53 Rue de l’Amiral Mouchez
MM. President and Government Chief of Countries
Mrs. & MM. Directors and Secretaries General, Managing Director, & Presidents of Organizations
Paris, November 1st, 2000
Dear MM. Presidents and Government Chiefs,
Dear Mrs. & MM. Directors and Secretaries General, Managing Director, & Presidents,
Referring to my different letters of June and November last year and April and June this year, I would like to clarify one or two points that may not have been well understood.
But first, please let me thank Prime Minister Tony Blair for the kind letter sent by Mr. Philip Barclay, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the European Commission for the comment sent by Mr. Daniel Byk, Director at Eurostat.
The letters of interest and support for the project or my remarks are very important. They and my role in the proposal force me to point out important issues that may have an impact on the realization of the project and on the related fight against poverty, and to discuss the ‘unjustified and unfair’ difficulties I encounter. The project’s (and my difficulties’) relations to the problem of poverty and peace are multiple even if it may not seem obvious, so the ‘missing’ ‘support’ of the World Bank and the United Nations are becoming critical.
My suggestions concerning the resignation of Mr. Wolfensohn and Mr. Annan could easily be understood incorrectly, so please let me go back to these particular subjects. As you all know, the Internet is not the only progress in our society. In fact we have progressed in many other areas like genetics for example. The recent work on the human genome should help us cure diseases and overall improve people’s life in the future.
It certainly shows that we understand better how human beings ‘function’, how they are ‘programmed’, and more generally how ‘life’ works. We have also made important progress in psychology since we now understand better how people think, what are their motivations, how they develop throughout their life, and the interaction between their professional and personal life. In fact, psychologists have established fairly precise stages of evolution in the career of a manager.
The period from 62 to 67, for example, is often referred to be the ‘retirement transition phase’. It allows the manager to retire progressively from ‘activity’. So the idea of ‘retiring’ ‘on time’ to show more respect for new generations that I introduced in my last letters, is not the only argument which justifies my suggestion, even though it is a major one. For psychologist, a man 66 or 67 years old is not at the best time of his career and does not offer his ‘maximum’ ‘potential’, he passed what they called the ‘winter’ period of his career.
The World Bank is a very important organization in the fight against poverty and more generally for the 6 billions people living on earth, so ‘we’ should try to keep its President in its ‘best possible’ career time, if possible. Moreover, one of our critical problems in the fight against poverty is to avoid that the gap between the rich and the poor continues increasing, in fact, we would even like to see this gap decreased significantly, and for this we need to pay careful attention to behaviors that may affect it.
If a ‘rich’ man continues collecting one of the highest public salary in the world after he reaches the retirement ‘limit’ (65), he will become even richer for no real reason, while the poor in some countries don’t even get to live 50 on the average and don’t have the time to save money for their kids, or while, in rich countries, the poor don’t get the chance to use all their years until 65 because many are hit by unemployment. By not respecting the retirement limit for rich civil servants, we simply increase the gab between rich and poor.
So Mr. Wolfensohn’s behavior should not be encouraged, if we want to succeed in ‘our’ fight against poverty. He is not ‘a’ Mr. Mandela or Mr. Kim Dae-jung who stayed several years in ‘prison’ and who symbolizes ‘an unconditional fight for mankind’s progress and survival’, and to whom it is ‘simply fair’ to give few more ‘effective’ years in activity at the highest level. Au contraire, Mr. Wolfensohn represents the persons who have it all (and had it all) and still use unethically ‘publics affairs’ to increase their wealth or influence.
Mr. Wolfensohn, who was in his younger years a member of the Australian Olympic fencing team, had a very successful career in Australia, England and USA. There are nothing wrong with having a successful career, in fact very bright and talented persons who are/were, like him, involved in cultural and volunteers activities, should be strongly encouraged and rewarded, but we must also always keep in mind that there are still 1,2 (not to say 3) billions people who are given no chance to ‘shine’ and not very much more chance to simply live.
We can say that Mr. Wolfensohn was encouraged and rewarded according to his talent since he was awarded Knighthood by the Queen Elizabeth II, decorated by several Governments, and was given the Presidency of the World Bank to end up his professional career. In September 99, he was unanimously reappointed by the Bank Board of Directors to a second term although he had passed the limit of 65. Was it the right decision? I don’t think so, but I understand and believe we can use this ‘error’ to ‘our’ advantage.
