|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2010 Substantive Session
25th & 26th Meetings (AM & PM)
Economic and Social Council, in Panel on Global Economic Governance, Considers
Causes of Crisis, Avoiding Reforms That Could Sow Seeds for More Turbulence
Examines ‘Sometimes Competing’ Roles of United Nations, Group of 20,
In Formulating Effective Response to Crisis, Bringing Fresh Ideas to Table
Globalization had created a complex interdependence across countries, with many developing nations emerging as powerful players on the world stage, and there was now an urgent need to reflect those changes in the structures and practices of global economic governance, delegates stressed today as the Economic and Social Council continued consideration of those and related issues on day three of its coordination segment.
In a lively panel discussion on global economic governance, speakers from developed and developing nations alike raised myriad questions about addressing the root causes of the global financial crisis and avoiding reforms that would unintentionally sow the seeds for more turbulence. They considered the sometimes competing roles of “formal” bodies, like the United Nations, and “informal” but influential groupings, like the Group of Twenty (G-20), which had crafted effective economic stimulus packages at the height of the turmoil.
Many argued for more complementarity between the two, with the United Nations offering intellectual leadership on development issues and the creation of a new, more balanced approach to globalization. Others, however, pointed to issues of efficiency, noting that one forum made decisions and the other implemented them. One had legitimacy and the other, capital. Still others, drawing attention to a persistent under-representation of developing nations in global financial institutions, said it was imperative to eliminate the requirement that the heads of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund be from developed countries.
“I do not see an inevitable competition here, on either level, institutional or philosophical,” said panellist Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. For both the United Nations and the G-20, legitimacy and effectiveness need not be mutually exclusive. The inclusiveness of United Nations membership underpinned the effectiveness and universal reach of its policy agreements. Its institutional strengths gave great value to its discussions, negotiated agreements and operational activities.
The G-20’s decision to include development on its agenda could engender a better relationship with the United Nations, said panellist Vanu Gopala Menon, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations, adding that ties currently were “tentative” at best. With such moves, the United Nations could take on a more focused role in discussions. He cautioned, however, that the Organization could be left out in the cold if it did not fulfil its potential to lead. It must bring substantive contributions to the G-20 summits, do more to formulate a response to the crisis and reform itself as a whole.
For panellist Michael Green, Economic Commentator on global finance, international development and philanthropy, there was a danger of inertia and defending the status quo, particularly in the G-20. The scale of the challenges ahead went far beyond what was on the Group’s agenda and someone had to drive a better dialogue on fundamental reform. There was an opportunity to redesign the fundamentals of economic finance and the United Nations could play an essential role in those efforts.
Also today, the Council concluded its general debate on agenda items 4, 6, and 8 — broadly covering implementation of the Council’s 2009 Ministerial Declaration on internationally agreed goals relating to public health, and follow-up to major United Nations summits. It also started general debate on financing for development (sub-item 6(a)). In their discussions, speakers highlighted national initiatives to reduce maternal and infant mortality, tackle communicable and non-communicable diseases, and address other challenges that worsened public health, including climate change. They also stressed the need to coordinate United Nations efforts on global public health and to send a strong signal about doing so at September’s High-level review of the Millennium Development Goals.
In that context, Bangladesh’s delegate said he was pleased that the 2009 Ministerial Declaration had placed serious emphasis on raising attention about the growing economic burden of non-communicable diseases on low- and middle-income countries. With the adoption of the text, his country had been greatly encouraged by the Council’s creative and pragmatic role in guiding the international community to a “brighter future”.
Also participating in the general debate on items 4, 6 and 8, as well as sub-item 6(a), were the representatives of Ukraine, India, Argentina, Switzerland, Bahamas, Congo, Cuba, Israel, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Russian Federation, Belarus, Peru, Bangladesh and Mexico.
A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also spoke.
On behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Yemen’s representative introduced a draft resolution on recovering from the world financial and economic crisis. Action on the text was postponed, owing to continuing informal negotiations.
The Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs also spoke in summary remarks.
Council Vice-President Morten Wetland, of Norway, also addressed the Council.
In other business, Thomas Stelzer, Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy and Inter-Agency Affairs of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, responded to questions posed yesterday with regard to the Chief Executives Board.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 9 July, to conclude its coordination segment and begin the operational activities segment of its substantive session.
The Economic and Social Council meet today to continue and conclude its coordination segment, with a panel discussion on global economic governance. It was set to take action on a draft resolution on recovering from the world financial and economic crisis.
Panel Discussion on Global Economic Governance
Moderated by MORTEN WETLAND, of Norway, Economic and Social Council Vice-President, the discussion included presentations from Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Vanu Gopala Menon, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations; and Michael Green, Economic Commentator on Global Finance, International Development and Philanthropy.
Mr. ZUKANG noted that globalization had created a much more complex interdependence across countries and allowed for developing countries to emerge as powerful players in the world economy. Climate and demographic changes had further reshaped global development patterns, he said, underscoring the urgent need to reflect and integrate those changes into global economic governance structures, mechanisms and practices.
