Fifty-seventh General Assembly
WORLD BANK PRESIDENT TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE OF NEED TO BUILD UP CONFIDENCE FOR
GREATER COOPERATION AMONG MULTILATERAL BODIES
Cooperation among multilateral institutions was light years ahead of where it was six years ago, but confidence in the new joint pursuit of development was still lacking, World Bank President James Wolfensohn told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon.
In a keynote address, he stressed that confidence must be built up among those bodies so that they could all work together in making the best use of existing resources. No single entity or group, be it the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, the private sector or civil society, could act alone in tackling the big challenge of development, he added, speaking on the theme “Making it Happen: The New Multilateralism and its Implications for Development”.
He said the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development had set forth a framework within which all nations could work. Developed nations had recognized the need to increase development assistance, open up their markets and tackle the question of subsidies, while developing countries had agreed to strengthen their capacities, improve their legal and judicial systems, combat corruption, and set up strategies to reduce poverty.
Emphasizing that development had become a shared responsibility, he said developing countries must take the lead in setting the priorities, adding that actions towards achieving their goals could not be dictated from outside. He warned that economic growth was not as assured as one might wish and noted that the United States, Europe and Japan were showing only modest gains. Growth had been observed in India, China and the Russian Federation, but Africa was lagging behind. He also pointed out that current crises like the Iraq question, the Middle East conflict and international terrorism posed considerable obstacles.
Responding to questions in the ensuing discussion, he told one delegate that trade and subsidies were the most important issues emerging from the Monterrey Conference. The $50 billion in official development assistance (ODA) committed annually was a paltry amount compared with the $300 billion spent on subsidies every year. The economic losses that developing countries suffered as a result of subsidies often cancelled out the foreign aid they received.
* Press Release GA/EF/3019 of 8 November should have been GA/EF/3018.
On the question of infrastructure capacity, he told another delegate that although it was important, the World Bank was more concerned with strengthening the capacity of nations to negotiate in order to trade. Since Monterrey, things had not always been favourable in that regard, he added.
Regarding interaction between the United Nations and the World Bank in achieving development goals, he said the Bank was already engaged in fruitful dialogue with the Secretary-General. However, real engagement could only happen if the United Nations changed its rules of procedure, allowing him or other Bank officials to present and actively discuss issues early on in the course of conferences.
In response to a question about the disbursement of funds under the Millennium Challenge Account, he said that such monies were channeled unilaterally, bilaterally and multilaterally, such as through the United Nations. It was doubtful whether there would be any significant change to existing disbursement procedures.
Asked about poverty-reduction strategy papers, he replied that governments were increasingly putting together plans that involved public input, which was a huge step forward consistent with the way democracies worked. The World Bank was discovering the effectiveness of a more coordinated approach and devising a country-consistent strategy, consistent with each poverty-reduction strategy paper.
Other speakers this afternoon included the representatives of Mexico, Benin, Denmark, Nigeria, Indonesia, Cuba, Burkina Faso, United States, Guyana and Zambia.
The Second Committee will meet again at a date to be announced in the United Nations Journal.
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