His Excellency Mr. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera
President of the Republic of Guatemala

at the 
International Conference on Financing for Development

Monterrey, Mexico 
22nd March 2002

About 18 months ago, meeting in New York City, we adopted a set of objectives to reduce poverty, consolidate democracy and defend the natural heritage of humanity. We also assumed commitments for the accomplishment of those objectives within the framework of the Millennium Declaration. We went home with renewed enthusiasm, buoyed as we were by the conviction that we would be able to build a better world. 

The road travelled since then has been, to say the least, a rough one. The abominable terrorist acts perpetrated in the United States on 11 September and their aftermath, the flare-up of the Middle East conflict and the recession experienced by the world economy are only some of the developments that were unforeseeable at that time, and no doubt amount to serious additional obstacles to the attainment of the goals we had set ourselves. The recession struck us particularly harshly.

We nevertheless do not falter in our enthusiasm or in our will to advance in the fulfillment of the commitments we have undertaken. This gathering in Monterrey offers us a new opportunity to renew those commitments and give them concrete content. 

I would like to comment briefly on three vistas that this opportunity opens. In the first place, the poverty afflicting half of humanity is the great unfinished task of the twentieth century and accordingly the gravest challenge of the present century. Although it sounds like a cliché it is nevertheless true that poverty and social injustice are the breeding grounds that facilitate fanaticism in all its forms. This Conference provides us with the opportunity to place development in the centre of our international agenda, viewed on this occasion from the perspective of financing. It permits us to discuss the need for our domestic savings to finance productive investment and for our exports combined with open markets to become the springboard of our development.

We try to practice what we preach. As we explained during our recent meeting of the consultative group on Guatemala, we have made considerable domestic effort to raise the tax ratio and assign the funds thus mobilized towards development. We recently reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a support programme, which we will formalize in a few weeks. We have also adopted labour policy and intellectual property reforms to improve this. We have not chosen the easy road. We have chosen the hard road. But it is the right one.

As previous speakers have indicated, we have worked to ensure that these legal, political and economic reforms domestically will make it possible for the country to become a part of the international market, obtain credit and compete. We have adopted measures in the field of intellectual property to improve our participation in the global economy as another way to have access to financing. We have adopted a strategy to eradicate poverty, and we are resolute in making public and private operations more transparent with the support of multilateral organizations. 

We trust that the development round adopted in Doha will yield the results we all hope for. We also salute the possibility of initiating negotiations between Central America and the United States to remove barriers to the trade of our respective goods and services to move forward in Central American integration.

Secondly, this conference allows us to progress towards an enhancement of the adequacy of the multilateral institutions that support international cooperation. We welcome the advances already made within the framework of the preparatory process for moving the United Nations closer to the Bretton Woods institutions as well as the regional financial organizations.

We hail the presence here of non-governmental organizations, the entrepreneurial sector and civil society in general. We also welcome the impressive capacity of the United Nations to attract high-level attendance, as reflected by the presence here of so many Heads of State or Government. This coalition of interests is moving in the right direction in its effort to rejuvenate the institutional framework that is at our service to promote development and cooperation. It involves greater coordination and greater participation.

In the third and last place, I would like to refer to some pending matters. Various colleagues have already mentioned the frustrated expectations of many countries that were hoping for firmer commitments on the part of some donors in the field of official development assistance. However, we applaud the recent announcement of the United States and the European Union, which at least tends to reverse this trend. On the other hand, we are surprised at the absence in the Monterrey Consensus of a more comprehensive focus on how we are to finance global public goods as a complementary category to the needs of countries in connection with the promotion of their development. In this regard, we would have welcomed pledges to create a fund for financing education and a redoubled effort to finance the eradication of HIV/AIDS. 

Notwithstanding all of the foregoing, we are satisfied. We see this gathering in Monterrey as the beginning of a historic process. We have built platform agreements and understandings that suggest that this process will be a promising. I trust that all of us will commit ourselves to this result.

* The text of this statement has been transcribed from audio recordings as the original was not submitted to the Secretariat.

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