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Helsinki Conference: A Question of Political Will

New Briefing Paper by Jens Martens

Normally, world commissions, like the recent High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, recruit their participants overwhelmingly from the ranks of long-serving politicians and top international diplomats, who as a group embody a moderately progressive international mainstream. Within the Helsinki group it was different, writes Jens Martens.

The spectrum of political positions was much wider and the involvement of representatives from civil society groups much greater than this. On the one hand the group boasted prominent voices from among those critical of globalisation, such as Susan George, Deputy President of Attac France, and Martin Kohr, director of Third World Network. On the other, Maria Livanos Cattaui, Secretary General of the ICC until June 2005, and Peter Sutherland, former Director General of the WTO and currently Chairman of BP and Goldman Sachs, represented two of world’s most influential lobbyists for neo-liberal globalisation.

Further members of the group included Jean-Francois Rischard, Vice-President of the
World Bank for Europe; Mary Robinson, the former Irish president; John Evans, the Secretary General of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) of the OECD; Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International; and Marta Suplicy, former Mayoress of Sao Paolo.

* The second Helsinki Process
On the 29th of June 2005 the Finnish government published the Helsinki Group Report, under the programmatic title ‘Mobilising Political Will‘. The report marks the first peak of the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy launched by the Finnish and Tanzanian governments in 2002. The two governments have an ambitious goal, comparing their initiative to the first Helsinki process in the 1970s, which at the time contributed to the resolution of the conflict between East and West. Now they hope the “2nd Helsinki Process“ will help bridge the gap between North and South and “bring more democracy into international relations”.

Contrary to the first process the second one does not only represent an intergovernmental initiative. The title page of the Helsinki Report declares that “problems of truely global nature cannot be solved by states alone - solving them requires goal-oriented cooperation between all stakeholders." Consequently the Helsinki Process takes a multi-stakeholder approach and involves a number of civil society and business representatives.

The group’s report was deliberately released a few days before the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, and was intended to influence discussions there as well as at the UN Millennium+5 summit in September 2005. It also forms the basis of the 2nd international conference of the Helsinki Process, which will take place in the Finnish capital from the 7th to the 9th of September. However, the report’s remit extends beyond what is politically realisable in the short term this year. Its recommendations on the reform of global governance systems, in particular, will still remain relevant after the 2005 summits.

Please find the complete paper >>> here.

(Posted: 7.9.2005)

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