|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2008 Substantive Session
18th Meeting (PM)
DELEGATES CALL FOR STEPS TO CORRECT IMBALANCES, INEQUITIES AT ROOT OF WORLD
FINANCIAL CRISIS, AS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE
The Economic and Social Council wrapped up the general debate of its high-level segment this evening amid calls for the international community to own up to –- and take serious steps to rectify -- the imbalances, contradictory policies and inequities at the root of the current global financial turmoil sparked by the massive run-up in food and energy prices.
Most of the nearly 40 speakers taking the floor agreed that the current food and commodity price crisis, exacerbated by factors as diverse as global warming and the current mortgage crunch in the United States, was crippling the world economy and threatened to erase a decade of solid economic growth in developing countries.
With the cost of grains and other food staples spinning out of control, a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that, unless urgent action was taken to address systemic imbalances, nearly 100 million people could slip below the poverty line. Others cited changing diets, urbanization and booming populations among the well-known causes for the situation, but many blamed flawed trade policies, increased biofuel production, lagging investment in agriculture and commodity speculation.
Malaysia’s representative said the parallel crises were due largely to broken promises on sustainable development, particularly those made at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The inability to fulfil those commitments stemmed first from a lack of political commitment, particularly by developed countries. The right mix for balancing the competing interests of economic growth, social development and environmental protection had not been found, he said.
States had also not yet found an optimum combination of Government and private sector action, he continued. In addition, there was currently no international framework or mechanism in place for promoting infrastructure development and technology transfer, both critical to achieving sustainable development. The means for ensuring infrastructure development existed, but had not been made available to developing countries.
Pakistan’s representative said it was important to ensure that the response of the major industrial countries to the financial crisis facing their economies did not comprise a resort to a new protectionism against developing countries. The Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development, scheduled for late November, would provide an important opportunity for States to address the imbalances, inequities and contradictory policies at the root of the current financial turmoil.
He stressed that the Doha Conference should not merely review implementation of the Monterrey Consensus adopted at the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development -– itself a depressing picture -– but also address challenges that had appeared in the last five years. It should first consider comprehensive reform of the international financial system and make a serious effort to restructure the global trading system. Furthermore, the Review Conference should address constraints on access to technology that was vital for development.
The international community should also establish a strategy to address the food crisis and an equitable approach to deal with energy prices, he said. In that pursuit, the United Nations must take the lead in generating the two most vital requirements: money and technology. On climate change, developing countries could not be asked to consign their people to perpetual poverty. They must be helped to create a climate-friendly development model. The global community’s response must be commensurate to the huge challenges ahead.
Guyana’s representative noted that, for developing counties in pursuit of sustainable development, the current development landscape was “a somewhat foreboding panorama”. Rapidly rising oil and food prices, economic and financial uncertainty and insistent demands for realistic action to combat climate change stood in stark contrast to declining resources to respond to such needs. Left unchecked, the crises together threatened to reverse hard-earned progress.
The impacts of those crises would be felt most severely by the poor, he said. As a net food exporter, Guyana was vulnerable to the rising costs of fuel needed for food production. For that reason, the country emphasized the importance of measures to support medium- to long-term investment in agriculture. International financial institutions could help by providing concessionary terms of credit for small agricultural producers. The prudent use of biofuels would assure their contribution to solving rather than aggravating the challenges faced by developing countries.
Also speaking today were the Foreign Ministers of Liechtenstein and Iran, as well as vice and deputy ministers from Paraguay, Japan, Cuba, Poland and Malawi.
Senior Government officials from Libya, Switzerland and Namibia also addressed the Council.
Delegates also heard from representatives of Ethiopia (on behalf of the Africa Group), Bangladesh (on behalf of the least developed countries), Brazil, Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Peru, Indonesia, Bolivia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Turkey, Syria, China, Algeria, Israel and the Republic of Korea.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also addressed the Council.
Other speakers were representatives of the Commission on Population and Development and the International Organization for Migration.
Representatives of the International Association of Social Councils and Similar Institutions, Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-Algae Spirulina against Malnutrition, All India Shah Behram Baug Society, Legion of Good Will, World Family Organization and Fundacion Diagrama also made remarks.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene on Thursday, 3 July, to conclude its high-level segment and adopt a Ministerial Declaration.
The Economic and Social Council met today to continue its general debate for the high-level segment of its annual session.
ANTONIO RIVAS PALACIOS, Vice-Minister of External Relations of Paraguay, urged developed countries to eliminate trade barriers and export subsidies. Progress achieved to improve the lives of rural populations was being eroded by high petroleum prices. The Secretary-General’s report should have taken up that issue. Further, it was important to consider the impacts of climate change and financial speculation.
Continuing, he said that land-locked developing countries, such as Paraguay, had been forced to pay higher prices to import oil, which, in turn, made other imports more expensive. Clearly, there was a direct relationship between oil prices and food stuffs. In that context, he said that Paraguay, a net oil importer, must find alternative sources of energy. Given that, Congress had enacted a law to promote biofuels produced from alcohol drawn from sugar cane. Because such production was not related to food production, the country’s food security was ensured. He urged promoting the most equitable use of resources and technology, and increasing access to financial markets and services.
