|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2008 Substantive Session
15th Meeting (PM)
CALLS FOR CONCRETE ACTION TO ADDRESS PROBLEMS AFFLICTING INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM
MARK OPENING OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL’S 2008 GENERAL DEBATE
Confronted by multiple and mutually reinforcing international crises afflicting the food, energy and finance sectors, while shaking international confidence in the very institutions created to provide policy advice on global issues, the Economic and Social Council today opened its general debate amid calls for concrete measures to address the systemic problems that had led the world into such a state.
Council President Léo Mérorès of Haiti said that 2008 marked a turning point in that the high-level segment would serve as a framework for the newly formed Annual Ministerial Review, which would assess progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and the Development Cooperation Forum, which would position the Council as the principal platform for global dialogue.
He said the 54-member Council would address new challenges of a global magnitude under the theme “Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development, taking into account current challenges”. Delegates would have the opportunity to discuss such issues as the bleak state of the global economy, rising food and energy prices, adaptation to climate change and the need for a “renaissance” in agriculture and rural development.
Picking up that thread, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, emphasized that today’s crises had arisen amid the structural challenges of widespread poverty, growing inequity and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Given that confluence of circumstances, the Council should methodically review progress in the implementation of various agreements and commitments. Similarly, the Development Cooperation Forum should highlight that national development strategies and the mobilization of domestic resources would not be sufficient for developing countries to achieve sustainable development.
To advance the involvement of all stakeholders and demonstrate the Council’s ability to be proactive, he said, the current session should, among other things, call attention to the deleterious impact of incoherent global trade policies on development prospects and urge developed countries to work for the successful conclusion of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations.
Striking a similar chord, the Senior Minister for Foreign Relations of Honduras, speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, expressed concern at the speculative nature of the rise in oil prices, and urged the General Assembly to convene a special session to discuss the causes of the spike, while attempting to restore price stability.
The representative of Australia, speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said there was no doubt that a response to climate change could positively affect other environmental challenges such as desertification and access to fresh water. While a variety of multilateral agreements had been negotiated, air pollution, deforestation and loss of biodiversity continued. Negotiations would have to address issues such as obligations to make meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation assistance to poorer countries, technology transfer and the development of robust carbon markets.
Picking up that point, the Minister for Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Urban Development of Barbados said that his country -– a small open economy that was highly vulnerable to external shocks –- and other small island developing States had taken steps to develop and implement climate change strategies, mainly by using their own resources. However, such efforts would be meaningless in the absence of global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Rounding out the session, the Minister of Development Cooperation of Belgium pointed out that the food crisis was a good illustration of the need for an integrated approach to sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. To that end, donor countries should aim to devote 10 per cent of their development assistance to agricultural development by 2010. Local purchasing, which currently represented only 19 per cent of global food aid, should also be reinforced.
Also speaking today were the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Moldova, the Foreign Ministers of El Salvador and the Maldives, and Ministers from Belarus, Chile, Belgium, Egypt, and Bahrain.
The Vice-Minister for Economic Relations and Cooperation of Nicaragua, as well as the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation also spoke.
Other speakers today were senior Government officials from the Philippines, Congo and the Dominican Republic, as well as representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Sweden, United States, Ecuador, Iceland and Tunisia.
Also addressing the Council was a representative of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Representatives of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations, the Asian Institute of Technology, Mouvement International ATD Quart Monde, the Netright World Network/Africa and Ius Primi Viri International Association also made statements.
Making introductory statements was the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Chairman of the Council’s Committee for Development Policy.
The Economic and Social Council’s general debate will continue at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 2 July. At 10 a.m. the Council will convene its Annual Ministerial Review.
The Economic and Social Council met this afternoon to begin its general debate.
Council President LÉO MÉRORÈS (Haiti), opening the general debate, said that 2008 marked a turning point in that the high-level segment would serve as a framework for both the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum. Against the backdrop of rising food prices and record-high oil prices, there was a need to set a series of steps in motion to address the systemic problems that had led the world to such a state. It was more evident than ever that sustainable development was the key to development efforts.
He said the Council would address, under the theme “Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development, taking into account current challenges”, new challenges of global magnitude. It would hear from experts in two round tables, including one on bioenergy that would consider the promotion of food and fuel production while enhancing food security.