Global crisis response efforts showed promise, as Governments were acting in a spirit of multilateralism, avoiding protectionist measures and enacting stimulus packages. Those measures, most of which were taken by leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20), were impressive, he said. While some considered such efforts a sign that limited membership, as witnessed within the G-20, was necessary for effective action, others pointed to the United Nations inclusive, global membership as an impediment to timely and effective decisions.
“But I do not see an inevitable competition here, on either level, institutional or philosophical. The Group of 20 and the United Nations can play complementary roles in the ongoing recovery and reform efforts,” he remarked. Moreover, the principles of legitimacy and effective action need not be mutually exclusive. The Secretary-General, stressing that idea of complementarity, made a special effort to strengthen cooperation, calling for a stronger, more inclusive multilateralism to address global challenges, including their impact on the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.
The inclusiveness of United Nations membership, he stressed, underpinned the effectiveness and universal reach of its policy agreements. Highlighting several examples of how the United Nations could and did deliver, he emphasized the need for coherence across all areas of global economic governance, including aid, trade, economics, finance and movement of workers. The Organization’s inclusiveness and long-standing institutional strengths, therefore, gave great value to its discussions, negotiated agreements and operational activities, he said. “Legitimacy and effectiveness can reinforce each other.”
In closing, he called for the international community to find ways to work together for effective global economic governance. In addition, he asked that delegations consider the potential types of modalities of a United Nations-G-20 engagement, and whether the creation of new structures would help strengthen the Organization’s role in global economic governance.
Mr. MENON said that at the height of the global economic crisis, countries and institutions alike scrambled to contain the fallout, with the United Nations initiating negotiations that culminated in the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis last June, and the G-20 catalyzing other global actions, which prompted it to call itself the “premier forum for our international economic cooperation”. Such a designation raised concern that the G-20 could challenge, and perhaps undermine, the United Nations.
He said that looking at the G-20’s overall record, however, particularly in global trade, left much to be desired, as many of its members had announced plans to raise import tariffs immediately after signing a joint 2008 communiqué rejecting such protectionism. Since then, it had merely repeated the call to avoid other barriers. “That is not good enough,” he said, adding that the group had not galvanized action to conclude the Doha round of trade talks.
At the recent Toronto Summit, the G-20’s decision to include the issue of development on its agenda might be a good thing, he said, as there previously had been little room to consider how best to achieve a coordinated approach to the world’s economic predicament. To sustain recovery “we should think hard about how to put these longer-term agendas back on track”, he said, pleased that the G-20 had taken steps to promote development, notably by replenishing the capital of multilateral development banks. It was also setting up a working group on development to draw up a multi-year action plan.
Such moves also could engender a better relationship with the United Nations, which currently was “lukewarm” and, at best, “tentative”, he said. With development included on the G-20 agenda, he expressed hope for a more focused United Nations role in such discussions, as it was — in terms of resources and broad membership — best placed to do just that. If the G-20 and the United Nations approached those issues in a cooperative manner, “we might see the start of a new and better relationship”.
Indeed, the United Nations had its own strengths as the only body with unquestioned legitimacy, he said, but notwithstanding its intellectual resources, mandate and global reach, it could still be left out in the cold if it did not fulfil its potential to lead. It must bring substantive contributions to the G-20 summits, do more to formulate a response to the crisis and reform itself as a whole. Reform must be undertaken seriously, whether as response to the crisis or to the spectre of competition from the G-20. If the United Nations did not seize that opportunity, it would simply find itself “caught on the back foot” vis-à-vis other global groups that could emerge when the next crisis came around.
Next, Mr. GREEN, confessing he was a capitalist, said capitalism was the least-worst economic system available. The global crisis was both financial and intellectual, and there was a sense that the world had experienced it before, during the Asian financial crisis. In the aftermath of crisis, capitalism always bounced back. Describing the current situation, he said the International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook noted that the global economy was growing. The report also outlined short-term risks, notably in the Euro zone and with the timing of stimulus packages, and there would be a difficult transition to make towards deficit reduction. He worried that such decisions would be motivated by political considerations.
For the long-term, it would be important to stop banks from lending to those who could not pay them back and set up a system to provide for the converse, he said. The challenges ahead would involve moving forward on trade and addressing the role of the dollar as the global reserve currency. On the latter point, there was something wrong when consumers in developing countries financed the spending habits of those in developed countries. To protect global stability and build strong equitable growth, that question must be addressed.
Looking at history, he discussed how global governance structures had tackled such challenges, saying that during the crisis of the 1870s, problems stemmed from using gold as the reserve currency. When there was no longer enough gold to support demand, the world faced a huge monetary contraction. A potential deal at the 1878 Paris Conference to address the situation was blocked, which ultimately led to two decades of global economic stagnation. During the 1933 conference to address the second Great Depression, countries played to their own self interests.
Indeed, there was a “sorry record” of global financial coordination to address long-term structural problems, he said. The 1944 Bretton Woods conference, which beat previous efforts, had occurred during exceptional circumstances, with the United States dictating terms to other partners and offering to guarantee the financial system. That scenario did not exist today.
