|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
Global Food Crisis ‘A Wake-Up Call’ For Revitalization Of Agricultural
Production, Second Committee Told As It Continues General Debate
Closely linked to climate change, the global food crisis was a wake-up call for the international community to revitalize agricultural production and trade, while rectifying systemic imbalances in those areas, several speakers said today, as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) continued its general debate.
The representative of the Comoros said the spike in food prices and food insecurity could push 100 million more people into poverty, 10 per cent of them children. If nothing was done to mitigate climate change, agricultural production could be halved by 2020, and the rise in global temperature could put between 100 million and 400 million people at risk of hunger and malnutrition. The Comoro Islands could disappear in 50 years, he warned.
He said the Comoros Government was working to stabilize food-price inflation and had launched a national nutrition action plan with the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, such national efforts were not sufficient. The international community must increase aid to the agricultural sector and give special and preferential treatment to agricultural producers from developing countries, particularly in Africa, as well as better access for their goods in world markets. The crisis illustrated the failure of the Bretton Woods institutions, and could be an opportunity to carry out a thorough reform of the international financial system.
Echoing those sentiments, Libya’s representative said international policies had failed to ensure sustainable agricultural development and food security. The need to invest in agriculture remained paramount, and rich countries must eliminate the subsidies they paid to their farmers in order to further “honourable competition”. He said his country had increased its food production and contributed to food security in Africa by allocating $8 billion to finance food production in the Sahara Desert. Libya had also offered more than 300 tractors as well as seeds and a campaign for the artificial insemination of cattle.
Kenya’s representative agreed with the two previous speakers on food security, saying food insecurity had wreaked devastation in his country, where a severe drought had threatened the lives of more than 10 million people in the last three years. While the World Food Programme (WFP) and other agencies provided short-term aid, adequate financing, investment and technology in agriculture were needed in the long term to enable countries like Kenya to build capacity for food production. A comprehensive plan was needed to address the decades of under-investment in agriculture, high energy prices and changes in climate and weather patterns that had fuelled food insecurity.
In a similar vein, Venezuela’s representative said the food crisis was the result of two capitalist instruments: neoliberal policies channelled towards consumption, and the promotion of monocultures and technologies damaging to the environment and people. The result was “death to humans and death to nature”, he said, maintaining that there was a clear connection between the food crisis and climate change. “The food crisis is at the heart of the debate,” he said, adding: “The people of the South are the most affected by the bad behaviour of the people of the North.”
Senegal’s representative said the food crisis was thwarting the ability of developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Recent estimates showed that almost 300 million people in Africa suffered from hunger. The solutions were well known, but the means to implement them were lacking and beyond the grasp of poor countries. To reverse its dependence on food from abroad, Senegal had launched, in April 2008, a food abundance initiative that had enabled the country to boost rice and grain production. Like other African nations, Senegal had launched rural development strategies aimed at turning agriculture into an engine for economic growth, and at creating rural development banks to finance capacity-building for agricultural producers in the context of the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Nigeria’s representative said her country had enormous potential for high agricultural productivity and could also become self-sufficient in food production for local consumption as well as export. The Government had boosted large-scale commercial agriculture as part of a comprehensive national strategy on food security. She expressed hope that the outcome of the upcoming World Conference on Food Security, to be held in Rome next month, would complement those efforts.
Israel’s representative said his country had drafted and co-sponsored the Committee’s draft resolution titled “Agricultural Technology for Development”, which called on Member States to collaborate in the development of sustainable agricultural technologies.
Other speakers today were representatives of Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Nauru (on behalf of Pacific Island Developing States), Chile, Viet Nam, Syria, Algeria, United States, Iran, Malaysia, Zambia, Kuwait, Democratic Republic of the Congo (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Bolivia, Thailand, Jordan, Tajikistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Belarus, Ghana and Kyrgyzstan.
Also addressing the Committee was the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Special Representative to the United Nations and Director of its New York Office.
The Second Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday 7 October, to continue its general debate.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to continue its general debate.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, underlined the importance of rectifying the “grave flaws” in the financial and economic international system and mitigating the effects of the ongoing crisis by strengthening the United Nations system. The Organization should participate in various reform processes and contribute to the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development to take place on 23 and 24 November. Development financing was important to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and the Rio Group supported the holding of discussions on the subject in advance of the High-level Event on the Millennium Development Goals, to be held in September 2010.
Turning to international trade, he said member States of the Rio Group were concerned about the resurgence of protectionism, especially as it related to their region, and was considering measures to prevent a spill-over of the cost of the crisis from developed to developing countries. In that regard, he asserted the “legitimate right” of developing countries to safeguard their national production, in due consideration of World Trade Organization rules. As for the Doha negotiations, the Rio Group urged an urgent and satisfactory conclusion of the round.
The Rio Group also called “emphatically” for the elimination of distorting practices, particularly subsidies in developed countries, he said, expressing also its deep concern about the adverse effects of “unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries”, especially those of the Rio Group. There was a need to adopt concrete, urgent and efficient measures to prevent the application of coercive unilateral economic measures.