Candid discussions in the Development Cooperation Forum would influence decisions in other international forums, including the two upcoming conferences in Accra and Doha, he said, calling for a sharing of ideas in the areas of development cooperation and aid effectiveness. One of the presidency’s goals was to increase the engagement of all stakeholders in the Council’s work, and there would be opportunities to present views and ideas during the general debate. Delegates would have the opportunity to discuss such issues as the bleak state of the global economy, rising food and energy prices, the struggle to adapt to climate change and the urgent need for a “renaissance” in agriculture and rural development. The Development Cooperation Forum would look at those concerns through the perspective of aid effectiveness and its impact on development solutions.
THOMAS STELZER, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced two reports of the Secretary-General, the first on the Annual Ministerial Review: implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development (document E/2008/12). The second was on the “Theme of the 2008 high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council: Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development, taking into account current challenges” (document E/2008/68).
He said the concept of sustainable development integrated economic growth, social development and environmental protection, included a long-term perspective and was participatory, reflecting the perspectives of all parts of society. A financial, technological and policy basis for stronger progress towards realizing sustainable development existed today, as did awareness at the highest political levels that action must be taken now, particularly on climate change. Unsustainable consumption and production patterns were at the heart of the problem. Moreover, it was acknowledged that economic and social progress would be undermined if it destroyed the environment.
While the report highlighted some approaches that offered benefits in all areas, it also underlined the costs and trade-offs involved, he said. Striking a balance among sustainable development’s three pillars remained a challenge at the national and international levels. To that end, the report had five key messages. First, integration of the three pillars into national planning and policymaking was a difficult, but necessary, process. Second, given the nature and scope of the sustainable development agenda, Governments alone could not meet all the challenges, and civil society, local authorities, the private sector and the general public were necessary partners. Third, climate change was the key challenge of the present era, and the post-2012 negotiating process offered the opportunity to address it more effectively. Fourth, adequate attention should be paid to fighting environmental deterioration in all areas. Fifth, greater efforts were needed in promoting technology transfer on a concessional and preferential basis.
Turning to this year’s theme, he emphasized that the Council had decided to review implementation of its Ministerial Declaration of 2003 within the current global context. Since 2003, many developments had occurred in key areas related to rural development, yet challenges persisted, including the need to rationalize institutional and policy frameworks, strengthen capacities of local governance structures and empower rural communities. At the same time, new challenges had emerged in the wake of the recent slowdown in the global economy and the financial crisis. The initial consequences of climate change and the onset of a global food crisis had also exacerbated the challenge of promoting rural development.
The current food crisis was especially alarming, he said, pointing out that food-insecure and poor households would be most affected. The Secretary-General’s report urged the international community to act swiftly to protect the most vulnerable in the short term. Yet, protective measures should not undermine medium- and long-term efforts to promote rural and agricultural development. Over the medium and long term, high food prices, as well as the heightened threat of climate change, would require well-coordinated, coherent programmes to promote sustainable rural development featuring higher agricultural productivity and investment in infrastructure, social services and science and technology.
RICARDO FFRENCH DAVIS, Chairman of the Council’s Committee for Development Policy, presented part of the report from that body’s tenth session, noting that the severe challenge that climate change posed to the international development agenda had become increasingly evident. Climate change must be addressed as an integral part of the wider sustainable development agenda, which should seek a less carbon-intensive transition towards development approaches and encourage adaptive capacities in developing countries. Deep overall cuts in carbon emissions were needed according to the principle of equal but differentiated responsibilities.
Touching on the main policy approaches to mitigation in general, and environmental “goods and bads” in particular, he said that reduction targets required regional differentiation. Mitigation in developing countries required investment, innovation and institutional capacity-building to ensure that those economies did not pursue a fossil-fuel-dependent path. Adaptation to climate change must be integrated into such development strategies and public policies as rural development and disaster risk management, among others.
He said the least developed countries and small island developing States were among the most vulnerable to climate change, and international cooperation was the only route to address that challenge. There was an urgent need to review the level of international commitments on financing and technological cooperation relating to climate change.
