Financial crisis


The world economy is mired in the most severe financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression, which continues to threaten the ability of many countries to confront issues such as poverty, hunger and disease. As the crisis deepened, the impact on developing countries became rapidly worse, particularly in terms of rising unemployment and a widening external financing gap. A sharp decline in international trade flows, a collapse in commodity prices, a drop in international tourism and a moderation in remittances have contributed to a significant deterioration in the current account balances of many developing countries.


DESA plays a major convening role in supporting intergovernmental dialogue and co-ordinating courses of action that address the crisis. The Department serves as the Secretariat of the United Nations Conferences on Financing for Development and many of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council.

DESA supported the United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development which took place 24-30 June 2009 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Conference saw Member States gather and identify emergency and long-term responses to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially on vulnerable populations.

In addition, the various Commissions supported by DESA including the Commission for Social Development, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Statistical Commission have discussed and examined the multifaceted and complex nature of the crisis.


The Department also serves as a think tank within the United Nations in the area of economic and social affairs through its analysis, research and publications. Key economic policies are spelled-out in the flagship publication “World Economic Situation and Prospects” (WESP).

DESA focuses in particular on countries with vulnerable economies, including Africa and Small Island Developing States, and continues to conduct analytical studies on the crisis to support intergovernmental consultations. The Department’s research also addresses women’s control over economic resources and access to financial aid.

Generating high quality estimates of economic performance have become an essential output of DESA throughout the crisis. Additional indicators have been developed to assess the performance of economies and financial markets during this time.

Capacity development

DESA’s capacity development interventions during the crisis have included the provision of supplementary macroeconomic advisory capacity (SMAC) to the Financial Crisis Working Group, as well as direct advice to developed countries. The Department has also assisted countries to understand and deal with the social and sustainable development dimensions of the crisis and helped countries enhance their statistical data gathering in general, and on the financial and social aspects of the crisis in particular. DESA draws on its extensive network of partners to provide capacity development services.

The Department has also focused on the impact of external shocks on poverty and social vulnerability and assisted countries in macroeconomic policy analysis, in particular for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The availability of MDG indicators and data has provided instruments for monitoring these trends for timely intervention and action.

Furthermore, DESA supports the 2010 Population Census that will be conducted in most countries of the world, as its outcome will provide information on how migration, housing and employment were affected by the crisis.