Report of the Secretary-General on the Annual Ministerial Review

Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs on the Report of the Secretary-General on the Annual Ministerial Review Geneva, 3 July 2007

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my distinct honour to present the report of the Secretary-General for the first Annual Ministerial Review. This is an important juncture in the work of the Council. It is responding to the World Summit’s decision that ECOSOC should undertake a Ministerial Review of the global effort to achieve the internationally-agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

This Review aims primarily to improve and accelerate implementation. It should therefore concentrate on actions. We need to focus on what works and what does not. The idea is to exchange experiences, successes, failures and lessons-learned from the strengthened development efforts that have been launched as a result of commitments in the UN development agenda. We should seek to identify practical measures that can contribute directly to development.

Eradicating poverty and hunger – the overarching objective of the global conferences – is an appropriate theme for this inaugural review. To set the stage, the report before you (document E/2007/71) provides a broad overview of progress in implementation of the development agenda. The agenda, of course, represents the synthesis of the outcomes of all the major UN summits and conferences of the last two decades. The report pinpoints the key gaps and obstacles. And it suggests broad areas that particularly require continued attention, especially the effective operationlization of the global partnership for development.

Coupled with the MDG Report 2007, this report of the Secretary-General reveals a glass at once half-full and half-empty. Yet, on balance, the results to date are encouraging, particularly in light of the two preceding decades. The goal of reducing poverty by half appears likely to be met in almost all regions, except sub-Saharan Africa. Even there, the earlier relentless increase in the number of poor appears to have been halted and the proportion of poor is declining, but so far, not rapidly enough. Progress in reducing hunger is less easy to identify. No recent comprehensive data exists. But hunger clearly remains a scourge in several areas, particularly where there is unrest.

We all know that poverty, as a phenomenon and as a challenge, involves much more than income levels. We do see forward movement in non-income dimensions of poverty, such as access to education and health. Importantly, data suggest that progress in such areas has accelerated since 2000 and that it embraces many of the countries where these challenges are greatest. Nevertheless, the progress to date has been uneven across and within countries and, in many cases, insufficient to achieve the agreed goals.

Overall, the evidence suggests unusually widespread movement in many positive directions. But there are exceptions. Internal conflict and unrest in several countries are impeding or reversing development. Such countries must increase their efforts to end these disputes. Where this requires external support, the international community must unite in its efforts to achieve peace and stability – and to sustain it.

A major exception to the wide-ranging progress involves the earth’s physical environment. There are no large-scale “quick impact initiatives” that will rapidly reverse the negative trends of past decades. In the specific case of climate change, the additional information that has become available over the past year underlines the seriousness of the threat and the urgency to forge a global response. All countries should contribute positively to the multilateral solution necessary to address this global challenge effectively.

Let me turn now to the broad conclusion of the report before the Council: the overall strategy for achieving the internationally-agreed development goals, including the MDGs, is working, although not on the scale required. The strategy must be improved and strengthened. The aim should be to accelerate implementation in a way that enables all segments of the world’s population to share in the success.

ECOSOC can certainly contribute to such an effort, not least through the opportunity for evaluation and mutual learning provided by the Annual Ministerial Review. Yet, the most essential factor in delivering on the development agenda is that all countries continue to implement the policies and actions that they have already agreed upon. This includes remedying any failures to meet earlier commitments.

The global partnership for development – coming out of Monterrey, Johannesburg, and the 2005 World Summit – has two key, complementary underpinnings. The first is the acceptance by developing countries of their primary responsibility for their own development. The second is the acceptance by developed countries of their role as active partners who support the efforts of developing countries in various ways, notably by providing assistance and working to ensure that global conditions are conducive to development. If either commitment is broken, the partnership will falter. Another source of strength is the partnership’s multi-stakeholder character, designed to engage the array of partners, each with distinct roles, responsibilities, and contributions to make: the UN and the UN system organizations, other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the private sector.

Many countries have already adopted the World Summit’s proposal that they prepare and begin to implement national development strategies. This process should become universal. These strategies provide each country with a blueprint for addressing its own particular set of development challenges. They also serve as a means of identifying the specific nature and extent of the international support that each country requires in order to achieve its development goals, including the MDGs.

Each of these development strategies will be unique, attuned to the circumstances of the given country. Yet, experience indicates some broad issues to be addressed by all countries. First, national development needs to be managed in a way that is effective and achieves the greatest benefits for all segments of the population. Second, women need to be enabled to contribute to and benefit from development on an equal basis with men. Third, poverty reduction efforts must continue to address its non-income dimensions, notably access to health services and education. This means investments not only in the social sector, but also in the productive sectors – including industry, agriculture and infrastructure – which yield the resources to fund programmes for social inclusion and protection. A fourth and closely related priority is intensifying action to create employment and decent work, which is essential to sustaining reductions in poverty.

To assist in devising these strategies, we in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs commissioned – with funding and substantive advice from UNDP, and substantive advice from Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz – a series of policy notes on macroeconomic and growth policy, trade policy, investment and technology policy, and financing development. I encourage policy makers in all Member States to consult these notes as complementary inputs to the national consultations for formulating their development strategies.

All development partners should utilize each country’s development strategy as the framework for their support and tailor their assistance accordingly. To facilitate the implementation of their strategies, each developing country should be given year-by-year projections of the amount of external assistance that will be made available. At the same time, each donor country should ensure that it fulfils its earlier commitment to raise its Official Development Assistance (ODA) to a specific amount by an announced target date.

Overall, development partners have made some progress in fulfilling their agreed responsibilities for reducing poverty. But much remains to be done to meet their commitment in full and on time. On a positive note,

considerable progress has been made in reducing the burden of external debt on developing countries. Progress with regard to ODA has been more mixed. ODA flows have increased. But a substantial part of the more recent growth is accounted for by debt relief. And total ODA has not increased to the extent promised in 2005. Unfortunately, negligible progress has been made on the trade front with little which is truly development left in the Doha trade round agenda – including in the area of increasing market access for agricultural products of developing countries.

The world at large is enjoying unusually widespread and sustained economic good fortune. This period of relative prosperity is an opportune time for all countries to reinforce their efforts to end poverty and hunger. Developing countries must sustain the momentum they have achieved by continuing to improve their development institutions, policies and actions. Development partners must deliver fully on their undertakings to improve the quantity and quality of financial resources available to developing countries. Together, all the countries involved must reach agreement on a new set of trading arrangements that sets aside narrow commercial and political interests – and achieves the agreed goal of establishing a trade regime that actively contributes to development in developing countries.

Global governance regimes also must be made more development friendly. There is a need to broaden and strengthen participation as well as to equitably increase the voice and participation of developing countries in international financial institutions. A process has been launched since the Monterrey Consensus. But there has been no concrete action so far. Practical and visible steps are needed, and soon.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We face multifaceted challenges that require actions from all parts of our societies, including civil society and the private sector. Partnerships have a key role in ensuring timely realization of the development goals. The UN is committed to promote, support and nurture such partnerships. The Innovation Fair is just one manifestation of this.

The first Annual Ministerial Review should conclude with specific commitments to action. Without being prescriptive, we have suggested that each Minister might wish to announce at this Review a new initiative that her or his country will undertake to reduce poverty and hunger. I can think of no better way for ECOSOC to demonstrate its action-oriented commitment to this universal goal.

Thank you.