ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL CALLS FOR URGENT ACTIONS TO PUT GLOBAL ECONOMY ON ‘FIRM SUSTAINABLE FOUNDATION’, CONCLUDING HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

3 July 2008
ECOSOC/6354

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL CALLS FOR URGENT ACTIONS TO PUT GLOBAL ECONOMY ON ‘FIRM SUSTAINABLE FOUNDATION’, CONCLUDING HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

3 July 2008
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6354
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2008 Substantive Session

19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL CALLS FOR URGENT ACTIONS TO PUT GLOBAL ECONOMY

ON ‘FIRM SUSTAINABLE FOUNDATION’, CONCLUDING HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Luxembourg,

Kazakhstan , Finland Make Presentations in Annual Ministerial Review

With no relief in sight from the tight credit conditions, record-high commodity prices and financial market fluctuations weighing heavily on the global economy, the Economic and Social Council today concluded the high-level segment of its annual substantive session with Government ministers calling for “urgent individual and collective actions […] to stem these risks and place the global economy on a firm sustainable foundation”.

Adopting by consensus a Declaration on the theme of the Council’s 2008 session, “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development”, (document E/2008/L.10) the ministers recognized that they were meeting “at a critical juncture in our efforts to realize [those goals], including the Millennium Development Goals”.  They further recognized that all nations faced multiple development challenges because of current financial instability and uncertainty; slowing global economic growth; rising food and fuel prices; and the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change. 

“All of these challenges require early concerted action.  We are concerned about the negative impacts on sustainable economic growth and sustainable development, particularly in developing countries,” the Declaration said.  It noted that the ministers, who have been meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York since Monday, were also concerned that the current global crises might further widen inequalities both among and within nations. 

In closing remarks, Council President Léo Mérorès ( Haiti) said the Council had come to the end of a truly groundbreaking high-level segment.  The Council had finally set in motion its new functions as mandated by the General Assembly in 2005.  The level and breadth of the engagement had been extraordinary.  From ministers and high-level officials to civil society and private sector participants, all had exhibited a “new wave of enthusiasm and determination”. 

The Council had succeeded in truly bringing together the various strands of the complex challenges of development, and had focused on the most topical issue of the day.  Although the Economic and Social Council could not have hoped to solve all those challenges, by adopting the text it had at least put them on the table for serious consideration by political leaders.  The good faith and spirit of compromise that had been exhibited in the negotiations had marked a “new ECOSOC”, he said.  

“What is even more heartening to note is that we are unanimous in our understanding of the crucial challenges that we need to address urgently, our achievements and our failures,” he said, noting that such clarity was essential for the Council to press ahead with its future work.  The world had achieved some progress towards the Millennium Development Goals over the past decade, but responding to the current global crises required, more than ever, urgent, collective and collaborative action by all members of the international community.  That had been the message of the Ministerial Declaration, he added. 

In the 46-paragraph text, the ministers strongly called for quick, concerted action in the short and long term to address economic ills, and stated: “We need to ensure that our development gains are not reversed and that our future efforts are not undermined.  […] We are determined to take concerted actions to promote progress towards the realization of the internationally agreed development goals including the Millennium Development Goals.” 

The ministers reiterated their commitment to sustainable development in all countries, and to making that goal a central objective of national development strategies and international cooperation.  “We call on all countries that have not developed policy frameworks for integrating economic, social and environmental objectives to consider adopting and implementing such frameworks,” they added, recognizing that an enabling international system and appropriate cooperation were important to that end. 

Among other things, the ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women, and recognized that they were “key actors” in development.  They also recognized the importance of enhanced access of the rural poor, men as well as women, to productive assets, in particular land and water, and stressed that priority attention be given to adopting policies and implementing laws that guaranteed well-defined and enforceable land- and water-use rights.   

On issues related to global warming and environmental protection, the ministers called for efforts by all countries to promote sustainable forest management and stressed the importance of diversifying energy supplies by developing “cleaner, more efficient, affordable and cost-effective energy technologies”.  They also emphasized that it was essential to address the challenges and opportunities posed by biofuels, in view of the world’s food security, energy and sustainable development needs. 

Noting that the global food situation required a strong commitment from Governments and all other stakeholders, the ministers called on donors and the United Nations to increase their assistance for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and those that were most negatively affected by high food prices. 

Also today, the Council wrapped up its Annual Ministerial Review.  The last of eight national voluntary presentations were made by representatives of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan and Finland, who focused their remarks on the implementation of national development strategies and international objectives. 

The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, one of the two emerging economies to share its experience, said that seven priority areas of its long-term development plan covered issues relating to national security, economic growth, transportation and the establishment of a professional State, among other things.  Significant progress had been made, notably in the 6.5-fold rise in income and modernization of the education system, which would see the construction of some 250 new schools in the coming years.  Those and other achievements showed that now was time to establish more ambitious goals, and the country had undertaken an “MDG+” strategy to maintain its positive development trends. 

The Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of Luxembourg said his country supported the interplay between bilateral and multilateral aid to ensure that recipient countries were in the lead and that aid was as predictable and effective as possible.  His Government was committed to the three pillars of sustainable development -– economic growth, social progress and environmental protection –- and he highlighted a cooperative programme with Burkina Faso on managing its diverse but fragile natural resources. 

The Review -- along with the Development Cooperation Forum -- is one of two new functions established at the 2005 World Summit.  Its task is to review progress in implementing the Millennium Development Goals and the broader United Nations development agenda.  Representatives from Belgium, Chile, United Kingdom and the United Republic of Tanzania addressed the Review yesterday.  (See Press Release ECOSOC/6352

The closing day also included thematic panel discussions on the roles of bioenergy and agricultural commodities in helping countries pursue sustainable development. 

Another highlight of the high-level segment was the first biennial meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum, which was established as a venue for diverse stakeholders to consider mainstreaming international development goals, aid allocation, aid effectiveness and South-South and triangular development cooperation. (See Press Releases ECOSOC/6349 and ECOSOC/6350

Also during the Council’s high-level segment, nearly 60 delegations, many led by their development ministers, participated in a general debate, touching on many of the same concerns highlighted in the Ministerial Declaration.  Over two days, the Council heard repeated calls for concrete action to remedy the current maladies afflicting the international system, including the bleak state of the global economy, rising food and energy prices and the impact of global warming.  Speakers also stressed the need for a “renaissance” in agriculture and rural development and an overhaul of the international development assistance architecture, which they believed was currently fragmented and unwieldy.  (See Press Releases ECOSOC/6351 and ECOSOC/6353

Speaking after the adoption of the Declaration were the representatives Belarus, France (on behalf of the European Union), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Bolivia, United States, Nicaragua and Cuba. 

