30 June 2005


Press Release

Economic and Social Council

2005 Substantive Session

11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)



Discussion Focuses on Rural Poverty,

Need for Agricultural Development, Attention to Education

As the Economic and Social Council today began its examination of efforts to achieve internationally agreed development goals, it was generally agreed that progress up to date had been insufficient, that major disparities remained between developed and developing countries, and that peace without development was unsustainable.

The Council’s 2005 session is focused on the Millennium Development Goals, a set of internationally agreed targets set by world leaders five years ago, and seeks to provide concrete recommendations on how to achieve them.  The Goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by 2015. 

In a keynote address this afternoon, Haitian Interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue said that if it was true that there could be no development without security, then it was equally true that security without development was wishful thinking.  Poverty posed a permanent threat to peace and security.  In that connection, he put forward a number of recommendations, including continuing to seek new sources of finance to achieve development goals, a final solution to debt, and an open and equitable international trade system.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen, in this morning’s keynote address, noted that a lot of progress had been made in attaining the goals and objectives that had been jointly agreed at United Nations conferences and summits.  However, there was still much work to be done concerning many issues that were important to development.  Demographic threats, infectious diseases and epidemics called for a much more decisive approach.  In that regard, she stressed that women’s rights, prevention of violence against women, and promoting gender equality were of vital importance in promoting human rights and development.  “Poverty so often wears the face of a woman.”  If the status of women was not improved, progress could not be made in eradicating poverty.

As delegations took the floor, Jamaica’s Minister of State, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, regretted that implementation had been slow and uneven across and within regions, resulting in increased disparities and an ever-widening gap between developing and developed countries, especially in Africa.  The main challenge facing the international community had not been a lack of strategies, but rather the means and will for implementation.

Saying the assessment of the situation today was a mixed one, France’s Minister for Cooperation, Development and Francophonie noted that, while results were positive in certain regions where growth and development had helped to truly alleviate poverty, they remained too modest in many others where the very survival of part of humanity was not assured.  The central issue today was that of responsibility and resources.  In that regard, responsibility lay first with the countries of the South.  The corollary of such responsibility was the imperative of solidarity.  The developed countries must engage fully in the international partnership for development.

Continuing, she expressed agreement with the Secretary-General’s view that there was a lack of coherence with regard to the global environment and development, and was convinced that a more integrated structure in the field of environment, resting on existing institutions, was necessary.  In that connection, she mentioned the establishment of a United Nations Organization for Environment, which should be created by transforming the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an idea that was supported by a growing number of Member States.  The September summit, she noted, was a crucial opportunity to consider that idea.

The Council also held a morning panel discussion on employment for growth, as the issue of employment was a key issue for all countries regardless of their state of economic development.  The pivotal role of employment in economic and social development, particularly poverty eradication, had been acknowledged and recognized by the international community.  Among the issues addressed were how to ensure pro-poor employment growth in developing countries; and how to maximize the growth and employment-creating effect of globalization, while minimizing its negative impacts on the same.

The panel was chaired by Rafael Correa, Minister for Economy and Finance of Ecuador, and moderated by Ezra Suruma, Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda.  The panellists were Odile Quintin, Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, European Commission; José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; and Jane Stewart, Deputy Executive Director, Employment Sector, International Labour Organization (ILO).

In addition, the Council held a ministerial review of the progress of implementation of its 2003 Ministerial Declaration, which was based on the recognition that the majority of the world’s poor people lived and worked in rural areas.  During the discussion, there was a clear emphasis on agriculture and rural development for growth, poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Goals.  Among other things, the importance of political will to tackle the problem of rural poverty was stressed, as was the need for countries to take ownership of the development process and for donors to respect country ownership.

The participants were Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Lennart Båge, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme; as well as the representatives of Madagascar, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the European Commission, Senegal, Dominican Republic, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Land Coalition.

Statements in the general debate were also made today by ministers and representatives of Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Indonesia, Ecuador, Mauritania, Belgium, Australia, Benin, Kenya, Malaysia, United Republic of Tanzania, Guinea, Uganda, Namibia, Poland, Thailand, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Switzerland, South Africa, Nicaragua and Tonga.

A representative of the Conference on Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO), Droit a l’energie, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the Istanbul International Brotherhood and Solidarity Association also delivered statements.

The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 1 July, to continue its high-level segment.


The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to continue its high-level segment with keynote addresses by the President of Finland and the Prime Minister of Haiti, and to begin discussion of the progress made, challenges and opportunities in achieving the internationally agreed development goals.

Before the Council is the report of the Secretary-General entitled, “Towards achieving internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration” (document E/2005/56), which identifies the core issues that hold the key to the achievement of the development goals and uses them as a tool to review progress in implementation.  It concludes that there is an implementation gap, which needs to be addressed.  To that end, the report makes a number of recommendations for action by Governments, the United Nations system, and the international community.

The report states that progress in the implementation of the development agenda has been made in several areas, but is slow and uneven.  Given the current pace, neither the Millennium Goals nor the broader United Nations development agenda, of which they are a part, will be achieved.  That lag between implementation and commitments must be bridged.  First and foremost, the United Nations development agenda and its components, particularly the Millennium Goals, must be truly embraced at the national and international levels.  Its goals and objectives should be acted on as achievable targets and not approached merely as aspirations or mechanical indicators.  They should be backed by practical strategies and long-term commitments.

Secondly, the report continues, existing sectoral approaches to development must be replaced by a more integrated, synergistic and holistic framework, which the United Nations development agenda provides.  Thirdly, the necessary resources must be invested in the pursuit of that agenda.  The realization of those goals must be considered a priority by all.  Fourthly, the institutional impediments at the national and international levels that have contributed to the slow pace of progress must be urgently addressed.  Finally, constant monitoring and evaluation are essential to ensure that the process of implementation remains on track.  And that must be a truly integrated process to ensure that the pace of progress is even and that one goal is not being pursued at the expense of others or by ignoring other equally important sectors.

Among the report’s recommendations is for ECOSOC to establish arrangements that would enable it to keep under constant review progress in implementing the United Nations development agenda, particularly the Millennium Goals.  The Council should organize peer reviews of progress, drawing on its functional and other commissions, particularly the regional commissions, and other international institutions.

The Council, the report adds, provides an appropriate platform for serving as a development cooperation forum, where global, regional and national strategies and policies for development cooperation can be reviewed, and policy guidance provided geared to maximizing its contribution to the pursuit of the United Nations development agenda, including the Millennium Goals.  An existing meeting or segment of the Council can be transformed once every two years into such a forum.

Also, the Council should convene timely meetings to mount coordinated responses to natural disaster and other actual or imminent threats to development, and to provide timely inputs or address developments in other forums that have major implications for achieving the development goals.

The challenge for the high-level segment, states the report, is to contribute to an ambitious outcome of the Summit, building on the outcomes of the 10-year reviews of the Beijing, Cairo and Copenhagen conferences, held earlier this year.  To that end, the Council needs to endorse the core elements of the development agenda which have emanated from the conferences and summits.  Also, it needs to identify the specific actions required by Governments, United Nations organizations, multilateral financial institutions, private sector and civil society to implement the agenda.

(For further background on the session, see Press Release ECOSOC/6154 issued on 23 June.)

Keynote Address

TARJA HALONEN, President of Finland, said she was pleased to note that a lot of progress had been made in attaining the goals and objectives that had been jointly agreed at United Nations conferences and summits.  However, there was still much work to be done concerning many issues that were important to development.  Demographic threats, infectious diseases and epidemics called for a much more decisive approach.

Women were the majority in the world, not the minority, she said, adding “we cannot afford to ignore this resource”.  Women’s rights, prevention of violence against women and promoting gender equality were of vital importance in promoting human rights and development.  “Poverty so often wears the face of a woman”, she stated.  If the status of women was not improved, progress could not be made in eradicating poverty.  Mainstreaming equality issues in all action, including in the work of the United Nations, remained a timely and urgent goal.

The promotion of development, security and human rights strengthened the potential for more equitable and more sustainable globalization, she said.  Likewise, with more efficient management of globalization and with more just rules, globalization could be used to achieve the Millennium Goals.  “We can and must reform globalization.”  That was the fundamental notion behind the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, which had been set up by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and which she co-chaired with President Benjamin Mkapa of the United Republic of Tanzania.  The Commission’s report was part of a process in which globalization would be made fair and would create opportunities for all.  She hoped the report would provide concrete content for the outcome of the September summit.

The efficient implementation of the Millennium Goals would help the developing countries to join the process of globalization, she said.  The nation-State still remained the most important actor in globalization.  Alongside national action and national responsibility, efficient multilateralism and jointly agreed rules were vital to efforts to minimize the disadvantages of globalization.  Corporate social responsibility in globalization should also be highlighted more clearly.

