Press Releases

       

    SG/SM/8896

        26 September 2003

       

    PROGRESS STILL ACHIEVABLE AFTER DISAPPOINTMENT
    OF CANCUN, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS GROUP OF 77 MINISTERIAL TALKS

     

     

    NEW YORK, 25 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today to the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77:

     

     

    Many of the statements by world leaders in the General Assembly these past three days have expressed the need for stronger international solidarity, greater respect for collective decisions, and greater determination to put them into effect.

     

    Indeed, the Millennium Development Goals can only be reached by such joint resolve and action.  Developed countries will need to be just as determined in meeting their commitments in the areas of trade, aid and debt relief, as developing countries must be in making effective use of the resources they devote to development.

     

    It may be hard to imagine making such gains any time soon, after the setback in Cancún earlier this month.  The inability to reach agreement there has led to widespread concern, particularly among developing countries, that the imbalances and inequities in the global trading system show little sign of being eliminated or even eased.  At the same time, even if the result at Cancún was unsatisfactory, there are reasons to hope that progress is still achievable.

     

    First, the agreement in August on inexpensive generic drugs to treat AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases was an important step forward.

     

    Second, developing countries showed real strength in defending their interests, acting effectively in concert, notably on the issue of agricultural protection and subsidies.

     

    And third, there was movement on some of the most contentious issues, including agriculture; although this was not reflected in the outcome at Cancún, I hope there will be no backtracking once negotiations resume.

     

    And that is precisely where our efforts should now be focused:  on getting the negotiations back on track.  The Group of 77 can play a key role.  I hope the talks will be seen by everyone not just as a narrow exercise in mutual concessions, but rather as a wider, universal effort to ensure that the impediments to development in the present international trading arrangements are removed.  That is in everyone’s interests.  And the Doha development agenda remains valid.

     

     

    While progress in trade has been stalled for the moment, the last year has seen gains in debt relief.  The positive experience of countries like Uganda shows the importance of accelerating and widening the current initiative. Unfortunately, declines in commodity prices have undercut some of this progress.  We need to take a fresh look at the impact of these declines, and of the high volatility in commodity pricing, on the development efforts of commodity-dependent developing countries, especially the highly indebted poor countries.

     

    There has also been noteworthy progress in the area of official development assistance (ODA), following a decade of decline.  Here, too, however, much more is needed.  In addition to making good on their recent commitments, donors should continue to increase their aid towards the 0.7 per cent target of gross national income, which was reaffirmed at both Monterrey and Johannesburg.  I hope the fledgling economic recovery in some parts of the world will help accelerate this turnaround in ODA.

     

    Developing countries, for their part, have to redouble their own commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, by investing in basic health care and education, nutrition, water, sanitation and infrastructure and by increasing agricultural productivity.  And international institutions, including the United Nations, must continue to adapt themselves so that our efforts are fully behind the Goals.

     

    This General Assembly offers important opportunities to push forward this process.

     

    You will discuss preparations for UNCTAD XI, to be held next June in Brazil, focusing on the critical theme of improving coherence between national development strategies and global economic processes.

     

    You will also have a High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, to try to sustain the momentum generated by Monterrey, not only in actual financing but in strengthening partnerships and advancing the coherence of policies in the areas of trade, finance and development.  The Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization are involved in our work to an unprecedented degree –- influencing our debates, but also taking much from them for their own work programmes.  That cross-pollination must continue.  So must our efforts to show that Monterrey was not just a single isolated event, as some people seem to think.  Rather, it was part of a process that has become an essential piece of the multilateral system of cooperation.

     

    Beyond this Assembly session, there will be December’s meeting in Marrakech on South-South cooperation, as well as the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, also in December in Geneva.  The Summit will address the critical challenge of how to promote the access of all countries and peoples to information, knowledge and communication technologies, and how best to harness these forces for development.

     

    As Cancún showed, together you are stronger.  I am confident that the Moroccan delegation will continue to lead the Group of 77 with expertise and determination in what are certain to be demanding months for the fight against global poverty.  I wish you all success.

     

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