Moving forward, “we have to get away from the morality tale of surpluses and deficit and recognize there is a global problem of imbalances,” he said. There also was a danger of inertia and defence of the status quo, a problem seen in the G-20. However, the scale of the challenges ahead went far beyond what was on the G-20’s agenda and someone had to drive a better dialogue on fundamental reform. The dollar system would end at some point and there was an opportunity to redesign the fundamentals of economic finance. The United Nations could play an essential role in those efforts.
In the discussion that followed, several speakers thanked the panellists for their presentations, which Mexico’s representative called “interesting, timely and provocative”. Speakers agreed that the United Nations and the G-20 should complement each other and work together to tackle global challenges. However, Nepal’s representative, on behalf of the least developed countries, questioned whether the Group’s response efforts truly provided widely-felt positive impacts. The body had taken up development issues, yet did not include countries most affected by them, he said, pointing to its “representational deficit”.
On the other hand, many speakers applauded the G-20’s efforts and their impacts, noting that it had taken the lead in the context of global economic governance. Mauritius’ representative said its efforts to address the crises had been to a limited extent, but still useful. While they were “not able to extinguish the fire, they at least got it under control”, he said. Furthermore, Mexico’s representative added that the Group, through the use of a coordinated, pragmatic response, had contained the crisis’ effects in an expedited manner.
With that in mind, some speakers underlined a perceived competition between the Group and the United Nations, with both fighting for primacy and legitimacy. Many asked how complementarity between the bodies could be achieved and how the United Nations could reform to strengthen its role, particularly that of the Economic and Social Council. Indonesia’s representative noted that current global governance was based on a partial and specialized approach, which led to inconsistencies. In that regard, the Organization should function as a cooperation mechanism on global issues in order to enable the coherent implementation of policies, she said. To do so, political will was needed, as was reform of the Council’s mandate.
Mr. ZUKANG said complementarity between the two bodies was a “very sensitive issue”. The Secretary-General and others had engaged with the Group, participating in some of its meetings. However, the extent of participation varied from one summit to another. He stressed that both the Group and the United Nations were legitimate, but to differing degrees. The Group had taken actions in its own interests, as several countries did not have a voice within that body. Therefore, cooperation between both bodies should not occur on an “ad hoc basis”, he said, urging once again that delegations discuss the modalities of future engagements.
He felt that all of the issues discussed by the G-20, however, were included in the Council’s mandate. The true challenge, then, lay in how to make it effective. More dialogue was needed on the issue of complementarity between the Group and the Organization, especially the Council. While previous cooperation efforts showed promise, he asked delegations to consider if they were sufficient.
Mr. WETLAND added that many countries represented more than one political will with regard to global economic governance, noting that Norway certainly did.
In response to that comment, Mr. MENON said several representatives faced the same problems when dealing with their respective ministries; yet, despite differing wills, most eventually got it right along the way. With regard to the G-20’s representational deficit, he suggested that it employ the concept of “variable geometry”, allowing other United Nations members to participate in its discussions on specialized issues such as development, labour, and trade. By doing so, the Group’s process would have a greater buy-in, he noted.
Responding to the question of which body sought out the other in efforts to commence cooperation, he stressed that neither body should “stand on ceremony” while looking for ways to engage with each other. Globally, the Group had been of little concern until recently when it grew from the Group of 8 to the Group of 20, and included not just developed countries but also major economies in the developing world. “The decisions they take will have an impact on all of us”, he said.
Mr. GREEN said reform efforts often had created unintended consequences and sown the seeds for the next crisis. The Basel capital requirement rules were one such example. Finding solutions that worked must be the main quest of the G-20, which represented the vast majority of the world’s capital. It was the only place where decisions would be made. As for whether the United Nations should approach the G-20, or vice versa, it must be the United Nations, with ideas and proposals to influence the agenda. The United Nations comparative advantage was intellectual leadership.
In a second round of questions and comments, speakers underscored that, with the G-20 proving its effectiveness, the United Nations must be brought into its work more closely, especially in the creation of a fair, balanced approach to globalization. Many underscored that the United Nations, and especially the Council, must play a vital role in the area of global governance. One speaker, however, wondered about competing with the G-20’s effectiveness, arguing that the Council currently could not respond to carving out a central role for the United Nations in global economic governance issues; it simply did not have the intellectual leadership on questions as vital as those confronting today’s world.
Some speakers viewed the inclusion of developing nations in the G-20 as positive, as it built bridges and fostered convergence. Others, however, urged that their persistent under-representation in global financial institutions be amended to reflect their weight in the world economy. One way to do that, Brazil’s delegate said, was to eliminate the requirement that the heads of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund be from developed countries.
On the issue of complementarity, one speaker said that that concept presupposed a similarity between the two. However, the United Nations was a formal body, while the G-20 was an informal grouping. Also, there was an issue of efficiency, with one forum taking decisions and another implementing them. One had legitimacy and the other, capital.
Others brought out the problem of over-reliance on market forces, with Botswana’s delegate noting that banks were in the business of lending and making money. They should not be unduly impacted by political considerations in that work. There must be a balance between the operation and the regulation of market forces. How would that be achieved?
