news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: Statements on Globalization

Africa: Statements on Globalization
Date distributed (ymd): 991115
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains two documents on the occasion of the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in Durban, South Africa, November 12-14, 1999. The first is an address by the General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to a meeting in Durban organized by the Commonwealth Trade Union Council (CTUC). The second is an official declaration by the Commonwealth meeting. Nineteen of the 54 Commonwealth member states are in Africa.

Links for additional background:


Commonwealth Trade Union Council:

Commonwealth Summit in Durban:

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU General Secretary

Address to a meeting on Globalisation and Social Justice -
Trade Union View

12 November 1999

Chairperson Rita Donaghy, President of the TUC

Honourary George Foulkes MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development, UK.

Distinguished guests

Comrades and friends

The theme chosen for this Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting "Globalisation and people centered development" reflects both a desire and a challenge we all face in the rapid and deepening process of globalisation.

To a growing number of the world citizens in particular from the developing nations, globalisation has become synonymous with the mostly negatives issues rather than the positives

The survey conducted by UNICEF and the UNDP on social spending in Africa reveals that only three countries in Africa are allocating more than 20% of budget funds for use on basic health care, education and nutrition -- a target set by the 1995 UN Social Summit in Copenhagen. According to Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN, 44% of all Africans -- and 51% of these in Sub-Saharan Africa live in absolute poverty.

At the same time Africa's debt stock has increased from $344 billion to $350 billion in 1998, and is equivalent to more than 300% of exports of goods and services from Africa. The average African household today consumes 20% less than it did 25 years ago. Economic growth rates in the African continent continue to decline, as well as development assistance, which has dropped from $23 billion in 1992 to $18,7 billion in 1997.

On the other hand, according to the UNDP report, Americans spend more than $8 billion a year on cosmetics - $2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide basic education for everyone in the world. In 1996 alone Ethiopia had a total foreign debt of $10 billion, whilst in the same year Europe spent $11 billion on ice cream alone! The three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries.

At the end of 1997 nearly 31 million people were living with HIV, up from 22,3 million the year before. With 16 000 new infections a day -- 90% percent in developing countries -- it is now estimated that 40 million people will be living with HIV in 2000.

The struggle for alternatives to the type of globalisation system is under these circumstances a struggle for the survival of human civilisation. To billions who have been on the receiving end of brutal global system, globalisation has meant:

Growing gap between the rich and the poor within nations and between nations in particular between the North and the South

Destruction of quality jobs and their replacement by casualisation and temporal jobs brought to bear by a process of sub contracting of so called non core business activities

Growing unemployment in particular in the developing countries,
which goes hand in hand with poverty that itself leads to more social problems such as HIV/AIDS and violence.

Growing number and accidents of using children in the world of work without due regard to their health, well being and future.

Displacement of government's role in the economic and social responsibilities as a result of the growing power wielded by the multinational corporations who seek more mobility at the expense of nations development

Intense competition between nations to attract the scarce investment and in the process involve themselves in a race to reach the bottom first and consequently trample on human and trade union rights.

No wonder that some citizens of the world are beginning to shout slogans such as "down with globalisation -- down with the WTO, IMF and World Bank."

Globalisation is an objective reality we face and it is here to stay, industrialisation process can not be altered. The challenge is not to push our heads into the sand like an ostrich or wish it away. The greatest challenge to humankind as we move closer to the 21 century is to make globalisation relevant to the ordinary people of the world. Currently it is not regarded as the savour of human kind but as the destruction of the gains won by the working people through many years of hard struggles and sacrifices.

A people centered development as the theme of this the 1999 Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting should be a battle cry for all the human kind interested in contesting the direction of globalisation.

The Commonwealth Trade Union Council (CTUC) has sent a delegation of six senior leaders to this august CHOGM 1999 meeting. We have come to lobby governments about the need to take a new direction. We have compiled a submission for the 1999 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). In this submission the CTUC is echoing the call of trade unions across the globe, for the globalisation of social justice. We have come here to make a call for the globalisation of core labour standards and human rights. For far too long social justice and people centered development has been absent in the debates about globalisation.

In this century we have seen lowering of labour standards mainly but not limited to Export Processing Zones where labour laws are suspended in the name of export promotion. We have also seen the creation of sweatshops by multinationals. In these conditions reports have been pouring in about the ill-treatment of workers, especially young women workers, who are required to work up to 18 hours a day, with appalling reports that workers are even refused to go to a toilet.

The majority of the members of the Commonwealth are the developing countries, the countries of the South. These are the countries that are underdeveloped and are crying for development. The children from these countries suffer from many diseases and malnutrition. Many of the inhabitants die from HIV/AIDS. Children cannot go to school because their education is no longer subsidised. The solution that has been imposed on the majority of these countries has been the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAP's).

