Vladimir Petrovskiy is former Director-General
of the UN in Geneva.
Keynotes at the Summit for the Future 2005
The convening of this Summit by the Club of Amsterdam, the highly respected,
independent international think-tank is an important event. The discussion
of the Knowledge Society in all aspects by policy makers, high intellectuals
and knowledge workers could not take place at a more significant moment.
Five years, which have passed since the Lisbon European Council have proclaimed
the knowledge based economy as the strategic goal for 20 I 0, give the
chance to reflect on the lessons that can be learned from European experience
in the global context and contemplate how best to continue to promote
the knowledge based society.
In my statement I shall deal with the European approach, the efforts of
international organizations and the importance of responsible constitutional
democratic governance at all levels for building knowledge society.
|Since ancient times learning has been the
major objective, pursued by Europeans. Nowadays this objective becomes the
top priority not only for governments, but for society as a whole, for the
private sector, for the players in the new economy and for each citizen,
who, like Socrates, will never cease learning and learning to learn.
On March 23 and 24, 2000, the European Union has set itself a few strategic
goals for the next decade: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge
based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with
more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. For achieving this goal
an overall strategy has been formulated. It aims at:
- preparing the transition to a knowledge-based
economy and society by better policies for the information society and
R&D, as well as by stepping up the process of structural reform for
competitiveness and innovation and by completing the internal market;
- modernizing the European social model,
investing in people and combating social exclusion;
- sustaining the healthy economic outlook
and favourable growth prospects by applying an appropriate macro-economic
|This strategy is designed to enable the European
Union to regain the conditions for full employment, and to strengthen regional
cohesion in the Union. This new European strategic goal has been accepted
as an inspiring example by many countries in the world, which are looking
for the ways to have peace, stability and well-being in a new world by using
fairly the fruits of Globalization, which has brought it to the forefront
issues of technology and communication.
Indeed, as the European Council has proclaimed, the shift to the digital
knowledge based economy, prompted by new goods and services will be a powerful
engine for growth, competitiveness and jobs. In addition, it will be capable
of improving citizens’ quality of live and environment, in which we live.
In a new knowledge-based society, promoted by Europeans, businesses and
citizens must have access to an inexpensive, world-class communications
infrastructure and a wide range of services. Every citizen must be equipped
with the skills needed to live and work in this new information society.
Different means of access must prevent info-exclusion. The combat against
illiteracy must be reinforced. Special attention must be given to disabled
people. Information technologies can be used to renew urban and regional
development and promote environmentally sound technologies. Content industries
create added value by exploiting and networking European cultural diversity.
Real efforts must be made by public administrations at all levels to exploit
new technologies to make information as accessible as possible.
Of practical attraction for other countries are the efforts to modernize
the European model by investing in people and developing an active and dynamic
welfare state, which may be crucial for ensuring that the emergence of the
knowledge economy does not compound the existing social problems of unemployment,
social exclusion and poverty.
There is a real interest in many countries to understand how to offer learning
and training opportunities tailored to target groups at different stages
of their lives: young people, unemployed adults and those in employment
who are at risk of seeing their skills overtaken by rapid change.
The international community needs the European experience in advancing new
concrete future objectives of educational system, focusing on common concerns
and priorities while respecting national diversity.
As well-educated and skilled people form the basis for the creation, dissemination
and effective application of knowledge, a know1edge-based society depends
on a comprehensive educational system that embraces the diverse spectrum
of a population. Such a system shou1d ensure a growing share of highly skilled
specialists in the workforce, while creating favourable conditions for continuous
adult and professional education.
The other lesson to be learned is promoting social inc1usion. Europe gives
an example how the new knowledge-based society can offer tremendous potential
for reducing social exclusion, both by creating the economic conditions
for greater prosperity through higher levels of growth and employment, and
by opening up new ways of participating in society. The Europeans well understand
that at the same time, the knowledge society brings a risk of an ever-widening
gap between those who have access to the new knowledge, and those who are
excluded. To avoid this risk and maximize this new potential, efforts are
made to improve skills, promote wider access to knowledge and opportunity
and fight unemployment: the best safeguard against social exclusion is a
job. This encourages the flexibility necessary to adapt to the rapidly changing
needs of social development and the knowledge-economy.
