itis true that technological advances have enabled us to overcome major obstacles that existed in terms of distance, time and costs, but those who benefit from this are those who have the considerable financial resources needed to constantly pursue research and development, i.e., the industrialized countries.

The technological divide between developing and developed countries is growing, and  contributes to a widening of the gap in levels of development and living standards.  The industrialized countries reap most of the benefits. They are at the forefront of innovation in production, which is often of very high value added.  In the area of marketing, they hold a very advantageous position, since they are the first to benefit from new forms of marketing, notably electronic commerce.

It was thought that, thanks to technologies that were conceived and developed elsewhere, the developing countries could skip certain stages and make more rapid progress in developing their productive capacities.  However, this assumed that the transfer of technologies would be automatic when, in fact, the mechanisms of this transfer have functioned very poorly.

In this connection, it is generally believed that direct foreign investment goes hand in hand with the  transfer of technology.  This has been true, however, in only a very small number of cases.  But even in the case where a developing country manages to acquire a given technology, as soon as it is ready to implement it, the technology is obsolete and no longer competitive. This is in fact the pace at which this new technological race is being run.

The solution to the problem lies firstly in the developing countries themselves. They must adopt clear policies to promote science and technology. This requires political will to decide on the allocation of adequate resources for this purpose and the establishment of an appropriate institutional and educational framework. But these measures must be  accompanied by willingness on the part of industrialized countries to facilitate the transfer of technology to developing countries.


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

On the United Nations: The United Nations has to focus on the people. Development can only be meaningful if it brings benefits to all, including the weak and the vulnerable. This can

be done best through a partnership among governments, the UN and civil society. People’s  needs and aspirations must be reflected in all its decisions and activities. This fundamental shift is essential in reshaping the UN for meeting the challenges of the 21st Century.

On poverty: Poverty eradication seems to be on everyone’s agenda.  Why then is poverty persisting?  Everyone is in the business of packaging poverty. There are so many approaches that we are not sure whether their aim is to end the suffering of the poor, or to keep the poverty eradication business going on. 

I have found that unless we take people on board—from decision making to implementation of programmes—-we will fail in meeting the goals we set. The success of the micro-credit initiative, population and housing programmes and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh, have all been based on people participation.

The state must empower the people to realize their full potential by providing education, health care and other basic services. It will have to facilitate the flow of information to the people so that they know where opportunities are arising. Otherwise, advances would continue to be reversed. Without genuine international cooperation, we cannot win the fight against poverty.

On new technologies: Everyone should be given access to quality education so that they become capable of utilizing information technology in various aspects of their life. At the same time, developing countries must be supported in developing human resources and expertise of their own to handle newer IT-related tools.

We lack high-end technical knowledge and institutional capacities. New technologies are expensive.  We will need the assistance of the international community to get access to these technologies.

Strong UN initiatives are needed for facilitating exchange of information, knowledge and ideas, and in bringing together all stakeholders. Ina “knowledge-based global economy,” we need real actions that will provide us financial, technical and institutional resources


President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic

On the United Nations: The United must become an organization of joint, solidarity based, decision making –by all of mankind concerning our existence on this planet. The UN must be  understood as an organization that seeks ways towards the lasting well-being of humanity.

On poverty: The UN must not only solve all crucial problems, it should prevent all of those problems actively. For instance, the origin of poverty and famine is mostly in armed conflict and various forms of revolt. Therefore, the UN should strive to prevent these causes, and it should participate a great deal more in building an inner potential for the development of countries threatened by famine.

On new technologies: New technologies are the engine of the current economic  development of the world.   It brings unpredictable possibilities to save on human labour and energy. Progress in the development of new communication technologies is bringing news concerning even the most remote areas of the world directly into our living rooms through television, radio and the Internet. The world now stands face to face with the agony of the people in Cuba, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia, as well as in the Democratic Republic of Korea and Myanmar.

Information and communication technologies have a great potential to spread knowledge and experience, as well as principles of justice, democracy and human rights. I greatly appreciate the initiatives of the Secretary General of the UN and  UNDP to help people from developing

countries, above all Africa, to access these technologies.

