Information, Communications Technologies Have Tremendous Potential to Promote Development, Bring Countries out of Poverty, Economic Committee Told
Information, Communications Technologies Have Tremendous Potential to Promote Development, Bring Countries out of Poverty, Economic Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
23rd & 24th Meetings (AM & PM)
Information, Communications Technologies Have Tremendous Potential to Promote
Development, Bring Countries out of Poverty, Economic Committee Told
Speakers Call for Full Implementation of Information Society World Summit;
Also Considers UN Role in Promoting Development in Context of Globalization
Information and communications technology must be harnessed to eradicate poverty, several delegates told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today, as the Committee concluded its consideration of information and communications technologies for development.
The delegate from Sudan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that information and communications technology had a tremendous potential to promote development and bring countries out of poverty, and the international community should use the power of technology in support of the Millennium Development Goals and fully implement the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society.
However, since a large digital divide remained between the developed and the developing world, Member States should place greater emphasis on the transfer of information and technology, as each was vital to developing countries’ participation in the global economy. This transfer of expertise and equipment would also give developing countries an opportunity to reap some of the benefits of globalization, and he supported the Global Digital Solidarity Fund –- the only existing financing mechanism aimed at reducing the digital divide.
Sweden’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, agreed that information and communications technologies had a major impact on development and poverty reduction, and she stressed the importance of the World Summit on the Information Society and the commitments made at the Summit. At the upcoming Internet Governance Forum in Egypt, Member States would meet to discuss improved access for the next billion users, promotion of diversity and increased security and privacy on the Internet. Effective management of the Internet’s critical resources, including the domain name system following the recent ending of the joint agreement between the United States Government and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, would be another point for discussion at the Forum.
Nepal’s delegate, who spoke on behalf of the least developed countries, also agreed advancement in information and communications technology offered huge potential for economic growth, poverty reduction and socio-economic advancement in least developed countries and, if used effectively, could help solve many development problems. Information and communications technology empowered people, lowered the cost of doing business, and was a strong tool for education and communications in rural areas. It could also help spur agricultural development, food security, health services and environmental protection in least developed countries.
The representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that efforts to narrow the digital divide had been useful, but that much remained to be done. To develop these resources required considerable investments and he called on donors and multilateral agencies to broaden their assistance and implement information and communications technology development projects, especially those that promoted digital inclusion, in accordance with the Monterey Consensus on Financing Development.
The Committee also considered the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence, as well as human resources development. Speakers pointed out that the consequences of globalization were both positive and negative and that to harness its beneficial effects, it was vital for countries to collaborate.
Presenting reports today were Manuel Montes, Chief of the Policy Analysis and Development Branch, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who introduced the Secretary-General’s report on development cooperation with middle-income countries, and Nikhil Seth, Director of the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who introduced his report on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence, and his report on human resources development strategies.
Also speaking today were Indonesia, China, Tunisia, Uruguay, Serbia, Republic of Korea, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, United Republic of Tanzania, Jamaica (on behalf of Caribbean Community, Namibia, Peru, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Suriname (on behalf of Caribbean Community), Israel and Thailand.
A representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union also addressed the delegates.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Thursday, 29 October, to conclude its discussion of human resources development and take up its agenda item on macroeconomic policy questions: international trade and development.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to conclude its debate on information and communications technologies for development and take up its agenda items on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence, and on human resources development.
Before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on globalization and interdependence: role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/64/310), which states that the current economic crisis is increasingly seen as a crisis of globalization, particularly financial globalization, marked by a decline in commodity prices and trade investment flows. If aid flows also decline, the impact will be even more devastating for low-income countries and the poor.
The report states, however, that the crisis provides a rare opportunity for putting the world economy on a path of sustainable economic growth and recovery by more effectively addressing food insecurity and climate change through greater multilateralism and equitable participation among all countries. As resources are scarce, innovative financing approaches in a spirit of partnership, cooperation and solidarity are needed to tackle poverty and spur economic development.
Globalization must not be rejected, but rather better managed for developing countries’ benefit, the report states. The United Nations plays an essential role in that process, as it can ensure impartial analysis and pragmatic policy recommendations. The international community must make productive, timely decisions to reduce imbalances between developed and developing countries in countercyclical policies, improve policy coherence, strengthen political commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals through joint initiatives, guard against protectionism and promote trade.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on development cooperation with middle-income countries (document A/64/253), which states that middle-income countries, home to almost two-thirds of the world’s poor, continue to face formidable challenges in such areas as poverty, health, education and climate change, despite remarkable socio-economic progress in the last two decades. Greater efforts are needed to draw on the lessons learned from the United Nations “delivering as one” initiative to better define the Organization’s agenda to address middle-income countries’ challenges and to better support South-South cooperation.
The report recommends that the United Nations align its development cooperation initiatives more closely with national strategies and policies of middle-income countries, and that the Organization’s regional coordinators and country teams tailor programmes to the specific needs of each country and promote greater country ownership of those programmes. International financial institutions, which are still responsible for helping middle-income countries remain financially stable and meet their financing gaps for long-term sustainable development, should develop an orderly sovereign debt workout mechanism. The reform under way to increase the voice and voting power of middle-income countries in the Bretton Woods institutions must be expedited.
Finally, the report states that the legitimacy and relevance of using the World Bank’s ad hoc definition of middle-income countries, based solely on income as a benchmark for guiding the United Nations development cooperation policy, should be questioned. It suggests that a much broader measurement of development could be more appropriate for classifying countries in international development and it recommends further study of that issue.
The Secretary-General’s report on human resources development (document A/64/329) gives an overview of human resource development strategies, as well as progress, challenges and lessons learned in implementing them. It gives examples of countries with and without comprehensive national strategies and the impact of the strategies on socio-economic development. It describes the critical role of human resources development in mitigating the worst effects of the global economic crisis and building a foundation for sustainable recovery.
The report recommends that human resource development strategies be integrated into national development frameworks and policies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and be continually revised to ensure a strong link between education, training and employment. It recommends multidepartmental approaches, so that Governments can identify medium-term and long-term human resource needs in various economic sectors. It calls for creation of tripartite systems of employers, unions and Government to nationally integrate economic, labour market and human resource policies.
Further, it calls for policies that strengthen social safety nets, protect vulnerable groups and boost domestic consumption to cushion the effects of the recession and prevent people from falling into poverty, as well as greater efforts to help developing countries create skills-development policies to match the demand for new skills in the workplace.
The Committee began the meeting by continuing its consideration of information and communication technologies for development.
AMAR DAOUD (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that information and communications technology had a tremendous potential for the eradication of poverty and the promotion of development. However, a large technological divide remained between developing and developed countries; creating links between knowledge generation and development was one of the greatest challenges facing developing countries.
