Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland

The Millennium Development Goals: Social Justice and Promotion of Equality

September 12, 2005 03:30 PM


by Her Excellency Tarja Halonen

President Halonen: It is great honor for me to address the World Leaders
Forum here at the Columbia University. So a few words before I start. Of course
it's always a pleasure to visit the U.S.A. but during the last two weeks our
thoughts have been with you because of serious damages caused by the
Hurricane Katrina. Even we have thought of you quite much. On behalf of
myself and of the people of Finland I would like once again to express my
condolences to the loss of the human lives. Finland is also participating already
in the rescue effort by providing logistic experts and other assistance. So, ladies
and gentlemen, the world is one. The United Nations has proved its importance
over the past six decades with the major event summit or I just heard today that
the latest compromise which is going on they say that it is high level (inaudible)
general assembly.

This is one of the compromises now. But if I say the major event summit so
never mind. It's the same summit anyway. So we are about to start the new
chapter in the history of the U.N. The (inaudible) of this was created at 2000
millennium summit and I still remember the very special atmosphere of the
summit. As the president of this general assembly and this meeting I listened
very carefully the speakers and what was said and promised and their body
language and I really had sincerely the feeling that that was something. The
United Nations Millennium Declaration is a truly fundamental and far-reaching
political commitment for peace, security and development. The Millennium
Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals were approved unanimously.

The MDGs, as we call these goals, are ambitious and rightly so. The primary
aim is to radically reduce poverty. The U.N. conference in Monterey in 2002
continue the work and agreed on means for financing development. In the same
year United Nations Summit in Johannesburg focused on sustainable
development and combined the first time very visibly the social dimension and
ecological issues. So we have the nature and we have the man. And now I say
very seriously that there is no need to change these political commitments or
lower the ambition. To a great extent, agreement has also been reached on the
means to be used in order to achieve the goals.

And, like Mr. Stiglitz has mentioned, so as a part of this work and to see means
for (inaudible) globalization the ILO, International Labor Organization, appointed
in 2002 a world commission on the social dimension in globalization. So the ILO
financed it but it was an independent world commission. So, dear friends, many
good things have happened. But the timetable for attaining the MDGs, the goals
is in many respects lagging behind the expectation set at the Millennium Summit
in 2000. And yet it is simply a question of transforming political commitment into
action and implementation. In theory very simply (inaudible). We have the
(inaudible) as I mentioned. We have the knowledge and we have the resources.

The goals need to become a natural part of the implementation of so-called
domestic policy objectives and of the national democratic responsibility. This is a
challenge. But at the same time of course we have to see the international
dimension of the situation, and that's why globalization is so important.
Globalization is a mega trend that has a decisive impact on development and
people's lives all over the world. And people feel that the possibility to govern
their everyday lives is waiting. The World Commission had really 24 members
who represented I believe we said a broad variety of views. I have said
sometimes that from Davos to Porto Allegro.

Three of the members were Americans and their views and expertise influenced
also strongly to our work. I am already sure that you were aware that Professor
Joseph Stiglitz was one of the American members. The other two were
(inaudible) who was the former US Secretary of Labor (inaudible) and a
businesswoman and the third one was John S. Sweeney, a famous trade
unionist and the president of the AFL/CIO, so really a quite different kind of
opinions already from the USA. Somebody has said that this World Commission
was originally a group of not-like-minded people, they were just chosen because
they have different kind of opinions.

But nevertheless this commission reached a consensus on its final report
(inaudible) globalization creating opportunities for all. So which kind of the report
it was then? The message of the World Commission is critical, really critical but
yet positive. Globalization continues to have an enormous potential for improving
people's quality of life. But at present that potential is not fully used. Not enough
people are benefiting, too many are suffering or entirely excluded from
globalization and it's then unfair. Therefore, globalization can and should be
reformed. The success of the World Commission report reinforces, I think, the
fact that we must never fall into the trap of one truth.

