CALLING FOR DECISIVE ACTION TO LESSEN IMPACT OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY: ‘OUR DESTINIES ARE DEEPLY INTERCONNECTED’

15 December 2008
GA/10799

CALLING FOR DECISIVE ACTION TO LESSEN IMPACT OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY: ‘OUR DESTINIES ARE DEEPLY INTERCONNECTED’

15 December 2008
General Assembly
GA/10799
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Plenary

69th Meeting (AM)

CALLING FOR DECISIVE ACTION TO LESSEN IMPACT OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS, DEPUTY

SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY:  ‘OUR DESTINIES ARE DEEPLY INTERCONNECTED’

General Assembly Debates Follow-up to the Millennium Summit;

Adopts Text on United Nations Cooperation with Economic Cooperation Organization

As the looming specter of global recession compounded ongoing crises in food, fuel and finance –- and threatened to derail hard-won successes in poverty reduction -- United Nations Deputy Secretary-GeneralAsha-Rose Migiro urged General Assembly delegates today to “act decisively to stop any further reversals”, as they debated the follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit.

“We face heightened challenges as progress slows,” Ms. Migiro said.  People and countries plagued by poverty would be hit hardest by the crisis and, aid flows had to be sheltered from its impact.  While important steps had been undertaken to strengthen international development cooperation, there was a growing fear of setbacks if expected recessions in developed countries deepened. 

Commitments to increase the volume of official development assistance (ODA) must be honoured, and a successful conclusion to the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations was essential, she said.  Those talks should give new impetus to efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals, but it must not erode the “policy space” of developing countries.  A new trade agreement must also ensure that poor countries had access to cheaper drugs and to cleaner technologies.

To that end, global solidarity was vital, she said.  “The financial crisis has made it clear that our destinies are deeply interconnected.”  The United Nations must continue to mobilize all its mechanisms to maintain and enhance progress towards development.  The Economic and Social Council could play an important role, and its Development Cooperation Forum was well-placed to forge greater coherence between aid policies and other development-related policies, such as trade and investment.  The Council’s Annual Ministerial Reviews were also important, as they facilitated exchanges of information and lessons learned.

While the global mobilization behind the Millennium Goals had been inspiring, promises must be kept, she said.  In 2009, the international community should use every opportunity to ensure that trying times did not distract from commonly shared goals, particularly the goal of peace and prosperity for all. 

In other business, the Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental regional organization created in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, for promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the Economic Cooperation Organization Member States.

By the text, the Assembly took note of the 20 October 2007 Heart Declaration, which recommitted the Economic Cooperation Organization Council of Ministers to establishing a free trade area in the region by 2015, and extended the Programme of Action for the Economic Cooperation Organization Decade of Transport and Communications.

Further by the text, the Assembly called for increasing technical assistance of the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/World Trade Organization to Economic Cooperation Organization Member States that were at various levels of development.  It also called for increased cooperation between the Economic Cooperation Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, notably to prevent corruption and money-laundering.

Finally, the General Assembly decided to postpone its recess, scheduled for Tuesday, 16 December, until Monday, 22 December.  It also agreed to extend the work of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) until Monday, 22 December.

Also speaking today on the follow-up to the Millennium Summit were the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Honduras, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Cuba.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

Background

The General Assembly met this morning for a debate on its item “Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit:  specific meeting focused on development”.

Statement by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General

ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said the multiple crises facing the world -- such as the food, fuel and the finance crises -- threatened to upset poverty reduction efforts and development objectives.  The expected recessions in most developed economies were likely to slow the robust growth experienced by developing countries during the past five years.  Indeed, there was already evidence that the financial crisis was “contagious”, as exports from and remittance flows into many developing countries were diminishing.

“The prospects for the least developed countries are deteriorating rapidly,” she warned, while urging the international community to work together simultaneously on poverty, hunger, disease and finding an acceptable path of sustainable development.  Poverty eradication was a top priority, and lack of progress in that area could undermine efforts to realize other Millennium Development Goals.  Creating jobs and providing decent work for all was also a crucial target, especially in light of recent International Labour Organization (ILO) statistics which suggested that more than 20 million people would lose their jobs because of the current crisis.

Turning to health, she said there had been significant progress in reducing child mortality, though that progress had been slow and major regional differences remained.  There had been little movement on maternal and newborn mortality, and the strengthening of health systems remained an ongoing challenge.  Gains in the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria also needed to be sustained.  On climate change, she said that there had been some gains in establishing sustainable development as a primary objective of development strategies, while noting that there was now a growing recognition that development was not attainable if not sustainable. 

“We face heightened challenges as progress slows,” she said, adding that “We must act decisively to stop any further reversals.”  People and countries plagued by poverty would be hit hardest by the crisis, and as such, aid flows had to be sheltered from its impact.  While important steps had been undertaken to strengthen international development cooperation, there was a growing fear of setbacks if the recessions in developed countries deepened. 