In order to be sustainable, the development of a nation must grow on its own merits, she noted.  “The nation must stand on its own feet.”  Strong democratic States that respected human rights, provided good governance and social justice, created the basis for economic enterprise.  Making employment a global objective alongside economic growth had still not been achieved.  It was necessary to examine the impact that globalization had on employment.

Only States and regions with sufficient economic capacity were able to develop well-functioning economic activity and economic exchange, she said.  Consequently, economic and trade-policy organizations had to come to terms with the developing countries, especially those that were least developed.  Agriculture and the textile sector had a key role in that regard. 

Sustainable development, including environmental issues, must be integrated even more closely into national and international development programmes.  It was important to remember that the major steps in eradicating poverty still concerned provision of clean water, sufficient nutrition, decent homes and decent work.  Climate change also had social consequences.  It was also necessary for the United Nations to have a strong role in the management of global environmental issues.  It was highly important that a decision be taken this fall to begin negotiations with a view to establishing a United Nations agency for the environment.

The reform of the Economic and Social Council, she stated, must now be undertaken as part of overall United Nations reform.  The ECOSOC must boldly address the problems of countries ravaged by crises and poverty, as well as take a serious look at its own house and be ready to reform.  That was essential for the Council to be able to regain the authority it should have, and to able to play its role in the implementation of broad security and of the development agenda.  The Council played an important part in the promotion of global dialogue and partnerships.  That required closer cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions and with the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as with civil society and the private sector.  The Council must also boost guidance of the work of the United Nations agencies to eliminate overlaps and to optimize the use of available, and often limited, resources.

When Finland took up the presidency of the European Union about a year from now, she said, the United Nations and the Millennium Goals would have high priority in its work.  One of the very first tasks would be to coordinate the cooperation between European Union member States in ECOSOC. 


JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, presenting the Secretary-General’s report to the high-level segment of ECOSOC, said major progress had been made towards the Millennium Goals in several areas, including poverty reduction in East and South Asia, advances in gender equality in developing country educational systems, and reduction in child mortality in northern Africa.  However, overall progress had been uneven, and absolute poverty had continued to grow in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as other regions.  A lack of adequate clean drinking water and sanitation had left many people vulnerable to disease, HIV/AIDS had continued to reverse strides made in development, and climate change had made the ecosystem increasingly vulnerable.

Efforts to achieve the Goals should be closely linked to implementing the comprehensive development agenda produced by United Nations global conferences since the 1990s, he said. That agenda addressed broad issues not fully covered by the Goals –- namely, fair and equitable globalization, growing inequalities, global economic governance, unemployment and human resource development, and technological advancement.  Stressing that internationally agreed development goals could not be achieved in isolation, he said a comprehensive and coherent approach was required, from the local to global level.

The primary responsibility for implementation lay with governments, he continued, but ECOSOC had an important role to play in coordination, consensus building, policy dialogue and review, and in coordinating the activities of specialized agencies and consulting with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  Yet, monitoring and evaluation of implementation of the development agenda still appeared rather fragmented, mainly due to the United Nations highly decentralized structure, which hindered strategic and operation coherence.

The ECOSOC could strengthen its development capacity by holding annual ministerial-level assessments of progress on development objectives, using peer reviews of progress reports prepared by Member States, with assistance from United Nations agencies.  It should also seek to serve as a high-level forum for development cooperation by reviewing trends in international development cooperation, promoting greater coherence among development activities of all actors, and strengthening links between the United Nations operational work and its normative and analytical work.  Finally, the Council should hold timely meetings to assess and promote coordinated action against threats to development.  Noting that a major threat to development was conflict, he said ECOSOC should monitor its economic and social dimensions.

DELANO FRANKLYN, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the outcome of United Nations conferences and summits had given a vision for cooperation and defined a comprehensive development agenda.  The plans and programmes elaborated all fit in a framework of complementary and interlocking strategies.  Developing countries had attached great importance to that overall approach.  Regrettably, implementation had been slow and uneven across and within regions, resulting in increased disparities and an ever widening gap between developing and developed countries, especially in Africa.  The main challenge facing the international community had not been a lack of strategies, but rather the means and will for implementation.

He said the issue of development should be made the major priority of the international community if the Millennium Development Goals were to be achieved by 2015.  Substantial resources for development cooperation must be mobilized, with implementation of the official development assistance (ODA) commitments as a priority.  There was also a need for coordinated efforts to eliminate systemic inequities, especially in the rules relating to trade, finance and technology.  The rules must be fair and equitable for access to markets, technology transfer and mobilization of investment flows.  Finally, developing countries should have the policy space to develop their own strategies tailored to their development needs within a framework providing for accountability, transparency and integrity.

Several events would provide opportunities for a renewed effort to advance the development agenda, he continued.  During the recent South Summit in Doha, Qatar, special emphasis had been placed on strengthening and increasing the level of South/South cooperation.  The July Group of Eight (G-8) Summit in Gleneagles would present a significant opportunity, as well.  The debt cancellation initiative of the Group should include:  complete cancellation of debts where not to do so would undermine a country’s ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; the immediate establishment of a fair and transparent procedure to address unsustainable debt burdens; and a commitment from each G-8 member that had not yet reached a schedule to present plans to the September Summit on how it would reach the United Nations target.

The high-level summit in September would offer world leaders the opportunity to decide on practical measures to address current development needs, he said.  In addition, the December meeting of trade ministers in Hong Kong, China, could contribute to fulfilling the development promise of the Doha Development Round.  There was a need for a trade system that was fair and just and allowed for special and differential treatment for developing countries; and effective international mechanisms to support the prices of commodities and to compensate developing countries for price fluctuation.

JEAN-LOUIS SCHILTZ, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that progress on the Millennium Goals had been slow and uneven, and that Africa was not on track to reach them by 2015. Substantive efforts were still needed to eradicate poverty, strengthen health and education systems and ensure gender equality worldwide.  Further, decent jobs were needed for young people, and action was needed on environmental sustainability, as well as climate change, which threatened long-term economic development.

In reversing that trend, ECOSOC should play a central role in following up and implementing major United Nations conferences and summit in the economic, social, environmental and related field and achieving the Goals, he said.  It should provide policy guidance to the United Nations on those issues and be an institutional framework for their integrated analysis and mainstreaming.  Its role in operational coordination and providing guidance for United Nations funds and programmes, and in promoting dialogue and partnership should be strengthened, and its agenda and work programme streamlined.

He said the Union had committed to a collective target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) for ODA by 2015, and had agreed to an intermediate target of 0.56 per cent by 2010.  The Union also supported innovative financing mechanisms, including the International Finance Facility, international solidarity levees that would be nationally applied and internationally coordinated, as well as voluntary sources.  In addition, the European Union remained committed to resolving unsustainable debt burdens, full implementation of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, and to a development-friendly, and sustainable outcome of the WTO Doha round of trade negotiations.

Considering African development a priority, he said the Union would increase its financial assistance for sub-Saharan Africa and provide collectively at least 50 per cent of the agreed increase of ODA to that continent. The HIV/AIDS epidemic had become a huge global crisis needing an exception solution, which focused on prevention, treatment, care, support and research, and paid particular attention to young people and women.  Necessary resources should be provided to fight the disease, particularly through full funding of the Global Fund.  Addressing health problems, in general, would require scaled up investments in health systems, trained and motivated health workers, basic drugs, strengthened infrastructure, and the ability to monitor and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.

SRI MULYANI INDRAWATE, Minister for National Development Policy of Indonesia, aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, said achievement of the Millennium Development Goals should not be seen as the ultimate end in development, but rather as a midway station to end absolute poverty.  Addressing her country’s progress on the Goals, she said Indonesia was still “on track”, despite the burden of past financial crises.  However, the country was vulnerable to natural disasters.  Unless capabilities were enhanced to implement a worldwide early warning system, disasters, which over the last decade had led to economic losses of $88 billion, would become a serious obstacle to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Regarding Millennium Goal 8 -- enactment of measures by global partners to ensure a greater chance for developing countries to meet the Millennium Goals -- she said greater predictability of ODA commitments through timetables was an encouraging step in the right direction.  The recent move by the G-8 to grant debt cancellation was commendable, but should not stop with heavily indebted poor countries only.  He welcomed efforts to resolve the debt problems of middle-income developing countries through debt restructuring.  In that regard, he supported the debt swap for sustainable development, which provided low- and middle-income countries with more incentives and resources to achieve the Goals, including through the “MDGs debt swaps”.