The Council will convene 10 a.m. Monday, 7 July, to hold a dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of its Regional Commissions. 

Background 

The Economic and Social Council this morning, as part of the high-level segment of the 2008 substantive session, continued its Annual Ministerial Review, during which Member States voluntarily present specific national policy successes, as well as the challenges that continue to hamper the attainment of the United Nations development agenda.  Also as part of the Review, the Council was expected to hold an afternoon round table discussions on “Bioenergy, sustainable livelihoods and the rural poor”; and “Harnessing the current boom in commodity markets for sustainable development and poverty reduction -- the case of small producers”. 

Making national presentations today were senior development cooperation ministers from Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan and Finland, wrapping up the Ministerial Review.  Yesterday, representatives from Belgium, Chile, United Kingdom and the United Republic of Tanzania addressed the Council. 

Opening remarks  

Moderator DAVID HALES, President of the College of the Atlantic, recapped yesterday’s themes, some of which had focused on the evolving nature of assistance trends.  Discussions had echoed the findings of the Secretary-General’s report: serious gaps remained between available resources and the challenges ahead, and new players with new approaches to donor-recipient partnership had emerged.  Indeed, States could not say they were serious about development when policies on trade and climate, and the practices of international institutions sent contradictory signals.  Today’s discussions would shed light on such concerns.  “Speak to us from your experience,” he said.   

Presentation by Lao People’s Democratic Republic 

Leading off the presentations, BOUNKEUT SANGSOMSAK, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, shared his country’s experience in implementing select internationally agreed development goals and highlighted achievements, challenges and lessons learned.  He explained, first, that the national development strategy was based on meeting national development needs and integrating United Nations and internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.  It aimed to transform the economy from one characterized by uneven performance to one of fast and stable development.  To do that, four medium- and long-term goals had been set, which included eradicating mass poverty by 2010, achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and graduating from least developed country status by 2020. 

In recent decades, the Government had endorsed various international development targets and was committed to attaining them, he explained.  All internationally agreed development goals had been integrated into the national development strategy.  It would cost $90 billion to implement the plan, and the private sector would need to take on 69 per cent of that amount.  The Government would also rely on foreign direct investment and official development assistance. 

He then touched on international development cooperation, saying that, in recent years, the Government had focused on regional integration, particularly in the Mekong area, community-building with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and regional connectivity.  Hydropower plants had been built to make the country an energy supplier in the future.  To strengthen official development assistance (ODA) effectiveness, the Government had endorsed the Paris Declaration and adopted the Vientiane Declaration on aid effectiveness.  Last year, total ODA had reached $422 million, and 191 projects amounting to $1.2 billion had been approved in various sectors.  Also, for first time, the country had recorded a trade surplus. 

Despite such progress, he said, the Government faced challenges.  Malnutrition remained a concern, and maternal and infant mortality remained high compared to other countries in the region.  Women’s ability to take part in decision-making processes was inadequate and financial resources needed to be increased. 

Turning to lessons learned, he said that, to cut poverty and malnutrition rates, the Government must focus on sustainable agriculture.  To address maternal mortality, universal access to quality health care must be ensured and awareness of reproductive health care must be promoted among ethnic populations.  In the area of education, adequate resources must be allocated across provinces, teachers must be trained and curricula improved.  Further, the capacity of institutions to enforce environmental regulations must be improved. 

The floor was then opened to development cooperation partners of the country to make remarks.  Taking the floor first was ANDERS LIDÉN ( Sweden), who focused on environmental issues and the need to expand education opportunities.  There was much to do in that regard, particularly in teacher training.  He wondered what the Government was doing to reach people in remote areas, as that was a difficult task.  Child-friendly schools were a good model for making progress.  Many of them offered girls twice the food rations of boys as an incentive for them to attend school. 

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) recalled that, while the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was among the poorest countries in Asia, it was also endowed with significant natural resources, and had the potential to develop its agriculture base.  Though it was landlocked, it was increasingly landlinked.  Such factors were important in analysing the country’s progress and challenges, especially as it progressed towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  As a member of ASEAN, its prosperity was intertwined with that of other members.  He asked how poverty reduction efforts were bridging the gap between urban and rural populations, and how the Government was assisting people who had been displaced by various land schemes. 

TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan) said his country was helping the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  On trade and investment promotion, he said it was important to support Lao adaptation to regional economic integration.  The Second Mekong Friendship Bridge, financed by a loan from Japan, was the “linchpin” of the East-West economic corridor connecting Myanmar, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam.  He asked how the Government could produce sustained economic growth with a view to becoming less dependent on foreign aid. 

ROBERT HILL ( Australia) noted that the Lao national report had outlined significant progress and the areas where challenges still remained.   Australia had a 50-year partnership with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic that focused on trade facilitation, public financial management and support for community development programmes, among other things.  The future challenge was in developing the wealth capacity of the country, so that it could provide for its people in the medium- to long-term.  The key was in developing the country’s considerable natural resources in a sustainable manner.  To maintain the growth needed to support such goals, the private sector must be tapped and employment opportunities expanded in urban and rural areas.   Australia looked forward to continuing to help develop the human and natural capacities in the country. 

Responding to those questions and comments, Mr. SANGSOMSAK said first, on the environment, that strategies for protecting forest areas were in place.  Surveys had been undertaken and 20 conservation areas had been created, where logging was illegal.  Also, forest protection funds had been made available from other countries.  On bridging the gap between urban and rural areas, he described ongoing efforts to build roads to connect the 47 poorest districts, boost the agricultural sector and create market access opportunities for rural producers.  On how the country could become less dependent on ODA, he said the Government had adopted a policy to combine “domestic potential with external strengths”.  Efforts also focused on balancing the budget and promoting foreign investment. 

In response to other questions posed by New Zealand, also a development partner, and Bolivia, he said tourism in his country was different than in other countries.  The country offered mountains, rivers and wildlife, and tourism was characterized by “eco-tourism”.  The number of tourists -– which had hit 1.5 million last year -– was expected to climb, and a long-term tourism strategy had been developed.  Today, the country saw its land-=locked status as a positive point, and lending had been used to increase its connectivity to neighbours. 