He said the international community should enhance efforts to harness the power of technology in support of the Millennium Development Goals and to fully implement the outcomes of the World Summit on Information Society. Greater emphasis should be given to the transfer of information and communications technologies to developing countries, as well as development and dissemination of such technologies within those countries.
These technologies were vital to participation by developing countries in the global economy, and for helping them to reap some of the benefits of globalization. In its resolution 61/203, he continued, the Assembly had called for continued collaboration between United Nations entities and other international organizations, civil society and the private sector in implementing the outcomes of the World Summit. The aim was to put the potential of information and communication technologies at the service of development through policy research on the digital divide, and on new challenges of the information society. It also called for technical assistance activities, involving multi-stakeholder partnerships.
He called for concrete actions to facilitate monitoring the implementation of those outcomes, as well as other intergovernmentally agreed mandates on the subject. That should include more support for the Global Digital Solidarity Fund –- the only existing financing mechanism aimed at reducing the digital divide.
SOPHIE BELFRAGE BECKER (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed the importance of using the commitments of the World Summit on the Information Society as tools for promoting development objectives. The Internet, its governance and the digital divide had had a major impact on development and poverty reduction. She pointed to the major potential of more open, affordable global Internet access and the role of the upcoming Internet Governance Forum in Egypt. The forum would discuss several key issues for development of the Internet, among them improving access for the next billion, promoting diversity, increasing security and privacy for users. It would discuss effective management of the Internet’s critical resources, including the domain name system following the recent ending of the joint agreement between the United States Government and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
The fate of the Internet Governance Forum depended on whether its mandate was renewed after the current five-year mandate expired next year, she said. No one group of stakeholders could deliver global solutions on its own. The Forum provided a unique opportunity to bring all key stakeholders together to share ideas and experiences, compare best practices and solutions, and secure continued development of the Internet. She would support the Forum’s renewal when the General Assembly reviewed its mandate in December 2010.
She pointed to the uneven availability of communications infrastructure, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and the need to invest in building a regional backbone and cross-border networks in well-functioning national infrastructures. The high cost of Internet access in some countries would obstruct the effective use of information and communications technologies. Deregulation and liberalization of national markets would bring about more competition and lower prices. A more developed cross-sectoral utilization of existing Government-owned fiber optic cables was a practical example of a solution that did not require huge new investment. The biggest obstacle to increased information and communications technologies was a lack of comprehensive investment proposals and a climate conducive to investment. The European Union was committed to implementing the policy recommendations of the Tunis Agenda as part of its development policy.
DEWI SAVITRI WAHAB (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that a primary motor of globalization, vital to furthering the economic, social and cultural development of all countries, was the development of information and communications technology, but that many parts of the world still lagged behind, disconnected. To close this digital divide, it was essential to implement the World Summit on the Information Society outcomes, and ASEAN reiterated its support for the 2005 Tunis Commitment and the 2003 Geneva Declaration of Principles on Building the Information Society.
As outlined in a Sociocultural Community Blueprint authored by ASEAN, several measures were integral to promoting information and communications technology use among ASEAN members, among them: education; the promotion of information and communications technology literacy among South-East Asian people; enhanced e-learning; and the development of a workforce with high levels of information and communications technology proficiency. Additionally, ASEAN countries promoted the realization of broadband connections across the region. To conclude, she expressed her appreciation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other agencies of the Organization for their work in bridging the global divide.
MANI RATNA SHARMA ( Nepal), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said advancement in information and communications technology offered huge potential for economic growth, poverty reduction and socio-economic advancement in least developed countries. If used effectively, recent innovations made in that area could help solve many of those nations’ development problems. Information and communications technology had an important role in fostering competitiveness and contributing to the social inclusion of rural communities. It empowered people, lowered the cost of doing business, and was a strong tool for education and communications in rural areas. It could also help spur agricultural development, food security, health services and environmental protection in least developed countries.
He expressed serious concern that the developmental promise of information and communications technology was largely unfilled for most poor people in least developed countries. While information and communication technology drove globalization, it had increased inequality between rich and poor nations, and between rich and poor people. Huge disparities existed between developed and developing countries in terms of penetration and affordability. The digital divide was a serious challenge to sustainable development in least developed countries. Efforts to create an information society would be fruitless without making information and communications technology use affordable and easily available to people in developing countries.
It was urgent to implement the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society, which stressed financing for information and communications technology as a development enabler and a tool for achieving the millennium targets, he said. Smooth transfer of information and communications technology and related infrastructure, particularly to rural areas, was a major priority for most least developed countries. Those countries needed more funds to acquire affordable technology and skills, and support to develop e-governance and e-commerce. He called for support for capacity-building and technical cooperation in least developed countries.
GONZÁLEZ SEGURA ( Mexico) speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that information and communications technologies were a vital part of the promotion of development and had been recognized as such since the 2003 World Summit in Geneva. Information and communications technology could be used as an instrument to eradicate poverty and illiteracy, and so it was critical to strengthen international cooperation to transfer and disseminate the technologies. Domestic and international efforts to narrow the digital divide, in particular through policy measures in developing countries, were useful, but much remained to be done.
To develop information and communications technology in general required considerable investments, and he called on donors and multilateral agencies to broaden their assistance and implement information and communications technology development projects, especially those that promoted digital inclusion in accordance with the Monterey Consensus on Financing Development. It was with concern that the Group noted the lack of progress on developing more transparent and inclusive internet Governance, and cooperation on this issue was critical.
CHEN MING (China), endorsing the statement made by Sudan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the “digital divide” continued to narrow in many aspects in 2008, with more than half of the world’s population being somewhat connected, and 80 to 90 per cent covered by cellular networks. In China, information and communications technologies had embarked on a path of development with Chinese characteristics. Information and communications technology had undergone profound changes, underpinning the rapid growth of China’s national economy.
By the end of 2008, China’s internet users reached 298 million, of which 270 million were connected to a broadband network. In recent years, new technologies based on the 3G network had mushroomed, such as television, cell phone, video phone, high speed networking, and mobile business systems. However, despite positive trends in China and other developing countries, and the gradually narrowing digital divide, numerous challenges still existed. Only 12 per cent of populations in developing countries were internet users, he said, which was far lower than the world average of 23.6 percent. There was still a “world of difference” in information and communications technology application, popularization and affordability among different countries, as well as between urban and rural areas. A “broadband divide” had also emerged, wherein subscribers in developing countries only accounted for 35 per cent of the world total, with those in Africa at less than 1 per cent. In some parts of rural China there was limited access to telephone service, and the goal of universal telephone access in rural areas could not be achieved before 2020. For these areas, he added, broadband connection was only a “far-off dream”.
ADEL BEN LAGHA ( Tunisia) said the six-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2015, the target year for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, showed the synergy between information and communications technology and the millennium targets. Tunisia was making enormous efforts to reduce the digital divide and it had made good progress in that regard. In 2009, Tunisia’s registered audible telephone penetration exceeding 89 lines per 100 inhabitants. Tunisia had shown the greatest progress towards Internet development in Asia, Africa and Latin America. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Tunisia had some 2.8 million internet users, or 26.8 per cent of the population in 2008. It also had a favourable environment for investment.