She said trade and investment should continue to be recognized as avenues for the attainment of the Millennium Goals as growth and employment were a necessary condition for eradicating poverty.  She emphasized in that regard the importance of cooperation between domestic efforts to mobilize more resources and to spend them wisely and effectively, and to have international support at the right time, with adequate resources and appropriate and smart modalities.  South/South cooperation had an important role to play in the overall context of multilateralism and must, therefore, have a prominent place in the outcome document of the high-level plenary meeting in September.  Regional initiatives such as the New Asian African Strategic Partnership served as an important building block in furthering South/South cooperation.

RAFAEL CORREA, Minister for Economy and Finance of Ecuador, said that the main problem today in achieving the Millennium Goals was external debt.  He had heard about attempts, on the part of some countries and sectors, to reduce the problem of debt to a purely technical problem, irrespective of the deprivations that might befall populations.  The concept of sustainability and debt had many dimensions.  He called for defining the concept of sustainability in political terms.  It was necessary to address how to service the debt so that indebted countries could achieve the Millennium Goals.  He suggested an international debt tribunal that could judge debtor countries and determine how much, and when and where, debts should be paid. 

Secondly, he highlighted the issue of financing, which was closely related to the problem of external debt.  Financing was a serious problem for middle-income countries, particularly in Latin America.  What was required was not charity, but an adequate restructuring of debt, so that a country could pay according to its capacity.  Ecuador had to face harsh negotiations with some international bodies to get funds to repay its loans to those same bodies.  Latin American countries had hundreds of billions invested in the First World, because they did not have adequate institutions to finance the needs of their countries.  Mechanisms were needed so countries did not receive charity, but could use their own resources for their benefit.

Thirdly, he noted that, although the Kyoto Protocol should be a step forward, it did impose serious distortions.  There was compensation for countries that had taken down their forests, but none for those that had maintained their environment.  There should be an international agency, financed by the consumer countries -- the developed countries, which would place a value on the environmental good produced by underdeveloped countries.

BRIGITTE GIRARDIN, Minister for Cooperation, Development and Francophonie of France, said the assessment of the situation today was a mixed one.  While results were positive in certain regions where growth and development had helped to truly alleviate poverty, they remained too modest in many others where the very survival of part of humanity was not assured.  The central issue today was that of responsibility and resources.  Responsibility lay first with the countries of the South.  The Monterrey Consensus clearly affirmed that the prime responsibility for development rested with the developing countries themselves.

The corollary of such responsibility, she continued, was the imperative of solidarity.  The developed countries could not turn a blind eye to the injustices of the South and must engage fully in the international partnership for development.  For their part, developed countries had engaged in that partnership.  Increased ODA and the decisions to be taken soon by the G-8 concerning debt cancellation were a sign of that.  But there was still a long way to go.  France intended to play an active role in that solidarity-based partnership to guarantee the integration of the poorest.  It had a time frame for reaching the ODA target of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2012.  Regarding innovative sources of financing for development, France intended to launch next September a pilot project of an airline ticket levy.

In the field of environment, she shared the Secretary-General’s view that, today, there was a lack of coherence with regard to the global environment and development.  She was convinced that a more integrated structure in the field of environment, resting on existing institutions, was necessary.  In that connection, she mentioned the establishment of a United Nations Organization for Environment, which should be created by transforming the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an idea that was supported by a growing number of Member States.  The September summit was a crucial opportunity to consider that idea. 

HAMADI OULD MEIMOU, Commissioner General of Human Rights, Fight against Poverty and Integration of Mauritania, aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, said his country had made the fight against poverty the priority of its public policies.  In 2000, it had established a guidance law to eradicate poverty, strengthen capacities and promote good governance.  Implementation of a strategy paper had led to improvement in most indicators.  Poverty had declined from 56.5 per cent in 1990 to 46.3 per cent in 2000; illiteracy was being eradicated; and policies for the advancement of women had attained a new momentum.  Mauritania had undertaken broad ownership of Millennium Goal programmes, involving all stakeholders in development.

He said several measures had been taken in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations agencies, which promoted ownership of the Millennium Goals by development partners.  A report on implementation of the Goals showed that of the 11 targets, six could be achieved by 2015, including targets on education, access to water, hunger reduction and elimination of the gender gap.  The other five targets, including health and environment, could be attained if the current trends were reversed.

Resources for the realization of the Millennium Goals were beyond the capacity of many States, he said.  Solutions were needed that were tailored to the individual least developed countries.  The Brussels Plan of Action should be implemented, and allocation of the necessary resources remained a priority.  The main barriers to poverty eradication were related to growth and limits to absorption capacities, as well as to other factors such as terrorism, which was a permanent threat to peace and hampered efforts to achieve the Goals.  Progress had been made in achieving the Millennium Goals, but there were several areas where action was needed, including strengthening dialogue between civil society and States and strengthening the institutional and technical capacities of civil society.

ARMAND DE DECKER, Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium, said development had become a vital, political necessity which had created a spirit of solidarity between the North and the South. His country supported an international order based on multilateralism, which guaranteed equal opportunity and human rights.  Many debates and international gatherings had focused on globalization, which had given rise to various economic and social challenges, but the question of global legitimacy was still open.

He stressed the importance of the United Nations becoming again a major arbiter of today’s issues, especially poverty reduction and development.  The Organization was in a prime position to take on that role, after its many conferences and summits that had addressed global issues.

Governments had agreed in the Millennium Declaration to strengthen ECOSOC, noting the United Nations’ weakened decision-making ability, which had undermined its efficiency.  Restoring that ability was vital if the international community was to tackle such challenges as economic inequalities, which were a major threat to global security, and achieve the Millennium Goals.  Among other things, the challenge of development meant ongoing monitoring of economic and social development at the international level.

In 2004, along with Germany, Belgium had proposed pragmatic reforms to the Council to make it an effective multilateral instrument.  Problems connected with global development were complex, requiring rapid and effective action. The Council should have a small committee, which focused on specific situations and countries.  He added that peace, economics and development were interlinked, and that ECOSOC should coordinate more regularly with the Security Council, as well as strengthen links with the Bretton Woods institutions.

BRUCE BILLSON, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, said that progress towards the Millennium Goals depended on continued improvements in governance and stability, investments in people, and commitment to private sector growth.  Further global trade liberalization and openness to trade and investment –- by both developed and developing countries -– was key to sustained global and national growth and development.  The international community must strongly support a successful conclusion to the WTO Doha round of trade negotiations and aim to conclude them not later than 2006.

Turning to HIV/AIDS, he said the pandemic was a global crisis with immediate and devastating effects.  Noting that almost a quarter of the people living with the disease –- some 8.2 million -– lived in the Asia-Pacific region, he added that new infections in Asia totalled 1.1 million in 2004.  If the region was unsuccessful in turning the disease around by 2010, it was predicted that some 40 per cent of all new global infections would be in the Asia-Pacific region, which could easily become the new epicentre of the epidemic.

Sadly, the virus still engendered fear and suspicion in communities, and the depth of its stigma had remained.  Noting that the epidemic had spread at an alarming rate among women and girls in his region, he said that prevailing gender norms increased the likelihood that women and girls would be ostracized and rejected by their families, once they became infected.  Australia was working with partner countries in the region on programmes to promote women’s and girls’ access to education, prevention and treatment services and to redress violence against women.  Adding that political leadershiop was needed to tackle HIV/AIDS effectively, he called on States to combat the disease with resources and action.

Regarding fragile economies, he said they faced enormous challenges in reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development, and demanded the world’s immediate attention.  While there had been significant progress in parts of his region, it was still home to two thirds or 700 million of the world’s poor.  Australia was working with partners in the region to address development challenges, and to ensure it received the international attention it deserved.  Asia and the Pacific was home to 40 per cent of the total number of people who lived in least developed countries, but those countries received only 20 per cent of ODA to least developed countries.

Panel on Employment for Growth

Moderator EZRA SURUMA, Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda, said the issue of employment was a key issue for all countries regardless of their state of economic development.  He recalled that employment was a central pillar of the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration.  At the World Summit for Social Development, it was recognized that “productive work and employment are central elements of development, as well as decisive elements of human identity”.  The pivotal role of employment in economic and social development, particularly poverty eradication, had been acknowledged and recognized by the international community.

Yet, today, most countries in the world still faced the serious challenge of providing productive work and employment to their citizens, especially the poor and marginalized, he said.  The vision of the Copenhagen Declaration, that policy makers would place employment at the centre of economic and social development, had not been realized.  Moreover, in the face of accelerating globalization and the serious and far-reaching economic and social impacts that could have on the security and livelihoods of people, especially in developing countries, it was becoming even more important to redouble efforts to ensure productive work and employment for everyone.

