10 October 2007
General Assembly
GA/EF/3180

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Second Committee

6th Meeting (AM)


members of Second Committee call for urgent attention to global warming,


environmental damage as general debate concludes

 


The devastating effects of climate change had already wreaked havoc in some developing countries, and the web of issues that caused global warming and environmental damage needed urgent attention in the race to reduce poverty, achieve sustainable development and meet the Millennium Development Goals, several speakers said this morning as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) concluded its general debate.


Guyana’s representative said climate change directly impacted his country’s efforts to attain higher living standards for all its citizens.  It also posed a serious threat to the poverty reduction and sustainable development efforts of small island developing States and low-lying coastal States, even as it exacerbated their vulnerability.  The momentum to address climate change must not only lead to more pragmatic, ambitious goals for the forthcoming Bali negotiations and for a post-Kyoto regime supportive of developing countries’ efforts, but it must also raise international consciousness of the realities of achieving sustainable development, particularly the Millennium Development Goals.


Paraguay’s delegate said climate change had increasingly devastating results, noting that his country was experiencing longer droughts, more forest fires and desertification, all of which were harmful to agro-industry.  Biofuels were a promising renewable energy source for agro-industry, which currently depended on high-priced imported petroleum.  Far from threatening national food production, Paraguay’s biofuel development programme had spurred the growth of agricultural exports, reducing the country’s reliance on external financing for development.


Mauritania’s representative said Africa had been hard hit by severe economic, health and environmental problems, all related to climate change, with desertification posing a particularly difficult challenge to some countries.  Climate change commitments must be translated into actions that went beyond debt cancellation.


Sri Lanka’s delegate added that the recent High-Level Event on Climate Change had shown how the world could work together in tackling pressing issues, and stressed that developing countries should now be given the ability and assistance to achieve their development goals while protecting the environment.


Lebanon’s representative cited climate change as a concrete example of the “tragedy of inaction”, and called on Member States to join in a concerted response to it, for the common good.


Other speakers today were the representatives of Syria, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Israel, Namibia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nigeria, San Marino, Nepal, Malawi, Myanmar, Yemen, United Republic of Tanzania and Congo.


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Syria.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday 15 October to begin its consideration of macroeconomic policy questions.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its general debate.


Statements


BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said his country’s economy had undergone a transformation in the last seven years.  The Government had put in place reforms and policies that had enabled it to make major strides towards achieving the internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals, in the areas of education, health, the environment and other aspects of socio-economic development.


He said the continued Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan had harmed the labour force, and occupation authorities continued to exploit the natural resources in that area, depriving Syrian landowners of their rights and causing serious environmental deterioration in the Golan.  Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, was also harmful to local populations and the environment.  Syria urged all members of the Second Committee to vote in favour of this year’s resolution calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of Arab lands.


Recalling that Syria had submitted an official request to join the World Trade Organization in October 2001, he said the application had not been considered to date, despite a reaffirmation of the request.  Regarding political coercion, the United States had forced a number of restrictions on the importation of certain commodities and on some Syrian banks.  The Syrian economy was under tremendous pressure due to instability caused by the United States occupation of Iraq.  More than 1.5 million Iraqi refugees had flooded into Syria, a situation that had strained the country’s socio-economic resources and led to an increase in real estate prices.  It was unacceptable that Syria should bear the burden alone.  The occupation of Iraq affected Syria’s economy as well as the world economy.


Noting that Israel intended to submit a draft resolution on agriculture and technology during the Committee’s current session, he said that country had a bad reputation for bulldozing and ploughing up lands, building a racist wall and other unlawful measures.  Israel should not submit such a draft since all it had contributed was its own aggression.


KANIKA PHOMMACHANH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that even though globalization offered opportunities for economic development, many developing countries were marginalized due to weak economic growth rates and dire records of social development.  Least developed countries and landlocked developing countries needed stronger support to eradicate poverty through the timely and effective implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action and the Almaty Programme of Action.


She said increased support must be forthcoming through the World Trade Organization’s existing arrangements, including aid for trade, to ensure active participation by least developed countries and landlocked developing countries in the international trading system.  Financing for development remained a prerequisite for the advancement of developing countries, she said.  Financial and technical assistance was required to build adaptive capacity and acquire appropriate technologies to cope with climate change challenges.  For its part, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and would do its best to work towards meeting development challenges.


PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said globalization’s benefits had largely bypassed developing countries, and the widening rich-poor gap had been exacerbated by high inflation and a lack of investment flows.  Economic progress in lower middle-income countries like Sri Lanka was affected by the lack of predictable market access on concessionary terms.  To remedy that, the international community must explore avenues to provide special and differentiated trade and market concessions.