‘We’ want and need to show more and more respect toward people in general and even more toward older people who have demonstrated great qualities throughout their lives. If Mr. Wolfensohn had not been reappointed, he could have taken it as a critic and kept a bitter souvenir of his last assignment although his only mistake may have been to seek a new term and not to look for 2 or 3 possible successors. There are several talented men and women who could assume the World Bank’s Presidency.
As last argument, we should also mention that it is important to think about persons like Mr. D’Alema and Mr. Moore who leave their place to someone else before the end of their ‘term’ although they are young, talented and experienced. And also think about the many people who worked for the World Bank or other organizations and who have been ‘encouraged’ to ‘decrease’ their professional activities before their 65th birthday to live the place to younger men in a more ‘ascensional’ and ‘productive’ phase of their career.
I could mention several other important arguments and study in more details the real ‘motivation’ of Mr. Wolfensohn but there is not enough place here, and he can easily understand these remarks already, at almost 67 no one can ‘force’ him to stay. If the 1,2 billions people living under 1$ a day (and almost 3 billions living under 2$) knew what I just explained, they would be the first to ask him to resign within 10 days after the reception of this letter and to give a three months notice to the Board to find his successor.
They would also ask him to explain that he did not mean to take advantage of his position, influence and age, but that he simply wanted to assure a nice transition after Mr. Camdessus’s and Mr. Stiglitz’s departure, and that now that both Mr. Köhler and Mr. Stern are fully ‘operational’, he can let a younger man or woman managed the World Bank. Finally, that he wants to express again his dedication to the fight against poverty, and that he will continue ‘following’ and supporting the work of International Organizations in this area.
Concerning Mr. Annan, the suggestion is not so obvious. Mr. Annan, a native of Ghana, represents the ‘developing world’ and even more particularly the countries of sub-Saharan Africa who are devastated by AIDS, conflicts and poverty. We understand that these difficulties create distress and humiliation for the inhabitants of this region, and that to see ‘one of them’ as the Secretary-General of the UN is not only a ‘pride’, but also a sort of assurance that the International Community cares about their difficult problems.
So Mr. Annan’s legitimacy does not come only from his intellectual and professional abilities, but also from an ‘ethical and geographical unsaid reason’. But the situation of the world has changed in the past two years, and Mr. Annan’s speech and ideas associated to the report on Rwanda is not the only argument justifying my suggestion, even if it remains the major one because it is very important that the UN Secretariat and Secretary-General has a strong feeling of responsibility toward such a terrible event.
The debt relief initiative of rich countries and several civil society initiatives gave new ‘assurances’ about the ‘objectives’ of rich countries. And, the evolution of information technology, with the increasing role of the Internet in our society and institutions, is in some way changing the ‘geographical rules’. The assurance given by the presence of Mr. Annan at the post of Secretary-General is not as necessary as it was before, and the support of some countries could perhaps be more easily and efficiently obtain with a different person.
Moreover, the UN Secretary-General has an important ‘coordination’ role, not only to fight poverty, but also to maintain peace in the world. Since G7 countries have engaged a vast operation to reduce the debt, and the permanent members of UN Security Council reassured their will to maintain peace, the coordination efforts would probably be more efficient if it was a man native of these countries or the intersection of these two subsets of countries that managed the UN Secretariat, at the exception of France, of course.
Finally, the Internet will play a key role in development, and a UN Secretary-General with some experience at the national level in this matter would ‘be an advantage’. As you see, my suggestion concerning the resignation of Mr. Annan is based on finer intellectual nuances which can be more easily contradict. But still, they should be studied carefully because 6 billions persons are concerned, and particularly 1,2 billions of very poor.
However, his silence on the project or my remarks is not professional because several countries took the time to respond to and comment the proposal or remarks, even the Prime Minister of Italy and England bothered to write me. Does Mr. Annan think he is ‘above’ the leader of these 2 countries or any others to refuse to answer? Is it because he does not care at all about the experts’ point view? Or is it because he does not want that a poor benefits from his work on such an important project?
Whatever his reasons may be, I believe it is detrimental to the very poor he is supposed to defend. First, because the project is good for everyone on earth, particularly the poor, and his silence slows down its realization. Second, it shows that Mr. Annan would not move a ‘finger’ to help a poor of a rich country, and if it is so, why should rich countries speed up their debt relief initiative to help faster the poor of poor countries. And finally, if the UN Secretariat does not give a job to a poor who brings so many letters of support of this kind, who will.