He added that the draft outcome document for the 2005 World Summit underscored the important goal of productive employment and decent work as a central objective of macroeconomic policies and poverty-eradication strategies.  That was a step in the right direction.

ODILE QUINTIN, Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, European Commission, said that the fight against poverty lay crucially on the creation of more jobs, and decent jobs.  The world was witnessing the emergence of a more global consensus on the challenges and solutions in that regard.  Europe was seeing the effects of three major changes -- globalization of trade, demographic ageing, and technological change.  There was a good deal of consensus across Europe on the social model needed to respond to that situation.

It was necessary, she noted, to be aware of the opportunities presented by globalization, as well as the challenges it posed to the underprivileged.  Steps must be taken to alleviate its adverse impact.  There should also be a balanced approach to achieve sustainable growth and to develop social cohesion.  In addition, government must be reinforced at all levels.  She highlighted the need to continue to work towards a more global consensus on employment creation, and to better integrate employment in the Millennium Goals.

Mr. OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, had put the question of employment firmly on the United Nations Development Agenda.  Employment was both an end and a basic instrument of development policy and served as a basic source of self-realization and of a sense of dignity.  Sadly, the years since 1995 had revealed a lack of momentum at the political level to propel countries towards achieving the vision of Copenhagen.  The expectation that policy makers would be guided by a vision of employment’s contribution to economic and social development had not been met, and a narrower role for employment had gained wider acceptance.

He said today, the employment challenge was even greater than in the past decade.  There was now widespread unemployment, underemployment and a burgeoning pool of working poor.  In 2004, some 185 million people were unemployed around the world, nearly 50 million more than a decade earlier.  Nearly half of the world’s workers and their families lived on less than $2 a day.  Many of them had no other recourse but to work in the informal economy.  To tackle the employment challenge, countries must truly make employment a central objective, not only of social policies, but also of macroeconomic policies.

The centrality of employment to economic and social development had not  been fully articulated in the Millennium Declaration, he said.  However, the Declaration did alert Member States to the issue of youth unemployment and to the challenge of developing and implementing strategies for creating decent and productive work for young people everywhere.  The Secretary-General’s High-level Panel had aptly summarized the underlying strategy for employment promotion in four principles:  employability; equal opportunities; entrepreneurship; and employment creation.

Employment generation should become a major concern of macroeconomic authorities, including independent central banks, he continued.  Labour market policies should address the economic and social impacts of structural and frictional unemployment, which was caused by a variety of domestic and international factors, including globalization.  At the same time, there was a critical need to ensure sufficient investment in education and training.  The design of appropriate macroeconomic policy frameworks for employment creation should be a priority for most countries.

He said macroeconomic policies to promote growth and employment functioned most effectively within a supportive institutional environment.  Therefore, the policies needed to be supported by appropriate institutional policies, such as labour market regulations and policies.  Also, as globalization intensified, a country’s macroeconomic policies became increasingly sensitive to international conditions and influences.  That required coordinated and coherent macroeconomic policies at the regional and international levels, in order to compensate for the shrinking policy space available to developing countries in their pursuit of development objectives.

In conclusion, he said that, although he had underscored the macroeconomic imperatives to generate and sustain economic growth, promote structural changes, increase labour demand and shift labour to higher productivity sectors, there was also a need to address the questions of employability, discrimination and entrepreneurship.  Impediments such as lack of education, training, social exclusion and lack of access to finance must be removed.  Those impediments still hampered the ability of millions of able men and women to participate actively and productively in the marketplace.

JANE STEWART, Deputy Executive Director, Employment Sector, International Labour Organization (ILO), said growth alone was not enough for either job creation or poverty reduction.  How was it that global unemployment had grown at a time when economies were going through a period of great liberalization?  Why had employment intensity of growth -– the ability of the formal economy to absorb new workers into productive jobs -- been declining almost everywhere in the world over the past 10 years?  The bulk of workers had been absorbed into the informal economy without rights and protection, making them underemployed, rather than overemployed.

Questioning what the international community could do to improve global employment, she said it must improve policy coherence across the economic system, including the introduction of less contradictory trade policies.  There was also a need to give macroeconomic policies more policy space.  Moving in that direction, development bank lending was heading towards supporting budgets in fiscally strapped countries.  Other initiatives were also on the table, including commitments to increase and improve the quality and predictability of ODA, and reforms to the global reserve system.

It was also necessary to make employment growth pro-poor, she said.  Noting that many of the world’s poor lived in rural areas, she said the largest per cent reduction in poverty occurred when both productivity and employment in agriculture increased.  For many of the poorest countries, employment meant looking to the fields and forests and fisheries.

In the discussion that followed, a delegate wondered how the situation of recent years of economic growth coupled with a reduction of employment could be explained.  He felt that it was no accident, but the result policies that targeted employment reduction.  In that regard, the nature of education systems might have to change in order to adapt to the current situation.

Another delegate felt the only way to resolve problems of poverty was to plan for socialism.  The capitalistic model did not allow for solving problems, such as those faced by many developing countries, including hers.  Among the policies her Government had adopted was cooperation, whereby employers were also owners, which sought to incorporate the poor into the labour market.  She encouraged ECOSOC to consider new alternatives for the development of countries like hers.

The challenges faced by countries with predominantly young populations were highlighted by one speaker, who warned that many young people might turn to criminal activities for income if adequate employment was not available.  Another wondered what could be done to incorporate persons with disabilities into the labour market, so they could play a productive role in achieving sustainable development.

In response, Ms. STEWART of the ILO noted that many who were thought of as being challenged were actually more able-bodied than first thought.  The ILO worked at the policy level to help governments engage disabled citizens into the mainstream, to understand their capacities and to create accommodations that would allow for participation.  It had found that the challenges were not as great as first believed.  There was no question that it made sense to consider the needs of disabled persons from the start, rather than to try to look for solutions after the fact.  The ILO had strategies that it could offer to countries and employers on how to engage disabled citizens.

Referring to the coupling of economic growth and the increase in unemployment, Ms. QUINTIN of the European Commission said it was clear that with economic growth, some sectors had experienced reduced employment.  It was important to develop policies that could provide for adaptation and to support workers to be adaptable.  That was where better targeted education and skills came in.  It was also important to have better interaction between the education system, the training system and the employment sector, as well as education systems that better prepared people for entrepreneurship.

On that same issue, Mr. OCAMPO agreed that if productivity had been increasing, then growth should be higher.  The problem was associated with macroeconomic policies, which had forgotten that one of its essential objectives was job creation.  A more adaptable labour market was needed in today’s economy.  The issue, particularly in developing countries, was quality employment, and at the end of the day, it was growth that generated quality employment.

Keynote Address

At the outset of today’s afternoon meeting, GÉRARD LATORTUE, Interim Prime Minister of Haiti, said the fight against poverty and hunger deserved mobilization on a global scale.  Haiti had, with the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), set up an exceptional programme for the achievement of the Millennium Goals by, among other things, going to all areas of the country and bringing the “evangelism of development”.  It must be recognized that five years after the Millennium Summit, the progress made regarding the targets was insufficient on a global scale.  Though future prospects were encouraging, there were still major disparities between developed and developing countries.

Among the areas in which there was encouraging results in his country was gender equality, he noted.  More than 52 per cent of his population were women.  Also, progress had been made in his region in fighting HIV/AIDS.  In the context of strengthening global partnerships, he said that, since his Government was established last March, it had established with the international community a relationship of cooperation based on the sectoral priorities set by the Government.  To facilitate coordination between donors, a special coordination structure had been established.

As the representative of one of the poorest countries on the planet, he felt it was vital for him to make some practical recommendations.  If it was true that there could be no development without security, then it was equally true that security without development was wishful thinking.  Poverty posed a permanent threat to peace and security.  He would like to see ECOSOC assume, within the United Nations system, an equal importance to the Security Council.  Without development, peace would only be temporary.

The first recommendation, he said, was for ECOSOC to establish an international economic system that was more equitable, and which would give priority to the creation of productive employment.  The second was to contribute to the setting up of basic infrastructures for development.  The third was to promote technical standards and establish professional schools to create skilled technicians.  The fourth was to promote the creation of small- and medium-size industrial businesses.  The fifth was to mobilize the donors to finance the priority programmes drawn up by the countries themselves.  The sixth was to coordinate international financing to avoid overlap, duplication and waste.  That was an important role that could be played by ECOSOC.  The task of coordination should be the primary mandate of a renewed and strengthened ECOSOC.

