BOLD ACTION REQUIRED REGARDING DEBT RELIEF, TRADE REFORM, ACCESS TO RESOURCES, ACCORDING TO PARTICIPANTS IN DEVELOPMENT FINANCING ROUND TABLE

29 October 2003
GA/10191

BOLD ACTION REQUIRED REGARDING DEBT RELIEF, TRADE REFORM, ACCESS TO RESOURCES, ACCORDING TO PARTICIPANTS IN DEVELOPMENT FINANCING ROUND TABLE

29/10/2003
Press ReleaseGA/10191

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

Ministerial Round Table 5

BOLD ACTION REQUIRED REGARDING DEBT RELIEF, TRADE REFORM, ACCESS TO RESOURCES,

ACCORDING TO PARTICIPANTS IN DEVELOPMENT FINANCING ROUND TABLE

A broad spectrum of stakeholders gathered today for an interactive discussion on promoting and enhancing the links between progress in the implementation of the commitments reached at the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development and the achievement of other internationally agreed development goals.

Participants from civil society, government ministries, the business sector and international financial institutions were asked to focus on the progress and challenges in the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, which had, among other things, outlined worldwide commitments to address the challenges of financing for development, and overall achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which ranged from halving extreme poverty to providing universal primary education by 2015.

Opening the discussion, Hilde Frafjord Johnson, Norway’s Minister of International Development, urged speakers from both the North and South to discuss the efforts undertaken by their governments or agencies in the past year to ensure open markets, increase official development assistance (ODA), and provide access to resources.  She added that, with the Goals and the Monterey Consensus as guides and mid-term deadlines approaching, it was important to consider ways of monitoring progress.  One way could be to create a peer review mechanism, so countries could follow what had been done, what obstacles remained, and how countries of the North and South could move forward together.

As a host of speakers from the industrialized world took the floor, Agnes Van Ardenne, Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, said that much had been promised regarding the Millennium Goals, as well as the Monterrey Consensus.  Her country had moved ahead with youth initiatives and basic education reforms, and supported the Global Fund on Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Agreeing that a lot had been promised, Koos Richelle, Director General of the European Commission, stated that the European Union was starting to deliver. Indeed, it had met, within one year, nearly one third of the development objectives set for 2006.  But what was also important was that the Union was monitoring its progress and making the results public.  And while that sort of “naming and shaming” was disturbing to some, it was essential to ensure accountability.

The Deputy State Secretary in Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ursula Schater-Preuss, highlighted her country’s programme of action to promote development.  Germany had focused on poverty reduction, education, and crisis prevention, among other things.  As prospective members of the European Union, Hungary’s Deputy State Secretary, Gabor Szentivanyi, and Slovakia’s State Secretary, Joszef Berenyi, also highlighted their countries’ efforts and initiatives.

Ngozo Okonojo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, said that the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had provided the framework for action for African nations.  For its part, Nigeria was beginning to “put its house in order”, she said, noting, among other things, that her country was trying to ensure transparency in its oil and gas industry, promote legal and judicial reforms, and tackle corruption.  Still, while it was trying to live up to its side of the bargain, it was necessary for the wider international community to boost its own efforts, particularly on matters related to trade, debt and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative.

Mary Robinson, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, now the Executive-Director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, said she was surprised that the discussion had proceeded so optimistically, because, in reality, the picture was very bleak.  Indeed, the “links” which everyone had gathered to discuss today were really more like “gaps”, in terms of what could be expected on the development front in the coming years.

While a recent reassessment had estimated that another $50 billion would be needed to achieve the Millennium Goals, if things continued as they were, all that could be hoped for was another $16 billion, she added.  It was time for the global community to move beyond reporting about what was being done, and move to affect real changes in areas such as debt relief, poverty and reform of the international trading system.

A host of developing countries stressed the need for a sense of urgency around efforts to meet internationally agreed development goals, particularly since none of the objectives was particularly new.  One speaker noted that some of the goals had been around since the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964.  Others stressed that the issue of trade warranted particular consideration, since current market schemes seemed to be “stacked against poor countries.”

To that end, Demba Mousa Dembele, Director, Forum for African Alternatives, Senegal, said it was time for bold action, since it was clear that “business as usual” would no longer do.  One particular area where such bold steps were needed was external debt, since many countries had stated that debt was crippling their growth.  The HIPC Initiative, for all its good intentions, excluded middle-income countries.  It was also slow, in part because of the crippling conditions attached.  All nations had a vested interest in seeing the Millennium Goals achieved, he said, but what was lacking was the political will.

Zou Jiayi, Deputy Director-General, International Department of Trade and Economic Affairs of China, said that implementation of the financing for development goals should be supported by broad-based international development cooperation.  There was also a need to encourage technology transfer to developing countries, promote growth and training in developing countries, facilitate stable and productive capital flows, and establish a fair, just and balanced trading system.  The developed world needed to draw on the failure of the Cancun WTO Meeting, which had highlighted the need to listen to the concerns of smaller countries.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.