Presentation by Luxembourg 

The next presenter, JEAN-LOUIS SCHILTZ, Minister For Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of Luxembourg, said that, in his country, development cooperation had been a Government priority for the past quarter century.   Luxembourg took part in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Peer Review on development cooperation.  Each year, Luxembourg had achieved the internationally mandated 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for ODA and, since 2000, it had been above that target.  As of last year, Luxembourg had reached 0.9 per cent and was committed to achieving 1 per cent in the coming years. 

He said Luxembourg’s development cooperation focused on six countries in Western Africa, two in Latin America and two in Asia.  It also maintained sectoral concentration in the areas of health and education, as well as water and sanitation -- key targets of the Millennium Declaration. 

The interplay between bilateral and multilateral aid was something that Luxembourg sought out to ensure that recipient countries were in the lead and that aid was as predictable and effective as possible, as outlined by the 2005 Paris Declaration.  It had also expanded its regional cooperation offices in West Africa and Central America.  On multilateral cooperation, he said that Luxembourg generally signed framework agreements with various agencies, including the United Nations, as a way to ensure predictable programming, ongoing monitoring and systematic review. 

He said his Government was committed to the three pillars of sustainable development –- economic growth, social development and environmental protection -- and believed that progress on all three fronts was the only way to ensure broader socio-economic development for all. At the same time, Luxembourg made cross-cutting environmental issues a priority as much as possible.  He highlighted a development cooperation programme with Burkina Faso on the management of that country’s diverse, but fragile, natural resources.  The project, to run from 2008 to 2012, addressed numerous obstacles impeding sustainable resource management and aimed to strengthen institutional and operational frameworks.  A related joint programme also covered a broad range of forestry issues. 

Turning to urgent matters that the international community must tackle head on, he spotlighted the impact of climate change.  Coping with that phenomenon, the negative effects of which were already becoming apparent, must be made a development priority.  In addition, mitigation and adaptation measures must be better integrated into national-level development strategies.   Luxembourg was committed to stepping up its efforts to help all nations meet the Millennium Declaration’s environmental sustainability targets. 

Second, he said, the current global food crisis, which seriously affected the poor in the North as well as the South, required immediate attention.  He called for sustainable agricultural development, increased efforts to ensure food security for all and a renewed focus on biodiversity.  He also said that the crisis was also about “food sovereignty”.  In that regard, while the current crisis should be addressed through a coordinated global response, individual nations should be allowed to choose their own path to boost agricultural production and ensure food security.  The international community must also condemn speculation in commodities, he added, also stressing that stakeholders must re-examine their position on biofeuls.  “Food needs must come before needs for fuel,” he said. 

On other matters of concern, he said stakeholders must sound the alarm about the unacceptable drop in ODA.  All donor countries, including partners in the European Union, even though that bloc was by far the largest global aid donor, must strive to do better, especially because 2007 “had been a bad year”.  Indeed, published estimates revealed that the world’s poorest people had received $1.7 billion less in aid last year. 

At various European Union forums, including the European Commission, he had called for European countries to reaffirm their commitment to reach the 0.7 per cent of GDP target as soon as possible.  He had also called for setting up a time frame that would lead to the doubling of European delivered ODA to some €66 billion.  Here, he noted that the Monterrey Consensus had stressed that ODA was only one form of aid and that supporting micro-finance programmes could play a major role. 

On reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he said that the countries of the North must work “on a daily basis” with each other and programme countries to ensure internationally agreed targets were met.  At the same time, countries of the South must work harder to integrate Millennium Development Goal initiatives into their national development policies, improve the national structures and ensure good governance.  Finally, he highlighted important upcoming meetings -- the Accra Third High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, the Millennium Development Goals high-level event to be held on 25 September and the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development.  Those meetings would provide an opportunity for the international community to demonstrate renewed commitment and, Luxembourg hoped, innovation and shared ambition to live up to commitments that had been made. 

Following the presentation, Cape Verde and Finland took the floor, representing friends and development partners of Luxembourg. 

ANTONIO PEDRO MONTEIRO LIMA ( Cape Verde) praised Luxembourg’s willingness to explore broad partnerships while extending every effort to build mutual trust and walk hand in hand with its development partners.  That spirit was critical in the current climate, where more and more people were becoming sceptical of globalization.  He went on to highlight a hugely successful drug rehabilitation programme that the two Governments had devised, and said that initiative had been indicative of Luxembourg’s dedication to improving the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.  Luxembourg’s dedication to sustainable development for all was a prime example of the difference a small European country could make in the international arena. 

ILKKA HEISKANEN ( Finland) also praised Luxembourg’s development cooperation and said it would be helpful if the delegation shared its strategy for rallying the national public and political support that had allowed it to keep its ODA above the United Nations mandated 0.7 per cent of GDP. 

Responding to those comments, Mr. SCHILTZ said his country had set up multisectoral plans to help keep its development assistance initiatives predictable.  He stressed that political will and political consensus were what had allowed the Government to steadily increase its ODA.  “No one in Parliament has ever objected” to the incremental increases, he added.  Indeed, Parliament was actively involved in the wider Government’s discussions on development aid matters, including in an annual open debate specifically on development cooperation, which also included representatives of non-governmental organizations.  He added that his office alone worked with about 85 non-governmental organizations and that had also played an important role in raising public awareness and building a positive public perception about development cooperation. 

Responding to questions and comments from the wider audience, he said that Luxembourg would remain committed to expanding its development cooperation, but it would always keep an eye on the effectiveness of its efforts.  To that end, OECD had advised that, in line with the Paris Declaration, Luxembourg had limited its cooperation to a few countries with a view to transferring those experiences and sharing the lessons learned with others.   Luxembourg would always focus its efforts on countries and regions such as West Africa, where it had partnered with Mali and Niger, among others, on a school feeding programme. 

Presentation by Kazakhstan 

NURLAN DANENOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said his country, which was a Eurasian State in geographical terms, had recently joined the list of middle-income countries.  It had been included on the World Bank’s list of the 20 most attractive countries for investment, and the size of its economy had doubled in the last seven years.  On the basis of that economic success, it aimed to become one of the 50 most competitive countries in the world. 

Kazakhstan had achieved a remarkable degree of peace and cohesion given its multi-ethnic society, he continued.  It was also taking a balanced approach to sustainable State development, studying and implementing best practices.  It had been one of the first countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to introduce free-market principles and had reformed its banking, housing and utility systems.  As a result, its financial interests had increased and its economy had become increasingly diversified.  It has also set up a sustainable development fund to coordinate its business development.