RITA KIEBER-BECK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that major United Nations conferences, from the 1992 “Earth Summit” to the 2005 World Summit, had set the stage for the international community’s collective engagement in efforts to ensure sustainable development for all. The successful implementation of the outcomes of those important meetings, through laws and regulations, measures and actions, required ownership and leadership, as well as responsible domestic institutions. Implementation must also be based on an inclusive dialogue that involved civil society, local authorities and the private sector. Also, the media had an important role to play in raising awareness and promoting understanding on sustainable development issues.
She went on to say that, while it was critical that social, economic and environmental issues be tackled in a reasonable fashion by national decision-makers, close cooperation between States and with international and regional organizations had become indispensable. That had been made quite clear in the past few months, as a number of economic challenges, especially the global price spikes in food and commodities, had begun to pose serious threats to sustainable development.
Turning to Liechtenstein’s efforts to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, she cited several laws, including on international humanitarian development cooperation, in force since 1997, which covered not only areas of social development and poverty reduction, but targeted the preservation of natural resources, as well. She added that her Government had also agreed to further scale up its official development assistance (ODA) to some 0.6 per cent of gross national income in 2008. While there was no timetable for reaching the globally agreed 0.7 level, both the Government and Parliament had expressed the intention to reach that target as soon as possible.
MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said the world economy was “teetering on the brink of a severe global economic downturn”, making the achievement of sustainable development goals a formidable task. The unfolding food crisis was a great humanitarian concern, and could pose a threat to social and political stability in many countries. The absence of strong political commitments could prevent States from maintaining a strong pace of sustainable development and timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Overcoming those obstacles required collective will.
To judge from a buy glance at current world affairs, the world faced a bleak future, he said. Two decades after the end of the cold war, people faced many problems, and the new world order had failed to present a safe and promising future. The political aspect of managing world affairs was “non-democratic”, while the global economy was characterized by a deep gap between rich and poor.
On the soaring price of oil and food, he said various experts had suggested reasons for that situation, which involved the intervention of transnational oil companies in the market, the negative impact of the policies of big Powers on the security of the world’s oil-rich regions, and increased demand. The reality, however, was that, in the past four years, the economic and international policies of certain Powers had contributed to the increase in prices, and the world’s financial and trade system had been serving the interest of such Powers. In such circumstances, the poorest countries suffered the most and the big Powers benefited the most.
He agreed that the long-term problem of climate change had not been effectively addressed, and it was crucial for developed countries to substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions. South-South partnership was of the utmost importance for developing countries. The Economic and Social Council should spare no effort in working to promote a new financial and trade order. Doing so would enhance the credibility of the United Nations. In closing, he said the Council was best suited to enforce sustainable development policy integration in the Organization and to monitor the progress made.
MAHMOUD ELWARFALLY, Secretary-General of National Planning of Libya, said that the General Assembly’s efforts to revitalize the Economic and Social Council had proved an important step in reaffirming the Council’s primary role in coordinating issues related to sustainable development and development cooperation, and in follow-up to the major United Nations meetings and conferences. To that end, he welcomed the convening during the current session of the Development Cooperation Forum and the Annual Ministerial Review, which should go a long way towards helping developing countries comprehensively address many of the challenges they faced.
He said that many developing countries, especially the least developed, were being crippled by the current food crisis, which was threatening their political and social stability. While it was necessary to provide immediate relief to those most in need, it was vital to address the wrong-headed social and public policies that had paved the way for the crisis, which were actually hampering efforts to rectify it. He strongly urged rich countries to refrain from instituting protectionist polices for their agricultural products and to allow in products from the developing world. He also called for broader support for regional cooperation and rural development, as well as strengthening of agricultural sectors.
He said that the Council’s current session was taking place at the midpoint to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Many delegations were expressing concern that, while there had been some significant gains, some countries were still suffering from acute challenges, especially in the areas of poverty reduction, hunger alleviation and capacity-building. He hoped that the upcoming Doha review of the Monterrey Consensus on development financing would provide an opportunity for all States to examine closely the reasons that important global development goals had not been respected. In the meantime, he called on the international community to support the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as the key framework through which African countries would achieve sustainable development and economic growth.
YASUHIDE NAKAYAMA, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said his country supported efforts to strengthen the Council, including the introduction of the Development Cooperation Forum. Turning to the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), he said it had been held successfully under the theme “Towards a Vibrant Africa”, and priority areas had included boosting economic growth, ensuring human security and addressing environmental issues. Issues discussed at the conference were also priorities for the world.
He wanted to focus on climate change and the environment, the Millennium Development Goals and the global food crisis, which were interrelated. He said that one thing was certain: all States shared responsibility for making progress for future generations. It was time to move towards a low-carbon society, and technology was essential to making that happen. Japan had established the $10 billion “Cool Earth Partnership”, which would support developing-country efforts to tackle climate change, and would also focus other efforts on forest conservation. On the Millennium Development Goals, he said Japan had been advocating, through the Group of Eight (G-8) process, the contribution of the Goals to human security. On the food crisis, he stressed the importance of improving agricultural productivity and production capacity. In closing, he reiterated Japan’s commitment to conveying the outcome of the upcoming G-8 Summit as a valuable contribution to the United Nations.
ALBERTO OSVALDO NARANJO PAZ, Vice-Minister of Agriculture of Cuba, said sustainable development could not be achieved for all under current circumstances, where a few developed countries “consumed and squandered” some 80 per cent of the planet’s wealth, while millions of human beings in the developing world remained marginalized and without access to even the most basic services. Moreover, the “ultra-orthodox logic” that the market was the “be all and end all solution” to each and every problem must be replaced by an approach that promoted and supported economic growth and development in parallel with social development. Such an approach should also guarantee the protection of the environment for future generations.
Developing countries were not responsible for the current state of affairs, he said. Indeed, the solution to the critical challenges facing humanity today did not lay in denying development to those who needed it the most. Citing common, but differentiated responsibilities, he said: “Those who, in an unjust and selfish manner, have hoarded wealth and technologies and are responsible for 76 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions accumulated since 1850, must shoulder the main responsibility in this effort.”
He said that, despite being poor and having been subjected to a decades-long “genocidal” economic blockade, Cuba had been able to share its scarce resources with brotherly people in Asia, Africa and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. If Cuba had been capable of supporting its brothers and sisters through programmes -- such as the well-known “Operation Miracle” initiative, in which more than 1 million patients had undergone eye surgery, with limited resources -- imagine what could be achieved with just a fraction of the $1 trillion spent worldwide on arms every year.
WITOLD WASZCZYKOWSKI, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, fully associating himself with France’s statement on behalf of the European Union, called for undertaking long-term international action to alleviate the effects of the current food crisis. Short-term assistance efforts should be urgently undertaken, as should long-term coherent development cooperation.
The first line of action was to respond effectively to requests for assistance from countries most affected. At the same time, long-term measures should lead to changes in the development cooperation architecture to help developing countries increase investments in agriculture and rural development. International financial institutions could provide support for low-income countries, and it was also essential to facilitate the access of small-scale food producers to seeds, fertilizers and technical assistance. Moreover, a successful end to the Doha Trade Round would give farmers new opportunities to sell products on world food markets. Such actions were contained in the Declaration of the High-Level Conference on World Food Security in June.
The food problem was closely linked with climate change, he said, and more research was needed to draw a map of the regional and local consequences of climate change. Poland would host the fourteenth session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December, and hoped that session would help realize the Bali road map. It was important to involve all countries in creating a post-2012 regime. In closing, he highlighted Poland’s experience of dynamic gross domestic product (GDP) growth, which had not weakened its determination to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
FRANK T. MWENIFUMBO, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security of Malawi, said that his country, listed among the world’s least developed nations, had developed an Integrated Rural Development Strategy aimed at resuscitating rural economies and advancing economic growth in those areas. Malawi had recognized that, along with the private sector, rural areas were potential engines for economic growth, and had targeted those areas with priority initiatives focused on, among others, agriculture and food security; irrigation and water development; transport infrastructure development; and energy generation and supply.
While Malawi appreciated the support it had received from development partners, including the United Nations, much remained to be done if the country was to implement its development strategy. He appealed particularly for additional and adequate resources from development partners to turn the country’s natural resource wealth into sustainable economic growth that would enable Malawi to achieve its national development aspirations.
He added that it was also important for States to realize that, while development assistance was important and appreciated, the access of the least developed countries to international markets on equitable terms was essential for sustainable development and poverty reduction in those countries. He called for the removal of all agricultural subsidies in developed countries to make agricultural products from developing countries competitive on the world market.
MARTIN DAHINDEN, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said climate change and the food crisis were among the most debated issues in the Council and general public alike. Rapid and well-coordinated action was required to address them. On climate change, he said it was essential to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures, and find alternative sources of energy. Noting that it was no longer contested that poverty, patterns of production and consumption, and natural resource management were interdependent issues, he said climate change could, thus, no longer be seen through a narrow environmental lens. It must be mainstreamed into all decisions, as part of a larger sustainable development perspective.
Unfortunately, implementation of such integrated sustainable development policies remained a challenge, he continued. It was urgent to recognize the unaccounted benefits of ecosystems by developing instruments that promoted the responsible use of natural resources. Turning to the food crisis, he said that situation was testimony to the lack of investment in agriculture and rural development. Climate change and the food crisis required new approaches, including increased aid quality and private-sector involvement. Noting that the United Nations must play a key role in finding solutions, he supported the Economic and Social Council’s role in that regard. The Development Cooperation Forum was particularly well positioned for discussions on aid effectiveness.
PETER KATJAVIVI, Director-General, National Planning Commission of Namibia, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the new functions of the Economic and Social Council should elevate it to the position it was meant to occupy within the United Nations. To tackle hunger, the international community should seek sustainable solutions to rural development, since agriculture had been neglected for a long time, despite the commitments made at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. The ill-conceived policies of some international institutions had contributed to the problem by advising Governments in the developing world to pursue neo-liberal policies and leave agriculture to the whims of the market, while agriculture in the developed world was heavily subsidized.
He said his country had enshrined sustainable development in all key planning processes and was pursuing a holistic approach to rural development, in which attempts to boost agricultural production were accompanied by measures to improve access to social infrastructure, services and clean water. Unfortunately, those achievements were under threat of being reversed by the effects of climate change, such as severe droughts alternating with flooding. In addition, skyrocketing food prices threatened many households. While the Government had taken emergency measures to counter it, the food crisis called for concerted international efforts to increase investment in agricultural production, accelerate the transfer of technology and capacity-building, and re-examine the structural defects of the world economy. Namibia called on the Economic and Social Council to play its full coordinating role in those efforts.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said it was important to ensure that the response of the major industrial countries to the financial crisis facing their economies did not comprise a resort to a new protectionism against developing countries. Pakistan was disappointed that the G-8 communiqué appeared to have stepped away from the commitment made at the 2005 Gleneagles Summit to double ODA. The Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development would provide an important opportunity to address the imbalances, inequities and contradictory policies that were at the root of the current financial turmoil.
The Doha Conference should not merely review implementation of the Monterrey Consensus -– itself a depressing picture -– but also address challenges that had appeared in the last five years, he stressed. It should first consider comprehensive reform of the international financial system and make a serious effort to restructure the global trading system. Further, the Conference should address constraints on access to technology that was vital for development. The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement should be reviewed to ensure that it contributed to development rather than constraining it.
He said his country also looked forward to a strategy to address the food crisis and an equitable approach to deal with energy prices. In that pursuit, the United Nations must take the lead in generating the two most vital requirements: money and technology. On climate change, developing countries could not be asked to consign their people to perpetual poverty. They must be helped to create a climate-friendly development model. The challenges ahead were huge and the global community’s response must be commensurate.
NEGASH KEBRET BOTORA (Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that, in order for Africa to overcome the severe obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, a new mechanism was needed to oversee an integrated approach to rural development and to connect environmental sustainability, agricultural productivity and the fight against rural poverty. There was also a need for programmes with a sharper focus on livelihoods that would engage people meaningfully at the local level.
Calling on development partners to keep their promises to make development aid available in a timely manner, he expressed the hope that effective aid delivery would be addressed in a constructive manner at the forthcoming Accra forum. The African Group also called for comprehensive debt-relief and -management programmes, and for better methods to monitor and measure progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. There was a need to continue strengthening the Economic and Social Council so it could foster dialogue in addressing development needs and the most pressing world issues. There was also a need to pursue strongly a strengthening of the Council’s subsidiary bodies and mechanisms coordinating the work of United Nations funds and programmes.
ISMAT JAHAN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said the deepening global economic slowdown, soaring oil and food prices and the growing threat of climate change affected the development prospects of all developing countries. Those trends were especially troubling for the poorest among those countries. The United Nations, especially the Economic and Social Council, must play an effective role in terms of policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations to overcome current crises and threats. Responses to the food and commodity price spikes must be coherent and multifaceted to address short-, medium- and long-term needs.
Noting that the recently agreed Rome Declaration called on all donors and the United Nations system to increase assistance to developing countries, especially the least developed, she said the international community might consider setting up a global food bank or “international food fund” to ensure long-term food security for developing countries. Investment in agriculture and rural infrastructure should be scaled up significantly to enhance agricultural production and improve the livelihoods of the rural poor.
Indeed, agriculture sectors in the least developed countries were primarily rain-fed and therefore very vulnerable to climate change, she said. The increased frequency and intensity of droughts and floods was exacerbating the challenges in those countries. With those and other concerns in mind, the least developed countries needed broader support and global partnerships in order to achieve sustainable development. To begin with, development partners must fulfil the commitments they had made at United Nations international conferences and meetings of the past decade. At the same time, an enabling international economic environment must buttress national efforts.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said the Economic and Social Council had an important role to play in addressing the pressing issues of global inflation, climate change and the deflationary threat caused by problems in developed-country financial markets. The consensus was that such tectonic events would have long-term effects, especially if remedial actions were not taken. The crises related to climate change and food and fuel prices were due to the broken promises of sustainable development, particularly those made at the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. The inability to fulfil those commitments stemmed first from a lack of political commitment, particularly by developed countries.
The right mix for balancing the competing interests of economic growth, social development and environmental protection had not been found, he said. States had also not yet found an optimum combination of Government and private sector action. In addition, there was currently no international framework or mechanism in place for promoting infrastructure development and technology transfer, both critical to achieving sustainable development. The means for ensuring infrastructure development existed, but had not been made available to developing countries.
Finally, demographic concerns had not been adequately factored into policies for achieving sustainable development, he said. Subsidies paid to farmers in developed nations had further decimated agricultural production in the developing world. The nature of such obstacles demanded the adoption of a coherent and consistent approach, which could best be achieved through the efforts of the newly revitalized Economic and Social Council.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said that rural development, always important, had taken on a new dimension given the current food and energy crisis. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had called for an unemotional examination of the causes of that crisis -– which included commodity speculation -- and for emergency assistance and long-term structural measures. It was high time to take policy decisions that would help turn the crisis into an opportunity for growth and development, including the elimination of export subsidies that distorted trade in agricultural products.
Another important opportunity for developing countries lay in biofuels, which, if produced in the same manner as Brazil had employed, could cut greenhouse gas emissions without adversely affecting food production while generating jobs and economic growth. In light of the Brazilian experience, sugarcane-based ethanol made good sense and it could make sense for many other developing countries, as well. President Lula had invited stakeholders from all interested countries to participate in an international conference on biofuels, to be held in São Paulo in November. Brazil had also promoted rural development under the right to food and through agrarian reform, support to small-scale agriculture and public policies to increase family income.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the urgent nature of the current interlinked challenges to sustainable development presented unique opportunities to bring about necessary change. For that reason, there was a need for increased technical and financial support for national efforts to deal with climate change. The revitalization and adaptation of the agricultural sector was of fundamental importance and must be supported by broader capacity-building, technology transfer and access to international markets. In that context, the reduction of protectionist measures and subsidies was critical. In addition, concerted action to boost renewable energy sources was no longer a luxury, but a precondition for sustainable development.
Colombia had made a priority of the production and use of alternative energy sources, including biofuels from sugarcane and palm oil, which had expanded the rural economy without interfering with agricultural output. It was important that the Economic and Social Council help strengthen international technical and financial cooperation with middle-income countries, which faced significant challenges due to internal asymmetries and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, the Council could further promote South-South cooperation, support triangular modalities and ensure more active involvement by the United Nations system in replicating successful experiences and promoting capacity development.
HAMID AL BAYATI ( Iraq) said his country’s experiences in recent years had reaffirmed the belief that sustainable development could be achieved only through civil society, and he urged the Council to play an active role in countries aspiring to democracy. Despite challenges, Iraq had made progress, notably in its adoption of a Constitution and election of the National Assembly. Also, Iraq’s 2007 cooperation agreement with the United Nations aimed to boost economic and social progress.
Describing the recent meeting of the Compact with Iraq as a new starting point for international assistance for the country, he said that international project made development partners morally responsible for progress. On the economic front, the Government had launched a campaign for infrastructure reconstruction. In addition, the National Assembly had adopted an investment law, which provided a proper legal framework for foreign investment. Iraq hoped to make full use of its human and material resources for sustainable development. Agreements had also been reached on the environment, desertification and the ozone layer. However, the country’s productive sectors were suffering from the effects of war, notably agriculture, which had been damaged by radioactive missiles.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD ( Sudan) said the current global crises had exposed the deep inequality and structural weaknesses plaguing the international system. They had made it clear that an urgent global response was necessary, especially in tackling governance of the international system and the implementation status of development commitments. The Economic and Social Council was well positioned to play a leadership role in tackling those challenges.
He went on to say that, while his country was implementing bilateral and regional partnerships in the area of food security, enacting legislation and establishing a regulatory framework aimed at providing an environment conducive to foreign investment, it still faced many challenges. Those included climate change, which posed a serious threat to sustainable development, as Sudan’s fragile ecosystems, upon which most of its people depended for subsistence, were under constant pressure from increased and more intense droughts and floods. Those natural phenomena affected not only livelihoods and food security, but also public health, especially in the rural areas, where 70 per cent of the population lived.
In response, Sudan had created a national adaptation plan of action to identify priorities and address climate variability in the context of economic development, he said. Another challenge was Sudan’s unsustainable debt burden, currently about $30 billion. Debt-relief programmes could help the country shoulder the debt, so it was disappointing that, even though Sudan had implemented prudent macroeconomic relief criteria, debt relief “continues to be held hostage to political conditionality”. Hopefully, the newly established Debt Cancellation Fund would seriously address such obstacles and their impact on development efforts.
JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said sustainable development required cooperation and partnership based on national and international solidarity, especially in addressing environmental sustainability and overall socio-economic growth. The reports before the Council stressed that environmental protection was a critical issue requiring enhanced international support, through technical and financial assistance to developing countries. In the framework of intellectual property rights, Peru was particularly interested in protecting the intellectual and cultural heritage of its indigenous populations. The country also supported calls for strengthened international efforts to improve development cooperation towards ensuring that current challenges could be comprehensively tackled.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that 1.2 billion people continued to scrounge on less than $1 a day, and every three seconds, a child died before its fifth birthday. At the same time, the issue of energy security continued to burden industries and national infrastructure, while climate change continued to loom over the horizon. It was distressing that the developing world continued to struggle with such challenges. Decisive action was needed in the form of a global approach to establish a mechanism that would address the three pillars of sustainable development.
Given the scale of the energy and food crises, the United Nations must be at the forefront of efforts to address the situation, he said. Indonesia, together with Egypt and Chile, had proposed consideration of that issue as the main theme for the sixty-third session of the General Assembly. In addition, reform of the international financial architecture should make sustainable development a common endeavour. Indeed, it was time to practice good governance at the international level. Nationally, Indonesia had launched its most aggressive anti-corruption campaign, and called for vigorous reform to deal with both the food crisis and climate change.
HUGO SILES ALVARADO (Bolivia) said the impact of the current energy crisis, the lack of any sort of food security for hundreds of millions of people worldwide and the devastating impact of climate change should wake the international community to the urgent need to find ways to conserve precious natural resources, change patterns of rampant consumerism and take responsibility for past and present behaviour. Bolivia was pursing a development path built around a programme called “People Living Well”, which was based on age-old indigenous principles of individuals living in harmony with their environment. That programme was changing the very fabric of Bolivian society for the better.
At the same time, the Government was aware of the need to find ways to include the more than 3 million Bolivians living at the margins of society in the changes sweeping their country, he said. Bolivia’s carbon-related programmes had generated a surplus of some $1.4 billion that would help address many poverty issues. Some of those funds had been earmarked for keeping children in school and providing support for many elderly people without a steady income. Other Government initiatives under the People Living Well plan aimed to boost literacy and create gainful employment. At the international level, Bolivia would continue to do its utmost to ensure that multilateralism was returned to its rightful place at the centre of global interaction, especially in promoting solidarity, human rights and protection of the environment.
ABDERRAHIM OULD HADRAMI (Mauritania), associating himself with the African Group, the Group of 77 and China, and the least developed countries, called for the cancellation of debt, the provision of concessional loans and access to technology. Mauritania had created a full development plan and was awaiting implementation of promises made by rich countries to fulfil pledges made at United Nations meetings and conferences.
He affirmed the importance of the upcoming Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development, but expressed concern that the Doha Round of trade negotiations was not yet complete. Mauritania urged greater flexibility and political will to that end. There was also a need to address the impacts of climate change, as Mauritania was one of the 10 States most affected by that phenomenon.
FILIPE CHIDUMO ( Mozambique) expressed concern about the international community’s failure to support and promote measures to help developing countries mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change. Mozambique was also concerned that the current global food crisis could undo decades of significant but fragile sustainable development gains, especially in Africa. While developing countries should undertake their responsibilities regarding the creation of an enabling environment for sustained growth, the wider international community must live up to its commitments to help developing countries close implementation gaps in the global development agenda.
Turning to the situation in Mozambique, he said overall growth over the past year had been stable at about 7 per cent, even though growth in the agricultural sector had stagnated somewhat. The Government had responded by targeting that sector for specific programmatic initiatives, including in the areas of rural development and infrastructure rehabilitation. Mozambique reiterated its call for development partners to step up their efforts to ensure that all least developed countries achieved the Millennium Development Goals and other agreed sustainable development objectives.
ÖZHAN ÜZÜMCÜOĞLU (Turkey), noting that his delegation had already aligned itself with the European Union, said the themes of this year’s substantive discussions were well chosen. Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals was seriously off track and the food and fuel crises persisted. The challenges ahead were daunting and States should not forget that poverty and hunger were both unacceptable and politically dangerous. Attaining the Millennium Goals required a balanced, interdisciplinary and coordinated approach.
Summarizing his country’s activities in South-South and triangular cooperation, he noted that it had increased its ODA in recent years. Having transformed itself from an agriculture-based economy to one rooted in trade and industry, Turkey had much to share with others undergoing a similar process. As a pivotal country in the Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries mechanism, Turkey had hosted a ministerial conference of least developed countries in Istanbul last July to address poverty. The global community did not have the luxury to overlook cross-cutting issues such as climate change, as they had a direct bearing on development as a whole.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said the current global crises required developed countries to shoulder the responsibilities they had undertaken “on more than one occasion and in more that one forum”. For its part, Syria had undertaken significant efforts to improve the lives of its people. Those efforts had been predicated upon the creation of an enabling international environment for sustainable development for all. But Syria continued to be confronted with political obstacles.
For example, “certain influential States” continued to put up “false arguments” that were keeping Syria from joining the World Trade Organization, even though the country had fulfilled all the necessary criteria, he said. Furthermore, in May 2004, the United States had imposed unilateral trade sanctions on Syria “outside the framework of international legitimacy”. Those were still in place and the international community had refused to hold the United States responsible for its actions.
The most important challenge to Syria’s sustainable development was the continuing Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan since 1967, he said. That occupation affected the country’s economy and drained the Golan’s precious natural resources in a manner that threatened sustainability. Israel’s reckless settlement policies throughout the region only exacerbated sustainable development challenges.
LIU ZHENMIN (China), supporting the Group of 77, said that, in order to meet the severe challenges of sustainable development, the first priority was to give special attention to impoverished developing countries beset by the food and oil crises, while those countries shifted their economic growth to long-term mode. In addition, an integrated and coordinated approach was needed to effectively address climate change, biodiversity loss and desertification, while achieving sustainable use of water, forests and other natural resources.
