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Equitable Globalization?

34th Annual Frank Church Symposium
International Affairs Council, Idaho State University

Remarks of Edmund Cain*
Director of the Carter Center's Global Development Initiative

The theme of this year's symposium is the Global Economy: Economic Freedom or Corporate Colonialism. As we all know, there is an ongoing process in our world today called globalization, and there is a great debate about its merits and demerits. Some believe the process to be inherently evil where rich oligarchs exploit the world's poor. Others see market-led globalization as a threat to American jobs. Globalization means much more than economies being increasingly integrated in terms of goods and services and financial flows. It is also a cross-fertilization of ideas, norms, values, information, and societies. The challenge, therefore, is not whether to globalize or not--we have little choice--but rather how to apply universally shared norms and values that will allow us to manage this inevitable process in a way that is equitable and respectful of human rights, human needs and our environment. Yet while the economy is increasingly global, social and political institutions remain largely local, national, or regional. None of the existing global institutions provides adequate democratic oversight of global markets or global inequities. Human rights, human needs, and the environment are, therefore, inadequately monitored and protected.

I would urge those of you who have not read President Carter's 2002 Nobel Lecture to do so. You can find it on the Carter Center Web site. In it President Carter states, "At the beginning of this new millennium I was asked to discuss here in Oslo the greatest challenge the world faces. I decided the most serious and universal problem is the growing chasm between the richest and poorest people on earth. Citizens of the 10 wealthiest countries are now 75 times richer than those who live in the 10 poorest, and the separation is increasing every year, not only between nations but also within them. The results of this disparity are the root causes of most of the world's unresolved problems, including starvation, illiteracy, environmental degradation, violent conflict, and unnecessary illnesses that range from Guinea worm to HIV/AIDS."

I will address this problem in my remarks and argue how its solution can be found in the interrelationship human rights, human development, and human security.

Many of the challenges we face today can be met by simply respecting human rights-not just political rights but also social, economic, and cultural rights. Human rights activists and development practitioners have joined ranks in recognizing that a person cannot fully develop by being afforded civil and political rights alone. To effectively exercise their political rights, people must be educated, healthy, and given the opportunity to develop to their full potential. By being able to exercise those rights individuals and societies will feel a sense of control over their destinies. They will be informed individuals with the capacity to question the policies and practices of governments and other institutions-and hold them accountable for their actions. When individuals and nations feel secure, the world will be made more secure.

Why then are human rights not being respected? It wasn't until the beginning of the 1990s that a paradigm of development emerged that went beyond the notion that all a country needs to do is grow economically to meet the needs of its inhabitants. It has since become recognized that as fundamental as economic growth is to development, political and social development are equally important. This more comprehensive approach to development is now widely accepted.

We have come a long way since the dysfunctional days of the Cold War when development assistance was largely aimed at supporting political and military alliances and gave only secondary attention to reducing poverty and human suffering. Today the basic objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives--yet the rules guiding our economy and society remain unresponsive to those objectives. Different international agreements have attempted to set not only development goals but standards for cooperation in achieving them. We must now implement the policies and practices we know are necessary in order to rid the world of its gross inequities and intolerable levels of human suffering-a world where half the population lives on less than two dollars a day.

World leaders have agreed to address this unacceptable and unsustainable situation by initially focusing on a few achievable development goals called the Millennium Development Goals. In 2000 the U.N. Millennium Declaration was adopted at the largest-ever gathering of heads of state. More than 180 countries, rich and poor, agreed to do all they could to eradicate poverty and respect human dignity by promoting equity, peace, democracy, and environmental sustainability. By 2015 leaders promised to:

  • Reduce by half the number of people living on one dollar a day and suffering from hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education
  • Reduce child mortality by two-thirds
  • Reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent
  • Halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other major diseases
  • Reduce by half the number of people without safe drinking water and integrate sound environmental policies and programs in all national plans
  • Develop a global partnership for development-trade debt, aid, research, aid, and good governance.

