3rd Forum on the Eradication of Poverty

Globalization & Eradication of Poverty

The Third Annual Forum on the Eradication of Poverty: Globalization and the Eradication of Poverty was held on December 3, 2003, in Conference Room 1 UN HQ in NY, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Mozambique to the United Nations, co-sponsored and organized by Women's Federation for World Peace International. The Forum started at 2:00 pm.

Moderator of the Opening Session, Mrs. Motoko Sugiyama, the Director of WFWPI, UN Office and VP of WFWP International opened the Forum. She introduced the representatives from 41 different national chapters of WFWPI attending the fourth WFWPI International Leaders Workshop following this conference from December 4-8, 2003. She also described this year's topic as very ambitious and complex. Yet she expressed confidence in the knowledge and abilities of the very brilliant and excellent panelists. The co-sponsors, H.E. Mr. Philipe Chidumo, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mozambique to the United Nations and Prof. Lan Young Moon Park, President of WFWP International made welcoming remarks. Ambassador Chidumo expressed what a great honor to join with WFWPI, once again, in sponsoring the Third Annual Forum on the Eradication of Poverty. This topic could not be timelier, in his view, because millions of citizens worldwide continue to suffer from absolute poverty. Total elimination of poverty continues to challenge our collective imagination. Eradication of Poverty in the context of globalization is an issue requiring concerted efforts by the international community at large. It is clear that the process of globalization provides enormous development opportunities. However, it is also clear that there is a potential danger that many of the benefits of this new revolution could simply pass by many developing countries if developed countries do not share enough resources, expertise, and new technologies with the developing world. Developing countries have the potential to participate successfully in the new global market. But first they need to be empowered and granted adequate resources, skills and technical abilities to enable them to eradicate the scourge of poverty, which is one of the major impediments of their development. Ambassador Chidumo concluded by commending WFWPI for its important activities in the field of eradication of poverty in many countries including his own country, Mozambique. He wished that the day's forum would bring successful deliberation and positive contributions addressing the issue of globalization and poverty eradication.

Prof. Lan Young Moon Park also expressed that it is a great honor to co-sponsor the forum again with the Mission of Mozambique. She stated that every government organization is founded by its own interests. In one way or another, these self-interests must be transcended. This is where the NGOs can and must play a major role in building a peaceful global village. She quoted from a UNICEF poster dated September 2001, among the 2.1 billion children in the world, 1 out of 12 children die before age 5 and 1 out of 3 children suffer from malnutrition. She quoted Mr. Mark Brown, the head of UNDP, that today; the world has more inequality and is less secure than ever. We live in a world of 6 billion. One billion own 80 percent of the wealth, while another billion struggle to survive on less than a dollar a day. Her conclusion was that we are all brothers and sisters under God so how can we just ignore the suffering and misery of our brothers and sisters in the world? Even if we only have a little, as the Korean saying goes, if we share happiness, it will double and multiply, if we share suffering we can reduce it by half. We know about the joy of sharing and feel this in our original nature. Sharing just has to be practiced.

After the opening session ended, the forum began, moderated by H.E. Mr. Anwarul K, Chowdhury, Under-Secretary General, Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) for the United Nations. Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Chowdhury greeted first by saying that he is very honored and very happy to be a moderator for this important forum. His office is the one which really focuses on this issue, particularly in the most critical regions of the world.

The four topics for the forum are as follows; Globalization and Gender Perspective, addressed by Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UN Development Fund for Women ( UNIFEM ) and Ms. Yvette Stevens, Director, Office of Under-Secretary-General, Special Advisor on Africa. The second topic, Globalization and the Role of NGOs was addressed by Ms. Erinah Rutangye, President of WFWP Uganda, and Mr. Bekele Geleta, the Deputy Head of Delegation, Deputy Permanent Observer of the International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to the United Nations. The third topic, Globalization and the Role of Government was addressed by Dr. Thomas Ward, Vice President of University of Bridgeport, Dean of International College and Prof. Omotayo R. Olaniyan, Adviser on Economic Affairs of the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations. The fourth topic, Globalization and the Fight against Poverty was addressed by Ms. Florence Chenoweth, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), New York.

