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Another look at global partnerships

03 Dec 2002 (IPS/Linus Atarah) SUNS  #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 organisation.

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 Organisation (WTO).


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