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70th Couchiching Conference
August 9 to 12

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell Gives Keynote Address

In her keynote address, former Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, presented a personal, informal speech that touched upon many of the historic issues and events she experienced throughout her distinguished political career.

Ms. Campbell began her remarks with a definition of globalization, which she interprets as the expansion of international trade and communication. While this expansion has been occurring throughout history, what makes the current wave of globalization unique is the speed in which interactions take place. The increase in the pace of transactions has transformed the modern political system. In this new globalized world speed has intensified relationships.

According to Ms. Campbell, this increase in speed has been aided by the end of the Cold War. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world is no longer divided by barriers. In the post-Cold War era, everything is interrelated due to the spread of democracy and the liberalization of world markets. However, Ms. Campbell cautioned against adopting the belief that the West won the Cold War, as has many have thought in recent years. The notion of a liberal consensus or of democratic triumphialism is difficult because it results in Western society exporting its ideas, institutions and philosophies to developing countries without examining the appropriateness of these ideas for the receiving countries. We have to remember that our mechanisms for economic and political development will not work in countries that do not have managerial classes. Part of the problem arises from the fact that Western society has forgotten its own history. Ms. Campbell reminded that the economic growth and prosperity we currently enjoy are the accumulation of many centuries of governmental evolution. By transplanting our systems of governance to countries which have not undergone the same evolution and do not have the same traditions, we do a disservice. The failure of Western leaders to realize this has led to a mistrust in developing countries of democracy. If the goal of global governance is universal liberty, we need to convince others to embrace democracy, even when they perceive themselves to be in a worse position than before.

Part of the challenge of the post-Cold War era is creating a new paradigm in order to make sense of the international system. World leaders now face dilemmas such as choosing a mechanism to deter aggression when they are not prepared to use force. In a world without super powers a discrepancy has arisen between the demand for international aid and what Western governments are willing to provide. In this new world, issues are more fluid; boundaries, models, ideologies divisions, and allegiances are all porous.

While Ms. Campbell is a proponent of globalization and the promotion of free trade, she can understand why in this world without borders, people become concerned when they see international rules change by mechanisms that are not transparent nor accountable. Consequently, citizens demonstrate their lack of confidence in their governments by taking to the streets as was done in Seattle, Quebec and Genoa. Ms. Campbell recognized that there is skepticism over who is making the rules and how they are making them. This is a problem, as in order to facilitate international trade, the rules need to be harmonized. The question becomes, how should this process occur? Ms. Campbell mentioned the concept of the Social Contract and how perhaps the best way to address the inequities brought about by free trade would be, as proposed by Raul, to negotiate with a veil of ignorance. With this veil of ignorance, the outcome would be an agreement where no one minded being the most disadvantaged.

Ms. Campbell also addressed the issue of culture and globalization. While the exporting of culture is not a new phenomenon, the methods for doing so have changed dramatically. In the past, with colonization, the exporting of culture somewhat flowed both ways, where at least the colonizer could see who they were affecting. In modern times with the export of media, the producers never really see who they are affecting. They assume that the people who consume their product are exactly like them and this is decidedly not the case. As a result, there has been a dumbing down of product as the number of outlets increase and profitability decreases. This leads to an increase in vertical integration and globalization becomes a quest for markets.

But the fear of assimilation by globalization has been countered with particularism, and an increase in cultural protection. Ms. Campbell asserts that each country, including Canada, needs to seriously examine what makes it unique and needs to help ensure that its artists have a chance to be seen and heard.

There has also been an increase in interest in studying culture as it relates to political science. This is because social scientists are realizing that in order to understand new models, ideas and policies, one needs to understand the context in which they were developed.

Finally, Ms. Campbell touched upon the issue of gender and development. She feels that we need to rethink how we empower people. Moreover, she believes that the empowerment of women is one of the most important things to do for economic development. One of the key ways to empower women is to educate them. For when you teach a woman to read, you teach a family; when you teach a man to read, you teach the man.

While Ms. Campbell misses being at the centre of the action, she has no desire to return to the political stage at this time. She concluded her remarks by stating that what the world needs now are people who are civic minded and who are informed. An interested, informed citizenry is the strength of any country. Ms. Campbell believes that Canada has a role to play in the international arena as we have both talent and credibility. She will be staying for the whole weekend and hopes that the conference enlightens as it focuses on issues which are important both for the country and its citizens.

Synopsis by: Melanie Martin

For Ms. Campbell's complete remarks, please visit the Couchiching website, www.couch.ca , where it is possible to purchase cassettes and video tapes of her address.

Go to: 70th Couchiching Conference Index Page

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