On globalization: The current rules of international cooperation are not bringing the same success to all countries. On the contrary, they deepen the differences in the speed of development. This situation calls for a new international arrangement, which would address the need to secure social and economic development in Third World countries.  I greatly welcome all initiatives, which lead to debt relief and to the establishment of different approaches to the developed countries in the area of trade. I confer great significance to international development aid, and it is with immense concern that I watch its long-term abatement.


Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori of Japan

On the United Nations: Human Security is very important.  Each and every individual should be accorded respect in addressing issues such as conflict, violation of human rights and poverty.  The United Nations should function as the world’s premier international organisation.  The international atmosphere has changed since the UN was founded, and since the end of the Cold War.  Under such circumstances, the UN should ensure that individuals and countries respect one another.  The reform of the Security Council is indispensable for maintaining peace and security in the international community—the precondition for ensuring “human security.” The structure of the Security Council should be organized in such a way that more countries can participate.

On poverty: The approaching 21st Century should be one of prosperity for all. In order to reduce poverty, international cooperation, on the basis of ownership on the part of developing countries, is necessary in the promotion of basic education, fighting infectious diseases and debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries. Japan will adhere to its policy of contributing to sustainable growth and poverty reduction in developing countries.

Fighting poverty requires for provision of appropriate conditions for growth and social development, and efforts to develop sound social policies, especially in health and education.  The spread of HIV/AIDS impedes growth, and frustrates the hopes of all people for a brighter future.  Prior to the G8 Summit in Okinawa, Japan announced its own package of assistance in the area of infectious disease, a total of US$3 billion over the next five years.

On new technologies: The rapid diffusion and utilization of information technology (IT) brings about tremendous “digital opportunities” for economies and societies. At the same time, there are also fast-growing concerns regarding the digital divide. The G8 leaders engaged in discussion on the information society of the future, and committed to the principle that people throughout the world should be able to partake in the benefits offered by information technology.

Even though the private sector plays a leading role in the IT sector, we will not necessarily be able to bridge the digital divide through private sector dynamism alone. Accordingly, cooperation from a global perspective, involving all interested parties national governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other grassroots movements-is crucial.

I was deeply impressed by the measures India has taken in the IT field.  We now have a “Japan—India IT Promotion and Cooperation Initiative.”  Once developing countries take such initiatives, the effects of cooperation among all interested parties will be fully demonstrated.

On globalization: It is my firm belief that globalization must bring forth benefits for all countries and all people, and that this is well within our reach.  Globalization has brought greater complexity to the issues that face the world today. If we are to resolve these issues, cooperation among not only developed and developing countries but also other diverse actors such as international organizations, businesses and NGOs is indispensable. For this reason,

before the G8 Summit, I invited four leaders of developing countries, President Obasanjo of Nigeria, President Mbeki of the Republic of South Africa, President Bouteflika of Algeria and Prime Minister Chuan of Thailand, and representatives of international organizations including Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, for an exchange of views on development issues.

Under a globalized economy, the multilateral trade system centering on the World Trade Organization brings benefits to all countries.  In order to enable developing countries to further enjoy the benefits of the multilateral trade system, it is of paramount importance that we enhance cooperation in human resources development, and 1aunch a  new round of negotiations encompassing an ambitious, balanced, and wide-ranging agenda that responds to the concerns of all countries.


President Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique

On peace: Peace is a concept, which is very dear to Mozambique. But this culture of peace should not remain only within national boundaries, it should be there between countries. By the culture of peace, we don’t mean just the lack of war but a way of living with each other,

sustained by economic development and the recognition of values, which dignify the individual. We can build a better and a safer world. And the United Nations plays a big role in the coordination of all efforts for this purpose.

On poverty: Poverty is not just a threat to poor countries, it is a threat to the international system itself.   Therefore, it requires a comprehensive and global approach. It’s like a human body: we cannot allow part of a body to be sick and expect that the rest of the body will feel good. The problems the world faces today are all related, although they may differ in magnitude and scale. What is needed is the full participation of all nations to find solutions. Sometimes, one feels that there are a lot of impositions, because some countries may feel that there are no other ways to solve their problems. But if there is permanent dialogue, then

solutions can be found.

