Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the Second Committee of the General Assembly
New York, 6 October 2008

Madam Chair,
Honourable Deputy Secretary-General,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate you, Madam Chair, and members of the new bureau on your election. I would also like to thank Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen of Finland and members of the outgoing bureau, for providing skillful leadership to the Committee during its 62nd session.

As the Deputy Secretary-General has underscored, the Committee meets at a time of global financial turmoil. The protracted financial strains in major developed countries have increasingly led to a pronounced downturn in the growth of the world economy. The macroeconomic environment is increasingly unbalanced, vulnerable to shocks and crises.

According to DESA’s current forecasts, global economic growth could slow to below 2 per cent for 2008. The prospects for the world economy in 2009 remain worrisome, and are possibly even worse than this year’s.

Combined with much higher food and fuel prices, the projected global slowdown will threaten gains made towards the Millennium Development Goals and prospects for further progress. The first Report of the MDG Gap Task Force, co-chaired by DESA and UNDP, makes clear how far Member States are falling short in delivering on their commitments to the global partnerships in support of the MDGs. There is a constant worry that aid, trade and debt relief will become hostage to the overall gloom. Developing countries will face increasing difficulties in bringing prosperity to their people.

At the same time, widening income gaps – in both developed and developing countries – have been raising concerns about the social consensus on which stable economic and political relationships ultimately depend. These concerns are wrapped up in a rising tide of economic insecurity, linked to a growing number of downside income and welfare risks.

Madam Chair,

Against this backdrop, I would like to highlight some of the important issues on which this session of the Committee needs to focus.

First, the Committee needs to address – in its various resolutions – current systemic challenges. It needs to send a clear message that the creative forces of the market economy need to be coupled with a more inclusive social contract. Already, there are growing calls for fundamental reforms of global economic governance, and the international financial architecture, to ensure that the financial system more effectively supports sustained economic growth in an equitable fashion. This would require a new policy approach, including:

  • more effective regulations, particularly in financial markets;
  • more effective counter-cyclical institutions and policies;
  • improved risk monitoring and crisis management better suited to the realities of global financial integration; and,
  • above all, more universal social policies, including redistribution measures.

While each country will need to adopt the specific policy mix that works best for its national conditions, in an interdependent world, economic security cannot be guaranteed by countries acting alone. We need to strengthen multilateral forums and promote more timely and effective collective action.

Second, the Committee also needs to closely coordinate its work with the preparatory process for the forthcoming Doha review of implementation of the Monterrey Consensus less than two months away. We must build on the momentum created by the MDGs High-level Event towards a substantial Doha outcome, strengthen delivery on existing commitments and reach agreement on the way forward in financing for development.

Third, this year marks the beginning of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. Global poverty reduction at the end of the First Decade resulted largely from success in a few parts of the world. To make the Second Decade effective, we need to promote broad and inclusive national development strategies that can address poverty in all its dimensions, in all countries.

Fourth, the Committee can play a pivotal role in placing the issues of public health in the larger economic, social and environmental context. The whole range of resolutions covering development issues can help strengthen the linkages between health and these dimensions of development in a globalizing world. This would set the stage for the work that the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General aim to undertake on this front. And it would strengthen the foundation for the 2009 ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review of implementation of the global health agenda.

Fifth, climate change remains a grave concern. It is impacting on our development prospects in many ways. We need to meet the financing challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation, in a fair and effective way. And we need to lead in designing effective mitigation and adaptation strategies compatible with addressing the other major challenges, including reducing poverty and promoting development that is truly sustainable.

Tackling climate change will require a thoroughgoing technological revolution underpinning our way of life, for example, in our energy and transport systems. But, we will also need a revolution in values, one which puts public policy firmly behind our shared concern for equity, within and among generations. This means that all countries should have the financial means and technologies required to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Committee can send a strong message for successful negotiation of an equitable, yet effective agreement, by broadening consensus around shared norms, as well as feasible and viable solutions.

Sixth, stronger focus must be given to countries with special needs. This year, we had a special meeting on Africa and the five year review of the Almaty Programme of Action. Yet, much more needs to be done to assist LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in reducing their vulnerability to the vicissitudes of markets and nature. This session should build on the outcomes of these meetings and inject new vigour into efforts to address the serious challenges facing these countries.

Finally, this session is very important for the effort to strengthen the development pillar and its links to the other pillars of the UN’s work. To support and accelerate implementation of the development agenda, and the response to new challenges, DESA will continue to advance a more integrated and strategic approach to mobilizing the diverse expertise within and outside the Organization.

Madam Chair,

DESA is here to serve and support the Second Committee in its important work. I am confident that, under your able leadership, the Committee this year will provide us with effective and clear guidance. We must work together to deliver on the development agenda.

Thank you.