The seventh recommendation, he continued, was to continue to seek new sources of finance to achieve development goals.  The eighth was to promote a multilateral trade system that was open and non-discriminatory.  The ninth was to seek a final solution to the problem of the debt of developing countries, particularly the least developed countries and the small island developing States.  The small island developing States seemed to be left out of international cooperation.  The last recommendation was to recognize the integral character of any real development policy.  It was important to seek sustainability in development projects.  It was necessary, under the auspices of ECOSOC, to question the mandates of the various United Nations agencies, in order to reduce or eliminate useless competition between them in the allocation of development projects.

He also expressed his concern, and that of many other developing countries, regarding the continued marginalization of the least developed countries in the world economy and the continued deterioration of their economic and social situations, in spite of all the commitments undertaken in Monterrey and Brussels.  He was also concerned about the vulnerability of small island developing States and called on the international community to favour the implementation of follow-up to the Mauritius meeting.

2003 Ministerial Declaration of Council

In an introductory statement, the President of the Council, MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), said that in 2003, ministers had debated the topic of an integrated approach to rural development and adopted a far-reaching and visionary declaration based on the recognition that the majority of the world’s poor people lived and worked in rural areas.  Ministers had agreed on the importance of rural development for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, and had reached consensus on a broad set of measures for reaching rural development objectives.  Today, the Council would take stock of progress made in the implementation of the Ministerial Declaration. 

PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Council’s review of the Ministerial Declaration should focus on assessing progress in relation to basic policies and the Declaration’s central message:  the need to bring rural development back to the centre of attention.  That raised the question what response that message had so far generated in policy development.  The emphasis on the need for rural development raised questions of collaboration.  There was now close and active cooperation between the Secretariat, United Nations agencies and international financial institutions.

Another question was what other values the Declaration had introduced, he said.  Had other parts of the system been engaged and how had the Declaration affected policies?  How could new initiatives be related to the Declaration?  One initiative was the United Nations Public/Private Alliance for Rural Development, which served, among other things, as a catalyst for establishing partnerships.  Today’s session was evidence of the Council’s continued focus on monitoring implementation.  The session could yield valuable insights into the way the Council could monitor implementation in the future.

LENNART BÅGE, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that, globally, extreme poverty continued to be overwhelmingly rural.  Of the world’s 1.1 billion people living on less than one dollar a day, 74 per cent lived in rural areas.  Of the 815 million people suffering from chronic hunger, 80 per cent lived in rural areas.  In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture contributed 30 per cent to the GDP, 40 per cent to exports, and 70 per cent to employment.

At the country level, there was a clear link in investment in agriculture and results.  In that regard, infrastructure was an issue that needed to be addressed.  In India, for instance, it cost $30 to move one ton of fertilizer, while in sub-Saharan Africa it cost $100.  Attention to the area of rural development and agriculture had grown over that past two years, but more was needed.  Nothing could be more important in increasing the development progress than focusing on rural development and agriculture.  That was why review was important.  The draft outcome document for the September Summit did not adequately address the role of rural development and agriculture.  In conclusion, he suggested a more comprehensive review of progress in implementation of the Ministerial Declaration in 2008.

JIM MORRIS, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said achieving the Millennium Goals would go a long way towards creating economic environments conducive to development in rural parts of the world.  The international community’s single most important undertaking was to cut poverty in half by 2015, and do it by eliminating child hunger.  If States joined together in proclaiming that child hunger was no longer acceptable, that vehicle could be used to reduce poverty by 50 per cent.  Food and nutrition were also central factors in making progress against HIV/AIDS.

The WFP was working with Madagascar’s Government to help it cope with economic shocks by improving rural infrastructure, especially in the most vulnerable parts of the country.  It mainly worked with women, who produced 80 per cent of food and did much of the home care in most of Africa.  Some 60 per cent of rural ration cards were issued to women on behalf of their families.

The Programme was also looking at the impact of HIV/AIDS on women, and children, especially those who became orphans.  Some 7 million to 8 million people in Africa had lost their lives to AIDS, and many more were weakened and unable to do their daily work, so traditional knowledge about managing the family farm was being lost.  The WFP had partnered with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to teach orphans how to manage an agricultural facility.

ZINA ANDRIANARIVELO-RAZAFY (Madagascar) reported that his President and the Government had a vision for advancing the economic and social welfare of the people, who depended heavily on rural development.  Among the efforts under way in the country was promoting and facilitating bankable projects from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and assistance in marketing value-added products, especially handicrafts, and marketing Madagascar’s rich biodiversity in the United States.  In the microfinance sector, the UN Alliance had arranged partnerships to expand rural credit, including between the Bank of Africa in Madagascar and ColumbiaUniversity.  In view of the Assembly’s high-level plenary in September, ECOSOC should consider highlighting the critical role of rural development for the achievement of the Millennium Goals.

Madagascar, he said, was also the first beneficiary country of the Millennium Challenge Account.  That programme aimed at bringing rural Madagascar from a subsistence economy to a market economy by raising agricultural productivity and increasing agro-investment in targeted high potential areas.  To that end, the Government had engaged in a nationwide consultative process to ensure country ownership.  He noted that 80 per cent of his country’s population were rural and lived below the poverty level.  The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper showed that they did not benefit from the macroeconomic growth achieved during the 1997-2001 period. 

The programme also focused on improving the environment for private sector investment through legal and policy reforms by increasing land security, developing the financial architecture, and providing knowledge of market opportunities and requirements in rural areas.  Those three components were widely accepted as contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction.

CAROL KRAMER-LEBLANC, representative of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said her corporation administered the Millennium Challenge Account.  She agreed that poverty and development issues of rural sectors represented some of the most challenging fields to plough both to reduce poverty and to accelerate economic growth.  Agricultural projects tended to be complex, with many risk factors such as drought, locusts and blight.  Rural areas were often remote from the headquarters of lending institutions and development agencies.

There were three important lessons learned regarding what worked and what did not in development that had led to the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, she said.  Aid was most effective when reinforced by sound political, economic and social policies.  Country ownership was integral to a successful development programme.  Programmes worked best when countries were accountable for their performance and results.  Countries competing for a compact contract with the Millennium Challenge Corporation were selected based on their performance against a set of objective indicators that fell into three categories:  ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom. 

She said the Millennium Challenge Corporation recognized that countries themselves must identify their own obstacles to growth and develop plans to overcome those obstacles.  In developing priorities, the Corporation asked the Government to consult broadly with representatives from civil society, NGOs, the private sector other donors, local and regional leaders and parliamentarians.  There were three conditions for the consultative process:  it should be done early, be participatory, and be meaningful.  The Corporation also asked for strategies for implementation and a plan for monitoring and evaluation.  In tying funding to measuring results, the Millennium Challenge Corporation sought the best investment opportunities for poverty reduction.

STEFANO MANSERVICI, Director-General, Directorate General for the European Commission, said the Commission had drawn up a new policy placing greater emphasis on rural development and agriculture.  Its fields of action included developing a new policy and action plan for commodity dependent countries to support the design and implementation of a commodity strategy.  It had also jointly developed with Member States a plan to address land reform and increased access to land for agricultural purposes.

The Commission was firmly committed to food security, and the use of food aid to minimize the negative impact of humanitarian crises, he said.  It was also committed to sustainable land management, holding an integrated view based on participatory local planning and institutional development.  On another level, the Commission was working within the WTO Doha round of trade negotiations towards a rural-friendly strategy.

ABDOUL AZIZ SOW, Minister of NEPAD, African Integration and Good Governance of Senegal, said that, in his country, extreme poverty was rampant, especially in the rural areas.  A vicious cycle could be seen, which found rural populations trapped.  The Senegalese authorities had not remained passive, but had established a decentralized rural development strategy, the objectives of which were to allow access to rural populations to essential social services, and provide access to markets.  The strategy had produced positive results, which was important in view of the urgency of improving the living standards of the rural population.  However, the poverty level remained very high.  He reiterated the central role played by rural development in achieving poverty eradication and sustainable development.

When the floor was opened, the representative of the Dominican Republic reported on the experience of his country, which was one of eight pilot countries of the Millennium Project.  His President had established a presidential commission specifically for the Millennium Development Goals.  He noted that being a pilot country was not always good because it was that country that was responsible for making errors while other countries could learn from them.  After evaluating the country’s needs, it was determined that the country needed a strategy to promote rural development that was more integrated and oriented towards the marginalized population.  His country had 9 million people, two thirds of which lived in rural areas.  What was needed was an agenda for the poor.

HARTWIG DE HAEN, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said his organization was strongly committed to implementation of the Ministerial Declaration.  The battle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals would be lost or won in the rural areas.  A vibrant rural economic space offered employment and income diversification and a possibility for poverty reduction.  Rural areas also often served as a buffer for urban populations in times of hunger and unrest.  The challenge to agriculture and rural areas was that food needed to be produced for a growing urban population and that, at the same time, the integrity of the ecosystems had to be maintained.

