Towards ethical globalisation

Prime Minister of Belgium and Chair of the 2002 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting
Page 4 

The world has become a radically different place in the last year. So when the OECD Ministerial Council convenes on 15-16 May in Paris, immediately after the OECD’s annual public Forum, we shall also have to change the way we talk.

The events that shaped this change are, of course, the terrorist attacks of 11 September. The entire world reacted by forming a large coalition against terrorism. Security all over the world was stepped up. The Afghan Taleban, the regime that hosted the organisation behind the attacks, were removed within a couple of months.

Yet there is a feeling that the work has only started. The risk of new terrorist attacks remains. But above everything else, a logic is becoming clear. Yes, Osama Bin Laden is a cynical fanatic, to be hunted down and jailed for life. But he could only operate in a world where states become so poor and weak that they can be hijacked by wealthy criminals.

Bin Laden was not the first to use a crumbling and disintegrating state for his criminal activities. But he is the first to have made us fully aware of the risks we face as a result. On 11 September terrorism went global.

Globalisation is no longer only an economic issue. It is a fundamentally political question too. It is about the great divide between rich and poor on this planet, with all its potential of creating an unstable and dangerous world. It is the most important political issue of our generation.

Thus the battle against poverty should be the first priority on our agenda. First, we must increase our aid for the poorest nations. Let us at long last fulfil the promise we made over 30 years ago but have broken ever since: to raise official development aid to the level of 0.7% of GDP.

The Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey in March made some progress but did not go far enough. That is why I have proposed a new debt-relief initiative, called PAIR, or Prospective Aid and Indebtedness Relief, aimed at creating a steady flow of financial aid from the 850 million people in the 29 richest countries to the 850 million people in the 49 least developed countries.

Fair trade is a second priority. We in the OECD area have been promoting free trade for several decades, which is a good thing. But we have not always practised what we preach. We should stop protecting our own textile and agricultural markets and subsidising our products to sell them more cheaply in poor countries.

Let us open our markets and abolish export subsidies on our products. After all, how can we expect local farmers in the developing world to believe that world trade will bring them freedom, justice and prosperity while at the same time, with these subsidies, we hinder them from selling their produce on their own local markets? Through our export subsidies, we are undermining local products on the markets in the towns and cities of the third world. If we want to promote free trade, we must ensure that it is fair.

Last but not least, we need a political structure to give shape and order to what I call “ethical globalisation”. A partnership based on the structures of regional co-operation across our continents would, I believe, be the most appropriate way to create a genuine political dialogue on a world scale and would give the voice of the poorer continents more weight. Let us create a forum where the leading continental partnerships can all speak on an equal footing and find global answers for global problems.

©OECD Observer No 231/232, May 2002

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