Kazakhstan had adopted a long-term development strategy aimed at improving the quality of life of its population by reducing social exclusion, raising the quality of social services, improving the environment, involving civil society in development and strengthening national identity.  The strategy identified seven priorities for the country’s development: national security; domestic security and social cohesion; economic growth; health, education and welfare services; energy resources; transportation and communication infrastructure; and a professional State.  To achieve the strategy, it had designed a number of strategic plans, which together sought to improve the living conditions of current and future generations of Kazakhs. 

All of those goals were closely linked to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and to aid in the pursuit of those Goals, Kazakhstan had undertaken a rigorous monitoring and reporting programme to keep it on track, he continued.  Significant progress had been made, with the incomes of Kazakh citizens rising 6.5 times over the past decade.  Also, Kazakhstan planned to build 150 health facilities along with 300 rural clinics in the future.  In the last decade, access to educational opportunities abroad had been expanded and the local educational school system had been modernized.  In the coming years, 250 new schools and 50 vocational technical colleges would also be built.  Primary education was available for all children and secondary schooling was also compulsory.  Teaching was given in five languages.  It was improving targeted social assistance through retraining schemes, among other programmes.   

Overall, Kazakhstan had alleviated poverty and increased access to primary education and gender equality, he said.  In its efforts to achieve environmental sustainability, it had also integrated the principle of sustainable development into a number of development strategies.  Among the most important focus areas of those strategies was the Aral Sea policy. 

Many problems remained, however, particularly in child mortality rates and the fight against HIV/AIDS, he added.  While income inequalities had dropped, gaps still had to be closed.  For example, regional income disparities had to be addressed. 

Still, since the Millennium Declaration had been adopted, Kazakhstan had made progress.  It was now time to establish more ambitious goals.  Among the primary goals of its “MDG+” strategy was maintaining its positive development trends. 

YURI SHOKAMANOV, State Secretary in the Agency of Statistics, then emphasized that the poverty level had decreased significantly in the last seven years.  The Government had adopted a poverty reduction scheme and a social assistance programme that, among other things, had introduced pensions in Kazakhstan.  In 2006, a minimum subsistence income level had been established and enshrined in law.  Through those efforts, Kazakhstan had achieved Millennium Goal 1 in 2004. 

B. BEKNIYAZ, Director, Department of Ecological Policy and Sustainable Development, Ministry of Environmental Protection, said that, in order to meet Goal 7 and to include sustainable development in Kazakhstan’s national programmes, its legislature had adopted an Environmental Code.  That meant that, for the first time, there was a basis for environmental protection in national legislation.  The Government had also created 36 intersectoral indicators to balance economic growth with sustainable development.  It would also hold an environmental conference in 2011 to explore Eurasian environmental cooperation.  Other successes included the Aral Sea project, which was rehabilitating that body of water and the surrounding lands.  A new drinking water programme had been launched, with a subsequent two-fold increase in budget apportionment. 

RAUSHAN SAREMBAEVA, Association of Business Women of Kazakhstan, said a number of programmes targeting the advancement of rural women and the advancement of gender equality in the country had been created.  Recently, the second Eurasian summit for women had been held, and women from all regions of the country had participated.  As for the Millennium Development Goals, a number of gender indicators had been developed, as had a gender equity strategy through 2016.  In cooperation with international organizations, curricula had been developed in the national language and entrepreneurship training had been established for ethnic women.  A free phone service provided health information for women and teens, with a subsequent decrease in the number of abortions in Kazakhstan. 

Following the presentation, ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) took the floor in support of its neighbour, saying that Kazakhstan’s national development strategy had led to its impressive progress towards eradicating poverty and hunger, and achieving universal primary education and sustainable development.  It had nurtured a favourable investment environment and increased the income of its citizens.  Due to Kazakhstan’s importance in regional cooperation, especially among landlocked countries, there was a need for a coherent regional initiative to develop transportation infrastructure, regional energy cooperation, trade coherence and border cooperation.  He highlighted the example of the Terrmez-Kabul railroad, which would enhance regional trade. 

VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said Kazakhstan represented a region that had experienced a variety of development challenges and its progress was an example for all of Central Asia.  Its GDP growth was more than 9 per cent and its foreign direct investment was more than $40 billion.  Since 1997, its minimum wage had more than quadrupled and, in the last 10 years, its investment in human capital had paid dividends.  As a strategic partner of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation welcomed that level of development.  With nearly $17 billion in trade between the two countries and cooperation in scientific programmes, there was an active partnership, including in environmental cooperation.  Since 1998, international projects, including the Caspian Environmental Programme, had been implemented.  Monitoring programmes also allowed for cooperative work in the Aral region. 

ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States) said that, as an emerging leader in Central Asia, Kazakhstan was an important partner of the United States.  It had laid a solid foundation for its market economy and future prosperity.  As a result of its strong economic policies, it had dramatically reduced the percentage of its population living below subsistence levels.  It was also investing in its people, in particular with educational financing.   Kazakhstan had also been working to develop its democratic institutions and had committed to working closely with OECD to reform its election laws.  It had further established its credentials in international leadership.  It had been the first country to voluntarily renounce its nuclear weapons after the break-up of the Soviet Union.  It had also deployed eight rotations of engineering troops to Iraq and was providing nearly $3 million in assistance to Afghanistan. 

In response, Mr. DANENOV thanked the country delegations who had taken the floor as friends, and stressed that it was only through the cooperative relationships Kazakhstan had developed in the region that it had been able to bring in significant investment, which had allowed it, in turn, to meet the Millennium Development Goals.   

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS ( Belarus) said Kazakhstan had been a trailblazer for CIS countries, and he asked for more information on Kazakhstan’s efforts to broaden its use of renewable energy sources. 

Mr. DANENOV said that alternative energy sources had become more important in Kazakhstan’s national dialogue about its energy policy.  Regional cooperation, as well as interaction with United Nations agencies, was allowing the Government to harness the world’s experience and refine its technical and scientific expertise about renewable energy sources. 

Mr. BEKNIYAZ added that the Government had established a legal basis to support renewable energy sources, using the certificate-based strategy that had been used in the United Kingdom. 

Presentation by Finland 

The final presenter of the Ministerial Review, PAAVO VÄYRANEY, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, said it was important for developed countries to take part in the process as a way of strengthening international dialogue on development issues.  His Government’s development strategy had been based on the tenets of the Rio Declaration, including social development, economic growth and environmental sustainability. 

He said his country was concerned that less attention was being paid to ecological and environmental issues. That was troubling, particularly as the negative impacts of global warming and biodiversity loss were becoming increasingly evident.  Further, the development policy dialogue had been reduced to discussions on development cooperation -– a relatively narrow agenda.  “We have to get back to the wide approach and agenda of Rio,” he said. 

