Hon. Chris Okemo
Minister of Finance of the Republic of Kenya
Geneva, 30 June 2000
Mr. President, Secretary
General, Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, Ladies and Gentlemen
1. When we gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1995, we committed ourselves in front of the world to pursue with determination the goals of social development that we had identified. At that time we in Kenya believed the conference would be the springboard from which we would together create a more humane and understanding world.
2. In 1995 many hoped that
economic development would gradually but surely improve all our lives and that
we had come together to chart a way forward that would benefit the bulk of humanity.
Well, dear friends, we all know that the contrary is true, social development
in those parts of the world that tile conference was meant to benefit has in
the best case scenario, stagnated, and in the worst case scenario deteriorated
to an all time low.
3. I recall that after
our meeting, we resolved to implement ten commitments. While all these commitments
were capable of standing alone, from my point of view, their overriding objective
was the eradication of poverty. We all expected that our resources and energy
after that seminal event, would be directed at meeting tile challenge of that
objective enshrined in commitment two "to eradicate poverty in the world, through
decisive national actions and international co-operation, as all ethical, social,
political and economic imperative of humankind".
4. In my own country Kenya,
the problems of poverty have been thrust to centre stage. SecretaryGeneral Kofi
Annan's insistence on a people-centred approach to development resonates with
ours. Thirty-seveli years after independence, we are threatened by perilously
low standards of living among our peoples. Economic growth has slowed mainly
due to globalization on one hand, al-id l'lateral disasters on the other, as
well as the goal-shifting mind-set of' some of out- bilateral and multilateral
partners. Traditional social safety systems which hay a been tried and tested
over centuries in Africa, have now been undermined and have collapsed as a result.
In order to cope with the impending loss of these safety nets, at independence
in 1963, Kenya initiated a self-Help policy we called "Harambee" in which projects
initiated by community based needs were implemented by voluntary contributions
either in cash or in kind. For example, schools, hospitals, roads, cattle dips,
coffee factories were constructed through this approach. These voluntary contributions
were intended to complement and not replace the Government driven development
process. They were, in any event, not sufficient to meet the development needs
of our society. In fact, shortly thereafter, nwe approaches to complement both
existing government efforts and "Harambee" had to be found. We still believe
that it will be through decisive international action and co-operation that
poverty will eventually be tackled.
5. The approach that we
have persued so far to fight poverty has not had the desired effects and I am
cony inced that the time has come to give our people the means, the tools and
the capacity to produce for themselves. In fact some of the policies embarked
upon oven the years have had the net capital effect of ads ersely impacting
our economic capacity.
6. Since independence Kenya
has consistently tried "to create an economic, political, social, cultural and
legal environment that will enable people to achieve social development'". Consequently,
the Kenya Government has put in place structures to ensure that private sector
is able to work free of interference Those sectors which were the domain of
Government have been privatised. these include basic infrastructure-type sectors,
such as posts and telecommunications Whereas we have established appropriate
conditions to facilitate free trade; the negative impact of privatisation and
liberalization has diminished their import. Indeed, the very core of this first
commitment has forced us to design programmes to ameliorate the negative effects.
We must continue to insist that structural adjustment programmes agreed to,
must have a human face and dimension. We believe that development should incorporate
the entire society.
7. Education is the only
way out of the grip of poverty. Statistics show that in all other countries
that have access to education and its vigorous utilization, impressive growth
has resulted in lifting all, in a tide of affluence that benefits the whole
society. Because of our ever changing needs, now dominated by the logic of globalization,
Kenya continues to adapt its educational system to these changes. In this regard,
it is worth stressing that we leave put in place policies that favour education
in the sciences and we hope that the positive effects of this policy will be
seen in the near future. We see this commitment as incorporating equality and
gender-relevant access to quality education, buttressed by the highest attainable
standard of physical and mental health. Indeed, as we strive to improve our
education systems, we also struggle to improve the infrastructure and performance
of our health systems. In particular, at the primary healthcare level by broadening
access to health care.
8. We lave discussed at
length where appropriate global emphasis should be, and how to proceed. I hope
that the words do not drown the ideas and the required practical measures. On
my part, I know that the key to true social development lies in eradicating
poverty. We must therefore continue to stress this fact. The Bretton Woods institutions
must adapt and be responsive to changing circumstances without shifting goal
posts. Bilateral and multi-lateral debt must be written off for those countries
that meet the criteria. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative
so far has benefited too few countries. The threshold must be lowered to include
countries like Kenya that have done a lot, but are yet to be Rewarded. Regional
integration and the exploitation of economies of scale has motivated us in the
East African Community to look beyond purely national horizons and we urgently
heed international support to complement our regional efforts. We believe that
economic integration will assist in the achievement of true independence and
development for our people. The growth of our economies will enable us to address
the problem of unemployment, a scourge that has to be looked at seriously, otherwise
we will have neither social development nor political stability. Commitment
8 and its goals push us along the right path. In addition. for our discussions
to be relevant today, access to technology and the Internet must be democratised.
9. Allow me to say a couple
of words on the problem of corruption. This disease continues to eat at the
fabric of our societies. Kenya has taken robust action to deal with this evil
and many have been brought to book from the highest in our society to the lowest.
We will continue to actively wage this war and I know in time we will succeed.
However, this war cannot be waged by an individual or by a country on its own
since the links and networks of corruption are deep and global. The solutions
must therefore be holistic arid global in nature. National private sectors,
together with multinationals, must agree with governments on a common code-of-conduct
and appropriate punitive measures to ensure effectiveness. Although attitudes
must change, greed and poverty are the culprits we must relentlessly fight in
order to eliminate corruption.
10. In conclusion, Mr.
President, our collective political will, backed by financial resources to ensure
a people-centred economic and social development, and sharpened by our resolve
to make this millennium a peaceful one, must be mobilized to cope with the challenges
It is only then that our goal of social development will be achieved. Proactive
energetic multi-lateralism coupled with our common desire to globalize, we hope,
will one day enable the African lion to sit with the Asian tiger at the table
with the eagles, the rising sun, and others as equals desirous of making our
world a better place to live in.