The dialogue, "Contributing to the Global Agenda", was held between 22 26 September within the framework of the Universal Forum of Cultures Barcelona 2004. It dealt with some of the international community's current most capital issues to advance towards a more just, solidary and sustainable world.
The dialogue, "Contributing to the Global Agenda", held during the five last days of Forum 2004, convened more than twenty international associations and entities, which proposed debates, round table discussions and sundry other activities about priorities for humanity's agenda for the 21st century.
This multi-issue dialogue reflected a clear global inspiration. It aimed to answer three essential questions: what are humanity's current challenges, what is the purpose of civil society and of the actors that are to manage it, and what are the new values, attitudes and behaviours that aim to achieve these changes.
In each of these areas, there was a series of specific debates called tracks. The dialogue was composed of nine tracks and various parallel activities. Although all the tracks were of great interest and embodied important interventions, of special current and future relevance were those that dealt with the relationship between democracy and poverty, the reform of the international institutions that represent collectives, and the fight against corruption.
Democracy and poverty
A lot is said about the relationship between economic development and the political system. It is believed that a democratic regime somehow favours and stimulates economic growth and especially promotes the advantages that development brings to the population. Much less is said, however, about the relationship between democracy and poverty. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental relationship that we must study and understand in depth to be able to refute the opinion that totalitarian regimes are the best political option to combat poverty.
The fight against poverty and democratisation are compatible and interdependent processes in the developing world. On paper, democracy is always much more effective than a totalitarian or authoritarian regime when it comes to reducing poverty. In fact, a democracy has no choice but to combat poverty in order to progress and be able to create a collective space of social justice and human development. So it must have an ordered economic policy and a clear, transparent political system in which everybody has a place and feels represented. In any case, it seems that whenever society is committed to combating poverty, there is a long, widespread democratic tradition. Assuming a democratic regime guarantees on-going defence and fostering of civil rights, dissemination of public information and equal opportunities.
Reform of the international institutions that represent collectives
Some representatives of the political class and large groups of civil society are firmly and decidedly demanding the reform of the general international institutions, particularly, the United Nations, but likewise the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and, to a degree, the World Trade Organisation and others. This reform, however, must be profound and has to involve all the institutions. This is the only way it will lead to a new, more democratic, just and participative world order.
The reform of the institutions will contribute to multilateralism, international justice, the democratisation of the planet and active, acknowledged participation. In any case, the road to achieve it will be long and riddled with difficulties, such as setting up a new system of representation (abolishing or regulating the number of permanent members and the right to veto), restructuring the organisms and their interrelationships and incorporating or expanding criteria in economic, social and cultural issues.
This "recasting" of the international institutions of collective representation requires the agreement and the insistence of an important "critical mass" if the announced and desired reforms are to become reality. Once again, the function of organised civil society seems fundamental to achieve a more just and inclusive world.
The fight against corruption
Corruption is a curse with dramatic consequences all over the world. Corruption puts a brake on economic growth, increases social differences and makes integral, sustainable development impossible. Since today's world is interdependent, corruption and bribery not only exert their disastrous influences locally where they are perpetrated, but rather these criminal practices have repercussions on the global economy and society.
Corruption has been defined as the abuse of power (public as well as private) for individual gain. It manifests itself in many different ways since the concept of corruption includes a variety of crimes from fraudulent purchase of public resources or donations for political groups to all kinds of bribes and any undue appropriation, influence peddling or power peddling.
We can combat corruption with a variety of tools and from various angles. One of the most effective strategies is transparency. Dissemination of information allows identifying the various agents that cause corruption and the often-complex interrelationships of extortion plots and favour-currying.
The organisms of international representation also have a lot to say in this matter and now the United Nations and the World Bank, among many others, supervise and promote specific plans to put and end to this economic and social plague. Once again, the pressure of organised civil society is essential to maintaining the signed agreements and demanding responsibilities.
The experts predict that, to do away with corruption, we need to ensure good global governing practices, such as a balance among the institutional powers, to strengthen political responsibility, to foment transparency and unhindered social information and to promote the competitiveness of the private sector and the efficiency of public management.