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From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Sun May 28 21:21:32 2000
Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 23:18:21 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: DEVELOPMENT: South Summit Agrees to Revive North-South Dialogue
Article: 94500
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X-UIDL: ac8d1639c6ea5cba50b222ded252b081

South Summit Agrees to Revive North-South Dialogue repeating to some points

By Patricia Grogg and Dalia Acosta, IPS, 14 April 2000

HAVANA, Apr 14 (IPS) - The Group of 77 (G-77) coalition of developing countries hopes that the final declaration and action plan agreed at its first summit will give a new boost to the North-South dialogue.

The leaders attending the summit in Havana also hope the documents will help correct the course taken by globalisation, whose benefits - they say - currently bypass 80 percent of the world population.

The chair of G-77, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, was given the mission of transmitting the needs and wishes of poor nations to the industrialised countries comprising the Group of Eight (G-8) richest nations, to urge them to take the developing South into account in their decision-making.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the new contacts between the G-77 - the largest alliance of developing countries in the United Nations - and the G-8 would provide a chance for poor nations to try to modify decisions by rich countries that could have negative repercussions for the South.

North-South relations were one of the four key issues discussed by the 55 heads of state and government and other representatives of the 122 (of a total of 133) G-77 member nations attending the South Summit, which ended Friday in Havana.

The other issues were globalisation, knowledge and technology, and South-South cooperation.

The creation of a stable international economic system must be indispensably based on the renewal of an effective North-South dialogue, stated the final declaration to be signed late Friday by the heads of state and government and other high-level officials.

The G-77 believes the North-South dialogue must also focus on correcting imbalances in the international economic system, which it says has put developing nations at a clear disadvantage to industrialised nations.

The G-77 leaders agreed that the meetings of the G-8 - comprised of Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia - were an appropriate forum for the chair of the alliance of poor nations to set forth the concerns and interests of the South.

The summit participants also agreed to a strategy aimed at pressing industrialised countries to live up to their commitment to earmark 0.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product to official development aid by the end of the decade.

The G-77 leaders see the foreign debt as one of the big problems on which a consensus must be sought with developed nations, in order to ensure that debt servicing is not paid at the cost of other forms of official aid.

This week's gathering in Havana highlighted the more than 2.5 trillion dollars owed by the South as one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of development.

The final declaration also stated the leaders' support for reforms of the international financial structure, and for the creation of a new financial architecture guaranteeing the full participation of developing countries in decision-making in the arena of international economic policy.

The declaration stated that industrialised countries should eliminate laws and rules with an extraterritorial reach, as well as other unilateral coercive measures running counter to international law, in order to strengthen North-South relations.

The heads of state and government committed themselves to continued efforts to encourage economies of the North, particularly the nations of the G-8, to better coordinate their macroeconomic policies with the goals of poor countries.

A number of delegates of G-8 nations and representatives of the World Trade Organisation were among the special guests attending the South Summit. As observers, they were allowed to closely follow the debates, other than the ones held behind closed doors.

Europe is here to listen, and to continue a dialogue designed to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts between North and South, said one of the observers.

Agreement on the final declaration proved hard to reach. What was to be a one-day technical debate on the document Monday stretched to three and a half, before experts finally came up with the final version.

In general terms, compromise solutions were sought, said the director of multilateral affairs at Cuba's Foreign Ministry, Abelardo Moreno, who presided over the three and a half-day technical meeting.

Moreno said there were no radical discrepancies in the discussions, but rather differences in nuances and technicalities regarding certain questions referring to the economy.

Nevertheless, a third version that circulated Wednesday among accredited journalists at the South Summit contained changes on just about every point.

The draft document, drawn up by Cuba, underwent many transformations before being pored over by the experts early this week. The original version was 43-pages long and contained 211 clauses. It was drastically reduced by the technical meeting to three pages with 100 clauses, and ended up at 14 pages and 48 clauses.

The original draft by Cuba was characteristically radical, in line with the outspoken position taken by Havana in defence of the South in international forums.

The final declaration called for the creation of a new spirit of international cooperation based on North-South dialogue, mutual benefit and genuine interdependence, as well as differentiated responsibilities, between developing and industrialised countries.

Among the modifications were a specific clause introduced on the scourge of AIDS and a commitment by G-77 members to democracy and the fight against corruption.

The document also mentioned the difficult situation in Mozambique, welcomed all initiatives against desertification, especially in Africa, and expressed support for the conference of African environment ministers held in Nigeria early this month.

One of the touchy points that held up approval of the document by the technical meeting was the third clause, which referred to respect for the principles of international law, such as sovereignty and equality between states, independence and territorial integrity.

Agreement was reportedly held up by reservations put forth by India.

India and Pakistan are at war over Kashmir, a Muslim majority area governed by New Delhi, where separatist forces are active. Both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in the late 1990s.

It was very presumptuous to think that it would be possible for representatives of so many diverse countries to reach agreement in one single day, a Latin American diplomat told IPS.

The G-77 was officially created in 1967. It is currently made up of 53 African, 40 Asian and 30 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

The representative of a member country of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - the club of the rich - who attended the South Summit as an observer, expressed doubts as to whether the G-77 would be able to consolidate.

He and other observers from the industrialised North said ideas like the demolition of the current international financial system were too radical to be realistic.

But representatives of G-77 countries saw this week's gathering as a first step towards a stronger alliance of the South. The summit in Havana could mark positive changes in the G-77 that could lead to more active, effective and coherent actions, said Moreno.