To that end, he said, all stakeholders, especially the industrialized countries, must take a close look at sustainability.  Thus far, the developed world had followed a development path that overexploited non-renewable resources.  That path was not ecologically sustainable, especially since it was serving as a model for some fast-growing developing countries.  Profound steps needed to be taken to ensure that patterns of consumption and production were more sustainable and created prosperity for all humankind, based on low carbon dioxide emissions and environmental stability. 

Finland focused its development policies on social development and human well-being, with special emphasis on environmental sustainability, he said.  At the same time, Finland stressed looking beyond the Millennium Development Goals to address broader development cooperation issues, especially environmental sustainability and other issues critical to the development needs of its programme partners. 

Coherence began at home, he continued, noting that the Finnish Government, with input from a broad group of partners, had crafted a socio-economic growth and development strategy that focused on solutions to society’s eco-efficiency and forged new links between environmental and economic policies. 

As for development cooperation, he said Finland sought to identify those themes and sectors where it could add value to global development.  In bilateral cooperation, it concentrated on fields where it had cutting-edge expertise, such as forest and water management and renewable energy, both of which were linked to key Millennium Development Goal targets. 

Highlighting relevant projects, he said one example of combining sustainable development and technology transfer was the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America.  That initiative aimed to promote the use of renewable energy sources and clean technologies in the Central American region to make energy services more accessible to the poor.  Thus far, it covered eight countries and had attracted 31 European and 36 Central American renewable energy companies.   Finland was now considering replicating the project in the Mekong region and Indonesia. 

Turning to other development cooperation projects, he said that watershed management had been identified as the top sustainable development challenge for rural communities living along the banks of the Nile River.  To that end, Finland participated in a joint programme with the World Bank providing agro-forest and technical assistance to communities along the eastern Nile.  Further, Finland and the United Republic of Tanzania were planning to establish a regional centre for sustainable development. 

In the area of partnership and development financing, he highlighted the importance of the private sector in driving development at the national level. Finland backed a multi-stakeholder approach that included companies and academia. He hoped the discussion helped bring views together to reach the Millennium Development Goals and ensure sustainable development.    

Leading off questions and comments from Finland’s friends and development partners, ALISTAIR FERNIE (United Kingdom) praised the country’s emphasis on the need for industrialized countries to own up to their responsibility for the current state of the environment. 

OMBENI SEFUE (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country had had a long relationship with Finland and, together, the two countries had learned much about enhancing ownership of development initiatives and division of labour over the years.  Finland’s comprehensive approach to development, focused on national priorities identified in programme countries was welcomed and encouraged, especially since everyone knew that poverty was a “multi-headed hydra” requiring dedicated measures on all fronts. 

Responding to those comments, Mr. VÄYRANEY said that, when he had taken his post, he had been shocked that ecological sustainability was receiving less and less focus in his own country, as well as at the United Nations level in the Commission on Sustainable Development.  Ecological sustainability had been “pushed to the background” and it was especially important for developed countries to help turn that trend around.  Further, the Commission on Sustainable Development must be strengthened, because it was the only international body mandated to specifically focus on that issue. 

He went on to say that bilateral cooperation was based on the needs and requests of partner countries, but also took into account areas where Finland believed it had particular strengths, or were its expertise could add value.  As for funding and ODA, Finland planned to meet its portion of the European Union’s stated goals.   Finland planned to increase its funding by some 30 per cent through 2011 and, as promised, at least half of those funds would target development in Africa. 

Responding to comments from the wider Council, he said that Finland provided 45 per cent of its funding through bilateral channels.  It worked through the United Nations, the World Bank and European Union organs, among others.  It also drew on the expertise of non-governmental organizations to help identify partners.  Finland tried to choose partners that were listed among the least developed countries, he said, noting that, once countries graduated from that list, Finland changed its relationship. 

That had been the case with Namibia, which Finland no longer considered a “programme country”, but where it remained involved in broader development initiatives.   Finland was considering exploring ways to expand cooperation in the West African region, he added.  On the question of “donor darlings versus donor orphans”, he said the issue was a matter of great concern for the entire European Union.   Finland, for its part, was in the process of outlining a framework to guide its efforts to identify development partners. 

On other issues, he acknowledged that the Finnish development and development cooperation policies had been criticized for focusing to heavily on the environment.  But, the Government believed that, in order to craft effective development policy that generated early and effective results, environmental sustainability issues must be given priority.  By example, he said that, across the developing world, millions of people depended on forests for their survival.  Why then, would programme initiatives in those regions not target such issues as deforestation, biological diversity and sustainable forest management? 

Panel Discussion A 

In the afternoon, the Council held two panel discussions on the theme of promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development, taking into account current challenges. 

The first panel, which focused on “Bioenergy, sustainable livelihoods and rural poor”, was chaired by Anthony Severin, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of Saint Lucia.  It was moderated by Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa and featured the participation of Alexander Mueller, Assistant Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Sonja Vermeulen, Programme Director, Business and Sustainable Development, International Institute for Environment and Development; Lionel López, Director, Technoserve, Guatemala; Suzanne Hunt, Bioenergy Expert, Independent Consultant.  The lead discussant was Cheick Sidi Diarra, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. 

Opening the discussion, Mr. MUELLER said an additional 3 billion people would need access to food and energy in the next few decades.  Because more people were now living in urban areas than in rural ones, and population structures were shifting as median ages rose, the method and amount of food being produced would have to change.  More energy would also be needed by those growing populations.  That situation posed a number of problems for agricultural development, for several reasons.  Some areas of the world were reaching the limits of their land- and water-use capacities.  Further, 5 billion people in low-income countries with rapid economic growth rates were now seeking greater energy resources and putting added pressure on agriculture. 

While biomass accounted for 10 per cent of global energy use, modern forms like ethanol and biodiesel accounted for less than 0.5 per cent of that use, he said.  That suggested that, even if that share were to be increased, the energy problem would still not be solved.  Still, the key question was how to safeguard food security if there was a competition between the increasing need for food and the growing need for energy.  That question should be at the heart of national and international policy discussions. 

Ms. VERMEULEN said that, to make the most of biofuels for poor people, better safeguards from Government were needed, and should come from more than just strong land tenure protections.  More imaginative solutions from small and large businesses were also required.  Biofuels provided more diverse and secure livelihoods, as well as broader development benefits, including local energy, for rural people.  But, as food prices rose, land became more valuable, which led to concentration in the hands of wealthier elites.  Other resources, such as water, would also be used up. 

