International Conference on Financing for Development

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Monterrey, NL, Mexico
18-22 March 2002
19 March 2002



Following is a statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

In rural areas of Bangladesh, most girls marry at a very young age -- not because they wish to, but because their families cannot afford to send them to school.

In some districts, however -- Narshingdi, for instance -- that is changing. Girls' enrolment in secondary schools has more than doubled. In three years, the proportion of married women in the 16-to-19 age bracket dropped from 72 to 64 per cent, and in the 13-to-15 bracket from 29 to 14 per cent. Families in those districts are getting smaller, and more women are employed, with higher incomes. The headmaster of one Narshingdi school says that when he began teaching 30 years ago he could not have imagined so many girls attending school.

The benefits will reach far beyond those individual girls. The results will include lower birth rates, better health practices, fewer children dying in infancy, a healthier and more productive labour force.

What made this change happen? Money. Since 1993, girls attending secondary school receive a small cash stipend, while the school receives a tuition assistance payment.

"The stipend has worked magic", says the headmaster. The scheme, sponsored by the Bangladesh Government and financed by the World Bank, is now to be expanded, to affect up to 1.5 million girls.

That is development. It is not something abstract. It is real change in the lives of real people -- million upon million of individual men, women and children, all of them eager to improve their own lives, if only they are given the chance.

At present, they are denied that chance. Well over a billion people -- one fifth of the human race -- are forced to live on less than one dollar a day. They go to bed hungry every night. They do not even have water that they can drink without grave risk of disease.

Development means enabling those people, and another 2 billion who are only marginally better off, to build themselves a better life.

Eighteen months ago, the political leaders of the world agreed, at the Millennium Summit here in New York, that we must use the first 15 years of this new century to begin a major onslaught on poverty, illiteracy and disease. And they set a clear set of targets, by which to measure success or failure: the Millennium Development Goals.

Those Goals will not be reached without resources: human resources, natural resources, and also crucially -- as the example of the girls in Narshingdi shows -- financial resources.

That is why President George W. Bush and more than 50 other heads of State -- as well as cabinet members, business leaders, foundation executives and not-for-profit groups -- will be going this week to Monterrey, Mexico, to discuss financing for development. The fate of millions of people depends on us getting this right.

Leaders from the developing world will also be there.

They are not asking for handouts. They know that they themselves must adopt the right policies to mobilize private investment, from their own citizens and from abroad. They have to embrace the market, ensure economic stability, collect taxes in a transparent and accountable way, fight corruption, uphold the rule of law and protect property rights.

What they do ask is a fair chance to trade their way out of poverty, without having to face tariffs and quotas or to compete against subsidized products from rich countries.

Many are also asking for relief from unsustainable debts.

And many are saying that, in order to do without handouts, they need a helping hand up, in the form of increased aid from wealthier countries.

Until now, most developed countries have reacted with scepticism to this request -- feeling that too much aid was wasted in previous decades, by corrupt or inefficient governments.

But they also realize that we live in one world, not two; and that no one in this world can feel comfortable, or safe, while so many are suffering and deprived.

And now they are also realizing that there is a global deal on the table: where developing countries adopt market-oriented policies, strengthen their institutions, fight corruption, respect human rights and the rule of law, and spend more on the needs of the poor, rich countries can support them with trade, aid, investment and debt relief.

Last Thursday, President Bush announced an important American contribution, when he pledged $5 billion of additional spending over three years for a "Millennium Challenge Account", to help developing countries improve their economies and standards of living.

On the same day, the European Union announced that by 2006 its members would increase their development assistance by $4 billion a year, so as to reach an average of 0.39 per cent of gross national product -- a significant step towards the agreed United Nations target of 0.7 per cent.

These amounts will not be sufficient by themselves. All economic studies agree that, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, we need an increase of at least $50 billion a year in worldwide official aid -- a doubling of present levels.

But these decisions do suggest that the argument on principle has now been won. All governments accept that official aid is only one element in the mix, but an essential one. Aid is much more effective than it was 20 years ago, for a number of reasons. More of it is focused on building up the capacity of recipient countries to run their own economies, and less is tied to the business or geopolitical interests of the donor countries.

If that global deal is clinched in Monterrey this week, many more girls, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, will go to school like their sisters in Narshingdi; millions of children will grow up to be productive members of their societies, instead of falling victim to AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria; and the world as a whole will be much, much better off.

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