The Guardian September 6, 2000


The revolt of the developing countries

by Martin Khor*

A Summit meeting of Third World countries was organised by the Group of 77 
(G77) in April in Havana. It brought together 134 developing countries, 
plus China. Forty-two countries were represented by heads of state or 
government and 67 foreign ministers were present. In a closed-door session, 
the political leaders decided to tell the developed countries that the 
South must be allowed to take part in global decisions affecting them, 
otherwise they will not agree to accept these decisions.

This was the first-ever "South Summit". Among the well-known figures 
present were Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Cuban President 
Fidel Castro, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Indonesian President 
Abdurrahman Wahid and South African President Thabo Mbeki as well as UN 
Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 

There was a notably sharp review by Castro of how the South is being 
exploited by the international economic system and  an attack on the 
inequities of globalisation by Dr Mahathir. Perhaps more important than the 
open plenary speeches was a five-hour closed-door meeting among the heads 
of government or state.

Some important ideas emerged and some decisions were taken by this meeting.

Most significant was a decision of the leaders to convey to the G-8 Summit 
(which was held in Okinawa in July) and other groupings of the North that 
the South must be represented in any forum deliberating on global matters 
that can adversely affect the developing countries.

Further, the G77 will not consider any social, economic or political 
architecture decided without their representation.

These decisions were part of the conclusions presented by the Chairman of 
the G77, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the end of the 
"interactive debate".

He said the leaders reaffirmed their collective commitment to live up to 
their responsibility, and called on their partners in the North to join in 
promoting a new partnership for development.

Another important decision made in Havana was to set up a coordinating 
council of political leaders. Its aims are to prepare the South better for 
negotiations, and to follow up on the Summit's action plan. 

The coordinating council will be called the South Coordination Commission 
and will be chaired by the Chairman of the South Summit (Nigerian President 
Olusegun Obasanjo).

It will include the Chairmen of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian 
Nations), CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market), OAU 
(Organisation of African Unity), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and similar 
regional organisations.

The leaders also agreed to establish a South-South health delivery 
programme, and welcomed the offer of Cuba to train 3,000 doctors.

President Obasanjo said that the interactive debate had been an historic 
occasion, as it was the first time that so many heads of state or 
government leaders from the South have engaged in an exchange of views of 
this nature.

This may be the beginning of a tradition of consultation and coordinating 
their actions at the highest level among the leaders of the South on major 
international economic issues.

The leaders agreed that a high-level forum be convened on a regular basis.

The leaders recognised that globalisation is an irreversible process and 
that there is a need for measures to avoid the marginalisation and 
exclusion of the developing countries and their impact on the cultural 
diversity of our peoples and their civilisations.

To this end it was urgent to tap the potential of globalisation so that it 
can be transformed from a vehicle of marginalisation and exclusion to a 
force for positive change and an agent of sustained growth and shared 
prosperity.

The Chairman's summary said that the positive impact of globalisation 
cannot be confined to the few and powerful. It can and should be a powerful 
agent for sustainable development that benefits every person on this 
planet.

The leaders insisted on the promotion of effective South-South cooperation, 
and of renewed North-South cooperation, which includes the shared 
management of the globalisation process, democratic and transparent 
governance of the international financial architecture and international 
trade institutions, and full respect for the principles of sovereignty, 
cultural diversity, mutual respect, justice and equity, regardless of the 
size and shape of a country.

However, President Obasanjo noted, none of this can be achieved without 
international peace and security, the political will of all and an adequate 
institutional framework.

In that context the leaders reaffirmed the primacy of international law, 
the validity of the UN Charter and the culture of peace.

They called on the North to join a new partnership for development, and 
decided to convey the results of the South Summit to the G8 Summit and 
other forums, and to convey that the South must be represented in any forum 
deciding on matters that affect the South.

The Programme of Action adopted covers a wide range of issues and proposed 
actions on the themes of globalisation, knowledge and technology, North-
South relations and South-South cooperation.