It exported 22 per cent of its information and communications technology products, which exceeded $198 million in 2003 and $640 million in 2007, he said. Tunisia had shown that it was a magnet for information and communications technology. Despite progress achieved, Tunisia was aware of the challenges ahead, particularly the narrowing of the connectivity gap for broadband use and access. That was a real challenge, particularly in Africa, because it constituted a handicap for business. Africa was lagging the most in that area. Despite progress in implementing and following up the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, the digital divide had meant inequality in quantity and access, and in the cost of Internet connections. Progress achieved nationally, regionally and internationally had not made it possible for all countries and all levels of society to benefit from the information and communications technology revolution.
LILIÁN SILVEIRA ( Uruguay) said that her country had focused on educational connectivity and implemented the One Laptop Per Child programme, which originated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Government’s goal had been to provide a laptop to every child and teacher from grade one to six in every public school in the country, an ambitious objective which had just been fulfilled two weeks ago when Uruguay’s president delivered the final two laptops at a school in Montevideo. This effort had also included disabled students, who had been given specially-designed computers.
This project, in conjunction with another national programme to increase connectivity and reduce the digital divide, had already yielded fruit, with profound changes in education and learning. To create a more inclusive and more socially symmetric society, it was vital for both children and adults to get equal access to information and knowledge. In this respect, national measures such as Uruguay’s programmes were helpful. But, international cooperation to transfer technologies and share expertise was also needed.
DRAGAN MIĆIĆ ( Serbia) said information and communications technologies were crucial to the progress made towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. He heralded the narrowing of the digital divide, notably in the mobile telephone industry, and observed that between 80 and 90 per cent of people now lived within range of the cellular network.
However, he said one of the challenges facing the information and communications technology initiatives included the impact of the economic crisis on the information and communications technology industry. Internet development in developing countries still showed large disparities in both affordability and accessibility, as well as between rural and urban settings. In this regard, he said that incorporating mobile telephones into the development agenda might, in fact, advance information and communications technology development and emergency preparedness strategies. Cybersecurity was also a necessary prerequisite for Internet based services and he urged that Internet criminality not be underestimated by Governments, but be addressed resolutely.
One of the conditions for Serbia’s accession to the European Union was implementing a strategic goal to transition to a telecommunication and information-based society. To this end, his Government adopted the Strategy for Electronic Governance Development this October, and signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the European Commission aimed at the development of a policy for an information and communications technologies framework programme. Despite the economic crisis’s impact, he strongly believed that the contributions of information and communications technology to human development would strengthen social safety nets and “bolster both national and international risk mitigation capacities worldwide.”
SHIN BOONAM ( Republic of Korea) said that narrowing the divide between those who had access to new technologies and those who did not needed to be a priority, not an afterthought. Tackling the digital divide was an enormous task and no single group would be able to solve the problem on its own. Cooperation on information and communications technology was especially crucial, because it offered a new perspective to help address development challenges and advance the Millennium Development Goals. Within his country’s overall aid programme, information and communications technology for development was recognized as one of the key areas. In 2006, the Korean International Cooperation Agency spent $25.5 million, or 13 per cent of its budget, on information and communications technology cooperation. The country viewed that agency as an enabling mechanism that could help developing countries leapfrog institutional and infrastructural obstacles.
He said that providing access to new technologies through strengthening information and communications technology education infrastructure and enhancing education capacity would help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. From 2001 to 2009, more than 3,000 Korean Internet Volunteers had been sent to 66 developing countries in Asia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern Europe and Africa where they offered basic computer training to over 90,000 local residents. The volunteers also promoted long-term joint projects with the foreign partners, and helped coordinate cultural activities that fostered an exchange of knowledge and culture. Such activities had a lasting impact and had been a bedrock for further bilateral cooperation.
He added that, to have the greatest impact, the international community should support the integration of information and communications technology strategies into initiatives for health care, education, small and medium enterprise business, Government services, human resources and other programmes in the developing countries and communities that had the most to gain. Enhanced access to information and communication could support more democratic and transparent governance, in addition to creating the enabling environment for investment.
FÁBIO MOREIRA CARBONELL FARIAS (Brazil) said despite significant growth in the use of information and communications technologies, much remained to be done by the United Nations system, with the lack of effective financial mechanisms to support information and communications technologies and the issue of global Internet governance deserving closer attention. Little progress had been made in implementing the Digital Solidarity Fund, and the Secretary-General had yet to launch an effective process of cooperation with a view to enabling Governments to carry out their roles and responsibilities in Internet-related public policy issues. In this regard, Brazil supported greater intergovernmental cooperation on these issues.
Building an open, inclusive, diverse and reliable information society depended on the deployment of democratic intergovernmental decision-making processes, and the United Nations was the appropriate forum, in this respect. Attention must be paid to promoting and protecting the public interest, and a major goal should be the treatment of cyberspace as a public good. Policies should be discussed and developed, so all could equally benefit from instant networking. Issues of free or low-cost access to information, education, cultural goods and the promotion of cultural diversity were critical to make information and communications technologies work for development and poverty eradication efforts.
While Brazil welcomed and participated in the Internet Governance Forum, the time had come to reflect on this body’s future. Building a multilateral, transparent and democratic regime for Internet global governance should be a priority on the United Nations agenda. The recent Affirmation of Commitments, meant to guide the domain name system governance regime from the United States Government to the private sector, and provisions for greater Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers autonomy were steps in the right direction, the Affirmation did not alter some of the main characteristics of the Corporation, neither did it change the unilateral and exclusive nature of controls over the root directory of the domain name system. The fact that the Affirmation would be denounced by any of the parties entailed legal uncertainties. Issues of voice and participation of Governments and multilateral organizations remained unresolved, he said.
SANJAY NIRUPAM ( India) aligned his country with the statement given by the Chair of the Group of 77 on information and communications technologies for development. Hailing the transformative power of such technologies, he stressed that developing countries required assistance, in order to be able to control their benefits. In that regard, he recalled that, as part of the global partnership for development, Millennium Development Goal 8 aimed to broaden the depth of information and communications technologies within developing countries.
Turning to their benefits, he said that those technologies also impacted other sectors and the economy, in part by spreading access to remote areas and thus promoting rural markets. He was pleased that mobile telephone penetration had succeeded in India and that mobile telephone costs were among the lowest in the world. He urged the international community to make more of an effort to bridge the digital divide, given the disparities in people being able to afford and to access the Internet. He also called on it to provide more money and technical support to get the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society off the ground.
He was pleased to note that India had actively used information and communications technologies for development, which had helped the economy grow and created millions of jobs. Despite the global recession, that sector remained one of the fastest growing in Indian industry. India had also played a leading role in global information and communications technologies at a high and grass-roots level, by assisting in facilitating and capacity-building efforts.
