It is an honour and a privilege for me to say a few words on Financing for Development from an Asian-Pacific perspective. Over the last 18 months or so the subject of Financing for Development and preparing for the International Conference in Monterrey has enjoyed high priority in the ESCAP secretariat. This has been based on a recognition that progress in achieving the many worthy objectives contained in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, for instance, in poverty eradication, in attaining universal primary education, in the promotion of gender equality, in the reduction of child mortality and in the improvement of maternal health will require substantial, additional resources for development, whether external or domestic. How to maximize these resources thus becomes the principal policy issue for developing countries.
Against that background ESCAP has been striving to develop an Asian-Pacific perspective on the subject. This has been driven partly by our desire to enhance our own understanding of the development process and partly by our desire to share our knowledge and insights with our sister regional commissions and our partners in development, the international financial institutions and ADB. In August 2000, thanks to the generosity of the Government of Indonesia, ESCAP organized the High-level Regional Consultative Meeting in Jakarta. More recently, in November 2001, ESCAP and ADB jointly organized a workshop in Bangkok and prepared a joint position paper for the PrepCom on the subject of domestic resource mobilization. Likewise in January 2001 ESCAP contributed substantively to the regional commissions meeting in Mexico City that developed a joint position on FfD. The discussions in these meetings were invaluable in that a wide range of insights were given and a diversity of views expressed, enabling us, in the ESCAP secretariat, to have a much better understanding of the policy underpinnings for sustained long term development.
The Asian-Pacific region is both vast and diverse. It extends from Turkey in the north-west to the Cook Islands in the south-east. It has giants like China and India and countries as small as Niue and Tuvalu with populations of a few thousand. It has economies that have joined the ranks of the developed in the last few years as well as 13 of the world's least developed economies. While large numbers of the people of the region have enjoyed rising prosperity in the last decade, many millions continue to have a precarious existence blighted by extreme poverty. Arriving at an Asian-Pacific perspective thus is a difficult task. Nonetheless, let me outline briefly what constitute, in my mind, the main elements of an Asian-Pacific perspective on financing for development.
One, our first priority has to be the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals - some of which I have mentioned at the beginning of my statement - and countries have to raise the needed financial resources for this. Some economies in the ESCAP region are relatively well situated in this regard but others, for example South Asian countries and the LDCs, would clearly need to raise substantial extra resources, both domestic and foreign, if they are to achieve the MDGs. I do not propose to talk here about the various policy initiatives that are needed for raising additional domestic resources. This is an important topic that this Conference will be discussing while debating the draft declaration. I should like, however, to re-emphasize the need to greatly enhance the flow of ODA, particularly to the LDCs. Without substantial extra ODA most LDCs will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the MDGs. The draft declaration speaks of the need to increase ODA to 0.7 per cent of the GNP of donor countries and to earmark 0.15 to 0.2 per cent for the LDCs. ESCAP strongly endorses this recommendation of the draft declaration from the perspective of the Asian-Pacific region.
Two, research, analysis and dissemination of research are essential elements in strengthening policy-making for development. It has been my desire that the ESCAP secretariat should concentrate its energies, professional expertise and experience in three areas of economic and social policy-making: one, poverty reduction; two, managing globalization; and, three, dealing with emerging social issues. It is my belief, too, that the organization of the secretariat should reflect the importance of these three areas. We, in ESCAP, are thus in the process of restructuring and revitalizing the secretariat so as to concentrate on these three areas or themes in its work programme with the aim of assisting member countries in developing more effective policies in these areas. I should like to bring to your attention here that ESCAP and UNDP have recently jointly established within the ESCAP secretariat a centre to carry out research and monitor trends on the incidence of poverty in the Asian-Pacific region.
Three, as we look ahead to the remaining months of 2002 and beyond the Asian-Pacific region is faced with many challenges. Many of these are a legacy of the 1997 crisis, such as financial and corporate sector reform, the NPL problem, vulnerability to international market instability and issues involving governance at various levels. Other policy challenges relate to regaining the momentum of growth that enables member countries to deal effectively with the myriad social issues confronting them. The ESCAP secretariat continues to examine and assess the policy options available to member countries on the basis of cross-country experiences through research, seminars and workshops and through collaboration with research institutes in the region.
Four, one of the lessons learnt from the 1997 crisis in Asia is that economies at different levels of development face widely varying macroeconomic challenges. A major factor in the situation is the level of human resources and efficacy of institutions in formulating and implementing policies. It is our view in ESCAP that countries should assess their capabilities in these matters realistically and avoid taking on tasks for which they may not be fully prepared. I am referring here to the overall thrust of globalization and the liberalization of policies that it entails. Our view is that though globalization is a compulsion from which developing countries cannot opt out, participating in it should proceed at a measured pace.
Five, trade policy reform is not merely a matter of reducing or abolishing tariffs. It is also to do with facilitating trade by reducing transaction costs and by filling the information gaps concerning markets and their organization that can be as bad for trade as tariffs. It means, in other words, that governments should give equal emphasis to the provision of public goods for promoting trade in the form of advice, market intelligence and quality requirements and standardization. There are areas where ESCAP is providing assistance to member countries in close collaboration with other agencies, such as facilitating membership of WTO. This gathering may be interested to know that no LDC has yet acceded to the WTO, although some have been trying for almost a decade.
Let me say in conclusion that this is by no means a complete checklist of comments on financing for development from an Asian-Pacific perspective. We have learnt in the 1990s that underlying any policy framework that promotes growth and seeks to address social problems are vital issues of governance as enunciated in the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly. These relate to the need for effective, participatory, transparent and accountable governance responsive to the people and their needs. As the Secretary General stated in his Report to the FfD PrepCom in December 2000: "The lessons of the last 50 years underscore the link between respecting domestic laws and the mobilization of domestic resources. Public institutions free of corruption and accountable corporate governance are necessary elements of an environment conducive to the effective mobilization and allocation of domestic resources."
Statements at the Conference