Ms. Noeleen Heyzer from UNIFEM stated that while the debates continue around the nature and impact of globalization, there are some essential ways it is transforming life in the 21st century. In the era of globalization, decisions made in New York, London or Bangkok have a dramatic impact on life chances of faraway people, even remote rural villages. Globalization brings opportunity and risks, creating winners and losers. There is growing recognition that globalization concentrates gains among more affluent groups and nations and losses among the poorer groups and nations. She covered three main points in her presentation: globalization and gender discrimination, globalizations & women's employment and feminization of poverty. She concluded by saying that UNIFEM believes that success of the MDGs will depend on placing women's human rights, gender equality and women's empowerment at the center of strategy to address all eight of the MDGs. (Please refer to the whole text of Ms. Heyzer's speech)

Ms. Yvette Stevens expressed that globali-zation cannot be stopped. Globalization could have positive and negative impact, and it has the potential to address poverty eradication. She focused on Africa in the context of the globalized world. Evidence shows that Africa has not fared well in the globalized world. The available statistics revealed the following: Africa's share of world exports declined from 3.5 % in 1970 to 1.5 % in the late 1990s. Imports in the same period declined from 4.5 % & to 1.5%. The decline in exports over the last 3 decades represents an income loss of $68 Billion US annually (equivalent to 21 % of GDP). G7 agricultural subsidies of $350 billion US a year are 25 times the total of ODA that goes to Africa. Globalization affects men & women differently. Women, as a whole, are more adversely affected by globalization than men. However, empirical studies need to be done to ascertain the impact of globalization from the gender perspective. Ms. Stevens continued with the topic of gender and economy in Africa. Women in Africa are disadvantaged with regard to access to land, capital financial services, micro-credit, education and skills training, as well as technology. Africa is significantly under represented and marginalized in the current global knowledge economy. Within Africa, particularly women carry heavier burdens of marginalization as they represent a majority of the poor and illiterate. She also addressed the topics of gender and trend, gender and technology and gender and migration. There is an increase of women migrating out of the continent. This is a result of an increase in poverty, lack of access to formal labor and economic and political changes, increasing the number of women seeking work overseas or in other areas of their countries. This phenomenon has been exploited by those involved in trafficking in people, and sex slavery has now become an issue to be addressed.

NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa Development was formed in the face of growing global consensus about core values such as good governance and African ownership. It earned warm endorsement from the international community, including the UN as a creation through Africa's own initiative, and it holds the promise of transforming Africa's development prospects. NEPAD is Africa's comprehensive development initiative to chart a new self-defined course for Africa's development. It aims to reverse Africa's current marginalization trend in globalization and eradicate poverty by entering into a new enhanced partnership between Africa and the rest of the world. Ms. Stevens really hopes that the opening of the NEPAD process, which prioritizes the predicament of African women, will succeed. She concluded that globalization has an important role to play in poverty eradication, provided the right policies are put in place to mitigate its negative effect. Through NEPAD, African women should be provided with a greater means to contribute to their country's economy and thus to the eradication of poverty. This would have to involve addressing the long-standing issues which have affected women's productivity in Africa.

Ms. Erina Rutangye used her experience in Uganda to define poverty. In many countries in Africa the necessities include: clean and safe drinking water, sufficient nutritious food, energy for cooking food and lighting, good shelter, adequate clothing and bedding, school fees, etc. She expressed that even simple things taken for granted elsewhere such as sugar, salt and matches are not easily available to almost 35% of families of Uganda. In spite of abundant natural resources such as fertile land, abundant surface water, and climate quite suitable for agriculture, many families in Uganda still live in poverty. According to the most recent World Bank survey, about 35% of 24 million Ugandans live on less than 1 US dollar a day. This is however, a remarkable drop of 51% about ten years ago. One of the major causes of this persistent poverty is lack of sufficient knowledge and practical skills on how to use the available resources profitably and sustain them. She shared the experience of WFWP Uganda's concentration on poverty eradication. In 1994, WFWP Japan sent 10 volunteers to Uganda. Joint efforts focused on the following areas:

  1. Emancipation of Women,
  2. HIV/AIDS education and counseling,
  3. Education on family values and sisterhood among women,
  4. With the help of WFWP Japan, schools were founded.

