President sells knowledge, technology idea in Havana

Guyana Chronicle
April 16, 2000

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo says the time has come for a South conference on knowledge and technology aimed at harnessing the positive aspects of globalisation.

He made the call at the just concluded South Summit in Havana, Cuba.

"We have to bring the computer revolution to our people or else we will be further marginalised. Such a forum can serve to make a serious analysis of this problem and to recommend a practical course of action within a specified time frame," President Jagdeo said.

He recommended the agenda include identification of ways to value, protect and use knowledge and resources in a sustainable manner for development.

"We can never hope to effectively participate in a knowledge-based global economy if we do not make quality education for all of our citizens, including our women, a priority. The South has a great deal of ground to cover in this area," the President said.

He noted that beyond investment in basic education, attention must be paid to the `digital divide' and that technological dependence on the North and the South's limited capacity to develop its own technology, may pose the greatest threat to developing countries in the 21st century. President Jagdeo said these threats need to be acknowledged, understood and countered by both the North and South since continued global instability could only make matters worse.

"May I mention the Iwokrama Programme through which Guyana hopes to contribute concretely to the South-South North-South cooperation...", President Jagdeo said.

He noted that the Programme which is based on research in bio-diversity and sustainable forest management, seeks to compile and disseminate knowledge and technologies in these areas among countries of the South.

"We are prepared to host a regional seminar within the next 12 months to give impetus to this idea," he added.

President Jagdeo also urged leaders at the Summit to make the World Trade Organisation (WTO) more participatory and transparent and guard against making concessions that are not fully matched by developed partners.

The recent WTO meeting in Seattle demonstrates the urgency of the trade agenda for the South, he noted.

"We cannot avoid a collective consideration of the issues at stake and we must develop strong negotiating positions and strategies," the President urged.

Encouraging a concept of reciprocity, Mr Jagdeo said countries of the South must insist on special and differential treatment for small and weak economies. "In this context, I would urge that the WTO extend a sufficiently broad waiver to enable developing countries, especially those which are export oriented, to make a safe transition to a liberalised global economy.

President Jagdeo said a new paradigm of cooperation must be fashioned and the South must reopen dialogue with the North in search of a strong consensus of development.

He reiterated the need for a Development Council on par with the Security Council of the United Nations to help developing countries have a greater say in international matters. "It cannot be acceptable to the South that some parts of the United Nations system which are controlled by economic and financial powers should be allowed to dictate the limits of development," he stated.

The President called for bold and practical steps to achieve global equity and reform of the international economic and financial framework to make it more democratic and responsive to current needs.

"The model by which countries implement sound internal policies but end up in disaster due to external factors is not acceptable. The search for a viable model must...allow developing countries to participate in the global economy, while...protecting them from its volatility.

"The success of the model should not be measured by economic indicators, but by the event to which it reduces poverty and improves the well being of our people."

Stressing the importance of unity, President Jagdeo said the South should have a common agenda. "I venture to suggest the setting up of a special task force comprising a few heads of government which can be mandated to follow up on the implementation of the (South) Summit's decisions. They will speak with a collective voice...we need that powerful collective voice to influence the decision-making process of the richer nations, especially when those decisions have to do with the future of our countries.

"If we can make that determination here in Havana, we will have given a new lease of life to the South and demonstrated to the North that we are serious partners in the enterprise of international cooperation," he noted.