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President attends the 10th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum

St. Petersuburg, Russia, 06/13/2006  |  press release, speech

Click to enlargeThe President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek, today attended the 10th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum held in St. Petersburg, Russia. At the forum dedicated to the theme “Man in the 21st century: the economy, politics, culture, quality of life” President Drnovšek gave the following address:

"Dear president Mr. Vladimir Putin, dear distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my sincerer pleasure to join you here today in St. Petersburg at the 10th Economic Forum. The topic is particularly timely. We have entered a critical stage in human development and fundamental choices must be made. Will we squander our environment in order to excuse profit maximization? Will we continue promoting local and global inequalities? Will we maximize shareholder value even if through exploiting child labour? How do we protect our social equilibrium and maintain the network of social support for those falling behind?

Ladies and gentlemen,

The race for profit has implanted upon us a permanent paradox. As individuals we are abandoning our social context. Marginalized many are becoming extremely desperate. I am convinced that part of modern-day terrorism lies in human alienation and individual’s degradation caused by profound breakdowns in social contracts.

Click to enlargeEmphasis on efficiency and the drive to minimize redundancies in order to maximize profits are spreading our societies thin. By having no redundancy in our system we are in fact exposing ourselves to danger at almost every junction. Hence, this is why terrorism is so effective a threat in the 21st Century.

Economic development must above all be grounded in sustainability, and ensure continuity. I don’t believe that we have succeeded in outlining a system which is profit driven and socially and environmentally conscious. Quite to the contrary in fact.

Dear friends,

I am deeply concerned by the inequality between the haves and the have-nots. This discrepancy is the principle driver of social tensions, which then fuel political instability and conflict. The economic gap is certainly very evident between the West and Africa and parts of Asia. On the cultural side, perhaps even the social side, the deficiency may actually run in reverse.

However, one need not look to all the way to Africa from Europe to find social inequality and quite extreme cases of poverty and discrimination. Inequality is sadly still very much a reality in our European urban centers. Let’s only consider the problem of ‘ghetto-nization’ in Europe. I was deeply shocked to observe the riots last year that engulfed France. In all fairness, the problem is not France’s alone. Rather, it was a reminder that in Europe we are failing in integrating our minorities.

Click to enlargeThis is quite literarily an example of failure in human evolution and a lack of sensitivity for social solidarity.

Ever since the American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, wrote his essay “The end of History,” some it seems, have stopped thinking of ways to innovate our social construct. In my opinion neo-liberalism and democracy promotion are perfectly legitimate models as long as we understand our equally profound obligation to social development. I am here advocating a different social contract: liberalism with a human face.

I consider it a collective failure and a political embarrassment that we have the necessary vaccines to treat tuberculosis and malaria for example, yet tens of thousand of children in Africa continue dying from these diseases. We need to better define our common responsibility vis-ŕ-vis development in Africa and Asia where extreme poverty is driving child death, child prostitution, malnutrition, conflict, and the spread of infectious diseases.

Given we live today in an integrated world, we indirectly also share the fate of those states which have failed to develop early warning systems against external forms of asymmetric threat.

Click to enlargeExcellencies,

We also have a problem in energy security -- we are overusing our carbons and the net demand for oil and natural gas is rising faster than the net supply potential. This means that the world will soon cross the threshold of having a net negative balance in supply and demand in oil and natural gas. The likelihood of conflict related to energy will increase on the global scale. Oil and natural gas shortages will have a profound impact on our social dynamics, on our economic models, and on our political outlooks.

Why wait? We should manage behavioral changes already ahead so as to lessen the impact of a future shock.

Energy security is not just about pipelines, LNG terminals, about geopolitics, gas and oil. It is above and beyond about our individual attitudes towards energy conservation and alternative energy research. We should invest more into research. Nanotechnology for example offers the potential of replacing copper and aluminium power lines with wires spun from carbon nanotubes. Unlike copper wires, nanotubes can carry over a billion amps of current per square centimeter, and unlike metal wires, they lose very little of that energy as heat.

Many of us use energy lavishly. I firmly believe we need to use less. Through campaigns supporting energy conservation we can substantially improve Europe’s energy outlook.

Click to enlargeLadies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, let me say that human progress in the 21st Century depends on finding the balance between sustainable development and individual self-empowerment. A necessary step to reaching this balance is putting in place mechanisms, which can help bridge the development gap, strengthen human capacity, improve social well-being and state institutions and champion energy conservation strategies.

Thank you!"
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