Last but not least, it is a great interest in a more coherent and systematic
approach, which the Europeans advocate, to put decision into practice. A
new open method of coordination as the means of spreading best practice
and achieving greater convergence towards the main EU goals involves:
- fixing guidelines for the Union combined
with specific timetables for achieving the goals which they set in the
short, medium and long terms;
- establishing, where appropriate, quantitative
and qualitative indicators and benchmarks against the best in the world
and tailored to the needs of different Member States and sectors as
a means of comparing best practice;
- translating these European guidelines
into national and regional policies by setting specific targets and
adopting measures, taking into account national and regional differences;
- periodic monitoring, evaluation and peer
review organized as mutual learning processes.
|I would like to stress that the European Council
makes a special appeal to companies’ corporate sense of social responsibility
regarding best practices on lifelong learning, work organisation, equal
opportunities, social inclusion and sustainable development.
The European Council also makes clear that achieving the new strategic goal
will rely primarily on the private sector, as well as on public-private
partnerships. It will depend on mobilizing the resources available on the
markets, as well as on efforts by Member States.
With the time passing it becomes quite clear what is needed today is not
only knowledge-based economy but rather knowledge-society. As for education
in the knowledge-society, it cannot be limited to the information technology
and economy. It should include common human values, culture and religion,
the policy-making and its implementation.
Looking into the future, we cannot ignore the experience of the past.
In Europe there were always two conflicting approaches to school education:
traditional and liberal: The traditional view, school education as a tool
for preparing a child for entering adult society as a prepared citizen.
The liberal one finds it most important to preserve the child’s nature that
is supposedly good and self-sufficient and does not need any interference
on the parts of adults. Paradoxically, as we can learn from our life experience,
these two approaches to school education intertwine and merge in practice.
Of practical importance is to preserve in the future the famous German philosopher
Wilhelm von Humboldt’s model of the university that unites teaching and
research. The university is the unique institution of sciences that combines
in itself analysis and synthesis, tradition and change, conservatism and
liberalism. Entrepreneurial practices, that direct only at the expedient
earning their own money erode not only subtle values of higher education
but also weaken the foundations of the democratic society.
I deeply believe that in the new world decisive is not the quantitative
factor, the size of the country, of its population, but the quality, which
depends upon the level of education and social cohesion.
The European experience presented at the expert level could help the other
countries to find the answer to the questions what is to be done and how
to promote knowledge-societies, the basis for peace, stability and well
|The application of the European experience
in the building knowledge society in other parts of the world is very much
facilitated by the fact that at the turn of the 21st century we face not
only the challenges of globalization, but also the change of the civilizational
paradigm. The world is becoming the interdependent global society, characterized
by intellectualization and globalization of economy, on one side, and cultural
differences, on the other.
For the first time in history there are no more debates at the high political
level on the meaning of the major goals of the emerging global society.
I have been fortunate to participate in all the UN Summits, in 1960, 1995
and 2000. At the last Summit I was particularly struck by the remarkable
convergence of views by all world leaders on the question, what is to be
done before the challenges of globalization, leaders agreed on the necessity
of actions to maintain peace and security, to provide stability, sustainable
development and to protect the human rights. There was a consensus that
no individual and no nation must be denied the opportunity to benefit from
globalization. Global issues must be managed in a way that ensures an even
distribution of costs. Those who benefit the least are entitled to assistance
from those who benefit the most.