“We need policy coordination at the international level,” said the European Union representative. As for the G-20, the fact that action had to be taken was often lost in today’s dialogue. Decisions had been taken; they were effective and they were needed at the time. The Union welcomed an active role for the United Nations in the G-20, through contributing ideas. Outreach efforts to the United Nations could be made by successive G-20 hosts.
China’s delegate pointed out that using the United States dollar as the reserve currency was the root cause for today’s global imbalance. She asked about options to deal with that situation. Would special drawing rights be a solution?
Bangladesh’s delegate said his country had been judged by three good governance standards: inclusiveness; accountability; and a pro-people approach. He asked about applying such standards to the issue of global economic governance. How did the G-20’s status stack up when measured along such lines?
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Argentina, Morocco, Ecuador, France, Venezuela and Chile.
A representative of Vivat International also spoke.
Mr. GREEN, referring to a book which likened the financial crisis to a car crash, said global responses to it tended to focus on building better airbags rather than improving the driving. In that regard, taxpayer, bank shareholders and others had lost out; there was a clear interest to better manage risk. The G‑20 was a coalition of a willing — a voluntary “posse” whose job was to fix the broken global finance system. The international community, rather than impose other issues on it and ask it to go outside of its function, should urge the G-20 to focus on its job.
He said that the dollar as global reserve currency, once an exorbitant privilege for the United States, had become an extraordinary burden for the country and the world. He commended the International Monetary Fund’s paper which discussed options for global reserve currency, noting that the options required finding a deal that worked for everyone. Also required for global reserve currency was capital account globalization by China.
Mr. MENON noted that while issues raised would not be resolved rapidly, he was glad for the discussion today. Member States had a reason to be interested and watchful of the G-20’s efforts and decisions. He also highlighted the need for the United Nations to submit proposals for the Group’s serious consideration.
Agreeing with Mr. GREEN, he stressed that the G-20 should focus on getting the economy back on track, an area in which it had tremendous strength. It was mindful of its own limitations, including its limited capacity to deal with development issues. Therein lay a useful opportunity to bring the United Nations into the picture, he said, encouraging the compilation of system inputs that would contribute to the G-20’s working group on development.
Mr. ZUKANG, extremely concerned about development, added that the working group was good news as long as its outcome complemented the Organization’s work. The upcoming 2012 Rio + 20 Conference was a very important development meeting, around which all efforts and decisions should coalesce. Any bad decisions made within the G-20 working group could potentially “constrain Member States with a straight jacket,” he added.
With regard to which body should go to the other, he said the G-20 should, naturally, go to the United Nations, and not the other way around. Leaders of the group should take the initiative to come and listen to what other Member States had to say. If everyone stood for principles such as openness and equality, what would be the harm in coming to brief the United Nations? he asked.
He stressed that his use of the word complementarity did not imply that both bodies were the same. After all, the United Nations had been around for more than 60 years, and would hopefully continue to be around for many more. Conversely, he did not know how long the G-20 would last. Its decisions were only legitimate for itself, he said, calling on it again to brief the Organization on any decisions it made, in order to formalize and legitimize them for other States. “Without the right representation in any institution, you cannot have good governance,” he said.
Present challenges offered an opportunity for growth. While the idea that the G-20 should hold its meetings at Headquarters was an excellent one, he noted that nothing would happen without the group’s consent.
THOMAS STELZER, Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, responded to comments and questions posed by delegations yesterday with regard to the United Nations System Chief Executive Board for Coordination’s annual overview report for 2009-2010. He said the joint crescent initiatives to which it refers were being coordinated within the framework of the Board’s efforts to respond to the economic and financial crises.
Responding to a question on green economy, he noted that the Board worked on the intergovernmental mandate of its member organizations, and the notion of green economy pre-dated the present discussions on the economy leading up to the Rio + 20 Conference. He completely supported a proposal for more dialogue on coordination within the Council, highlighting the need for transparency and information sharing.
To that point, the representative of Cuba added that it was important for the coordination segment to have more opportunities to discuss and debate the Board’s work.
General Debate on Health
OLHA KAVUN ( Ukraine) said her Government was committed to implementing the Council’s 2009 Ministerial Declaration, especially since achieving health-related objectives was key to the overall achievement of sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals. “Diseases don’t know any borders,” she continued, stressing, for example, that the ongoing ravages of HIV and the recent outbreak of the influenza A (H1N1) virus demonstrated the need for common action and solidarity. It was important, therefore, to press ahead with cooperation efforts within the United Nations framework. “Only working together in constructive partnerships can we provide health services and help empower those most in need, particularly in times of crises,” she said.
Ukraine’s President and the country’s new Government had prioritized health-related social policies, she said. The Government had launched its health sector reforms and was striving to reduce infant and maternal mortality, as well as combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. She commended the leading role played by World Health Organization (WHO) in helping Member States meet basic health-care goals, and she particularly thanked the agency for sending an expert mission and providing humanitarian assistance to her country during the influenza epidemic last year. Ukraine had also developed strong partnerships with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which had provided valuable assistance to the Government and civil society organizations in implementing national strategies to combat the spread of the virus. “We believe that the most important element of mobilizing efforts of the international community to overcome the epidemic is partnerships between Governments, civil society sector, businessmen and scientists,” she said.