To do that, each country must implement strategies based on its own conditions, he said. Developed countries must make good on their commitments to provide adequate funding, transfer technology, implement the Kyoto Protocol and take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a large margin. The Economic and Social Council should play an active role in coordinating all those efforts.
He said his country attached great importance to sustainable development and was now at a critical stage of industrialization. Due to the constraints of technology, China had paid a relatively high environmental price for its economic growth and was now making vigorous efforts to fulfil its responsibilities to make its development sustainable. To that end, China had voluntarily adopted a series of policies to strengthen legislation, enforcement and monitoring, which had achieved results. Its efforts would not only change the course of its own development, but also contribute to the sustainable development of the entire globe.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said the international community should provide more support for national agricultural development efforts by devoting more resources to the agricultural sector and ensuring that those resources also boosted rural development. Such initiatives would enhance global efforts to comprehensively implement Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
Algeria had adopted a national plan for rural and agricultural development that also incorporated key forestry and land preservation initiatives, he said. It had stimulated growth in rural areas and was helping to ensure that people outside urbanized regions lived more harmoniously with the environment, while being able to take advantage of key social services. NEPAD could help achieve the “vibrant hopes” of Africa’s people, as long as it was backed by predictable and high quality international support.
DANIEL CARMON ( Israel) said threats to sustainable development demanded the highest level of determination and cooperation, and the Economic and Social Council must demonstrate its commitment to addressing the global food crisis in a holistic manner. The recent Rome Summit was a positive step forward, yet maintaining an output that met global demand remained a challenge.
Recalling a General Assembly resolution on agricultural technology for development, which urged States to share technology and local know-how with developing countries, he said rural development had emerged as a vital focus. The broader context of development could not be ignored and, as such, Israel’s Centre for International Cooperation, or MASHAV, conducted programmes in various areas, including education, health and gender issues.
Amid the many international meetings on sustainable development, it was time to concentrate on implementation, he said, calling for a “heavy scale-up” to bring together aspects of the development agenda to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Israel pledged to do its part in promoting sustainable development. It looked forward to strengthening existing collaboration and creating new partnerships.
GEORGE TALBOT ( Guyana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the current development landscape provided a somewhat foreboding panorama for developing countries in pursuit of sustainable development. Rapidly rising oil and food prices, economic and financial uncertainty and insistent demands for realistic action to combat climate change stood in stark contrast to declining resources to respond to such needs. Left unchecked, the crises together threatened to reverse hard-earned progress.
The impacts of those crises would be felt most severely by the poor, he said. As a net food exporter, Guyana was vulnerable to the rising costs of fuel needed for food production. For that reason, the country emphasized the importance of measures to support medium- to long-term investment in agriculture. International financial institutions could help by providing concessionary terms of credit for small agricultural producers.
A prudent use of biofuels should assure their contribution to solving rather than aggravating the challenges faced by developing countries, he said. Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders had taken steps to ensure an adequate supply of food within the region. In terms of national development efforts, Guyana was still largely rural, and agriculture was the single most important sector contributing to gross domestic product. There was an urgent need for higher levels of investment in that sector. An early conclusion to the Doha Round of trade talks would provide a much-needed infusion of confidence for reinvigorating other aspects of cooperation.
KIM BONG-HYUN ( Republic of Korea) agreed that current daunting challenges threatened sustained economic growth in both developed and developing countries. The world economic slowdown was expected to seriously impact developing countries over the next two years, making it all the more necessary to reinvigorate the long-called for international partnership for development. To that end, it was to he hoped that upcoming international gatherings, including the Doha Review Conference on International Financing for Development and the General Assembly’s Millennium Development Goal review, would provide opportunities for the international community to discuss new innovative ways to drive the global development agenda.
For its part, the Republic of Korea was instituting plans and programmes aimed at off-setting the impacts of the current global food crisis, in both the short and long term. Long-term initiatives were based on measures to strengthen the country’s rural and agricultural sectors. At the international level, the Republic of Korea had made significant efforts in recent years to scale up its development assistance and expand its contributions to international institutions, including United Nations funds and programmes. It would continue to make efforts to provide more ODA to developing countries; improve the effectiveness of that aid; and participate actively in the execution of common global goals.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the ongoing food crisis and economic downturn in some developed countries highlighted the importance of the theme for the Council’s session. The food crisis impacted all societies and, despite its different manifestations, it stemmed from a series of concomitant causes: short-sighted economic, agricultural and energy policies, which had created a clash between the increasing demand for and insufficient supply of food. Failure to take immediate action would deem today’s meeting a rhetorical exercise.
Noting that 2008 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he said it was difficult to consider that, in a world that spent more than $1.3 trillion annually on armaments, life-saving funds for the needy were unavailable. Agricultural and environmental policies must “walk the path of reason” to balance the need for food production and good stewardship of the earth. The twentieth century had suffered the effects of Governments that had looked only within their national borders. The current crisis presented a chance for States to come together and take responsibility for their neighbours, as well.
