Press Releases

    SG/SM/7712
    DEV/2286
    13 February 2001

    HIGH-LEVEL EVENT ON DEVELOPMENT FINANCING CAN MARK TURNING POINT FOR POOR, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN STATEMENT
    TO PREPARATORY COMMITTEE

    NEW YORK, 12 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Preparatory Committee for the High-level intergovernmental Event on Financing for Development in New York on 12 February:

    At the Millennium Summit last September, leaders of all our Member States resolved that, by the year 2015, they should do the following things:

    • halve the proportion of the world's people living in abject poverty and hunger, without safe drinking water;
    • ensure basic education for children everywhere -- boys and girls alike;
    • reduce maternal mortality by three quarters, and under-five child mortality by two thirds, of their current rates;
    • and halt, and begin to reverse, the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases.

    In setting those goals, the leaders did not imagine they were describing something that would happen spontaneously. They knew it would require a massive and concerted effort by many actors -- rich and poor, public and private, commercial and voluntary alike. Indeed, they expressed their concern about the obstacles developing countries face in mobilizing the resources they need to finance sustained development. They saw next year's High-level Event as crucial to removing those obstacles, and it was in that context that they resolved to make every effort to ensure its success.

    Your presence here today, ladies and gentlemen, is part of that effort. In other words, you bear a heavy responsibility and share the responsibility for the world's success or failure in fulfilling the Millennium goals. At the Summit, most world leaders clearly understood that globalization offers us an unprecedented chance to remove extreme poverty from the human condition. But also, all the leaders from developing countries expressed frustration and anger at the fact that most of their own people had yet to feel any benefit. So, we have an agreement on the nature of the challenge, and we have clearly identified targets by which to measure our progress in eradicating abject poverty. What is lacking is agreement on the means by which we are going to do it.

    I see two essential tasks for the process we are now engaged in. First, we must agree on the main policies to be applied. Anyone who has ever been involved with finance or fund-raising, whether for private or public purposes, will tell you that people do not put up money unless you tell them clearly how you propose to spend it.

    Policies need to be agreed at both national and international level, and they must cover both public and private resources. The more successful developing countries are the ones that have been able to mobilize private investment, both from abroad and among their own people.

    Flows of private capital to the developing world as a whole are far larger than official assistance, but they are not evenly or equally distributed. Many of the poorest countries, especially in Africa, are almost completely left out. We must establish clearly what it is that is needed to enable all developing countries to mobilize private capital in this way. And we must find ways to ensure the stability of private capital flows, so that they do not become the cause of crises throwing millions back into poverty, as happened in parts of Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe after 1997.

    Policies will have to be agreed among the different actors and stakeholders involved, including governments, the private sector, civil society and international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. The United Nations needs to work in close partnership with those institutions. Already, their secretariats have been very active and useful partners in preparing the report that you have before you, which I hope will provide a useful starting point for your discussions.

    At the international level, it is particularly important that developing countries be better represented in policy discussions. They are the countries where development has to happen. It is their people who have to be rescued from poverty. We should long ago have put behind us the idea that development priorities can be decided in clubs where only rich countries have real influence.

    Our second task is to catch the attention of political leaders and financial authorities throughout the world. Development is far too important to be left to specialized ministries or agencies. It must mobilize the energies of governments and societies as a whole. We have to help developing countries organize themselves in a way that encourages investors, both domestic and foreign.

    And we have to motivate the people and governments of industrialized countries, so that they are willing to devote more resources to debt relief and overseas development assistance, and to open their markets more fully to developing-country products. It was partly with that in mind that I asked a high-level panel, chaired by former President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, to provide an independent view on these matters.

    The reputation of this panel's members should in itself be enough to command worldwide attention, and I have no doubt that the content of their report will be equally eye-catching. It should be available by the end of May, and I hope you will find it useful.

    This session of your Committee marks the beginning of the last stage in a process of vital importance to billions of human beings. Let me repeat that broad goals have already been agreed by all our States at the highest level. Our task now is to ensure that the commitments given there are not forgotten, and that the means to achieve the goals -- especially those identified in your agenda -- have equally high-level support.

    If all the international institutions work together, and if the peoples of both North and South muster the required political will, there is a real chance that next year's High-Level Event can mark a turning point in the fortunes of poor countries, and poor people, all around the world.

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