Geneva, Switzerland, 30 June 2003 - Secretary-General's remarks at the opening meeting of the 2003 substantive session of the Economic and Social CouncilIt may not be true that 'a rising tide lifts all boats'. But it is certainly true that, in bad weather, the weakest boats are the most vulnerable.
It is therefore bad news for developing countries that, contrary to expectations, the world economy has yet to recover from its slowdown in 2001, which was its largest setback in a decade. More than 30 developing countries have actually seen their per capita income drop in each of the past two years, and few can now expect to enjoy adequate growth again before the end of 2004.
Moreover, the risk of deflation, the spread of disease, rising unemployment in some countries, overcapacity in several sectors, and lingering geopolitical concerns are combining to undermine confidence, hinder investment and, as ever, make the lives of the poor that much bleaker.
In the face of these threats, our immediate, over-riding task must be to stimulate economic growth. But over the long term, combating poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals require more than that. We cannot afford to lose sight of the agenda, universally agreed at Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg, to tackle more fundamental development challenges.
Those conferences defined a new global partnership for development. They have given us clear strategies for bringing real vigour to the development process and for deploying resources – domestic and foreign, human and financial, existing and new -- where they can have the greatest impact. The challenge now is not to decide what to do, but rather, simply, to do it.
But if major strides have been made towards linking financing and development, much remains to be done to make it easier for poor countries to improve their situation through trade.
The programme agreed to in Doha is more than just another round of trade negotiations. It aims to eliminate the unfair competition faced by farmers and producers in poor countries, and to open developed-country markets to developing-country goods – especially agricultural products. It seeks to give poor people better access to life-saving medicines, while preserving the incentives for medical research. In the broadest sense, it could provide a powerful engine of growth, thus facilitating the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
This is a reasonable, achievable set of goals. Yet success is by no means assured. There are only ten weeks left before the ministerial meeting in Cancún. Key deadlines have been missed. The time has come for all parties to show more flexibility, and give priority to the global interest. It is not too late to avoid a setback for economic development.
Of course, even a successful outcome on trade will not mean that developing countries can manage without aid and debt relief. This is especially true of the least developed countries.
Galvanizing development and seizing new trading opportunities depends on technologies, transport, capital, and much else. Developed countries and aid agencies can make an important contribution here, not by doing the heavy lifting -- that is the responsibility of developing countries themselves -- but by helping to build the infrastructure, develop the human resource base and adopt sound policies. For poor countries to achieve 'take-off', two doors must open: the door to markets in the developed world, and the door in developing countries that internal barriers too often keep closed, stifling the entrepreneurial energies of their people.
Fortunately, the long and troubling decline in aids appears to have been halted. But aid flows are still at the mercy of recession and spending cuts in some key OECD economies. Moreover, even if the commitments made in Monterrey were to be fulfilled, we will still be far short of what is required for us to meet the Development Goals, $100 billion per year is what is required.
Some very promising proposals - such as the one put forward by the Chancellor of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, the International Finance Facility - is an encouraging proposal and I think that it has the possibility of improving the quantity and the quality of the assistance. I urge all donors to keep an open mind and, again, to act on the basis of the interests that are shared by all.
Et le point de convergence de tous ces problèmes, où les besoins sont les plus aigus et les souffrances les plus grandes et où rien ne semble venir à bout de la pauvreté, ce sont les zones rurales dans le monde entier.
Il est donc juste que ce débat de haut niveau soit consacré au développement des zones rurales où vivent les trois quarts des personnes les plus démunies de la planète – c'est-à-dire celles qui vivent avec à peine 1 dollar par jour. Ils sont 900 millions à tirer leurs maigres revenus de l'agriculture et d'autres activités rurales.
Ce sont les premières victimes de la sécheresse, de la désertification et de la dégradation de l'environnement.
Ce sont les fermiers, et surtout les fermières qui voient leur dur labeur anéanti par le protectionnisme, le manque d'infrastructures et, de plus en plus, la propagation du sida.
Ce sont les peuples autochtones, pasteurs, artisans ou pêcheurs, qui luttent pour survivre dans des régions isolées dans l'indifférence quasi générale.
Address the needs of these men, women and children, and we will have real hope of achieving the MDGs. Empower these resourceful and resilient individuals, and they will show us how to fight poverty and hunger.
Rural development entails more investment in agricultural research and in developing higher yield crops adapted to local conditions. And it requires efficient water management, resulting in 'more crop per drop'.
It involves increasing non-farm income and employment, so that the rural poor are less vulnerable to crop failures and other calamities.
It means secure land tenure and, in some places, land reform.
It means a new green revolution: more productive farming, more sustainably pursued.
It means focusing on the least developed countries, in accordance with the Brussels plan of action, whose progress you will be reviewing for the first time here.
And as I have already stressed, it will require developed countries to allow agricultural products from developing countries to reach their markets, unimpeded by direct or disguised barriers such as subsidies.
All this can happen only with a real commitment to bring rural development back to the centre of the development agenda. After a sharp decline in support for agriculture and rural development over the past decade, we are now beginning to realize, once again, that they are central to the entire development agenda. Nowhere will our commitment be put to the test more than in Africa, where food insecurity and AIDS are working in vicious tandem to thwart the continent's rural development.
As a central UN body for development policy and policy coherence, the Economic and Social Council must ensure that the UN system brings all its capacities to bear on these challenges – in integrated fashion, and working in concert with the full range of partners.
With that aim in view, I wish you all possible success in your deliberations.
Statements on 30 June 2003
- New York, 30 June 2003 - Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the Entry into force of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
- Geneva, Switzerland, 30 June 2003 - Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on ceasefire announcement by Palestinian groups