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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Address by Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU General Secretary, to the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, 18 July 2001

Address by Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU General Secretary, to the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy

18 July 2001

The G-8 summit brings together a group of eight industrialised countries and provides an opportunity for these countries to reflect on global challenges. This summit takes place amid concerns of a world economic slowdown, which would have knock-on effects on developing societies. It also takes place in the midst of general distrust against globalisation.

For many developing countries economic globalisation has meant more misery, more job losses, widening gap between the poor and the rich. Ironically, countries of the north have not been spared these devastating outcomes of globalisation - they are also fac ing spiralling unemployment, the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Therefore the stability of globalisation depends on addressing these social ills associated with globalisation and economic liberalisation. The time has come to globalise social and economic justice and emerge with humane policies that eradicate poverty an d creates employment for the multitude of people that are now marginalized from the economic mainstream.

The sustained profits and wealth accumulation of the few is not sustainable in the long run if the basic problems of lack jobs, housing, food, education health care are not resolved.

Every meeting of business and government is now confronted by social protest. For those in the mainstream this social protest means social anarchy.

But for those of us who see the devastating effects of globalisation this social protest is a rude awakening to the leaders of government and business to realise the negative impact of globalisation and structural adjustment programmes imposed on the peopl e of the world. The G-8 leaders are confronted with the challenge of either confronting these challenges or pretend that everything is normal and hence it should be business as usual.

As we march into the new millennium we need a new social contract that put people first by creating decent jobs, protecting living standards and raising standard for the millions that lack basic necessities. We need partnerships between the people and thei r governments.

Government must realise that one of their core functions is to protect the weak and vulnerable. It is therefore imperative that people decide their destiny rather than it being imposed by unelected officials of the World Bank, IMF and WTO.

We need a new agenda that fosters mutual benefit for countries of the north and the south. This new agenda must recognise the inequities that exists between the north and the south - inequities created and perpetuated by the uneven economic development and the unfair terms of trade facing many developing countries.

For this reason, the G-8 summit must go beyond the selfish interest of these developed countries to further close their markets and impose stringent conditions for countries of the South. This short-term approach will have devastating effects and undermine the stability of the world economic system.

In my view the new agenda must entail: 1. A Marshall Plan-type intervention to harness resources for investment in developing societies, particularly in Africa in order to broaden the economic base from agriculture to more value-adding activities. 2. Acceleration of the debt-redemption programme for the poorest nations in Africa and elsewhere. The payment of the debt is scandalous as it diverts whatever benefits from growth into paying this odious debt. 3. Developmental Aid to assist developing societies to grow their economies and build social protection for their citizens. 4. Changing the rules of trade in favour of developing countries. In this regard the US and the EU must change their trade policies to open their markets for goods from developing countries. The double standard must come to an end: developing countries ar e required to open their markets without reciprocation from the developed countries. What is needed is not just reciprocation. We require that the trading system be changed in recognition of the current imbalances so that they can have a particular balan ce in favour of the developing countries. 5. The world governance system should be change to ensure equitable representation rather than the current situation where a minority of countries dominate institutions such as the UN. In this regard the veto system should be ended, the WTO restructured a nd its rules reformed; the World Bank and IMF made more accountable and change their policies of the one-size-fits all structural adjustment programme.

This represents a minimal platform for change and it in the interest of the countries represented in the G-8.

If these leaders are not brave enough to accept these modest changes they will have to accept that many will opt out of the world system and some will find other means to challenge globalisation. This may lead to an arms race wherein developing societies a im to protect themselves from the social unrest that will be unleashed by the wrecking ball of globalisation.

Long lasting peace will however not come from arms stockpiling but from addressing the basic social problems of underdevelopment.

I challenge these leaders to be bold and emerge with a new message for the world.

To do otherwise will be to fail humanity.

Thank you