DESA News Vol. 13, No. 01 January 2009

Global dialogue on development

Doha outcome calls for UN conference on impact of financial crisis on development

Doha conference held from 29 November to 2 December confirms that developed countries will maintain their ODA despite financial crisis

The Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus was attended by some 40 Heads of State or Government, 9 Deputy Heads of State or Government, 50 ministers and 17 vice-ministers of foreign affairs, finance, development cooperation and trade, as well as other high-level officials of 170 States and major institutional stakeholders, participated in the Conference.

Doha Declaration

Following intense intergovernmental negotiations, the Conference concluded with the adoption of the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development. The two key messages included in the document were a strong commitment by developed countries to maintain their Official Development Assistance (ODA) targets irrespective of the current financial crisis, and a decision to hold a UN Conference at the highest level on the impact of the current financial and economic crisis on development.

Other main highlights of the Doha Declaration are:

  • Domestic resource mobilization: the importance of national ownership of development strategies and of an inclusive financial sector, as well as the need for strong policies on good governance, accountability, gender equality and human development.

  • Mobilizing international resources for development: the need to improve the enabling environment and to expand the reach of private flows to a greater number of developing countries.

  • International trade as an engine for development: the importance of concluding the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations as soon as possible.

  • External debt: the need to strengthen crisis prevention mechanisms and to consider enhanced approaches for debt restructuring mechanisms.

  • Addressing systemic issues: the need to review existing global economic governance arrangements, with a view to comprehensive reforms of the international financial system and institutions.

Plenary meetings

The Conference was chaired by the Emir of Qatar and included seven plenary meetings. A total of 133 Governments made statements to the plenary. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly, the Director-General of WTO, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD and the Administrator of UNDP spoke at the opening.

In their statements, Member States took stock of the progress made in the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, identified obstacles and constraints encountered and put forward ideas and proposals to overcome these difficulties. Many statements focused on the consequences of the global financial crisis for development and the need for bold and urgent measures to address them. Much attention was also devoted to the food and energy crises and to the untapped potential of innovative sources of finance.

Round tables

Six interactive multi-stakeholder round tables were held concurrently with the plenary meetings, centering on the six thematic areas of the Monterey Consensus. Each round table was co-chaired by two Heads of State or Government and ministers from developing and developed countries and moderated by a high-level official of the major institutional stakeholders.

Panelists included HRH Princess Maxima of the Netherlands; S-G’s Special Envoys for the Conference, Mr. Trevor Manuel, South African Finance Minister and Ms. Heidemarie Weiczorek-Zeul, German Minister for Development Cooperation. Following presentations by panelists, interactive discussions took place among representatives of Member States, inter-governmental organizations, UN agencies, civil society and the business sector.

Pre-conference events

The Conference was preceded by a high-level retreat on the global financial crisis, hosted on 28 November by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Emir of Qatar. The retreat was attended by some 30 Heads of State or Government and ministers from both developed and developing countries, as well as high-level representatives of the major institutional stakeholders. The retreat was meant to serve as a “bridge” between the discussions on the financial crisis that had taken place among smaller groups of countries and the wider membership of the United Nations.

A Global Forum of Civil Society was held from 26 to 27 November on the theme “Investing in people-centered development” and attracted participation of more than 250 civil society organizations and networks. In addition, an International Business Forum, held on 28 November focused on mobilizing private sector resources for development and was attended by more than 200 participants from the private sector.

Side events

More than 50 side events took place at the Conference site. In the spirit of Monterrey, the organizers were Governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and the business sector. The issues of inclusive and innovative financing for development featured prominently in several side events. High-level speakers included: HRH Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, the President of Tanzania.

The success of Doha belongs to all Member States and all stakeholders. The challenge now is to deliver on the promise of the Doha outcome.

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Linkages between poverty, financial crisis and climate change

Proceedings of the Second Committee were dominated by concerns on the impact of the financial crisis, the economic downturn and challenges posed by the volatility of food and energy prices

The Second Committee of the General Assembly concluded its 63rd session on 11 December with the adoption of 40 resolutions. Amidst discussions of the causes and consequences of the interconnected crises, the Committee asserted that the fight against acute and persistent levels of poverty, hunger and disease are inseparably linked to climate change.

The Committee determined that the most important task of the international community was to ensure that the financial crisis and the volatility in the prices of food and fuel do not lead to a development crisis. To address these challenges, there were renewed calls for multilateralism and global solutions for global challenges and an emphatic call for the United Nations to lead the way.