He called on the international community to continue supporting middle-income countries, noting, however, that their need to consolidate gains did not imply that other categories of countries should be neglected. The Rio Group expressed its solidarity with Haiti, the only member from the group of least developed countries. He emphasized the crucial role played by South-South cooperation in the Latin America and Caribbean region, across a broad spectrum, including social justice, eradiation of poverty, the fight against illiteracy, cultural enrichment, as well as technical development and energy solutions.
MARLENE MOSES ( Nauru), speaking on behalf of the Pacific island developing States, said their geographic remoteness and susceptibility to natural disasters severely hindered their path towards sustainable development. The recent tsunami in the Pacific Ocean was a tragic example of that vulnerability. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee for the Commission on Sustainable Development had reviewed the Barbados Plan of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the Mauritius Strategy for its further implementation. Once again there were concerns about slow progress, and those States’ limited technical, financial and human resources for implementation. Insufficient donor assistance also threatened achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
A greater United Nations presence was needed in the Pacific, she said, adding that the Organization should open more offices in the region to overcome capacity constraints which were the main barrier to accessing development assistance. It should also work closely with national Governments and regional bodies to gather accurate data in order to monitor socio-economic progress. There had been many broken promises and failures to provide necessary funds as pledged by donor countries under international agreements. The global economic crisis should not deter them from making good on their official development assistance obligations.
Pointing out that climate change was the most pressing security concern in the Pacific, she said it threatened to displace tens of thousands of people from their homes in the coming decades, posed a fundamental challenge to national sovereignty and was undermining sustainable development. “We are yet to see a sufficient response from the international community to this looming catastrophe, and we cannot enjoy true security until the climate crisis is adequately addressed,” she said. However, the Pacific islands developing States, while welcoming the renewed enthusiasm to address climate change, as shown during the September Summit, warned that more than rhetoric was required.
She said agreement in Copenhagen was needed to protect the most vulnerable countries and incorporate the principles set forth in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) 2009 Climate Change Declaration, which reflected on the scientific imperative to safeguard islands from climate change through new financing and technology transfer for mitigation and adaptation. Currently, their small size and the small scale of adaptation projects excluded them from the eligibility criteria for many financing opportunities. They sought cooperation on developing a “Pacific template” -- a set of project-financing guidelines endorsed by relevant stakeholders to help streamline adaptation and mitigation funding for Pacific island communities.
EDUARDO GALVEZ ( Chile), referring to the impact of the financial crisis on development, stressed the need for solutions to focus on equitable treatment for all members of society as well as environmental sustainability. There was a need to help developing countries mitigate the impact of the crisis. Developed countries should swiftly implement their financial commitments. Poor countries could not be kept waiting.
In that context, he underscored the importance of development financing and of the continued efforts by the General Assembly’s Open-ended Working Group to follow up on the goals of the International Conference on Financing for Development. The Committee should also make a substantive contribution to preparations for the 2010 High-level Event on the Millennium Development Goals. That would require appropriate coordination among all stakeholders in order to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure more effective joint action.
Welcoming the recent United Nations Climate Change Summit, he said it had given States an opportunity to share experiences and send a clear message about their commitment to protecting the environment. He also expressed support for the inclusion of food security as a Committee agenda item, and the decision to convene, in November, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) global conference on food security in Rome. Reaffirming the importance of free trade, trade liberalization and a successful conclusion to the Doha trade round. In addition, the forthcoming Conference on South-South Cooperation in Nairobi would require the international community to redouble efforts to reach a consensus on outcome documents in the next few weeks.
BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) said the global economic and financial crisis had eroded hard-earned socio-economic achievements, and vulnerable countries had suffered disproportionately, seeing their efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals threatened. The Government of Viet Nam had sought to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially in the rural areas which were home to almost 70 per cent of the population.
With foreign trade forming a crucial part of the economy, he said, the Government had adopted a range of policies and measures to counter its effects, including several packages to stimulate the economy, curb the economic slowdown and ensure social security. Viet Nam’s short- and long-term measures to boost the economy focused on infrastructure, human resources and market institutions. Simultaneously, policies had been adjusted to address other challenges in the areas of rural development, industrialization, information and communications technology, trade development and poverty relief. As a result, Viet Nam’s gross domestic product had grown by almost 5 per cent during the first nine months of 2009, and there were other positive results on record. However, the country still needed help, he said.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said the current global economic and financial crisis illustrated the need for a radical reform of the international financial system to bring it in line with the needs of the twenty-first century. That meant increasing the voting share of developing States in the Bretton Woods institutions and eliminating the conditions placed on them for obtaining loans. Despite its low debt levels, Syria was striving to mitigate the negative impact of the crisis through a range of measures that had positively affected the growth rate.
