Press Releases

    SG/SM/7785
    ECOSOC/5943
    2 May 2001

    SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES ECOSOC AND BRETTON WOODS BODIES TO KEEP NEEDS AND ASPIRATIONS OF THE POOR
    AT TOP OF THEIR AGENDA

    NEW YORK, 1 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the fourth meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Bretton Woods institutions, held today at Headquarters:

    It is my great pleasure to welcome you once again to the United Nations. At the first of these meetings, four years ago, the symbolism was almost as important as the substance. For decades, ECOSOC and the Bretton Woods institutions, though fellow members of the United Nations system with many goals in common, had been at some distance from each other, and sometimes even at odds. The sight of closer ties being forged for a new global era was truly encouraging.

    By now we have moved from the pro forma to the proactive. This is the fourth such meeting at United Nations Headquarters. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive boards, for their part, have hosted both the ECOSOC ambassadors and the bureau of the Financing for Development Preparatory Committee in Washington, D.C. Our collaboration on my recent report to that Preparatory Committee was unprecedented, and extremely fruitful.

    Perhaps most important, the mixing of ministers -- economic, foreign affairs, finance, development cooperation and others -- has consigned to the past the unjustified and unhelpful compartmentalization of our work into separate realms. Instead, we have a more cohesive approach, a convergence of views and even a new politics of development. This deepening partnership and mutual understanding is very good news for the multilateral system; let us now make it good news for our constituents -- the world's people.

    Today's meeting occurs against the backdrop of a troubling United Nations forecast that world economic growth will decline markedly, from 4 per cent last year to some 2.5 per cent this year, with at best a modest recovery going into the year 2002. This slowdown comes less than four years after the previous crisis -- and before all its damage has been fully repaired, and the necessary preventive measures taken.

    The crisis of 1997-1998 began in the developing countries, but this slowdown originated in the developed world, with a substantial weakening of the United States economy and protracted difficulties in Japan. The consequences for the developing world are hard to divine, but the risks are significant, as adverse developments in major economies propagate themselves through the multiple channels of the globalized world economy. But wherever and however such problems arise, one result is the same: the poor always suffer disproportionately. I urge you to keep the needs and aspirations of the poor at the top of your agenda. This is especially true for the developing countries; we must ensure that they are not victimized, left behind, or left without help.

    Today's meeting also occurs on the eve of the third session of the Preparatory Committee for next year's International Conference on Financing for Development in Mexico. My concern is that unless we succeed in mobilizing far greater amounts of resources -- both public and market-led investment -- our plans to eradicate poverty and to accelerate development will be thwarted. The donor countries, which are receiving most of the benefits from globalization, should be increasing their aid -- as the more generous are already doing -- and helping to improve its effectiveness. At the same time, greater attention must be paid and focused on making better use of domestic resources, where women in particular need more access to capital.

    My report to the Preparatory Committee recommends wide-ranging action. We need to strengthen financial institutions, legal frameworks and governance in general. We need tough measures against corruption, wherever it may be and whatever form it may take. Many of the least developed countries and other developing countries still need debt relief. The European initiative to grant duty-free, quota-free access over time to European Union markets for all least developed countries exports, excluding arms, is a landmark decision to build on. The vulnerability of developing and transition economies to sudden reversals of resource flows needs to be reduced.

    And it is crucial to ensure that developing countries are represented and have an adequate voice wherever decisions are taken that affect their development prospects, in particular the governing bodies of the international financial institutions. This is not only a matter of fair play; it is also a way to make those bodies more effective, accountable and transparent. Such an evolution in domestic and international governance could also go a long way towards defusing some of the backlash against globalization, and help make globalization work for all people.

    These issues are complex and closely intertwined. Let us not be daunted. And let us not renegotiate, rehash or revisit old issues. A consensus on the values, priorities and objectives that should now guide the Member States already exists -- it is set out in the Millennium Declaration, which was endorsed at the highest level last year. I know you share my sense of the urgency of meeting those targets and delivering on those promises.

    The Secretariat will continue to assist Member States in their efforts to achieve the millennium goals, and will be active in monitoring that progress at both global and national levels -- in close consultation, of course, with both governments and the peoples of the world. I hope ECOSOC and the Bretton Woods institutions will do their rightful part and take their cooperation to a new level. I wish you all the best for your meeting, and I wish you every success.

    Thank you very much.

    * *** *