Dr. Danuta Hübner,
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe
Contribution to the panel on
"Regional perspectives on globalization: an opportunity for catching up
or a risk of falling behind in the development process"
Geneva, 20 July 2001
How does Europe look today? It is certainly diversified. In
the positive sense, providing complementarity and the potential for
co-operation. But also in the bad sense. For only few countries with economies
in transition will this decade be the one of the completion of transition to
democracy and market economy. However, for any country with economy in
transition strengthening democracy means strengthening its capacity and
propensity to change, to respond to challenges emerging at local, national,
European and global levels.
The socially painful process of transition has been
accompanied by increasing disparities in the advancement of institutional and
structural reforms, in economic performance, in the outlook, in the potential
to cope with risks and to take advantage of opportunities borne by
globalization. Today we also know that those risks and opportunities are
distributed in a very uneven way, one dimension of which is also gender. We
have too digital divide in Europe. We have many others as well.
Our region is part of a global, changing world whose major
characteristic is that we are all becoming increasingly dependent on each
other. Peace and stability, fundamental European values, are no longer
guaranteed by well protected borders and balance of powers, but by
international co-operation and European integration. Europe is destined to
co-operate because of its existing conflict potential, because of the global
competition and simply because it pays. To successfully face the global
competition, Europe must become more competitive for which European
co-operation is the most efficient instrument, as in the world of today
competitiveness is no longer inherited, it is man made and we all contribute
to it. For this, the role of the region is of paramount importance as this is
exactly where norms and standards are created, where most of the co-operation
occurs, where most of the co-ordinating efforts with regards to national
policies take place, where integration can develop.
We have discovered that the best European answer to global
challenges is European integration, but we also know that most of the work
which must be done in integrating Europe, must be done at home by political
leaders and their partners in development, civil society and business
community. There is, however, a major role to play for international community
and, in particular, for the family of international organizations. And this is
exactly when the role of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe comes.
ECE regional character is our principal asset. Being the major
forum for east west relations prior to 1989, ECE has continued ever since to
play the role of a platform where diversified Europe meets to debate and act
together on many issues. Our norm and standard setting role provides the basic
integrating mechanism for the broader Europe in the fields of environment,
transportation, energy, trade facilitation, enterprise development. Our role
in integrating statistical system of Europe is yet another example of what can
be done to bring European countries closer to each other. And our economic
analysis and policy advise contribute to better understanding of the
unprecedented transition process and economic change in our region.
UNECE work in assisting transition economies to catch up, to
accelerate reforms, to remove bottlenecks to development contributes to
European integration and facilitates the role integration mechanism can play
in supporting transition and development and in facilitating responses to
European diversities and disparities have also their
subregional dimension. Working on the subregional level, bringing together
neighbouring countries to act together in seeking of solutions for
transboundary problems has proved to be an efficient way to strengthen
co-operation in Europe.
We have discovered in the ECE that information technology can
be an excellent mechanism to enhance regional cooperation. We have identified
two major ICT areas on which to focus in ECE to make sure that ICT contributes
to economic and social development in Europe. These are, first of all,
regulatory framework and ICT use for enterprise development.
In Europe we increasingly care for environment. In the ECE, we
have managed to put in place a unique regional environmental framework
addressing most important issues of transboundary cooperation, but we all know
here, in the ECE, that only if our work reaches the very practical level of
implementation, will we be able to make a difference. This is a major
Our work has also illustrated that transport can be made
sustainable, but it takes many years. We know, however, that the longer we
wait for a change, the more expensive the path towards sustainability will be.
We do not have much time.
Energy has been and will be the issue on policy and
development agenda for years. In the ECE, we pay a lot of attention to the
issue of energy intensity and energy efficiency.
We believe that it is imperative for transition economies to
use the momentum, the window of opportunity that transition generates and
implement energy efficiency measures precisely now when economic structures
are being transformed and modernized so that the resulting new infrastructure
is as energy efficient as it can be.
Sustainable development cannot, however, become a reality on a
global scale without further marked improvements in energy efficiency in
western ECE countries.
For the last 10 years the ECE region has been going through
massive restructuring. It has not happened in a vacuum, but in a global
environment characterized by revolutionary changes. It took us some time -
probably too much time - to realize that we need also industrial integration
of countries with economies in transition into the broader European and global
economy. The transition has created in Europe a new regional economic
heterogeneity, which opens new production possibilities, which opens also the
opportunity of a significant production reorganization that creates and
sustains growth and make firms in the region competitive. We must better use
this opportunity. There is no doubt that much of Europe’s competitiveness
and ability to take advantages of globalization will depend upon the extent,
speed and nature of catching-up processes in countries with economies in
The scope and scale of challenges which our region is facing
calls for partnership among all stakeholders of European development. For this
partnership to make it efficient, we need governments, civil society, business
sector and international community. We are on this path to efficiently use
There is a tremendous role to be played by the international
community in Europe in this process of catching up through globalization. It
is not only to provide a stable international environment, to convince
governments that it pays to embark on reforms, and to assist in those reforms.
It is also to see the consequences of countries’ policies for weaker
partners, to ensure access to markets, also financial ones, for those in need.
It is important that we see the proper role of the international community,
sometimes even a very modest role is crucial. It matters also that we are here
to provide a forum for getting people together to speak and to share their
concerns, experiences and lessons. But I am convinced we have sufficiently rich
pool of knowledge, of expertise, of experience to act efficiently.