Noting that Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan had continued since the 1970s, he said the occupying Power continued to exploit the region’s natural resources and threaten its sustainability, causing a serious deterioration of the environment. Israel also continued to engage in the systematic destruction of the Golan’s agriculture sector, which was the main source of livelihood for Syrians living there. Syria called on the international community to highlight the negative social, environmental and economic effects of the occupation. The Committee should not remain silent on the matter.
The occupation was even more difficult for Syrians to bear under the present global financial crisis, he continued, adding that his country continued to face difficulties in its attempts to accede to the World Trade Organization. Despite repeated requests for membership and efforts to meet membership requirements, the World Trade Organization had not placed the request on its agenda, a situation compounded by the obstacles created by one influential Member State. World Trade Organization issues should not be politicized. Underscoring the need to implement General Assembly resolution 524/62 on international trade and development, he also condemned one State’s use of unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries, saying such measures contravened the sovereignty of developing States.
MOHAMED ALMABRUK ( Libya) said requests by developing countries for support and financing to improve their service sectors should be based on historical rights stemming from colonialism. The colonial Powers should compensate those countries for the human and material losses they had suffered, and the international community should recognize those rights.
Among the items on the Committee’s agenda were agricultural development and food security, he said, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging that international policies had failed. The need for investment in agriculture remained paramount and Libya called on rich countries to eliminate the subsidies they paid to their farmers in order to further “honourable competition”.
He said his country had increased its food production and contributed to agricultural production and food security in Africa by allocating $8 billion to finance food production in the Sahara. Furthermore, Libya had offered more than 300 tractors as well as seeds and a campaign for the artificial insemination of cattle. Libya supported the Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen and hoped all parties would show the political will to reach an agreement based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.
PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said the acute financial crisis reminded the international community of the world’s interdependence. It had given rise to an unprecedented global response, and the impact of the crisis on developing countries was beginning to ease. However, the persisting food crisis, compounded by global financial woes, was thwarting the ability of developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. According to recent estimates, almost 300 million people in Africa suffered from hunger. The solutions to hunger were well known, but the means to implement those solutions were lacking. Resources to fight hunger were beyond the grasp of poor countries.
He said that between 2006 and 2008, his country had mobilized $800 million in public funds in the form of direct and indirect subsidies. To reverse its dependence on food from abroad, Senegal had launched, in April 2008, a food abundance initiative that enabled the country to boost rice production from 19 per cent to 40 per cent of the nation’s needs, and grain production to 69 per cent. A rural development revolution in Senegal was part of a strategy to turn agriculture into an engine for economic growth in Africa, he said. African countries were creating rural development banks to finance capacity-building for agricultural producers in the context of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Solutions to the crisis would require more resources, which were often not available or accessible, he said. In their absence, developing countries, particularly in Africa, would find it difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. There was an urgent need to create a global economy that restrained carbon emissions, and Senegal was eager to contribute to a new global green deal without having to mortgage its economic development. Senegal’s proposed “Great Green Wall” would create a green belt of 105,000 square kilometres from Dakar to Djibouti and serve as a “green lung” for the world.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said the times were marled by the crisis in food production, the economic and financial crisis and the climate crisis. The crises curbed progress and attainment of the Millennium targets, on which progress was patchy in many developing countries, especially in Africa. International development must be a primary goal for the United Nations and a global, coordinated response to mitigating the effects of the crises, especially on developing countries, must remain a top priority. In that regard, he called for international financial institutions to grant short- and long-term liquidity to developing countries.
On the subject of climate change, he welcomed the determination and political will exhibited so far, and expressed support for an agreement in Copenhagen that would benefit humankind s a whole. The negotiations must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. The common African position was that combating climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals could not be done separately. The struggle against the phenomenon of climate change must be linked to the fight to end poverty, and it was important that the international community come to the aid of those facing drought and flooding. In conclusion, he reasserted the importance of South-South cooperation, especially in the context of the current global economy.
WELLINGTON WEBB (United States) said the challenges ahead were “real, vital and pressing”, as he quoted from President Barack Obama’s speech to the General Assembly last month about “a new era of engagement” by the United States in world affairs. Two of the four pillars of that engagement –- the economy and the environment –- related directly to the Committee’s work, and the United States called on other countries to engage constructively on the crucial issues of sustainable economic development that formed the Committee’s agenda. In the United States, the engine of economic growth had begun to churn and hopefully that would translate into jobs and growth, both nationally and internationally.
With regard to the recent Pittsburgh Summit, he said four outcomes would further growth, among them an agreement to sustain national stimulus plans; adoption of the Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth; an agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies; and steps towards a reform of global economic cooperation and governance.
Concerning the Millennium targets, he emphasized that the Committee’s deliberations should focus on strategies for promoting progress on development, despite the multiple challenges. He also encouraged the incorporation of a gender perspective into various resolutions, and heralded the recent creation to create a new United Nations gender entity. On the subject of climate change, he said the upcoming Copenhagen Conference deserved undivided attention, while reiterating in conclusion, his country’s support for the Millennium targets.
ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said that despite national and global efforts, and due to growing financial and economic interdependence, developing countries were becoming increasingly prone to external fluctuations. The particular vulnerability of the poorest countries to such shocks must be reduced. Iran reiterated its long-standing call for developed countries to set timetables for reaching the target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for official development assistance to developing countries by 2015 so they could achieve the Millennium targets. The 2010 Review Summit on implementing the Millennium Development Goals should take stock of existing gaps, identify action such as strengthened international cooperation, and ensure that momentum to achieve the Goals was maintained. Targets and areas lagging far behind should be given adequate financial and technical resources.
No country or group of countries had a right to decide what others should do, or to issue new mandates and tasks for international institutions with wider membership, he said, adding that, in that context, the recent conduct of the Group of 20 (G-20) was unacceptable. Decisions made by such “exclusive clubs” did not create any responsibility or obligation for non-members. Issues concerning persistent systemic inequities in international economic relations, particularly the lack of progress on enhancing the voice and participation of developing countries in international financial and monetary institutions, should be addressed through the United Nations.
In addressing climate change, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility must be applied, he said, pointing out that the historical responsibility of industrialized nations for having contributed the most greenhouse gas emissions should also be taken into account. With emissions in most developed countries continuing to rise at an alarming rate, those countries must take the lead in mitigating the effects of their emissions, in accordance with the Bali Action Plan.
ELI BEN TURA ( Israel) said it had become “dramatically clear” that poverty eradication, climate change, environmental protection and sustainable development were interlinked, and it was important to act boldly and collectively. With regard to the Millennium targets, Israel had partnered with the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues to host a conference in November on the financial implications of the current crisis for women. On food security, Israel had drafted and co-sponsored the resolution “Agricultural Technology for Development” which called on Member States to collaborate in the development of sustainable agricultural technologies.
He said his country had established a centre for international cooperation within its Foreign Ministry, an entity known in Hebrew as MASHAV, to share development experience with developing countries. MASHAV continued to further positive change in Africa. As for health and population growth, Israel would chair the forty-third session of the Commission on Population and Development. The country continued to explore constructive policies in the areas of population growth, societal health and sustainable development. He also emphasized the importance of focusing on the most pervasive illnesses, such as pneumonia, which killed more than 2 million children every year –- more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said the latest report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the state of the global economy showed that the global recession was ending, but the world would continue to experience deleveraging and slow job growth. The economy would expand 4 per cent in the 2010-2104 period, down from the 5 per cent pre-crisis level. Global economic imbalances must be addressed, and ongoing discussion so far had focused on measures to create a framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth, but not enough time had been devoted to measures to mitigate the adjustment costs involved. The G-20 statement contained a generic statement to the effect that, in committing to implement a new, sustainable growth model, everyone should encourage the development of measurement methods in order better to account for the social and environmental dimensions of economic development.
The United Nations, with its analytical and operational expertise, was well-equipped to tackle that task, he said. In that context, the Organization should advocate for global growth and social progress as a global public good, and form coherent, concrete views on that, he said. It should make better use of its unrivalled ability to predict medium- and long-term trends, while seriously addressing the existing disconnect between its analytical work and its advocacy and implementation roles. It should draw on best practices worldwide and recommend the best ways to reduce adjustment costs to a minimum.
The global crisis had resulted in a new framework for global governance, he said, adding that the Pittsburgh Summit had designated the G-20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation. The world was not yet out of the woods, but the situation would have been worse off without a role for the G-20. While the grouping was more representative than the G-8, the Europeans were disproportionately represented, as in the World Trade Organization, IMF and the Financial Stability Board.
The challenge was to make the G-20 process more legitimate and effective, he said, pointing out that it had been his country that had first articulated much of the G-20’s work on reforming the Bretton Woods institutions and strengthening the international regulatory system in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Ideas and solutions were not the monopoly of the large and powerful, and the United Nations must consider how to better complement the G-20’s efforts in a consistent, sustained manner. Institutional links should be established. For example, the Chair of the G-20 Summit could address relevant meetings of the Economic and Social Council, and the Secretary-General should be allowed a greater role in the G-20’s deliberations.
LUBINDA AONGOLA ( Zambia) said the global economic and financial crisis had severely impacted commodity-based economies, such as that of his own country. Zambia relied on mining, with copper alone accounting for about 70 per cent of exports and the mining industry for almost 10 per cent of total formal employment. The effect of tumbling copper prices had been devastating.
He said critical social sectors such as health, education, water and sanitation had been negatively affected by the decline in Government revenues as a result of falling commodity prices and a slowdown in tourism, construction, transport and communication. Before the crisis, Zambia had been on track to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals; now the country might only meet one of the targets, unless the international community intervened.
In terms of response, he said the Government had enacted a number of new policies to diversify the economy into the areas of agriculture, tourism and manufacturing, among others. With regard to climate change, Zambia called for a deal to provide massive scaled-up and predictable support for the implementation and consolidation of a legally binding international programme of work.
