Madame Co-Chair, President Halonen; The Director General of ILO, Mr. Juan Somavia; Distinguished Commissioners; Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me to join President Halonen, and the ILO Director General, Juan Somavia, in welcoming you all, distinguished members of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation, to our first meeting. I thank you for attending.
I feel truly honoured to work with such a distinguished group of people for such a noble, worthy and timely cause. I will speak in general terms, for I do not want at this early stage to pre-empt anyone, or, worse still, provoke reactions that are best left to later stages of our work.
President Halonen spoke for all of us during the launch of the Commission on 27 February 2002 when she pointed out that one of the advantages of this kind of Commission was that it affords us more free space for constructive dialogue. That is why we are all participating in a personal and hence unencumbered capacity; and that is why this has to be an independent Commission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world stands in dire need of Hope. And I hope that this Commission will give the world the faith it needs to embrace the challenges of the new millennium with confidence and hope, not with uncertainty and despair. We must give the world hope, for there is nothing as destabilising as fear and desperation.
And a world of instability is bad for everyone. Global integration may be inevitable, but it is not beyond human capacity to ensure that the process is inclusive at all levels; that it produces fair and equitable outcomes for all. For globalisation can, and should, act as a powerful engine for growth, for international cooperation and for development.
But in turn it must conduce the kind of growth, cooperation and development that adequately rewards entrepreneurs, fairly rewards the workers that create wealth, fairly and sustainably serves communities, and ultimately prospers all nations, and stabilises the international community.
Current anxieties – indeed at times overt and abrasive tensions – need not necessarily characterise our present and future lives and relations. Our role is to find ways to make globalisation a well organised and globally owned, shared and managed process.
Our mandate enjoins us to seek constructive and balanced solutions to what are common problems, namely, to identify policies, strategies and other measures that promote open economies, and engender broadbased growth and development with social justice.
But the success of our mission requires genuine desire on the part of the international community to minimise negative consequences of globalisation. Without such a genuine commitment we shall continue talking past each other, without attaining common ground, and occasioning common action.
As we begin work we must call for such global and genuine commitment towards action. This Commission meets when several other initiatives are taking place. The United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development has just ended in Monterrey.
In May, we will be in New York for a United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children. And in September we will be in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
We should strive to internalise the debate in, and outcome from, all these and other relevant fora, which, among other things, seek to ensure global poverty is reduced by half by 2015, in line with universally endorsed targets contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
We have an onerous task; but the composition of this body gives me much confidence. Such a geographical, regional and gender sensitive composition taps into an impressive array of broad perspectives, all equally important and significant.
Above all, however, are the personal qualities, experiences and expertise that each of the Commissioners brings to this undertaking. A successful outcome of our work is well within the reach of the combined capacity of this Commission.
We cannot afford to fail. For the matter placed before us, in the most profound and fundamental sense, lies at the very heart of global prosperity, stability and security. This is the case in various mutually reinforcing ways. It is so in terms of facilitating the integration of production and trade in communities, countries and regions.
It seeks the key to integrating a broad range of economic actors as partners, and not as opponents or mere appendages.
Most critically, it represents the imperative to foster – among nations and peoples – a sense of globalisation as a potential resource for growth and prosperity, rather than a force of economic, social and cultural usurpation and marginalisation.
As an African aphorism stipulates: no one likes to eat crumbs from a feast; everyone wants to sit at the table. There are clusters of issues that affect the social dimension of globalisation with particular severity. The Secretariat has striven to identify some of them.
They have done a good job. It will, however, be upon us to vouch for, and agree on, their scope and relevance, without losing focus on the central objectives of this Commission. Some of these issues are subjects of considerable research and data. Others have not attracted similar attention and may require special effort by the Commission, the Secretariat and various experts.
For instance, while much research has been done about the various effects of globalisation in industrialised and middle income countries, much remains to be done in respect of developing and least developed countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
One may fear that bringing together people of so many and varied backgrounds, interests and perspectives is bound to generate conflict, or at least major differences about perception and future direction. But the key here is the search for common ground, characterised by tolerance for opposing views.
And, as with many seemingly daunting jobs, success lies in the determination and commitment to succeed. And, as I said, our process must be inclusive as much as possible. We cannot argue for an inclusive process of globalisation and not be inclusive in our own work.
Just as we would have to speak to one another, we must also speak to other stakeholders at various levels if we are to appreciate and take into account our varied concerns, and fulfil our responsibility for seeking and forging common ground for action.
This is especially important so that our final report should be widely embraced by stakeholders, and be a solid basis for action, rather than risk being discredited and disowned, and ending up collecting dust in office shelves across the world.
Each Commissioner has a role to play in this consultative process, and I hope we can agree on its modality. As we begin this work we must bear in mind that it is unlikely there will be another Commission of this kind for many a year, perhaps for many a decade.
That awareness should inevitably enlarge our sense of the weighty responsibility on our shoulders; but we must as well be encouraged by the assurance that there is broad desire, in the community of nations, about doing something, rather than doing nothing.
If we are to offer a meaningful contribution to the management of the dynamics of the evolving globalisation, our recommendations must not only be timely and practical, but also offer a realistic way forward. I believe we are all up to the task and I look forward to a fruitful engagement amongst us and an inspirational outcome of our work.
And as we begin working, let us not forget: One is respected for one’s principles; but one is judged by results. Our individual and collective reputation demands that we eventually be judged as having fulfilled our mandate to the best of our abilities and convictions. That is the challenge before us.
I thank you.