Statement to the Second Committee of the General Assembly

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate you, Chairperson and members of the Bureau, on your election.

Your work this session is framed by the multiple crises that threaten development, with implications as well for peace and security and for human rights. The global financial and economic crisis, the worst in 70 years, has come on top of crises in energy, food security and climate change.

The implications have been clearly articulated by the United Nations system – and they are alarming. Evidence indicates that, in 2009, global trade will fall for the first time in 27 years. Unemployment will increase worldwide, while global GDP will decline. Up to 100 million more people will be trapped in poverty than expected before the crisis. More pressure will be placed on natural resources, already strained. And progress toward the Millennium Development Goals will be set back, with the most severe impact on the poor and most vulnerable.

Despite unprecedented international cooperation to address the crisis, and tentative signs of recovery, there is no room for complacency or a rolling back of concerted actions. It is not just about the fiscal and monetary stimulus. Let me highlight six related fronts.

First, we need to ensure the recovery will be sustainable and green – and will advance an integrated approach to the multiple crises. In the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, we have supported the call for a global green new deal for sustainable development. Such a deal would enable large-scale transformational investments in energy production and use, provide skills training and transfer, and create millions of green jobs in developed and developing countries.

More broadly, the crisis response must be aligned with long-term investments in clean energy, food security and poverty reduction in developing countries. This would help generate concrete progress toward both development and climate goals, which must go hand in hand. The G20 agreement in Pittsburgh to establish a framework for “strong, sustainable and balanced growth” is thus welcome, if this means pursuing a global growth path that is low on emissions and high on growth for developing countries.

This growth path is the focus of DESA’s 2009 World Economic and Social Survey, Promoting Development, Saving the Planet, and our related policy briefs, meant to assist Member States in reaching agreement in the climate negotiations at Copenhagen in December. The Committee also has before it the report of the Secretary-General on addressing the security risks related to climate change, which shows sustainable development to be the most effective of the “threat minimizers”, especially important for strengthening adaptive capacity in the most vulnerable countries.

Second, we need to address the systemic roots of the crisis and redouble efforts to reform the international financial architecture. Strengthening institutional frameworks to address the potential impact of volatile capital flows and unfettered markets more adequately and effectively is an urgent task. Again, the G20 have promised important steps, but these need to take hold in national legislation. Moreover, it will be difficult to achieve a balanced global economy without also reconsidering the global reserve system in the longer term.

Third, moving toward a multilateral framework to ensure balanced and sustainable growth – an approach long advocated by DESA – will require accelerated progress in reforming global economic governance. Developing countries must have more commensurate voice and participation in the multilateral financial institutions, to ensure their legitimacy and effectiveness. And the serious lack of coherence between the international trading system and the international monetary and financial system must be addressed.

Fourth, giving in to the temptation of protectionism will only impede global recovery, as trade is important for both developed and developing countries. For the latter, trade remains a critical source of finance. All parties need to be serious about concluding the Doha Round in 2010, with a development perspective. Hurdles to climate change-related technology transfer posed by intellectual property rights must also be overcome.

Fifth, we need to ensure that the poorest countries not only benefit from global recovery, but also contribute to it, by providing them with adequate development finance. I urge donor countries and international organizations to step up debt relief, keep up ODA and ensure that resource flows are timely, stable and effective. In this time of crisis and global challenges, it is also important to expand efforts in innovative sources of financing, given the potential for large-scale funding.

Finally, there is an urgent need to focus on employment and social protection, as an essential means not only to contain the negative impacts of the crisis, but also to reduce poverty. Indeed, creating employment and decent work for all – a theme of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty – is essential to achieving the MDGs. So is protecting and expanding the gains made in advancing gender equality and empowering women, who play a critical role in development. The ongoing response to the financial crisis must include gender-sensitive investments in both physical and social infrastructure, as well as employment, and should take into account both paid and unpaid work.


The United Nations system has taken steps to work together on these multiple challenges through nine new joint initiatives, which serve as a strategic framework for the UN system’s response to the global financial and economic crisis.

The United Nations is already stepping up to the challenge of deeper reform of the global economic and financial system. The Doha Declaration on Financing for Development, as well as the Outcome of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, underscored the importance of inclusive global governance. I trust this Committee will help build on this momentum. The urgency of implementing these outcomes cannot be over emphasized.


This Committee will also have the opportunity to carry forward the work of the General Assembly in promoting greater system-wide coherence within the United Nations. We in DESA will work with other organizations of the UN system to develop further proposals for improving the governance of operational activities, as requested by the Assembly. Increasing national ownership and maximizing the impact of the system’s operational activities is more urgent than ever, with the economic crisis fuelling new needs in developing countries and eroding the financial base of the UN.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This organization must stay fully engaged nationally, regionally and internationally, if we are to stem the reversal of our developmental gains and seize the opportunity to build a more balanced, stable, prosperous and sustainable future for the world. In doing so, we have to ensure the coordinated combined effort of all stakeholders – developing and developed countries, civil society, private sector and international organizations. I promise you my team and I will do our best in facilitating the important work of this Committee. We stand ready to serve you.

Thank you.

File date: 
Monday, October 5, 2009
Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Second Committee of the General Assembly

New York, 5 October 2009