Deep unease about globalisation

OECD Observer

Partnerships for the 21st century 

As Louise Frechette, deputy secretary-general points out, everyone is aware that there is a deep unease about globalisation. That is why dialogue and co-operation between all players, whether civil society, international organisations and governments, is required. New kinds of co-operation are being developed, a new type of partnership. It forms one of the bases on which the UN is striving to build its own new architecture, carrying out its “silent revolution”. A new report, A Better World for All, released today (26 June) testified to the value of new partnerships, having been the joint effort of four international agencies: the UN, OECD, IMF and the World Bank.

Strong partnerships are needed with NGOs and business, Louise Frechette said, as long as they led to real development strategies, and not to some purely symbolic gestures. The first responsibility of government had to be alleviating debt for the poorest countries and improving the efficiency of aid. NGOs and business also had their specific roles to play.

For Guy Hascoet, French secretary of state for economic solidarity, thinking on sustainable development, ethics, profit and so on did not so much add up to a new economy as a new economic vision. It was a sign that free market capitalism had outgrown its usefulness. What we were experiencing was in fact a “capitalist illusion” running up against its own credo of efficiency. The “instantaneous” , which the era of financial markets had ushered in, had become the be all and end all of the current system. And the public sector was no longer able to deliver the needs of the people. Multiple approaches were needed which had to be properly managed in a pluralistic economy.

Equitable and ethical development was the key message to the conference of Pierre Sané, Secretary-General of Amnesty International. He called on businesses to encourage respect for human rights by developing codes of conduct. Amnesty’s Secretary-General reminded businesses of five key guiding principles: morality, human rights, rule of law, respect of governors and the right to work. He urged business to set up dialogue with local government to develop a system that guaranteed equality before the law. He suggested that human rights be the corner stone of the new economy’s architecture.

Sir Robert Wilson, executive director of Rio Tinto, a multinational mining company, said that he doubted that companies would catch on to such a concept, even if they were aware of their responsibilities to society generally. Still, company values will change along with society’s demands. For Sir Robert, however, business should not get involved in politics as such, or to give gifts to political parties. Rather they should begin by concentrating on respecting the rights of their staff. For Mr Sané, there was no such thing as a company that did not get involved in politics.

Based on a speech at Forum 2000, Paris, June 2000

©OECD Observer July 2000 




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