At the closing session Ambassador Hasmy Agam of Malaysia presented a motion 
that the Summit not only convey its decisions to the next G8 meeting but 
should also convey the firm conviction that the South must be represented 
in any forum deliberating and deciding on social, economic or political 
matters which can adversely or otherwise affect South countries.

The motion added that the G77 will not consider any social, economic, 
financial or political architecture decided without the G77 being 
represented and that such fora have no authority under international law to 
take binding decisions that affect the South.

President Rawlings of Ghana moved a resolution in the form of an appeal 
from the Summit to the US to end its embargo on Cuba.

The resolution stated it was the moral and fraternal duty of the heads of 
G77 countries to appeal to the US to immediately lift the embargo on Cuba 
imposed since 1960 and that the replacement of the embargo with dialogue 
will lead to partnership between the two countries that are linked by 
geography and history.

In a closing speech, Algeria's President Bouteflika, representing the OAU, 
said he was pleased with the high level of debate which brought up the 
serious dysfunction of international economic institutions that divides 
humanity and undermines human dignity. He said the global inequality is 
shown in the fall in the South's terms of trade, the destabilising capital 
flows, the high debt and restrictions on technology transfer, all of which 
have such negative impacts on the South.

Bouteflika added that the South needs a democratisation and redefinition of 
the world financial system and its institutions.

"We have the right and the need to demand of the North ... They must see 
they have a special responsibility, in the interests of everyone."

Jamaican Prime Minister P J Paterson, in offering a vote of thanks, said 
the Summit is a turning point for the South's striving for a fairer share 
in global governance, a turning point to better equip itself at a technical 
level as well as decisions taken to coordinate efforts in discussions with 
the North.

He noted as important "our decision as heads of government and state to 
intensify efforts to review the WTO regime to be more fair and equitable", 
and added, "There is now a great responsibility on our shoulders as 
leaders. Plans and Declarations must be implemented. If we do not ensure 
effective follow-through, all our efforts will come to nought."

Cuban President Fidel Castro, speaking for the host country, said he had 
taken part in many meetings but never before had he seen such unity of mind 
of Third World leaders. The Summit had brought up "the extent of the crisis 
we face, the growing inequity and discrimination we suffered".

Castro said globalisation benefits only 20 per cent of the world's people 
as against 80 per cent of others.

The Summit leaders had brought out that the trade system is unfair, it 
burdens the Third World exports through many barriers which deprive the 
countries of the minimum needed to pay their debt and get development 
going.

The Summit heard the clamour for the debt of the South to be greatly 
reduced or wiped out as people in the South had repaid that debt many times 
over.

"One might think there's no humanity when we hear of billions of people 
getting less than a dollar to survive. We now hear of millions of hungry, 
illiterate and ill people and children underweight or lacking schools or 
health care. Let our memory retain the figure of 36 million AIDS-infected 
people, 23 million of them in Africa.

"In this summit we went on a quest for unity to coordinate our efforts. 
This summit means we are duty-bound to fight for our rights to be treated 
as equals.

"In the past we fought for independence, and recently we fought to crush 
apartheid, we can now also show we are not inferior in our courage and 
skill to fight, for the sacred right of poor countries but also to fight 
for the rich countries which can't protect nature or govern itself.

"We are struggling to preserve life on this planet, that the ship does not 
hit that iceberg and we all sink in it."

President Obasanjo reminded the participants of Castro's opening speech in 
which he described globalisation as a ship of inequity with too much 
injustice on board, and that he had said the South had to unite or face 
death.

This Summit, he said, was a defining moment in the history of the G77. "We 
have reached a point of no return. From here we go forward to make a 
difference in the world order. From now on we play our part in building the 
world order. It is time to recover our fighting spirit, to infuse cohesion, 
to fulfil our people's expectations, to turn South-South cooperation into a 
potent instrument of progress in all our countries."

* * *
*Martin Khor is Director of the Third World Network

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