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Come Together, Right Away

International Herald Tribune (France)

02 July 2009

By Ban Ki-moon

The world is in the midst of multiple crises. Food. Fuel. Flu. Financial. We are struggling to overcome the worst global financial and economic crisis since the founding of the United Nations, while the effects of climate change and extreme poverty become ever starker.

The real impact of the crisis could stretch for years. Millions more families are being pushed into poverty. An estimated 50 million jobs could be lost this year alone.

This is the backdrop to next week's meeting of the Group of 8 in Italy. Rarely have the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations come together at a moment of such consequence as this.

We need international solidarity. That's why I have consistently spoken out for the needs of the vulnerable — those least responsible for the crisis and those least able to respond.

There has been progress. Prior to the G-20 meeting in London this spring, I called for a truly global stimulus package. The G-20 agreed on a substantial package of financial support totaling $1.1 trillion, the bulk of it to be made available through the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other multilateral development agencies.

This is only a beginning. In the months ahead, we have a number of opportunities to strengthen global growth, mitigate climate change and combat extreme poverty.

I have just sent a letter to G-8 leaders urging concrete commitments and specific action to renew our resolve. I stressed the need to commit resources to help the poorest and most vulnerable adapt to climate change and to seal a deal in Copenhagen in December. I underscored the importance of delivering on pledges of aid to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

I set forth three specific areas for action:

First, we must mobilize our full strength for better real-time data on the impact of the economic crisis on the poorest nations.

We know the big picture: countries with low financial reserves; countries that face shrinking foreign investment, remittances and aid; countries where demand for exports has fallen. But we need a sharper lens with finer resolution.

I am marshalling the resources of the United Nations to monitor the impact of the crisis in real-time. We will launch the Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System in the coming months. I am also mobilizing the entire United Nations system to support countries on food security, trade, a greener economy, stronger safety nets and a global jobs pact. The creation of decent jobs is not just a hoped-for outcome of economic recovery. It is an essential ingredient for economic recovery.

Second, we must keep global commitments to help women and men move from vulnerability to opportunity.

In past economic crises, aid has been cut at the very time it is most needed. The current crisis cannot be an excuse to abandon pledges. Here's one example. By some estimates, annual aid to Africa is at least $20 billion below the promises made in Gleneagles in 2005. Surely, if the world can mobilize more than $18 trillion to keep the financial sector afloat, it can find more than $18 billion to keep commitments to Africa.

Evidence shows us precisely where more resources can transform lives, increase possibilities and expand human potential. It can be done by helping subsistence farmers increase productivity, access markets and improve food security; funding universal access to primary education; investing in global health and maternal health; and helping developing countries promote cleaner energy and green jobs.

Third, we must work to reform international institutions for the 21st century. The multilateral structures created generations ago must be made more accountable, more representative and more effective.

The global economic crisis shows why we need a renewed multilateralism. We know that without adequate regulation, a breakdown in one part of the system has profound repercussions elsewhere. Challenges are linked. Our solutions must be, too.

Ban  Ki-moon is the Secretary-General of the United Nations