These predominant concerns led to the adoption of two major new resolutions. Firstly, a resolution entitled “Towards a new international economic order”, which outlines the role of the UN in promoting equitable and inclusive sustained economic growth and sustainable development, was voted upon. It has shades of the North-South debate on the new international economic order which goes back three decades.

Secondly, a consensus resolution on reliable and stable transit of energy that recognizes the need for extensive international cooperation in ensuring reliable transportation of energy. Another new resolution was focused on the concerns of middle income developing countries, as these countries believe that they are facing the brunt of the financial crisis and feel increasingly marginalized in the development work of the United Nations.

The resolution on climate change was adopted to send a clear message for urgent action to the 14th Conference of Parties of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Poznan, Poland from 1 to 12 December. The Committee also decided for a two day Review of Mauritius Strategy for Small Island Development States, to be held in September 2010, and review of the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries in 2011.

Owing to the intense preparations for the Doha Review of Financing for Development, the Committee decided to adopt procedural resolutions on macro-economic issues and trade and development.

The resolution on operational activities for development makes a range of recommendations for increasing funding of operational activities for development. It is particularly notable for changing the periodicity of the comprehensive policy review of UN system's operational activities from a triennial to a quadrennial cycle. This means that a significant number of funds and programmes will need to prolong the duration of their strategic plan by two years. This should result in improving the coherence of operational activities around the guidance of Member States. It was also agreed to hold the next comprehensive policy review in 2012 instead of 2010 as planned.

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High demand for consultative status

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), a standing committee of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), will hold its 2009 Regular Session in New York from 19 to 28 January. The 19-member committee, mandated with the responsibility to monitor the evolving relationship between NGOs and the United Nations, will have a heavy agenda and examine around 100 new applications from NGOs seeking consultative status with ECOSOC. The Committee will also consider 2 requests for reclassifications and 95 submissions of quadrennial reports.

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Classifying countries as LDCs

In preparation for the 2009 triennial review of the list of least developed countries (LDCs), experts of the Committee for Development Policy will meet in New York from 27 to 29 January

The LDCs category comprises low-income developing countries which face severe structural impediments to growth as indicated by high economic vulnerability to external shocks and low level of human capital development. There are currently 49 countries identified as LDCs, including the Maldives and Samoa whose graduation has already been taken note of by the General Assembly.

To be included in the category a country must satisfy the inclusion thresholds for gross national income (GNI) per capita, the human asset index (HAI) and the economic vulnerability index (EVI). In addition, the country’s population must not exceed 75 million. To graduate from the category, a country must meet the graduation threshold of any two criteria (except for countries whose GNI per capita is at least twice the graduation threshold level) and be found eligible for graduation at two consecutive triennial reviews. Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were found eligible for graduation at the 2006 triennial review.

The meeting will review the most recent available data and the preliminary results of the application of the criteria for classifying countries as LDCs. The objective of the meeting is to identify those low-income countries that would be eligible to join, and those LDCs already on the list that would be eligible to graduate from the category.

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Multi-stakeholder cooperation crucial for Internet development

Third meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, held in Hyderabad, India from 3 to 6 December focused on ‘Internet for All’

The IGF, attended by more than 1400 participants from 94 countries, allowed to build partnerships and relationships and was appreciated for its open multi-stakeholder model. It addressed many Internet issues that were not discussed anywhere else.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, described the IGF as a “space for frank and enlightened debate, shaping and informing the decision-making processes”. Many other speakers noted that the Internet is bringing great potential for economic and social benefit to the world. But at the same time there is a need to guard against the problems the Internet could bring when used for harmful purposes.

Common threads that emerged from the discussion were that multi-stakeholder cooperation is a requisite to tackle all existing problems. All users are part of the Internet and all actors have a shared responsibility to find solutions. While there is a need to discuss Internet governance issues globally, there is also a need for acting locally. It is often more urgent to find solutions at the national and regional levels.

There was a general understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all solutions’. All countries have to find their own solutions, corresponding to their own situation. Through the sharing of best practices and the exchange of information they could find solutions that are adapted to their needs.

The next IGF meeting will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, from 15 to 18 November 2009. The preparation of the 2009 meeting will start with a broad consultative stock-taking process which will include a discussion on how to conduct the review process. The modalities of the review process will be discussed at the next round of open consultations in Geneva from 23 to 24 February 2009.

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