Rich nations stunting global development, says Mbeki

Addressing the 61ST session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last Tuesday, Mbeki fired a broadside at developed nations, accusing them of imposing themselves and their standards on poor countries.

He said the current status of relations between the rich countries and the poor would make it difficult for the world to achieve the UN’s Millenium Development Goals, aimed at eradicating development challenges by 2016.

“This common commitment for a global partnership for development cannot be transformed into reality when the rich and powerful insist on an unequal relationship with the poor,” Mbeki said.

The South African President’s stance was part of a broader African agenda for a reform of the UN’s structures, allowing more developing countries to have a say in the organisation’s activities and agendas.

Developing nations have previously raised concerns over inequality within the world body, which is meant to “maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations and cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems” among other functions.

However, the inequality of powers between member countries in the organisation has raised the spectre of discontent, as well as expectations of continued disagreement between member states if the world body does not move to amend its structures.

Mbeki said the absence of a global partnership for development had almost led to the collapse of the Doha round of trade talks, while the “apathy of rich nations” was also the reason for the failure to implement the Monterrey consensus on financing development.

“Part of the problem with this unequal relationship is the imposition of conditions on developing countries and the constant shifting of poles whenever the poor adhere to each and every one of those conditions,” Mbeki said.

“Clearly, for the UN to continue occupying its moral high ground, it has to reform itself urgently, and lead by practical example as to what is meant to be democratic,” he added.

Observers noted that Mbeki’s statements were likely to have been part of the countries’ campaign for a more permanent seat within the UN Security Council, where it is scheduled to take up a two year non-permanent post beginning in January 2007.

“It is definitely very likely that Mbeki’s statement was part of the Security Council agenda, but there can be no doubt that the President’s statements are true.

He has not been the only person to raise these concerns and I think sooner or later a growing number of voices will be heard,” said political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi. Apart from Mbeki, the membership of the African Union has also been pressing for equality within the UN, culminating in the nomination of South Africa to represent the organisation and Africa on the Security Council.

During last year’s General Assembly meeting Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe accused the United States and United Kingdom of maintaining “hegemony” over the world body, despite it being a forum for international cooperation.

In his farewell speech to the assembly before his departure in December, Secretary General, Kofi Annan, stressed the importance of member states staying united.

“I remain convinced that the only answer to this divided world must be a truly UN,” Annan said.

September 2006
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