REPUBLIC OF ETHIOPIA
H.E. MR. GIRMA BIRRU
MINISTER OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND CO
OPERATION OF THE
FEDERAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF ETHIOPIA
AND HEAD OF THE ETHIOPIAN DELEGATION
AT THE TWENTY-FOURTH SPECIAL SESSION
OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
"WORLD SUMMIT FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND BEYOND:
ACHIEVING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL IN A GLOBALISING WORLD"
GENEVA, 26 - 30 JUNE 2000
Please permit me at the outset to express the appreciation of my delegation to you for the excellent manner in which you have conducted the work of this Special Session of the UN-General Assembly on World Social Summit and beyond to which we attach paramount importance.
We are confident that the Session would come up with concrete and comprehensive
action and initiatives to fully implement the commitments of the Copenhagen
World Social Summit. We believe that our collective commitment and shared responsibility
could serve as our anchor for present and future international economic cooperations
and we place a particular premium on it as we confront the challenges of poverty,
unemployment and social exclusion. We are convinced that the agenda for social
development provides a useful framework to undertake in an integrated fashion
international policies, programmes and plans of actions on social development
which have so far been adopted at different fora by the international community.
External debt continues to be a serious obstacle to social development. In the
case of Africa the stock of external debt and its servicing has continued to
drain our major foreign exchange earnings while eroding Africa's credit worthiness.
In the light of already grim resource flows, caused by declines in official
development * assistance (ODA), the crippling burden of international debt has
seriously hampered social development prospects for most of our countries. The
situation of the least developed countries is more precarious.
It is obvious therefore, that unless there is a swift and substantial effort to relieve the debt burden, we can never invest adequately to enhance our capacity for social development and our competitiveness in a liberalising international trade. For social development efforts to bear fruit and economic reforms to succeed in our countries, all creditors nations and multilateral financial institutions should adopt concrete measures including debt cancellation by going beyond debt rescheduling and HIPCs initiative.
It is the conviction of my delegation that each of our countries including those
in Africa must take charge of their own comprehensive social development. The
call on the international community to do the maximum possible for Africa in
the economic area is an appeal to help remove the obstacles hindering the social
development of the continent so that Africa can progress through the efforts
of its own people. The continued socio-economic decline in the least developed
countries generally has been a source of grave concern. This is evidenced by
the alarming increase in the number of people living in absolute poverty and
economic decline or stagnation. This dismal deteriorating situation is compounded
further by lack of resource flows, dwindling of direct foreign investment, reduction
in export earnings, excruciating debt crisis, rising unemployment especially
among the youth and environmental degradation.
The persistence of these problems could easily undermine the stability of the world economy and pose serious threats to international peace and security. Immeasurable work has been done to redress the economic stronghold in which most of our countries find themselves. A lot more, however, needs to be done by the developed countries and the international financial institutions to extricate many of the world's poor countries from being completely submerged by the heavy burdens imposed by the present unfavourable international economic system. More specifically, new additional resources, at both multilateral and bilateral levels, need to be provided by our development partners if any improvement in the lives of the teeming millions in the developing countries is to be assured.Mr. President,
While referring to the social development crisis in developing countries, particularly
in Africa, I cannot but make some brief remarks about the situation in my own
Human and social conditions in Ethiopia prior to the social summit were typically
characterized by marked deterioration in the living conditions of the people.
The confluence of factors such as bad governance and ill-designed economic and
social policies of the then government, protracted civil war that lasted for
nearly 30 years and drought were the causes that led to this unacceptably low
levels of human and social development. Major segment of the population has
been deprived of the bare minimum necessities of life. In the past, the social
sector has been neglected and perceived as a secondary, parasitic and dependent
on other sectors rather than being the source of productivity and strategic
input to the economic sector. Consequently, the sector has not been the beneficiary
of a fair share of the budget allocation and institutional innovation.
Stabilizing and reviving the economy and improving the living conditions of the people were, therefore, the priority objectives of my Government. Poverty reduction has consequently been the utmost pre-occupation of the government even long before the Copenhagen Summit for Social Development. The Economic Policy of Ethiopia adopted in 1991 unambiguously reflects that the overriding priority is poverty reduction while promoting social justice and equity.
In terms of creating an enabling environment to implement the agreed commitments,
the government has put in place relevant development policies and strategies.
Based on the macro frameworks, sectoral policies and strategies were designed
and implementation started in priority sectors. Policies in the areas of population,
health, education, women, employment and HIV/AIDS have been formulated and
adopted. The constitution embodying the core values and beliefs of Ethiopians
has been adopted and the first and second multiparty elections were held in
1995 and 2000 respectively. Several initiatives aimed at fostering rule of law,
transparency, participation and accountability are undertaken. The civil service
reform programme, the public sector management reform measures including the
downsizing of the bureaucracy, the devolution of authority through the regionalisation
initiative, the creation of a market oriented economic policy and investor friendly
climate through the issuance of liberal investment code, the recognition of
the vast potential of the private sector and role of civil society and NGOs,
are all, among the important initiatives undertaken.
Our efforts have produced tangible results although much remains to be done. The delivery and coverage of social services in health and education have shown remarkable improvement and expansion. The health service coverage has increased by about 10 percent while the enrollment ratio has increased in primary and secondary education by 20% and 3% respectively. The participation rate of girls has also increased at all levels of schooling. The share of social services has increased from about 25 to 28 % in recurrent and from about 20 % to 23 % in capital expenditures between 1995 and 1998. The real percapita expenditure on social services as a whole has increased over the past seven years. More importantly, our defense expenditure has been dramatically reduced from an average of 65 per cent of the total government expenditure in the 1980s to less than 5 per cent in 1997 - shortly before the Eritrean war of aggression.
As much as vast opportunities exist for development, Ethiopia is confronted with enormous challenges as well. Some 45.5 percent of its 60 million people still live in absolute poverty. The recurrence of drought has become a norm rather than a risk and currently up to 10 million people are threatened by famine. Environmental degradation accompanied with population pressure has weakened the resource base upon which sustainable development depends. There is the need to rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of displaced people due to Eritrea's war of aggression. The unsustainably high level of external debt is also a crushing burden to an economy like Ethiopia and high debt servicing requirements prevent us from making adequate investment in education and health care, and from responding effectively to emergencies. The continued decline in Official Development Assistance, continued dependence on single commodity for export earnings, absence of meaningful market access to the main export items of the country are factors undermining the overall development prospects of the country.
In conclusion, Mr. President, while looking forward to the full implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Plan of Action, we remain committed to continue our endeavors in all fronts to fulfil the aspirations of our people for their social well being, prosperity and security.