ANDREI STRATAN, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova, said there was an urgent need to help developing countries and those with economies in transition to expand agriculture and food production and increase investment in agriculture, agribusiness and rural development. Last year’s drought had combined with market distortions to lower the incomes of Moldovan farmers. To improve governance, promote economic stability and growth, support rural economic development, enhance access to social services and minimize environmental risks, Moldova had implemented an agricultural sustainable development strategy.
He said his country was also implementing the Millennium Development Goals through its national development programme. Midway to target year, however, it seemed unlikely that Moldova would achieve the poverty reduction target, and urgent steps must, therefore, be taken at the international and national levels to mitigate increases in food and fuel prices. To that end, Moldova had established tangible new targets and concrete actions aimed at reducing the poverty rate, yet attention must be focused on developing a more coherent development agenda that would address each particular Millennium Goal from the perspective of positively impacting the entire Millennium Development agenda. International support remained essential in that task, particularly stable and predictable financing and enhanced access to international trade.
MARISOL ARGUETA DE BARILLAS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, said her country had opened its economy and implemented social programmes as part of an ambitious strategy to fight poverty. Measures taken by the Government sought to protect society’s most vulnerable groups, promote access to food and facilitate economic growth -– all while maintaining macroeconomic stability. However, that vision required sustained help and foreign cooperation. Two recent conferences on development cooperation for middle-income countries had been attended by representatives of more than 80 countries holding more than 47 per cent of the world’s population.
While there had been some achievements in reducing poverty and hunger, there was still more to do, particularly in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, she said. Besides the current high oil prices, there were other concerns over food security, migration flows and climate change. There was a need to find coherent solutions in order to take on board all actors. Unless problems were approached “in solidarity” within the United Nations, the international community would lose all hope of finding viable solutions that would ensure peoples’ survival.
ABDULLA SHAHID, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, said that, despite his country’s environmental vulnerability and geographic location, it had achieved a high level of economic growth and was on track to meet all the Millennium Development Goals. The Maldives had also been graduated by the United Nations from its status as a least developed country. That socio-economic success story had been built on an integrated development strategy, the last stage of which envisioned a sustainable development path anchored in economic growth, social equity, poverty eradication, environmental protection and good governance. One of its core aims was balanced regional development in line with the principles of population development consolidation and safer islands.
Yet, those hard-won achievements were fundamentally threatened by climate change, a threat over which the archipelago had no control and which originated far from its white sandy beaches, he said, adding that, if left unchecked, global warming would leave the Maldives “treading water”. The inverse relationship between responsibility for climate change and vulnerability to its consequences was often overlooked. The injustice of a situation, whereby small island States had small carbon footprints and yet faced extinction, had motivated former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to call for a new paradigm of “sustainable and just development” at the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva. The Maldives hoped that increased dialogue on and support for that concept would result in international action to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and ensure the country’s future viability.
ANGEL EDMUNDO ORELLANA MERCADO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Honduras, speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, expressed alarm at the economic and social consequences of high oil and food prices around the world. In May, Heads of State and Government of the Central American Integration System and Brazil had issued a statement underscoring the need for the United Nations to examine the crises. All participants had expressed concern at the speculative character of the rise in oil prices, which had had a negative impact on the development of the poorest countries. A special session of the General Assembly session should be convened to discuss the causes behind rising oil and energy costs and restore price stability.
On the production and sustainable use of ethanol and biodiesel, he said programmes should be compatible with food security policies at the national and regional levels. There was an urgent need to develop alternative sources of energy and to collectively increase food production while safeguarding national resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was to be congratulated for holding the recent conference on food security in Rome. Migration was a human right, and he was concerned by new migration policies that were not a positive step towards solving world problems. The Central American Integration System urged a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade negotiations, and underscored the need to resolve the question of agricultural subsidies.
NIKOLAY ZAYCHENKO, Minister for Economy of Belarus, said countries were not benefiting equally from globalization. The expansion of unilateral trade and coercive measures threatened the international trade system and prevented countries from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Active steps should be taken to eliminate unfair unilateral economic sanctions and other measures that hampered sustainable development. Coordinated national, regional and global efforts were also needed to address the global food crisis.
Rising energy prices also posed a great challenge to meeting the Millennium Goals, he said, stressing the need to develop alternative sources of energy. The United Nations should ensure that technology for energy security was made available for all. Belarus called for a General Assembly debate on that subject during its sixty-third session. It was also necessary to provide a legal framework for the management of carbon emissions.