RANDHIR JAISWAL ( India) said the global public health scenario today presented a mixed picture. Achievements and optimism were laced with serious concerns. The number of people dying from communicable and non-communicable diseases due to the lack of adequate health care was alarmingly high, particularly in developing countries. The health sector had received the highest political commitment of India’s Government. India’s flagship National Rural Health Mission, launched in 2005, was one of the biggest interventions of its kind, worldwide, in the health sector. It aimed to cover more than 600 million people, especially women and children, and it had successfully provided equitable, affordable, accountable and effective primary health care to them. The Reproductive and Child Health Programme — Janani Suraksha Yojana, a safe motherhood intervention platform, and part of the National Rural Health Mission — involved 28.5 million people so far.
Thanks to those efforts, he said, the infant mortality rate in India had dropped to 53 in 2008, and would hopefully fall to 30 by 2012. The maternal mortality rate had dropped from 301 in 2003 to 254 in 2006. India had a low adult HIV prevalence rate — 0.36 per cent — and it was showing signs of reaching a plateau. India’s dedicated national programmes on tuberculosis, malaria and surveillance of communicable diseases like cancer also had made significant progress. Due to the shortage of vaccines, India had faced a major challenge last year, and had geared itself to address the issue in a timely manner. In June, it had launched its own H1N1 vaccine. International cooperation had a key role in achieving the health-related millennium targets, and he called on developed countries to meet their commitments in that regard. The pan-African e-network project was linking major hospitals in Africa with super-speciality hospitals in India for providing quality tele-medicine, and was a good example of South-South cooperation.
Ms. GOMEZ DURAN (Argentina), aligning her statement with that of the Group of 77 and China, said her country had launched efforts towards the achievement of the health-related Goals, particularly Goals 4 (child mortality), 5 (maternal health), and 6 (HIV/AIDS). Those targets were its primary focus. Thanks to measures enacted, the infant mortality rate had decreased by 51.2 per cent from 1990 to 2008. The maternal mortality rate had fluctuated throughout that same time period, she said, noting a significant decrease in maternal deaths from 2003 to 2007. She stressed the importance of strengthening the Economic and Social Council’s role in promoting international cooperation on the health-related Goals.
OLIVIER CHAVE (Switzerland) said the Secretary-General’s report highlighted the major challenge to coordinate health concerns for national Governments and the United Nations. As host State to the World Health Organization and many other global governmental and non-governmental organizations in the health sector, Switzerland was committed to enhancing coordination and coherence in the global public health field. Efforts to ensure good health globally began at the national level through close collaboration between those responsible for development cooperation, foreign affairs and health ministries. That collaboration made it possible to adopt a coherent policy in various global forums.
He lauded the efforts of United Nations agencies to improve coordination and harmonization of financing processes, as well as initiatives such as the Health 8 and the International Health Partnership (IHP+) and related initiatives, and the creation of a common platform on financing health systems by the Global Alliance Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He encouraged United Nations agencies to strengthen the “One UN” process, and lauded their coordination to fight specific diseases, such as through the “Three Ones” project of UNAIDS. Such mechanisms should be extended to other disease-related interventions. He also supported the informal process begun in January by the WHO Director-General to redefine the Organization’s priorities and stabilize its funding source, and expressed hope that the discussion would also focus on WHO’s role in global governance for health.
PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said her country was deeply affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With help from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and, more recently, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Bahamas was making significant progress in fighting HIV/AIDS. It had launched an intensive, widespread awareness-raising campaign, as well as concentrated prevention, care and treatment programmes to reduce the risk of new infections and to strengthen capacity-building and overall response. Notable success in reducing mother-to-child transmission to less than 2 per cent was often cited as a best practice model. The WHO had noted one of the most striking features in recent decades had been a shift in the underlying causes of disease and death worldwide. That shift was quite pronounced in the Caribbean. The WHO had forecast that, between 2006 and 2015, deaths from non-communicable diseases would increase worldwide by 17 per cent. The increasing risks and high prevalence of non-communicable diseases were exacting heavy tolls on the finances and health systems of countries like the Bahamas.
She said that a significant percentage of the Bahamas national budget was spent annually on medications to treat non-communicable diseases, which accounted for almost 45 per cent of all deaths in the country. In response, the Government had recently approved the National Insurance (Chronic Diseases Prescription Fund) Act to improve access to prescription drugs and other supplies to control the effects of non-communicable diseases. She welcomed adoption of General Assembly resolution 64/265 and called for a high-level plenary meeting in September 2011 on prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, with particular emphasis on its development and socio-economic effects. She supported the first Global Forum of the Non-Communicable Disease Network (NCDNet), a WHO initiative, to address the gap in those diseases in the development agenda and to mobilize much-needed support for prevention and control.