Commitments to increase the volume of official development assistance (ODA) must be honoured, and a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade negotiations was essential.  Those talks should give new impetus to efforts to realize the Millennium Goals, but it must not erode the “policy space” of developing countries, she said.  A new trade agreement must also ensure that poor countries had access to cheaper drugs and to cleaner technologies.

“In times of crisis, global solidarity is vital,” she said.  While the pledge of support at last September’s high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals was heartening, the United Nations must continue to mobilize all its mechanisms to maintain and enhance progress towards development.  The Economic and Social Council played an important role in that regard, and its Development Cooperation Forum, convened for the first time in July, had demonstrated its potential role in promoting mutual accountability on aid issues. 

In the current crisis, the Forum could also work towards more effective approaches to development cooperation, and it was well-placed to forge greater coherence between aid policies and other development-related policies, such as trade and investment, she said.  The Council’s Annual Ministerial Reviews were also important, as they facilitated exchanges of information and lessons learned.

“The financial crisis has made it clear that our destinies are deeply interconnected,” she said.  The global mobilization behind the Millennium Goals had been inspiring, and it was necessary to ensure that promises were kept and gains were not lost.  In 2009, the international community should use every opportunity to ensure that trying times did not distract from commonly shared goals, particularly the goal of peace and prosperity for all.

Statements

PHILIPPE DELACROIX (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the General Assembly’s work in the current session had been marked by the gravity of the financial crisis, the impact of climate change, and the increase in food and fuel prices.  Those challenges had put development gains at risk, particularly in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. 

At the same time, the Assembly had benefited from the positive results of a number of international meetings held throughout the current year, such as the Forum for Cooperation and Development, the High-Level Meeting on Africa’s Development Needs, and the High-Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, among others.  Those meetings had proven how much work still needed to be done in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 

The recently concluded meeting in Doha, Qatar, on financing for development, had been particularly important, he said.  The European Union, as one of the top providers of development assistance, had participated actively in the drafting of the Conference’s outcome document, the “Doha Declaration”, and had taken the opportunity to reaffirm its solidarity with its partners in the South and its commitment to providing ODA.  The European Union would continue to work towards ensuring that the international community made good on its promises, in particular those concerning sub-Saharan Africa.

Strengthened cooperation at all levels was indispensable in order to fight climate change and to build sustainable development, he said.  Climate change affected environmental, economic and social development objectives, as well as overall peace and security.  Therefore, the international community must intensify efforts to fight that phenomenon, and should view it as inseparable from other threats to the environment and sustainable development, such as the loss of biodiversity, desertification and deforestation.

The social aspect of development should never be forgotten, he added, nor the need to provide each individual with the conditions necessary for their full development and enjoyment of human rights.  To ensure that such would be the case, the United Nations must conduct its work in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  The adoption of consensus resolutions on the operational activities of the United Nations system was, therefore, warmly welcomed, in particular Assembly resolution 62/277 on overall coherence. 

Also of note were recent initiatives to improve the work of the Economic and Social Council and to strengthen the partnership between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions.  There was a certain amount of concern, however, over the accumulation of proposals for a number of new summits and high-level meetings in the coming years.  The United Nations needed to think more strategically about the areas in which it could really add value to common actions towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the implementation of the texts adopted at the Millennium Summit.

JORGE ARTURO REINA IDIAQUEZ ( Honduras), referring to the current global economic and financial situation, said States would emerge from it well, or “not so well”, depending on how they acted.  The crisis was preventing millions of people from accessing the most basic services, and as victims of inequality in the international market, their situation had been made much worse.  The situation required urgent responses, and as such, he called on the Assembly to prepare short- and medium-term strategies to provide viable, lasting solutions.

The economic and financial crises had sent messages that were clear, but States had not known how to read them.  He said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank had been created at the dawn of the United Nations’ history and were dedicated to helping countries progress.  However, there was a need to evaluate those two bodies, as their viability depended on their updating and democratization.  Democratization had not taken place in the organizations in which democratic countries participated.  Experience had taught that while the United Nations had sketched out the Millennium Development Goals, global financial institutions had established policies that contradicted them.  Attempting to address such problems with solutions that produced more loss was “at odds with ethics”.

Those institutions’ weaknesses pointed to the need for change, he continued.  The 15 November “Group of 20” meeting in Washington, D. C., had stressed the need for their reform, and Honduras had joined calls for consultations to be held at the highest levels to strengthen them.   Honduras fully supported the Secretary-General’s initiatives to address the situation.  He said the Presidents of Central America had raised the need for the Assembly to assess the economic crisis’ consequences on the Millennium Development Goals.