He said farmers and rural people had to deal with the rapid transformation of food systems.  Global food chains and supermarkets were expanding rapidly in developing countries.  Supermarkets now controlled 50 to 60 per cent of the food market in Latin America.  There was no unique rural development model, but there were a number of general principles, including:  a need for local institutions; a diversity of the rural economy; a need for a balanced approach to productive activities and social investments; and a need to strengthen institutional structures to conform to an integral approach to rural development.  In too many countries, the rural space was the home of many and the responsibility of no one.

There was also a need to expand research, as well as for incentives to provide broad-based employment in rural areas, he continued.  Subsidies to labour-saving technologies such as mechanization and agrochemicals should be avoided.  Rural development would be essential in meeting Millennium Goal 1 on poverty and hunger.  The particular challenge would be to meet that goal, while contributing to achievement of Goal 7 on sustainability.  It would be unsustainable if rural economic growth and poverty reduction were achieved at the expense of irreversible damage to the world’s resources and environment.

A representative of the International Land Coalition stressed the need to redress power imbalances restricting the access of poor households to land.  Because land access touched upon fundamental inequalities in rural areas, challenges were great and progress had remained variable.  On the positive side, his organization had seen improved exchanges of knowledge on governmental successes with those difficult challenges, and had worked with several to foster greater stakeholder participation in policy formulation and improved systems for land management.

However, he said, in some cases political will was lacking, especially when the political and landed elites were one and the same.  The international community must ensure that the Ministerial Declaration continued to receive attention and was brought forth to be reviewed again in 2008.  He encouraged governments to concentrate on agrarian reform and land access in their texts they prepared for the upcoming September Summit.

Summing up the segment, Mr. BÅGE of IFAD noted the clear emphasis on agriculture and rural development for growth, poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Goals.  Many countries had shared initiatives for poverty eradication.  The importance of political will to tackle the problem of rural poverty was stressed, as was the need for countries to take ownership of the development process and for donors to respect country ownership.

It was also necessary to deal with issues relating to access by the poor to land, natural resources, water, finance and markets, both at the local and global levels.  Also mentioned was access to technology and the fruits of research, and institutions that were accountable to the poor.  Food security and nutrition, pro-poor agribusiness and the role of the private sector were also mentioned, as was the need to more proactively integrate local rural development strategies with national development strategies.  There was a need to capture the rich challenge contained in the 2003 Ministerial Declaration in the September summit, he added.

Continuation of General Debate

ROGATIEN BIAOU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Benin, said progress had been made in implementation of the outcomes of the major summits and conferences, as well as the Millennium Summit.  However, that progress had often been characterized by duplication and hesitation.  The issue of least developed countries was now a priority for the United Nations, as underlined in the Millennium Declaration.  The 2001 Brussels Conference on Least Developed Countries had adopted a Programme of Action that should be evaluated in the global context of the Millennium Development Goals.

He said, with mixed feelings, that significant progress had not been achieved in implementing the Millennium Development and the ODA goals.  Global partnerships had been established with least developed countries, including mutual commitments.  Those commitments should allow for progressive and harmonious development and achievement of Millennium Goals in the least developed countries.  Since Brussels, the least developed countries had tried to honour their commitments, but action of development partners was still timid.

Regarding the Ministerial Declaration, he emphasized that more than a billion people lived below the poverty line and that 75 per cent of them lived in rural areas.  The geography of poverty was equivalent to soil degradation.  The Johannesburg Plan of Action had included combating desertification, and the current Council session must devote attention to implementation of the Convention on Desertification.  That international instrument should also be a priority during the September Summit.

PETER ANYANG’ NYONG’O, Minister of Planning and National Development of Kenya, stressed the need for political will and international assistance in building up the capacities of governments, the private sector and civil society in African nations to reach the Millennium Goals.  African countries needed to build up their educational facilities, train teachers, administrative staff and supervisors, and provide materials.  They must also improve the infrastructure and manpower of health-care systems, and build capacity to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, as well as incidences of tuberculosis and various kinds of drug-resistant malaria.  To improve access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, they must invest heavily in infrastructure supporting those sectors, in both urban and rural settings.

Lasting prosperity and stability would only occur if countries created wealth and employment, he said.  That would mean securing property rights for the poor and creating enabling legal frameworks and institutions, so that people could turn their buildings, livestock, bicycles, and other marketable assets into credit.  The continent simply did not have the incomes and employment that would enable its people to stave off hunger and accumulate saving and assets.  Most farm production could not accomplish that, nor could the informal sector, which often employed nine out of 10 people in Africa.  Neither of those sources of employment created the types of networks and benefits allowing those in formal employment to accumulate savings and assets.

African countries must dramatically increase the availability and access to formal employment opportunities in the private sector.  The continent needed capacity to turn its farmers into dynamic, profit-oriented producers operating agribusiness to grow, produce, process, and sell value added products.  It needed the capacity to turn informal entrepreneurs into formal, registered, taxpaying businesses with secure property rights and the ability to tap into credit markets.  Those entrepreneurs would also be producers of value added goods and services, as well as sub-contractors to larger local firms, or outsourced manufacturing and services from the developed countries.  Over the next century, Kenya, for example, must move three quarters of its labour force out of agriculture and the informal sector into the formal sector.

None of those tasks were easy to accomplish, he said, but they were possible with strong political will and financial investment by African governments, technical assistance from developing partners, the opening up of markets and private sector encouragement in western countries.

MUSTAPA MOHAMED, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia, said that historic as they were, the Millennium Goals constituted the minimum that needed to be achieved.  But recent experience had shown that the fight against poverty could be won.  Poverty was on the retreat in many areas of the world, including China and India.  Malaysia’s own experience in achieving the targets well ahead of 2015 had shown that with the right sequencing of economic and social policies, it could be done. 

In Malaysia’s experience, he said, political will and domestic capacity-building were among the main prerequisites for those targets to be achieved.  But political will should not be confined to governments alone.  It must permeate all levels of society.  For that to be achieved, it was essential to foster a sense of ownership and common destiny among the people.  It was also important to ensure that gains achieved were consolidated and built on.

He offered some thoughts on how the Goals could be achieved with regard to financing for development, coherence and the social underpinnings of economic growth.  Development was not achievable in the absence of adequate, sustained and predictable flows of ODA and foreign direct investment.  The Monterrey Consensus was the right framework to achieve that.  The main issue that needed to be addressed in the context of the Consensus was the implementation deficit.

Emphasis should also be given to issues of coherence, which should be considered at three levels, he said.  First, at the level of the donor countries, “we should ensure that what the right hand gives is not taken away by the left hand”.  Secondly, there should be coherence in the policies of the developing countries, which would go a long way in maximizing aid effectiveness.  Thirdly, coherence should prevail at the level of the multilateral institutions, particularly in the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

EDGAR MAOKOLA-MAJOGO, Minister of State for Poverty Eradication of the United Republic of Tanzania, said his country had made some progress towards the Millennium Goals in universal primary education and promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, but was far from fully achieving them without increased national and international efforts.  Halving poverty remained a major challenge in the country, where 18.7 per cent of the population was food poor, and 35.7 per cent unable to meet their basic needs.  Modernization was need in the agricultural sector, which contributed more than 50 per cent to the GDP and livelihoods to
82 per cent of the population.  While the primary challenge lay at the national level, attention must also be paid to such global issues as fair and stable commodity prices, the elimination of trade barriers, the development of productive capacities, establishment of processing industries, transfer of technology, and establishment of the public-private sector.

Despite the Government’s efforts to reduce child mortality, little progress had been made, he said.  In 1990, the country had aimed to attain an infant mortality rate of 85 per 1,000 in children under five years old by 2003, and reduce it to 50 by 2010 and 20 by 2025.  So far, progress was far below targets, with mortality rates decreasing from 140 in 1990 to 127 in 2003, partly due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases.  As for maternal mortality, efforts to reduce the number of women dying during childbirth had continued through increased immunization, family planning and emergency treatment at delivery.  The Government was also continuing to improve health systems and promote knowledge and awareness on health-related issues, especially in rural areas.

The number of people infected with HIV/AIDS in his country had increased from 25,173 in 1990 to 157,173 in 2002, undermining development and the attainment of development goals. Various initiatives had attempted to build deeper understanding of the pandemic, including awareness-raising and sensitization to the pandemic’s effects.  The country needed to change behaviour towards the disease, provide care and treatment to the infected, prevent mother-child transmission, and create an effective health system.