He said the recent High-Level Event on Climate Change had shown how the world could work together to tackle pressing issues.  Developing countries needed to be given the ability and assistance to achieve their development goals while protecting the environment.  Sri Lanka had already succeeded in advancing towards some Millennium Goals, including the elimination of gender disparity in primary and junior secondary education, and the reduction of child and maternal mortality.  With initiatives on rural development and national infrastructure development, and a 10 year development vision, the country aimed to meet those challenges by 2015.  But to accomplish that, the United Nations system and donors must ensure that project funds were spent on delivery and not on overhead costs.


ILAN FLUSS ( Israel) said the Monterrey Consensus provided an important road map towards poverty elimination and the consolidation of economic independence for all nations.  Israel hoped for a successful conclusion to the Doha trade negotiations in 2008, and that the forthcoming High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development would identify obstacles and constraints to development.  The recent High-Level Event on Climate Change had provided excellent opportunities for discussions on how the world could tackle global issues.


Israel had increased its own contributions to development, having focused on technology transfer and technical cooperation as a way to meet the Millennium Goals, he said.  With like-minded partners, the country looked forward to collaborating on sustainable development issues, including agriculture, water, renewable energy and natural resources.  Gaining insight into the issues and connections linking agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa was fundamental to achieving the Millennium Goals.


In conclusion, he underscored the importance of professionalism and honouring the Committee’s working methods, particularly by refraining from politicizing the proceedings and singling out Member States for political criticism or condemnation.


KAIRE MUNIONGANDA MBUENDE ( Namibia) said there had been significant economic growth in the developing world and in Africa particularly.  African economies would grow an average 6 per cent in 2007, but that was below the 7 per cent target required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, according to the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  Namibia’s economy had grown only 4.6 per cent in 2006.


Africa had not only failed to reach the growth target that would enable it to reach the Millennium Development Goals, it had also failed to create jobs in the process, he said, noting that growth without job creation had little impact on poverty reduction.  As economic growth increased, so did demand for energy, which meant that much needed financial resources would be diverted to buy energy.  Namibia was also concerned over the impasse in the Doha Development Round, which had negatively impacted development, the fight against poverty and the “Aid for Trade” initiatives.  Doha must deliver on its development promises.


The current financial volatility was a reminder of the need to address imbalances in the global financial system, he continued.  Reform must result in a greater voice and participation by developing countries on an equal footing.  International financial institutions could not continue to be clubs of the rich in terms of decision-making and policy formulation while their services were expected to benefit the poor.  Two years on, little progress had been made in delivering on official development assistance (ODA) promises.  Aid was declining after implementation of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, and any increases were due largely to debt cancellation as part of ODA.


Studies had concluded that more than 40 per cent of people living on less than $1 daily lived in middle-income countries, he said.  The poverty reduction efforts of those countries needed international support, and Namibia called on the United Nations to take a leadership role in that regard by developing an efficient, credible institutional framework as well as improving countries’ financial stability.


SONG SE IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) expressed regret that despite their efforts, several countries were far from achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The gap between North and South, rich and poor, was ever-widening as most developing countries became poorer and further marginalized in international economic relations, while suffering from serious environmental degradation and natural disasters.


Worse still, unilateral and coercive economic embargoes and blockades against sovereign States continued unabated and were even justified openly under the pretext of anti-terrorism and human rights protection measures, he said.  Member States, particularly developed countries, must display political will and make joint efforts to restructure the current unfair system.  The protectionist trading system, characterized by huge export subsidies, anti-dumping tariffs and other measures, was a major obstacle to the efforts of developing countries towards development and international market access.  It must be replaced with a fair system in which developed and developing countries could both prosper.


Economic development and capacity varied from country to country, he continued, and no single model for sustainable development was universally applicable.  It was necessary to ensure that international assistance made real contributions to enhancing capacity-building in developing countries while observing respect for national development strategies and policies.  Practical measures such as financing for development and resolving external debt were also essential.  There was a need to end unilateral and coercive economic measures, which impeded development and violated the sovereignty of developing countries.


Noting that climate change and environmental destruction were emerging as the biggest obstacles to sustainable development, he said their consequences would be disastrous if the world remained indifferent.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also drew attention to attempts by certain countries to use the assistance of United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as an instrument for applying political pressure.  That practice should be rejected.