PAULA QUINTANA, Minister of National Planning and Cooperation of Chile, said her country had achieved greater sustainable development by combining global economic and social policies with sectoral policies for specific vulnerable groups. In 2007, social spending had represented 12 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and consequently, poverty levels had dropped from 38.6 per cent in 1990 to 13.7 per cent in 2007. Rural areas had not been excluded from the benefits of Chile’s advanced development. In 2006, 66.5 per cent of rural students had been able to access the Internet. Macroeconomic stability, trade liberalization and strengthened social policies had played a role in those achievements.
Citing a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showing Chile’s robust agricultural sector, she said the country’s agriculture and food-producing sectors represented an opportunity for entrepreneurship. Tackling rising food prices called for working simultaneously on various fronts, starting with United Nations efforts to generate a fast international response. Chile supported the increase in funds for humanitarian operations required by the most vulnerable countries. There was also a need to advance global action to confront climate change on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities. Chile urged States to govern globalization in a better way. Multilateralism played a fundamental role in ensuring equity in international relations, whereby least developed countries could benefit from the fruits of global economic progress. Chile was willing to share its experience in areas where it had been successful.
CHARLES MICHEL, Minister of Development Cooperation of Belgium, noted that his country would be the first among members of OECD to participate in the Annual Ministerial Review’s voluntary national presentations this year. Rising food prices and climate change were two development priorities for Belgium, and the food crisis affected developed and developing countries alike. It was a good illustration for the necessity of an integrated approach to sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. To that end, donor countries should aim to devote 10 per cent of their development assistance to agricultural development by 2010. Local purchasing, which currently represented only 19 per cent of global food aid, should also be reinforced.
Climate change also required urgent action, he said. While the poorest countries were the least responsible for that global phenomenon, they were the first to fall victim. Climate change affected a host of areas, including biodiversity, soil degradation, food security, public health and poverty, in addition to having an impact on sustainable development. A study for the World Bank stated that 55 per cent of that institution’s projects were sensitive to climate and a quarter of them were at risk of having negative outcomes due to climate change. Given those urgent global challenges, there was a need for joint global action. Only total and sincere political will to be proactive would ensure success.
OSMAN MOHAMED OSMAN, Minister of Economic Development of Egypt, endorsing the statement to be made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said his country attached importance to strengthening the Economic and Social Council in order to achieve the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic and social progress as well as environmental protection. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals required the global community to work swiftly towards implementing the commitments of Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, among others. Egypt had hosted the Second Preparatory Meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum in January, where many issues raised had been reaffirmed yesterday during the Forum’s opening, including aid effectiveness and the quantity and quality of funding.
Poverty eradication remained the most important challenge today, particularly in Africa, he said. Many factors had contributed to the food crisis, including climate change, agricultural subsidy policies and increased biofuel production. In that context, Egypt welcomed the recent High-level Conference on Global Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Biofuels, held in Rome. There was an urgent need to follow a comprehensive planning approach for sustainable agriculture, and for the global community to support developing-country capacities. There was a need to share successful experiences, particularly in the area of providing access to basic social services. Egypt was among the countries most affected by climate change, which deserved the most attention. The country was also affected by landmines left over from the Second World War, which took suitable land away from agriculture.
FATIMA BINT MOHAMMED AL-BALOOSHI, Minister of Social Development of Bahrain, noted that the kingdom was well known for its urban development work, highlighting the recent symposium it had hosted on that topic. Cities could play an important role in both urban and rural development. Indeed, with so many now dwelling in urban centres, particularly in the developing world, urban development must be at the heart of sustainable development strategies.
The participation of local populations in all stages of long-term urban planning was critical, she said, stressing the need to include stakeholders at all levels, including civil society and local government. There was a need for increased investment in urban growth strategies, and Islamic banks could play a critical role in that effort. Safe drinking water should be provided to slums and other poor urban communities. Preventing climate change should be a community-wide goal and construction regulations should be designed to protect the environment.