As you see, my suggestions are backed up by logical or scientific arguments, but I tried to justify them by ‘noble and useful’ causes. If we want to defeat poverty, we must not just improve our institutions (organizations, laws, systems,…), we must also improve our behavior. Since the time is a key element to defeat poverty and I made my suggestions and proposal to help others also, Mr. Wolfensohn and Mr. Annan should have responded rapidly and ‘helped’ ‘us’, in one way or the other, instead of letting ‘me’ ‘pay’ for my work and comments.
Concerning my remarks about France, I would like to use again the example of Yugoslavia. Before the recent election in Yugoslavia, the European Union promised the people of Yugoslavia to stop the embargo if they elected someone else than Mr. Milosevic. Meaning, they offered the Yugoslavian an important financial help to get rid of their leader. Usually, we call that ‘blackmail’. After the result came out, some said it was a victory of democracy, and, of course, others said it was a victory of ‘blackmail’ or propaganda.
The reality is perhaps somewhere in the middle. Democracy would be a better system if every person who votes had the same level of information and the same level of education to understand the information. But, of course, this is not the case although ‘we’ worked hard to reduce this double gap between ‘voters’. The ‘blackmail’ can be interpreted as an attempt to ‘correct’ the lack of information of certain Yugoslavians about the massacres in Bosnia or Kosovo and about the effort of the International Community to fight poverty worldwide.
In France, it is the same, not everyone is informed about the problems I mentioned. So I explained you our difficulties, and asked you not to do a ‘blackmail’ but to show our politicians some of their mistakes by giving them a ‘good’ example. France is giving its share in the debt relief initiative, it is the French people who pay, not Mr. Chirac or Mr. Jospin, so France also deserves that the world pays a little bit of attention to its problems. And, of course, it is to your benefit too (see attachment 1).
I would like to finish this letter by mentioning the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian. The entire International Community condemned the violence and we can easily understand why. But if ‘we’ condemn violence as a mean to complain when the situation is difficult or insupportable, ‘we’ have to give other efficient ways to complain. Justice is one way, but it is still imperfect, far from being a universal concept, and almost not for the poor (see att. 1). And ‘we’ also have to be ‘more responsive’ to complaints, particularly when they are based on logical and scientific arguments and coming from the poor.
‘Dialog’ does not ‘mean’ the same for everyone. At this time, for the rich, longer is the ‘dialog’, richer they become, while for the poor, longer is the ‘dialog’, poorer they become, and too often closer to death they get also. Everything in our society becomes more and more precise because we have more and more knowledge on everything. If ‘we’ overlook just a simple detail, the overall result may be a disaster. The problems I discussed may seem small details but they are very important (see confirmations in att. 1, if necessary).
I made the effort to obtain a job with dignity, many of you think that my ‘work’ was valuable, and were kind enough to write it. To reject my job application and to refuse to comment the proposal do not just hurt me, it also has negative effects on import problems. Since I ‘criticized’ Mr. Wolfensohn and Mr. Annan, they should be ‘supporting’ my remarks, but if they don’t understand, someone else can do it. Poverty is not a contagious disease, to give a ‘fair’ job or dispense ‘fair’ justice to a poor is not a crime, don’t ‘let it be’. I remain
Mr. Bill Clinton, President of the United States
Mr. Vladimir Poutine, President of the Russian Federation
Mr. Yoshiro Mori, Prime Minister of Japan
Mr. Gerhard Schröder, German Chancelor
Mr. Giuliano Amato, Prime Minister of Italy
Mr. Tony Blair, Prime Minister of England
Mr. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada
Mr. Donald J. Johnston, Secretary-General of OECD
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General, WHO
Mr. Horst Köhler, Managing Director, IMF
Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General, UNESCO
Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission
Mr. Kofi Annan, Mr. James D. Wolfensohn
Mr. Youri F. Yarov, Executive-Secretary of CIS
Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General, FAO
Mr. Carlos Magarinos, Director-General, UNIDO
Mr. Mike Moore, Director-General, WTO
Mr. Juan Somavia, Director-General, ILO
Copy: Mr. Harri Holkeri , President of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Dr. Makarim Wibisono, President of ECOSOC
Attachments: Documents concerning my trial and the remarks on France (att.1), documents concerning the proposal and my job application (att. 2).
PS.: For some, I will drop the letter at your Embassy in Paris, for the others, I will use the post, but please forward the letter in case someone does not receive it.