The presidents of Brazil and France say the governments of industrialized nations need to make sure the world's wealth is more evenly distributed between the rich and poor. Most world leaders agree that something must be done to ease the increasingly negative impact of globalization on the world's poorest populations, but not all agree that more government is the answer.
Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva calls poverty the "most destructive weapon of mass destruction."
"We do not wish, nor can we afford, to keep on living under the threat of war, and to keep on passively witnessing the spread of HIV (the AIDS virus), and the growing frustration of those who are denied the right to dignity and hope," he said.
On the eve of the U.N. General Assembly annual debate, close to 50 heads of state met at U.N. headquarters to discuss a report by the International Labor Organization that says the gap between rich and poor is growing, and that most of the world's population will never see the benefits of globalization.
Secretary General Kofi Annan says developed countries have a responsibility to do better. "Globalization is a product of human action, not a force of nature," he said. "As this report reminds us, it is well within our power to manage it far better than we do and we owe it to our fellow human beings to do just that."
Some leaders believe the problem with globalization is lack of leadership and management. French President Jacques Chirac, speaking through a translator, proposes what he calls a radically new but economically rational approach for the world's richest governments. "To put a portion of wealth generated by globalization to work for poverty eradication, sustainable development and shared prosperity," he said.
Mr. Chirac and Mr. Da Silva are trying to get more industrialized countries to sign on to the idea that the underprivileged of the world must be included in globalization. Such a document, if drafted, would show a commitment to change, and would be non-binding.
U.S. ambassador Sichan Siv says promoting democracy and respect of human rights is key to sharing the benefits of globalization around the world, but he disagrees with the notion that more oversight is the answer. "Indeed in many instances, the right answer may be less government and less regulation and more political and economic freedom," he said.
The head of the U.N. organization to promote the social aspects of globalization, Juan Somavia, says that countries may have different approaches, but the important success of the meeting comes from the shared perspective, that change should occur.
"I think that there are two extremes we should shy away from. One is the idea that the government can do everything and the other is the idea that the market can do everything," he said. "So you need to find a balance. And you don't have a universal balance. You don't have a single one idea, you do it according to the history of countries, the tradition of countries, et cetera."
World leaders are expected to further discuss ways to erase the damaging effects of globalization at a U.N. summit next year.