It was encouraging to witness at the outset of the new century such an unprecedented declaration of solidarity and apparent determination to finally begin to rid the world of poverty and human suffering. Five years later, however, the question remains whether there is the political will to take the necessary action. Regrettably, progress has been poor. With respect to the call for a more effective global partnership for development, meaningful increases in development assistance have yet to materialize. The policies and practices of developed countries remain largely unfriendly to poor countries. Fifty of the least-developed countries have a lower gross national product than they had a decade ago.

The disparities President Carter spoke of in his Nobel Lecture don't only refer to income disparities, although that is arguably what drives most other disparities. The fact that the richest 10 percent (25 million) in the United States have a combined income greater than that of half the world's population is reason for concern. The fact that the assets of the world's top three billionaires equal the GNP of the 50 least developed countries should cause us to question how our worlds tremendous wealth can be more equitably shared.

There are other disparities that require urgent attention. Health research is disproportionately aimed at the health demands of the affluent, which are often frivolous rather than necessary. Therefore, there are disparities in access to health care and medicines. There are disparities in access to education between rich and poor countries and within developing countries where the number of boys exceeds the number of girls able to attend school. There are disparities in access to technology.

Jeffery Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a leading proponent on the centrality of health to development, points out that by suppressing malaria in poor highly endemic regions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the potential exists to initiate a virtuous cycle in which improved health spurs economic growth. Yet despite the enormous potential of anti-malarial programs, the level of international spending on malaria control has been abysmal. Less than $100 million per year is spent when $3 to $4 billion is needed annually. In Mozambique where The Carter Center is working, 90 percent of the children are affected by malaria, which is the leading cause of death in its pediatric wards. Communicable diseases, malnutrition, and reproductive ailments account for most of the mortality gap between high and low-income countries and between the rich and the poor.

Let me also mention the tsunami disparity. Clearly the disaster in Southeast Asia at the end of last year was heart wrenching. We witnessed death, destruction, and human suffering on our television screens, and this moved us all to respond. While we will probably never know the total death toll, it has now topped 200,000. The outpouring of generosity to relieve the human suffering was unprecedented, yet we allow 200,000 children to die each week of preventable causes. This is a "silent tsunami" that happens more than 50 times a year. We are the first generation to have the capacity to end poverty and the disease and suffering it spawns, so why can't we show the same generosity and concern for the world's children and poor that we have shown to the tsunami victims?

So what specifically is The Carter Center doing to demonstrate the need for action? First, we recognize in order to achieve peace there are a number of battles that have to be waged. The Carter Center's Peace Programs, therefore, have three elements-conflict resolution, democracy building, and a global development initiative. The Carter Center, while known for its election work, recognizes elections alone are not enough in the promotion of human rights and democracy. It is for this reason that the Global Development Initiative became an integral part of the Center's Peace Programs in 1994. Over the last decade GDI has contributed to broadening development thinking to include social and political, as well as economic development concerns.

We have supported the implementation of President Carter's comprehensive interpretation of human rights. GDI promotes this by:

  • Fostering the right to country ownership of national development strategies,
  • Ensuring all citizens the right to participate in the formulation and implementation of those strategies
  • And by promoting the right for countries to develop in an international policy environment that is supportive of development and alleviating human suffering.

Over the past decade these concepts and approaches have become widely accepted by the development community-at least rhetorically. In GDI we have attempted to apply these concepts by helping countries exercise their right to chart their own destiny by building national capacity and by promoting a more fair international policy environment. Similar to the MDG approach, which aims to demonstrate progress in a few areas, GDI works with only a few countries, currently Albania, Guyana, Mali, and Mozambique, to show how country-owned sustainable development strategies can be formulated and implemented. We then share our experiences at high-level development cooperation forums at The Carter Center so these few experiences can contribute to best practices for the development community at large to adopt.

