World Social Forum - Porto Alegre, Brazil, 25-30 January, 2001


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DEVELOPMENT: G-77 Summit Stresses South-South Cooperation

By Patricia Grogg and Dalia Acosta

HAVANA, Apr 11 (IPS) - Cooperation between countries of the developing South and the possible creation of a permanent secretariat to ensure compliance with agreements are the main practical results that could emerge from the first Group of 77 (G- 77) summit of developing nations, in the Cuban capital.
The draft declaration to be signed by around 40 heads of state and government to attend this week's so-called ''South Summit'' in Havana highlights aid and cooperation as vital in today's globalised world.

The foreign ministers of the 133-member economic forum gave a last read-through Tuesday to around 100 cooperation projects in the areas of health, education, technology and science.

The ministers began to meet Tuesday to put the final touches to the draft declaration to be approved by the heads of state and government at the close of the summit Friday.

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, the country that currently holds the rotating chair of the G-77, said Tuesday that he saw South-South cooperation as key to any decision adopted on the rest of the issues on the summit agenda, such as globalisation, knowledge and technology, and North-South relations.

Obasanjo said he was confident that this week's gathering would give rise to bilateral cooperation programmes between a number of developing countries, which would set an example for others to follow.

Obasanjo met with Cuban President Fidel Castro shortly after flying in to Havana Monday.

Inaugurating the meeting of foreign ministers, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque followed the tradition set by Castro in international forums, making the most radical speech heard so far at the G-77 gathering.

Calling for effective North-South dialogue, the minister warned that ''time is running out. The patience of our people is running thin. They have suffered dozens of broken promises and are living today in an increasingly grave and unsustainable economic and social situation.

''Will developed countries be able to live free of worry if the growing poverty and hunger in underdeveloped countries is not resolved? What will the hundreds of millions of marginalised people in our countries do but try to emigrate to rich countries in search of the dream that television promises every day?'' asked Pérez Roque.

Citing the collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference in the US city of Seattle last December and the coming UN Millenium Summit in New York in September, Pérez Roque said that ''never before has it been so necessary and urgent'' for the G-77 to ''adopt a common strategy to defend our interests.

''The globalisation of the world economy cannot continue to mean underdevelopment, poverty and exclusion for the majority and unnecessary luxury and waste for a privileged minority,'' stressed the minister.

''The international economic and financial system is unfair and unsustainable,'' and official development aid can only come from the North because they are the countries that have the money, he maintained.

Cuba is demanding ''fair trade instead of free trade at any price,'' respect for diversity, support for the needy, real solutions to our foreign debt problem, and access to markets of the North and fair prices for products from the South, he added.

Cuba has provided the G-77 with a packet of around 60 proposals for bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation projects in areas like health, education, agriculture, food, industry, the environment, trade, work and social security.

According to the final declaration drafted by Havana as summit host, South-South cooperation is an essential mechanism for promoting sustainable economic growth and development.

In the final declaration, the leaders will confirm their commitment to reaching concrete accords, identifying sources of financing and designing follow-up mechanisms.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Alhaji Sule Lamido urged his fellow ministers to come up with possible means of financing a permanent secretariat in charge of enforcing agreements reached by the G-77.

The new ministerial body would have the task of organising summits in the not-so-distant future to assess progress made on the agreements reached by G-77 leaders.

The draft declaration declares support for initiatives adopted in recent years by nations of the developing South designed to promote cooperation between Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and between Africa and Asia, on joint efforts against problems like drought and desertification.

With respect to the growing foreign debt burden of developing countries, Obasanjo said the idea of a movement of debtor countries opposed to repaying the debt was inadvisable.

The president pointed out that if the countries refused to pay, they ran the risk of losing the aid they so badly needed from industrialised countries and multilateral lending institutions.

But the draft declaration underlines the need to collectively seek a lasting solution to the foreign debt burden of developing countries, one which also tackles the structural causes of indebtedness. It also warns that debt relief should not replace official development aid.

The G-77, founded in October 1967, took its name from an alliance of 77 developing nations that called for more equitable participation in global trade at the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964 in Geneva. (END/IPS/tra-so/pg/dm/sw/00)



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