Report on the Helsinki Process Meeting
Searching for Global Partnerships
Posted December 24, 2002
The Helsinki meeting also known as the Helsinki Process launched during 2-4th December 2002 in Helsinki by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland is aimed at beginning a process, which can identify common values as well as concrete initiatives for improving the current global governance structures. It is long term in nature, open ended in terms of participation and addresses key global governance issues. The Meeting's overarching theme was Global Governance with sub-titles on
a) Values and aims of Global governance values play a crucial role in all actions and that identification of common values is especially important when new structures, which shape human well-being are contemplated on
b) Implementation - the Millennium Declaration, Monterrey Consensus and Johannesburg Commitments provide a basis to meet the core challenges of our time. The number one task and challenge today is to implement the objectives of these meetings/declarations. Lasting results can only be achieved through more equitable and inclusive dialogue.
c) Potential of existing institutions - that there's need not to focus only on in-depth analysis of the global governance institutions but rather concentrate on the possibilities of strengthening these institutions in improving the management of globalization and its effects.
The Finnish Government is convinced that inclusive and equitable globaliastion should be promoted through a closer dialogue and through new partnerships embracing not only governments and their institutions but also with civil society and private sector actors.
But the big question still remains on whether this process will seriously address the key challenges that the world is facing today. It may or may not but was hoped that it can at least create a basis for opportunities that would lead to such significant change.
The Finnish NGOs attending this meeting expressed dissatisfaction with the way the government of Finland were going about the whole Helsinki process. The key NGOS such KEPA (an umbrella body representing over 200 NGOs in Finland) were not part of the preparations of the Helsinki Process. They have criticized the process as being too bureaucratic (as evidenced in the government people invited) and also lacking direction and long-term focus. They admit though that there is some level of political will among some government officials although the political dimension of the whole process is still not clearly known.
Summary of Key Issues Addressed
- The UN and Global Governance: Realistic scenarios - the core question here is how can the UN become central within the globalization process? What would be the most effective, realistic and feasible reform agenda?
- Capacity Building, Participation and Global governance
- Poverty and Debt Arbitration
- Possibilities and Constraints of Global Corporate Responsibility
- Possibilities and Constraints of Emerging Transnational Civil Society
What does the Helsinki Process Mean for Civil Society in the South?
To start with the Helsinki process is not a new process as similar initiatives have been undertaken in the past. Hence, it should not be seen as an end itself but a means to a sustainable end. If the Helsinki process does not create a basis for significant change in the global governance structures then it might not be a useful process.
Civil society should take advantage of this platform created to challenge the inadequacies of the current global governance structures. Civil society itself must strategically and effectively use the space accorded to them and not merely legitimatise such processes. They must be well prepared in their interventions by doing thorough homework, clearly identifying what key issues need to be challenged and to who, and have follow-up mechanisms in place and output indicators monitored etc.
If it is not rushed as a process, the Helsinki process provides civil society with an opportunity to define key principles and visions which could be identified as key elements for reform of the major players in the global economy like the IMF, World Bank, WTO and the UN system.
This process should be useful for coalition building not only among civil society organizations in the South but also between those in the North. Most importantly, it should include coalition building of the States to create a sustainable global structure, which is operational, but one does not compromise national sovereignty.
Civil society participation in such processes should be meaningful and not used as a "window dressing" exercise. This would entail that the mode and form of participation must be clearly defined, and more time and space for real dialogue accorded to them.
African Forum and Network on Debt and Development(AFRODAD)