EUGENE CAMARA, Minister for Planning of Guinea, aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said he welcomed the results of the dialogue the Council had had with the Breton Wood Institutions, the WTO and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  The international conferences and summits had given an understanding of the causes and the complexities of difficulties in development and the linkages between development, security and respect for human rights.

He welcomed the attention given to Africa in the various reports.  Radical measures taken by the African Union to improve its global performance should be further supported by the international community.

He said his country had executed a national policy in the fight against poverty by taking measures to speed up economic growth, provide access to basic services and promote good governance.  However, an attack by terrorist and rebels in September 2000 had brought about the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.  That would contribute to a drop in the growth rate in the country:  2.6 per cent in 2004 as compared to 4.3 per cent in 1998.  Inflation had risen from 3.5 per cent in 1999 to 27 per cent in 2004.  The restoration of peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as the end of rebel attacks and reconstruction in areas of great agricultural potential, would allow for a new dynamic growth. 

If radical measures were not taken to reverse the imbalance in the international system, countries such as Guinea would not achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he said.  To attain the Goals, the rich and poor countries must respect their commitments in the Millennium Declaration and the international conferences.  He called for establishment of an international trade system based on non-discrimination and asked the rich countries to abolish agricultural subsidies.  He welcomed the decision of the G-8 to cancel debt for the poorest countries and hoped that initiative would be extended to all least developed countries.

Mr. SURUMA, Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda, said that in order to tackle poverty, his country had intensified implementation of the Poverty Eradication Action Plan by increasing public expenditure in agriculture.  The Government was implementing an integrated and coordinated effort to increase the availability and affordability of microcredit to peasant farmers. 

Success in rural development was critical to Uganda’s effort to achieve the Millennium Goals, since 75 per cent of Uganda’s households derived their livelihood directly from rural agriculture.  Higher agricultural productivity and successful marketing of increased farm output was essential to the poverty eradication effort in his country.  The Government’s target was to reduce the percentage of the population living below the poverty line to less than 10 per cent by 2017.

Much remained to be done, he added, to enable the country’s agricultural products to reach markets, especially in the advanced economies.  Overcoming various tariff and non-tariff barriers should go a long way in stimulating the economic efforts of producers in developing countries.  Therefore, he added his voice to the appeal for reforming the world trading regime.

Uganda had made significant progress in the areas of education and gender equality, he noted.  It had also been able to reduce the HIV/AIDS infection rate to between 6 and 7 per cent, down from 30 per cent in the 1990s.  However, despite efforts, much remained to be done to achieve the Millennium Goals.  In particular, the country’s infrastructure was insufficient to support the economy.  He hoped the debt cancellation announced by the G-8 would become available in time and in sufficient amounts and flexibility to make decisive contribution to the country’s heavy infrastructure burdens.

HELMUT ANGULA, Director-General of the National Planning Commission of Namibia, said his Government had long recognized education as the key to sustainable development.  Noting that the country had made progress towards making basic education free and accessible to all, he said net enrolment had exceeded 87 per cent and shown gender parity in 2004.  Namibia was also one of the few African nations that maintained social safety nets -- in the form of grants -- for vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, orphans, people with disabilities and war veterans.

Since the majority of the population lived in rural areas and their livelihoods depended on agriculture, the country had been carrying out infrastructure development, which required development assistance.  It had also made good progress in providing safe drinking water, and its target of providing 80 per cent of the rural and 95 per cent of the urban population with safe drinking water by 2006 had already been achieved.

Health-care service was another of the country’s priorities, with a focus on combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases.  HIV/AIDS had been the leading cause of death since 1996, and also the single biggest threat to sustainable development, since it diverted attention and resources from other sectors.  The epidemic had somewhat stabilized, with prevalence among women actually declining from 22 per cent in 2002 to 19.8 per cent in 2004.

As Namibia was a developing country located in an arid region, where drought and climactic variability were endemic, combating desertification, land degradation and loss of biodiversity were also high on the national agenda to fight poverty.  As the country was particularly vulnerable to climate change, the Government’s efforts to combat regional hazards included capacity-building for the management of natural resources both at the national and local levels.

Namibia was classified as a lower middle-income country, but actually had one of the highest income disparities in the world, due to the legacy of apartheid.  More than 80 per cent of the population could not be classified as middle-income citizens, and the GDP giving rise to Namibia’s classification as a middle-income country was grossly misleading.  Due to the unfair classification, ODA to the country had declined, with many donors either reducing or totally discontinuing their assistance.  Adding that the need for external support still remained, he appealed to the international community to continue to support and strengthen his Government’s efforts.

JAN TRUSZCZYNSKI, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said he recognized the key role of ECOSOC in achieving the development goals and favoured the strengthening of the body’s relations with the international financial institutions and the regional development organizations.  In the process of fulfilling common ambitions, the diversity and complexity of the situation and interests of different countries should be taken into account.  International relations should not be reduced to a North-South dichotomy.

He said the least developed countries, most of which were in sub-Saharan Africa, must be given special consideration.  In that regard, stronger support should be provided to regional integration mechanisms such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), but attention should also be paid to countries with economies in transition.  Poland, as an emerging donor country, was determined to actively participate in development cooperation.  In 2004, it had provided $117 million in ODA.  By 2010, it would meet its national target of
0.17 per cent of gross national income.

He said the December ministerial meeting of the WTO would be an important opportunity to make further headway towards an open and equitable trading system.  Special and differential treatment should be accorded to developing countries, while also accounting for the per capita income differences among them.  Duty-free and quota-free market access to all exports originating in least developed countries was an important condition for a positive negotiation outcome.  Trade-related technical assistance and capacity-building to help countries make use of trade liberalization was another basic requirement.  Long-term debt sustainability remained an essential condition for economic stability and development.  The G-8 initiative in that regard was most welcome.

SORAJAK KASEMSUVAN, Vice-Minister for the Prime Minister’s Office of Thailand, said that achieving the Millennium Goals involved combined international efforts, careful guidance and a strategy to attain sustained economic growth.  The hopes and aspirations of millions remained to be fulfilled.  Fellow citizens in many areas of the world were struggling to raise their living standards.  They were in need of market access, debt relief and demand driven aid.  The recent announcement by the G-8 on debt relief was a sign that the developed world was taking a more realistic approach to development.  But expanding debt relief to include all heavily indebted developing countries would be a real major step to free up resources for achieving the Goals.

To lay the foundation for Thailand’s growth with the limited resources available, it was necessary to strengthen and empower the grass roots of its economy -- the backbone of the economy.  In that regard, it was important to provide more access to capital, and to then pursue job creation and income generation.  As the majority of persons in its grass-roots economy lived in the rural area, agriculture and the use and access to land were also important for their livelihood.  Thailand had expanded its development partnership strategy with all its immediate neighbours.  It had also concluded several partnership agreements with developed country partners to work with them in respective development programmes in other developing countries.

JAN WINKLER, Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said his country acknowledged its share of responsibility for sustainable development, both at the regional and global levels.  It had targeted its ODA to social infrastructure and services, and also to economic infrastructure in developing countries. Assistance projects had different forms, ranging from the strengthening of local supply capacities, especially in the areas of hydrological research and water management, geological research of mineral resources, construction of health facilities, new sources of food supply, vaccination, and other health and educational projects.  Currently, more than 20 projects were under way in developing countries, covering several least developed countries -- namely, Zambia, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Promoting education and training for sustainable development was one of the main prerequisites for implementing internationally agreed development goals, he said.  Prepared to contribute at both domestic and international levels, his country, along with other European Union nations, attached great importance to Africa’s development.  Recalling Union commitments to the continent, he noted its pledge to increase financial assistance to sub-Saharan Africa, which would receive at least 50 per cent of the Union’s increased ODA.

OSKARAS JUSYS, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said the Millennium Goals could only be achieved if the political will to do so was focused and if concerted action was taken.  Actions needed to be well-targeted and coordinated at global, regional and national levels.  International cooperation had to be better tailored to support national efforts.  National strategies needed to be more ambitious, reflect local conditions and could go beyond the Millennium Goal targets, where appropriate.  Those strategies should also provide for strengthening good governance, promoting human rights, engaging civil society, and promoting the private sector.

He said developed countries should move from a “donor-recipient” relationship to a true partnership with developing countries, encouraging their sense of ownership of the processes.  It was essential that the international community improve the effectiveness of aid.  In particular, bilateral and multilateral donors needed to harmonize their operational procedures.  They should also align aid with country-specific priorities for growth and poverty reduction and provide for measurable results.

