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Lula: Changing the World Agenda

How does Brazil’s president think international leaders can combat global inequality?

November 25, 2004

How does Brazil's president think international leaders can combat global inequality?

Brazil's President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva is known to be outspoken, plain-spoken — and truth-speaking. Ever since he co-founded the Partidos Trabalhadores in Brazil in 1980, he has focused his attention on the twin issues of poverty and inequality. In his speech to the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2004, he reflected on the global dimension of this battle.

What is perhaps the most important idea political leaders need to keep in mind?

“A generation is remembered not only for what it accomplished — but also for what it failed to accomplish.”

Where do you see the biggest shortfall on that front?

“Mankind is losing the fight for peace. If resources are so much greater than our achievements, how can we explain to the generations to come why we did so little, when so much was within our reach?”

What is your personal motivation in this regard?

“I have a life-long commitment to those silenced by inequality, hunger — and hopelessness.”

What is the biggest change in the world today?

“In the past, 125 of us UN member nations were subjected to the oppression of a few powers, which originally occupied less than 2% of the globe.”

Why is the news not all good?

“The former subjects have become perpetual debtors in the international economic system.”

Why is that so?

“Protectionist barriers and other obstacles to balanced trade — aggravated by the concentration of investments, knowledge and technology — have followed colonial domination.”

What do you see as a possible way out of the debt cycle?

“The IMF should be able to provide the guarantee and the liquidity which are necessary for productive investments — especially in infrastructure, housing and sanitation — and which can also restore the poor countries’ capacity to pay.”

Which other insight is required to bring about positive change?

“What sets civilization apart from barbarism is the political architecture that promotes peaceful change and advances social and economic life by means of democratic consensus.”

What values are the base for this "architecture"?

“Only the enlightened values of humanism, applied with clarity of mind and determination.”

The quotes presented in this feature are drawn from the September 21, 2004 speech by Brazil's President to the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. For a full-length pdf version of his remarks, click here.