JEAN LEZIN FILA (Congo), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the implementation of measures to strengthen international cooperation had enabled real progress towards achieving the health-related Millennium Goals. For various reasons, however, some countries had seen less progress, which was likely to compromise their implementation of recommendations included in the Secretary-General’s report. In that regard, it was important to ensure that all United Nations initiatives were supported.
Since 2008, he said, the Congo had taken specific actions related to maternal and child health. He highlighted several national strategies and actions, noting that more still needed to be done. Management and capacity building should be undertaken at all levels, budgets should be increased to allow for free health care and the upkeep of pharmacy systems, and mother-to-child transmission prevention efforts should be expanded. It was difficult, however, for certain countries — like his — to combat challenges on its own during a time of crisis. Given that, Congo’s efforts continued to require the support of organizations such as the World Bank and several United Nations agencies.
JORGE CUMBERBATCH MIGUEN (Cuba) said the issue of a universal health-care system was of great importance. But it was important not to lose sight of what had happened in previous decades when Cuba had fought so hard for the universalization of health-care services amid the ideological fervour among many world Powers for privatization. He supported the conclusions and recommendations of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), and said it was necessary to find mechanisms to make known to Economic and Social Council members the Board’s decisions on coordination issues. While agreeing with the importance of coordination and cooperation among the various agencies of the United Nations system, to the benefit of Member States, the Chief Executive Board’s decisions should not supersede national mandates.
Concerning issues of climate change, he noted that the Chief Executives Board had adopted a green economy concept, but felt that was premature, as the intergovernmental debate was far from reaching consensus on that issue and there was little harmonization of practices. On financial crisis issues, the Board had consulted the G-20, but not the full United Nations membership. The recent General Assembly decision on coherence of the United Nations system called for greater transparency in the Board’s work. He called for better cooperation between the Board and the Joint Inspection Unit. He hoped that the provisions of that resolution and the conclusions and recommendations of the Board would be implemented rigorously.
ILAN FLUSS, Director of the Policy Planning and External Relations Department of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, said health was an essential prerequisite for global development, urging the international community to assist in maximizing United Nations efforts. The Organization’s agencies must coordinate initiatives, avoid duplication, and encourage country leadership and ownership. Efforts to achieve the health Goals could be further capitalized through increased, efficient coordination with civil society, the private sector, donor groups and development agencies. Such coordination would have a great impact on the health of national societies.
He said that too many countries were not on track to achieve the Millennium Goals, especially those within sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. It was important for countries to approach public health and development in a holistic manner, which took into account all sectors of society and their health impacts. Relevant issues, such as gender, education and employment, were closely linked to health and should be used as tools to respond to health challenges.
Israel was particularly focused on partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa, he said. Looking ahead to 2015, it was cooperating with various partners to institute solutions to advance implementation of Goals 4 (child mortality), 5 (maternal health), and 6 (HIV/AIDS). One such project included mother and child health clinics, which were common throughout Israel. The clinics provided prenatal, postpartum, and sexual health services to women, and helped to lower maternal and infant mortality rates. Israel would partner with other countries to assist them in incorporating that model into their own health-care systems.
PYTRIK OOSTERHOF, observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the Secretary-General’s report on coordination highlighted the need for a substantial scaling up of resources to reach the health-related Millennium Goals by 2015, and, in light of the remaining challenges, it was clear that additional investments must be made to that end. “In our collective efforts, we must build national and local capacities in delivering health, addressing poverty; the global food, energy and financial crises; as well as socio-cultural barriers to health,” she said. The IFRC and its 186 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worked daily to support public authorities in their efforts to achieve the Goals.
She said the agency, as a community-based global humanitarian network, brought “a unique perspective of real priorities and challenges”. As an example, in many countries, national societies — in their roles as auxiliary to Governments — were trusted partners in designing, implementing and monitoring health and care programmes. “From our experience, we know that a holistic approach, involving the whole of society in planning and programming, is required,” she continued, stressing that communities must be better engaged in achieving health goals that related to their own needs. Towards that goal, the IFRC National Societies were successfully delivering health and hygiene promotion at local levels, often by staff and volunteers in their own communities who were able to connect with their peers and to speak local languages.
Finally, she said the IFRC continued to insist on more investment in health preparedness, including health and hygiene promotion. Such preparedness also required stakeholders to look ahead at emerging challenges, such as climate change and rapid urbanization. The IFRC, for instance, was working with partners to address the health effects of climate change, and by the end of the year, around 60 of the national societies would have assessed the consequence of climate change on their work in the health, disaster management and other programme areas, and would document their experiences for the benefit of the wider humanitarian community.
General Debate on Financing for Development
CHRISTOPHE DE BASSOMPIERRE (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that in a mere 10 weeks, world leaders would gather in New York to discuss strategies on how to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015. Since adoption in 2002 of the Monterrey Consensus, financing for development had been strongly linked to the attainment of the Goals. The European Union believed that mobilizing financial resources for development, and using them effectively, was central to the global partnership for development, including in support of the achievement of all internationally agreed development targets. The Union also believed that all development financing should contribute to inclusive, sustainable economic growth and decent employment, which were key to achieving the Goals.
