30 June 2005
Economic and Social Council Opens with Secretary-General’s Call for Translating Economic Growth into Development for All
High-Level Segment Features Policy Dialogue Involving WTO, World Bank, IMF, UNCTAD Followed by Eight Round-Table Discussions
NEW YORK, 29 June (UN Headquarters) -- The state of the world economy remained robust, and growth was widespread among developing countries and economies in transition, but the biggest challenge was to translate growth into development for all, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today, as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) opened the high-level segment of its 2005 substantive session.
In most developing countries, he said, there were still high rates of unemployment and under-employment. In Africa, the current and projected rate of growth was insufficient to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. If economic growth was to make greater inroads against poverty, there was a need for smarter policies, more resources and closer partnerships.
Hopefully, other donors would follow the European Union, which had agreed to substantially increase official development assistance (ODA) over the next decade to reach 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product by 2015, he said. Another promising step was the commitment of the Group of Eight countries to reach agreement on debt relief. Developing countries must also do their part by promoting accountable and transparent governance, stimulating the private sector and investing in human capital. Development, however, would be neither meaningful nor sustainable unless the international community also ensured respect for human rights. Developing countries still suffered disproportionately from armed conflict, the proliferation of small arms and denials of human rights.
He said the 2005 World Summit was an opportunity to fortify ECOSOC itself, which had unique strengths as a central body for articulating development policy and ensuring policy coherence. It was the only organ mandated to coordinate the activities of the United Nations system and to engage with non-governmental organizations, which were increasingly vital partners. The Council’s overriding task now was to follow through on development commitments that had emerged from United Nations conferences and summits of the past decade and a half.
In his opening remarks, the President of ECOSOC, Munir Akram (Pakistan), said there was a sense of urgency to respond to the challenges of development -- poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, marginalization and joblessness. The recent slowdown in the world economy, the significant trade and financial imbalances between the major economies, and the accompanying rise in protectionist voices were disheartening signals in the struggle for development, he said. Yet, finally, the political will was being generated to succeed in meeting the challenge of redressing extreme poverty, hunger and disease. The world had the financial, human, technological and institutional capabilities to achieve those goals.
“Our meeting must confront the enormity of the development challenge”, he said. But, it must also celebrate the success in the struggle. The growth and dynamism of a growing number of developing countries must be encouraged. Today, the developing countries -- including the poorest in Africa -- accepted their responsibility for their own development. Solutions for global underdevelopment would have to be comprehensive and coherent -- encompassing adequate external financing for development, larger and growing trade opportunities and good global governance. Such comprehensiveness and coherent solutions could be evolved only within the framework of the United Nations, and its economic and social arm -- the ECOSOC.
This morning’s High-Level Policy Dialogue focused on current developments in the world economy and international economic cooperation in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
In introductory remarks to the Policy Dialogue, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo gave an overview of the state of the world economy, saying that the anticipated growth of the world economy for 2004-2006 was unusually widespread among developing countries. Financial flows to developing countries were increasing; ODA had reversed its decline; and there had been some further progress towards reducing the debt burden. However, the net transfer of financial resources from developing countries continued to increase.
He warned that there was a risk of a disruptive shock to the world economy stemming from the large and widening global imbalances, including the current account deficit of the United States. Deterioration in the external environment stemming from the global imbalances would have an impact on the prospects of developing countries. It was from that perspective that addressing the global imbalances should be seen as part of the long-term global development agenda that was the theme of the ECOSOC session. Even the current improvement achieved by many developing countries was unlikely to be sufficient to enable them all to achieve the development goals. Further improvement in growth was necessary and any loss of momentum would be critical.
Other speakers in the Policy Dialogue included: Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director-General, World Trade Organization; Jean-Louis Sarbib, Senior Vice-President of the Human Development Network of the World Bank Group; Carlos Fortin, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development; and Reinhard Munzberg, Special Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the United Nations. After introductory remarks, an exchange of views took place between delegates and the featured speakers.
An innovation this year was an item called “Voices against Poverty”, which featured keynote speeches by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor of Economics and Finance at Columbia University, New York, and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics; Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization; and Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Mr. Stiglitz drew attention to the concern of global financial stability. Developing countries disproportionally carried the risks of fluctuating exchange and interest rates, creating unbearable debt levels, he said. The IMF should design ways of shifting risks from the developing countries to the developed ones. A high level of instability forced all countries to put aside substantial amounts of reserves. Those reserves amounted to lending to the richest countries vast amount of money at low rates. It was a net transfer from developing countries to the developed countries, with amounts exceeding those of foreign aid. If the global reserve system could be changed, the money necessary for achieving the Millennium Goals would be available.
Regarding the need for innovative financing, he drew attention to the fact that developing countries were providing enormous services to the world for which they were not compensated, such as the environmental services in the area of greenhouse gases and preservation of biodiversity. Developing countries now proposed that they would submit themselves voluntarily to the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol if they received compensation for environment services.
The afternoon was dedicated to eight high-level round tables on the following subjects:
-- Eradication of poverty and hunger;
-- Global partnerships and financing of the Millennium Development Goals;
-- Building State capacity to meet the Millennium Development Goals: human rights, governance, institutions and human resources;
-- Education and literacy;
-- Gender equality and the empowerment of women;
-- Environmental sustainability; and
-- National strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
In other matters, the Economic and Social Council approved the proposed programme of work as orally revised (document E/2005/L.9) and agreed to hear statements by some of the non-governmental organizations listed in document E/2005/76.
The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to continue its high-level segment, hearing a keynote address by Tarja Halonen, President of Finland.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the current session was taking place in special circumstances. The General Assembly had just concluded its High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, and the preparations for the September high-level meeting were well under way. In the Council’s deliberations, there was a sense of urgency to respond to the challenges of development – poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, marginalization and joblessness. The goals were clear, set out in the Millennium Development Goals and by the conferences held in Doha, Monterrey, Johannesburg and elsewhere. The reviews held so far confirmed that there was a serious deficit in the implementation of those goals and commitments. At the present pace, the Millennium Development Goals might not be realized for another 100 years or more.
The recent slowdown in the world economy, the significant trade and financial imbalances between the major economies, and the accompanying rise in protectionist voices were disheartening signals in the struggle for development, he said. Yet, finally, the political will was being generated to succeed in meeting the challenge of redressing extreme poverty, hunger and disease. There was visible support of common people -- including in the richer countries -- for the global development goals. The world had the financial, human, technological and institutional capabilities to achieve those goals. And, indeed, many developing countries were succeeding in meeting the challenge of growth and development.
“Our meeting must confront the enormity of the development challenge”, he said. But, it must also celebrate the success in the struggle. The growth and dynamism of a growing number of developing countries must be encouraged. Also, the European Union’s collective commitment to the 0.7 per cent official development assistance (ODA) target and timetable for its implementation should be congratulated. Simultaneously, the decision of the Group of Eight (G-8) to cancel the debt of 18 countries must be welcomed.
Today, the developing countries -- including the poorest in Africa -- accepted their responsibility for their own development, he said. Good national policies and governance were an obvious prerequisite for development. But the enormity of the challenge they faced, and the external vulnerabilities that impacted on their endeavours, must not be minimized. Solutions for global underdevelopment would have to be comprehensive and coherent -- encompassing adequate external financing for development, larger and growing trade opportunities and good global governance. Such comprehensiveness and coherent solutions could be evolved only within the framework of the United Nations, and its economic and social arm -- the ECOSOC.
Over the past months, he stated, the Council had held a series of meetings devoted to promoting implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, especially the Millennium Goals. Its interaction with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was substantive and led to the identification of the policies and actions required to advance the implementation of the agreed development goals. He was confident that the comprehensive nature of participation in today’s meeting, the clear focus of the goals and the growing global commitment to making poverty history would enable the meeting to come forward with ideas, initiatives, conclusions and recommendations to promote the vital development goals to which everyone was committed.
KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that the state of the world economy had remained robust, and that growth was widespread among developing countries and economies in transition. Along with a resurgence of growth in sub-Saharan Africa, many African countries were achieving annual per capita growth of 3 per cent, and were expected to reach more than 5 per cent this year. Those were promising trends, but they were not free from risk, such as higher oil prices and current global economic imbalances in the trade and fiscal areas, which could stall momentum.
The biggest challenge, he said, was to translate growth into development for all. In most developing countries, there were still high rates of unemployment and under-employment. In Africa, the current and even projected rate of growth was insufficient to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. If economic growth was to make greater inroads against poverty, there was a need for smarter policies, more resources and closer partnerships. Only then would the global economy bring people in from the margins, and the benefits of globalization reach all people, including those who needed it most.
Hopefully, he said, other donors would follow the European Union, which had agreed to substantially increase ODA over the next decade to reach 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2015. Another promising step was the commitment of the G-8 countries to reach agreement on debt relief for the poorest countries. Progress would also be achieved if the Doha trade negotiations could be successfully concluded, so that developing countries could compete in the global trading system on a fair and equal basis.
Of course, developing countries must also do their part by promoting accountable and transparent governance, adopting policies that would stimulate the private sector, and investing in human capital through education and health, he said. Such steps were vital, but development would be neither meaningful nor sustainable unless the international community also ensured respect for human rights. Developing countries still suffered disproportionately from armed conflict, the proliferation of small arms and denials of human rights.
The 2005 World Summit was an opportunity to fortify ECOSOC itself, which had unique strengths as a central body for articulating development policy and ensuring policy coherence, he continued. It was the only organ mandated to coordinate the activities of the United Nations system and to engage with non-Governmental organizations (NGOs), which were increasingly vital partners. The Council’s overriding task now was to follow through on development commitments that had emerged from United Nations conferences and summits of the past decade and a half.
First, the international community must engage leaders, policy makers and United Nations bodies, so that regular reviews of progress led to concrete, mutually reinforcing action. Therefore, he had suggested that the Council hold annual ministerial-level assessments. Second, it must connect, in a much more systematic manner, policy discussions and operational activities on the ground. To that end, he had called on the Council to convene a biennial, high-level Development Cooperation Forum.
Third, ECOSOC must respond to economic and social threats and challenges with the same urgency that was brought to peace and security crises. Whether it was a devastating tsunami in Asia, famine in Africa or a debt crisis in Latin America, the response must not only offer immediate relief, but also address the broader development dimensions. For that purpose, he had recommended that the Council hold timely meetings to respond to events that may seriously affect development progress.
He said he had also called on the Council to reinforce its links with the Security Council to deal more systematically with the economic and social dimensions of conflicts, and with the Peacebuilding Commission to sensitize the world to special economic and social challenges facing countries emerging from conflict.
Despite differences among Member States, agreement was within reach on many of the main issues and proposal for the draft Summit outcome, including those of direct concern to ECOSOC. States must spare no effort to ensure that the 2005 Summit succeeded in taking bold steps towards making poverty history.
Voices against Poverty
JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ, Professor of Economics and Finance at Columbia University, New York, and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, said the necessity of meeting the Millennium Development Goals was now well understood by the international community, including a consensus that more substantial resources were needed. However, more than aid was required. There was a need for a comprehensive approach to development. At the international level, some initiatives could be taken. In the area of trade, he welcomed the Doha Development Round, but was dismayed with what had happened since. Commitments made there did not go far enough. There was need for a fairer trade regime that promoted development.
Global financial stability was another source of concern, and the G-8 had not paid enough attention to the issue, he said. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also had failed to address the fundamental issue. There was a deeper question: why did developing countries suffer so much from global instability, and why was there so much instability? Developing countries disproportionally carried the risks of fluctuating exchange and interest rates, creating unbearable debt levels. The IMF should design ways of shifting risks from the developing countries to the developed countries. Underlying global imbalance was a structural problem of the global resource system which was inequitable and made it difficult to achieve sustained economic growth.
The high level of instability forced all countries to put aside substantial amounts of reserves. Nowadays, dollars were the reserve currency. Those reserves amounted to lending to the richest countries vast amount of money at low rates. It was a net transfer from developing countries to the developed countries, with amounts exceeding those of foreign aid. If the global reserve system could be changed, the money necessary for achieving the Millennium Goals would be available. Changing the system would also help global economic stability and promote sustained economic growth. The fact that such reserves were “buried in the ground” added a deflationary pressure.
There was also a need for innovative financing, Professor Stiglitz continued. In that regard, he drew attention to the fact that developing countries were providing enormous services to the world for which they were not compensated, such as the environmental services and preservation of biodiversity. One of those services was in the area of greenhouse gases. Measured by mechanisms included in the Kyoto Protocol, the value of the carbon services provided by the tropical countries exceeded $30 billion a year. Developing countries now proposed that they would submit themselves voluntarily to the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol if they received compensation for environment services.
In conclusion, he said that challenges to meeting the Millennium Goals would require concerned efforts of the international community. More than aid was required, and the fundamental structural problems had to be addressed.
JUAN SOMAVIA, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the Council was meeting at a time when several hopeful signs were being seen in many areas, including increased ODA, commitments for greater debt relief, and a greater focus on Africa. But there was still a long way to go. There was deep-seated anxiety in many societies. Priorities seemed out of balance, and people often looked for scapegoats and targets. As a result, migration, governments, international institutions and globalization all became targets. But globalization was not the cause of every problem.
From the perspective of the ILO, he said that workers were the real actors of the global economy. People wanted a fair chance at a decent job -- work that respected core labour standards. The ILO had stated that it was not possible to have decent work without having work, and it had put an enormous emphasis on the creation of work. Today, there was a global job crisis, and levels of uncertainty were a reality worldwide. Beyond national action, the crisis required a global response. Moving productive work up on the policy agenda was critical to addressing social insecurities and achieving the international development goals.
It was the most pressing political issue of the day, both for individuals and for societies, he said. So much was at stake if the issue was not addressed -- the viability of open markets and open societies, the durability of regional integration, and the relevance of international organizations. In many ways, the security of the world was at stake if the global job crisis was not addressed. He noted that countries were coming together to tackle the issue. For example, it was the agenda of the summit of the Americas at the end of this year, and part of the European Commission’s social agenda. Also, most governments in the Middle East had identified unemployment as the major cause of instability.
What seemed not to be there was “recognition here”, he stated. What was ECOSOC doing about it and what was the September summit going to do about it? What a fantastic opportunity ECOSOC had to “bite the bullet” on the issue. He urged the international community to tackle the issue. It could even be the main agenda of ECOSOC next year. He could not imagine another issue for which the coordinating function of ECOSOC could be better utilized. Maybe then, one day, people would be able to say that poverty was made history through the creation of decent work.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, noted that millions of people were excluded from society, fleeing their homes, discriminated against, or stateless. They were the victims of war and conflict, who often did not enjoy their most basic rights or the benefits of the world’s combined efforts to attain the Millennium Goals. Stressing that “access” was a crucial dimension of the Goals, he said the best designed programme was ineffective if people had no access to it.
National Millennium Goal strategies seldom referred to displaced persons, he said. A recent review of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF) found that displaced persons were often depicted as a “strain”, an “impediment”, and a “threat”. Of the PRSPs, only 10 per cent reflected refugees’ needs; one third included returnees in the country of origin; and less than half mentioned people suffering from internal displacement. To ensure access for the most vulnerable, the international community must ensure that the voices of all groups of people were considered, and recognize that they had the skills and potential to attain the Goals.
Many of the poorest people lived in countries in conflict or just emerging from it, he said, but little attention had been given to the relationship between conflict and the Millennium Goals. That was why the Secretary-General had stressed the indivisibility between security, development and human rights.
Noting also the huge gap between relief and development, he said that humanitarian agencies had made insufficient efforts to engage in and contribute to discussions and policy formulation on the Goals. Providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance would not be sustainable without an effective development strategy. Whether it was the eradication of extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, or promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability, each of the Goals was just as important to humanitarian as development actors.
In conflict and post-conflict situations, humanitarian assistance must help lay the basis for longer-term development to attain the Millennium Goals, he stressed, and Goal strategies and programmes must include a conflict-prevention lens. Only through such an approach could the international community reduce the odds -- 50 per cent -- of a country sliding back into violence in the five years following the end of a conflict.
High-Level Policy Dialogue
JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said global economic growth had slowed, with gross world product expected to expand at a rate of 3.25 per cent in 2005 and 3.5 per cent in 2006, following 4.1 per cent in 2004. The anticipated growth of the world economy for 2004-2006 was unusually widespread among developing countries. Developing countries as a group were expected to grow at a rate approaching 6 per cent in 2005-2006. Long-standing disparities in growth among developing regions, however, remained, but they were less than on previous occasion
He said that higher economic growth in many developing countries was partially attributable to improvements in economic policies within the countries themselves. Also, domestic demand was playing a more important role because of those countries’ more stable economic conditions. However, the outcome was also a result of a more favourable international economic environment. International trade had grown by some 11 per cent in 2004 and was forecast to increase by a further 8 per cent in 2005. At the same time, the international prices of many of the exports of developing countries, notably oil, had risen in the past couple of years, which had yielded a short-run benefit.
Financial flows to developing countries were increasing and their costs were low by historical standards, he said. Non-debt creating flows were assuming greater importance. For countries without access to international financial markets, ODA had reversed its decline. There had also been some further progress towards reducing the debt burden of some of the heavily indebted poor countries. Despite those improvements, the net transfer of financial resources from developing countries continued to increase. That net transfer reflected a build-up of foreign exchange reserves by a number of countries with trade surpluses, but the extensive accumulation of reserves raised the question of reform of the international financial system.
At the present time, a greater risk of a disruptive shock to the world economy seemed likely to stem from the large and widening global imbalances: the current account deficit of the United States was expected to rise to over $700 billion in 2005, he said. Reflecting that deficit, the United States dollar had depreciated, but that depreciation did not appear to have had much corrective effect on the imbalances. There were dangers of increasing protectionism. In financial markets, there was the persistent possibility of further weakening of the dollar. Disorderly adjustments would have severely disruptive effects on world trade, global financial markets and, ultimately, global economic growth.
He said both analysis and evidence to date suggested that the depreciation of the United States dollar was not sufficient to reduce the imbalances to sustainable levels. A more comprehensive and long-term set of measures was required. Those measures should involve both deficit and surplus countries and avoid contractionary effects on developing countries. To achieve those objectives, there was a need for more concrete international economic coordination specifically aimed at rectifying the imbalances.
The present economic strength of many developing countries demonstrated that substantial progress was possible under the right domestic and global economic conditions, he said. Deterioration in the external environment stemming from the global imbalances would have an untoward effect on both the immediate prospects of developing countries and their longer-term development. It was from that perspective that addressing the global imbalances should be seen as part of the long-term global development agenda that was the theme of the ECOSOC session. Even the current improvement achieved by many developing countries was unlikely to be sufficient to enable them all to achieve the development goals. Further improvement in growth was necessary, and any loss of momentum would be critical. At the same time, in many smaller countries, notably in Africa, economic growth itself continued to languish and an even more substantial improvement was required for such countries to achieve the longer-term objectives.
SUPACHAI PANITCHPAKDI, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, said the December WTO meeting, to be held in Hong Kong, was crucial as it could be the foundation for the final phase of the Doha round in 2006. It was necessary to achieve something substantive by the end of the year. He made several points regarding the global economic performance. For the first time in the last five decades, the share of developing countries in world merchandise exports had reached 31 per cent. Also, China’s emergence as one of the world’s most important traders had had a positive effect on world trade. It had given an impetus to economic expansion in Asia. But it was also producing some reactions from certain quarters, such as in areas of textiles and energy.
Noting the world economy’s dependence on the United States economy, he emphasized the need to reduce the level of the United States trade deficit. But at the same time, when that happened, it would send ripples, slowing down the world economy. In addition, progress in the Doha development agenda would also create new problems for small and vulnerable countries.
He said that, for the first time, the trade negotiations were poised to achieve the kind of commitment needed to eliminate export subsidies and trade-distorting measures. The negotiations would also deal with issues of tariff peaks and escalation, which had all along prohibited countries from diversifying their economies. “This was the round that would touch on development on all fronts”, he added. The Doha round would discuss trade-related technical assistance, would work on rules to give preferential treatment to developing countries, and discuss the special role of small economies, including the least developed countries, and related issues such as those debt and finance.
As for the least developed countries, he said that duty-free and quota-free access was important. Those countries would require support not only from the WTO, but also from international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF. They were looking for the strengthening of the integrated framework, in order to mainstream trade into poverty-reduction strategies. Another crucial issue for least developed countries was accession to the WTO. Agreement had been reached to give special facilities for acceding least developed countries to the WTO. He stressed the need to be able to tackle the issues of trade, debt and economic performance, ultimately resulting in poverty reduction.
JEAN-LOUIS SARBIB, Senior Vice-President and Head of the Human Development Network of the World Bank, said that with just 10 years left before the Millennium Goals fell due in 2015, the economic news for developing countries was better than for some years, but many of those same countries were falling behind in their efforts to achieve a set of goals which could transform the prospects of global humanity. The goal to halve poverty by 2015 would likely be met at the global level, but progress towards the Millennium Goals had been slower and more uneven across regions than originally thought, with sub-Saharan Africa falling far short. However, there were remedies available. In order to make progress, there was a need to focus on five major dimensions: ensuring that development efforts were country-owned; improving the environment for private sector-led economic growth; scaling up delivery of basic human services; dismantling barriers to trade; and doubling development aid in the next five years.
There had been progress on those five dimensions, he said, expressing hope that the G-8 meeting would confirm the announced debt cancellation. Debt forgiveness, however, could not come at the expense of new development aid, and the G-8 leaders must be urged to step up the amounts of long-term aid. Business as usual would not do. Education, health and literacy were crucial, and more attentions must be paid to implementation of the goals in service delivery. There were, however, three challenges of particular note: scaling up skilled providers; ensuring sustained financing; and improving governance and accountability to ensure that extra resources would bring about more effective service delivery.
Giving an example regarding the Millennium Development Goal concerning education, he said the World Bank had created the Fast Track Initiative, whereby donor countries would finance education projects of some developing countries. There had been some success, such as in Nicaragua, where, with $3.5 million, 70,000 six-year olds could go to school. Some 25 countries were expected to benefit from the Initiative in the coming year, at an annual cost of $2 billion. The risk, however, was that that money might not be available. In a world tragically short of magic solutions, primary and secondary education offered one of the most dramatic development solutions.
He emphasized that there was not only a need to focus on HIV/AIDS, but also on such diseases as malaria. Those two diseases together were costing countries in Africa 2 to 3 per cent of gross national product (GNP). The World Bank had just launched a new global approach to help developing countries make faster progress in their fight against malaria. Drawing on recent successes in malaria control in Brazil, Eritrea, India and Viet Nam, the new “Global Strategy and Booster Programme” reflected a need for decisive action on a large scale in order to achieve impact to counteract the inadequacy of global efforts to control malaria. The Bank’s working assumption was that a total commitment of $500 million to $1 billion was needed.
In order for economic growth to impact the lives of people, one must focus on delivery of services and ensure that poverty strategies were as inclusive and as well adapted to the realities of the countries as could be. If that could be done, there was a possibility of making poverty history, he said in conclusion.
CARLOS FORTIN, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said the last 18 months had been a good period for development and international development cooperation. With the global economy growing in 2004 at a robust 4 per cent, developing country economies had grown at a rate of 6.4 per cent, one of the highest of the last three decades. Thus, there were grounds to hope that significant progress could be made in the period ahead towards achieving internationally agreed development goals, but there were also potential pitfalls and a wider development agenda that needed attention. To begin with, good growth performance of developing countries was essentially due to the strengthening of world demand, notably from China, and the strong performance of the United States economy.
Any significant slowdown of world economic dynamism could set back performance in Africa, Latin America and many countries of Asia, he said. Moreover, even if present trends continued, some parts of the world, notably Africa and the least developed countries, would simply fail to reach growth rates needed to achieve the Goals within the envisaged deadlines, let alone launch a balanced and rounded process of sustainable development. A substantial increase in the availability of external resources was needed.
To that end, he continued, debt relief must be expanded and supplemented with progress in trade, as well as a large increase in ODA. In addition, a substantially increased rate of economic growth was needed to eliminate poverty, particularly in least developed countries. It had been shown that different investment and growth strategies had different effects on how the benefits of growth were distributed, with varying impacts on poverty and social entitlement. Thus, the question of what development strategies could put additional resources to good use became central.
Development strategies were needed that would speed up investment and growth, generate employment and reduce inequality and eradicate poverty, he said. Market forces and the private sector must direct the strategies, but they must be supported by an active, effective, and honest public sector. Policies were needed to foster industry -- market-friendly but decisive policy interventions aimed at addressing market failure in allocating resources and steering investment and accumulation in desired directions.
Quoting Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, he said such policies and strategies should be guided by a national vision of where the economy was going specific to the conditions, history and circumstances of each country, which should be owned by the national government and civil societies of the country. For nationally rooted and owned development strategies to be successfully implemented, it was also vital that governance be improved. An ineffectual or corrupt State could hardly generate or implement the right development policies or use resources productively.
REINHARD MUNZBERG, Special Representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the United Nations, said that in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals, it was necessary for all partners to do their share. Developing countries should adopt sound macroeconomic, structural and sectoral policies. But a healthy global economy and adequate support from the developed world were equally important. Implementation was key. The IMF stood ready to do its part.
The global economy had grown by an impressive 5.1 per cent last year, he noted. Growth this year was expected to slow moderately to about 4.3 per cent, but would remain relatively robust. Growth in sub-Saharan Africa had reached an impressive 5 per cent last year, the highest level in a decade. But more was needed to make decisive progress in poverty alleviation and meet the Millennium Goals. Indeed, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) targeted the necessary level of growth at about 7 per cent per year in order to achieve the Goals in sub-Saharan Africa.
The International Monetary and Financial Committee noted at its last meeting that widening imbalances across regions and the continued rise in oil prices and oil market volatility had increased risks. There were substantial gaps in growth performance between the regions of the world. The United States’ current account deficit had increased significantly in recent years, while emerging Asia continued to run large surpluses. Addressing global imbalances and restoring and sustaining balanced growth to the world economy required vigorous collaborative efforts.
Indeed, effective poverty reduction needed high and sustainable growth, he said. Developing countries needed to intensify their reform efforts, including through further development of their own poverty-reduction strategies. That also required well targeted structural reforms to boost competitiveness and productive investment. Poor countries needed to find ways to harness the benefits of foreign direct investment (FDI) and private sector activity. Developed countries needed to scale up their aid to low-income countries, as pledged in the Monterrey Consensus. The IMF would continue providing assistance to help poor countries manage aid flows and to strengthen their institutions and human resources to manage their economic and financial policies. Debt relief was also important. In addition, developing countries needed more trade to generate the kind of sustained and rapid growth that was needed for meaningful poverty reduction.
During the discussion, speakers welcomed the G-8 proposal to eliminate external debt in the poorest countries, but underscored the need to resolve the debt once and for all in other developing countries. Others underscored the importance of education in development -– at general primary, secondary and tertiary levels and in efforts to improve basic health systems.
Responding, Mr. MUNZBERG of the IMF said the G-8 proposal on debt relief was a step in the right direction, and was currently being discussed by the Fund’s Executive Board. He himself was not in a position to anticipate the results of the discussion and asked for patience until it had been completed.
To another query on the IMF’s proposed facility for economic shocks, he said it would consist of a signalling mechanism, by which the Fund would provide a “message” to lenders or donors on the outside when countries did not want to borrow due to their balance-of-payments position. Another idea was to develop instruments with the right terms and conditionalities for low-income countries when shocks occurred.
Other participants asked whether international financial institutions could assist African countries with supply-side constraints, and also about potential risks to the global economic situation. How realistic were those risks, and what impact could they have?
Responding to the question about economic risks, Mr. STIGLITZ, Nobel Laureate in Economics, noted that the United States economy had done well during the past year, but was faced with high debt financed by low interest rates. There was growing consensus among economists that such debt represented a significant risk to the global economy, although they could not predict if or when a crisis would occur. To address that risk, policies should be put in place to address massive macroeconomic imbalances in the United States.
Other potential problems were exchange rate volatility, which could make life difficult in developing countries, and the current political problems in Europe. Individual countries must adjust their domestic policies in the meantime, perhaps shifting away from dollar savings, and look at wealth management to insulate themselves against volatility.
With regard to supply-side constraints, Mr. SARBIB of the World Bank said the Bank had programmes in many countries to deal with that issue on different levels, such as trying to ensure the existence of an environment that was friendly to private investment. There was increasing recognition of the need to have the right kind of infrastructure, and to make sure that goods could get to ports. There was also a renewed emphasis on the Bank investing in publicly financed infrastructure. Efficiently managing ports and airports was another concern.
It was easy to recognize the need for the predictability of financing, he noted in response to another question, but more difficult to get it to happen. The Paris meeting in March had recognized the need to move towards a multi-year commitment, which ran against the budget rules in many countries, which could not make multi-year commitments. There was discussion on ways to get around that, such as the proposed taxes and a financing facility. The decision to move towards the 0.7 per cent ODA target by the European Union would provide resources that could then be programmed in a more predictable manner. What was encouraging was that those issues were being discussed in a concrete way.
Adding to his earlier comments, Mr. MUNZBERG of the IMF said the proposals he had referred to would be discussed with all the Fund’s members. His unwillingness to elaborate on them was due to the fact that he did not know what the outcome of those discussions would be.
Mr. PANITCHPAKDI of the WTO said his organization lent support to capacity-building regarding training trade negotiators in order to be able to negotiate most effectively. He looked forward to the conclusion of the Doha round. He added that health issues were addressed in the Doha agenda, with regard to the interpretation of intellectual property rights to ensure affordable access to medicines. He was waiting to have a permanent amendment to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement.
Mr. FORTIN of UNCTAD highlighted the indivisibility of the issues of development, security and human rights, as mentioned by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He was pleased that those issues had featured in the discussion. There was work to be done, and ECOSOC could explore the implications of the links between those issues. The Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a Peacebuilding Commission was perhaps one way forward.
Round Table 1: Eradication of Poverty and Hunger
Opening the round table this afternoon on poverty and hunger eradication, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP), was GERARD LATORTUE, Prime Minister of Haiti.
JACQUES DIOUF, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization, moderator, said that fighting hunger should be the primary objective, as farmers were fleeing the influx of foreign goods. The prime objective of the millennium was to fight poverty and hunger, and that was the precondition of the majority of the Millennium Development Goals. To achieve that, the fight in hunger required agricultural sector growth. Unfortunately, there were still 850 million hungry people in the world. If the current trends continued, it might only be possible to reach the 2015 Goals by 2050. More must be invested in the agricultural sector to make it less risky and less dependent on the problems of drought, floods and other natural disasters. Haiti was one such example of what could occur in those cases. There also needed to be an approach, in the case of crisis, natural or man-made, to immediately supply food aid to those in need.
CHARLOTTE MCLAIN-NHALPO, South African Human Rights Commission/World Bank, said that the facts around hunger seemed paradoxical. On the one hand, there was abundance in the world. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of people still died of hunger. There had been much consensus this morning about the need to consider a human rights approach to hunger. One innovative approach had been used in South Africa, which had employed the Human Rights Commission as a mechanism to begin to address right to food issues. Some 22 countries in the world had made specific references to the right to food in their constitutions, but systems should be put in place to operationalize the meaning of that right.
Also important, she said, was to begin to look at possible domestic legislative frameworks to address hunger issues. Addressing the most vulnerable -- those who could not afford or could not access food for themselves -- was the State’s responsibility. Women should be empowered, starting with the education of the girl child. National budgets should stipulate allocations related to the right to food. Infectious disease issues should also be addressed. There was a clear need to create pro-poor health policies, as they had a direct correlation to hunger and the right to food. Raising agricultural productivity was also crucial.
If the world was really serious about meeting the first part of the Millennium Development Goals, then good governance must be ensured, along with the rule of law, solid democratic institutions responsive to people’s needs, improved infrastructure, peace and security, respect for human rights and gender equality, she said. Those elements should be complemented by a vibrant civil society. Unfortunately, it was not possible to wave a wand and wish away hunger. Nor was it possible to watch millions of children go to bed hungry, or watch and wait and fail the poor.
Lead discussant, ARMAND DE DECKER, Minister of Development Cooperation of Belgium, said that malnutrition in a world of surplus was quite unacceptable. At least 840 million people endured hunger on a daily basis. Adoption of the Millennium Goals was a wonderful and intelligent decision of modern times, which had allowed for a qualitative improvement in the human condition and for the emergence of the “guilt of indifference”. That had also totally changed the form of development aid. Still, the tension between the North and South was one of the most difficult problems in the world now. If, for example, the Millennium Goals did not make great progress in a short time period, the pressures of migration would become unsustainable for the majority of the countries of the North.
He said that achieving the Millennium Goals required, above all, putting an end to the conflicts in the South, the majority of which were without any ideology. Those were pure power struggles, without any political or ideological content. Often, those countries could not separate themselves from the patterns of colonial structures and acquire their own identities, which allowed their peoples to relate to their institutions. It was vital that the institutions be comprehensible to the people they were designed to serve. Debt cancellation by the G-8 should be welcomed. Hopefully, the savings to the countries whose debt was cancelled would be used for development. That was not an easy task, but that would benefit the poorest countries, as well as those suffering from other crises. In that context, he supported the proposal to establish a Peacebuilding Commission.
Official development assistance was the clearest, simplest way to provide assistance and contribute to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which should be done in the context of the Monterrey Consensus. But, ODA was not sufficient to achieve development, he added. Sustaining development was only possible through the private sector and private investment. He also stressed the need to harmonize policies and procedures, and he called for a restructuring and strengthening of ECOSOC, thereby making it possible to have a body focus constantly on the Millennium Goals question.
In the discussion that followed, the centrality of adopting strategies aimed at countering poverty and underdevelopment in rural areas as stressed, as well as the situation of small farmers, who, trapped in a vicious cycle, needed material supplies and financial resources to allow them to earn incomes from their work.
The point was also made that the concept of poverty as monetary only, relating to an individual’s income and based solely on economics, ignored poverty’s complex structure. New indicators should be built, which included elements such as access to education at all levels, access to health care, to jobs that respected the individuals’ rights, and to decision-making. Empowerment across the board would eradicate poverty. That element should be included among the millennium indicators, which went far beyond the economic indicators currently being used to determine the poverty line.
Clearly, the problem was one of distribution, when obesity and waste ran alongside malnutrition and hunger, another delegate said. There could not be dumping of food simultaneously with hunger. That should be outlawed and replaced with a system of managing the excess production in the world. Agriculture should again be given its rightful placed. For the past 15 years, agriculture had been degraded. Restoring it meant making land available to rural populations. Ways must also be found to deal with price volatility, which was not rocket science.
Another speaker stressed illiteracy, ignorance and women’s degraded role in societies in the South as contributing to poverty. Absolutely priority must be given to combating extreme poverty. Wherever there was illiteracy, there was poverty. So, in cases of extreme poverty, not only was there a need to provide safe drinking water and schools and health centres, but also a need to teach people to read and write, educate adults, provide microcredits, and encourage growth in the very vulnerable areas. If the urgent nature of poverty was not addressed, the development of poor people and their integration into a decent quality of life would be avoidably delayed. It was difficult to speak of informing people of their rights when they were hungry. The countries of the North needed to recognize the urgency of the problems of the South.
Round Table 2: Health
The Chairperson of the round table was Carin Jämtin, Minister for Development Cooperation of Sweden. Discussants were: Eugene Camara, Minister of Planning, Guinea; Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Joy Phumaphi, Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health, World Health Organization (WHO); Victor Mari Ortega, Deputy Director, New York Office, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and Stephen Stedman, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General.
Discussants stressed that investment in reproductive health was essential in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and emphasized the need for greater support for women’s abilities to take decisions in all aspects of their lives to improve their health, their family and the society. Access to services needed to be guaranteed. They noted that it was not a lack of resources or know-how to address the problems, but a lack of setting political priorities. Ms. OBAID stressed that the Millennium Development Goals could not be achieved unless greater attention was paid to reproductive health and women’s empowerment.
Attention was also drawn to the migration of health workers from developing countries to developed countries, causing a “brain drain”. A solution for that problem was to develop human resources management plans for all countries, not only the developing countries. The inability to deliver care was also addressed as something that prevented universal access to health services and family planning services. Ms. PHUMAPHI called, in that regard, for integration of health with transport, water and sanitation and with trade. Speakers also underlined the need for financing plans that addressed sustainability, but did not inhibit access and coverage.
The relationship between health and development was illustrated with the example of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. There was a vicious cycle between AIDS and poverty. Children who stayed in school were at lesser risk of becoming infected. Gender equality and women’s empowerment reduced those that had to resort to the sex trade. If left unchecked, AIDS would bring more poverty. The only way to get ahead of the pandemic was through universal access to prevention and treatment. Prevention was key to controlling the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the most important area of prevention was through reproductive health programmes, one speaker noted. Access to medications was also important. Many people did not have access to expensive medication, and the issue of developing generic drugs for developing countries should be addressed.
Speakers noted that malnutrition was one of the most important causes of infant mortality. Nutrition had been a major poverty issue for women. Especially in areas hit by conflict and HIV/AIDS, women were the main producers of food. Access to food was critical.
Another speaker drew participants’ attention to the problems of health in areas of conflict and other crisis. Catastrophes such as conflict and pandemics had unspeakable consequences for health and for attaining the Millennium Development Goals. The maternal health indicator showed the most inequity. It was quite frightening to see that a woman in sub-Saharan Africa had a one in 16 chance of dying in child birth.
A key barrier to meeting all the Millennium Development Goals was the state of health systems, speakers said. Health systems did not reach the people that needed them. Equity was an important factor in that regard. The inequity in health status, in access to health care and access to aid was a very stark fact. Abuse and neglect by the health system had come to define what it meant to be poor.
Another issue discussed was the question of what to prioritize -- care or prevention. Most speakers emphasized prevention. A representative of the private sector noted that care required human resources, while prevention could be provided very cost-effectively by education and technology.
The representative of Iraq said that in his country, the first and foremost victims of the events over the last decades were women and children. The United Nations and its agencies had a responsibility to intervene. Yet, such services were not provided because of a lack of security, and a fear that personnel could be harmed. Ms. OBAID said, in that regard, that all agencies were working out of Amman, Jordan, and depended on national staff to deliver services.
Summarizing the discussion, Mr. STEDMAN said health was vital for development, security and respect for human rights. What could work was known, but the health systems were not there to deliver the knowledge. Neither was there the necessary leadership and urgency of response. He noted that the issue of public health had not gotten the attention and urgency that other Millennium Development Goals had received.
Round Table 3: Global Partnerships and Financing of MDGs (Millennium Development Goals)
Chaired by Ishrat Hussain, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, speakers during this round table highlighted the importance of the appropriate resource use, development ownership, national development strategies, good governance, and joint donor-recipient responsibilities in country efforts to reach the Millennium Goals.
Opening the discussion, CARLOS FORTIN, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, who moderated the round table, said development depended not only on the sum of available resources, but their appropriate use. Debt, for example, was a way of acquiring resources to increase investment, production and growth, as well as to expand social services. The same argument applied to ODA and foreign direct investment (FDI), which must be used to maximize the impact of increased resources in both the economic and social sectors.
Other participants stressed the importance of ownership and national development strategies supported by domestic resources, as well as good political and economic governance to attract foreign investment, and investments in human resources to sustain development. Welcoming the recent European Union decision to increase ODA to 0.7 per cent by 2015, which one speaker noted would add $20 billion per year towards development, they also stressed that aid was also essential.
Several speakers emphasized that budgetary support for social structures and cohesion was as essential as economic infrastructure. Without a society that kept pace, one delegate pointed out, a country could not possibly reach sustainable development.
Other speakers underscored the importance of joint efforts by developed and developing countries in attaining development goals, lamenting the low levels of FDI to the world’s poorest countries, and unfulfilled promises of ODA. They also stressed that extra assistance for unexpected circumstances, such as the South Asian tsunami disaster, should not be confused with scheduled aid to finance the Goals.
Participants also pointed out that the quality, effectiveness and coordination of aid should be the joint responsibility of both donors and developing countries. However, whether such aid was allocated to the social, agricultural or industrial sectors should be determined by a country’s national strategy. Also vital in boosting development was the appropriate mix of ODA, FDI or debt relief, since some nations had more need of well placed investment than they had for forgiven debt.
One speaker urged participants to remember that ODA included debt relief, and that $15 billion in debt relief would be provided to Iraq over the next two years. She questioned how much ODA was actually fresh new money to fund development in developing countries. Adding that a substantial portion of ODA went to aid bureaucracies, conferences and summits, she said there was little point in raising ODA without changing its means of delivery.
Participants also stressed the importance of getting domestic investors in developing countries interested in production and reversing capital flight. Social investment was also vital, they said, since a nation must have a skilled labour force to attract FDI.
Round Table 4: BuildingState Capacity to Meet Millennium Development Goals
Opening the discussion, the Chairperson of the round table, TARJA HALONEN, President of Finland, highlighted the relevance of the human rights obligations of States, and the crucial importance of good governance for successful strategies to reach the Millennium Goals. The Goals build on the international human rights obligations and reflect the human rights agenda in seeking to ensure an adequate standard of living for individuals.
Human rights and the Goals were closely intertwined, she said. On the one hand, the Goals provided a potentially powerful motor for the realization of human rights. On the other hand, a human rights-based strategy was a prerequisite for sustainable and effective realization of the Goals. A rights-based approach, focusing on individuals as key actors in their own development, fostered empowerment and national ownership. A human rights approach also introduced the crucial element of accountability that should ensure not only that promises were kept, but that development was pursued in a just and equal manner.
In the efforts towards achieving the Goals, she added, it was essential to focus on the realization of all human rights for all. And the promotion and protection of human rights required strong and principled governance at all levels.
Good governance was meaningless without justice and human rights protection for all, stated one of the discussants, REHMAN SOBHAN, Chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh. No democracy was sustainable without democratizing political and economic opportunities for the dispossessed to share in the benefits of democracy. To live in a world at peace, without fear of terrorism, it was necessary to build more just societies within a more just world order. The first duty of an elected and accountable government was to respond to the universal demand for meeting the most basic needs of its citizens. Failure to respond to such a democratic mandate suggested either an absence of democracy or a serious dysfunction of the democratic process.
The lead discussant, ANYANG’ NYONG’O, Minister of Planning and National Development of Kenya, stressed the need to set in motion institutions and values that would help to “fast track” the achievement of the Millennium Goals. The first institution that needed to be built in developing countries was developmental and democratic States -- States that would promote human rights, defend the rule of law and attain socio-economic and political development, with time-bound strategies for achieving the Goals.
Such a State, he continued, would need enormous resources in the next 10 years. Kenya, for example, would need $61 billion between now and 2015 to meet the Millennium Goals, of which at the most $19 billion could be mobilized internally. That could be done easier if, among other things, the country was not burdened by an enormous debt burden and it removed obstacles to private sector investment.
Another discussant, MEHR KHAN WILLIAMS, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that the Millennium Goals offered one of the most important opportunities ever to realize the human rights of millions, including their right to development. The achievement of the Goals was critical. But equally important were the processes by which they were achieved. How that was done would determine to a large extent the long-term sustainability of the Goals and their contribution to the effective enjoyment of human rights.
She said the framework for the human rights approach must address three concerns -- non-discrimination, meaningful participation and accountability. If States were to follow such an approach, they must identify the poorest people who were currently the most marginalized and ensure that they were included. Another challenge was to craft meaningful means of participation that did not overburden the development process. Also, a human rights approach empowered people to make claims against those who had a duty to respond. It required building the capacities of rights-holders to claim their rights and duty bearers to fulfil their obligations.
During the discussion that followed, one speaker wondered whether it would not be useful to “look within”, as there might be different levels of governance among institutions within countries. Another speaker stated that it was not just enough to know the problems, but it was also important to know how to solve them. She asked how governments could unlearn some of the practices that created injustice, that continued to marginalize rural communities, and that denied education to 103 million children out of school. The issue of participation, and the need to create new mechanisms for consultations in the area of decision-making was also raised.
Reference was also made to Millennium Goal on good governance, which had been taken up as a priority by a number States. Other speakers stressed the need to include the issue of migration in development policies to, among other things, address the phenomenon of “brain drain” and to strengthen the technical capacities of States. Africa, like other developing areas, was losing its best resources. Attention was also drawn to the plight of persons with disabilities, who were often the poorest of the poor and deserved to be protected as a special group.
Moderating the discussion was Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo.
Round Table 5: Education and Literacy
The Chairman was Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia. Discussants were Peter Smith, Assistant Director-General for Education, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Geeta Rao Gupta, President, International Centre for Research on Women; and Magdi Mehani Amin, Community Development Consultant, Egypt.
Speakers addressed issues of gender equality in education, quality of education and the role of government. Learning was a fundamental human capability and education should, therefore, be guaranteed to all citizens of the world, one speaker noted. It was, therefore, tragic that the first missed deadline for targets to be achieved among Millennium Development Goals related to education, namely, the target for gender equality in primary education to be reached in 2005. More efforts and coordination at the national and international level were required to meet the 2015 deadline.
While continuing to work to meet the global commitment to universal primary education, today investments must also be made in secondary education in order to reduce gender inequalities, she continued. Secondary education was associated with indicators of women’s empowerment. There was plenty of detailed data available that indicated that educated women had a lower fertility rate, among other things. Educated women also had a better opportunity of finding work in the formal sector. Fees for secondary education should be eliminated and girl-friendly schools should be built closer to girls’ homes. Girls should be provided with incentives to participate in mathematics and science. Literacy programmes for illiterate adult women must also be supported. Donors must translate their verbal commitment to the Fast Track Initiative with action, and United Nations agencies must coordinate their efforts and not treat them as a territorial issue. Another speaker stressed that there could be no healthy economies and cultures if women were not educated and participated fully in society.
Another speaker stressed that a major change was needed in the approach to education at the institutional and country levels. One should not revert to the old system that regulators and educators themselves had attended. Governance should be flexible and responsive and management needed to be improved. There was also a need for accountability and for improved donor and agency coordination. Above all, there was a need to acknowledge that school systems worldwide were not performing as they should. There was a need to focus on creating a new concept in which people operating on the margin of society were being brought into the mainstream. A successful job had been done in the past of blaming the students for failures in education.
The role of the community and civil society in enhancing education was also addressed. Non-governmental organizations should enter into a dialogue with decision makers and function as a mediator between those decision makers and the community, said one speaker. The community should be given a decision-making role in schools. Another speaker drew attention to the Education Committee of the UN NGO community “CONGO”, which focused not only on formal, but also on informal education, such as on HIV/AIDS and nutrition.
Noting that information and communication technologies were important for the education of all, the international community was urged to address the digital divide. Technology was at the heart of universal education, one speaker said. There was now an opportunity for currently disadvantaged countries to leapfrog over other countries through better investments in technology. They should focus their investment, however, on learning instead of on school buildings.
The representative of Iraq recalled that during the last half of the 1970s, his country had been successful in eradicating illiteracy. Subsequent events had halted that progress and things had been reversed. Other speakers said in that regard that Iraq’s success could be an example for the rest of the world.
The representative of Venezuela gave examples of inclusion of the excluded in his country, where programmes had been set up to incorporate people in secondary education, parallel with health programmes. Education and health were the basic foundation for development, he said.
Answering questions about UNESCO, Mr. SMITH said he was not aware of decline in investment at the country level for the “Fast Track Initiative” [a global partnership between donor and developing countries to ensure accelerated progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015]. Country spending was increasing. Donors could be convinced that UNESCO was a good steward of the money, and UNESCO had to show funders of the Initiative that money would be used responsibly.
Round Table 6: Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women
The round table was co-hosted by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women and chaired by Nilofar Bakhtiar, Adviser to the Prime Minister and Minister-in-Charge, Ministry of Women Development of Pakistan.
Panellists included Marcela del Mar Suazo Laitano, Minister-in-Charge of the National Institute of Women of Honduras; Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; Debbie Budlender, Principal Researcher, Community Agency for Social Enquiry (South Africa). Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of UNIFEM, moderated the discussion.
Opening the discussion, Ms. MAYANJA noted that at the 2000 Millennium Summit, world leaders had agreed on a new vision of the world, a world in which girls and boys were educated, deadly pandemics were controlled, and better health care for mothers removed the shadow of death and illness. The Summit had signed up a set of tough, but realistic goals. The leaders had identified gender equality as an effective way to combat poverty and stimulate development. Ensuring that women were empowered in all spheres of public life was crucial for making the goals a reality. The Millennium Declaration made a strong case for democratic governance, of which local governance was a critical component. Women’s involvement in local government improved the quality of governance. Women’s entry into local politics challenged prevailing traditional attitudes and stereotypes.
While there had been an increase in women’s political participation at the local level, their actual representation in national and local decision-making remained far lower than it should be, she added. Gender stereotypes and discrimination, limited access to education and resources were the main obstacles to women’s political empowerment. At the international level, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women obligated States parties to take measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all spheres of private and public life. At the national level, the creation of gender sensitive local governance required serious and sustained efforts. Without women’s involvement, successful implementation of all the Millennium Development Goals would suffer. The challenges were great, but the opportunities for progress had never been better.
Ms. HEYZER said the challenge was how to convert the Secretary-General’s vision with what was happening at the local level, or how to use the Millennium Development Goals to bring about a deep transformation of the situation of women. The Secretary-General had identified such issues as violence, inheritance, employment and access to health and reproductive services as vital for achieving the Goals. “Up scaling” existing strategies to ensure movement on the ground was essential in that regard. How to implement the Goals, taking into account local realities, was the challenge. Institutional transformation was another issue. Gaining political space at the local level was crucial in that regard. Gender equality and women’s empowerment was central to linking human rights, human security and human development. At the end of the day, the challenge was to ensure links between global and local.
Sharing a Latin American perspective, Ms. DEL MAR SUAZO LAITANO noted that more than 64 per cent of the people in Honduras lived in poverty, 45 per cent of which lived in extreme poverty. Despite efforts in last 10 years, the number of poor households had increased, as had the number of female-headed households. The precarious situation of female employment was an urgent matter, affecting the standard of living of 72 per cent of poor women. Women’s empowerment did not mean access to education only. In most Latin American countries, while women had increased their school attendance significantly, there had not been a corresponding reduction in women’s inequality.