AMINU BASHIR WALI ( Nigeria) said a lack of commitment to promises made, as well as climate change challenges, had hobbled development efforts and must be addressed.  There was a need to support reform of the United Nations so as to enhance the Organization’s efforts to provide assistance to developing countries.  The Commission on Sustainable Development was the fulcrum of development efforts, and international support was needed for technical assistance and access to clean technology, among other things.


Links between trade and development were undeniable, and Nigeria supported the Doha Round, he said, stressing the need for equitable multilateral trade that could develop economic growth.  The removal of subsidies by developed countries would provide better market access to the developing world.  Nigeria called for the speedy implementation of the Paris agreement to heighten lagging ODA so that developing countries could meet the Millennium Goals, and urged donors to double assistance to Africa by 2010.  Reducing, cancelling or writing off debt would free up resources for development.


DANIELE BODINI ( San Marino) welcomed the speech by Edmund Phelps during the opening of the session, noting that periodic participation by high-level experts helped create a more meaningful discussion of the Committee’s work.  Climate change was not only a main theme of the General Assembly, but it had also attracted the attention of world leaders.  It was important to make good use of the precious political momentum that had developed to address climate change and extreme emergencies.


The challenge before the Committee was to push the climate change discussion forward and produce background materials for the forthcoming Bali conference, he said, adding that it was also important to promote new technologies and renewable energy sources.  Efforts to address climate change should include tax incentives by public institutions and direct investment to stimulate the involvement of the private sector and civil society.


Climate change remained a major obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, he said, stressing his country’s firm commitment to addressing it.  San Marino was ready to offer its own contribution, believing as it did in the importance of global, national and local cooperation, as well public-private partnerships in mitigating negative impacts.  The activities of the Bretton Woods institutions should be better coordinated with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council so that clear guidelines and practices could be maintained throughout the United Nations system.  The Committee’s work must be rationalized in a more dynamic manner.


MADHUBAN PRASAD PAUDEL ( Nepal) said poverty eradication and sustainable development remained the international community’s central concerns, and that despite advances in globalization, developing countries had not reaped its benefits.  To change that, more assistance from the international community should focus on the application of science and technology to stimulate sustained growth, duty-free and quota-free market access for developing countries, and improving infrastructure.  Nepal hoped that the momentum generated at the High-Level Event on Climate Change would trigger long-binding commitments beyond the Kyoto Protocol.


Concerted efforts were needed to meet the special needs and difficulties facing landlocked developing countries, least developed countries, mountain regions, and countries emerging from conflict, he said.  Working as it was through a peacebuilding process, Nepal was aware that the promotion of good governance, social justice and inclusive economic development was vital to sustained peace and prosperity.  Nepal had implemented its tenth five-year plan and formulated a poverty reduction strategy paper.  But, the success of national initiatives would depend upon the availability and effective mobilization of resources and continued support from development partners.


STEVE MATENJE ( Malawi) said it was crucial, particularly for developing countries, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and stressed the importance of science and technology in promoting sound economic growth and development in all countries, rich and poor.  Advances in science and technology continued to widen the digital divide between developed and developing countries, and Malawi called upon the Committee to consider that topic comprehensively and reach a conclusion on reducing the gap and eliminating undue obstacles erected by the international property regime.  That meant providing essential, affordable public services in least developed countries, such as medical treatment, a conducive learning environment and the development of local technologies based on existing patents.  Knowledge-based development was the basic ingredient for poverty reduction in developing countries.


Turning to climate change, he expressed hope that the Committee would unanimously call upon developed countries to help developing countries with appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures by providing them with relevant climate-friendly technologies.  Malawi called on the Committee to comprehensively address debt relief, ODA, foreign direct investment (FDI) and the development of international trade -- all of which were essential for economic development in least developed countries.  The Committee should seek agreements that would help poor countries engage in equitable international trade and enable them to generate resources for poverty reduction instead of relying on handouts.  The major trading countries should show flexibility and the political will to complete the Doha Round negotiations in a manner favourable to developing countries.  


U THAN TUN (Myanmar) said a much more favourable international economic environment, enhanced international assistance and a more equitable and development-oriented multilateral trading system were needed if the 2015 target date for attaining the Millennium Development Goals was to be met.  Myanmar welcomed the forthcoming High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in the hope that it would strengthen the global partnership and push forward the existing international development agenda.


For its part, Myanmar had been implementing a national development plan to accelerate growth, achieve equitable and balanced development and reduce the socio-economic development gaps between the rural and urban areas, he said.  Progress had been made in the health, education and infrastructure fields, with some Millennium Goals having already been met or exceeded.  Greater efforts would be made to reach more Goals by 2015.