The ESAP's have resulted in heavy debt for those countries, removal of subsidies for social services, tariff liberalisation, all this to smoothen the entrance of MNC's. These countries have been promised that if they stick to the ESAP plan their economies would attract more investments and only good things can flow from there. For a long time these benefits have been hard to come by. Instead these countries are drifting further away from development, and their debt obligations increase yearly.

We need to define clearly what we mean when we call for the globalisation of social justice. Our starting point is a call to all the members of the Commonwealth to ensure that they ratify the core conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). These conventions are:

  • conventions29 and 105 on forced labour,
  • conventions87 and 98 on the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining,
  • conventions100 and 111 on discrimination, and
  • conventions138 and 182 on child labour.

These core conventions have been in the ILO system for a long time, but most governments have chosen to ignore them. Some governments have ratified most of these conventions but have failed to implement them. We call on our governments to not only ratify, but to also implement these conventions. We also call on governments to ratify other minimum standards conventions that deal with issues such as hours of work, maternity leave, and night work.

It is our belief that the ratification and implementation of the core conventions should be pre-requisites in any trade agreements that are signed by member states. Without this it means having to conduct trade with countries that use forced and child labour to produce goods. Such goods are then sold cheaply because they are produced through forced and child labour.

We also want to support the calls and efforts of the Jubilee 2000 campaign for the cancellation of debt. It is our belief that the unfair terms of trade where developing countries produce primary goods and sell them at low prices for manufacturing and processing in the developed countries, and then buy the processed goods at higher prices, is grossly unfair. There can be no fair trade in such conditions, and our developing countries will forever be in debt if the situation is not turned around. We therefore call for the removal of unfair terms of trade.

We further call on those countries and governments that want to sell their gold reserves to refrain from doing that, because that will not help the developing countries it is intended to help. We will continue to campaign against gold sales until those who want to do that at the detriment of developing and poor countries abandon such plans. It will be very important for the Commonwealth member states to take a clear position on this issue.

A significant number of the Commonwealth member states are guilty of human and trade union rights violations. The statistics and cases that are quoted in the CTUC submission disturb us. It pains us that some governments and states do not appreciate the value and contribution of the working people in their economies. It is disturbing to us that the Commonwealth still has a soft spot for country like Swaziland, which has been sanctioned for years by the ILO for the violation of trade union rights.

If it was unacceptable to accommodate South Africa and Nigeria, and is unacceptable to accommodate Pakistan for the recent military coup, it surely should be unacceptable to accommodate countries that do not treat their working people fairly. We call upon the Commonwealth to pronounce itself on the violation of trade union rights in member countries. We also call upon the Commonwealth to take action against those member countries that fail to live up to the 1998 ILO declaration on the core conventions.

In conclusion we must say that all the demands made above will not be given on a silver platter. We will never be able to make any impact if we are not strong on the ground. This is a call to the trade union movement in the Commonwealth countries that we should organise and strengthen our local structures so as to strengthen the CTUC.

For the world to notice us we have to take up campaigns on all the issues that have been identified above. The unions in Africa have recently committed themselves to campaign on the 12th of April 2000 for an end to military governments that exist in the continent. We need to extend this campaign beyond the African continent.

We have to campaign against those governments that refuse to ratify the ILO conventions and continue to violate human and trade union rights. We need to take up campaigns for the scrapping of the third world debt, in collaboration with our governments and friendly social movements. For far too long the creditors have been the ones who have been offering solutions, which are no solutions. We support moves to get the highly indebted countries to define the terms of the debt relief measures.

In conclusion we must reiterate our call for the ratification by this Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting to ensure that human rights, including workers rights are fully respected. This is particularly true of the rights enshrined in the ILO Core Convention and in Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. We as mass movement formations remain committed to a dialogue with all governments, which share our vision of a world free from unemployment, poverty, diseases and ignorance. We are calling for creation of platforms in each country to involve trade unions and other Non Governmental Organisations to discuss globalisation of this vision.

Thank you,

The Fancourt Commonwealth Declaration on Globalisation and People-Centred Development

Sunday, 14 November 1999, George, South Africa

In today's world, no country is untouched by the forces of globalisation. Our destinies are linked together as never before. The challenge is to seize the opportunities opened up by globalisation while minimising its risks.

On the positive side, globalisation is creating unprecedented opportunities for wealth creation and for the betterment of the human condition. Reduced barriers to trade and enhanced capital flows are fuelling economic growth.

The revolution in communications technologies is shrinking the distance between nations, providing new opportunities for the transfer of knowledge and the development of skills-based industries. And technological advance globally offers great potential for the eradication of poverty.

But the benefits of globalisation are not shared equitably. Prosperity remains the preserve of the few. Despite the progress of the past fifty years, half the world's population lives on less than two US Dollars per day. Many millions live in conditions of extreme deprivation. The poor are being marginalised. Expanded capital flows have also brought with them the risk of greater financial instability, undermining the hope that a commitment to open markets can lift the developing world, especially the least developed countries, out of poverty and debt.