MESAID ALKULAIB ( Kuwait) said he hoped the Committee would focus on the causes of the economic and financial crisis and solutions, so to avoid a recurrence in the future. The resolutions adopted by the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Kuwait in January aimed to achieve prosperity, social advancement and sustainable development.
He stressed his country’s commitment to the final document adopted by the Secretary-General’s June high-level meeting and its pledge to assist developing countries and reform international financial institutions. Concerning climate change, he called upon Member States to collaborate in order to conclude an agreement at the upcoming Copenhagen Conference. Kuwait had donated $150 million at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Summit in Saudi Arabia on energy and climate change.
During the Committee’s deliberations for this session, it was to be hoped that there would be an adequate focus on development issues, poverty and global hunger, and that Member States would take action to find practical and successful solutions aimed at alleviating the sufferings of the poor. Regarding another agenda item, Kuwait supported the total and permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people over their land, including East Jerusalem, as well as that of the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan sovereignty over their natural resources.
ILEKA ATOKI (Democratic Republic of the Congo), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that despite the adverse impact of multiple crisis on the subregion’s economic development and social well-being, SADC was working to expedite regional integration. Stronger free trade and investment promotion should create an enabling environment for the sustainable socio-economic development of the entire subregion. The SADC Summit in September had focused on concrete measures to address the impact of the crisis and renew commitments to further strengthen the regional economic integration agenda. Progress had been made in implementing the SADC Free Trade Agreement and preparing for negotiations on the SADC Customs Union.
Recalling that the SADC Heads of State and Government had pledged to ensure that outstanding issues were effectively addressed in order to advance the regional integration process, he said they had also advocated for the need to suppress the trend towards protectionism, which had developed in the wake of the economic crisis, and to work towards resuming the Doha Development Round. Falling export revenues in the fourth quarter of 2008 had negatively impacted SADC’s trade balance, and the deficit could grow to 10.8 per cent in 2009, and reach 11 per cent in 2010.
There was a need to reform the international financial architecture so as to make it more agile and better equipped to meet the needs of developing economies needs, he said, reiterating also SADC’s support for the common African position on a comprehensive internal climate change regime beyond 2010, to be created within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. SADC called on developed countries that had not yet done so to take concrete actions to reach the official development assistance target allocation of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for developing countries, and the Brussels Programme of Action target of 0.15 per cent to 0.2 per cent to least developed countries. While financing for United Nations operational activities had reached $15.5 billion in 2005, there was still a need for greater predictability and long-term funding stability.
PABLO SOLON ROMERO (Bolivia), noting that the economic and financial crisis had led to a spike in poverty and unemployment in developing countries, said that in the last year the transfer of capital had flowed not from the North to the South but in the opposite direction. Global economic policy was more focused on saving certain banks and corporations than people in need. It was essential that the General Assembly’s Open-ended Working Group follow up the recommendations made during the High-level Global Conference on the Economic and Financial Crisis and its Impact on Development, in particular those aimed at alleviating external debt, and the drop in investment and trade, tourism and remittances.
Calling for a deeper examination of what could be done to restructure the international financial architecture so that it concentrated on the needs of developing countries and the poor, he said the Doha Round must refocus on its initial objective of development. While rejecting protectionist measures, he reiterated the right of developing countries to regulate trade in order to protect the food needs of their populations. The crisis was hitting landlocked developing States hardest, he said, adding that least developed countries needed special and preferential treatment, not just to facilitate trade, but also in terms of tariffs. There was a need for progress on South-South cooperation.
The climate change crisis illustrated the fact that human beings were part of an interdependent system which required respect and care, he said, calling for a discussion on the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, which involved the right to life and the right for plants and animals to regenerate their biocapacity. The fact that plants and animals were not able to directly defend their rights did not deprive them of those rights. Just as children could not defend their rights and needed adults to advocate on their behalf, the international community must do the same for plants and animals. All nations should work together to promote education that respected those rights and to implement them.
SANSANEE SAHUSSARUNGSI ( Thailand) said that in some countries, economic recovery seemed to be on its way while in other places, especially in the developing countries, resurgence was more tepid. Regional financial cooperation must be strengthened further to ensure full global recovery. The Chiang Mai Initiative, created after the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, was an example of an instrument that had helped provide liquidity for countries in the region through bilateral arrangements.
She said that in response to that crisis, the Chiang Mai Initiative and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as Japan, Republic of Korea and China, had created a $120 billion multilateral financial agreement in response to short-term liquidity shortages in the region. That measure had made it easier for policymakers in the region to deal with the crisis. The group had also developed an early-warning tool to avert risk and facilitate liquidity support, he said.
