Ms. Deborah Bergamini
Chair of the Executive Council of the NSC
“The 21st Century, a Century of Global Interdependence and Solidarity”
Lisbon, 18 May 2010
First of all, I would like to thank the Lisbon Municipality for their hospitality and Mr Pedro Lourtie for his presence;
I would also like to thank all the participants for joining the NSC in this important celebration and, in particular, I would like to thank H. E. President GrÝmsson and the North-South Prize winners, some who have travelled a long way to be with us;
Let me say that today has really been the best meeting I have ever participated in. The high quality debate stressed three important messages:
1. First of all, that the equality of women is not a moral issue but a matter of survival
2. That we must demystify words and change the language if we want to change the world
3. And that political bodies are accountable to fill the gap between wishful thinking (and talking) and concrete actions
Then, let me say some words on the themes of the two sessions we had today:
Remarks on the first session “Towards a new model of development”:
In the 90s, the late economist Mahbub ul Haq noted that Vietnam and Pakistan had the same Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, around $2,000 per year, but Vietnamese, on average, lived eight years longer than Pakistanis and were twice as likely to be able to read. In other words, the same income was buying two dramatically different levels of human well-being. This difference led Haq to insist that nations needed a more comprehensive measure to judge the welfare of their people, a gauge of human development. His reflection led to the creation of the Human Development Index, which has become one of the most influential and widely used indexes to measure human development across countries and which has been used since 1990 by the United Nations Development Programme for its annual Human Development Reports.
However, as we know, the HDI is measured only for the so-called developing countries. I think that the time has come for all of us to rethink our models of development.
That is why I personally appreciated the initiative of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who commissioned a report by marquee-name economists, including Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, to find alternatives to what he called the “GDP fetishism”.
What exactly is this fetishism about? Basically, market globalization and growth. The GDP, generally expressed as a per-capita figure and often adjusted to reflect purchasing power, represents the market value of goods and services produced within a nation’s boundaries. Sounds reasonable. Until we consider what it doesn’t measure: the general progress in health and education, the condition of public infrastructure, environment safeguard, community and leisure.
I know that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is working on this theme, as it is its mission, from an economical point of view.
Anyway, I do think that the NSC can, and should, bring a contribution to this global reflection and, in this framework, the discussion of today is a very good starting point. Maybe we should start asking ourselves for what we progress, keeping in mind that economic development and expansion alone don’t make people happy while the goal of development should be about happiness (well-being), not numbers and growth.
Remarks on the second session “Democratic governance of cultural diversity”
As the Holy Father said during his visit to Portugal, speaking precisely of the NSC, “Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful".
Keeping in mind these words as a source of inspiration for our work, we must then consider that democracy is a way of taking decisions in order to find an agreement among the greatest amount of people, if not the totality of them, without ever forgetting minorities’ rights.
There are some periods in history in which finding such an agreement has been simpler than in others, notably after the Second World War during the drafting of the Human Rights Declaration.
Some people, as philosopher Ignatieff, think that this has been possible because that was a reaction to the atrocities of war: since everybody agreed about what was wrong, it was simpler to find an agreement on what was good. In other words, he thinks that you don't have to agree on what is good in order to agree with human rights, but rather on what is indisputably wrong: Ignatieff advocates a consciously minimalist universalism that makes reference to a "thin" theory of what is right. Starting from this minimalist standpoint makes it possible, in his view, to stand up to critics and find an agreement.
This is surely a very practical point of view, and probably sometimes is the only solution we have at our disposal. I remember Jorge Sampaio mentioning this approach during the last Lisbon Forum and I agree with him.
Indeed, I think that we must work in order to find a way to encompass such a minimalist strictly defined approach in order that, in the future, we will be able to agree on what is good, without being scared of differences.
And I think that to do so Education has a key role, and so the NSC can have one too.