|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON FINANCING FOR DEVELOPMENT HIGH-LEVEL DIALOGUE
The outcome of the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development that begins tomorrow at Headquarters held “special significance”, as it would provide the basis for the outcome of next year’s Review Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Doha, Qatar, a top United Nations official told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference today.
Oscar de Rojas, Director of the Financing for Development Office in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs said the two-day Dialogue, which is being held as part of the financing for development process aimed at assessing implementation of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, will feature six round tables on each “chapter” of the Consensus.
Also addressing reporters was Robert Pollock, a Special Adviser in the Office of the General Assembly President, who stressed that the Assembly President believed the high-level meeting was important in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. “We are at a very critical juncture in the whole debate,” he declared. While progress had been made, there was more to do. The Monterrey Consensus was among the only broad-based international agreements to involve the private sector and civil society in the outcome.
Taking a question on what was holding up progress on achieving the Goals, Mr. Pollock agreed that some Goals might not be met in this century, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Five years had past since Monterrey; seven and a half years remained to make progress. Tomorrow’s meeting would lay the political groundwork for States to agree to the type of outcome possible for next year. On the issue of official development assistance, he said that, while many donors had made progress, others faced spending pressures in education and health. Selectivity in deciding which Goals to focus on perhaps would make a difference.
Mr. de Rojas stressed that trade, debt relief and private capital flows were also important factors. What good was development assistance, if no open markets existed for selling products? he asked. Private capital flows, which were currently going to emerging economies, needed to flow to African countries. Second, there were systemic issues. Was the international economic and financial system “development friendly”? Did small and developing countries have sufficient influence over big decisions that affected their affairs? A combination of all those factors promoted development in a broader sense.
Mr. Pollock added it was important, particularly for the credibility of the Monterrey Consensus, that Governments delivered on their commitments to meet specific targets. According to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 16 out of 22 countries had met their Monterrey commitments. If developing countries had undertaken domestic reforms and economic changes, they indeed wanted to know that other resources – whether through debt relief, aid or foreign direct investment – were available. Many wanted donors to come forward with long-term plans for predictable finance. “There’s a partnership here,” he said.
Taking a question on whether humanitarian relief counted as assistance for achieving the Goals, Mr. Pollock said humanitarian aid and debt relief were considered part of official development assistance. Non-governmental organizations’ had complained that, while official development assistance had increased since 2005, much of that was debt relief, and there had been debate about what constituted real aid. Given that, much debt relief had been channelled into public services, health and education. The real question was: If the Group of 8 had agreed to double aid to Africa, but the resources transferred remained static, could it be claimed that resources to Africa had increased? To meet their commitments, donor countries would need to ramp up real spending after 2008.
In that context, Mr. de Rojas highlighted two issues that had gained attention, in that they could not be counted as official development assistance: remittances and innovative sources of financing. Developing countries had rejected the idea of remittances being discussed under the “international financial cooperation” chapter of the Monterrey Consensus, arguing that it did not constitute “cooperation”, but rather a “private flow”. Addressing the issue of innovative financing sources had been helped by the fact that States had joined together to promote their positions. The Leading Group on Solidarity Levies, launched by the Presidents of France and Brazil, had undertaken several projects, including one that placed levies on airline tickets.
Taking a question on who actually decided what constituted official development assistance, Mr. de Rojas said the OECD kept track of donor positions.
Asked whether allocating 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product was an achievable recommendation, Mr. Pollock noted that the target was first set in the 1970s. Some European Union countries had made the commitment to reach it by 2015 and others would meet it in 2013. Norway, Sweden and Denmark had reached the 0.7 per cent target. As a proportion of gross domestic product, aid had been increasing since 2005, but perhaps not at the rates at which donors had committed. Adding to that, Mr. de Rojas said that all countries but the United States had agreed to reach the 0.7 per cent target.
Asked about the degree to which reaching the Goals was tied to ignoring certain requirements for debt relief, as in the case of Argentina, Mr. Pollock said that Argentina was a specific example in that context. Structural adjustment programmes had ended some time ago. The key issue was that the country had decided not to repay its debt to the International Monetary Fund when it was scheduled. Today, the country was doing quite well. Adding to that, Mr. de Rojas said conditionality would not disappear, however, donors and recipients should work in partnership to decide on the use of funds.
Mr. Pollock added that at Monterrey it was agreed that developing countries would have greater participation on the Boards of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, particularly in guiding the debt sustainability framework. Unfortunately, the issue of IMF board reform had been postponed until next year.
Taking a question on interaction among the international community, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, Mr. de Rojas said he had just come from civil society hearings, a mechanism established in Monterrey. A similar exercise had been held with the private sector. If Member States decided that the same “rules of engagement” would apply in Doha as those in Monterrey, then there would be an inclusive and participatory process. The General Assembly must decide whether it would keep that model. Adding to that, Mr. Pollock said ministers would interact with civil society representatives and the business sector at the six roundtables. In that context, the United Nations played a unique role in bringing them together.
Asked about which high-level representatives would participate in the two-day event, Mr. Pollock said the head of Government from Bosnia and Herzegovina would participate, as well as 21 ministers and some 83 delegations. He also discussed the various co-chairs of the round tables.
As to the issue of transparency and whether the question of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) audits would be raised at the high-level meeting, Mr. Pollock said UNDP’s practice of paying local officials in cash had been approved by the Board. It was important that all the funds were well spent.
Asked about where meetings with the private sector had taken place, Mr. de Rojas responded that those meetings had taken place on 11 October in Conference Room 2. A summary of that meeting would be available as part of the documentation process.
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