DENIS LOWE, Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Urban Development of Barbados, associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the tightening of global credit conditions and rising energy and food prices had undermined global economic stability. As a small open economy, highly vulnerable to external shocks, Barbados and its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours continued to experience the negative effects of that slowdown. His Government was committed to implementing a sustainable energy policy aimed at taking decisive action to promote greater energy conservation and efficiency. It was also committed, through fiscal and other policies, to ensuring that increased energy costs were not borne fully by vulnerable groups.
Indeed, the Caribbean region had experienced a significant increase in food-price inflation, most notably for basic goods, he said. The region was considering an initiative aimed at creating an enabling economic and business environment for agribusiness. Nationally, Barbados was committed to completing an innovative food-security policy that would also address the promotion of sustainable consumption and production. On climate change, small island developing States, including Barbados, had taken steps to develop and implement climate change strategies, mainly by using their own resources. However, such efforts would be meaningless in the absence of global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Inaction was unacceptable. The Economic and Social Council was uniquely placed as a high-level forum for dialogue on such complex development challenges.
NURIAN DANANOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said that economic growth, social development and environmental protection were preconditions for sustainable development, as well as key factors for international stability. Dealing with the food crisis required a holistic and coherent approach with the international community acting in unison. Ensuring the expeditious provision of all pledged financial contributions to emergency food aid was also necessary. All Member States should demonstrate the necessary political will and flexibility to bring about a new international trade regime that promoted food production and investment in the agricultural sector. Efforts to complete the Doha Round of trade negotiations should be intensified and programmes promoting biofuel use should be reviewed carefully by international financial institutions to prevent them from undermining food security.
For its part, Kazakhstan had implemented several measures to meet internal demand for food, he said, noting that the country was working to strengthen agricultural production. According to World Bank figures, agriculture was second only to the oil sector in terms of efficiency of investments. Kazakhstan had already proven itself as a major grain supplier, yet it still had enormous potential for even higher production levels. To that end, and in order to promote sustainable development, the Government had adopted an environmental code to harmonize environmental legislation with best international practices. It had also voluntarily assumed its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Kazakhstan called urgently for the development and adoption of a United Nations convention on access to clean drinking water.
ALEXANDER YAKOVENKO, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that a key role in sustainable development belonged to the United Nations as a universal mechanism for the elaboration of agreed decisions and a most important source of environmental law. Implementing the Johannesburg Plan, however, called for greater political will and results-oriented collective efforts. In addition, greater attention must be paid to the complex interrelations of the economic, social and environmental components of sustainable development.
Addressing the need for a transition towards a less resource-intensive way of life, he said increased agricultural productivity could best be achieved through collective efforts in conjunction with the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. The Russian Federation was ready to assist in every possible way, having taken active steps to comprehensively develop its agricultural production and increase exports. With regard to biofuels, that issue could only be resolved through the use of technologies that used non-food products such as cellulose and waste, and by applying a broader perspective on the use of resources for energy. The Russian Federation had already committed itself to that transition though a package of goal-oriented efficiency measures.
MARGARITA R. SONGCO, Deputy Director-General, National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines, associated herself with the statement to be made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and cited recent data showing that her country’s efforts to alleviate poverty had resulted in a reduction in its incidence. However, there was a real danger that those gains were unsustainable given recent global developments. Prospects for increased growth in the agricultural sector were being critically affected by an inadequate rural investment climate, tightened supply of global agricultural products, rising food prices, increased agricultural production for biofuels and the rising costs of agricultural inputs.
To meet those challenges, she said, the Government of the Philippines was providing access to basic food commodities to its most affected citizens through Government-established food outlets; flooding the market with rice procured by the Government at cheap prices to drive market prices down; and strictly monitoring trade activities to prevent hoarding and price manipulation. It was also integrating its approach to agricultural and rural development and re-evaluating a number of social service strategies. The Government had recently introduced a programme to build human capital in poor families by tying cash transfers received by those families to child education and health programmes.
VALDRAK JAENTSCHEK LUDWING, Vice-Minister for Economic Relations and Cooperation of Nicaragua, described many of the obstacles to translating current assistance into development, saying it was clear that a new paradigm was needed for North-South cooperation. Nicaragua welcomed the establishment of a food Crisis Task Force, but wished for a permanent link between that body and the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. The causes of the crisis must be fought and the international economic structure radically changed. However, there was no political will to make those changes.