Safeguards of the rights and choices of poor people had to be implemented if biofuels were to benefit poor communities, she continued.  To be effective, they would have to protect local food systems; include requirements for local consultation and negotiation; and include mechanisms for appeal, arbitration and review.  To prevent an influx of large developers and large farming groups, clear definitions of underutilised, marginal and degraded lands also needed to be made.  Access to the legal system and integration of social standards were also necessary. 

Imaginative models for working with farmers and landholders and for broader share of agricultural products’ value chain were needed, she said.  Those included land lease arrangements, contract farming and joint equity models, many of which were being pioneered in the developing world.  Overall, Governments should play a role in developing policy frameworks, local services, financial incentives, funding, standard setting, brokerage and research and development. 

Mr. LÓPEZ presented a number of lessons learned from Guatemala on how to increase livelihoods of the poor using biofuels.  In Guatemala, the main biofuel was jatropha, which had low watering needs, high soil adaptability and was quite common.  Because it could easily grow on marginal lands, it was ideal for biofuel production.  It also had the potential to produce 260 million gallons (6 million barrels) of biodiesel per year.  In designing a market for the plant, a three-pillared strategy along the value-added chain had been created.  Small producers on one pillar were connected to large-scale investors on the second through research and development projects and programmes as the third. 

Although biofuel had risks, it could contribute to a country’s development by reducing poverty, providing opportunities to strengthen gender equality and diversifying a country’s energy mix, he continued.  Corn production and cattle farming occurred at subsistence levels in Guatemala, as in other countries, because the productive areas were not large enough to generate incomes that would lift families out of poverty.  By producing jatropha in marginal areas without substituting food production, the cash crop could bring in additional income.  A sustainable industry could be built on those marginal areas.  To do that, however, producers had to be organized to provide scale for the market’s growth.  Community organization and targeted policy-making were needed. 

Ms. HUNT said it was important to remember that biofuels were only one small segment of new energy sources.  In countries where biomass was a main source of energy, it usually was highly inefficient.  One way to improve energy use immediately would be to make it more efficient. 

Turning to the broader energy picture, she said it was clear that the age of cheap, easy oil was over.  Many of the leading energy thinkers had pointed out that, even if the same amount of oil existed on the back half of the so-called peak oil curve, the same amount of energy did not. It now took a higher amount of energy to harvest that oil, lowering the energy yield.  That fact put the focus back on developing clean and renewable energy -- where, in fact, the financial industry was also looking to invest. 

As Governments sought to invest in biofuel, they should consider several lessons that had already been learned, she continued.  Performance-based policies, such as the emissions standards in California, were a good way to promote biofuel use, rather than mandate-based policies.  One thing that was already clear from debates in the United States about the ethanol subsidies that had been implemented was that sustainability should be factored in from the beginning.  Indeed, so much of the discussion was about land use.  Mapping the land to know what it was used for, and to track what policies were and were not working, was critical. 

Mr. DIARRA said that the impact of biofuel production on food prices was a critical concern for countries around the world and for the international community.  Among the least developed countries, the catastrophe of rising food prices had resulted in food riots, had exacerbated malnutrition and jeopardized efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals.  The poorest, particularly the women, were being deprived of their livelihoods.  Bioenergy had drawn a deserved amount of attention as an alternative source, but even as it offered new income opportunities to farmers, especially in developing countries, it should be approached with caution. 

Of course, the net impact of biofuels on food security in developing and developed countries was not clear, he said.  It was important, therefore, to consider how a win-win outcome could be ensured.  As well, the economic, environmental and social benefits of bioenergy had to be made more coherent.  In that, South-South cooperation would be key, as would a variety of other partnerships. 

During the ensuing discussion, a number of speakers underlined the complex relationship between rising food prices and biofuel production.  One speaker said that the loss of preferential markets for some staple crops had necessitated a shift into biofuel-related crop production. 

Another speaker said the gaps between the developed and developing world should be bridged through greater technology transfer.  In addition, there was an urgent need for self-empowerment, so that rural people could take charge of the use of their resources. 

A number of speakers cited land tenure and land ownership as huge obstacles in the benefit that poor farmers, particularly women, could gain from biofuel production.   How could small women farmers, who were disadvantaged because they were underrepresented around the negotiating tables and starved for time, be part of the discussion and receive some of the part of the financial windfalls that would undoubtedly be part of the biofuel revolution? one speaker asked. 

The representative of Congo said that the current debate about today’s food crisis had gone in the wrong direction, by focusing predominantly on the production end of the spectrum.  Consumption patterns needed to be reintroduced into the debate, which should take as its point of departure, not where energy would come from, but how people would eat.  She called for better Government regulation of investment and financial speculation, as well food security and delivery.  Another speaker, pointing to ethanol’s inefficiency as an energy source and suggesting that it was not a “silver bullet” to the energy crisis, emphasized the concept of “food sovereignty” as a way to approach the trade-offs involved in using food crops to fuel machines, not people. 

Responding, Mr. MUELLER said that, in some places, no more land was available.  Given that, sustainability criteria had to be part of the biofuel discussion from the beginning.  An international discussion of land use and how to support poor rural people should be undertaken.  The solution to the food security dilemma had to include increased use of marginal land, as well as higher yields on lands that were already under cultivation. 

Ms. VERMEULEN said that the media’s level of hysteria in blaming biofuels for the rise in food prices may have distorted the current discussions.  Biofuels were only part of the solution and only part of the problem.  Producing biofuels to meet future energy needs and increase the share of the energy portfolio did not necessarily rest on large-scale conglomerates. 

Picking up that thread, Mr. LÓPEZ said that, for that to happen, scale was important. He also said that, as far as land use was concerned, it was always possible to find pieces of land that were not in use.  If farmers organized, they could truly become engines of economic growth, he added. 

Ms. HUNT said that, if the world was concerned about hunger, it was important to look at what the causes of hunger were.  Only 1 per cent of agricultural lands were currently being used for biofuel production and, at this point, it was not clear -- a World Bank report that pegged high food costs on biofuel production, notwithstanding -- that the rise in rice, corn and wheat prices were due to the search for bioenergy. 

Panel Discussion B 

The second panel addressed “Harnessing the current boom in agricultural commodities for poverty eradication and sustainable development: the case of small-scale farmers” and was chaired by Economic and Social Council Vice-President Andrei Dpakiunas ( Belarus) and moderated by Annika Söder, Assistant Director-General of FAO.  The panel featured Frank Tumpale Mwenifumbo, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security of Malawi; Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom; Steven Schonberger, Lead Operations Officer in Agriculture and Rural Development of the World Bank; Sandra Polaski, Senior Associate and Director of Trade, Equity and Development at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and James Borel, Group Vice-President of DuPont Cropo Protection and Pioneer Hi-Bred.  Lead discussant was Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). 

