Speech by Minister of Environment Siri Bjerke

Oslo Sophie Prize Ceremony 14 June 2001

Prize winners Ms. Gisèle Halimi and Mr. Bernard Cassen on behalf of ATTAC, ladies and gentlemen

It is a real pleasure for me to present this year’s Sofie Prize to the Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens – better known as ATTAC.

The world was ready for ATTAC!

Globalisation, including trade liberalisation, has undoubtedly led to increased trade and economic growth. However, a number of concerns have also been raised:

  • groups of people, countries and even whole continents, have become more marginalised through the same processes, more competition and less government control has led to economic instability, loss of jobs and insecurity in peoples’ daily lives,
  • financial speculation has been damaging to national economies in a number of countries,
  • global entertainment industries are putting traditional cultures and lifestyles under strain,
  • the present state of the global economy will lead to serious and irreversible environmental damage.

As Minister of Environment, I share many of these concerns. Globalisation gives us opportunities. However, without strong environmental policies in place nationally and internationally, pure market-based developments will easily lead to unhealthy forms of competition where one can profit from polluting or destroying the environment in other ways. More market-based economies and liberalised trade can undermine environmental goals by reducing governments’ flexibility to enact appropriate measures for environmental purposes.

My government has set in motion a process intended to address some of these concerns. We are aiming for a broad debate on international market forces and options for improved governance in today’s world. The question of a "Tobin Tax" on financial transactions will be one element in this debate. As part of the process we have established a "dialogue forum" where people from trade unions, industry, the research community, environmental organisations and other parts of civil society will participate. One result of these activities will be a government white paper (report to parliament) that will hopefully contain constructive ideas on how to deal with the negative effects of globalisation. It is clear that we cannot accept a situation where essential concerns like environment, long term food security or social and cultural values play second fiddle and are subordinated to trade and commerce.

Ms. Halimi and Mr. Cassen, I congratulate you and your organisation with the important role you are playing in bringing these issues onto the front pages of newspapers around the world. You have an effective organisation with a lot of talented people and you have chosen the right timing for your work. I would also like to express my gratitude to Jostein Gaarder and Siri Dannevig for having taken the initiative to the Sofie Prize and for having contributed so generously to it.

I hereby invite you, Ms. Gisèle Halimi and Mr. Bernard Cassen, to step forward to receive this year’s Sofie Prize.