Podium: Hunger and poverty can be conquered

From a speech by the President of Germany before the Global Development Network, meeting in Bonn

A FEW weeks ago I heard the following from Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: "We speak so often of the global village. There are inequalities in this world which a village would never allow to occur in its midst."

She's right. Those who want to talk about development policy in the global village need to be aware of what the values are that hold this village together and, as such, what the key foundation for successful development policy is. The most important of these values is the right of every person to live in dignity, in keeping with his or her specific personal and cultural identity. This also includes the right to be free of fear, be it fear of persecution for religious or racial reasons, or be it the fear of hunger and poverty.

The most effective strategy for securing these rights, and development in general, will be the same in the 21st century as it was 200 years ago: it is called democracy. It cannot survive over the long term without solidarity. We need solidarity at three levels: between the rich and the poor and the strong and the weak within each of our societies; between rich and poor countries; between the strong and the weak in those countries which are counted among the poor countries but where there are also wealthy, sometimes very wealthy, sections of society

You have probably been waiting for this inevitable term to be mentioned - globalisation. It seems to have become the leitmotif of the past decade. We are observing the growing power of globalised markets, in comparison with which the power of individual governments seems to be receding.

We have already experienced that globalised markets do not create only harmony. At times, it appears as if an early form of capitalism has once more been unleashed. If we want to adapt globalised markets to our expectations for the 20th and 21st centuries, we will need to transfer the social element of the market economy system to this global level.

A number of countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America, have experienced the risks that can emanate from global financial markets if the appropriate regulatory framework is not in place.

In its last report on human development, the United Nations Development Program emphasises the demand for a global regulatory policy as a counterweight to the globalisation phenomenon. I strongly support this. The demand is not new, but it has yet to be implemented.

The objective should be a new international architecture at the political and economic levels that would prevent financial crises in the future, the costs of which are too high for the international community to assume, and would make equal players of the developing countries.

The objective cannot be to continue serial debt rescheduling and debt forgiveness. The objective must be to achieve greater credit-worthiness of the developing countries.

The Prime Minister of Mali recently told me, very convincingly: "Every case of corruption means one less school, one less street and less drinking water for those who need it."

I mention the developing countries in this connection because we are talking here about development policy.

I don't want to create the impression that there are no inequalities or corruption in the industrialised countries. These problems are the same wherever they occur.

Expenditures for senseless wars are expenditures against development. Here, too, we have a common responsibility: industrial countries that facilitate the export of weapons to sensitive regions make themselves guilty of complicity.

So, in concluding, allow me to quote Willy Brandt from the North-South Report which was published in 1978. "Mankind has never before had such ample technical and financial resources for coping with hunger and poverty," he said. "The immense task can be tackled once the necessary collective will is mobilised."

Brandt said this about 20 years ago. It is as relevant now as it was then. I can't imagine a better slogan for the 21st century.

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