Recognizing the difficulty of changing that order, it was important for the countries of the South to take control of their own development and to shape the transformations that were needed, he said. In addition, there was a need for a relationship of mutual responsibility between North and South. Responses to current crises must be depoliticized and priorities such as food security must come to the fore over other concerns.
LAZARE MAKAYAT-SAFOUESSE, Deputy Secretary-General, Department of Foreign Affairs of Congo, associated himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and noted that it had become clear that commitments made in the Millennium Declaration and since had not been implemented, and that problems were being exacerbated by climate change and disruptions in the world economy. Most African countries were not on track to meet the majority of the Millennium Goals, and the international community must dramatically increase it efforts for that purpose. The Secretary-General’s recommendations were a solid basis for discussing the urgent actions required. Greater support for agriculture and other sectors was needed, and Congo hoped the Development Cooperation Forum would allow the international community to better align its efforts to eliminate poverty and achieve food security.
ROSALINA YNOA GONZÁLEZ, Director-General for Multilateral Cooperation, Ministry of Economy and Planning of the Dominican Republic, associated herself with the Central American Integration System, saying the world faced a confluence of crises; a food crisis, an economic crisis, a financial crisis, a crisis of paradigms, a social crisis and an ecological crisis. As a result, there was a potential crisis of governability, a solution to which required will and creativity, as well as, above all, immediate action on the part of the entire international community. The lack of solidarity and cooperation by certain population sectors was regrettable. There was a need to strengthen national capacity, but that effort must be tailored to the global situation.
The combination of oil price hikes and rising food costs was putting all development efforts at risk and making poor people even poorer, she said. The rising costs threatened not only the Millennium Goals but all national development targets, putting development increasingly beyond the reach of those needing it most. The current situation should mobilize political will and prompt action by all countries to meet their commitments to the attainment of sustainable development. In the past, big change had sometimes produced progress. From darkness, light could indeed be born. But for light to shine throughout the planet, it was necessary to ensure that globalization was an act of solidarity.
CONROD HUNTE (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the global community was confronted by multiple interrelated and mutually reinforcing crises in food, finance, energy, climate and confidence in the international institutions created to provide policy advice on global issues. Those problems had arisen amid such structural challenges as widespread poverty, growing inequity and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. The world was looking to the United Nations for leadership in tackling such issues, and it was fortuitous that the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum had come on stream at the present time.
He said the Council must review progress in the implementation of various agreements and commitments, while the Forum should underscore that national development strategies and the mobilization of domestic resources would not be sufficient to enable developing countries to achieve sustainable development. Further, the session must demonstrate the Council’s ability to be proactive. As such, it must recognize the impact of the lack of coherence in global macroeconomic policies and the actions of international financial institutions on the achievement of global goals. It should express deep concern at the fall in official development assistance; call attention to the deleterious impact of incoherent global trade policies on development prospects; call for arrangements to provide reliable information for the Annual Ministerial Review, so as to evaluate developing-country performance; and recognize that challenges varied for different categories of developing countries. Finally, the Economic and Social Council should express deep concern at the impact of unilateral coercive measures and urge developed countries to work for the successful conclusion of the Doha Round.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals had been too slow and uneven. It required urgent action under the shared values of human rights, democracy, good governance (including in the economic field), environmental sustainability and gender equality, while taking peace and security into account. Current threats to the planet must be countered and all solutions must integrate growth, social development and environmental preservation.
Climate change, on which the European Union had taken a leadership role, required a wide array of tools and the contributions of all Member States in order to create an effective post-2012 regime, he said. Other environmental threats, such as desertification, loss of biodiversity and deforestation, affected the daily life of millions of individuals. The European Union had set itself precise challenges in all those areas and was determined to strengthen relations with developing countries along with financial support for that effort. The bloc was determined to honour its promises on official development assistance and was intent on increasing the quality of development assistance. It was important that the Economic and Social Council play a greater role in reviewing international commitments for sustainable development. The Development Cooperation Forum and the Annual Ministerial Review were forward steps towards that end.
