It is most unfortunate, not only for Malaysia but also for the developing countries, that a week ago, Mahathir skipped the World Economic Forum (WEF) 30th Annual Meeting in Davos which had been dubbed as the "the summit of summits", attended by more than 3,000 presidents, prime ministers, global business, scientific and academic leaders, Internet billionaires, Nobel Prize winners and over 650 journalists from the world media
Among the world leaders who were at Davos were United State President, Bill Clinton, United Kingdom Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Chinese Vice Premier Wu Bangguo, South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid while titans of technology, who are increasingly overshadowing the statesmen, at the Swiss Alpine village were Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos, AOL's Steve Case, Dell's Michael Dell, eBay's Pierre Omidyar, Intuit's Scott Cook, Novell's Eric Schmidt, Pacific Century Cyberworks' Richard Li and Softbank's Masayoshi Son.
Although the WEF Annual Meeting is not as representative as the 10th UNCTAD Conference, which is held once in four years and some 3,000 to 4,000 leaders and delegates from 180 countries and international organisations will be attending the Bangkok meeting, there is no doubt that it is the Swiss conference which packed much more power and influence many times over than the UNCTAD X.
Mahathir should have attended the Davos conference to confront the movers and shakers of the developed world with the developing world’s demand for a redefinition of globalisation to ensure that it not only has a human face, but must include, not exclude, intergrate, not marginalize, and create life that is rich in all its diversity, not bring about the uniformity of poverty and death.
The Malaysian Prime Minister had such an opportunity as he was slated to be panellists at two plenary sessions in Davos, including the prestigious opening plenary - while Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister, Supachai Panitchpakdi who is the incoming President of UNCTAD X was only an attendee in Davos.
Mahathir was therefore positioned to play a crucial role to influence the world debate on globalisation by reporting to UNCTAD X in Bangkok the responses of the developed world for a redefinition of globalisation so that UNCTAD could work out an effective strategy to humanise the globalisation process.
This would have been particularly important as UNCTAD X is taking place at a time when trade and development issues are at a crucial juncture, especially after the collapse of the World Trade Organisation Conference in Seattle in early December.
UNCTAD X should be a major influence to ensure that globalisation should be people-centred based on sustainable human development with economic policies consciously designed to promote economic and social rights for all - women as well as men, the poor and marginalised as well as the wealthy.
UNCTAD X recognised the special contribution of Members of Parliament to ensure that globalisation has a human face and benefits the people from all development programmes - whether they are legislating, adopting the budget or overseeing government action.
In today's globalised world, Members of Parliament play a unique two-way role in interaction with their constituencies - by relaying popular concern to national and international institutions, they can help to ensure that new policies are indeed people-centred; by explaining international issues to the citizens, they can help to forge popular support for international action.
This is why the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), together with the Thai National Assembly, is organising an inter-parliamentary meeting of geographically balanced MPs on 10th and 11th February in Bangkok before UNCTAD X to ensure a parliamentary dimension to the development and globalisation process as well as the United Nations.
Unfortunately, the Malaysian Government has not given serious weight to this parliamentary dimension to the decision-making and development process, and the exclusion of the Barisan Alternative MPs from the UNCTAD X proceedings is most regrettable and should be raised in when the Malaysian Parliament reconvenes on February 14, 2000.