DHAMMIKA SEMASINGHE (Sri Lanka) said that the technological divide between developed and developing countries was reflected in the lack of broad access to the Internet and such services in most developing countries, and in the slow diffusion of new information and communications technologies across countries and regions. It was estimated that, in the developing countries, only 12 per cent of the population as a whole had access to the Internet. The key developing country challenges in that area included broad based access, availability and affordability. It was, however, encouraging to note that there had been some remarkable exceptions to that situation in the developing world. The current digital divide debate was being informed more by the novelty and centrality of the galloping advances in the field, thereby displacing developing country challenges and concerns from the centre stage.
In that regard, she added, the current preoccupation with the issue of bandwidth and data privacy conflicted with the issue of development of local content, an issue deserving perhaps greater attention and focus. In individual developing countries, while the percentage of Internet users might seem significant, access in real terms, in most cases, was severely restricted, due to lack of content in the local language or the inability of users to speak or understand the English language.
She said that, in an effort to meaningfully bridge the digital divide across rural and urban Sri Lanka and across diverse communities, information and communications technology use was being made broad-based through development of local content. Given that Sinhala and Tamil were two predominantly used local languages, the information and communications technology Agency of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Arthur C. Clark Institute of Modern Technology, had translated the generic software for Internet access and use of email into the two languages. That process was further facilitated by making available successive updates of the open source software of the two languages. Further, standards-based trilingual keyboards, fonts, keyboard drivers, standard sorting, and so forth were now available to local language users. Also, in order to institutionalize availability and affordability of information and communications technology related services, 600 Nenasalas, or wisdom centres, had been established throughout the country, including in the newly liberated northern and eastern provinces. Those multiservice centres sought to address the multiple information and communications technology needs of communities, especially in the rural sector.
LILIT TOUTKHALIAN ( Armenia) said that the development of information technology within the last decade had improved economic competitiveness and productivity in all developing countries. In Armenia, it was necessary to consider both the population’s high potential, as well as limitations, such as infrastructure and lack of resources, in the development of the country’s information technology industry. Information technology was an important pillar in Armenia’s wider economic growth and the Government had undertaken a number of measures to further facilitate its progress, such as promoting information technology links between the public and private sector.
International cooperation, however, was a key to further development and Armenia had established outstanding working relations with a number of prominent companies, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and others. The Government had also organized several events, both domestically and on the international stage. Last month, the Government began a Computer for All programme, which offered modern computers and software to the population at affordable prices. Finally, Armenia expressed hope that the international community and the United Nations agencies would also step up and assist the Government in its endeavours to transform itself into a provider of high-value, leading international technology products and services.
HAMAD FAREED AHMED ( Bahrain) said the most important objective of humanity was to ensure life on the planet and raise living standards for all. Information and communications technology was an advanced tool that linked people and institutions. Some people viewed that technology as a sign of prosperity. With the information and communications technology revolution, products had been increasingly disseminated, such as computers, the Internet and cellular phones. Their use had become essential in all aspects of business. They had become essential for raising living standards in developing countries and connecting those people to the rest of the world. They had helped to increase competitiveness and broaden knowledge horizons. Bahrain had reviewed the Secretary-General’s report on progress in implementing the World Summit on the Information Society.
Regional work programmes would continue to support that implementation, he said. He stressed the importance of Assembly resolution 63/202, which promoted Africa’s Internet development and connectivity. In August 2007, Bahrain’s Government signed a royal decree to establish e-governance to support national economic development, within a strategic framework for implementing information and communications technology programmes nationwide. Bahrain aimed to become a pioneer in e-governance in the region and the fifth biggest user of e-governance in Asia by 2010. Bahrain had joined the International Alliance for Information and Communication Technology.
FARID JAFAROV ( Azerbaijan) said it was universally accepted that information and communications technology was a significant driver of socio-economic development and a powerful tool for empowerment and income generation in developing countries. It fostered economic growth and competitiveness and it contributed to poverty reduction and social inclusion. The Secretary-General’s report on implementation and follow up to the World Summit on the Information Society recognized some success in enhancing access to, and use of, information and communications technology in recent years. But, the process was moving slowly. Some parts of the world still experienced serious problems in connectivity. The digital divide had caused isolation from the connected world for many people. He stressed the importance of building appropriate regional infrastructure to ensure high speed, low-cost, quality connectivity.
Implementing future measures to improve information and communications technology should serve to increase Internet penetration by consumers and businesses at affordable prices; improve telecommunications infrastructure; and strengthen economic development through e-trading, e-commerce, e-heath and e-education initiatives, he said. The spread of information and communications technology should also foster social inclusion. Governments should promote development and implementation of e-initiatives within a structured framework. Azerbaijan was doing its part. It had launched an initiative to jointly build and manage the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway, which was expected to facilitate Internet access, telecommunications systems and e-information resources to countries in the region. The Committee’s adoption of the draft titled “Building connectivity through the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway” would be an important step towards encouraging cooperation to close the digital divide.
DENIS ZDOROV ( Belarus) said that the successful, broad application of information and communications technology depended on highly-developed infrastructure, and international cooperation was a key in this regard. The United Nations system had a very important role to play in narrowing the technological gap and ensuring that information and communications technology instead became a factor for economic development.
Belarus, for its part, had carried out a number of national programmes under the initiative known as Electronic Belarus, he said. As a major software developer and brain centre in the region, Belarus had particular interest in the subject and had issued invitations for a Summit next month, at which decision-makers in both the public and private sectors could meet to discuss concrete measures and practical initiatives to develop regional infrastructure.
CHERRY ANN MILLARD-WHITE (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking for members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on “Science and Technology for Development,” said that the focus of those countries would be on policies to integrate such technologies from a regional standpoint. Despite the benefits of information and communications technologies, and the claim of UNCTAD that mobile telephony had helped narrow the digital divide, she cautioned that the gap between the North and the South, especially in broadband technology, was still widening.
She said the Caribbean Community agreed that fostering an expanding broadband technology would allow mobile telephone platforms to pave the path for poverty reduction and innovative agricultural methods within developing countries. In that regard, it encouraged UNCTAD to bolster its efforts. The region also looked forward to working with that organization to integrate science, technology and innovation policies into national development strategies.
The Caribbean Community, she said, had also been working towards attaining the goal set at the 2005 World Summit on Information Society, to create a Global Information Society by 2015. At the regional level, that would narrow the digital, social, economic and social gaps in areas ranging from poverty alleviation to learning. She concluded by stressing that within her region “connectivity” was one of the most crucial ways of bridging the digital divide and allowing developing countries to become a part of the information society.
VICTOR OVALLES-SANTOS ( Venezuela) said that information technology tools were useful to achieve comprehensive and sustainable economic development, and could be used to promote cultural and social development as well. Venezuela, for its part, supported transfer of technology and social ownership of knowledge to further the creation of an international information society that was transparent, well-balanced and democratic.
