His Excellency Mr. Agbéyomé Messan Kodjo
It is a great honour for me to address this assembly on behalf of the President of the Togolese Republic, His Excellency Mr. Eyadema, who would have liked to have attended but was prevented from doing so at the last minute by his responsibilities of State. Accordingly, he sent me to Monterrey to express his solidarity and his overview of the problem, which will be at the forefront of our discussions during our stay in this beautiful part of the world. That is to say poverty, the development of which seems to challenge Man’s intelligence and is a serious matter of concern to all.
After the Millennium Declaration in September 2000 and the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in May 2001, which enshrined the determination of the international community to eradicate poverty, this International Conference on Financing for Development attests to the fact that indifference and selfishness cannot prevail in this world that is marked by deeply rooted inequality. That is why it is a particular pleasure for me to pay tribute to the action of the United Nations and its Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, and congratulate them on their fight to promote peace and reduce poverty throughout the world.
On behalf of the Togolese delegation, I should like to tell you, Mr. President, and other members of the Bureau how very pleased we are to note your brilliant election. We are convinced that with the help of your experience, the Conference will achieve promising results that will bring sunshine and hope to millions of people who are watching Monterrey today.
Our epoch seems to disdain these moments of rapture that humanity has witnessed in the Copernican revolution, which was one of the greatest expressions. But progress today heralds a time of uncertainty because change occurs so fast and is stamped by growing poverty throughout the world. That is why eradicating poverty cannot conceal the responsibilities of the international community nor the shared efforts that must be made in this connection. Since the 50s, the planet’s wealth has increased sixfold, whereas most of the world’s average income has decreased, as has life expectancy. The three richest people in the world have a fortune that is greater that the gross domestic product of 48 of the poorest countries. The fortune of the 15 wealthiest individuals exceeds the gross domestic product of sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Finally, the assets of the 84 richest people exceed the gross domestic product of China, which has 1.2 billion inhabitants.
That cannot be tolerated. The third world countries stagnate because of the weight of their external debt. The interest payment has grown by 95 per cent. It now exceeds $176 billion and has reached $343 billion. Such difficulties lead us away from the theory of optimal resource allocation, which is so dear to the protagonists of liberalism.
In recent years the economic balance sheet in Africa has shown some weak growth, which has been mostly eliminated by demographic pressure. If the real growth of gross domestic product is approximately 3.4 per cent during the period 1995 to 2001, the per capita ratio has declined to 1 per cent. That observation obviously fluctuates according to the geographical areas and even more according to the country level.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century almost half of the population of the African continent lives below the poverty threshold on less than $1 per day. Similarly, life expectancy and literacy rates are 52 years and 44 per cent respectively per individual. Those are the lowest rates in the world. The spread of HIV/AIDS and the persistence of malaria may eliminate any economic or social progress made in recent years. That should make it possible for Africa to reinforce its partnership with bilateral and multilateral financial institutions with civil societies and non-governmental organizations.
At this point in my statement, let me recall a few principles and methods that should underpin financing for development. They are intangible and universally-accepted principles that have been recognized by the international community as being the bible of universal morality, which should govern relations among nations.
The first principle is the settlement of disputes through negotiation, which will contribute to there being lasting peace, without which development is not possible. We must prevent conflicts by taking action to address the causes of instability in the world, mitigate internal tension through accelerated development and ensure respect for human rights.
The second principle is the application of the dual standard of morality in international relations that gives pride of place to diversity in economic, social and cultural situations throughout the world and rejection of a single mindset.
In this connection, we must go beyond the Washington consensus, which frequently weakens international economic decision-making centres in some countries, reduces the effectiveness of projects and programmes and implicitly promotes the waste of resources. We must ensure that there is a real dialogue between development policies in order to ensure that the interests of all dovetail. In other words, we must seek justice and equity in partnership – justice for the most fragile countries, and equity and just compensation for those who are doing without their savings in order to contribute to creating wealth elsewhere.
In other words, greater solidarity must bring together foreign investors and recipient countries with a long-term vision for development in order to provide us with the opportunity to modernize sectors that require great investment and to delay amortization of debt. We are thinking here of communication and economic infrastructures.
To close this chapter on principles, I wish to indicate that it is necessary for there to be fairness in international trade because a large number of the developing countries are engaged in unfair competition with developed countries by using non-tariff barriers, which have been promoted as being the hidden face of customs disarmament. Fairness towards all, solidarity with the weakest, dialogue, justice and equity, promoting peace, rejection of single mindsets and confining ethnocentrism must be the principles on which we must base the Monterrey Consensus, whose Declaration is designed to ensure the effectiveness of all investment and to promote sustainable development in developing countries.
Aside from these principles, mobilizing the international community for financing for development must be the subject of innovative methods, or at least improved methods, if we wish to move forward, away the mistakes of the past, and abide by the spirit of the Millennium Declaration, which calls for more solidarity and effectiveness. From this standpoint, we must give pride of place to the measures of partnership, the measure of effectiveness and consolidation of change. At this crossroads of giving and receiving, we must ensure that efforts will be made in order to help everyone.
The expanse of the need of the continent requires that we streamline the clusters that we have set up over the past four decades. A new partnership must prevail over this in order to ensure that development will be given some revitalization. At a time when we are trying to make regionalization more profitable, Africa needs to optimize its efforts to make industrial investments profitable and to set up infrastructures that will make it possible for there to be economies of scale and make our economic areas more homogenous.
The Togolese Government appeals to the international community and the wealthy countries to increase their direct investments, portfolio investments and official development assistance for Africa. That assistance has declined over the past decade. It has fallen below the 0.7 gross domestic product target that was established by the United Nations. But that target must be achieved by the year 2015. This partnership must work together.
We know that part of the difficulties have been caused by an appreciation of the dollar and the devaluation of some currencies. Although authoritative voices in developed countries have been comforting us in our belief – and we wish to thank them very much for speaking out – but it is time for the financial community to consider formulating an international tax at $75 billion. That would be one-third of the debt of developing countries. Mitigating the debt that our countries are awaiting within the context of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative remains complex. The results are mitigated.
I would be remiss if I did not say a few words about Togo’s efforts to eradicate poverty. The socio-political crisis of the 90s and the suspension of financial cooperation with our country have contributed to increasing poverty and reducing the State’s capability to intervene in order to deal with the phenomenon of growing pauperization of our population. Togo, with the support of its development partners, has been preparing a document on a strategy for eradicating poverty. Participants will agree with us that following that strategy cannot take place in a climate of suspension of economic relations. I want Togo to receive greater support in its efforts to eradicate poverty.
This is the vision of financing for development that should be given pride of place if we wish to accelerate the development of the weakest countries in accordance with the Millennium Declaration. This is a collective ambition and an act of solidarity that will make it possible for us to be successful as long as we cast aside selfishness. These times of uncertainty, fraught with speedy technological progress, is something we must overcome, and we must achieve a unified vision of the world free of waste, frustration, poverty, exclusion and misery to promote the reign of increased solidarity and lasting peace among men and nations throughout the world.
* The text of this statement has been transcribed from audio recordings as the original was not submitted to the Secretariat.