Recalling that a draft resolution had been presented to the Assembly with a view to organizing a world summit, he said there could be no doubt of global consensus on such issues.  He called for the support of all nations towards achieving common goals, explaining that reducing trade barriers would allow exports to arrive in markets in more competitive situations.  If production subsidies did not distort agricultural trade, the positions of countries relying on that sector would be strengthened.

ASAD M. KHAN ( Pakistan) said crises of finance, food, energy and a looming global recession had seriously threatened efforts of developing countries, such as Pakistan, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  At the recent conference in Doha, to review development commitments made in Monterrey, Mexico confirmed a “serious” implementation deficit, reflected in declining official development assistance flows, global trade distortions and the continued exclusion of poor countries from global decision-making.  The current crises would only make the implementation shortfalls more pronounced.

Happily, in Doha, the “ Monterrey” spirit had been rekindled, and he welcomed the decision taken there to convene a United Nations summit on the world financial and economic crisis, which would allow States, at the highest political levels, to fully assess the impacts on developing countries’ efforts to achieve sustained economic growth.  Also, Pakistan had long pushed for effective mechanisms to monitor development commitments and was pleased that States had agreed for a more effective intergovernmental process to follow up on implementation of the Doha Declaration.

However, Pakistan would have wished to use the meeting to seriously review the global economic situation and make recommendations on tackling the multiple crises, he said.   Pakistan would have favoured holding the meeting at the start of the current General Assembly session, as that would have allowed leaders to reflect on trends and prospects.  For its part, Pakistan would continue to closely work with its partners to address global challenges and advance implementation of the global development agenda.

AIDA ALZHANOVA ( Kazakhstan) welcomed the decision to hold the United Nations summit and Economic and Social Council High-Level Meeting on the underlying causes of the financial crisis in 2009, which would help to articulate a policy framework for an inclusive, democratic and development-oriented international financial system.  The far-reaching impact and multidimensional effects of the crisis on the global economy and financial system was an issue of concern.  The primary responsibility of a State was to engage in the development process by effectively implementing national development strategies and realizing its commitments to its own people. 

Kazakhstan, choosing not to wait for the results of international deliberations on global economic and financial governance, had already begun to find solutions to strengthen its own economy, and to maintain national economic growth and sustainable development.  A nation’s individual development contributed to the overall international financial and economic well-being, and as such, Kazakhstan had undertaken efforts to stabilize its internal market, through measures including the adoption of a national financial stabilization plan and a series of economic and financial policy and structural reforms.

The “3 F” crises and subsequent cuts in foreign direct investment and ODA had impacted the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States more than anyone else, she said.  To ensure the stable economic growth of landlocked developing countries in particular, donor countries needed to be more fully engaged in the Midterm Review of the Almaty Programme of Action, through the adoption of new modalities and concrete measures of assistance. 

At the national level, Kazakhstan’s business community had been called on to strengthen its engagement in the social and economic policies of the State, and the Government had worked to implement a number of United Nations recommendations, such as the mainstreaming of environmental sustainability into all socially-oriented development policies.  In the future, Kazakhstan would continue to use the best foreign practices and technical assistance of United Nations programmes and specialized agencies to elaborate its people-oriented economic policy, to develop a socially responsible private sector and to improve the public administration system.

ILEANA B. NÚÑEZ MORDOCHE (Cuba), noting that sustainable development efforts by nations of the global South had been seriously threatened, said the outcome document of the recent Doha Conference on Financing for Development did not offer a comprehensive and accurate diagnosis of the seriousness of the economic and financial situation, or its implications for the poorest countries.  Rather, it reiterated old commitments still awaiting the political will of the world’s most powerful to be met.

While there was enough evidence of the negative impacts of climate change, the poorest and most vulnerable countries were the main victims of it, and in the specific case of small island States, recent devastating hurricanes had caused extensive economic loss and set back development by years.  Foreign indebtedness continued to deepen the structural crisis of world economies, while stagnating trade talks, which should have been focused on development, completed the “discouraging panorama”.  Regrettably, urgent solutions had not been provided.  The institutions representing rich country interests provided nothing but palliatives.

Indeed, it was more urgent than ever to create an international order based on solidarity, social justice and equity.  “We need no more empty rhetoric,” she said.  The question was to know whether those responsible for the chaos would give up at least some of their privileges.  Such changes would only take place through a deep transformation of the economic, commercial and financial system.  The need to work towards that end had been reaffirmed just days ago by the 115 nations that voted in favour of a resolution presented by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).  Other initiatives would give pre-eminence to the Assembly’s role in the discussion of such issues, notably in the creation of new institutions to respond to peoples’ needs.

Action on Draft Resolution

The Assembly then moved to consider a draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Cooperation Organization (document A/63/L.39/Rev.1), which was adopted without a vote.

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