For Venezuela, he said, it was fundamental that the role of information technology in poverty-reduction strategies be laid out clearly, and that special consideration was given to the digital divide. It was also critical to facilitate equal access and increase knowledge about information technology. Specifically, the Government promoted the distribution and use of free software and promoted “e-government.” Furthermore, last year Venezuela launched its own telecommunication satellite, named Simon Bolivar after the 19th century independence hero. The satellite, he said, was an important statement about national sovereignty and the country’s technological ambition.
MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that in the past few decades, information and communications technology had tremendously accelerated socio-economic development. The United Republic of Tanzania was always striving to keep abreast of developments in the information and communications technology industry, by putting in place appropriate policies, and legal and regulatory frameworks, to facilitate new technology use. It did that with the aim of enhancing socio-economic and political development. For example, in 2003 the Government created the national information and communications technology policy and enacted the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority Act, which established the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority to regulate postal and electronic communication.
It had formed other legal and regulatory mechanisms, liberalized imports of information and communications technology products and removed import taxes on computer-related products and accessories. It had reformed the education system to cope with the information and communications technology challenges. As a result, he went on, the country’s subscriber base jumped from 2.1 million in 2004 to 12.1 million in December 2008, he said. “Teledensity” had grown from 4 per cent in 2003 to about 32 per cent at present. That was due to the licensing of new operators who had made considerable investments in network development and expansion, thus giving them access to most districts nationwide, including remote areas.
In July 2009, he said, the President inaugurated a broadband Internet superhighway through a submarine cable linking Europe and Asia with East and Southern Africa, developed through a private sector initiative. That new system was expected to spur investment and multiple use of the information superhighway in the United Republic of Tanzania and neighbouring countries.
ANDA FILIP, Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said, despite advances, the role of information and communications technology in fostering better communication between legislatures and the public was still an evolving issue. Additional approaches were needed to assist developing countries, and improving the state of information and communications technology in those countries and emerging democracies would benefit from integrating donor funding more strategically. The Union and United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs established the Global Centre for Information and Communication Technology in Parliament to catalyse these issues and over the last year reported some progress and numerous challenges.
The next World e-Parliament Report, to be released in 2010, was likely to rank developing countries far behind. The Board of the Global Centre for Information and Communications Technology in Parliament had identified a set of goals centred on five key areas: establishing national and international policies to create an inclusive and equitable information society; enhancing the link between legislatures and constituencies; improving equality of access to the law and law-making process; ensuring legislatures worldwide could harness information and communications technology tools; and developing a more robust and well-coordinated technical assistance programme. Next week’s World e-Parliament Conference in Washington, D.C. would be a forum to discuss these and other information and communications technology issues. He said achieving goals would require concerted action that was only beginning to emerge today. Greater collaboration among parliaments, better integration of information and communications technology with other support actions and enhanced coordination among providers were the essential ingredients for success, he said.
The Committee then took up its agenda item on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence.
Introduction of Reports
Manuel Montes, Chief of the Policy Analysis and Development Branch, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on development cooperation with middle-income countries (document A/64/253). He said middle-income countries are home to almost two-thirds of the world’s poor and face formidable challenges in terms of poverty, health, education and climate change, and more concerted efforts are needed to better define the United Nations agenda on this issue, and to better support South-South cooperation.
He added that the United Nations should align its development cooperation initiatives more closely with national strategies and policies of middle-income countries; regional coordinators and country teams for their part should tailor programmes to the specific needs of each country. International financial institutions should develop an orderly sovereign debt workout mechanism. The reform of Bretton Woods institutions, meanwhile, had to be expedited.
Nikhil Seth, Director of the office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/64/310).
Globalization had brought tremendous opportunity, but also costs and negative consequences, often borne by those most vulnerable, he said. The benefits of globalization had to be shared in an equitable and inclusive manner. The situation was exacerbated by increased protectionism.
The social effects of the economic crisis were likely to be severe, and employment had become a main casualty, he added. Consequently, both national Governments and international organizations should place employment at the heart of any development strategy. Developing countries still struggled with poverty and hunger, and Member States should pay more attention to agricultural productivity, and shift their investments towards low-carbon and clean technologies.
SOPHIE BELFRAGE BECKER (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said, as a result of globalization, 40 per cent of the world’s population that was previously isolated had entered the global system of production and consumption. Approximately 1.5 billion people had entered the global workforce. But globalization had also brought increasing inequalities. The international community must ensure that its benefits were shared by all. Tackling the global financial crisis was one of the most important challenges today. Its impact would affect employment and economic status, most acutely in the least developed countries. The Secretary-General’s report on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence concurred that globalization could be a positive force, if it was equitable and sustainable.
In recent months, the European Union had adopted several instruments that reaffirmed its commitment to development cooperation, she said. Among them were the European Union Agenda for Action on the Millennium Development Goals and Council Conclusions on Supporting Developing Countries in Coping with the Crisis. Regarding the issues of global governance, the report did mention ongoing reforms of the Bretton Woods institutions to increase the voice, quota and representation of underrepresented countries. Fair, sustainable and greener economic growth was more critical than ever. Open markets and a strong multilateral trading system were essential for economic growth and development. Despite some protectionist measures, protectionism had mostly been contained. The best way to protect the global economy against protectionism was a comprehensive, balanced conclusion of the Doha round in 2010.
She supported social protection schemes, such as creation of a “social protection floor” comprising essential services and social transfers, and she pledged the European Union’s support to build one to assist countries in need. She supported the Global Jobs Pact, which proposed concrete steps to mitigate the impact of the crisis, and implementation of redistributive policies and reduction of inequalities. Women played a crucial role in the rural economies of developing countries. But, they were particularly vulnerable to poverty, especially in times of crisis, such as the current one. She supported the agreement to create a single, powerful United Nations agency for women and called for quickly concluding the necessary arrangements to set it up.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
NADIA OSMAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on commodities (document A/C.2/64/L.5) and a draft on the Fourth United Nations Conference on the least developed countries (document A/C.2/64/L.7).
HEMRAJ TATER ( Nepal), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said that globalization was a powerful force, which could help alleviate poverty and contribute to economic growth. However, most of the least developed countries had yet to benefit from the force of globalization. Although they liberalized their markets according to the ‘Washington Consensus’, the invisible hand of the market had not performed any miracles. In fact, liberalization and privatization in these countries had instead added to the problems of the poor. However, the least developed countries did not reject globalization, but its forces had to be tamed and made equitable to bring benefits to all.
Member States had to implement the 2007 Istanbul Declaration, which called on development partners to honour their financial commitments to the least developed countries to promote their development and integration into the global economy. North-South cooperation on development was also needed to make globalization work for everyone. In terms of the global economic and financial system, decision-making had to become fair. Regarding trade, developed countries needed to provide duty-free and quota-free access to their markets for the products of the least developed countries in order to mitigate globalization’s negative impact.