To build a peaceful, democratic and equitable international order, the leaders
of the world have committed themselves to freeing our fellow men and women
from the three major scourges:
- abject and dehumanizing poverty to which
more than 1 billion individuals are currently confined;
- violence in all forms: civi1 conflicts
and terrorist activities;
- danger of living on a planet irredeemably
spoilt by human activities.
|World leaders have unanimously agreed that
in order to achieve their goals, they have a collective responsibility to
uphold the principle of human dignity, as the major guideline in their approach
to all the issues on the global agenda. These words were followed by deeds
when a year later in Johannesburg, South Africa, all the UN member-countries
adopted the programme of actions. This programme is known as the Millennium
Development Goals (MDG). It targets for 2015:
- to halve the population of people living
on less than a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger;
- to ensure that all boys and girls complete
- to eliminate gender disparities in primary
and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015;
- to reduce by two thirds the mortality
rate among children under 5;
- reduce by three quarters the maternal
- halt and begin to reverse the spread of
HIY/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other diseases;
- to ensure environmental sustainability;
- to develop a global partnership for development.
|A global consensus on what the MDG are is
not yet translated into a consensus on the priority of threats we are facing
today. While some see terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and criminal
networks as the biggest threats to security (the so-called “hard threats”),
most see civil wars, diseases such as AIDS, poverty and environmental degradation
as the key problems, although “soft threats” by comparison. Under these
new conditions, the major issue today is how to deal with the hard threat
without neglecting all the others. After all, they are interdependent like
our world and should be treated comprehensively.
The leaders of Europe, US and Russia rightly speak about strategic security,
which in historical discourse means that security should be treated in all
It would be proper to remind that the concept of security in all its aspects,
which has been jointly proposed by Moscow and Washington, was unanimously
adopted by the United Nations at the 44th Session of the General Assembly
in 1989 (Resolution 44/21). According to this Resolution, security should
be dealt with not only in its military dimension but also in a comprehensive
multifaceted manner, as the security from violence as well as from hunger,
diseases, environmental degradation and any violation of human rights.
The achievement of this aim makes the protection of individual as the top
priority in the new world. In other words, the core of the new vision of
strategic security is the human security, which should provide positive
peace - not only absence of terrorism and wars, but also stability and well-being.
The disagreement on how to cope with the threats we are facing today, has
a negative effect on achieving the MDG goals. Eradication of poverty remains
the most immediate concern for development initiatives of the New Millennium.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), the
number of chronically hungry people shot up in 2004 to nearly 852 millions.
This is an increase of 18 million people, including at least 5 million children,
who are now dying from hunger each year. At the same time International
Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that half of the world’s workers or 1.4
billion people earn less than $2 a day, whilst 550 million live on less
than $1 a day, the highest numbers ever recorded.
The achievement of MDG, in the words of the UN Secretary General, demands
the mobilisation of all creative abilities and invention. The science and
technology should play here a decisive role. The UN and its partners should
use the best minds, their knowledge, experience and creative energy at the
service of the peoples of the world, in order to achieve the goals of Millennium.
The promotion of the knowledge-based society makes it necessary to keep
in mind that, though we live in an interdependent and multicultural world,
there is a big difference between the countries, not only from the viewpoint
of cultures but also of the level of development. Europe belongs to the
highly developed countries, but there are also developing countries, countries
in transition, underdeveloped countries and ‘failed’ states.
The pattern of knowledge - society cannot be applied automatically all over
the world. Take for example countries in transition. The UNDP has just prepared
a special report for the Russian Federation “Towards a Knowledge - Based
Society”. The reference to this report at our Forum here today. is particularly
pertinent, because one of the four common spaces of cooperation between
the EU and Russia is the scientific research and education.
According to the UNDP report, the drivers of fundamental change in social
capacity reside, first and foremost, in the concept of human development.
Effective formation of a new society depends to a large extent on the underpinnings
of a knowledge-based economy. Knowledge has already become a significant
component of most products and services in the modern world. Intellectual
effort, special skills and communication not only create added value, they
ensure the competitiveness and economic development of organizations at
all levels. A significant share of the value of many products is created
at the stage of marketing, sales, research and development (RD), and service,
rather than at the stage of material production. Knowledge stimulates the
emergence of new types of activity, new production methods and industries;
it becomes the driving force in renovating technologies and a key factor
of competitiveness and consumer well-being.
