In welcoming the Special Session of the General Assembly to be held on 23-27 June, the Group of 77 hopes that the unfulfilled commitments of Rio will be addressed seriously and the linkage between the environment and development will be cemented for all time.
The last five years (1992-1997) have seen the spectre of globalisation reach the four corners of the world. The debate to-day is centered not on the timing of globalisation; rather it is focused on the impact to many countries and societies. The computer revolution has meant that national borders have become very porous and the Internet is rapidly becoming the main highway facilitating commerce across continents, friendships, including the exchange of knowledge and skills.
All this is very welcome. However, there is another aspect of globlisation that is worrisome especially to the majority of the developing countries. Whereas globalisation has demonstrated the vast achievements in technology that humankind has traveled, yet there is also the stark reality that the benefits have not been distributed evenly. The basic requirement of the phenomenon of globalisation is sound technological base. Those countries with Third World economies have become marginalised the more. The traditional disparities of income have now been joined by those who are on the super-highway and the majority who are not easy to describe.
That is the backdrop of the impending Special Session: lack of development and marginalisation arising from the implosion of technology has tremendous negative consequences on the environment. It is a truism that underdevelopment has an impact on certain aspects of the environment such as energy and water through excessive use of wood. The fight against poverty has to be global as well. Failure to address it threatens the very civilisation which is taken for granted in the North and some parts of the South.
Other issues which the Special Session would be expected to focus on are the new issues of energy, technology transfer and water. All eyes of the world would be directed towards New York to see how world leaders tackle the burning issues of the day.
Ending as we started, we welcome the Special Session. The South has faith that world leaders will live up to the expectations of the vast majority of humankind that this opportunity will not be lost.
The next millenium is around the corner. Maybe the millenium may not be easy to comprehend but the next century is three years on. Questions being asked are: will it be the century of equality and opportunity or exacerbated inequalities? Will the era of international cooperation be given a new lease of life? The Cold War is over but the peace dividend was illusive.
The challenge is loud and clear. Globalisation may open windows of opportunities for all if the glaring inequalities are seriously addressed.