We cannot think that we just have the only truth. Globalization has a very
different meaning to people depending on their personal experiences. People
live their everyday lives as part of a local community and a nation even in the
time of globalization. Fair globalization means more focus on people and on their
needs. Nation states are still the main actors in globalization. The quality of
global governance depends to a great extent on their actions. The way in which
states pursue their own business has an impact on whether people benefit from
globalization or whether they are spared from its negative effects. A strong
democratic state that respects human rights and the rule of law and applies good
governance and social justice creates a solid foundation for the actions of
individual citizens.

Non-governmental organizations and civic movements are needed to support all
this, and they must be able to play fully their role, be free in that way. In addition
the business, those who normally are proponents of globalization, also should
hold social responsibility in globalization. (Inaudible) the nation states we need
regional cooperation such as the European Union and other cooperation
organizations now already in Asia, in Latin America, even in Africa, and then of
course we need the global cooperation. The commitment of nation states to
multilaterals, general values and shared goals, their awareness of the impact of
cross-border activities and their commitment to solidarity are essential for the
quality of global governance.

I believe that efficient implementation of the Millennium Development Goals will
help the developing countries join in globalization and vice versa. More efficient
governance and a (inaudible) of globalization will turn into a means to attain the
Millennium Development Goals, MDGs. So the audience, each country has its
own history and no model can be transferred directly to another country. I think
that you have heard it many times in this building. However, the basic
components of development are the same, the very same in the North and in the
South, in both developing countries and more developed countries. And we have
also agreed in the U.N. of these components.

But how does all of this what I am now preaching works in practice? So allow me
to present one example, and not making the others guilty I take my own country.
Within half a century, Finland has developed from a poor and remote country to a
prosperous and stable society. And those of you who don't remember what
Finland is, it's the far-most corner of Europe, a neighbor to Sweden, Norway and
Russia. We were 600 years under the Swedish king and 100 years under the
Russian Czar. After that when we became independent, not quite a century ago,
so we have had since that one civil war, two other wars and the climate is still the
same. So that's it.

But what we have done then? Our Nordic welfare state model is based upon
social justice and equality. We have made investments in healthcare, education
and equality. Finland and the other Nordic countries often come out on the top in
the international comparisons, whether these concern competitiveness, the
stability of the public economics, education, the equality between women and
men, efforts to reduce poverty, absence of corruption, or the level of sustainable
development. Also this university has made some studies in these comparisons.
So I think that I can say that this kind of Nordic welfare model has proven to be
just and competitive. Then let's go to the regional part. A membership in the
European Union means economic and political security for Finland.

Mutual cooperation helps the individual member state succeed. The European
Union strives to promote growth, employment and competitiveness in a socially
fair and sustainable manner. These objectives are set down in the so-called
Lisbon Strategy. This strategy is one model, just one model for ambitious
regional cooperation that can promote better governance of globalization. So
anything negative on that? Yes, unfortunately, the Union and the member states
have not implemented the strategy effectively or on schedule in all respects. And
that's why we have also difficulty still in employment. But this is a challenge and
our task to accomplish. But I am very happy and proud to tell that it is possible to
try to see the schedule and to see how it works, but it is really through action and

So, ladies and gentleman, the World Commission focused on how the
consequences of globalization can be taken into account in policy-making.
Usually discussions on globalization (inaudible) only economic factors like
growth, inflation, interest rates, economic deregulation or market access,
important issues of course. But employment is the key means in eradication of
poverty. Therefore, also employment should be made into a global goal. I think
it's not too much to ask to have a decent job which brings a livelihood for yourself
and your family, a decent job. However, far too many people just dream about it.
If the employment impacts of economic policy assistance would be systemically
assessed, that alone might bring improvement in this situation.

We also need to do more for the equality between women and men. We cannot
make a real success in reducing poverty unless the position of women is
improved. They are the majority of the goal, not minority. It follows therefore that
mainstreaming equality in all activities is crucial and urgent goal, and you can be
sure that I will repeat this also in the U.N. (Inaudible) and (inaudible) global
policies are crucial for controlling the negative effects of globalization.
International organizations must be willing for cooperation and welcome each
other's particular strengths. I have in mind, for example, the need to improve the
coherence between trade regulations and the development agenda.

Very often what we had just done with the development agenda will be spoiled or
made very difficult with trade agenda. So for a year now we have been gathering
feedback on the World Commission Report and I have been favorably surprised
by the amount of interest in the report and people's willingness to discuss its
recommendations. I believe that our report is becoming part of the process of
turning globalization into a fair process that creates opportunities for all. I think
that Mr. Stiglitz and I do remember that we all were wondering in the commission
that one thing is to make a good report, but even more important thing is to make
report to be a part of the process, because the world is full of reports, good

But the process, action, the implementation is what we need. But people can
help in that. So what is now with this paper? The African Union has assumed
the recommendations of the World Commission as a part of their globalization
work. The social dimension of globalization is also high up on the European
Union's agenda. Last December, the United Nations General Assembly
unanimously approved a resolution whereby the report of the World Commission
was approved as one of the basic documents for this U.N. major event or
whatever was the name today. In addition, the topic has come up to both the
World Bank and the OECD. So that was very good. But as I said, a report is a

We must concentrate on creating means and processes to reform globalization
and influence its direction. Finland and Tanzania have together with friendly
governments initiated the Helsinki Process. Last week a conference took place
in Helsinki as a culmination event of the Helsinki Process. The key measures of
the conference was the need for the multi-state cooperation in finding lasting
solutions to global problems. The ultimate aim of the Helsinki Process is to make
multi-state cooperation a permanent feature of global governance. So we old
fellows in that way, President of Tanzania, Mr. Benjamin Mkapa and I, we were
co-chairing this commission as it was our discussion. We participated in the
conference and were very happy to see the one consequence of the process so

For the future all interested parties are welcome to join the Helsinki Process and
already now there are several countries which are trying to make the Helsinki
Consensus as well known as one other consensus. So ladies and gentlemen,
this year the United Nations is the focus of celebration but it is also the subject of
the critical assessment. The world has changed and the security threats are
different. Nevertheless, the United Nations Charter represents the values that
will enable us to preserve security and stable conditions in the future world as
well as balance development. All countries, both great big ones and the small
and poor ones, they are needed in the international cooperation that will ensure
development security and human rights.

And when I am now here in Columbia University I want to say very strongly that
this international cooperation particularly needs the participation of the United
States of America. You its political and economic power, you its many
resources, so I hope you will be among those people who will make this wish of
mine true. I have high expectations for the U.N. major event. It is a unique
opportunity to give a new vitality to the United Nations and the implementation of
the Millennium Development Goals. I still hope that we will be able this week to
reinforce people's belief in the future and that we will be prepared to openly
acknowledge existing problems, including the lack of the political will or the unfair
distribution of the resources. Multilateral work is needed in order to strengthen
fair processes of development.

Finally, I would like to highlight one important recommendation in the World
Commission of the Globalization Report in particular, for the benefit of you this
audience. Policy actions need to be grounded in better analysis of trends in
globalization and its impact on people and communities. Better and more
gender-sensitive monitoring, research, policy reviews and systematic reporting
are all necessary to mobilize public opinion and ensure better governance of
globalization. The World Commission encourages all institutions and networks to
collaborate and invest in broad-based research on the social dimension of
globalization. Networks of national, regional and international institutions can
build the capacity needed to address different aspects of globalization in a
coherent way.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you to continue open and critical
research, teaching and instruction in your various expert areas and departments.
I encourage you to share your information with the entire international
community. Many of the leading academic institutions of the world are located
here in New York, including your Columbia University. You are in the position of
a great privilege in the worldwide academic community, and this brings with the
greatest responsibility. I trust in you. Many thanks for your attention.

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