IVAN PIPERKOV (Bulgaria), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the forty-first session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, said that that, since that body’s establishment, it had been focused on sustainable development. Indeed, efforts to slow population growth, improve environmental protection and reduce unsustainable consumption and production patterns were all mutually reinforcing. Slowing population growth could buy time to adjust to and address existing challenges, as the experience of many countries had proved.
Countries lagging behind in the transition to low fertility “had no time to lose”, he said, stressing that population factors and policies must be integrated into national sustainable development strategies. The success of population education and family planning programmes demonstrated that informed individuals could and would act responsibly in light of their own needs and those of their families and communities. Clearly, to achieve sustainability, current population growth could not continue indefinitely.
NDIORO NDIAYE, Deputy Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that some 75 per cent of the world’s people lived in rural areas and 97 per cent of that rural population lived in developing countries. Factors linked to rural development included the current food crisis, which the World Bank had forecast would continue beyond 2015. Furthermore, the occurrence of drought, desertification and land degradation was expected to become more frequent. Such issues were already undermining achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. While migration trends had not featured prominently in the original framework of the Goals, it could significantly impact their achievement.
She stressed that, for rural development to succeed, the role of women must be acknowledged, as they were responsible for half of the world’s food production, a figure which rose to between 60 and 80 per cent in many developing countries. Governments should encourage migrants to invest in small- or medium-scale enterprises, and consider the contribution of young people to rural development. IOM stood ready to collaborate with all partners in mainstreaming migration into national development processes.
JOSÉ MÚCIO MONTEIRO FILHO, President of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions (AICESIS), said that the Association, currently chaired by Brazil, brought together some 60 organizations to discuss important international issues such as those before the Council this year, especially implementation of the three pillars of sustainable development: economic growth, social development and environmental protection. AICESIS had also undertaken efforts to promote the Millennium Development Goals, particularly by focusing on three areas –- battling hunger, improving access to education and building public health sectors. Drawing on civil society, including trade unions, women’s groups and other non-governmental organizations, the Association could make a real contribution to discussions on sustainable development by bringing the views of the general public to the United Nations multilateral system.
REMIGIO MARTIN MARADONA, Director-General, Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-algae Spirulina against Malnutrition, said that, unless the issue of malnutrition was addressed, achieving sustainable development would remain a distant dream. The link between nutrition and the Millennium Development Goals made it imperative to address the issue immediately. To realize the ambition of a world free of hunger and malnutrition, the International Institution had given priority to developing and least developed countries. Spirulina was now produced in more than 22 countries and consumed in over 77. Furthermore, the World Health Organization had found that spirulina, which was rich in protein and essential nutrients, could be administered to children without risk. States, civil society and other stakeholders should exploit the potential of spirulina to eradicate malnutrition.
ANNIKA SÖDER, Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking also on behalf of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), said no poor country had successfully reduced poverty and hunger without first improving agricultural production. Yet, agricultural sectors in the poorest countries were the least funded and most neglected. That situation was exacerbated by the current global food crisis, which, if estimates held, would push some 100 million people below the poverty line in the coming year.
She underscored the need for a fully coordinated international response to meet emergency food needs, to enable poor and vulnerable smallholder farmers to boost production, to provide safety nets for the most vulnerable segments of society and to promote sustainable livelihood options for vulnerable men, women and youth. Smallholder farmers and agricultural workers also had a key role to play, and the 2 billion women, men, children and youth struggling to make a living in rural areas of the developing world had the potential to be tremendously more productive. “They can and must be part of the response,” she declared.
MEHER MASTER, All India Shah Behram Baug Society, described a technology that would be useful to Governments facing water-borne diseases such as malaria. It removed contamination from water. Kazakhstan had discovered the technology and used it in connection with a severely polluted river. It was important to generate awareness of that technology among all nations.
DANILO PARMEGIANI, Legion of Good Will, discussed efforts to protect Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, noting that the Legion’s recommendations focused on three pillars, including education. It was important to develop strategies to re-educate people to love the earth. They should also be provided with job training so that they could use natural resources in a sustainable manner. It was also important to promote public awareness campaigns and mobilize multistakeholder cooperation.
MICHELE CLERC, World Family Organization, said energy was indispensable to agricultural production and the transportation of goods and services, among other important activities. In light of the current fuel-price crisis, it was to be hoped that the United Nations would give greater priority to matters relating to energy. Indeed, soaring oil prices were hurting developing countries the most, and international institutions must urgently help them mount a response. Such assistance should include research on renewable energy sources and setting up modern and sustainable power grids.
CEDRIC FOUSSARD, Fundacion Diagrama, focused on the importance of participation by young people in sustainable development and the need to promote good governance among them. There was a need to encourage innovation in the development of strategies that incorporated the young into national and international policies. Projects to promote youth leadership should also be encouraged, particularly because they provided opportunities for at-risk youth. It was also important to raise awareness and improve education. United Nations agencies should promote joint implementation plans centred on youth.
* *** *For information media • not an official record