03 Dec 2002 (IPS/Linus
#5247 (south-north development monitor)
Helsinki, 01 Dec-- An international conference on
global partnerships begins in Finland's snow-covered
capital Monday - but amid some doubts what such
partnerships can mean.
About 100 delegates will attend the three-day
conference on 'Searching for Global Partnerships'. The
conference organised by Minister for Foreign Affairs
Erkki Tuomioja will discuss how the globalization
processes could be guided to increase participation in
economic, social and political decision-making.
Civil society activists, academics, government
officials and leaders of international organisations
from several countries will attend.
The Helsinki Conference also aims at building on
previous conferences, particularly the World Summit on
Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and the
Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey
in Mexico earlier this year. The organisers believe
that inclusive globalization should be promoted
through new partnerships between governments, civil
society and the private sector.
Among the participants will be Nitin Desai, UN
undersecretary for economic and social affairs, who
was also secretary-general for the Johannesburg
summit, and Jim Adams, vice-president of operations
policy and country services at the World Bank.
Civil society leaders will include Ann Pettifor of the
JubileePlus programme which campaigns to cancel the
debt of the poorest countries, Yash Tandon, head of
Southern and Eastern African Trade Information (SEATINI),
a trade lobby group, and Martin Khor, head of the
Malaysia-based Third World Network, an advocacy
Despite the impressive array of speakers, some civil
society groups here doubt that the conference can
offer any new insights into globalization.
"The initial focus of the conference was global
democracy and how to control globalization", says
Folke Sundman, executive director of the Service
Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA), an umbrella
organisation for about 200 Finnish NGOs. "But now the
focus has switched to global partnership and global
governance, whatever that means."
Heikki Patomaki of the Network Institute for Global
Democracy (NIGD) says, "the title reflects the vague
purpose of the conference." It aims to discuss the
world conferences in Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg
without recognising the criticism against these from
the Southern perspective, he says.
"Global democratisation, in my opinion, includes
discussions not only on who gets to participate in
'global governance', but also what the substance of
this governance is and whether governance would always
have to be global," says Patomaki.
Katarina Sehm-Patomaki, executive secretary of NIGD
says that the Helsinki conference should offer models
on building a partnership that includes the South in
working to eradicate third world debt, rein in
financial capital and democratise the World Trade