Protectionism and trade restrictions should be avoided if States wished to mitigate the effects of the crisis, she said, suggesting that developed countries could open the way for developing countries to “trade themselves out of poverty” by accelerating multilateral trade negotiation. Turning to the food, energy and climate crises, she said the three were interlinked. Studies had shown that climate change eroded agricultural potential and it was of the utmost importance to promote alternative energy and develop sustainable patterns of production and consumption. For its own part, Thailand would readily share its experience with biofuels.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said the world faced a crisis of civilization, a structural and systemic crisis that called capitalism itself into question. It was obvious that the “captains of finance” were only concerned with the recovery of financial markets when they heralded the recovery of the stock market, despite the continuing rise in unemployment. Fiscal stimulus packages had really helped the North, not the South, he said, pointing out that historically, it was the latter that had financed development in the former. Venezuela advocated reform of the international economic and financial institutions and global governance in general.
Turning to climate change, he said it was a threat to humankind and the countries of the North “must pay their historic debt”. Venezuela hoped the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen would lead to agreement and a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. “The food crisis is at the heart of the debate,” he said, adding that there was a clear connection to the issue of climate change. “The people of the South are the most affected by the bad behaviour of the people of the North.” As for the food crisis, it was the result of two capitalist instruments: neo-liberal policies channelled towards consumption and the promotion of monocultures and technologies damaging to the environment and to people. The result was “death to humans and death to nature,” he said, adding that the question now was whether death or life would triumph. Venezuela was committed to life.
KHALID ABDULLAH KRAYYEM SHAWABKAH (Jordan) said the global economic, climate change, food and energy crises required concerted global efforts to help all countries. In one year, the financial and economic crisis had become a global priority issue, as it threatened prospects for global growth and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The G-20’s efforts were a positive step, but did not go far enough. Meanwhile, development partners had so far not met their official development assistance commitments. That must change.
He said climate change was a constant threat, negatively affecting the environment, human health, safety and natural resources. Efforts to address it must be stepped up. There was a need to create a fund that would counter the impact of climate change on least developed countries, and more aid must be channelled into that area. The Monterrey commitments must be maintained, desertification in developing countries must be addressed and the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol must remain central during the Copenhagen Conference.
SIRODJIDIN ASLOV (Tajikistan), emphasizing that the Committee should focus on finding timely, practical solutions, outlined the need to mitigate the impact of the global economic and financial crisis by pooling efforts, strengthening national capacities and eradicating protectionism.
Overcoming the food crisis was another area that required decisive, practical measures, and Tajikistan supported the upcoming World Summit on Food Security, to be held in Rome in November, he said. Hopefully, measures would be drafted to increase the volume of agricultural production and develop more arable areas to protect vulnerable people from food insecurity. With regard to the Millennium Development Goals, he said the Government of Tajikistan had made reaching them a key priority.
He said another important area was access to energy, especially as it related to the eradication of poverty. It should be made a priority alongside the other Millennium Development Goals. There was a need to expand the sharing of renewable energy and assist in transferring new technologies. Tajikistan had significant hydroelectric potential and had just concluded work on a number of small and large hydroelectric stations. Finally, he urged the Committee to strengthen its work on the question of water, which had not been given due attention, and proposed convening a high-level conference on the issue in 2010.
ESAYAS GOTTA ( Ethiopia) said global gross domestic product was expected to fall by 1.4 per cent in 2009, according to the latest IMF projections. Africa, which had seen five consecutive years of real growth in gross domestic product, was bound to see that growth stunted. Falling commodity prices, declining export earnings, slow and unpredictable capital flows and exchange-rate volatility had all effected the continent’s economic situation.
Sky-rocketing oil prices had been a “back-breaking burden” for most oil-importing African countries, he said. As a consequence of the crisis, African countries and their development partners should consider both short- and long-term action. While African countries should bolster financial-sector regulation, diversify their export bases and mobilize domestic resources, the international community should help by giving African countries the necessary policy space to adjust to the changed circumstances. Furthermore, Africa needed development assistance, perhaps more so than in the past, given the economic context.
On development, he noted some encouraging signs, such as the most recent G-8 and G-20 summits, which had reaffirmed donor commitments and proposed additional resources. With regard to climate change, he said Africa had decided to field one team for the Climate Conference in Copenhagen. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia would negotiate on behalf of all the African States.
Finally, he outlined a series of reforms in his own country that had reoriented Ethiopia towards a market economy, rationalized the role of the State and encouraged private-sector development on a larger scale. Furthermore, democratization was well underway in Ethiopia, which for the last five years had enjoyed continuous double-digit growth in gross domestic product. A similar growth rate was projected for 2009, despite the global downturn, he said.
ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), noting that many people believed a drastic overhaul of the Bretton Woods institutions might restore the world economy, said such interventions should comprehensively tackle the immediate fallout from the crisis, as well as its root causes. Developing countries continued to be victims of the outward transfer of their financial resources to developed countries, and fundamental reform of the international reserve system was urgently needed to address that systemic imbalance.