JIMÉNEZ SAUMA ( Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the global economic and financial crisis still affected individual countries and, to get beyond it, a collective approach was needed. To ensure that the twenty‑first century becomes the century of development for all, the first step was to reach the agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals, he said, and called for strengthened political commitments; guarding against protectionism; enhanced cooperation on food security, climate change and energy; and a successful outcome at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Middle-income countries were home to almost two-thirds of the poor in the world and had differentiated and specific needs, he said. While many of these countries had made significant economic and social progress during the past 20 years, there were still considerable hurdles ahead when it came to poverty, health, education, climate change and debt management, among other things. Even if the United Nations and multilateral financial institutions helped facilitate development in middle-income countries, much remained to be done. Per capita income did not reflect, in a meaningful way, the many challenges faced by middle-income countries, and there was a need to measure development in a broader way.
RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community, said the Secretary-General’s report on development cooperation with middle-income countries underscored the need to address the “elephant in the room” that had been overlooked for too long. As the global community grappled with the financial crisis, the potential existed to wreak further havoc by unravelling many of the development gains achieved in recent years. It was time to look at middle-income countries, home to two-thirds of the world’s poor. They continued to face income and gender inequality, environmental degradation, social exclusion of vulnerable groups, HIV/AIDS, weak institutional frameworks and low capacity to address external shocks, among other issues.
Current economic challenges had gravely impacted middle-income countries in general, but the impact on CARICOM had been much more severe, he said. Furthermore, CARICOM members had not been able to access concessionary financing from development banks and multilateral lending institutions, because as middle-income countries they did not qualify for financing. The global economic crisis had severally impacted the subregion, which desperately needed the money to sustain its economic health. That funding anomaly must be addressed urgently. He would continue to advocate for a review of the criteria for determining access to concessionary financing to include a broader set of socio-economic indicators. It was self-evident that per capita gross domestic product did not provide an accurate measure of a country’s economic sustainability or the socio-economic profiles of its citizens.
He expressed deep concern over the gradual reduction in resources for operational activities for development in the subregion, and the alarming trend towards downsizing United Nations entities there, particularly at a time when development aid was greatly needed. He called for a significant increase in resources to boost the United Nations presence in the subregion. Many CARICOM members had no other recourse than to resume a borrowing relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), thus raising fears about their ability to sustain their debts, while foregoing investment in critical areas such as health, education, and social safety net systems. He supported recommendations that international financial institutions provide sufficient liquidity to compensate for the sharp reversal in international private flows and to ensure debt sustainability.
WANG QUN ( China) said globalization provided opportunities for promoting global economic development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but its adverse impacts must not be overlooked. In the current financial crisis, least developed countries, in particular, had been hit the hardest. As the gap between North and South widened, many developing countries were in danger of being marginalized in the globalization process. To minimize globalization’s negative impact, he called for joint responses, stronger cooperation and coordination, and more proactive, flexible and forward-looking economic policies. To promote balanced global economic development, globalization must put development at the centre, and developed countries should step up support to help developing countries through resource and technology transfer, capacity-building and support for industrial upgrading. There must also be timely and effective measures to guard against hidden risks and perils and resume normal trade and investment.
Developing countries should expedite industrial restructuring and scientific and technological innovation, as well as foster sustainable growth of their national economies, he said. He called for an equal say for developing countries. There must be rules to regulate the behaviour of participants in the globalization process. Developing countries were at a comparative disadvantage in the globalization process and had been unable to effectively take part in major economic decisions and relevant rules. Their legitimate concerns did not get the attention they deserved. Such unfair practices must be promptly rectified. Developing countries’ representation and voice in international financial institutions must be increased in a meaningful way.
ALI ANWAR ANSARI ( India) said that, while the forces of globalization had spread the economic and financial crisis rapidly to all corners of the globe, it was important to accept that globalization could have positive, as well as negative effects. Member States should harness the benefits of globalization and the developed world should provide assistance to developing countries to mitigate its adverse affects. “It is important that globalization is fair and inclusive,” he said.
Since many countries did not have the means to stimulate their economies and enact countercyclical measures, it fell upon the developed world to provide assistance. India, for its part, had actively pursued a strategy of “faster and inclusive growth” in the context of its wider development efforts, enacting, for example, the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which provided 100 days of work to each rural family. With regard to climate change, developing countries such as India were severely impacted and, although they had not caused the problem, India wanted to be part of the solution. The outcome at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen had to be ambitious and equitable, he said.
KAIRE MBUENDE ( Namibia) said that while globalization had brought both benefits and challenges, it seemed that serious imbalances persisted in the distribution of those benefits. The current food, fuel, climate change and financial and economic crises, which were borne disproportionately by the poor, exacerbated these inequalities and hampered sustainable development. The current economic and financial crisis was a “crisis of globalization” which had spread rapidly “like a wildfire” from where it started to the rest of the world.
He said this was evidence of how globalization could sow both the seeds of prosperity, as well as those of untold suffering. Only multilateralism could “tame” globalization and make it deliver more benefits than its adverse affects, and in this regard the critical role of the United Nations could not be overemphasized.
The “implosion” of globalization, he continued, had strained international trade, investment flows and employment creation, thus placing the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals “under a big question mark”. Additionally, middle-income countries could be in difficulty when the going got tough, as was shown by the seven countries that had fallen back to the low-income category as a result of the crisis, and its impact on development. Capacity-building and physical and social infrastructure development in most of those countries needed international support. A significant number of middle-income countries simply required “that one final push”, and they would be able to move into the higher-income category.
ANA CECILIA GERVASI ( Peru) said that, without a doubt, the profound economic and financial crisis that the world was witnessing had weakened world growth, and had confirmed that interdependence was the sign of the times. The last conference regarding the economic and financial crisis and its developmental effects had taken place in June 2009, and had underscored the important function of the United Nations in international economic affairs. Given its composition and universal legitimacy, the United Nations had unique characteristics to participate in diverse, global reform processes. In the current international financial crisis, the Organization was called upon to play a role in the reform process of the global financial architecture, which was one of the principal aspects of globalization.
The United Nations and international financial institutions had complementary mandates, which made the coordination of adopted measures fundamental. As such, there should be cooperation, coordination and coherence in an increasing manner, as well as exchanges that were more fluid between the two actors. It was also imperative for developing countries to have greater participation in decisions that were made on a global scale, and which directly affected their national politics. The economic and financial crisis was undoubtedly affecting the economic and social perspectives of developing countries. It was necessary to strengthen financial cooperation for infrastructure, innovation and technology, among other things. The current economic situation should be seen as an opportunity for the United Nations to redouble its efforts to improve the efficiency and efficacy of its development programmes.