Human development, new managerial and marketing technologies, and information
systems have become the top investment priorities.
UNDP report underlines that innovation is now an indispensable part of renewal
in every sector of the economy. The nature of information and knowledge
processing has been also changed. Information and knowledge are transmitted
in volumes and at rates previously unthinkable, while the costs of transaction
have plummeted. Hardware and software technologies enable the translation
of vast quantities of previously inaccessible information into knowledge
and added value. Information resources themselves have begun to playa dominant
role in the accumulation of social and financial wealth.
The challenge is to induce economic added value based on innovation as opposed
to dependence on the exploitation of natural resources. Knowledge is, after
all, the most potent renewable resource available to a society. Fiscal,
amortization and customs preferences need to be combined with an effective
institution for the protection of intellectual property in order to encourage
investments in science and technology.
As well-educated and skilled people form the basis for the creation, dissemination
and effective application of knowledge, a knowledge-based society depends
on a comprehensive educational system that embraces the diverse spectrum
of a population. Such a system should ensure a growing share of highly skilled
specialists in the workforce, while creating favorable conditions for continuous
adult and professional education.
A high level of quality educational attainment across individuals and social
groups facilitates greater social cohesion, trust in social institutions,
democratic participation, open debate, and appreciation of diversity in
gender, ethnicity, religion, and social class.
Proposed by the World Bank measures of institutional knowledge-assessment
methodology (KAM) therefore examine “rules of the game”, both formal and
informal. They assess the ease of funding innovation projects, the degree
to which education and the upgrading of skills are encouraged, how intellectual
property rights are observed, etc.
As for Russia, the report recommends substantial changes in the structure
of social production, education and the quality and composition of the labor
force. The challenge is to induce economic added value based on innovation
as opposed to dependence on the exploitation of natural resources. Knowledge
is, after all, the most potent renewable resource available to a society.
It is also vital to elevate human development as a top priority for Russian
society, government and non-government: to breathe new life into the educational
system and its network of scientific centers and to considerably improve
the institutional conditions for business and entrepreneurship, and to achieve
a breakthrough in the use of modem information and communication technologies.
Change is needed not only in the sectors directly concerned with the reproduction
of knowledge (education, telecommunications, IT, the science and high-technology
sectors), but in all branches of production that use innovation, including
the “low-technology” sectors. These objectives are predicated on a well-conceived
national strategy for structural reforms, and adaptation of the capacities
of various sectors for the reproduction of knowledge. Analogous strategies
have been developed in many countries, providing a substantial international
base of experience upon which Russia can draw.
The UNDP report on the development of human potential in Russia gives a
specific example of the UN approach to creation of the knowledge-based society
in the countries of transition. Encouraging the knowledge-based society,
the reports say “Yes” to the market economy and “No” to the market society.
The reference to the UNDP report shows that the European experience in the
promotion of the knowledge-based society should be used together with the
recommendations of the UN, UNDP, [LO and other international bodies.
|The concept of knowledge society the UN promotes
is not limited to access to technology and science. As long as the people
all over the world are unable to approach the information critically, as
long as they cannot analyze it, sort it and incorporate the elements, which
interest them into their existing knowledge base, this information will
remain a mass of undefined data. People should master information, rather
than information masters them.
That’s why the UNESCO emphasizes that the knowledge-societies “should be
conceived as plural, variable and open to democratic choice”. It implies
a set of four interlinked principles: freedom of expression, equal access
to education; universal access to information, including a strong public
domain of information, and the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity.
The responsible constitutional democratic governance at the international,
regional and national level is a top priority. The task of such governance
is to make the effective decisions and to put them into practice through
concrete and systematic approach and to facilitate developing the potential
of each individual. The rule of law is the core of responsible governance.
