Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  
Front Page

'Laws of jungle' threaten world order: Annan

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday the world faced a combination of security threats and economic dangers that put the entire international order in jeopardy.

Annan said terrorism and the global war against it threatened to undermine human rights and split the world along cultural, religious and ethnic lines.

"Business...has a powerful interest in helping to prevent the international security system from sliding back into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle," he told corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"In just a few short years, the prevailing atmosphere has shifted from belief in the near-inevitability of globalization to deep uncertainty about the very survival of our tenuous global order," Annan said.

Collective security and the role of the world body itself were under serious strain, the UN chief added.

Annan appealed directly to heads of the world's leading companies to use their influence with governments to bring about fairer trade and enhance security.

He said business must play a vital part in averting conflicts, which were often related to struggles to control natural resources.

"Business efforts to promote transparency and fight corruption can be effective measures in preventing conflict from happening in the first place," he said.

On the economic front, unfair trade -- especially farming subsidies -- was not only destroying the environment but choking off revenues from the countries that most needed them.

Corporations had the power and influence to help break the current impasse in world trade negotiations, Annan said.

"More than anything else, we need a poor-friendly deal on agriculture. No single issue more gravely imperils the multilateral trading system, from which you benefit so much," he said.

"Agricultural subsidies skew market forces. They destroy the environment. And they block poor-country exports from world markets, keeping them from earning revenues that would dwarf any conceivable level of aid and investment flows to those countries."

He added: "For all our sakes, and for the credibility of the system itself, they must be eliminated."