ROBERT HILL (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand (the CANZ Group), said progress towards sustainable development goals had been mixed, particularly with regard to integrating environmental sustainability as a key element of policymaking. While a variety of multilateral agreements had been negotiated, air pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and overexploitation of marine resources continued. There was no doubt that climate change was now the key issue. Negotiations would now have to focus on meaningful emission reduction obligations; adaptation assistance for poorer countries; technology transfer; addressing deforestation; and the development of private investment flows and robust carbon markets. A response to climate change could positively affect other environmental challenges, such as desertification and access to fresh water.
He said the first fully fledged Development Cooperation Forum was of particular significance in the year of the Monterrey Consensus review. While much progress remained to be made towards achieving the Millennium Goals, some successes should be recognized. Much of the developing world had seen record growth since 2002, for instance. Such gains would be compromised, however, if emerging challenges such as food insecurity were not addressed quickly. Both short-term impacts and root causes of food insecurity must be addressed. The CANZ Governments had made significant contributions to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) emergency appeal, but initiatives were needed to boost agricultural productivity, reduce vulnerability and liberalize international trade in food and agricultural products. A successful conclusion to the Doha Round would be a significant step in the right direction.
ANDERS LIDÉN ( Sweden) said sustainable use of natural resources and caring for the environment were crucial for equitable and sustainable global development. While challenges included sustainable production and consumption patterns, sustainable transportation, public health and social exclusion, climate change required special attention. Most of the world’s poor were dependent on local biological diversity and ecosystems, and had to cope with the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change. There was, therefore, a need to strengthen knowledge about the links connecting climate change, ecosystem resilience and human resilience, and how to improve capacities to respond to those challenges.
He said that finding global solutions to climate change was an absolute necessity. It was necessary to recognize the rights of developing countries to improve their standard of living while respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Climate change mitigation must be linked with the immediate need for adaptation. The Swedish Commission on Climate Change and Development focused on adaptation to the impacts of climate change, including disaster risk reduction. Because the lack of coherence in the donor community’s response to climate change was worrying, the Commission also focused on how to avoid fragmentation in financing. The trust deficit often affecting relations between poor and rich countries could only be overcome by honouring previous commitments and maintaining a dialogue on equal terms.
ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States) said that, too often, international development efforts were far too narrow. The pursuit of sustainable development posed significant technical, policy and institutional challenges that required commitment from the international community -- from assisting farmers with irrigation and fertilizer to finding new ways to create local firms to meet real demand for goods. In meeting the challenges arising from the food crisis, the United States had greatly increased its aid for immediate relief and addressing the underlying reasons for food insecurity. A successful conclusion to the Doha Round was also needed.
The problem with current aid for sustainable development was that the international community was organized to deliver services or programmes, but not to strengthen the indigenous capability to do so, he said. People must be given the capacity to help themselves through the efficient delivery of information and tools in ways that allowed them to adapt science and market knowledge to the specific circumstances in which they lived. They must also be enabled to earn livelihoods by meeting the needs of the market. The Economic and Social Council must help identify successful examples of nations that had developed in sustainable ways, and share those experiences so others could adapt them. With regard to climate change, the United States was partnering with other countries to promote the development of advanced energy technologies that would help protect the global environment while enabling economic growth to occur.
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA ( Ecuador) said the current crises meant that most developing countries could not meet their commitments towards the sustainable development agenda and the Millennium Development Goals. The impact of climate change and the lack of a response from developed countries -- especially in light of their leading role in carbon emissions -– were critical in the current discussion. For its part, and in recognition of its shared but differentiated responsibility in the fight to stop climate change, Ecuador had elected not to extract its oil, a financial sacrificed made in pursuit of climate security.
Turning to the food crisis, she said the right to food security should not be subject to private interests or the shortcomings of trade and macroeconomic policies. There was, therefore, a need to restructure the rules of the world market. Thus, the Doha Round should be concluded in a way that aided developing countries. Ecuador called on developed countries to fulfil their commitments to provide 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product to official development assistance, and urged the international community, including international financial institutions, to support proposals made by developing countries, particularly regarding the framework for South-South cooperation.
HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland), noting the high anxiety in many countries over high food prices, said the hikes were, in fact, a matter of life and death. As in so many crises, women –- particularly mothers -– bore the brunt as they were in the front line in trying to feed families. The present food production and distribution systems were creaking under a massive increase in demand and added stress from climate change. Sustainable solutions must be sought; quick fixes were not an option. Increased food productivity would be critical, as would the promotion of gender equality in agricultural production and fighting land degradation and desertification. Given the increased demand for food, it would become more important than ever to ensure that fishing was conducted in a sustainable manner.
