29 October 2003


Press Release

Fifty-eighth General Assembly


Ministerial Round Table 1



Some 18 months after the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey Mexico, representatives of regional groups, United Nations Member States, intergovernmental agencies and grass roots organizations gathered at a round table discussion on the regional dimensions of implementing the Conference’s outcome, the “Monterrey Consensus”.

Opening the discussion, Co-Chair Blas F. Ople, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said that hopes raised at Monterrey were far from being realized.  He cited the sobering statistics from the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) latest Human Development Report, which noted declining official development assistance (ODA) and other resources flows, as well as more general obstacles to long-term social and economic success, particularly in the developing world.

Regional organizations were playing a part in addressing that situation, he said, highlighting the work underway within the core United Nations economic and social commissions.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and a host of economic development initiatives led by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) were some examples of innovative approaches to development financing efforts.

Still, more innovation was needed, and in that regard it would be particularly important to devise modalities for “debt swap,” strategies not only for those countries identified under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPIC), but the broader spectrum of developing countries.  Microfinancing programmes were also a way to enfranchise the poor as true participants in globalization. 

During the discussion, many stressed that it was critical to mobilize the necessary resources to ensure economic stability and long-term development throughout the poverty-stricken and conflict-plagued African continent.  Others highlighted the considerable steps that had been taken by developing countries and transition economies to strengthen governance and enhance democratic and participatory decision-making.  Innovative macro- and microeconomic programmes were also highlighted.

At the same time, there was the feeling that for developing countries, the light at the end of the tunnel provided by the Monterrey Consensus was indeed dimming. 

Indeed, with ODA in decline and no real movement on the issue of debt relief, what had really been achieved in the 12 months since Monterrey?  The developing world still saw its natural resources depleted, its technical capacities diminished or ignored, its markets deemed invisible and, for the poorest of the poor, deepening poverty and marginalization wrought by conflict, unchecked globalization and the spread of epidemics.

Congo’s Minister of Planning, Pierre Moussa, said that the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States had achieved some progress.  It had established a monitoring body, which worked to ensure convergence of macro-economic policies of the Great Lakes countries.  Much attention had also been paid to harmonization of business law and other legislation.  Also, infrastructure enhancement initiatives had been identified and several had been presented to international donors.  Still, all African nations, in every region, were struggling to sustain their growth under a heavy debt burden.

That sentiment was echoed by other speakers including Ecuador’s representative, who suggested that swapping debt for social development resources would help build the capacities of countries in his region and throughout the world to reduce poverty.  Such debt swapping might also help governments find solutions to other problems such as job creation.  Latin America was facing a crisis in the wake of nearly a decade of rampant globalization, which had sparked more problems that it had solved.

And while regional cooperation was the key to sustainable development, Alicia Barcena, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), stressed that some guarantees needed to be put in place, so that follow through on development plans did not hinge on changes of government.

At the same time, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda said it was important for the international community to move away from what he called the “free trade fallacy,” in which dominant countries exempted themselves from so-called free trade regulations, but developing countries were forced to conform to unfair and inequitable market practices.  Current market realities were driving poor counties further toward marginalization, destitution and dehumanization.

The Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Hak-Su Kim, said that the region’s banking sector had been rocked by a series of crises during the 1990’s, but had since recovered somewhat and was gearing up to drive microeconomic investment and development schemes, and tap domestic savings to develop bond markets in Asia.  Still, the Asia-Pacific region was home to a staggering 800,000 million of the world’s poorest people.  The ESCAP was working to ensure sustainable development for those people and the wider region.

Koos Richelle, Director General for development of the European Commission, said the Commission had been supporting regional organizations throughout the world with a focus on Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific.  It promoted ownership of the initiatives with the regions.  While the programmes focused on specific themes, issues such as trade, infrastructure and the protection of national resources had emerged as areas of particular concern.  Economic partnerships had been created in the area of trade to promote more substantive cooperation within and among the regions, as well as with the wider international community.

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For information media. Not an official record.