These schools are, The Kizinda Parents Vocational High School, The Katwe Parents Nursery and Primary School, Trinity Preparatory School and Peace High School. The schools serve several hundred students. Skills training and basic primary education for the orphans and poor families is provided. Peace High School is especially for disadvantaged girl children. Since 1995, WFWP has focused on helping people build better quality of life through food and nutrition programs, energy conservation program, and zero grazing programs, as well as the income generating coffee seedling program. The organization raised over 2 million Arabica coffee seedlings on 400 acres of land and has been distributing coffee seedlings to families in Mbale district. Over 1000 families have benefited from this project. This project was a result of WFWP Uganda's partnership with UNDP. A UNDP grant of $50 thousand dollars funded the implementation in Bufunbo, sub-county of Mbale district. This project improved the household income of the 400 participating families from about $200/year income to $1,200/yr US. WFWP Uganda has demonstrated a concrete development framework that transforms very poor families to families with hope and substantial economic development. In conclusion, Ms. Rutangye expressed deep appreciation of WFWP International and UNDP for making it possible to change the lives of so many families and for supporting WFWP Uganda in this noble cause of poverty eradication. Our Moderator, Amb. Chowdhury commented that this is a great example of a successful partnership between an NGO and a UN program. He would like to see more of this kind of model of partnership working for the eradication of poverty. (The whole text of Ms. Rutangye's speech)

Mr. Bekele Geleta summarized the topic of globalization and the role of NGO. Economic globalization (capital flow, FDI and trade) is not a standalone concept. It cannot succeed in isolation. A holistic approach to make it work has to include good governance (participating in decision-making, access to information, accountability and transparency), the rule of law, education, basic healthcare, liberalized economy, good investment policy and liberalized trade. He believes that NGOs have a very essential role in supporting the vulnerable in mitigating suffering during the transition, until the wealth that is created is reinvested and regenerates the economy, leading to faster economic development. NGOs need to be advocating for people-friendly organizational policy, which creates globalization with a human face. These policies include profit reimbursement, incentives to engage in dialogue with national and international governance entities (UN, international financial institutions and other intergovernmental-bodies) to influence businesses and governments to adopt holistic approaches to globalization through dialogue and promotion of corporate social responsibility through increased partnerships also, wider participation of people in the globalization process to mobilize support. He concluded that NGOs must support the culture of accountability, transparency, and open-access to information and be a role model, using peoples' experience to combat destructive inclinations and actions through consultation and education. Partnerships with indigenous organizations are very critical for this purpose.

An intermission followed the conclusion of the second topic. During the break, there was a video presentation introducing the WFWPI service projects relevant to the MDGs.

Dr. Thomas Ward described the two types of governments still in existence, the government that favors transparency, and rule of law and governments that do not. Governments who opposed transparency and rule of law typically do so because they know that such practices would drastically undermine the longevity of their regime. He quoted from Francis Fukayama's End of History that more than a decade ago, foresaw the universalizing of the liberal democracy. He also quoted from Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilization, which appeared almost at the same time and foresaw a world in which the religious social and cultural underpinnings of different civilizations would complicate any endeavor aimed at standardizing a worldwide social institution and fostering world peace. Governments need to ask themselves, "Are we willing to run the risk of going beyond our perception of the way in which the future world should be? Are we willing to incorporate into our view the aspiration of other nations and civilizations and admit that alone, no single nation can provide a complete view or remedy to the world problem? Are we willing to accommodate circumstances in which our nations may not be able to get the full loaf of our future aspirations in accord with our timetable but only half?" The United Nations had fostered the Dialogue Among Civilizations. In other words, globalization obligates enemy nations to face each other on a daily basis. With globalization, there is a temptation to see the modernization model for development that supplants indigenous models of social, religious and cultural organization with the one-size-fits-all solution. However, it was impossible to reach consensus on the issue of birth control and abortion because the modernization view was rejected by the significant portion of the world at the Beijing +5. Therefore, Dr. Ward believes while democratic institutions and due process of law may indeed be the best direction for the future, this paradigm needs to be something that countries and cultures themselves identify as desirable rather than having it forced upon them through military, economic, technological, social or intellectual intimidation. Therefore, the role of government in globalization should be to foster openness and help to provide the venue for the international understanding that globalization invites us to engage in. At the same time it would seem to be the role of government to foster dialogue about the importance of social institutions and values that have guided societies over centuries if not millenniums. He concluded by saying that religion shapes values and cultures. Values and cultures shape civilization and should guide the way in which one nation relates to another. When the forces behind globalization forget what shapes morals and character it is appropriate for the conscience of governments to remind us of the great civilization-founding ideals.

