International Conference on Financing for Development

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

As delivered


Following is the statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the International Conference on Financing for Development, Monterrey, 21 March 2002:

We are here to discuss the fate of people. Not people in abstract, but million upon million of individual men and women and children -- all of them eager to improve their own lives by making their own choices; and all of them able to do so, if only they are given a little chance.

At present, they are denied that chance -- by multiple hardships, each of which makes it harder to escape from the others: poverty, hunger, disease, oppression, conflict, pollution, depletion of natural resources.

Development means enabling people to escape from that vicious cycle.

And for development, you need resources. Human resources; natural resources; and also, crucially, financial resources.

That is why we are here -- and it is good to see so many of you here, particularly those of you from developed countries.

You have realized, as more and more of your fellow citizens are realizing, that we live in one world, not two; that no one in this world can feel comfortable, or safe, while so many are suffering and deprived.

It is equally good to see so many leaders here from the developing world itself.

They are not here asking for handouts. They know that they themselves have much to do to mobilize domestic resources in their own countries, as well as attract and benefit from international private capital.

What they are asking for is the chance to make their own voices heard, and ensure that their countries' interests are taken into account, when the management of the global economy is being discussed.

What they are also asking for is the chance for their countries to trade their way out of poverty -- which means that the markets of the developed world must be fully and genuinely open to their products, and the unfair subsidies to competing goods must be removed. The promise of Doha must be fulfilled.

What many of them are asking for is relief from an unsustainable burden of debt.

And many of them are saying that, in order to do without handouts, their countries first need a helping hand up, in the form of significant increase in official development aid.

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

Achieving those goals by 2015 would not mean the battle for development had been won. But if we fail to achieve them, we shall know we are losing.

And all serious studies concur that we cannot achieve them without at least $50 billion a year additionally of official aid -- roughly a doubling of the present levels -- given in an efficient way, which, for instance, leaves recipient countries free to choose the suppliers and contractors that best meet their needs.

The clearest and most immediate test of the Monterrey spirit, which the President referred to, is whether the donor countries will provide that aid.

The substantial amounts that have been made, and the substantial announcements that have been made in the last few days, clearly reflect a new spirit and a revival of commitment to aid.

Some donors may still be sceptical, because they are not convinced that "aid works".

To them, I say, "look at the record". There is abundant evidence that aid does work. Aid brings spectacular improvements in literacy, and spectacular declines in infant mortality, when it is channelled to countries with enlightened leaders and efficient institutions. Indeed, enlightened leaders can use aid to build efficient institutions.

Aid is vital, but it is not the whole story. Development is a complex process, in which many different actors have to work together, and not against each other. To take just one example, it is no good helping dairy farmers in a country if, at the same time, you are exporting subsidised milk powder to it.

That is why it is encouraging to see finance ministers and businessmen here, as well as development ministers. And that is why the process of preparing this Conference -- with the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the Bretton Woods institutions working together as never before -- has been so extraordinary. At last, we are all tackling the issues together, in a coherent fashion.

Mr. President, that is the true spirit of Monterrey, which we must sustain in the months and years ahead.

The "Monterrey Consensus" is not a weak document, as some have claimed. It will be weak if we fail to implement it. But if we live up to the promises it contains, and continue working on it together, it can mark a real turning point in the lives of poor people all over the world.

Let's make sure that it does!

Thank you very much.

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