In Doha, Ban urges ‘bold’ steps to prevent financial turmoil becoming human crisis

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at development financing conference in Doha

29 November 2008 – Warning of the consequences of the current financial turmoil on other key global challenges, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for bold and effective efforts to ensure that today's emergency does not become tomorrow's human crisis with particularly devastating effects on the world's poorest.

“We gather at a fateful moment,” Mr. Ban told participants at the opening of a United Nations conference on development financing taking place in the Qatari capital, Doha.

The four-day meeting is a follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development that took place in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico, which resulted in the adoption of a landmark partnership agreement by developed and developing countries focusing on issues such as domestic resource mobilization, foreign direct investment (FDI), trade, ODA and debt relief.

In addition to assessing progress on the Monterrey Consensus, as the agreement is known, participants at the conference, which include representatives of government, business and civil society, will focus on ensuring there is sufficient financing to meet key development goals amid mounting concern about the impact of the current global economic slowdown on poor nations.

Mr. Ban noted that the global financial crisis has brought “an abrupt end to a long era of global growth,” and compounds other major threats such as climate change, food insecurity and extreme poverty.

“Without exaggeration, we can say that the well-being of our people and the health of our societies – even the future of our planet – depend on what we do today and in the weeks to come,” he stressed.

While no nation has been spared, he emphasized that it is the poorest countries that will bear the brunt of the economic slowdown.

“If not handled correctly, today's financial crisis will become tomorrow's human crisis. Social unrest and political instability will grow, exacerbating all other problems. The danger, ultimately, is a cascading series of crises, each building on the other, with potentially devastating consequences for all,” he warned.

In responding to the financial crisis, Mr. Ban stressed the need for well coordinated efforts that include the entire community of nations and are based on the three pillars of cooperation, sustainability, and inclusive governance.

He recalled that the Monterrey Consensus was seen as opening a new era of cooperation, bridging the old North-South divide. “The Monterrey vision could yet deliver all that, and more. Faithfully implemented, it is a path out of our current predicament,” he stated.

Particularly important is to abide by pledges of assistance, Mr. Ban stressed, warning that reducing aid to the poorest nations under current circumstances would have devastating consequences, especially for achieving the anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Secretary-General also highlighted the need to continue fighting climate change as part of the solution to the current economic downturn. “Investments in green technologies will yield pay-offs in the long term, for a safer environment and more sustainable growth. Already, the record shows that green investment can produce jobs and spur growth,” he noted.

He said it is also crucial to step up debt relief efforts, which could free up a tremendous amount of resources for development, as well as to explore new and innovative ways to mobilize local resources.

“Like wayfarers in a boat on troubled seas, we are all in this together. I cannot stress enough that now, more than ever, we must be bold and summon the will to lead,” Mr. Ban stated.

Meanwhile, at an event focusing on development financing and gender, the Secretary-General stressed the moral imperative to empower women and promote gender equality, noting that doing so is one of the most powerful tools for fighting poverty and realizing the MDGs.

“Financing gender equality should have a prominent place on the agenda here in Doha and in our response to the financial crisis,” he said

Also addressing the opening of the conference, General Assembly President Miguel D''Escoto highlighted the need to assist those most affected by the current financial crisis.

“For our meeting to be meaningful, we must adopt the point of view of the victims of our faltering economic and financial system,” he stated. “We have a moral duty to do more than rearrange our faltering system we must transform it as well. More than new regulations, the world needs new alternatives.”

He noted that many of the pledges made six years ago remain unfulfilled, particularly regarding trade and ODA. “There is no doubt that the international community has been dragging its feet with regard to compliance with the commitments assumed at Monterrey,” he said.

“Our purpose here in Doha is to expedite these promises and infuse the development process with a sense of urgency in the face of new global challenges,” Mr. D''Escoto stated, stressing the need for the outcome document of the conference to be as strong and clear as possible.


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