International financial institutions play an indispensable role in advancing development. The World Bank's poverty reduction strategy has been criticized for failing to be flexible and sufficiently participatory. Poverty, some have argued, is being used as window dressing to peddle more or less the same, one size fits all, macroeconomic policies and structural adjustment programs. The Carter Center is working with the Bank to address these shortcomings since it is recognized that when countries have little control over the structure and content of their respective strategies they are not likely to succeed. As long as prevailing development practices do not allow countries to genuinely debate different policies and tailor their development strategies to their particular needs, the notion of developing countries owning their strategies will remain an illusion.

The Carter Center, through its promotion of participatory, long-term national development strategies (or NDS), attempts to provide countries with the methodologies and mechanisms that facilitate the shaping of such a broad, country owned vision which can guide the next generation of Bank supported poverty reduction strategies. Using a fully participatory and cooperative design, the NDS process models a rights-based approach to development.

The Carter Center works with its partner countries to build capacity and seeks to ensure unfair donor practices and policies do not exacerbate disadvantages poor countries face in the competitive world marketplace.

A blatant example of this often unfair policy environment can be found in Mali. U.S. cotton subsidy alone is estimated to cost Mali, one of GDI's partner countries, millions of dollars a year in lost export earnings. In one year lost export revenues amounted to $45 million--exceeding the $37 million the U.S. provided in aid to Mali that year. Mali is not unique among GDI's partner countries in suffering from unfair trade policies.

Donor practices also can include aid conditional on the implementation of ad hoc projects, which undermine any notion of national ownership of its national budget and strategy. Moreover, the myriad of requirements for administering such ad-hoc projects and programs overburdens what little capacity developing countries often possess. To this end, The Carter Center is working in Mali to encourage donors to harmonize their policies and procedures. Furthermore, we are helping Mali to reform its institutions to help Mali more effectively manage the aid it receives.

Effectively addressing poverty can make an important contribution to avoiding conflict and combating terror. Some of us had hoped that the tragic events of Sept. 11 might have had a silver lining. With the collapse of the twin towers, rich nations' security suddenly became connected to the developing world. But the connection between hopelessness and despair and terrorism has been slow to crystallize in the public consciousness. Interviews with terrorists and terrorist sympathizers conducted in recent years support the idea that feelings of alienation and humiliation, as well as the lack of political and economic opportunity--that is to say the denial of basic human rights--can drive young people into the arms of extremists. When terrorists have resources to seed unrest and when governments cannot provide citizens' with hope and opportunity, the hearts and minds of the oppressed are fertile ground for supporting violent change.

To mobilize the resources required, it will be necessary to educate the citizens of rich countries about the connection between human rights, human development, and human security. Indeed, President Bush cited terrorism as a central rationale for the creation of the Millennium Challenge Account, which aims to double U.S. foreign assistance in four years. Voters need to understand that if they are prepared to support almost $500 million annually in arms related expenditures, supporting an increase in our aid budget to just one-tenth of that amount would be an equally good if not better investment for securing our future.

For those who are not persuaded by the moral imperative-and I believe most Americans have demonstrated their concern for their fellow man by their response to the tsunami crisis as well as other visible disasters-I would hope my remarks have also demonstrated it is in our self-interest to be more supportive of development. I also hope that as the world's greatest champion of freedom and human rights, we Americans can support freedom and human rights in their fullest sense. As Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen convincingly explains in his book, Development as Freedom, "Development requires removal of major sources of 'unfreedom' -- poverty, tyranny, poor economic opportunities and social deprivation." He goes on to observe that "despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers--perhaps the majority of people."

As a country that cherishes freedom, we must aggressively confront decision makers who are unresponsive to development needs. Freedom and human rights cannot be treated as "a la carte" concepts from which you pick and choose. Those who have little or no appreciation for the full meaning of these concepts need to be educated or removed from office. A widespread campaign, centered upon a broader vision or understanding of human rights and targeted at voters, will go a long way in helping people understand the value of foreign aid and the need to practice development friendly policies that reduce poverty and narrow disparities. Only when we understand that by respecting and supporting all aspects of human rights will we be able to achieve both national and global security. Only then will the political process that hinders good development policy begin to change. And only then will our world become a more equitable, secure, and peaceful place.

Thank you.

* Condensed from original remarks

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