Press Releases

    DEV/2371
    PI/1402
    SOC/4588
    5 February 2002

    UN SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS ON NON-GOVERNMENTAL
    ORGANIZATIONS TO WORK WITH GOVERNMENTS AND BUSINESS TO TACKLE POVERTY

    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    PORTO ALEGRE, 4 February -- The United Nations is depending increasingly on engagement with civil society to meet its goals, particularly as concerns the upcoming International Conference on Financing for Development and global conference on sustainable development, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message delivered to more than 60,000 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world. He stressed that to achieve constructive solutions to problems such as poverty, civil society organizations will need to work in partnership with governments and businesses, "rather than remain aloof through the politics of confrontation".

    The Secretary-General’s message was delivered on the concluding day of the World Social Forum –- the civil society answer to the World Economic Forum -- by his representative at the Forum, Jose Antonio Ocampo, which has been meeting since 31 January in the Brazilian seaside town of Porto Alegre. Mr. Ocampo is the Executive-Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Several meetings held at the World Social Forum, a global event now in its second year, focused on preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), which will take place from 18 to 22 March 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico. An initiative of developing countries at the United Nations, the FfD process involves close participation of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the United Nations, as well as with civil society and the private sector. The initiative seeks advances in the areas of trade, aid, debt, investment, national mobilization of resources and systemic arrangements at the international level.

    Leaders of NGOs meeting in Porto Alegre criticized the outcome text for Monterrey that has been negotiated by Governments at the United Nations as not going far enough in demanding changes in world economic and political structures.

    But they also expressed commitment to working with the FfD process, including via a Civil Society Forum which will be held in Monterrey immediately preceding the Conference, from 14 to 16 March. Martin Khor of the Third World Network and Mariana Floro of the Cartagena Feminist Initiative indicated that the FfD text should be seen as a first step and suggested that NGOs should write an alternative text for publication in Monterrey.

    In a 3 February press briefing on NGO plans for Monterrey, Civil Society Forum organizer Laura Frade suggested that "for the first time in history, we will have all the World Bank-watchers, all the IMF-watchers, all the WTO-watchers and all the UN-watchers together in the same place at the same time". She added that for both civil society as well as for international institutions and Governments, FfD can address the contradictions that frequently exist between social goals and economic policies.

    In his message to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Secretary-General Kofi Annan indicated areas where he anticipated that FfD would achieve practical gains. These include support for an international convention against corruption, a commitment to open markets in rich countries to exports from the developing world, a consensus on means for developing countries to build financial infrastructure and attract overseas aid, and an increase in international development assistance.

    "If we are to reach the Millennium development goals -- including the halving of extreme poverty in the world by 2015, to which all the world’s governments have committed themselves -- we will need an extra $50 billion of official development assistance each year", he said.

    The Secretary-General further said that developing countries should have a larger voice in world economic decision-making.

    Making reference to an address he is delivering today in New York, the Secretary-General’s message said: "As I will tell the World Economic Forum, these issues cannot longer be settled in private conclave among the rich and powerful. The developing countries have as big a stake as anyone in the future of the world economy. Their views should count for something when decisions affecting it are taken."

    For information, contact Nick Snyder, (212) 963-4382, snydern@un.org, or Laufey Love, (212) 963-3507, love@un.org, of the United Nations Department of Public Information.

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