The persistence of poverty and human deprivation diminishes us all. It also makes global peace and security fragile, limits the growth of markets, and forces millions to migrate in search of a better life. It constitutes a deep and fundamental structural flaw in the world economy.

The greatest challenge therefore facing us today is how to channel the forces of globalisation for the elimination of poverty and the empowerment of human beings to lead fulfilling lives.

The solution does not lie in abandoning a commitment to market principles or in wishing away the powerful forces of technological change. Globalisation is a reality and can only increase its impact. But if the benefits of globalisation are to be shared more widely, there must be greater equity for countries in global markets.

We call on all nations fully to implement the Uruguay Round commitments to dismantle barriers to trade for the mutual benefit of all. Moreover, recognising in particular the significant contribution that enhanced export opportunities can make for reducing poverty, we call for improved market access for the exports of all countries, particularly developing countries, and the removal of all barriers to the exports of the least developed countries.

Strong export growth remains a key element in the ability of developing countries to improve their living standards to the levels enjoyed in the industrialised world. We support efforts that would enable developing countries to build up their skills and manufacturing capacities, including the production and export of value-added goods, so as to enhance growth and achieve prosperity.

Likewise, we urge that the forthcoming ministerial Meeting of WTO to launch the next round of global negotiations on trade be one with a pronounced developmental dimension, with the aim of achieving better market access in agriculture, industrial products and services in a way that provides benefits to all members, particularly developing countries. The Round should be balanced in process, content and outcome.

We fully believe in the importance of upholding labour standards and protecting the environment. But these must be addressed in an appropriate way that does not, by linking them to trade liberalisation, end up effectively impeding free trade and causing injustice to developing countries.

We also call on the global community to establish innovative mechanisms to promote capital flows to a wider number of countries; and to urgently initiate reform of international financial architecture to minimise financial instability and its impact on the poor.

We believe that the elimination of poverty is achievable - but only if we take determined and concerted action at national and international levels. We reiterate our commitment to work for a reversal of the decline in official development assistance flows. Urgent action is also required to tackle the unsustainable debt burden of developing countries, particularly the poorer, building on the recent initiatives agreed internationally. We believe such development assistance must be focused on human development, poverty reduction and on the development of capacities for participating in expanding world markets for goods and capital. Above all, we recognise the responsibilities of national governments to promote pro-poor policies and human development.

If the poor and the vulnerable are to be at the centre of development, the process must be participatory, in which they have a voice. We believe that the spread of democratic freedom and good governance, and access to education, training and health care are key to the expansion of human capabilities, and to the banishment of ignorance and prejudice. Recognising that good governance and economic progress are directly linked, we affirm our commitment to the pursuit of greater transparency, accountability, the rule of law and the elimination of corruption in all spheres of pubic life and in the private sector.

We are concerned at the vast gap between rich and poor in the ability to access the new technologies, at the concentration of the world's research resources in market-driven products and processes, the increasing tendency to claim proprietary rights on traditional knowledge, and at bio-piracy. We call on the world community to use the opportunities offered by globalisation for adopting practical measures for overcoming these challenges; for example, by extending the benefits of global medical research through the provision of drugs at affordable prices to the poor in developing countries.

We welcome the spread of ideas, information and knowledge in building civil support for social equality, and in opposing all forms of discrimination and other injustices based on ethnicity, gender, race, and religion. But, while better communications have increased human contact, there is for some a growing sense of social exclusion and a general failure of moral purpose. Persistence of inequalities faced by women, continued high levels of youth unemployment, lack of adequate support systems for the aged, children and the disabled in many parts of the world and increased threats to the diversity of cultures and beliefs all contribute to the undermining of just and stable society. We therefore call for a renewed commitment to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to take measures that promote respect for the diverse languages, cultures and beliefs, and traditions of the world, which enrich all our lives.

Recognising that the full exploitation of the opportunities for development created by globalisation is not possible without security, political stability and peace. We commit ourselves, in partnership with civil society, to promote processes that help to prevent or resolve conflicts in peaceful manner, support measures that help to stabilise post-conflict situations and combat terrorism of all kinds.

Good governance requires inclusive and participatory processes at both national and international levels. We call on the global community to search for inclusive processes of multilateralism which give more effective voice in the operations of international institutions to developing countries, and which recognise the particular vulnerabilities of small states.

We believe that the Commonwealth, an association of diverse sovereign nations reflecting different stages of development and united by common values, has a vital role to play in promotion consensus at national and international levels and in providing practical assistance for the creation of capacities needed to promote people-centred development. At the threshold of a new millennium, we look to the Commonwealth, and its family of organisations, to contribute significantly to making the above aspirations a reality.

George, South Africa
14 November 1999

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen international policy debates around African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

URL for this file: