18 April 2000


Press Release
SG/SM/7363
ECOSOC/5887



‘SHAMEFUL’ TO EXCLUDE PART OF HUMANITY FROM GLOBALIZATION’S BENEFITS, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ADDRESS TO HEADQUARTERS MEETING

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Following is the address of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the special high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods institutions on 18 April:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome our colleagues from the Bretton Woods institutions.

I have worked very closely with Jim Wolfensohn over the last few years. I am sorry he cannot be with us today, but I warmly welcome Sven Sandstrom and the other colleagues from the World Bank -- and I look forward to seeing Jim again next week at the World Education Forum in Dakar.

I also look forward to meeting the new Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Horst Koehler, soon after he takes office on the first of May. I expect to have a similarly close working relationship with him as I had with Michel Camdessus, his predecessor. Meanwhile, I am very pleased to welcome Stanley Fischer, a colleague whom we all know and hold in high regard.

Never has it been clearer that we, the peoples and nations of the world, and the institutions created to serve them, are engaged on a common mission. In my Millennium Report, I tried to set out the priorities which impose themselves on anyone contemplating the current state of the human family. I would like to speak today about the main points I made in the economic and social domain. I do so because I know that the chance of achieving our goals will be much greater if there is clearer understanding and close cooperation between our institutions.

I start from the proposition that, in an age when globalization and new technology are bringing hitherto unimaginable benefits to one part of humankind, it is shameful and unacceptable that another part -- and by most reckonings the larger part -- remains excluded from those benefits, subjected to a life of grinding poverty often accompanied by malnutrition and disease. I think we all recognize our duty to change this state of affairs, and more importantly our interest in doing so. What is still not sufficiently understood, however, is that change is within our grasp.

In the report, I propose a target of reducing by half, before the year 2015, the proportion of people in the world living on one dollar a day or less. Some people think that is wildly unrealistic. Others deplore its timidity, since even if we achieve it there would still be 600 million people living in abject poverty.

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In truth, this is an optimistic objective. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, it could be achieved only with an economic growth rate of between 7 and 10 per cent in each of the next 15 years -- far above any that the region has managed so far. And yet, the policies needed for it to happen are pretty clear.

They must be policies that will lead to sustained growth, because all the evidence shows a strong correlation between economic growth and the incomes of the poor.

They must be policies which encourage private investment; which create job opportunities, especially for the young; which harness the power of the new information technologies; and which improve the effectiveness and transparency of governments themselves.

There must be steps to end war. There is nothing more inimical to growth, nothing more calculated to perpetuate and aggravate poverty, than armed conflict. We have to break the vicious circle and replace it with a virtuous one.

In addition, governments -- especially, but not only, those in sub-Saharan Africa -- must face up to the mind-numbing devastation which HIV/AIDS is wreaking on their economies and societies.

Above all, we must invest in education. I have urged Member States to endorse the target of universal primary school enrolment by 2015. The most difficult -- but also the most important -- part of that task will be closing the gender gap. More than 110 million children worldwide are not in school. That is bad enough. Two thirds of them are girls. Families must be persuaded that schooling for their daughters is every bit as valuable as schooling for their sons.

Next week at the World Education Forum in Dakar, I shall launch a new United Nations initiative, "Educate Girls Now". This is an open partnership of more than a dozen entities in the United Nations system -- including, I am pleased to say, the World Bank. I urge you all to give it your strongest possible support.

At this stage it may sound as though we are expecting developing countries to do all the hard work themselves. It is true that no country is likely to fully join the new global economy unless its government and people wholeheartedly apply themselves to that task. But to suggest that they can do it alone would be a contradiction in terms. The essence of a market is that people must be free to sell as well as to buy, and that is as true for the global economy as any other.

Only if they are given full and free market access for their products can developing countries attract the investment they need to achieve high growth and trade their way out of poverty.

Only if they are freed from the shackles of debt repayment and debt servicing can the poorest countries devote an appropriate share of their revenue to anti-poverty programmes.

And only with generous financial assistance from the industrialized world can countries that have worked hard to reform their economies provide their poorer citizens with the basic social services they so desperately need.

Countries that really are attacking poverty deserve help. Countries that are taking steps towards good governance merit support. They also need an international economic and financial system that responds to their development needs. This is at once a moral imperative and a common interest for the entire world.

My Millennium Report has sought to mobilize the world's energy around a common, achievable agenda. Finance and development ministers have a crucial role to play, especially as we continue intensive consultations on a high-level intergovernmental financing for development event to be held next year. Finance ministers in particular cannot afford to look after their portfolios in a narrowly defined way. Your work today encompasses a broad canvas; you are not being asked simply to fund this or that programme or need, but to help find solutions.

Many of you have just been to Washington, and the annual meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions. Not that you needed any reminders, but no doubt you witnessed the ongoing vehemence with which people are debating the merits and demerits of globalization, making demands on our organizations and telling us that we must do more, and do it better.

We need to turn this unease, this ferment, this confrontational energy, into something constructive -- into something that benefits all people and which all people can support.

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