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Western Press Review: Davos And Chechnya

  • Alexandra Poolos



Prague, 28 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press focuses on two main topics today: discussions of globalization at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; and Russia's war in Chechnya.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Leaders must consider how to distribute the benefits of globalization to all

In today's International Herald Tribune, Charles Norchi writes that globalization should have a local focus. Norchi, who is a senior fellow in the international security studies at Yale University, writes that although the term "globalization" is mostly being used to describe how wealth is shared internationally, it can also be understood as more than just economics. He says the spread of global interdependence both "enhances and rattles" other aspects of life, such as education and culture.

Norchi says that globalization is still perceived by many as the "West over the rest, or in-your-face America." In the commentator's words: "The forces of globalization are supposed to carry prosperity to a civilization spanning the planet. [Yet] this civilization is defined by those with access to capital, education and advanced communications." He says that leaders at the Davos economic gathering must consider how to distribute the benefits of globalization to all.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: We can use the energy and technology driving globalization to help the poor

In another commentary in the International Herald Tribune today, the president of the World Bank also calls for the Davos forum to focus on how globalization can help the poor. James Wolfensohn writes that despite years of relative peace and prosperity in industrialized countries, global poverty is getting worse. He says that some 1,200 million people now live in extreme poverty.

These numbers are avoidable, says Wolfensohn. In his words: "We can use the energy and technology driving globalization to help the poor. If we are creative and committed, we can take advantage of this moment in history to do miraculous things."

The debate on globalization and its effects on the poor is "legitimate and necessary" writes Wolfensohn. "No one has a monopoly on the truth. Everyone should have a voice, most importantly the poor themselves."

Wolfensohn closes his piece on a positive note, saying that we live in a time of astonishing possibility. He writes: "Whether it be immunizing all children from preventable disease or linking every school in Africa to the Internet, solutions to problems which seemed insurmountable just a few years ago are now within reach."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Real solutions to the greatest crisis of all are at hand

Jeffrey Sachs and Tore Godal also discussed the world's poor and their relationship to globalization in today's International Herald Tribune. Sachs is the director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University. Godal is secretary of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations.

The two authors praised Bill Gates, the wealthy American computer magnate, for giving $750 million to support vaccinations in poor countries. The two hold Gates up as a global example and say other members of the world elite should follow suit. But even more important than charitable donations, they say, is finding market incentives for companies to invest in healthcare for poor countries. If rich countries pledge to buy vaccines for diseases that afflict poor countries, for example, pharmaceutical companies would have an incentive to develop such vaccines.

Sachs and Godal conclude: "As many of the world's leaders assemble in Davos for the first meeting of the new millennium, they should recognize that real solutions to the greatest crisis of all -- the crisis of health and survival of the world's poorest people -- are at hand, and at affordable prices."

NEW YORK TIMES: Globalization is going to be a tough sell to traditional societies

In today's New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman takes Egypt as an example of the contrasting perceptions of globalization that exist in some non-Western societies. He writes: "While [the country's] small, cell-phone-armed, globalizing elites are definitely pushing to get online and onto the global economic train, most others fear they will be left behind or lose their identity trying to catch it."

He says the Egyptian unease about globalization is rooted in something cultural and traditional. In his words: "Many Americans can easily identify with modernization, technology and the Internet, because one of the most important things these do is increase individual choices. But for traditional societies, such as Egypt's, the collective, the group, is much more important that the individual, and empowering the individual is equated with dividing the society. So 'globalizing' for them not only means being forced to eat more Big Macs, it means changing the relationship of the individual to his state and community in a way that they feel is socially disintegrating."

Friedman says that after talking to many Egyptians about their social fears, he realized that most were approaching globalization with a combination of "despair and necessity," not with a sense of opportunity. He says that globalization is going to be a tough sell to traditional societies, where it means adapting to a threat from the outside, not increasing their own freedoms and opportunities.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The sooner the West acts the better for Russians, Chechens and countries supplying Russia with aid

In today's Wall Street Journal Europe, retired U.S. General William Odom calls the Russian advance on Chechen forces "inept."

The former director of the U.S. National Security Agency says Russia learned little from its first defeat in Chechnya. He writes: "Chechen forces are today bleeding Russian forces, just as they did in January 1995, in the same place and in the same way."

Odom calls the Russian assaults "indiscriminate bombing," in contrast to the more accurate Chechen small arms-fire that, in his words, "efficiently [piles] up the Russian dead." Odom says other factors that have humbled the Russian military include weak ground forces, low morale, and generals resistant to reform.

Odom says the West must act now and stop dawdling on the sidelines of the Chechen war: "The sooner [the West] does [act], the better the outcome for Russians, Chechens, and countries supplying Russia with aid."

Odom says the West has more influence on and, in his words, "more complicity in" the outcome of the war than it wants to believe.

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: The international isolation of Russia should be avoided, but a clear signal should be given

An editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says the Council of Europe must press Moscow for a peaceful solution in Chechnya.

The German paper criticizes the Council for failing to reach an agreement on its stance toward Moscow regarding the situation in the war zone and what it calls "the mass flight of the civilian population." The paper says the international isolation of Russia should be avoided, but a clear signal should be given. The editorial says the Council of Europe must call for an immediate cease-fire. In its words: "Likewise, campaigns against the Chechen people must be terminated to prevent them from being forced into extremism. There is no question of a military solution. There is a need for an international presence as a way of achieving peace."

(Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)

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