Mr. DPAKIUNAS stressed that the food crisis threatened the modest progress made in lifting millions of people out of poverty, particularly the urban poor.  At the same time, it provided an opportunity for a “renaissance” in agriculture, and the importance of smallholder farmers in that process must not be underestimated. 

Regrettably, many small-scale farmers were net buyers of food, he explained.  Rising energy and fertilizer prices, combined with the effects of desertification, had severely constrained their productivity and, in some cases, they had returned to subsistence cultivation for household consumption.  For African countries, specific, targeted action was needed, and new technologies for rural development could play a role.  Today’s meeting would afford the opportunity to discuss policy options for increasing agricultural productivity and facilitating market access for small scale farmers. 

Leading the discussion, Ms. TIBAIJUKA said that discussing the current food crisis must be looked at within the context of increasing urbanization.  By 2030, 60 per cent of humanity would be living in cities and towns, and the pace of urbanization was taking place so quickly that it was “a bit threatening”.  “Urban people don’t starve quietly -- they riot,” she said, adding that political upheavals seen during elections had been lead by urban citizens.  Moreover, smallholders were increasingly migrating and languishing in urban slums. 

A major question was how to create rural incentive systems to keep people on their farms, she said.  Rural-urban linkages were needed to bring balance to the situation, and African structural adjustment programmes had not fully taken account of supply-side constraints.  Moreover, climate change had further complicated the picture by hastening the pace of urbanization.  Without effective demand for food surpluses, small-farm agriculture would not develop. 

Taking the floor next, Mr. MWENIFUMBO shared Malawi’s experience, saying that the economy was agro-based, with 36 to 40 per cent of GDP coming from agriculture.  The Government had identified agriculture and food security as one of six priority areas in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.  Regarding action plans, the Government had focused on improving the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers by ensuring easy access to inputs.  Having attained food self-sufficiency for three consecutive years, the Government’s priorities were to ensure food security and enhance returns on investment by preventing commodity smuggling, among other things. 

To improve agricultural product diversification, he said the Government last year had begun subsidizing the cost of improved cotton seed and pesticides for smallholder farmers, as cotton was a strategic crop that could gradually replace tobacco as the main foreign exchange generator.  The Government also planned to install mini ginneries in strategic areas, to ensure that farmers benefited from cotton’s entire value chain.  Cassava was also considered to have a high commercial value and potential to cushion the country against hunger.  The Government planned to promote its processing into products such as starch, animal feed and flour.  Going forward, Malawi was committed to increasing production of maize for food and export, and maintaining investment in irrigation development.  He appealed to Malawi’s cooperation partners for financial and technical support for that purpose. 

Mr. WATSON said that, although food prices were high, they were lower than in the 1970s and 1980s.  One of the problems today was that the focus was solely on agriculture production.  However, agriculture must be viewed as a multifunctional sector, and the important role of women, health and traditional knowledge must be recognized.  The world community must invest in agro-ecological research and integrate traditional knowledge with academic knowledge.  In that context, he urged targeting all such measures in the small-scale farmer sector, and increasing public investment in extension systems.  He further called for the creation of cooperatives and scientific organizations to support their needs. 

At the same time, he urgently called for empowering women, who were critical to the sector.  They must be involved in public decision-making, be given access to market information and access, ownership and control of economic and natural resources.  In addition, trade-distorting subsidies must be eliminated prior to opening markets to international competition.  After all, the key was to make the small-scale sector profitable.  National policies must be flexible and resource-distorting tariffs must be removed.  The issue of property rights should also be addressed.  In closing, he urged a doubling of agricultural productivity and a decrease in post-harvest loss, adding that most first-generation biofuels were not socially or economically sustainable. 

Mr. SCHONBERGER said that the context for agriculture was changing rapidly, and new opportunities had emerged for smallholders.  The nature of demand in food markets was changing dramatically: meat and horticulture products were driving growth.  On top of that, supply chains were becoming increasingly integrated -- supermarkets were dominating worldwide food sales.  Smallholder sourcing also added retail value to products.  Another interesting aspect was the “democratization” of information access.  Three quarters of the world’s poor lived in rural areas. 

Generally speaking, he said, an empowered value chain was one that increased producer knowledge of market demand and access to knowledge and technology, among other things.  Given that, he asked why more such chains were not emerging.  The main reason was due to the investment climate, which often limited how much was invested in agriculture.  Existing market systems were also often inefficient.  There was a concentration in the agribusiness sector and, as a consequence, an increasing spread between producer and retailer pricing.  There was more demand for socially responsible products, which improved positioning of smallholder farmers.  Companies today were moving away from uniform product characteristics and seeking out product diversity.  Smallholder input could meet that demand. 

Ms POLASKI focused on the role of the global trade regime in “doing the right thing” vis-à-vis small-scale farmers.  Two facets of the food crisis must be kept in mind: the historical price pattern and the differing impacts of food price changes on the poor. In the last 30 years, food prices had been at historic lows.  Overall food-price trends between 1900 and 2005 showed that the price spike of the 1970s was smaller than that in the first decade of the 1900s.  Further, it showed that the period of low food prices tended to persist longer than that for price spikes.  Looking at the impact of an increase in the world price of rice on Indian households, she said increases were beneficial for the most disadvantaged tribes, castes and classes.  Indeed, they were “poverty alleviating” increases, which was significant when discussing the country with the world’s largest reservoir of poor people.  China and India constituted 54 per cent of the world’s poor. 

Given such price impact variation among countries, global policies must allow for volatile prices and for the fact that higher prices had very different impacts on poverty.  The Doha Round of trade negotiations would modestly raise food prices, as it would constrain the ability of wealthy countries to subsidize farmers to some extent.  There would be a category of special products that developing countries could designate as important for food security.  Those would be subject to lesser or no tariffs cuts.  The special safeguard mechanisms would allow countries to temporarily raise tariffs to protect certain products. 

Mr. BOREL said the international community was confronted with the “fierce urgency of now”.  Citing the 2008 World Bank Development Report, he said agricultural prosperity was the prerequisite for economic success.  Development of sustainable agricultural systems should avoid short-term fixes that would undermine the success of small-scale farmers.  Market access would be irrelevant if they could not produce enough food to feed their families.  They needed access to quality inputs to move past subsistence farming in a sustainable manner. 

