This phenomenon that we call globalization, if properly harnessed and managed, can drive the engine of sustained economic growth and real development in this new century. Development must create a modern but humane society, and raise the quality of life of all peoples, especially those who are disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalized. This society that we envision is rooted in peace, sustainable development and respect for human dignity.
This society has three very critical aspects that have to be emphasized. First, it has evolved a mature political structure with strong, responsible institutions that engender international understanding and are based on mutually shared perspectives about humanity’s common destiny. Second, it has developed a viable economic regime with effective, adequate mechanisms like open markets, that facilitate growth in trade and commerce and are constantly improving the living standards of all peoples across oceans and across continents. Third, it has established a reliable social foundation in which there are proactive, progressive organizations-governmental and non-governmental – that are able to care for the disadvantaged and support people’s empowerment.
In this light, it is possible to outline in broad strokes a number of core elements on which a proposed common development strategy could be based.
First, development policies should undergo a fundamental and strategic shift of focus to prioritize the structural reform of the agricultural sector, in order to increase productivity and minimize supply-side deficiencies with a view to attaining food security.
Here, the key issues would include commodity diversification, enhanced production of traditional exports, the development of non-traditional exports, the shift from raw commodities to processed agricultural products, and the enlistment of science and technology in the service of agriculture.
This commitment to shifting our priorities would be most effectively articulated by increasing investments designed to improve the quality of agricultural inputs developed through research and modernization. These high-quality inputs should be delivered to farmers and fisher folks at reasonable prices to encourage savings and investment in such inputs. Moreover, infrastructure support and agricultural skills would be enhanced through innovative education and training so that agricultural workers can use the new inputs more efficiently.
Second, the fall in levels of official development assistance has to be reversed if we are to win the fight against ”underdevelopment.” There should also be a paradigm shift, in that the entire process must now be viewed in the light of development cooperation, for the phenomenon of global interdependence has made all nations equal stakeholders in the stability and productivity of the world economic system. Developing countries are as much as part of the entire international economic infrastructure.
Third, it is imperative that developing countries be given access to modern technology that will be required in order to enhance their capacity to compete in world trade, particularly with the introduction of new and innovative goods and services. The concentration of advanced technology in industrialized countries and existing hindrances to the transfer of technology continue to undermine the ability of developing countries to improve the quality of their products and diversify their exports. Complementarity in the roles of developed and developing countries dictate that transfer of technology must take place to increase the level of self-sufficiency and to enable developing countries to compete in the world markets. Any study of globalization and interdependence will necessarily include not only the imperative of availability of capital, but also technology and innovation.
Against this reality, we hope that there will be an increased level of technical cooperation. Technical cooperation allows member states to access the great wealth of experience and knowledge that belongs to other states. It encourages the sharing of ideas and experiences in order to deepen knowledge and appreciation, which in turn are useful basis for deepening an expanding strategic partnership and alliances.
Fourth, capacity-building, particularly in terms of the development of the human resource base of developing countries, remains a critical ingredient for sustained economic growth. Investment in human capital through wide-based educational systems and technical training programs will be crucial for the achievement of our development objectives. Through innovative education and training, we will be able to draw in all sectors of our societies to more fully participate in the developmental process. It will also empower our women and give opportunities to our youth and allow the participation of vulnerable groups in the over-all process of development, transforming them into valuable and equal partners in sustained growth and sustainable development.
Fifth, economic cooperation among developing countries (ECDC) has proved to be a viable and beneficial undertaking, particularly among the countries in Asia. South-South cooperation constitutes a fundamental way of resolving a number of socio-economic problems of developing countries constrained by limited resources. One of the defining characteristics of developing countries is the paucity of resources, which is why it is all the more important that the resources that are available are equitably deployed and rationally managed.
Sixth, a strong South-South cooperation is necessary for the renewal and reinvigoration of North-South cooperation such as in the WTO. All the member states of the World Trade Organization should strive to resolve as soon as possible the impasse created in Seattle. They must heed the call for genuine partnership and cooperation. We must accept the single reality that all the countries in the world count, collectively; that developing countries must be accorded special and differential treatment so that eventually, they can emerge as “equal partners” in an even playing field in a strong and prosperous world for all. It is therefore, crucial that we implement effectively the relevant provisions of the WTO agreements.
Seventh, we deeply believe that modernization will flourish best in an environment that encourages fair competition, and a market that is equitable and fully developed. The spirit of the market and competition is rooted in the concerns of both producers and consumers; thus, it enables the attainment of a mutually beneficial exchange. And we must be delighted to note that there is great potential for the multilateral trading process to support our developmental objectives.
Let the story of the 21st century be a story of a human community that is more just, more compassionate, and more equal and that gives practical meaning to sustainable development, for all peoples through the erosion of trade boundaries and barriers.
Rosalinda V. Tirona is a former ambassador. This article and others by members of the Philippine Ambassadors’ Foundation Inc. (PAFI) are published by The Times under a memorandum of agreement.