Lithuania was increasingly assuming its share of responsibility in contributing to development domestically and internationally, he said.  It primarily focused on technical cooperation in the East-East sphere, along with countries in transition in the immediate and wider region.  His country’s experience in building democracy, good governance and promoting human rights, as well as in reducing poverty, could be of significant use to countries pursuing similar transformation.  Well functioning regional cooperation was key to reaching the development goals.

SERGE CHAPPATTE, Head, Cooperation for Multilateral Development, Office of Development and Cooperation of Switzerland, said that his country viewed the Millennium Goals as the veritable “locomotive” of the global development agenda.  The large number of development objectives implied that exceptional efforts must be made to ensure the overall coherence of policies.  Against that background, it was important to keep the human being as the focal point and the principal object of concern in all development activities.

He drew attention to two practical sectors of intervention, which were crucial for the medium and long term -- education and health.  First and foremost, it was necessary to provide all children with an education, enabling them to shoulder the responsibilities of adult life, to make the right choices, and to participate as active citizens in the life of their community and country.  Providing all children with a quality education was an investment in the world’s common future.  Secondly, it was vital to ensure that each and every individual had access to a functional and effective system of basic health care.  That implied access to basic medicines and the existence of a sufficient number of adequately trained medical personnel.

In addition, he underlined the vital importance of competence-building and the strengthening of public institutions in developing countries.  Competent personnel and functioning public institutions were absolutely necessary for developing countries, as that had repercussions on all dimensions of development.

HENRI RAUBENHEIMER, Director, Economic Development, Department of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, called for further consideration of debt problems in poor and middle-income countries, and encouraged donors to declare timetables to achieve the 0.7 per cent of GDP for ODA.  He also appealed for additional measures in source countries to encourage and facilitate investment flows to developing countries, as agreed in the Monterrey Consensus.  Further, trade was vitally important as an engine of development, and should be reflected in the September Summit.

The challenge in reaching agreed development goals was implementation, which lay mainly at the door of each country, he said.  However, it was also important that all nations be reminded of commitments and undertaking they had made at the numerous United Nations conferences and summits.  While it was true that the main burden for implementation rested on the shoulders of each country, those commitments had been agreed in public.  Questions about implementation should, therefore, also be asked in public.

As the convenor of conferences and summits, he said the United Nations had a role and responsibility in highlighting implementation of agreed commitments, and should provide a platform to interrogate progress made at the national level.  He endorsed proposals in the Secretary-General’s report that ECOSOC should play a stronger role in reviewing progress of development goals.

EDUARDO SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Millennium Development Goals were a solid platform to respond to the needs of the inhabitants of developing countries, but they did not represent a comprehensive development plan.  That was particularly true in Latin America where countries must be more ambitious.  The Goals must be achieved as part of a broader programme that also included questions of inequality, the consequences of globalization and greater participation of developing countries in global governance.  In order to achieve a broader development programme, Nicaragua had established its own National Development Plan.

The quality of ODA constituted the key of success on the items outlined in the Monterrey Consensus, including quality in cooperation, he said.  Greater efficiency and impact of resources were needed, and those resources must impact more directly on the sustainable development of developing countries.  Donor countries must create mechanisms for development based on priorities set by recipient countries.  He was concerned about the prognosis set out in a report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on Latin America and the Caribbean region.  That report estimated that progress in Latin America and Caribbean in achieving the Millennium Goals had been varied and indicated that progress in countries of the Central American region lagged behind.

He said ECOSOC played an important role in the preparatory process for the September Summit.  He hoped that that process would lead to action-oriented recommendations towards achievement of the Millennium Goals, including commitments of 0.7 per cent of GDP towards ODA, as well as fair-market access.  Reform of ECOSOC should be central in negotiations for the Summit.  He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations in that regard.

FEKITAMOELOA ‘UTOIKAMANU (Tonga) said that her country had achieved targets such as universal primary education through the provision of free primary education for children ages five to 14.  Also, the majority of the population had access to safe water and sanitation facilities in both rural and urban areas.  Tonga’s performance on the human development index and the human poverty index reflected a high level of expenditure in health and education, stagnant population growth and sustained high levels of investment in the social sector.  Unfortunately, in the political arena, Tonga was well behind its neighbours with regard to women’s participation in decision-making, both at the national and local levels.  The lack of women’s participation was largely attributed to cultural overtones, which discouraged women from taking part in such roles.

The financing of development in Tonga, like other countries in the Pacific, relied heavily on aid, she stated.  The Monterrey Consensus had recognized that for a number of countries, including small island developing States, ODA was the largest source of external finance.  A 2003 report by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), however, clearly indicated that the overall decline in ODA to Asia and the Pacific, and particularly to least developed countries and small island developing States, had been unacceptable, and especially frustrating when the way forward seemed so clear.  The Pacific Islands Regional Millennium Development Goals Report 2004 emphasized that the primary challenge for the region in achieving the Goals lay in securing the necessary external support through, not only ODA, but also foreign direct investment, trade and development partnerships.

RENATE BLOEM, President of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations, presented recommendations for development made by the NGO/Civil Society Forum.  Welcoming the recent G-8 decision to cancel the multilateral debt of 18 least developed countries, she said NGOs were concerned that debt cancellation could reduce already scarce resources devoted to ODA, and recommended that governments keep their promises to devote 0.7 per cent of GDP to ODA.

She also recommended that developed countries eliminate trade barriers and subsidies to encourage exports, especially in agriculture, of the rural poor in developing countries.  Further, living in extreme poverty should participate in development concerns through partnerships to build better understanding of extreme poverty and exclusion, and should be considered as important experts in the field.

Other suggestions related to gender equality, which should become a cross-cutting issue in all the Goals, she said. In particular, investment should be made in the education of girls and women, including in information and communication technologies, and governments and civil society should encourage small-scale enterprises and self-help groups for and by women.

She added that NGOs also felt strongly about the need to tailor Millennium Goals to the needs of local communities, specific socio-economic groups and cultural realities.  Indigenous people, in particular, should be supported in their initiatives to design appropriate frameworks and implementation plans for the Millennium Goals that were consistent and relevant for their particular situations and aspirations.

MICHEL CLERC, representative of Droit a l’energie SOS future, said his association brought together 200 organizations in 63 countries.  The goal of the organization was to recognize energy as a human right and to preserve the planet for future generations.  The link between energy access and poverty was very direct.  At least, six of the Millennium Goals could not be achieved without energy.

He said private enterprises often had the know-how, expertise and capital to invest in developing countries.  It was essential that they should be given guarantees that they would not lose money if they invested in unstable developing countries.  He proposed the creation of a world organization for energy access.  Such an organization would allow for actors to come together.  It would also enable the mobilization of capital in a transparent manner in order to give the necessary guarantees to private enterprises that wanted to invest in developing countries.  Access to energy was essential for attainment of the Millennium Goals.  Nothing could be done if energy development was not put in place.

KANDEH YUMKELLA, newly elected Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said that research had shown that the key to long-term poverty reduction was a dynamic industrial sector.  The most successful efforts to alleviate poverty in the last two decades were found in Asia, including China, India and Malaysia.  Those efforts were based on, among other things, increased investment to improve production capacity and targeting community-based social development projects.  It was necessary to be open-minded to identify and replicate such successful strategies and to promote interregional cooperation.  The multilateral system and the donor community should make a commitment to search for best practices and practical strategies for poverty alleviation.

Another issue he raised was how to achieve greater coherence among United Nations agencies, for which ECOSOC had an important role to play.  Recently, UNIDO had put forward a proposal which envisaged a mechanism for coordinated action around the attainment of the Millennium Goals, promote further specialization around the relevant core competencies of the bodies concerned, and strengthen linkages.  There was wide support for UNIDO’s proposal within the United Nations system.

He added that most of the poor were in rural areas, and most of them were within the agrarian sector.  It was important that UNIDO and the FAO have greater cooperation, as they both covered the productive sectors.  Linking farmers to markets was more effective if they were helped to add value to their products.  The UNIDO planned to enhance cooperation with the FAO, the ILO and the UNDP to pursue some of those goals.

SERDAR YILDIRIM, of the Istanbul International Brotherhood and Solidarity Association (IBS), outlined some of the activities his organization had performed to help victims of the South Asia tsunami disaster, especially to protect orphan children.  Among other activities, IBS had undertaken a project to rebuild 1,000 houses in a small town destroyed by the tsunami in Indonesia, in cooperation with a local contractor.

Illustrating a good example of NGO-United Nations cooperation, he said transportation in tsunami-damaged areas was difficult, and that the United Nations had offered its helicopter to IBS when it had to go to hard-to-reach areas.  He expressed his gratitude to any in the Organization who had helped IBS in its tsunami venture.

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For information media. Not an official record.