25 November 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Though many specific commitments had not yet been agreed for the draft outcome document of this weekend’s Conference on Financing for Development in Doha, Qatar, there was consensus on many issues at the ambassadorial level, the President of the General Assembly told correspondents at Headquarters today.

“Great advances –- perhaps more than what some might have expected, including myself -– have been achieved,” Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann said in a press conference that took place just before his expected departure to the Follow-up Conference to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, taking place from 29 November to 2 December.

He said that he saw the Conference as part of a “quantum move forward” in the world financial environment, possibly leading to a world summit on economic issues in June.  With the confluence of crises bursting forth simultaneously, he maintained, “things cannot go on as before.”

Mr. d’Escoto was joined at today’s press conference by the co-facilitators of the outcome document:  Maged A. Abdelaziz, Permanent Representative of Egypt, and Johan Løvald, Special Envoy for Financing for Development in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Mr. Løvald added that the timing of the Conference could not have been more difficult, given the current crises, but the stakeholders also realized that Doha was an opportunity to address fundamental issues.

Mr. Abdelaziz reminded correspondents that the mandate of the Conference was to assess the progress made since the 2002 Monterrey Conference on better directing trade and financing to relieve poverty in developing countries, based on a review process begun in April.  It would not resolve issues concerning the international trade regime discussed under the Doha Round of negotiations or climate change, dealt with under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  On the other hand, all such issues would be involved, as they related to development financing.

In the context of the Conference itself, he said the issues on which developed and developing countries remained far apart included linkages between financing and good governance, the amount of policy space that should be allowed for individual Governments and international tax policy.  Mr. Løvald added that one of the most important specific issues was how to help ensure an enabling atmosphere to produce jobs in developing countries as a result of foreign direct investment.

Asked about the anticipated absence in Doha of the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr. Abdelaziz said that it was basic to the Monterrey Consensus to get all stakeholders together.  Though both institutions had been participating at all stages of the review process, their heads should come to the Conference itself.  Their absence reinforced the impression that they only cared about the wishes of the developed countries.

Mr. d’Escoto said he was not surprised at their non-attendance.  “The IMF and the World Bank are controlled by a member of the United Nations that is anti-United Nations,” he said, adding:  “But things can change.”

On tax policy, Mr. Løvald said that the issue was of great importance to many General Assembly members.  Tax evasion and illicit capital flows included enormous sums of money that could be used for development.  There were differences over how to deal with the problem; some members advocated the creation of new mechanisms, whereas others wanted to adjust existing ones.  There was activity in various forums on the topic, but Doha would refocus attention on it.

Asked if it was anticipated that commitments made in Monterrey would be reneged on because of the current financial crises, Mr. Løvald said that, in negotiations so far, “nobody was running away from existing commitments.”  He hoped that the Conference could help point the way to innovative financing methods, in addition to the existing ones.

Mr. d’Escoto, on the other hand, maintained that the inability to keep commitments was part of what he called the “insane selfishness” of modern times.  It was part of enlightened self-interest for developed nations to deal with the time bomb of massive poverty.  He hoped that the Doha Conference would help reawaken some of the moral values that underlay all world cultures and do something about that problem, and others, before it was too late.

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For information media • not an official record