HYEO KYEONG LEE ( Republic of Korea) said there had been a gap in the perception of globalization between its proponents and its critics. The economic slowdown and the ensuing social consequences was clear evidence of the transformation of the economic crisis into a human crisis. In this regard, his delegation appreciated the Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System (GIVAS) as it would help monitor the impact of the crisis in the poorest and most vulnerable countries. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it would be necessary to put in place international financial regulatory systems, as well as a “social protection floor” that would ensure strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth and development.
In the world of growing interdependence, any effective solution to global problems required all actors to do their part. All countries, rich and poor alike, were partners in building a “fair and inclusive” system of globalization in which benefits were broadly and equitably shared. Such a “renewed multilateralism” placed the United Nations at the centre of international cooperation for addressing challenges of the current crisis. In this context, he said it was essential to make the most of the existing, as well as potential resources and expertise, of the United Nations family. Far from being the only actor in today’s complex web of international relations, the United Nations needed to work together with other multilateral, bilateral and civil society organizations, most notably the G20. For its part, the Republic of Korea would contribute more to the international community, as part of its efforts to enhance global partnership.
HIEW KING CHEU (Malaysia) agreed that the inequalities of globalization, as well as its lack of governance, could be addressed through multilateralism and cooperation among all countries. For globalization to be better managed, the international financial system needed to be analysed objectively, reoriented towards serving broader societal goals and better regulated. He noted with disappointment, in that context, that up to this point expertise in the financial sector had not been used for useful purposes such as the improvement of infrastructure in developing countries.
In Malaysia’s case, he said, a decisive and comprehensive response to the financial crisis not only produced a quick recovery but also reduced the economic cost of the downturn. The key factor was that foundations for resilience continued to be built during good times; the country’s efforts to sustain stability did not end when the Asian crisis abated. With that in mind, adjustments and reforms were still being made, including the establishment of sound regulatory regimes, the development of capital for diversification, the enhancement of governance and risk management, and the acceleration of institutional development. He stressed that, because globalization was quickly transforming the economies of countries around the world in a variety of ways, concerted efforts must be made by all to find innovative and flexible ways to guide it onto the right path.
MAKOTO AHYASHI ( Japan) echoed the analysis of the Secretary-General’s report that globalization had created various benefits not only for the developed world, but for many developing countries as well. The global flow of goods, services, finances and people had created opportunities for growth, innovation and business transformation, and it had generated enormous benefits to the people who could seize those opportunities. However, globalization had also brought about serious transnational issues. Benefits had been disproportionately accrued by the few, rather than the vast majority and inequalities within States and societies were exacerbated, even in cases where the national macroeconomic indicators showed healthy trends.
As a result of free flow of goods, services and individuals, he said peoples were constantly faced with new types of threats that crossed national borders so easily that each State was not always capable of responding in a timely and effective manner. Such cross-border threats included the H1N1 pandemic, the food crisis, the financial crisis, as well as sea-level rise and other adverse effects of climate change. Given today’s highly globalized world, national level responses could not fully address the global threats that crept up on individuals across national borders. In order to tackle global issues, a global response was necessary by the international community as a whole. To respond effectively to the diverse and interconnected challenges to the most vulnerable peoples, each country must take people-centred measures that were comprehensive and multisectoral; which would focus not only on protecting individuals and communities, but also on empowering them to take on the threats themselves.
EDUARDO MEÑEZ (Philippines), aligning his delegation with the statements made by Sudan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and by Indonesia on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the processes and effects of globalization proceeded regardless of what the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Organization for Migration or whatever specialized agency tried to seek consensus on, regulate, or control. This should not come as a surprise, given that global governance appeared to be a more unwieldy instrument than national or even regional governance, which were far from perfect processes themselves.
Understanding the complex interrelationships created by globalization required accurate information on trends and impacts on people, systems and events, he continued. This was where the United Nations was uniquely positioned to contribute. GIVAS was a tool that could be used to better understand and, therefore, plan, react or prevent situations that might develop. It was the Organizations’ universal membership, its broad presence in all corners of the globe, and its activities on key issues that provided the comparative advantage to speak on, and provide recommendations on, the issue of development in the context of globalization and interdependence. However, despite this capability of providing objective information and assessments, the matter of actually taking direct action, for the most part, lay with the individual Member States. Thus, while the steps needed to improve the lot of the world’s most vulnerable, address the food crisis, or alleviate global warming were understood, the international community found itself delivering statements and succumbing to inaction, caused by competing interests at the national and international levels.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) noted the merits of globalization in mitigating crises. Globalization increased employment, expanded economic growth and created a host of new opportunities. But those benefits were not shared evenly worldwide. The gap could be seen most clearly in Africa, where foreign direct investment and private investment were below the global average. The need for a fairer distribution of the benefits of globalization should remain central during discussions on the crisis. Developing countries, particularly least developed countries, should be considered in that process, which should focus on eradicating poverty and social exclusion. The international community must step up financial and technical aid to least developed countries. Conclusion of the Doha trade round was essential to enable the harmonious development of the world economy.
The current international economic situation had revealed the weakness of the global economic governance system, he said. He called for community-minded, responsible management to enable everyone to have a fair share of globalization, and for a redesign of international economic policy. The recent United Nations conference on the world economic crisis had reaffirmed the need for the Organization to strengthen cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions. Morocco had embarked on a programme to open its economy through various regional agreements with countries in the South. It had eliminated customs duties for products from African least developed countries. To further mitigate the impact of globalization, Morocco’s Government had launched a National Human Development Strategy aimed at fighting poverty and social exclusion and allowing the entire population to take ownership of the development process. It had finalized a National Charter for the Environment based on international conventions and commitments.
DENIS ZDOROV ( Belarus) said that middle-income countries played an especially important role in the world’s economy and, therefore, to assist them in overcoming specific development problems would strengthen overall growth and improve the stability and predictability in the global economic system. “Ultimately,” he said, “we all stand to win.”
His country had studied the reports before the Committee and supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations. It was vital to implement practical measures to help middle-income countries and further develop cooperation between them and the various relevant entities of the United Nations. Strengthening of this global potential, as well as the enhanced coherence of actions among the various components of the United Nations system, would benefit all, he said.
LAURENT DABIRÉ ( Burkina Faso) said that countries faced a number of economic and social crises, unlike anything seen before, and the people in the developing countries were the principal victims. The least developed countries and the landlocked least developed countries had experienced steep drops in trade and investment flows, with detrimental effects. His country had adapted a strategy to re-establish macroeconomic stability and had seen several economic indictors improve recently.
While these signs were encouraging, the progress had not been substantial enough to significantly reduce the country’s poverty and the national economy still suffered from the effects of the global economic recession and extreme events in the external environment. Burkina Faso supported the recommendations that had been laid out in the Secretary-General’s reports before the Committee that focused on making development a strategic objective. With regard to the Millennium Development Goals, the situation for many developing countries was not very good, and it was vital to concentrate on the most vulnerable groups.