He stressed the need to garner the political will needed for a successful conclusion to the Doha Round and full achievement of the development agenda. Duty- and quota-free market access as well as support for productive capacity-building in the least developed countries should be expeditiously and comprehensively pursued. While the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative was welcome, piecemeal approaches would not yield effective results. Countries that fulfilled the criteria for membership among the least developed countries should be eligible for debt write-offs and have their outstanding debt written off immediately.
Climate change was likely to affect both rich and poor, he said, adding that concrete, time-bound commitments should be made in Copenhagen. The international community must agree on prudent, ambitions emission-reduction targets as the situation on the ground had become bleak. There was also a need for easy, equitable distribution of disaster-proof high-yielding varieties of rice, wheat and other crops for developing countries, particularly Bangladesh and other low-lying countries. Despite progress towards reaching the Millennium targets, Bangladesh suffered from food insecurity and natural disasters that had absorbed too much funding to address. Food security was invariably linked to climate change.
U THAN SWE (Myanmar), noting that the world was not on track to attain the Millennium Development Goals, said developing and least developed countries must have an adequate share of short-term liquidity as well as long-term development financing in order to achieve the internationally agreed development goals. In that context, both developed and donor countries must fulfil their obligations.
The impact of climate change on development, ecosystems, water and food security, agriculture, forests and human health was very worrisome, he said, adding that the impact was greater in developing countries. Their lack of financial resources and technological know-how hindered their ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and they needed bilateral and multilateral financial mechanisms to help them adapt.
He said his country had taken several steps to meet the Millennium Development Goals. It had given priority to poverty eradication and rural development nationwide. The Myanmar National Development Plan aimed to achieve equitable, balanced and sustainable development, and to reduce socio-economic disparities between rural and urban areas. It included programmes for border area development, special development zones and integrated rural development, with particular emphasis on infrastructure improvement. The Ministry of Forestry had taken the necessary measures for the effective conservation of the nation’s forests through the systematic protection of wildlife and wild plants, as well as a scheme to “green” arid areas.
VLADIMIR GERUS ( Belarus) said the one positive consequence of the global economic and financial crisis was a move away from the market fundamentalism that had dominated since the 1970s. There was a need to establish a new world financial architecture that would include a bigger role for developing countries and prevent protectionism. In general, there had also been a move away from “de facto domination” by large wealthy countries towards multilateralism. The United Nations was the appropriate organization to confront the current challenges.
He said one of the most important things to consider was the emergence of green technologies and the recognition by Governments of the importance of developing sustainable energy. The United States and China had already taken significant measures on that issue. Without measures to mitigate climate change, there was a risk that by 2050, average world temperatures would increase by 6˚ C. However, the required technology was very costly and only a few States could afford it. It was important that technological inequities not become another source of tension between developing and developed countries.
LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said various external shocks continued to have dire consequences for trade, investment and growth. For Africa, such shocks were a serious setback to steady economic progress and had diminished prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Meeting the commitment to double official development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa by 2010 remained elusive. The financial crisis also exposed the weaknesses inherent in the global economy and the need to reform the international financial architecture.
Developing countries needed increased representation, voice and participation in the decision-making processes of the Bretton Woods institutions, he said. Sustained economic growth required poor countries to increase their exports to the markets of rich nations. Member States must show a shared interest and the political will to successfully conclude the Doha Round.
Malaria remained one of the deadliest diseases in Africa and other parts of the developing world, he said, urging development partners to support the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. The Government of Ghana had decided, in collaboration with neighbouring West African countries, on an ambitious programme to reduce and eventually eliminate the disease. Ghana had also joined forces with other African countries in the Malaria Alliance, dedicated to the same goal.
He said that for his country, action on climate change and development could not be separated. Africa’s weak ability to adapt to the effects of climate change, notably more severe floods, droughts and storms, increased the continent’s vulnerability and raised the risk of agricultural decline, chronic hunger, water shortage, deteriorating health, biodiversity loss and mass-scale migration. A strong deal on climate change should take into account the leadership of developed countries in cutting emissions, supporting developing countries with financial resources, technology and capacity-building, enhancing growth and fighting poverty.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said measures to mitigate the global economic and financial crisis had had little or no real multiplier effect on developing countries, which were having a hard time reaching the Millennium targets. In an interdependent world, any recovery that was not universal would be short-lived. She called for States to support implementation of the outcome of the high-level conference in June, which provided the most comprehensive framework to address the root causes of the crisis. The establishment of the Assembly’s Open-ended Working Group was also welcome. Nigeria had intensified macroeconomic reforms, among them new taxation policies and the strengthening of the Central Bank to check excesses and mismanagement in the financial sector.
Describing the successful implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as an irreversible commitment, she called on the international community to support efforts to achieve a green revolution quickly. Nigeria had enormous potential for high agricultural productivity and could become self-sufficient in food production for local consumption as well as export. The Government had boosted large-scale commercial agriculture as part of a comprehensive national strategy on food security. It was to be hoped that the outcome of the upcoming World Conference on Food Security in Rome next month would complement those efforts.
