and Hong Kong’s Response
Mr CHONG Chan-Yau, Executive Director
of Oxfam Hong Kong, was the Foundation’s guest speaker
on 25 September 2000. This is a summary of his remarks.
‘We live in a world of unprecedented opulence of a kind
that would have been hard to imagine a century or two ago.
And also we live in a world of remarkable deprivation,
destitution and oppression.’ Amarya Sen, ‘Development
In the UN Millenium Report, we find the following
- ‘The benefits of globalization are obvious: faster
growth, higher living standards, new opportunities.
Yet a backlash has begun, because these benefits are
so unequally distributed, and because the global
market is not yet underpinned by rules based on shared
- We still have 1.2 billion people living with less
than US$1 per day.
- The three richest individuals have income equal to
600 million people or the combined GDP of 48
- Over 800 million are without adequate food while the
world has produced enough food for the entire
- Over 125 million children are without primary
education; most of them are girls.
- In more than 80 countries, per capita income is less
than 10 years ago.
While we have seen employment growth in part of East
Asia, in the past two decades, the situation in Latin
America and sub-Saharan Africa is worse.
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|We live in a world of unprecedented
opulence of a kind that would have been hard to
imagine a century or two ago. And also we live in
a world of remarkable deprivation, destitution and
Within countries, the gap between rich and poor is widening.
Hong Kong is just one example perhaps more so than many places.
While GDP per capita is among the highest, we rank 79 measured
by gini coefficient.
We are not suggesting that globalisation causes poverty. But
at least we can conclude that globalisation may be able to
benefit just a few globally, regionally and sectors of a
population. But we are making this as a challenge: whether
globalisation can be managed to solving our deteriorating global
The WTO may set rules favourable to the rich and powerful.
Increased financial and capital flows may produce disturbances
to vulnerable markets and economies. The Asian financial crisis
has sent tens of millions of poor people back to poverty.
Another issue relating to global poverty is natural and
man-made disasters. Most wars and conflicts in the past decades
occurred in developing countries. Where is our international
security system? Rich governments are actually reducing their
commitment to long term and short-term aids.
Freedom From Want – UN Millenium Initiative
In his Millennium Report, the UN Secretary-General identifies
pressing challenges faced by the world's peoples and proposes a
number of priorities for Member States to consider at the
Millennium Summit. He also recommends several immediate steps
that can be taken at the Summit itself. Outlined below are
details of one of the four new initiatives he is proposing:
'FREEDOM FROM WANT': the Development Agenda
Poverty: To halve, by 2015, the proportion of the
world's people (currently 22 per cent) whose income is less than
one dollar a day.
Water: To halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who do
not have access to safe drinking water (currently 20 per cent).
Education: To narrow the gender gap in primary and
secondary education by 2005; and to ensure that, by 2015, all
children complete a full course of primary education.
HIV/AIDS: To halt, and begin to reverse, the spread of
HIV/AIDS by 2015 by:
- adopting as an explicit goal the reduction of HIV
infection rates in persons 15 to 24 years of age - by 25
percent within the most affected countries before the year
2005, and by 25 percent globally before 2010.
- setting explicit prevention targets: by 2005 at least 90
percent, and by 2010 at least 95 percent, of young men and
women must have access to the HIV-preventive information and
- urging every seriously affected country to have a national
plan of action in place within one year of the Summit.
Clearing the Slums: to endorse and act upon the 'Cities
Without Slums' plan launched by the World Bank and United
Nations to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by
Youth Employment: to develop strategies to reduce
joblessness among youth.
Building Digital Bridges: to review their policies in
order to remove regulatory and pricing impediments to Internet
access, to make sure people are not denied the opportunities
offered by the digital revolution.
Private Sector: to develop strong partnerships with the
private sector, at both national and international levels, to
combat poverty in all its aspects.
Developed countries in particular are urged:
Trade Access: to grant free access to ttheir markets for
goods produced in poor countries -- and, as a first step, to bbe
prepared to adopt a policy of duty-free and quota-free access
for essentially all exports from the least-developed countries
at the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in March
Debt Relief: to implement the expansion of the debt
relief program for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries agreed last
year without further delay, and to be prepared to cancel all
official debts of the heavily indebted poor countries, in return
for those countries
making demonstrable commitments to poverty reduction.
ODA: to grant more generous development assistance,
particularly to those countries that are genuinely applying
to poverty reduction.
HIV/AIDS: To work with the pharmaceutical industry and
other partners to develop an effective and affordable vaccine
against HIV; and to make HIV-related drugs more widely
accessible in developing countries.
Attacking Poverty - World Bank initiative
The World Bank’s The World Development Report 2000,
subtitled "Attacking Poverty" gives the clear message
that "growth is not enough" to solve the world’s
growing problem of poverty.
It prescribes action in three areas to ensure that the poor
benefit, rather than lose out, from globalised growth:
- Opportunity: the poor must be encouraged to take advantage
of opportunities in the local and global economies,
beginning with access to land and education.
- Empowerment: Poor people must also be empowered by having
a voice in the economic and development policies drawn up to
support them, thereby reducing the risk of discrimination
based on gender, race, ethnicity or social status;
- Security: the poor must enjoy some security from events
outside their control, such as contagious diseases, sudden
economic shocks, crop failures, natural disasters and
What Can Hong Kong Do?
In participating in issues of globalisation, Hong Kong should
not hesitate to advocate for the vulnerable. Mr. Donald Tsang,
for example, proposes to regulate international flow of
speculative capital. There are other issues such as the impact
of trade and capital flows on labour.
Hong Kong is also in a position to make financial
contribution alleviate global poverty. Hong Kong SAR Government
should be complimented for setting up a disaster relief fund in
1994. This Fund is covers relief work carried by international
NGOs based in Hong Kong in humanitarian responses in natural and
man-made disasters. The upper limit of the annual commitment is
|"Mass poverty in the midst of global
prosperity [and global interconnectedness] is
morally unacceptable, politically unsustainable
and economically wasteful."
We believe that this Fund should continue. We also believe
that the HKSAR Government should serious consider setting up a
Development Fund. The UN recommendation on such a fund is 0.35
per cent of GNP. For HK, we can start with a modest sum. The HK
ODA Fund can be channeled through NGOs to avoid involving the
HKSAR Government in unnecessary political considerations. Such
fund has several advantages: It is a furtherance in fulfilling
HK’s obligation as a global citizen. It adds to the effort in
addressing global poverty. It gives HK a good image. It also
supports HK people in broadening their worldview.
Finally, Hong Kong should also develop an active policy in
addressing the impact of globalisation on its own people
especially in the area of the widening gap between rich and
I’d like to echo a remark by an Oxfam Executive Director:
"Mass poverty in the midst of global prosperity [and global
interconnectedness] is morally unacceptable, politically
unsustainable and economically wasteful."
The above does not necessarily represent the views
of the Foundation