Calling for sharpened focus on the poor, UN officials open development council

Mark Malloch Brown

3 July 2006 – United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown today opened the yearly session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva with a call for that body to sharpen its focus on the achievement of the development goals agreed upon at the 2000 Millennium Summit.

“ECOSOC has always been the UN’s principal body for coordinating and advancing development policy. Yet its track record is decidedly mixed,” Mr. Malloch Brown said on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan as he opened the 2006 substantive session, which will run through 28 July.

“Fortunately, today we have the makings of an antidote,” he continued, saying that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight targets to drastically reduce extreme poverty and other global ills by 2015, present an opportunity for the Council to rally around a concrete set of clear, universally acclaimed and achievable objectives.

He said the 2005 World Summit has already charged the Council with making sure that these MDGs are achieved. “It is now up to the Council to have these benchmarks, and the broader UN development agenda, define its work.”

The creation of employment opportunities, especially for the young people that comprise half of those worldwide with no work, is the theme of the opening policy dialogue of the annual meeting, to which high government officials are invited.

“This lack of opportunity for the young is an appalling waste of human resources, energy and creativity,” Mr. Malloch Brown said. “And with approximately 1.2 billion young people worldwide coming of working age in the next decade, it is an issue that will push its way up the agenda of policymakers and politicians.”

During the opening of that three-day high level segment, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo gave an overview of general economic progress in developing countries, pointing out that, despite the improved economic performance of developing countries, international economic inequality has increased since 1980.

“More precisely, since 1980, the world has witnessed a process of dual divergence: an increasing income gap between developed and developing countries, paralleled by a process of growth divergence among developing countries,” he explained, introducing the UN’s World Economic and Social Survey 2006.

He said that the strategy called for by the Survey for reducing such “economic divergence,” consists of “an assertive but flexible agenda for domestic development,” with international cooperation and rules that guarantee policy participation by developing countries.

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