15 December 2008
Deputy Secretary-General

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




Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the General Assembly meeting on the “follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit:  specific meeting focused on development” in New York, 15 December:

We gather at a time when the world’s people face multiple crises involving food, fuel and finance.  These crises threaten to upset poverty reduction efforts and our development objectives.  Therefore, this year’s meeting of the General Assembly on development takes on special significance.

The expected recessions in most developed economies are likely to slow the robust growth experienced by developing countries during the past five years.  There is already evidence that the financial crisis is proving contagious, as exports from, and remittance flows into, many developing countries are diminishing.

Moreover, the slow-down in developing countries is coming before many of them have had a chance to recover from the shocks of food and fuel price hikes of 2007 and 2008.  The prospects for the least developed countries are deteriorating rapidly.

Even as we grapple with the causes and consequences of these crises, the threat of climate change is also upon us.  Our immediate efforts to manage the impacts of recent crises must not deflect our attention from tackling this challenging problem.  The international community must work together simultaneously on poverty, hunger, disease and finding an acceptable path of sustainable development.

Poverty eradication is a top priority.  Lack of progress in achieving this goal could undermine efforts to realize other Millennium Development Goals.  We have made some progress, but the latest data show that much more needs to be done. 

Creating jobs and accomplishing the goal of decent work for all are crucial targets.  According to the International Labour Organization, more than 20 million people are likely to lose their jobs because of the current crisis.

In the area of health, though slow, significant progress has been made in reducing child mortality.  However, major differences remain between the regions.

Gains in the treatment and prevention of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria need to be sustained.  There has been little movement on maternal and newborn mortality.  The strengthening of health systems remain a challenge.

We have also made some gains in establishing sustainable development as a primary objective of development strategies.  The challenges posed by climate change are being acknowledged widely.  There is now a growing recognition that development is not attainable if it is not sustainable.

Thus, we face heightened challenges as progress slows.  We must act decisively to stop any further reversals.

We know that people and countries plagued by poverty will be hit hardest by the crisis.  This is why aid flows have to be sheltered from its impact. 

Some important steps have been undertaken to strengthen international development cooperation.  But there is a growing fear of setbacks if the recessions in developed countries deepen.

The commitments to increase the volume of official development assistance and increase its quality and impact, reiterated by the Doha conference just a couple of weeks ago, must be honoured.  The Doha Review conference has resulted in a firm recommitment to the global partnership for development.

A successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade negotiations is essential.  Doha should give new impetus to efforts to realize the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], but it must not erode the developing countries’ policy space.  A new trade agreement must ensure that poor countries have access to cheaper drugs to fight against deadly diseases, such as AIDS.  They must also have access to cleaner technologies that will enable them to develop without aggravating climate change.

In times of crisis, global solidarity is vital.  I was heartened by the display of political will and pledges of support at last September’s high-level event on the MDGs.  The United Nations must continue to mobilize all its mechanisms to maintain and enhance progress towards development.  I would like to stress the important role played by the Economic and Social Council in this regard.

The United Nations Development Cooperation Forum, convened by the Council, for the first time last July demonstrated its potential role in promoting mutual accountability on aid issues.  In the current crisis, the Forum can also work towards more effective approaches to development cooperation.  Moreover, it is well placed to forge greater coherence between aid policies and other development-related policies, such as trade policies and those that aim to promote investment and other resource flows. 

The Council’s Annual Ministerial Reviews are also important for their ability to facilitate exchanges of information and lessons learned.  They have paved the way towards mutual accountability in the fulfilment of international commitments in development cooperation and aid assistance. 

These new functions can enhance collaboration, cooperation and coherence within and beyond the United Nations system in the area of development. 

The financial crisis has made it clear that our destinies are deeply interconnected.  We have to work together to ensure that our gains are not lost.  The global mobilization behind the Millennium Development Goals has been inspiring.  Let us not go back on the promises made.  This is a time to come together.  We should use every opportunity in 2009 to ensure that these trying times do not distract us from our commonly shared goals, particularly the goal of pursuing peace and prosperity for all.

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For information media • not an official record