In 2008, developing countries should not be producing at 20 per cent of the rate found in the developed world, he continued.  Such limitations could be overcome, particularly by providing credit lines for purchasing or leasing land.  Also, weather-based insurance policies should be replicated and scaled up.  Governments should pave the way for technologies to allow farmers to thrive, not just survive.  Small-scale farmers were isolated from markets and, therefore, at a huge disadvantage.  Investing in basic infrastructure would link farmers to markets, and increasing the overall efficiency of the sector must be given top priority. 

In the ensuing interactive discussion, representatives of Government, international organizations and civil society urged that trade barriers for agriculture products be reduced, taxes be earmarked for a fund to support domestic prices when they collapsed and international commodity exchanges be more closely monitored.  They also raised questions about whether the lack of attention given to agriculture in recent decades had been due to misguided policies suggested by Bretton Woods institutions.  For agriculture to develop, was the role of market or State more important? 

Responding and offering concluding remarks, Mr. BOREL said he had been most struck by calls for collaboration between Government, the private sector and civil society.  Solutions would require a systemic approach.  Enlightened leadership from local authorities, backed by international policy and creative private sector innovation, would offer an opportunity. 

Mr. MWENIFUMBO touched on the importance of finding the right balance to provide opportunities for farmers. 

Mr. WATSON said Government had a very central role in empowering the sector, and the key was recognizing and enhancing the sector’s multifunctionality.   

Ms. POLASKI said that all projections for what could be achieved in agriculture showed that applying farming techniques and knowledge could easily raise productivity, by 46 per cent according to some estimates.  New factors were harder to predict, such as biofuel demand and oil prices.  However, given that demand had jumped 1.3 per cent in recent years, the short- to medium-term view was that supply could increase to meet demand.  Regarding underinvestment in agriculture, she noted that it was easier for misguided policies to take hold in a low-price environment. 

Mr. SCHONBERGER said the main question was how to demonstrate success.  He urged focusing on quick results, particularly through the creation of new partnerships in the smallholder agriculture sector. 

Statements after Adoption of Ministerial Declaration 

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS ( Belarus) said he had joined consensus, but the international community must update its characterization of Member States and the needs of specific groups of States, including those with economies in transition, which were highly vulnerable to crises, such as the current food price spikes and global warming.  He was troubled that countries with transitional economies were not specifically mentioned in the text.  While that problem would not be solved today, he hoped it would be addressed in the run-up to the conferences in Doha and Accra. 

JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that his delegation appreciated the hard work and compromise shown by the facilitator and all other delegations.  He was pleased that the first session of a renewed Economic and Social Council had been able to reach agreement on a Ministerial Declaration.  That gave the European Union hope for the future. 

BYRON BLAKE ( Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that his delegation was also pleased the Declaration had been approved.  The Group of 77 considered that the final document was important, especially considering the expectations of some delegations at the start of the high-level segment.  The Group was, however, troubled that the general spirit of flexibility had not been shown by all delegations.  That was actually emblematic of recent multilateral negations in many forums.  The Group had once again been forced to make major sacrifices in order for the document to be adopted by consensus. 

Further, the Group had made concessions concerning the language of the document, and had come to believe that some words spoken strongly in plenary debates could not be reflected in the Ministerial Declaration.  That was particularly troubling in light of the grave challenges facing the international community.  Indeed, issues such as technology transfer and achieving success in pending trade negotiations, issues that were critical for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, had received short shrift or had been left out of the document altogether. 

HUGO SILES ALVARADO ( Bolivia) said that his delegation was pleased the text had been adopted, but wished that it could have been under “happier circumstances”.  He was particularly concerned that the hours and days that had gone into laying the groundwork for the consensus adoption of the text had basically all been for naught.  Indeed, the document adopted did not have the vision to spotlight modern rampant consumption and unsustainable production patterns, particularly the insatiable demand for energy. 

He hoped the international community did not live to regret the fact that the document had made scant mention of energy and biofuel matters.   Bolivia was in no way satisfied with paragraph 21 of the text on biofuels, he added. 

WILLIAM HEIDT ( United States) said his delegation had been pleased to join consensus.  His delegation had participated in each and every negotiating session and was pleased with the spirit of flexibility.  All parties had had to make concessions, including the United States.  The spirit with which the negotiations had been held reflected a reinvigorated Economic and Social Council, which the United States supported. 

Speaking frankly, however, the United States believed that Economic and Social Council could have done much better.  In fact, the last half of the Declaration was merely a recitation of elements cobbled together from other sources.  The United States believed the text would have been much better had it been half the length, and more focused on the concerns of the day.  He was also concerned that the Declaration was being used by some as an attempt to prejudge negotiations on crucial development matters under way in other forums, including United Nations forums.  The United States believed that such actions devalued the Council’s work.  Further, it was not realistic to assume that the Council was in a position to solve some of the issues that were being considered by experts elsewhere. 

On the content of the Declaration, he said that United States’ position on matters related to “the right to development” was well known.  On the use of the term “inequality” in paragraphs 1 and 30 of the text, the United States considered that a reference to policy matters.  The United States believed that matters of equality should focus on equality of opportunity, so that each individual could achieve his full potential.  Efforts to achieve equality in terms of income or other matters had been shown to have a “poor track record”. 

DANILO ROSALES DÍAZ (Nicaragua), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, in meeting after meeting, some countries had tried to renegotiate agreements that had been reached with great difficulty, and had done so in “insidious fashion”.  In negotiating the texts touching on biofuels, debt, climate change, and, certainly, the food crisis, the Group of 77 has met a wall of inflexibility.  He reiterated that this situation showed an need to strengthen democracy within this Organization and to continue to strengthen the Council.  He reiterated his delegation’s position that it would join the consensus within the Group of 77 and China, and did so in light of the need to maintain the unity of the Group of 77 and China. 

CLAUDIA PÉREZ-ALVÁREZ ( Cuba), expressing support for the statement made by the Group of 77 and China, recognized the positions taken by the Group on the food crisis, climate change, debt and the need for developed countries to comply with their commitments on official development assistance.  While it was important for the Council to adopt a declaration, it was a weak document.

The world food crisis was the result of very severe systemic imbalances in the world order, due to globalization, the consideration of which could not be put off, she said.  The production of biofuels using food crops and grains by the United States and Europe posed a fundamental risk for food security around the world.  That was something that Fidel had mentioned long before the current crisis.  World poverty and food security were at risk and that should have been taken into account in drafting the Declaration.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.