Describing underdevelopment, deprivation and poverty as the root causes of environmental degradation, he said solving them was an important climate change challenge.  Myanmar looked forward to a successful conclusion of the thirteenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the third Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.


AWSAN ABDULLAH AHMED AL-AUD ( Yemen) said it was important to address the issues of concern to least developed countries.  They faced tremendous challenges in implementing national strategies to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development given their lack of material, technical and logistical support.  Yemen was making tremendous efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals.  They had been incorporated into the country’s 2006-2011 National Plan, aimed at eradicating poverty and promoting microdevelopment projects, technical education for women and investment.


The implementation of such projects required sufficient financial resources and increased foreign assistance, he said, noting that the role of ODA per capita was only $13 annually in Yemen, much lower than in other countries, where it could reach $33 annually.   Yemen reaffirmed the need for international partners to meet their pledges to earmark 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for ODA.  Similarly, they should cancel external debt and allow that money to be spent on development projects instead.  Further, they should open their markets to imports from the developing world and provide tax relief.


Reaffirming the need to implement the decisions made during the 2005 World Summit and the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, he stressed that the world must move from words to action.  Yemen supported the high-level review on financing for development to be held next year in Doha.  It was important that the major conferences explore the degree of implementation of previous commitments and look at other financing sources.  Yemen had suffered from climate change due to the natural disasters that had struck last year.  It was essential to address global climate concerns for the benefit of the international community, particularly developing countries.


ABDERRAHIM OULD HADRAMI ( Mauritania) said climate change commitments must be translated into action.  The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was just one of the crucial steps needed to address climate change, and the world needed to act now in order to avoid its harmful affects.  Africa had been hard hit by severe economic, health and environmental problems, all related to climate change, with desertification posing a particularly difficult challenge to some countries.


Finding solutions was imperative, but the cancellation of poor countries’ debt would not be enough, he said.  Mauritania called on developed countries to open their markets to goods from the developing world in order to “level the playing field”.  By providing greater market access, the international community would also be helping developing countries in their efforts to join the World Trade Organization.  For its part, Mauritania had worked to provide an investment environment, and had also been working on a development plan with the World Bank.


GEORGE TALBOT ( Guyana) said climate change directly impacted his country’s efforts to attain a higher standard of living for all its citizens.  Small island developing States and low-lying coastal States were already being affected by climate change.  That phenomenon clearly posed a serious threat to poverty reduction and sustainable development efforts, besides exacerbating the vulnerability of those countries.


He said small island developing States had to grapple with the faster-than-anticipated erosion of preferences for traditional exports, as demonstrated by the recent unilateral renunciation of the ACP-EU (African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union) Sugar Protocol, limited institutional capacity, rising crime and security breaches, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, escalating debt loads, migration and associated brain drain, and increased environmental susceptibility.  The momentum to address climate change must not only lead to more pragmatic, ambitious goals for the Bali negotiations and a post-Kyoto regime supportive of developing countries’ efforts.  It must also raise international consciousness of the realities of achieving sustainable development, particularly the Millennium Development Goals.


During last month’s High-Level Event on Climate Change, the President of Guyana had called for recognition of the contribution of standing forests to carbon sequestration; an urgent change to arrangements that discouraged forest conservation and protection; the development of financial schemes to adequately compensate and give incentives for maintaining standing forests through conservation and sustainable use; and the provision of increased and easily accessible financial resources, capacity building and climate change mitigation.  The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism had proven ineffectual thus far.


Turning to trade, he said a successful conclusion of the Doha Round could generate more resources for development, ranging from $250 billion to $400 billion annually.  Developed countries continued to propagate the thesis that free trade would guarantee prosperity for all, but the reality was that countries like Guyana could not compete successfully in fully liberalized markets unless they were helped to make a gradual transition.


HASSAN SALEH ( Lebanon) said the global economy faced daunting challenges, aggravated by the slow implementation of internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Goals.  Developed countries must honour their commitments to remedy lagging ODA, and implement debt cancellation, debt relief and restructuring for heavily indebted poor countries.  Climate change was a concrete example of the tragedy of inaction, and Member States must join efforts to form a concerted response to its challenges for the common good.


He said his country anticipated the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review negotiations to bolster development.  Lebanon supported the establishment of the Development Cooperation Forum and the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council.  It also supported aid for trade and reform of the Bretton Woods institutions, which should increase participation by developing countries in decision-making and norm-setting.


The international community should pay more attention to the dire economic, social and humanitarian situation of people who were falling or had fallen under foreign occupation, he said, calling for recognition of its impact on sustainable development.