He went on to say that mobilization of domestic resources was crucial for the provision of public goods and central for redistribution of wealth, as well as for the accountability of Governments to their citizens. That required fair, effective and efficient tax systems, sustained commitment to address harmful tax practices and tax evasion, as well as increased international cooperation and enhanced transparency. On regional integration and trade, which were crucial for significant development benefits, growth and jobs, the European Union was working towards an ambitious, balanced and comprehensive outcome to the Doha development agenda. That outcome should contain “elements of real value for developing countries”, particularly the poorest, as well as bilateral and regional trade agreements among a wide variety of such countries.
Briefly touching on the European Union’s priorities in areas such as foreign direct investment, South-South cooperation, innovative financing and debt relief, he said the delegation called for making the global development architecture more effective and efficient. The economic and financial crisis had revealed the need for better coordination and stronger coherence, both inside and outside the United Nations system, and between the Organization and the Bretton Woods institutions. An ongoing reform process should ensure that those institutions were made more efficient and inclusive. The Union would continue to support the ongoing “One UN” reform process, by taking coherent positions at different United Nations governing bodies and by providing political, financial and technical support to the “Delivering as One” initiatives at respective country levels.
DMITRY BIRICHEVSKIY, Head of the Economic and Social Council Division, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation, stressed the need to strengthen coherence of the global currency, financial and trade systems, and to fully harness the Economic and Social Council’s comparative advantage in terms of the post-Monterrey process. He welcomed the success of the special high-level meetings in March of the Bretton Woods institutions and the Council. He noted the significant contribution of the Financing for Development Office of the United Nations Secretariat, and trusted that it would continue to provide informational, analytical and organizational support. It was important that the Economic and Social Council President continue to participate in the meetings of the Steering Group of the Bretton Woods institutions. He also supported regular briefings.
He favoured the more active involvement of the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in discussions on financing for development issues, as part of the Economic and Social Council’s coordination segment. Regarding the world financial and economic crisis, the conceptual analysis of cooperation that could require amending the 1947 agreement was outside the Council’s mandate and should take place in a different format if necessary. There must be an effective division of labour between the Council and the General Assembly in the follow up financing for development processes. Economic and Social Council resolutions should not duplicate those of the Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial).
YURIY SERGEYEV ( Ukraine), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, noted that his country was one of the European countries most affected by the global financial and economic crisis and, as such, was considerably dependent on external support. Assistance provided by international donors, particularly financial institutions, was of great importance to stabilize his country’s economy. However, Ukraine understood that the resolution of current economic and social difficulties was primarily its own responsibility, and it had adopted a large-scale programme of economic reforms.
“Regional integration and trade cannot be left behind,” he said, underscoring the World Trade Organization’s leading role in establishing a fair and non-discriminatory basis for multilateral trade relations. The prevention of protectionist measures and the development of transparent instruments to preserve global competition were decisive factors that positively impacted economic recovery. Bilateral and regional cooperation contributed to the multilateral trading system, he said, noting trade facilitation measures were a cornerstone of such cooperation.
Of crucial importance was substantive and comprehensive reform of the international financial system within the international community’s efforts to combat the challenges and achieve the internationally agreed development goals, he said. Dialogue with the G-20 on issues such as reforming the major international financial institutions to strengthen their regulatory role should be intensified and focused on the special needs and interests of developing countries and new market economies. That group was most vulnerable to external financial and economic shocks, so further steps were needed to increase the financial capacity of the international financial institutions and introduce more flexible terms and mechanisms for granting loans.
DENIS ZDOROV (Belarus) said it was necessary to resolve financial and economic issues, and muster the political will of Member States, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. He stressed the need for more efforts from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to increase financing for development, for which there must be political harmony, close cooperation and coordination. The acceptance of developing countries and economies in transition into the World Trade Organization was a significant step forward. An important impetus to achieve the Millennium Development Goals could be the creation of a new architecture for energy and environmentally friendly and accessible technologies. He expressed great concern over the continued practice of using unilateral economic coercive measures, which had a negative impact on free trade. The hopes of many economies in transition for access to developed nations’ markets had not been fulfilled.
He welcomed efforts by donors to make good on their commitments to provide official development assistance (ODA), but noted the lack of transparency in the donor system. Official aid must be provided by international financial institutions on a more predictable basis. He hoped that feedback from recipient countries would assist in dealing with that and other issues. Belarus, a recipient of official aid, had taken steps to harness properly its international assistance. It had recently acceded to the 2005 Paris Declaration. He noted that the IMF stand-by arrangement had stimulated the country’s development. The World Bank had also supported Belarus’ efforts to eradicate poverty. The country was cooperating with the European Union and the Eastern Partnership in transport and energy.
GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ (Peru) said that the effects of the current crises continued to impede the ability of several countries — including developing and middle-income nations — to achieve the Millennium Goals. In that regard, job and social protection policies should be bolstered, and international cooperation efforts to accelerate progress must include a special focus on low- and middle-income countries. Peru, therefore, supported the adoption of the draft resolution, which would help in implementation of the Global Jobs Pact.