SAID MOHAMED OUSSEIN ( Comoros) said the global economic crisis was endangering the survival of people worldwide, particularly in Africa. The Committee must play a leading role and help Member States face the challenges. The spike in food prices and food insecurity could push 100 million more people into poverty, 10 per cent of whom were children. The Comoros had taken steps to address the increase in prices for basic food staples, which had risen almost 6 per cent. The Government was working to stabilize runaway inflation, and had published new guidelines for the period 2008-2011.
Emphasizing the need to support agriculture and improve conditions for agricultural production, he said his country had launched a national nutrition action plan with the help of FAO. However, such national efforts would not be sufficient, and the international community must increase assistance to the agricultural sector. It must optimize human resources and give special and preferential treatment to agricultural producers. It must increase market access for manufacturing and agricultural products from Africa.
The crisis showed the failure of the Bretton Woods institutions, he said, adding, however, that it could be an opportunity for thorough reform of the international financial system. It was a matter of urgency that developed countries respect the promises they had made at the G-8 Summit, particularly the commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product to official development assistance for developing countries by 2015.
Climate change projections showed that agriculture production could be cut by 50 per cent by 2020, he said. Rising temperatures could put between 100 million and 400 million people in danger of hunger. The Comoro Islands were at risk of disappearing in 50 years if nothing was done. Countries of the North must act with regard to their own means and consumption, while providing consistent support to developing countries, particularly small island developing States.
ZACHARY MUBURI-MUITA ( Kenya) said the Committee would face a number of issues, ranging from the economic and financial crisis to climate change, food security, energy and health pandemics, but for the most vulnerable countries, poverty eradication and reaching the Millennium targets topped the agenda. Kenya’s declining export and tourism revenues, as well as falling remittances from abroad had negatively affected the economy. While G-20 efforts at recent summits in Washington, London and Pittsburgh were welcome, it was important to put mechanisms in place to avert similar crises in the future, and the current challenges should not be allowed to overshadow action on other issues, such as concluding the Doha Round.
Turning to food security, he said it was central to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Decades of under-investment in agriculture, high-energy prices, changes in climate and weather patterns as well as increasing demand for biofuels had contributed to the current food security problems. To address them required resolve and determination and, more importantly, a comprehensive plan. While the World Food Programme (WFP) and other agencies provided short-term aid, a real long-term solution necessitated that each nation build its capacity for food production, which required adequate financing and investment in agriculture as well as the provision and application of appropriate technologies. “Food insecurity is real,” he said, noting that in the last three years, a severe drought had threatened the lives of more than 10 million Kenyans.
NURBEK JEENBAEV (Kyrgyzstan), pointing to the specific need of mountain countries to overcome obstacles to sustainable development, called on all countries to support the draft resolution titled “sustainable mountain development”, noting that Central Asian countries were working together to increase water efficiency and energy regulation within international and regional structures. It was essential to create conditions for improving water accumulation in the winter, and to provide water for irrigating fields in the summer. If that happened, the Toktogul reservoir, the largest in Central Asia, would have the required water in reserve to maintain food and energy security in the region during periods of drought. But without long-term planning, there would be dangerous consequences.
He recalled that during the April 2009 Almaty Summit of Central Asian countries, the President of Kyrgyzstan had drawn attention to the impact of global climate change and related threats posed by the substantial reduction of drinking water deposits due to the melting of glaciers and snow. Calling for steps to preserve rivers and forest areas, including through improved irrigation and power systems for water and fuel delivery, he said his country had made a priority of protecting the environment as a basis for sustainable development. After the recent climate change summit, Kyrgyzstan had begun to look at hydropower station construction with a greater focus on substantially, reducing the volume of hazardous materials released into the atmosphere. The Government supported an external debt swap mechanism for sustainable development as an effective tool to help countries in the wake of the economic and financial crisis.
JANE STEWART, Special Representative to the United Nations and Director, International Labour Organization (ILO), New York Office, said the markets were showing signs of bouncing back but incomes, jobs and people were not. According to ILO estimates, global unemployment could reach somewhere between 219 million and 241 million, the highest level on record. To mitigate the effects of the crisis, ILO members had adopted the Global Jobs Pact at the International Labour Conference in June. Based on the Decent Work Agenda, it called for urgent action at the national, regional and global levels. It also proposed a series of policy measures that States could adopt to counter the effects of the crisis.
While ILO had developed the Pact, it could not carry out implementation without the help of the United Nations, Governments and other United Nations agencies, she said, welcoming the encouraging comments made by several Member States in their opening statements supporting the Pact. The crisis highlighted the need for the United Nations and other international bodies to formulate strategies for social protection as it related to poverty reduction. There was a powerful case for a rapid expansion of universal social security. The climate and jobs crisis had common roots: an over-emphasis on the economy, especially the financial sector, and an under-appreciation of sustainability. The crisis provided an opportunity to redress that imbalance and speed up the transition to low-carbon, high-employment, poverty-reducing economies.
* *** *For information media • not an official record