Published on Tuesday, August 29, 2000 by InterPress Service
Stakeholders Will Meet To Create Globalization Dialogue
by Mark Lobel
UNITED NATIONS - Heads of state, religious leaders and civil society will meet in New York within the next two weeks in a forum designed to air concerns and devise strategies to deal with globalisation.

Forum 2000 is to be hosted by The State of the World Forum, a non- profit organisation working for sustainable globalisation. It will bring together the different viewpoints on globalisation ''for the first time ever, in a global town hall meeting,'' President of the State of the World Forum, Jim Garrison, told IPS.

The meeting is timed to coincide with the United Nations (UN) Millennium Summit (Sep. 6-8), convened by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to adopt a global vision for the 21st Century. More than 150 heads of government will attend the Millennium Summit.

''Unlike recent international meetings in Seattle, Davos and Washington, D.C. - where dissenting views were heard only on the streets - this meeting will bring all of globalisation's varied stakeholders to the same table to discuss issues of mutual concern,'' Nils Hoffman, Press Co-ordinator, said of Forum 2000.

''Institutions governing globalisation are all limited to representatives of sovereign states, but in reality globalisation affects everyone. As a minimum we need to create a mechanism for the stakeholders to meet across the table. My instinct, from the experience of democracy, is how these types of matters can be solved through diverse discussions,'' Garrison said.

''We are taking the creative leadership to break through the dialectic,'' he added.

Former Soviet President and Founding Member of The State of the World Forum, Mikhail Gorbachev, will chair the initial stages of Forum 2000 in New York, Sep. 4 - 10.

It will include the co-chairs Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan (1982-87), Jehan Sadat, First Lady of Egypt (1970-81), Jean-Bertrand Aristide, President of Haiti (1991-1996) and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu.

Over 1,000 people from more than 80 countries are expected to participate. The participants are representing all of globalisation's key issue areas, from science and technology to business and spirituality. They include AOL Chairman Steve Case and consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Over 35 heads of state have been invited to attend the Forum. Twelve have accepted the invitation. They include heads of government from South Africa, New Zealand, Senegal, Colombia, Gambia and Cost Rica. Foreign Ministers from Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey have said they will attend.

A release has been issued in advance of Forum 2000 to brief participants for a post-Seattle (World Trade Organisation meeting) dialogue on globalisation.

''It is aimed at convincing people that globalisation has really replaced the Cold War as the organising framework for human affairs,'' Garrison said.

The State of the World Forum analysed trends and projections compiled by the United Nations and other agencies in economic development, international trade, communications, culture, labour, environment, health, human development and religion. The report concludes that globalisation will change the world as radically in the 21st Century as democratisation changed it in the 20th Century.

''Globalisation has become a powerful force to be reckoned with. It has as much power to change lives as the move from monarchy toward democracy that took place in the 20th Century,'' Garrison concluded.

As a result of globalisation, the report states, the percentage of people with access to telephones, television, the Internet and radio is at its highest level ever, empowering many with information they never had access to before.

''Globalisation comes down to much more than just communications and economics. We must look at it in terms of workers' rights, the environment, culture, health, ethics and development as well,'' Garrison said.

In 1900, no country had voting rights for all adults. Today, 70 percent of countries have universal adult franchise.

In the developing world, where 80 percent of the world's population resides, the lack of access to modern communications systems has contributed to much slower economic growth and the largest ever income gap between developed and developing nations. The average GNP per capita in high-income countries is now 25,510 dollars, while it is only 520 dollars on average in all low-income countries.

The report also notes that developing countries that have attracted jobs from overseas due to low labour rates also have poor protections for workers. Workers lack pension benefits and health insurance and some employers force long work hours or dangerous conditions without ample safety precautions, according to the report.

There is an increasing number of health problems that have only plagued the development world are now found in the developing world, the report concludes.

In 1990, the most important global health risks were lower respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases and conditions arising during perinatal periods. By 2020, major global health threats are expected to match those in the United States and other industrial countries, such as heart disease, major depression, traffic accidents and cerebrovascular disease, it says.

Telecommunications is also considered a key indicator of global inequality. The average industrial country has 251 fax machines per 10,000 residents, while the average developing country has only five per 10,000. A person in an industrialised country spends an average of 43 minutes on international calls per year, while a person in the developing world spends only three minutes, it is reported.

The State of the World Forum is planning to hold a meeting similar to Forum 2000 in Prague, Czech Republic, from Sep. 26 to 28. This second forum will coincide with the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, also being held in Prague.

''We need to add a third ingredient to a potentially polarised and violent situation. Anti-globalisation protestors are gaining more and more public support and there is no receptivity to this on behalf of the IMF or World Bank,'' Garrison explained.

Copyright 2000 IPS