|September 23, 2004
Mbeki warns of poverty threat to world order
Poverty and the underdevelopment were a greater global threat to humanity than terrorism and war, President Thabo Mbeki told the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York. Mbeki, who has been leading calls for reforms of UN bodies such as the Security Council, said the UN had so far failed to achieve its objectives of "human dignity, equality and equity at the global level" as outlined in the Millennium Declaration. The world body risked shifting focus from issues of poverty and underdevelopment to terrorism. He said that despite growing incidents of terrorism around the world, poverty and underdevelopment constituted the "central and principal threat and challenge that human civilisation faces".
In a veiled attack on the composition of the UN Security Council, Mbeki said that because of the domination of the "rich and powerful" countries at the UN, the crisis of poverty and underdevelopment would be overshadowed by the threat of terrorism and war. Developing countries lacked the power to dictate the UN agenda to give priority to poverty. "But because they are powerless, these billions, the overwhelming majority of the same humanity that needs to eat, to drink water, to be protected from elements, will have no possibility to persuade this organisation to translate what they have concluded into obligatory injunctions issued by this organisation, which all member nations will have to accept and implement," Mbeki said. He concluded by saying that the UN had so far failed to take the plea to fight poverty seriously.
Furthermore, Mbeki noted that the wealthy and powerful felt mortally threatened by the fanatical rage of the terrorists, and had the power both to respond with all the might they had and decide for all the principal threat facing humanity. "The poor and powerless feel threatened by a permanent hurricane of poverty, which is devastating their communities as horrendously as Hurricane Ivan destroyed the Caribbean island state of Grenada. Every year, after a few days, we pick up our bags to return to the reality of our societies, whose squalor stands out in sharp contrast to the splendour of New York and this majestic precinct that constitutes the headquarters of the United Nations organisation."
(Business Day, Johannesburg)