PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Press release of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
The President of the Privy Council of Thailand, General Prem Tinsulanonda, opened today the Parliamentary meeting organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Thai National Assembly, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), on the occasion of UNCTAD X. The inaugural ceremony was held at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP/UNCC) in Bangkok, in the presence of the President of the IPU Council, Mrs Najma Heptulla (India), the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr Rubens Ricupero, the Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr Chuan Leekpai, and the President of the Thai Senate, Mr Meechai Ruchupan.
In his address, the President of the Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda, said : "In this new age of global integration and peoples' participation in world affairs and national agendas, Parliaments play direct roles in shaping the world's destinies, as the impact of globalization and trade liberalization are directly felt by their grassroot constituents across social spectrums, world regions and economies. I am therefore pleased to see the innovative determination of the world Parliaments and parliamentarians to be a crucial part of this UNCTAD review process through a parliamentary platform for development and in voicing the concerns of the peoples on issues related to trade and development".
The President of the IPU Council (governing body), Mrs Najma Heptulla, noted that "the entire process of globalization and of rapid global change is the framework within which we have to conduct our discussions. Apart from this overarching issue, we need to address issues of the new global trading regime, and that of the new financial architecture that we would like to see evolving. We also must reflect on the role of parliaments and of the IPU in bringing about a benign global economic and social structure". Mrs Heptulla added that the ethics of globalization must take into account the need for equity, inclusion, human security, sustainability and development. "Gradually we have come to realize that globalization could be a pragmatic strategy for economic development but not an ideology for governance. The focus should be on all-around development capable of eradicating poverty. The new trade regime should allow sufficient freedom and flexibility to the developing countries to pursue their development strategies. We must heed the warnings of Seattle and Davos".
In conclusion, the President of the IPU Council underlined that during the past few years, most of the parliaments have debated their respective national positions on the global trade regime. Legitimate concerns have been expressed. These must be reflected in the new global trade order. There is a need to monitor globalization. It must serve the greatest public good. "I am convinced that IPU as the world organization of parliaments can be very effective in this regard. We are the people's representatives and represent 140 member countries. As such, we can be an effective link between our countries and world financial and economic institutions".
The Secretary-General of the UNCTAD, Mr Rubens Ricupero, remarked that this meeting on the occasion of UNCTAD X "is a crowning moment for both IPU and UNCTAD to ensure that the global economic and development issues we deal with are given greater attention by parliamentarians around the world. You are among the crucial partners we need to deal with the down side of globalization and your support certainly adds a parliamentary dimension to the work of UNCTAD. You have been playing an important role in helping the United Nations meet the challenges of international peace and security. You are also ideally placed for playing a constructive role in our efforts to assist developing countries deal with the global economic and development issues and maximize their benefits from trade, investment and other development opportunities". Calling on the more than 150 members of 50 parliaments represented in Bangkok, Mr Ricupero said that UNCTAD X, the first United Nations conference in the new millennium, "presents a unique forum to take stock of these development opportunities and to build consensus on new emerging issues. You have a valuable role to play to ensure that our agenda at UNCTAD X is effectively pursued by governments".
The Thai Prime Minister, Mr. Chuan Leekpai stressed that the convening of UNCTAD X at the dawn of the new century and the new millennium is therefore both important and timely. "I hope that concrete measures will be found to better prepare all countries for the challenges of globalization, which, in the past, has affected developed and developing countries unevenly, helping some while hindering others. For this to happen, the benefit of globalization must be fully harnessed, while its hazards minimize", he said.
For his part, the President of the Thai Senate, Mr. Meechai Ruchupan, noted that the current processes of globalization and liberalization have had a great impact on the world in all aspects; politically, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally. "While offering unprecedented opportunities for an expansion of international trade and investment, which are major driving forces for economic growth and development, globalization and liberalization can also bring about substantial adverse effects on the development process if not properly managed. There are also other related problems, particularly corruption and economic crime. Corruption in government and in business has become a serious threat to the political and social order".
The Deputy Prime minister and Minister of commerce of Thailand, Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi stressed that it is incumbent upon the international community to take vigorous steps in charting the course on how to maximize the opportunities and benefits of globalization and to overcome global problems which would incease the risks of marginalization. "The sentiment of a backlash against the process of globalization has been gaining momentum, as evidenced in the streets of Seattle and more recently, to a lesser extent, during the World Economic Forum in Davos". Addressing parliamentarians, he said : "Your participation over the next 2 days serves UNCTAD X with a unique and concrete opportunity to take on board your inputs and recommendations. At the same time, the intergovernmental process of UNCTAD X looks to you as another source of support for UNCTAD's work as well as a valuable channel of communications and tangible help to the weak and vulnerable segments of societies".
Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi underlined that parliamentarians serve not only as the "eyes and ears" but also "the voice" of people. He highlighted some of the pressing issues facing the developing countries which require attention, such as "the need to shape a favorable external environment conductive to reinforcing sound domestic policies", the need "to enhance the mobilization of external resources for development which includes increasing the level of Overseas development assistance (ODA) and providing lasting solutions to the debt problems Unrelated conditionalities should not be imposed on market access or on the provision of development aid and assistance. New standards such as those pertaining to labour and the environment must not be used as a new form of protectionism. We need to consider ways and means of ensuring a carefully phased integration of developing countries into the world economy so as to strengthen confidence in the multilateral trading system".
The Inter-Parliamentary Union, founded in 1889 and based in Geneva, currently has 139 member parliaments affiliated and 5 regional parliamentary organization associated.
Contact in Bangkok :Mrs Luisa Ballin, IPU Press Officer (UNCC/ESCAP), phone 288.2405, fax 288.1038, and Mr Jakrapob Penkair, phone 934.8512-5.