Development with a
human face

Vicente Fox Quesada
calls for a global pact for viable, sustainable and shared development

In this era of globalization, free exchange plays an enormously important role in the development of nations. No country that seeks economic growth and greater well-being can afford to have a policy of closed borders. The way must be kept open for exchanging goods, services and technology, and – above all – for the free flow of ideas. It is equally important to share responsibility for the well-being of planet Earth.

The days of isolation are over. This new era requires the greatest possible participation by every human being for the viable, sustainable and just development sought by all of humanity. While each country must establish its own strategies for growth and development, none can fail to realize that shared future prosperity can only be assured through the broadest international cooperation.

Mexico believes that in a world characterized by interdependence, common problems demand common solutions. The greatest challenge facing today’s governments is to present a united front to address shared problems.

The free flow of commerce, investment, science and technology, amongst other things, must evolve within the context of assuring truly equitable competition – in an international system free from barriers or obstacles to meeting and exchange – so that the benefits of economic growth reach everyone. As these lead to greater levels of well-being for all, not only will people be able to overcome their impoverished conditions, they will also have new opportunities for developing their talents and abilities. This in turn will help to improve the world in which we all live.

Fighting poverty
The development to which we aspire must necessarily start with a concerted fight against poverty. Economic growth achieved through pillaging the planet’s natural resources – or through social exclusion – can be neither economically nor socially sustainable. Only through the broadest social participation – involving individuals, peoples and communities in economic endeavour, in protecting our environment and in improving education, health and habitation – will we able to follow the path of viable, sustainable and equitable development.

The Mexican Government has already set on track a new integral non-welfare strategy for addressing poverty within our borders. Based on joint responsibility rather than paternalism, it will offer families new opportunities to escape poverty. Through access to better education and health, and to adequate living conditions, we hope that the women and men of Mexico will be able to develop their talents and abilities for the benefit of their families, communities and country.

In Mexico we believe that it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty, to reduce social inequality and to improve society’s living standards. This is an ethical and political obligation in every region of the world, particularly in the least developed countries.

The highest possible level of social participation is needed to achieve new and greater well-being. The rise of democracy and civil society’s determination – in every nation – to take part in the design and implementation of government decisions are not incompatible with the challenges of globalization.

Democratization and the demand for greater social participation in the decisions that affect us all have become the central global process of our time. Yet this rise of democracy is still not apparent in multilateral institutions – particularly financial ones. The reform and strengthening of multilateral international institutions should be based on universal values that promote and defend human rights – including civil, political, economic, environmental, social and cultural ones.

Spirit of reconciliation
In the current century we will need to work creatively and with the greatest spirit of reconciliation to ensure that global issues – even the most controversial ones – are addressed in the framework of a new multilateralism that enables viable, sustainable and just development. Addressing global problems requires strengthened international cooperation to maintain focus and to avoid weakening efforts.

This demands concrete commitments not just by governments and multilateral organizations, but also by the private sector, non-governmental organizations and society in general in every nation. Governments have been able to come together at global level – with the invaluable assistance of civil environmental protection organizations – to analyse the principal environmental threats and establish concrete goals for addressing them. The greatest support – both internal and external – is needed to achieve these goals.

Various legal bodies must develop or modify laws adequate to the task of protecting the environment, but business needs the will and the financial, technical and other resources to implement them. Governments must ensure both that such laws are respected, and that the mechanisms are in place to enable the productive sector to function as ‘clean industry’. In Mexico we have both fiscal and social incentives to achieve this. We also seek to ensure that industry has access to new technologies and resources through international cooperation.

Awareness and education
The contribution of individual citizens is, of course, an essential part of our objective. Greater environmental awareness and better education on matters of integrated development – implying ongoing but also sustainable economic growth – will help us to achieve higher levels of well-being while safeguarding our planet and its inhabitants.

The threat to the survival of the planet’s wealth of biological diversity and of its environmental quality has provoked a concerted and increasingly societal response. Climate change, water and soil contamination, overexploitation of water and forestry resources, desertification, and the increasing loss of biodiversity – as well as growing inequality both within and between nations and the frequent violation of human rights – have forced humankind to become aware of the seriousness of these problems and to take steps towards finding solutions.

Today, sustainable and equitable development is not just an exceptional opportunity – it is the only way for humanity to go. We need development with a human face, based on the struggle against poverty. We must make a grand global pact for sustainable development and for the financing this requires.

Mexico is a signatory to the most important global conventions in the field of environment. It has also done much to implement them through enlarging its Protected Natural Areas and improving monitoring and surveillance. We have placed ourselves as a driving force in the region through our participation in global and transboundary programmes for conserving and protecting species and ecosystems. In addition we have taken concrete steps to ensure the protection of the world’s biodiversity on the initiative of the Megadiverse Countries – 15 nations harbouring 70 per cent of it.

Improving conditions
The only way to protect and safeguard the world’s biological diversity is to improve conditions for the indigenous and local communities who are the poorest and most marginalized peoples on the planet, even though they live in areas of great natural wealth which they have protected for thousands of years for the sake of all humanity. Governments and society must meet their responsibility to these peoples and ensure that traditional knowledge is properly recognized and valued in evaluating and granting intellectual property rights. We can no longer achieve economic growth through social exclusion and misusing natural resources.

Worldwide economic stability depends on every country including the hitherto excluded sectors of society as both protagonists and beneficiaries of development. Well-being must be the most tangible and widely circulated ‘product’ of globalization.

We, the women and men of every nation, have a shared responsibility in building ongoing and sustainable development – and it is only right that the benefits should also be shared. Well-being that reaches everyone is the best guarantee of peace and stability for the global community of this new century

Vicente Fox Quesada is President of the United Mexican States.

PHOTOGRAPH: Sandra Helena Vribe/UNEP/Topham

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Looking through new lenses | Development with a human face | Trade can transform | Achieving win–win–win | People | Promises to keep | As precious as gold | Expanding the circle | At a glance: Globalization, poverty, trade and the environment | Acting local | Cooperation is catching | Books & products | Getting through the bottleneck | Investing in the environment | Bishkek Mountain Platform | You can’t breathe money | We will succeed | Fair trade? Fair question


Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on Poverty, Health and the Environment, 2001
Issue on Production and Consumption, 1996
Colin L. Powell: Only one Earth (World Summit on Sustainable Development) 2002
James D. Wolfensohn: Global priority (Global Environment Facility) 2002

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Population and Natural Resources
About the AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment
Population and Biodiversity