Urgent action was also needed to meet the challenges posed by climate change and high energy prices, he said. Many oil-importing developing countries, including small island developing States, suffered most as their economies were more oil-intensive and less able to weather the turmoil caused by high prices. Their energy systems urgently needed to be transformed. Iceland, which had transformed its own energy sector and now produced 100 per cent of its electricity from clean energy sources, could provide a good example. The transfer of technology would be crucial in harnessing renewable energy sources.
HABIB MANSOUR ( Tunisia) said the Economic and Social Council now had more means with which to play its central coordinating role in development. The food and fuel crises had demonstrated the weaknesses of the international system and the Rome Conference had shown the interconnection between the food crisis and climate change, as well as the need for an integrated response to both. While Tunisia agreed with proposals for investment in agriculture that could reduce rural poverty, such a strategy must be substantially funded. There was also a need to make connections with markets. Other programmes were also needed, as was assistance to cover funding gaps in food-importing countries. Unfailing commitment, free of conditionality, was needed in economic areas along with contributions to international solidarity efforts against hunger through a levy of $1 per each barrel of oil.
NANDHINI IYEN KRISHNA, New York representative of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said that current priority challenges were deeply rooted in the unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Indeed, never since human beings had first appeared on Earth had anthropogenic changes in the planet’s natural functioning been as destructive as it had over the last half-century. The World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Ninth United Nations Conference on Biodiversity and the Millennium Development Goals had recognized that critical challenge. In the coming months, activities would build towards the celebration of the International Year of Biodiversity, when it was expected that targets for limiting biodiversity loss would be developed. The Economic and Social Council must commemorate the International Year by holding a special event focused on a theme such as biodiversity for development and achievement of the Millennium Goals.
LIBERATO C. BAUTISTA, President of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), said there should be no equivocation regarding the necessity of partnership between Governments and civil society. Over the last three days, the Civil Society Development Forum had met and CONGO had submitted its outcome document to the Council as its contribution to the current discourse on aid effectiveness and the furthering of sustainable development. It called, among other things, for a “more balanced economic policy agenda that promotes participatory and gender-responsive budgets as tools for including the voices of the poor and of women in fiscal policy”. While the crises staring the world community in the face were grave, daunting and urgent, they must open new possibilities for response, as new occasions must teach new duties.
SAID IRANDOUS, President of the Asian Institute of Technology, taking the floor at the invitation of the civil society organizations, said his organization was an Asian success story in relation to the region’s sustainable development. Founded by the member States of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization to promote technological and socio-economic development in the Asian region, today it was a leading regional development institution that enhanced technology, development and management. It had received from the United Nations system, particularly the Secretary-General, support that had provided funding for a regional centre of excellence to focus on Millennium Development Goals 1, 3, 7 and 8.
Ms. ANSHA-ESHOM, Netright World Network/Africa, also spoke on behalf of civil society, saying that development must translate into a system that allowed people to use age-tested local indigenous knowledge. It must create a system that allowed land to be classified as green pastures so that local children did not have to migrate to die in the Sahara; a system that did not create generational gaps that caused indigenous wisdom and knowledge to be lost; a system that documented that indigenous knowledge and designed and built technology around it so as to improve the quality and security of life. Effective sustainable development should be people-centred and focused on local capacity-building.
THIERRY VIARD, Mouvement international ATD Quart Monde, demanded that sustainable development not be pursued without consideration for the world’s poorest, otherwise there would be increased exclusion. The monetary aspect of poverty should not be the only one considered. The poorest people in the world should be able to participate in policymaking for development in order to ensure genuine sustainable development for all. Priority should be given throughout the United Nations system to eliminating extreme poverty, with the participation of the poor themselves. That perspective would boost human rights, as well as poverty alleviation.
Ms. LORETO, Ius Primi Viri International Association, said a new form of education was needed so that children would grow to respect human rights and the Earth’s well-being. It was important to take into account the psycho-social aspects of development, and her organization was intent on turning educational principles into action. The training of a citizen in ethics and responsibilities was critical for society.
* *** *For information media • not an official record