This rule starts with the principle, that no one is above the law, and no
one should be denied its protection.
The rule of law starts at home. Unfortunately, in too many places it remains
elusive. In theory the world is more democratic than ever: 140 out of 191
states now hold multi-party elections. In practice, only 82 countries are
fully democratic in guaranteeing human rights with institutions such as
free press and independent juridical systems.
With regard to international legal order I wish to remind that an objective
proclaimed in the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations is to establish
conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from
treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.
The utility of law is true only as long as it is implemented and enforced.
Without such a commitment of the states the rule of law in international
affairs will remain little more than a remote abstraction. The evolution
of today’s international political environment justifies the further development
of existing international norms and its adaptation to prevailing conditions.
The guidelines for these changes are the maintenance of peace and human
dignity, the understanding that the only absolute sovereignty today is the
sovereignty of the human being.
The respect for the international law in a new world entails an adherence
to common human values. The concept of common values is neither insensitive
to cultural differences nor disrespectful of religious beliefs and practices.
Fostering common values implies the existence of a political environment,
which embraces the diversity of views and cultures in society, encourages
national fora for debates and consensus building and promotes the important
role and responsibility of individuals.
The comprehensive dialogue among civilizations provides a good opportunity
to programs directed at the mutual enrichment of historical experience of
different civilizations and meeting threats to their stability and well-being.
The legally oriented governance implies transparency and accountability
in the management of public affairs.
Such governance also means that the public institutions fulfill their role
and undertake to supply their citizens with the services they need. It goes
without saying that responsible governance does not tolerate corruption
or bribery. It re-invigorates public institutions by making officials accountable
for their actions.
Furthermore, a competent, loyal and efficient civil service endowed with
ethical standards is neither a luxury, nor a dream. Rather, it is a basic
precondition for peace, social and economic development and regional and
Responsible governance cannot achieve success without involving various
actors from civil society and the private sector at all levels in its process.
The role of the private sector within the context of responsible governance
is particularly crucial and especially important. In the global context,
it is noteworthy to mention the “Global Compact”, an initiative proposed
by the UN Secretary-General, to promote partnership with the corporate sector.
Based on universal principles from international human rights, labor law
and environmental protection, it is intended to make markets more humane
by promoting corporate global responsibility. It attempts to do this by
imbuing global corporate actors-and, in so doing, the process of globalization
itself-with UN principles and values. In other words, the Global Compact
is intended to spread responsible business practices through the adoption
of appropriate minimum standards on human rights, employment conditions
and the environment.
To quote from the Compact: “A commitment to multilateral engagement and
open markets has spurred growth and development in the decades since 1945.
But opposition to globalization is rising in many parts of the world, as
the ability of markets to meet social expectations and needs is questioned
and the spread of market forces outpaces the ability of societies and their
political systems to adjust effectively. Safeguarding past achievements
and preparing the ground for a new period of prosperity requires urgent
action on two fronts: renewing a commitment to openness and inclusion; and
finding new ways to embed global market forces in universally shared social
values, thereby allowing all countries and cultures a sense of ownership
in the global economy”.
Last but not least. Within the context of responsible democratic governance
it should be stressed that we live in the time when relations between media
freedom and democracy has never been closer. Editorial access to information
and rigorous professional standards are especially important for news agencies
since they provide the news material and footage for so many other media
outlets. This is the message from World Summit of Information.
|In conclusion, I would like to stress that
the knowledge-based society should be accepted in a broader sense as the
political philosophy of a new emerging global society, which advocates the
investment in human potential and provides the optimal balance between the
new transnational markets, nation-states and different cultures and religions.
Of course, there is no ready-made blueprint for all countries.
The creation of the knowledge-based society is a process, which has already
started, produced some positive examples and in the long run will bring
the peace, stability and well being to all parts of our planet.
|Visit also the conference about 'the
future of the European Knowledge Society' and the Summit
for the Future 2005 plus the sections with books,
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