JUAN BUFFA ( Paraguay) said the lack of progress in concluding the Doha Trade Round was a real obstacle for developing countries.   Landlocked developing countries suffered not only from the lack of openness of international markets, but they also had to bear the cost of transporting goods through maritime ports in transit countries in order to export them to outside markets.  While Paraguay had many natural resources and excellent agricultural lands, the difficulties created by protectionist tariffs thwarted its progress towards the industrialization of primary products in order to give them added value.


Despite that, the country had increased the production and quality of national basic products, he said.  A true opening of international markets and the elimination of agricultural subsidies would alleviate the plight of developing countries and their dependence on ODA, enabling them to participate as equal partners in the international market to everyone’s benefit.  Paraguay supported the Fund for Structural Convergence of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), which aimed to improve production and transport infrastructure in the region’s smaller economies.


Citing the increasingly devastating results of climate change, he said his country was experiencing longer droughts, more forest fires and desertification, all of which were harming agro-industry.  Paraguay was stepping up its efforts to expand principal crops like sugarcane, used to make ethanol for car fuel and thus reduce fossil fuel usage.  The country was also producing biofuel for industrial machinery and cargo trucks.  Biofuels were a promising source of renewable energy for agro-industry, which currently depended on high-priced imported petroleum.  Far from threatening national food production, the biofuel development programme had spurred the growth of agricultural exports and reduced Paraguay’s reliance on external financing for development.


MODEST MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country suffered from a limited capacity to mobilize domestic and external resources for development, supply-side constraints, inadequate infrastructure, poor terms of trade and an HIV/AIDS pandemic, all of which impeded its development efforts.  However, the country’s 2005 Millennium Development Goals Report showed some progress over the last few years towards reaching the Millennium targets.  Primary education enrolment was now 96 per cent and strides had also been made towards gender parity in education and political representation.  But, the country lagged behind the targets in health, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.  Maternal mortality stood at 578 deaths per 100,000 births, although infant mortality had dropped from 95 deaths per 1,000 births in 2000 to 68 deaths per 1,000 births in 2005.  Further, the country was making good progress towards providing a clean water supply in rural areas.


Despite its strong economic performance in recent years due to a sound macroeconomic policy framework, the United Republic of Tanzania’s progress on structural reforms and substantial private sector involvement, coupled with debt relief under the HIPC Debt Initiative and other initiatives, an unsustainable debt burden continued to thwart development efforts.  The current debt obligation had stood at 16 per cent of gross domestic product at the end of 2006, but it would be impossible to reduce it further in the foreseeable future due to the technicalities involved.  Cancelling the external debt of least developed countries would free up resources for poverty reduction and development.


Turning to climate change, he said the United Republic of Tanzania had been hit by frequent severe droughts and floods, though the country was working to adapt and mitigate their impact.  An early conclusion of negotiations on the post-2012 Kyoto regime was essential.  The United Republic of Tanzania supported efforts to develop alternative energy sources and energy efficiency.


RAPHAËL MABOUNDOU ( Congo) said a polarized world had driven a wider gap between developed and developing countries, and measures were needed to narrow those differences.  International financing and development, the bolstering of information and communications technologies, and financing for development were among the central issues that must be addressed.  Poverty eradication and tackling climate change challenges were also priorities.


Developing countries must be included in international trade on an equal level so they could enjoy the fruits of economic growth, he said.  Congo had submitted details of its trade policy to the World Trade Organization and, in keeping with the Monterrey Consensus, had engaged in reforms.  The country supported the focus of the United Nations on sustainable development, climate change, debt relief and poverty eradication, all issues that the Second Committee would be considering.  Congo supported the recent High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change, which President Denis Sassou-Nguesso had attended to raise interest in the Congo Basin, the world’s second ecological “lung” after the Amazon region.


Right of Reply


The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said his country had always emphasized the importance of not politicizing economic issues.  The statement by Israel’s representative reflected policies that tried to stifle the efforts of countries attempting to achieve sustainable growth.  Foreign occupation was not compatible with economic growth, but worked against it.


Recently, Israel had confiscated 100 hectares of Arab lands in East Jerusalem, he said.  It had prohibited Arab farmers from marketing their crops, and imposed high taxes on their crops in Israeli markets.  Israel had also forced Syrian farmers to leave their lands so that occupation farmers could take over.  Israel’s leaders must be held to account for their occupation practices.


Emphasizing that the separation wall that Israel had built must be torn down, he said the Human Rights Council had held several extraordinary sessions on that country’s illegal occupation of Arab lands.  Were not the Israeli authorities’ practices destroying all the efforts of Syria and Palestine to achieve sustainable development and exercise their right to development?


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