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Third Way Politicians Search For "Good Governance"

Third Way reformist politicians, including Helen Clark, met in Berlin over the weekend agreeing to establish a network of officials to try and get specific about "good governance." John Howard reports.

Watching New Zealand's mainstream media you could be forgiven for not knowing that two significant global meetings affecting New Zealand took place over the weekend. Once again, it's left to the Internet new media to lead.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, along with 14 other world leaders, met in Berlin in Germany over the weekend to establish a new strategy for the new-age buzzwords - third way politics - or, as it is now being called, "progressive governance."

Britain's Tony Blair did not attend preferring to stay at home and be with his new baby son, Leo.

Those that were there talked of a path between the old left and right, to a new centralist, "progressive governance."

The first such conference was held six months ago in Italy where just a half-dozen leaders met. At that time they didn't say much, just that they met.

This time, the 14 agreed on Saturday to set up a network of officials and specialists to get specific about concrete ideas which US President Bill Clinton said, "could actually improve the lives of the people we represent."

Among the issues put forward was a case for deregulation if not privatisation of education, economic empowerment, broading access to computers and the internet, disease control measures in the developing world, modernisation of the state, social justice and welfare, stricter control of international financial markets and narrowing the gap between rich and poor people.

All theoretical, but Clinton said the next step should be to get beyond theory to concrete suggestions.

This all began as the Third Way, a term Clinton said he liked "because it's sort of easy to remember."

But whatever it's called, it has worked for President Clinton in two elections, and for British Prime Minister, Tony Blair and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder, when they came to power.

You are sort of left with the impression from those political successes that the meeting in Berlin was also really a think tank seminar for like-minded politicians to learn about strategies to get, and stay, in power.

"It would be an illusion to believe that there is one Third Way, or one model to approach this," said Thorsten Benner of the German Council on Foreign Relations."

"These issues bind politicians more than foreign policy issues do," said Karsten D. Voigt, US specialist at the German Foreign Ministry.

Some leaders saw partnership between modernising sectors of civil society, private enterprise and the state, while others pointed to situations where civil society was in opposition to the state like at the WTO and World Bank protests.

The officials and specialists are now to draw-up a progressive governance program.

Meanwhile, half a world away, delegates met in tiny, oil-rich Brunei, for an APEC forum pledging to focus on preparing people for the new global economy.

APEC officials, meeting for two days of trade talks, considered ways to encourage " human resource development, said Lim Jock Seng, a government official from Brunei.

Officials recognised the need for developing high tech skills among people in developing countries, noting that computer training was particularly important.

The officials backed a Japanese proposal for tariff exemptions on imports from less-developed APEC members and also pledged to help small companies and businesses involved in electronic commerce.

APEC, established in 1989, aims to achieve free trade and investment among its 21 members by 2020.

The Brunei talks were held to set parameters ahead of an APEC trade ministers meeting in Darwin on Tuesday.


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