6 October 2008
Deputy Secretary-General

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




Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Second Committee of the General Assembly in New York, today, 6 October:

I am pleased to be with you today at the opening session of the Second Committee of the sixty-third session of the General Assembly.

Madam Chair, I would like to congratulate you on your election.  I am confident that you will successfully guide the work of the Committee.  I am also confident you will enjoy strong support from Committee members and members of the newly elected Bureau, whom I also congratulate.

You meet at a time of financial turmoil.  The global financial crisis is having an increasing impact on all economies.  A growing number of developing countries are suffering from weakening demand from the major developed economies.  Some are also experiencing financial distress, particularly those with current account deficits and a heavy dependence on external financing.

This vicious cycle -- this terrible commingling of credit crunch, declining investor confidence and asset deflation -- is likely to drag down the world economy.

Moreover, the financial crisis only exacerbates the hardship already being caused by higher prices of food and energy, especially in low-income countries, fomenting social and political unease.  Despite the recent announcement by the World Bank that considerable progress has been made in reducing poverty and hunger, our work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals is clearly at risk.

We must do our utmost to avert a recession, including through stimulus packages and measures to stabilize financial and foreign exchange markets.  There is also need for extensive reforms in our mechanisms of international financial regulation and supervision.

The upcoming Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development is an opportunity to address the systemic weaknesses exposed by today’s turbulence.  We must also use Doha to address other important issues, including international tax cooperation, innovative sources of financing, debt sustainability, aid effectiveness and other elements of the Monterrey Consensus.

Achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 continues to be our major development challenge.  While much progress has been made, it has been uneven.  And global partners have yet to deliver fully on their commitments, as pointed out by the MDG Gap Task Force report issued last month.

Still, we can achieve the Goals by 2015.  The High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals has given us new political impetus -– and most of all, concrete initiatives and commitments -– to start bridging some of the implementation gaps.  Our action should now focus on following up on these pledges so that more progress is achieved. 

As you have rightly said, Madam Chair, let’s make sure the financial crisis does not divert our efforts. 

The 2010 MDG review conference proposed by the Secretary-General, which the President of the General Assembly has undertaken to organize, could certainly help advance this objective.

Africa remains the region with the greatest challenges ahead, particularly against the backdrop of much higher food and energy prices and climate change.  We have seen some promising results, such as the reduction in Africa’s official debt.  But commitments remain only partially realized.

The MDG Africa Steering Group estimates that it will cost about $72 billion per year in external financing to achieve the Goals in Africa by 2015.  So we still need to increase ODA [official development assistance], better coordinate aid, reduce agricultural subsidies in developed countries and invest much more in infrastructure.

If we are to take away any lesson from the multiple crises we face, it is that delaying action only makes matters worse.  We cannot put off investments in increasing agricultural productivity.  We cannot put off mitigation and adaptation on climate change.  The assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make this very clear.

What will it take for the world to act on these long-term solutions?  High-level political engagement is essential.  But so, too, is the involvement of people:  the moral suasion brought to bear by citizens on their Governments to tackle the problems with the urgency they demand.

I wish to assure you that, at this critical juncture, the Secretary-General and I are fully committed to strengthening the development pillar of the Organization.  Towards this end, we hope to see action by the General Assembly on the Secretary-General’s proposal, in document A/62/708, during this session. 

We also look forward to continue working with you to fully mobilize the United Nations system and our partners in order to advance the development agenda and meet the needs of the world’s poorest.

I am confident, Madam Chair, that your Committee’s deliberations in the coming weeks will reinvigorate our shared determination to succeed in that task.

I wish you a very successful session.  Thank you for your kind attention.

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For information media • not an official record