On HIV/AIDS: It is a part of poverty, it is a consequence of poverty.  HIV/AIDS has to be fought through enhancing the capacity of countries to produce more, so that the resources needed to combat this disease are available to society. To produce more, we must have education. In Mozambique, we are trying to enhance the education of girls. In 1994, 63 percent of women and girls had access to education. In 1999, it is 82 percent. But we are still not satisfied; we are directing specific programmes for girls and women.

On new technologies: We have to create conditions for the utilization of technology. We have to tackle the problem of ignorance, and provide universal education for our children

by 2008. But at the same time, we need to have the understanding of those who can help us acquire the technology. And for that, prices have to be affordable. We also have to expand our infrastructure to support this technology. This can be achieved. In the North, there is a lot

of waste of resources  while in the rest of the world, there’s a lack of it.  It’s also true that we in the South have a responsibility to integrate our efforts, to rationalize the utilization of the little we have, to make it more effective and to be more responsible.  But any efforts of the South cannot justify the neglect by the North.  We must have more access to markets and get a fairer value for the goods exported from our countries.

On globalization:  It should be recognized that, developed countries cannot be free of the effects of poverty. Therefore, they must share with poor countries.  We are liberalizing our economies.  But what we see is that liberalization is not serving the purpose of eradicating

absolute  poverty.  What it will take is for a nation to be aware that it has a big challenge, and to face that challenge with courage by implementing sound policies to deal with the main components of poverty; illiteracy, debt and health care.  But we cannot do it alone.


President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria

The United Nations: The new focus of the UN should be in such areas as interstate and intra-state wars, poverty, disease, ignorance and lack of education that have wreaked

havoc on humanity.

On poverty: What it takes is simply commitment on the part of leaders of the world, both in the developing and developed world. It is not that we haven’t got resources. The world has not been as rich as it is today. It is just a question of bringing about commitment, which means that in international relations and international interactions we will have to bring in morality.

Leaders must be leaders of conscience, not just political leaders who are mindless, and in some cases, heartless. They must be leaders who feel touched by the poverty which they see around them, and then do what is needed. For instance, what does it take to immunize children of a country and prevent them from dying of preventable diseases?

What does it take to prevent malnutrition and drastically reduce maternal mortality?  Probably, it takes less than what women spend on cosmetics in one of the developed countries of the world.

On HIV/AIDS: A summit should be convened on HIV/AIDS to raise the awareness and consciousness among leaders and among our people and make them see that it is real and that it is a killer. And to work out a plan of action to deal with this terrible scourge, which is decimating the population of Africa.

On new technologies: There are certain aspects of new technologies that developing countries can leapfrog. In information technology, what is required is not beyond the attainment of most developing countries. I have seen what India is doing and other countries like Singapore and countries in East and South-East Asia.

I think another area where the leapfrogging can easily be made is in the area of power technology, which will benefit health and agriculture. In most of our countries we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. And I believe that in these two areas we should have an opportunity not to be left too far behind. I have said in my own country: “If we cannot aspire to reach the moon, we must endeavour to reach our mouths.”

On globalization: We have to eliminate poverty before we can benefit from globalization.  Talking globalization to the poor is like speaking Greek to an illiterate villager.  It doesn’t mean anything to him.


Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway

On development aid: Development aid is still very important. And it is a shame that  though in 1970, the rich countries decided to increase development aid to 0.7 percent and the

wealth of the rich countries has doubled  since then, aid has decreased. The average now is 0.2 percent of GDP.  There is strong pressure from Norway to other countries to increase their aid.  Very few countries have met the target of 0.7 percent.  Norway’s development aid is 0.9 percent of GDP.

We also believe that we should take new and concrete initiatives on development and poverty eradication. One important area is health. This is obvious when it comes to HIV/AIDS. I strongly support the UNAIDS initiative. We also believe that even if it is expensive to develop or produce drugs and vaccines against AIDS, there is a lot which is rather easy to do-to just change behaviour, or to be more responsible in one’s behaviour. And it can be done as seen in Uganda, which has been able to reduce the number of people getting infected.

Out of 30 million children that are not immunized every year, three million die. It costs about US$20 per child to give vaccines against the most common diseases. We have the means to fight many of these diseases. If we could mobilize some extra resources, we could achieve a

lot.  However, people believe that first you have to become rich before you can invest in health care. We think it’s the opposite. We have to invest in health to become rich or to promote development, because healthy children contribute to a healthy community and world.

