DESA News Vol. 11, No. 11 November 2007

Global dialogue on development

General Assembly dialogue on financing for development

Many delegates suggest linking climate change to the financing for development process

The General Assembly’s high-level dialogue on financing for development concluded on 25 October with an eye on a review of the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus to take place in the second half of 2008. Delegates to the three-day meeting discussed the status of implementation of the Monterrey agreement and ways of breathing new life to it. One head of government, twenty ministers, fifteen vice-ministers, and other high-level officials from more than 100 countries were in attendance.

In his opening remarks on 23 October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Assembly that progress in implementation of the Monterrey Consensus was “mixed”. Over the past five years, many developing and low-income countries have experienced stronger economic growth, he said, and official development assistance has improved, but the sustained increase in assistance needed to meet the targets agreed in Monterrey has not materialized. “Closing the funding gap is essential if we are to alleviate extreme poverty, fight diseases and achieve the other development targets,” Mr. Ban said.

General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, who convened the dialogue, reminded participants that the review exercise is critical given that the Monterrey Consensus is “the principal multilateral basis establishing a global partnership to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.” He said that a major remaining challenge is how to promote foreign investment in lower-income countries, and in countries with less stable governance, in order to boost productive economic activity.

The effect of climate change on development emerged as a new issue with some countries suggesting that it be linked to the financing for development process. International support for South-South cooperation and attention to the problems of middle-income countries were put on the table, along with a wish to make further inroads against tax evasion, and in favour of enhanced international cooperation in tax matters.

Many delegates stressed the critical importance of making decisive progress in multilateral trade negotiations for the sake of development in general and poverty alleviation in particular. To that end, implementation of the Doha development agenda is essential. At the national level, according to several speakers, there was a crucial need to increase tax revenues through progressive tax systems. This could reduce income disparities, and assist in the public financing of basic infrastructure.

Many participants reiterated the need to achieve the 0.7 percent target in official development assistance. Although noting that aid had increased considerably since 2002, they stressed that a decrease in 2006 was cause for concern. The debt landscape, it was said, had improved. But, still, the debt overhang persisted in least developed countries. Renewed calls for debt restructuring were made.

The issue of enhancing the voice and effective participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making was raised, with delegates pointing out that progress so far had been meager and much remained to be done. Several speakers called for enhanced tools for crisis prevention and resolution, strengthened multilateral consultations including talks on global imbalances, and effective emergency liquidity instruments for countries with access to private markets.

The President of the General Assembly will issue a summary of the high-level dialogue as an official document. Informal summaries of the hearings with civil society and business sector representatives will be available soon.

Mr. Oscar de Rojas, Director of the Financing for Development Office in DESA, and Robert Pollack from the Office of the President of the 62nd Session of the General Assembly, brief the press on the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development held 23-24 October. A recording is available online at: (33 minutes)

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Second Committee urged to tackle global imbalances

Multilateral surveillance of macroeconomic policy is desperately needed

The Second Committee of the General Assembly, responsible for economic and financial affairs, began its annual debate on 8 October hearing statements from Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, stressing the implementation gap the world faces in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, and the need to take serious action to correct global imbalances.

With poverty deeply entrenched in Africa and many lives hanging in the balance, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said the continent’s poor showing on the Millennium objectives is evidence of the underlying gap between commitment and implementation. Emphasizing that all stakeholders must make good on their promises, she pointed out that the new Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group established by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon aims to work to improve aid predictability and effectiveness, and to forge stronger country-level programmes. The Steering Group, chaired by Ms. Migiro herself, should ensure that Africa receives effective aid for key projects in health, education, infrastructure, agriculture, and food security.

Ms. Migiro reported that she has launched an informal consultative process with the heads of United Nations departments, funds and programmes that will advise the Secretary-General on the sharp social and economic disparities in the global economy that thwart efforts to end extreme poverty and achieve the Millennium targets.

Global economy, global surveillance

Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, warned that the current global financial turmoil could threaten growth prospects for the world economy, and called for serious action to address imbalances.  “The global economy desperately needs effective multilateral surveillance for macroeconomic policy coordination and collective action, involving all major players from developed and developing countries”, he said.

Mr. Sha suggested that the Second Committee promote development cooperation by enhancing the capacity of UN funds and programmes to meet deliverables.  The focus should be on alignment of the Organization’s country-level activities with sustainable development strategies; increasing the effectiveness and coherence of the UN development system; leveraging its advantages; and, increasing accountability, transparency and efficiency by simplifying procedures.

The Committee Chairperson, Kirsti Lintonen of Finland said the body’s primary concern is to ensure that the international community takes appropriate steps towards equitable, sustainable development in all countries, in particular to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development targets. The Committee’s agenda covers economic growth and development, financing for development, sustainable development, human settlements, poverty eradication, globalization and interdependence, operational activities for development, and information and communications technology for development.  Ms. Lintonen added that the Second Committee would also consider issues of concern to the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States.

Panels enrich the development debate

The DESA Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination has organized several panel discussions and other events to stimulate the debate. A panel discussion on the role of enterprise of all sizes in poverty eradication will be held on 2 November. The panel, chaired by Jomo K.S., Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, includes Ms. Sheri Willoughby, Senior Manager of Markets and Enterprise at the World Resources Institute in Washington D.C.; Professor Aneel Karnani of the School of Business at the University of Michigan; Ms. Shulamit Ferdman, Director of Microenterprise Development Courses at the Mount Carmel Training Center in Haifa; and Mr. Shoaib Sultan Khan, Chairman of the National Rural Support Programme of Pakistan.

On 7 November, the Helsinki process on globalization and democracy, co-organized with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, will be the subject of a second conversation exploring the value-added of multi-stakeholder cooperation in the governance of globalization on 7 November. The panelists include Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in DESA; Sunita Narain, Director of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi; Mary Robinson, President of the Ethical Globalisation Initiative, and Rick Samans, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, and

A panel discussion on financing for gender equality within the context of follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus will be held on 12 November. Organized by the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Financing for Development Office in DESA, panelists will offer reflections on mobilization of domestic and international resources for the promotion of gender equality, including gender-responsive budgeting. Panelists are Isabella Bakker, Professor of Political Science at York University, in Toronto; Mohamed Chafiki, Director Financial Forecasts at the Ministry of Finance and Privatization of Morocco, and Mariama Williams, International economics and trade consultant and Adjunct Associate at the Center of Concern, Washington, D.C.

The DESA Division for Sustainable Development will organize a panel discussion on ways to address climate change in the context of national sustainable development strategies on 13 November (for more information, see trends section in this issue of DESA News).

Finally, a debate on moving out of aid dependency will be held on 16 November, co-organized by the Financing for Development Office and the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination. Examples of countries that moved out of aid dependency will be used to inform the current debate on aid effectiveness. Panelists are Poul Engberg-Pedersen, Director General of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation; Roy Culpepper, President of the North-South Institute in Ottawa; Michael Atingi Ego, Executive Director of Bank of Uganda; Irma Adelman, Professor at Berkeley University, in California, and Debpriya Bhattacharya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in Geneva.

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Religious and cultural understanding

The General Assembly held its first ever formal, high-level dialogue on issues of interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation on 4 and 5 October. Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd session, said that by convening the event, the Assembly had taken an important stand in reaffirming the values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But more importantly, “We are taking concrete steps to advance these values around the world.”

The dialogue also covered issues of freedom of religion and belief, and the need for respect for a diversity of religions and cultures. Participants included leading academics, religious leaders and other civil society representatives. DESA will take account of the outcome of the dialogue in its work on economic and social development.

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