Further, women required access to opportunities to generate income and take decisions, she said. An electoral law had been passed requiring a 30 per cent minimum of women candidates. A national association for women in politics had also been established. Maternal mortality, family planning, health, and violence were all important issues. While progress had been made, efforts had to be made to make gender equality an issue on the global agenda.
Providing an example of gender budgeting in Uganda, Ms. BUDLENGER said gender budgets were sometimes seen as a panacea. She preferred to see them as tools for reaching the gender equality. Gender budget initiatives started at the local level. Without money, however, gender budgets would make little impact.
Reaching women, a representative of the World Food Programme said, greatly increased the chances of that agency accomplishing its mission. The most powerful investment the world could make in its future was feeding children, especially young girls. Another good investment, a representative of the International Labour Organization said, was statistical monitoring of the impact of globalization on women.
Bringing a European perspective, another participant noted that equality between women and men was a fundamental principle of the European Union. In that regard, the Union had adopted a combination of instruments, legislation and financial instruments. Employment and development cooperation were two other areas on which the Union was focusing.
Summarizing the discussion, Ms. HEYZER said participants had stressed the need to think globally, but act locally. It could not be business as usual. Deep transformations and partnerships were needed in order to act on the programmes that could change women’s lives. Building human capacity, creating opportunities and ensuring political and economic opportunities for women had also been stressed. Turning words into action would require money.
Round Table 7: Environmental Sustainability
It was becoming increasingly evident that sustainable management of the earth’s natural resources underpinned development, both economic and social, stated Benin’s Foreign Minister, ROGATIEN BIAOU, who chaired the round table. Sound environmental management practices impacted everyday life and, more so, in achieving the Millennium Goals.
Linked closely with responsible environmental stewardship, he continued, was the rapid trend towards urbanization and the limitations that cities faced in absorbing large numbers of people. Urban populations already matched rural populations and were growing at an increasingly high rate, especially in the developing countries, where an influx of new urban populations was mostly creating poor settlements and sprawling slums. Target 11 on improving the lives of slum dwellers should not only be seen as a cross-cutting target, but also as a central priority for national and local authorities in cities of the developing world
He added that, as the Millennium Task Force on Environmental Sustainability concluded, environmental sustainability was the foundation on which achieving all other Millennium Development Goals must be built. It was abundantly clear that worsening ecosystems would affect the world’s ability to meet the Millennium Goals, as ecosystems and human well-being and health were very much intertwined.
BRIGITTE GIRARDIN, Minister for Cooperation and Development of France, said sustainable development was essential for development and collective security. The work done on climate change showed the need to act and to establish a full range of measures to tackle environmental loss. In that regard, France had taken the initiative to hold a meeting in Paris to study the conditions for mobilizing a group of experts in the area of biodiversity. That involved eliminating the false opposition between environment and development; they were not opposed to each other.
Environmental degradation, she added, had become an obstacle to development. It was essential to realize that achieving Millennium Goal 7 was crucial not only for the environment, but also for achieving the other Goals. Each State had a responsibility to take into account environmental concerns within its development plans. Also, it was necessary to significantly reinforce international governance of the environment. A more integrated environmental structure, based on existing institutions, was needed. In that regard, she mentioned the creation of a global environment organization.
The Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), AXUMITE GEBRE-EGZIABHER, noted that, today, half of the world’s population lived in urban areas. And most of the growth of the world’s population was taking place in urban areas of the developing countries. Thus, achieving sustainable development was akin to making human settlements sustainable. While the Millennium Goals were global, they could only be achieved through action at the local level. For poverty-reduction programmes to be effective, it was necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals at the local level.
Today, more than 1 billion people lived in slums; some 1.1 billion people lacked access to safe water; and 2.4 billion people lacked access to basic sanitation, she noted. While meeting the slum target posed an arduous challenge for many countries, especially for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, preventing new slum formations, as envisaged in the “cities without slums” initiative, further compounded that challenge. For many developing countries, financial resources were required for slum upgrading and to prevent new slum formations. In response to that need, UN-Habitat had established a slum-upgrading facility. Sustainable development could not be achieved without sustainable urbanization, she added.
Environmental degradation questioned the success of poverty eradication efforts, stated United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. The UNEP’s motto was “environment for development”. Environment was not a luxury; “it was like oxygen breathing life into the Goals”. He also pointed out that it would not be possible to reach the environment/development nexus without fully integrating women. Water was more than taps and toilets, and linked with issues such as integrated water resources management and sanitation. Turning to biodiversity, he noted that, up until now, the majority of biodiversity was protected by the poorest of the poor. What was needed for development, he stated, was not only financial and human capital but also environmental capital.
During the exchange of views, one speaker expressed support for France’s idea for creating a United Nation environment organization to respond to the problems of the environment. She encouraged consideration and actualization of that idea. At the same time, another speaker felt that there was no problem at the moment with coordination or fragmentation.
The point was raised that developing countries had prepared strategies and defined priorities towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In that regard, a delegate wondered how much development partners were prepared to assist developing countries in their endeavours. The international community, noted another speaker, was already in danger of missing some of the targets, especially the short-term ones, set in Johannesburg. Therefore, ECOSOC should convey to the September summit the need to implement the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, which contained clear timetables for targets in some 20 sectors.
Among the other issues raised were the consequences of the “development first, environment later” policy; the benefits of solar cookers as low-cost, environment-friendly technology; mainstreaming environment into Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers; and strengthening references to UN-Habitat in the draft outcome document of the September summit.
Round Table 8: National Strategies to Achieve Millennium Development Goals
Speakers during this round table stressed the need to build on national strategies and existing institutions, processes and traditions in country efforts to attain the Millennium Goals, rather than imposing a common approach based on arbitrary indicators, and the key role the United Nations country teams could play.
Participants underscored the unique development perspectives of individual countries, and the need to find mechanisms suiting those conditions, while at the same time mobilizing support at the global level. In supporting national strategies, the international community must leave ideological theories behind and respect the diversity of country approaches in strengthening institutional frameworks, they said.
One speaker noted the current turnaround in development financing, which would increase by $40 billion to $50 billion over the next four to five years. The question was how to underpin that additional financing with the needed political and moral support to make proper use of it and make progress on the Millennium Goals. In translating that figure into available resources and needed projects, each nation’s particular circumstances must be considered.
It was a choice of which “quick-win” was most relevant for each country, another pointed out, and that decision should be made by nations themselves, without donor interference. If development aid was scaled up, however, especially if some of it went to sectors previously funded out of developing country budgets -- education or health, for example -- nations would need assurances that expenditures would be met before making long-term commitments. Speakers also highlighted the need to independently monitor donor relationships and aid effectiveness in each developing country, with the United Nations playing a key role in providing technical expertise.
Some participants agreed that national strategies should be the priority, but noted that donors had to be accountable and could have difficulties adjusting to each country’s needs. Donors had standard operating procedures that they could not easily give up for national strategies, and must create more flexibility in their own operations. Developing country recipients, for their part, must work to improve their national strategies in convincing donors that theirs was the best way to achieve the Goals.
Other speakers questioned the feasibility of multi-year donor involvement in specific projects, since democratic countries elected new governments every four to five years and plans were changed to suit the new leaders. Several also stressed the need for increased resources to carry out project on three-year poverty reduction strategy papers.
Still others pointed out that all developing countries were struggling to attain the Millennium Goals, but that the entire debate had become very Afrocentric. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, had 14 least developed countries, 12 landlocked developing countries, and 16 small island developing States, all of which had their own individual resource and project needs.
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