He said that accelerating development was contingent on a favourable international environment. Constructive dialogue on a new global financial architecture was essential. Furthermore, international trade served as a critical vehicle for country development. Microbusiness and small- and medium-sized businesses were efficient mechanisms to combat poverty and, thus, efforts must be undertaken to build human resources.
Climate change could not be avoided, and Peru was especially vulnerable, he said. Environmental deterioration was a major issue; therefore, climate change adaptation was essential in financing for development.
NOJIBUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said the health care systems in many developing countries were “precarious to say the least”, and that situation was being further aggravated by the spread of new and emerging diseases, as well as the increased frequency of natural disasters. Moreover, climatically vulnerable least developed countries were disproportionately affected by all those challenges. Since health targets were at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals, Bangladesh was deeply concerned by the relatively slow progress in achieving agreed targets in health, and was also troubled by the ongoing health impacts of climate change.
He said that Bangladesh, despite those concerns, was greatly encouraged by the creative and pragmatic role the Economic and Social Council had been playing in guiding the international community to a “brighter future”, particularly with its adoption last year of its Ministerial Declaration on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health”. He was pleased that that outcome placed serious emphasis on calling for greater attention to the rising economic burden of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. All Member States must implement the Ministerial Declaration and relevant General Assembly measures, including resolution 60/35 on “enhancing capacity-building in global public health”.
NOEL GONZALEZ SEGURA ( Mexico) said the development financing agenda marked a landmark since it pinpointed various financial resources available for developing countries. The Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration were important tools. The Millennium Development Goals focused on a certain number of priorities that were attainable, provided that actions were undertaken that were conducive towards that end. He stressed the importance of mobilizing financial resources, creating a national environment conducive for investment, of donor countries making good on their commitments, South-South cooperation and market access. Strengthening those actions was of great significance to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but that task was made more difficult in an international environment marked by financial crisis.
He said that the document to be adopted at the high-level event in September must take into account the financing for development agenda, particularly the Council’s special session with the Bretton Woods institutions. The Economic and Social Council could share with the event’s participants in September the main conclusions of that meeting and full account of the outcome of the fourth high-level dialogue of the Assembly on financing for development in March. In both meetings, discussions on how the financing for development agenda would be useful to achieving the Millennium Development Goals were of great significance.
Introduction of Draft
Introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, the representative of Yemen said that the ongoing negative impacts of the financial and economic crises had caused employment losses and human hardship. The Global Jobs Pact, therefore, was an important response. He stressed that it was crucial to keep it as a reference, as it offered a framework which placed employment at the heart of global recovery.
The Secretariat then made an announcement that action on the text would be postponed, as it was still in informal negotiations.
Mr. ZUKANG said the Coordination Segment had addressed several important aspects of global public health in follow-up to the 2009 Ministerial Declaration. Discussions had stressed the need to coordinate United Nations efforts on global public health. “The health-related [Millennium Development Goals] cannot be achieved by the 2015 target date without concerted action by all stakeholders. We need to send a strong signal about this at the September [Millennium Development Goals] Summit,” he said.
He said that the Economic and Social Council had also highlighted the ravaging effects of non-communicable diseases on societies and on progress towards the health—related Millennium targets. It had welcomed the Assembly decision to convene a high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases in 2011. It addressed the United Nations role in supporting low- and middle-income countries in creating policies that promoted job creation and social protectionism. The discussions had also highlighted the United Nations value in that area and its capacity to help implement elements of the Global Jobs Pact and basic health insurance packages in national policies.
He welcomed the Economic and Social Council’s decision to consider, for the first time, the agenda item on “Follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development”, which supported goals for development cooperation, including South-South cooperation. South-South cooperation must complement, and not substitute for, North-South cooperation. The developed world must deliver on pledges in the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration. Without that follow-through, progress towards several targets would be severely compromised. In global economic governance, the Economic and Social Council noted that it was critical to devise ways in which the G-20 could engage with the United Nations and its larger membership. While the G-20’s coordinated policy response to the crisis had been admirable, its representation excluded more than 85 per cent of the world’s countries and more than one third of its people.
Summarizing the events of the coordination segment, Mr. WETLAND noted that the segment could not be concluded today, as the draft decision entitled “Role of the Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits in light of relevant General Assembly resolutions, including resolution 61/16” was still being considered in informal consultations.
He said that the discussions on the follow-up to the 2009 Ministerial Declaration on global public health were an important link towards the high-level plenary meeting of the Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals. Many speakers had stressed the need to accelerate progress with regard to maternal health, and expressed support of the Secretary-General’s efforts to develop a joint action plan to improve women and children’s health.
Moreover, several speakers had emphasized the need to create additional intergovernmental mechanisms which would bring experts together to assess the potential environmental and socio-economic consequences of current challenges. Many also had proposed that a group of experts be consulted on innovative financing for development, recognizing that innovations in health systems funding needed to be promoted. He highlighted the panel discussions on South-South cooperation and global economic governance, noting that both topics were significant and timely in light of new global realities shaped by the crises and their impact on sustainable growth and development.
* *** *For information media • not an official record