On poverty: It will take more actions at the national level because we have the agreements at the international level. For instance, at this Summit, we have once again confirmed the goal of halving global poverty by 2015. But it will never be international summits that really make the decisions. The decisions are taken back home. So, while it is important what heads of government say when they meet in international conferences, it’s even more important what they do when they return home, because there they meet the minister of finance and the lobbying groups for industries who are in favour of different trade barriers.

One important factor to reduce poverty is to be able to describe reality and to communicate this reality to the peoples of the world.  And in that context, I think UNDP’s Human Development.  Report is very important.  It makes it easy to find statistics and facts about development and poverty.  I very much support the work UNDPs is doing and am very impressed with the efforts being made by Mark Malloch Brown to reform and make UNDP an even more efficient tool in the work of development and poverty eradication.


Vice President Julio Cesar Franco Gomez of Paraguay

On Poverty : The United Nations has an important role to play in reducing poverty and  destitution. In my country, 42 percent of the rural population live below the poverty line. This is why international cooperation is so important for the Third World, but we also recognize it is insufficient. We must develop our economy in a stable manner, but this can only be achieved with political balance and democracy. Democracy means that everyone participates in seeking solutions to common problem.

On international aid: We understand that aid must exist for the countries that need it the most, but this aid must be given with dignity and respect for those who have the least.

On good governance: This is very important for a country’s development.  If good  governance doesn’t exist you will not be able to implement economic plans and neither will you be able to solve social problems. So a country will continue to have poverty, hunger and despair.

On globalization: I believe that for a country to receive the benefits of globalization, it must be serious and responsible. A country that not only respects the law but in which peace is the product of justice for all. A country that renews the commitment of its elections, and

a country where legitimacy and legality are respected.


President Abdoulaye Wade of the Republic of Senegal

On the United Nations: A challenge facing the United Nations is linked to reform. The Secretary-General has presented a bold programme for renewal.  The first demand for reform lies in increasing the membership of the Security Council and improving its working methods.  Senegal supports increased representation of developing countries in the Security Council.  African countries will be adopting a joint position on this issue.

Daily realities remind us of the incomplete mission to build peace and security around the world.  The UN is challenged to establish sustainable peace and security both among and within nations.  Member States have a prime responsibility for creating the conditions for a world free of fear.  Decades ago I had a dream that Africa would cross into the 21st Century with a rich mosaic of genuine democracy.  Real change in Africa, however, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

We must not fail.  Good sense rejects poverty in a world where wealth is so abundant.  In the face of what borders on intellectual blindness, we need to chase away the absurd, and prompt the rule of reason.

On debt: The debt issue is as serious as the HIV/AIDS epidemic for Africa.  The current generation is paying for debt incurred by the previous generation.  The world has to cease being a world where paternalistic creditors face shivering debtors.

I have devoted a lot of time and energy to the issue of debt, including studies of the debt situation in several countries.  I had suggested at the Organization of African Unity Summit, in Lome, Togo, this year, that we should look deeper at the legal and economic implications of debt and at the root causes. Therefore, I will convene a Pan African seminar involving both government leaders and members of civil society to explore this.

The essential point is that no head of state or minister of finance knows how their country became indebted.

Development has to be considered in the context of debt. Forgiving Africa all of its debt would still be inadequate because as long as the same mechanisms and causes are in place, we would get back into debt again. Look at the money we have borrowed and we have very little to show for it.

On HIV/AIDS: As far back as 1989, in my book, Destiny for AfricaI warned that the  populations of certain countries in Africa would be decimated by HIV /AIDS.

In Senegal, the infection rate is less than two percent, one of the lowest in the world. This is due to some measures we took. We have an early warning surveillance for epidemics in the hospitals. In Senegal, treatment is available to everyone because the infection rate is low.  In the struggle against AIDS, Senegal engaged religious leaders in a cooperative process.  Islam in our country is tolerant and liberal, so we were able to organize public conferences where the Imams took the floor and asked the people to do everything they could to fight HIV/AIDS.


Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom

On the United Nations: The new Millennium world is different from  the world I grew up in. The digital and educational divides are growing. Conflicts arise more quickly, within and not between countries, and are fought by new rules-or no rules.  Governments are no longer the only global players: corporations and individuals have as much money, and different goals. Borders no longer exist in our minds or on our screens. The only constant is change. To meet these challenges effectively the UN needs to become better organized and better managed. It needs direction and purpose to match the dedication and determination of its staff Two areas need immediate attention: peacekeeping and Africa.

War has changed. The structure and tasking of peace support operations need to change, too. Peacekeepers no longer patrol cease-fire lines between two consenting, and largely passive,

parties. Conflicts are vicious and volatile. They unfold with bewildering speed and ruthless aggression, often directed at innocent civilians or at the men and women sent to help. The courage of the UN soldiers who serve in those conditions needs to be matched by a UN system equipped to support them.  To underpin this system we need a new contract between the UN and its Member States.  We must be prepared to commit our forces to the UN, and to train and equip them for their role.  The UN needs to improve its planning, intelligence and analysis.  It needs to develop a more substantial professional military staff, which is why I proposed the establishment of a UN Military Staff College.

 The second area, which requires our immediate attention, is Africa, where the developed world has failed to make enough of a difference. African people are dying needlessly every day from starvation, disease and conflict. These deaths are too often the consequence of bad governance. We need a new partnership for Africa— a coherent and unified plan for improving the lives of the poor and the sick. Africa must take the lead in this partnership by making the choices, which count: honest and accountable governance; provision of basic essential services; turning away from war and violent conflict. And, where Africa takes this lead, the rest of the world must follow with commitments and actions to support reform and development.

On poverty: Halving world poverty by 2015 is the greatest challenge of the first decade of the new Millennium. Improving the lives of the 1.5 billion people who live on less than US$l a day is a daunting undertaking, but the UK government is determined to play its part.  By 2004, we shall have increased our aid budget by 70 percent since 1997—all of it targeted on

poor countries and the poorest people within those countries. But money is not enough. We work in partnership with other donor countries to maximize the impact of international development assistance and to create and exploit economies of scale. We are working with the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions to give a common base and coherent direction to all aid programmes. We are at the forefront of ensuring that the HIPC initiative is implemented quickly. But developed countries can’t lift people out of poverty. The poorer countries need access to global markets and new technologies. We have a responsibility to help. But developing country governments need to do more to suppress conflicts and corruption and turn towards transparency, rules-based trading and sound economic planning.

On new technologies: New technologies risk exacerbating the digital divide. The  challenge is to prevent the digital divide becoming a permanent and destabilizing gulf between the rich and the poor. There is much that developing countries can do: promoting competition in telecom sectors to force access costs down; encouraging private sector investment; and building skills and capacities. But there is also scope for international action. That is why I fully support the UNITeS  (UN Information Technology Services) initiative, and why my G8 partners and I agreed at Okinawa a Charter on Global Information Societies. The Charter establishes a Digital Opportunities Taskforce {the DOT force} to work in partnership with developing countries, the UN, the IFIs and the private sector to promote international cooperation for wider access to affordable information technology.  It also commits to encouraging participation in global e-commerce networks and fostering policy for

regulatory and network readiness across the world. This initiative will help to spread the benefits of new technologies around the world.

On globalization: Globalization is a fact of life. The changes, which have brought us to where we are now, have been happening throughout my life.  What is new is the understanding  that globalization offers opportunities for rich and poor alike.  The difference between us in the effort needed to harness and exploit those opportunities. Making funds flow to where they are needed most requires the establishment of rules-based economic and financial systems.  It requires stability and sound macro-economic policies and practices. It requires transparent financial data and responsible credit ratings. It needs capital account liberalization. These are not exciting or inspiring objectives.  But they are essential to ensuring that as many people as possible benefit from globalization. The Financing for Development process promote discussion of mechanisms for achieving these and other objectives essential to mobilize the resources needed to meet the International Development Targets.  UK stands ready to play a full and active part in that process. We look to all other countries to do the same, and to UNDP to promote this approach and help to coordinate it.  This is a big opportunity to make globalization work for poor people, not against them.  They won’t forgive us if we miss it.