The North does not have all the answers

From a speech by Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa, delivered at the South Summit held in Havana, Cuba
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The Independent Online

All of us present in this hall represent countries that can pride themselves on the continued existence of a strong spirit of communal, human solidarity among many of our people.

The atomisation of the family and the individual, driven by the entrenchment of the capitalist system, has not reached the structural permanence it has attained in the developed countries of the North.

As these countries achieved unprecedented levels of prosperity while experiencing serious social problems such as drug abuse, youth alienation and the weakening of the family, questions are being raised about the human implications of today's dominant forms of economic development.

None of us present here can have any difficulty in defining what the purposes of economic development in our countries should be. What we aim to achieve is: the permanent elimination of poverty in our societies; the attainment of a sustained improvement in the standard of living of our people; and the enhancement of the dignity of our peoples, which must include the protection of the environment in which we live, respect for our languages and cultures and social cohesion.

Towards the end of his term as managing director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus spoke at Georgetown University in Washington. He made the important observation that "a new sense of world citizenship has not yet emerged among the commonly held values in our world."

He went on: "A new kind of citizenship must be created, not simply a vague cosmopolitanism, but a genuine citizenship at all levels: local, regional, national and global. How can it be achieved? By making global solidarity more than just an adjunct of national policies. Global solidarity means dealing with vested interests and models of consumption."

I am certain that none of us present at this South Summit would gainsay the importance of the observation Mr Camdessus made, that there needs to evolve a truly global solidarity that is more than just an adjunct of national policies.

The relevance of this has just been demonstrated in our region of southern Africa. Various countries of the North came to Mozambique to help the government and people of that sister country to cope with a very serious flood disaster.

A week after they had arrived to demonstrate this global solidarity, they refused to do the most obvious thing to express solidarity with the suffering Mozambican people, namely, to cancel Mozambique's debt.

Presumably such a humane decision would have been "inconsistent with their national policies", to use Mr Camdessus's expression.

The challenge we face is to achieve the cohabitation in the global conduct of human affairs on the concept of human solidarity. But the principle that governs the modern societies of the North is that the search for personal gain and advantage is the only viable engine of human fulfilment.

We have to ensure the democratisation of the international institutions of governance, including the UN and Bretton Woods institutions.

We must work for the mobilisation of the masses of the North to sensitise them to the imperative to eliminate global poverty and inequality, in the interests of all humanity.

We have to add our weight to the ongoing campaign to address the international debt question.

We have to work together to ensure that the current round of WTO negotiations addresses development issues that confront our countries. We must act for the inclusion of the concerns and aspirations of the masses of our people within a real global agenda for people-centred development.

The long road we have to travel, in a world characterised by a process of globalisation, must offer hope to the millions of the peoples we represent that they are advancing towards a world free of poverty, hunger, ignorance and disease.