Prof. Omotayo R. Olaniyan introduced his presentation by stating that globalization has brought about several changes in international relations, created opportunities, but has neglected those countries that do not have the capacity to engage meaningfully in the process. Globalization describes an era where there is fundamentally closer integration of countries and peoples of the world which has been brought about by the enormous reduction of cost of communication, transportation and the breaking down of artificial barriers to the flow of goods, services, capital knowledge and people across borders. Even though most of the developing countries have adopted policies that promote foreign trade, the results have varied. For instance, the East Asian economies have benefited from trade expansion where the LDCs (Least Developed Countries) have not. They have been impoverished by globalization and excluded from it. Their share of world trade in 1997 was 0.4% compared with 0.8% in 1980. He stated that globalization has brought better health, active civil society fighting for democracy, and greater justice. The problem is not with globalization but how it has been managed. Part of the problem is the international economic institutions IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization which help set the rules of the game. They have, in most cases, served the interest of the industrially developed countries and special interests in those countries rather than the developing world. The states must take the role of enhancing and making globalization meaningful and beneficial to all. Governance in the period of globalization should deal with common rules and common objectives that will meet the needs of all people. A fundamental change in governance is required to make globalization work the way it should. Governance should provide the framework for the exercise of democracy, because democracy allows and fosters participation and self determination. IMF and World Bank and all international community institutions must change to ensure that they are not just the voice of trade ministers that are heard in WTO or the voice of the finance ministries and treasurers that are heard at the IMF and World Bank. It is important to ensure that the international economic institutions are more responsive to the poor, to environmental issues, and to broader political and social concerns for openness and transparency. The more the developing countries are able to influence the policies during the process of policy formulation at the intergovernmental level the better the prospects for the attainment of equity and eradication of poverty. Prof. Olaniyan concluded by saying that better governance is important to globalization. The states have a vital role to play in ensuring that interests of all are adequately addressed in treaties and other international institutions.

Ms. Florence Chenoweth was the final speaker. Her topic was Globalization and the Fight against Poverty. Her remarks were focused most specifically on what the FAO is doing within the terms of its mandate to combat poverty. She quoted the recent report by the Secretary General on Globalization. As world leaders recognized at the Millennium Summit, the key question in the globalization debates is how to manage globalization so that poverty can be reduced and development goals achieved. The challenge today is to ensure that the powerful economic and technological progress that underlies globalization is consistent with the Millennium Development Goals. She quoted from World Bank statistics that show there remain nearly 1.2 billion people (1/5 of the world population) who continue to live in absolute poverty, on less than one dollar a day. The recently released report of FAO on the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003 (SOFI) reveals that the number of chronically hungry persons has declined by some 80 million in a few countries since the baseline period of the World Food Summit, between the periods 1990-1992, 1999-2001. However, there are still more than 840 million people worldwide who are undernourished. This figure includes 10 million in unindustrialized countries, 34 million in countries in transition, and some 798 million in developing countries. Falling 37 million during the first half of 1990s, the number of hungry people in developing countries has actually increased 18 million in the second half of the decade. Because the present state of hunger and poverty is unacceptable, the FAO has stressed repeatedly that if we continue at a current pace we will not reach the goal of cutting hunger in half until 2150 which is 100 years after the MDG target date of 2015. She stressed strongly what is lacking is not an abundance of food rather there is a lack of political will to do something about hunger. Success in reducing hunger will depend on mastering the political will to engage in policy reforms and invest resources where they can do the most good for the poor and hungered. She also stated that we cannot talk about eradication of poverty without also addressing the eradication of hunger. She explained the adoption of the International Alliance against Hunger (IAAH) declaration which was ratified at the World Food Summit in 2001. That Alliance was launched in New York at the United Nations by the Director General of FAO on October 17 during the observance of World Food Day. She also summarized FAO's various programs such as anti-hunger programs, interagency food and security, vulnerability information and mapping system as well as National Policies and Strategy of Food Security Agriculture Development (NPSAD). She explained New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) as well as Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP). She referred to the special program for food security as one of the leading elements of FAO's specific assistance to countries (administered jointly with WFP and IFAD). Ms. Chenoweth encouraged us to read further on the findings of FAO, accessible at FAO's website. She looks forward to the opportunity to collaborate further in facing the global issue of poverty eradication.

Around the time the forum started, snow began to fall, becoming a huge snowstorm. Despite the snowstorm, the nearly 400 participants, including around 70 participants from UN Missions and UN systems stayed until the end. The Under-Secretary-General, High Representative Ambasador Chowdhury was a magnificent moderator, who successfully drew all the participants' attention to the forum. Seven excellent panelists shared their expertise and experiences. After a serious question and answer session, the forum finished at 6:00 pm. Participants sent their good wishes to each other for a safe trip home. The Third Annual Forum on the Eradication of Poverty, entitled Globalization and the Eradication of Poverty was a great success despite the very challenging circumstance of the snowstorm.