The Committee then turned to its agenda item on human resources development.
Introduction of Report
Mr. SETH took the floor to introduce the Secretary-General’s report on human resources development strategies (document A/64/329). He said the General Assembly had repeatedly stressed the critical role of human resources development in achieving poverty eradication and sustainable development, and it had encouraged Governments to adopt comprehensive strategies. Empirical evidence showed a mutually reinforcing relationship between human resources development and sustained economic growth. But, economies that had not invested in such development would experience limited economic growth and would lack the critical skills and competence necessary to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. They were also more likely to have unskilled and underutilized human resources.
Implementation of effective human resources strategies was even more critical, as countries faced such formidable challenges as unstable macroeconomic conditions, income inequalities, unemployment, poverty, the spread of infectious diseases, brain drain and conflict, he said. The most successful strategies were those that had been fully integrated into national development plans and tailored to national development needs and objectives. That ensured a strong link between education, training and employment, thus helping to maintain a productive, competitive workforce. Less successful approaches had relied more heavily on the market to determine resource allocation and investment in human resources development, resulting in a more decentralized, market-oriented approach to education and training. But, they often resulted in pockets of socio-economic development in specific areas where research and education institutions flourished, rather than in nationwide development.
For that reason, strategies should be fully integrated, he said. He also called for frameworks that regulated national training and education systems to ensure equal access to educational opportunities. The private sector could significantly help strengthen links between education, training and the labour market, and strengthen national education and training systems by promoting a culture of productivity and performance. Governments should continue to play a critical role in supporting human resources development and ensuring partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders.
Sudan’s representative, speaking on behalf the Group of 77 and China, lamented that the agenda item on human resources development had not been part of the discussion on poverty eradication.
Mr. SETH said the report focused on poverty eradication and its link to human resource development, but that due to delays in submitting it, the agenda item was considered at a later date and was not part of the poverty discussion.
NADIA OSMAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that human resources development was indispensable to achieve the internationally agreed upon development goals, in particular the Millennium targets. It was worth nothing that the economic recession, in conjunction with other crises, such as those relating to food, energy and climate change, might seriously undercut what had already been achieved. If these challenges were not met, it could spell a severe development crisis in developing countries.
Therefore, it was vital to urgently integrate human resource development strategies in the context of overall national development plans, and to address the hurdles ahead, especially in the areas of health, education, brain drain and gender empowerment. Support from the international community was pivotal in lessening the effects of the global economic and financial crisis and mobilizing investments in the creation of productive and competitive human resources in developing countries, to lead the long-term recovery.
Although problems in this area varied widely between countries, a number of challenges were particularly noteworthy, among them, the severe impact of brain drain and ongoing difficulties in terms of education. Collective, coherent and consistent action was needed, and the Group called for the adoption of appropriate strategies that would take national circumstances and objectives into account.
HENRY MAC-DONALD (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, underscored the importance of expediting sustainable broad-based and inclusive economic growth, including generation of full employment and decent work for all, as called for in the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. Considering the adverse impact of the current global crises in the areas of finance, food security, energy and climate change, the global community must make a dramatic shift from “business as usual” to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. He expressed concern over the decline in official development assistance and he called on the developed world to fulfil its official development assistance commitments.
Hunger was a violation of human dignity and human rights, he said. He reaffirmed the right of everyone to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to food. He called for urgent national, regional and international measures to eliminate hunger. Developed countries must take steps to allocate new and more resources to help developing countries respond effectively to food security challenges. He called for South-South strategies to provide emergency responses to the food crisis. The agricultural sector and rural areas, where most of the poor lived in the developing world, needed increased attention. He expressed hope that the upcoming World Summit on Food Security would foster the political will and commitment needed to address that.
He expressed deep concern over the negative impact of the financial crisis on developing countries’ economic growth. The crisis had limited investment in education and skills training, which were critical to empower the poor and make people employable. Legal empowerment of the poor should be a development strategy and a development objective. The poor should be empowered through a human rights-based approach to development. Legal empowerment should focus on removing unnecessary barriers to formal markets and institutions, increasing business links and market access, pro-poor property rights systems, and ensuring equitable and sustainable access to land and other natural resources.
URI RESNICK (Israel) said legal empowerment of the poor, specifically in terms of property and labour rights, coupled with the promotion of employment and gender equality, should be approached through a coordinated response. He supported the work of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor. Making people aware of their rights to obtain property and the means to accumulate it through gainful employment were necessary to lift them out of poverty. As research studies showed, gender inequalities were a central obstacle to eliminating extreme poverty. The emphasis of women’s empowerment in combating poverty was a cornerstone of Israel’s approach to sustainable development. The Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Centre had trained thousands of professional women and men from developing countries and transitional societies, and had provided them with the necessary tools for women’s empowerment.
Israel had also focused on directly training women from developing countries in such fields as entrepreneurial success, microenterprise development, rural tourism, as well as creation of additional sources of income, smallholder agricultural techniques, and media strategies for social change, he said. Next month, Israel would hold an International Conference for Women Leaders, which would focus on the effects of the global financial crisis on women. Some 60 women’s leaders from more than 50 countries would attend. By developing innovative agricultural technologies and designing sustainable agricultural models, it was possible to promote gender equality and, at the same time, create employment opportunities in the developing world. Israel was a pioneer in agrotechnological innovation. Its agrotechnological models had flourished in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
TACHASIT PRASITTIRAT ( Thailand) said poverty not only affected the poor. It was in everyone’s interest to enhance global efforts to end it. Since 1992, poverty alleviation had been a key strategic target area of Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Plan. Steady progress had been made ever since. Poverty had fallen from 33.7 per cent in 1990 to 8.5 per cent in 2007, while the percentage of people suffering from hunger decreased by three quarters over the same period. Those two statistics showed that Thailand had comfortably achieved the first Millennium Development Goal ahead of schedule. Despite the impact of the world economic crisis, Thailand was determined to stay on course to reduce poverty to 4 per cent in 2009, which was part of its more ambitious target of Millennium Development Goals- Plus. In line with the belief that people were a country’s most valuable asset, the Thai Government had put people at the heart of development policies. Priority was given to the poor and the most vulnerable.
The Government’s first stimulus package to respond to the global economic crisis had immediate measures that could have long-term impact, such as the 15‑year free education for all initiative aimed an ensuring a reasonable future for children from poor families, he said. Also in the package was a skills-training programme for the unemployed and new graduates, which aimed to make them more competitive in the labour market. The Government had carried out programmes to enhance sustainable agriculture, business competitiveness and bargaining power of grass-roots people, and facilitate markets access for their local products. Such programmes had helped communities develop long-term self-help schemes, such as savings groups, networks of cooperatives and farm producers, revolving credit lines and local safety nets. To support human resources development, Thailand had created skills development centres, vocational education, and training programmes in transportation, banking and public management, among other areas.
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