2 April 2007


2 April 2007
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s address to the Economic and Social Council’s annual ministerial review preparatory meeting, as delivered in New York, today, 2 April:

I am delighted to join you for this preparatory meeting.  As some of you may know, I devoted most of my time in Tanzania’s public service to matters of social and economic advancement.

Today, my position has changed, but my interests have not.  As Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, I remain committed to the cause of development, and to the United Nations unique role in advancing it.  Indeed, perhaps the biggest change in my responsibilities is that I can now work with the UN family, with all UN Member States –- not just one -– to help advance development priorities.

After all, we all struggle to come to terms with the immense disparities that characterize today’s global economy.  Inequality within and among nations is on the rise.  The age-old plague of poverty remains pervasive.  Globalization has lifted standards of living for some, but it has left many more on the margins, unable to enjoy its benefits.  Environmental degradation and the spread of diseases such as HIV and AIDS threaten to undermine even existing gains.

Addressing these disparities is a central tenet of the Millennium Development Goals, and our ambitious commitment to cut extreme poverty worldwide by half.  Yet, midway to the Millennium Development Goals target date of 2015, the world as a whole still lags in the race to achieve all of these Goals.

There is an urgent need to make up for lost ground.  That is why, at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders committed themselves to a reenergized Economic and Social Council, one that can more forcefully advance the United Nations development agenda.

The Council must become the forum for intergovernmental oversight and assessment of progress on this agenda.  It must constantly monitor our progress, evaluate obstacles and, when necessary, help realign our efforts.  And it must do so with a constant eye on 2015, the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Annual ministerial reviews are central to this vision of a rejuvenated ECOSOC.  These reviews can serve as a high-profile forum for political engagement and knowledge exchange.  They can strengthen accountability for international commitments to the agreed development goals.  And by bringing together all the key players to one high-level forum, they can promote more consistent policies and better and more seamless implementation.

With the very first review mere months away, it falls to each of you to help set the stage for a successful outcome.  Indeed, the review should be seen not as an event, but as an ongoing process requiring broad participation and input.

For instance, this preparatory meeting can help identify obstacles and challenges facing the United Nations development agenda.  It can suggest possible solutions.  It can also relate the global development agenda directly to local and national policymaking.

Expectations for the inaugural review are understandably high.  The meeting’s focus on the crucial first Millennium Development Goal, and the role international cooperation can play in achieving it, makes a successful outcome even more desirable.

At the same time, our fight against hunger and poverty raises a set of challenges that can appear almost unmanageable at times.  It is my hope that today’s gathering can help pare that list and focus attention on the most pressing high-priority items.

I believe you should consider the following key areas:

First, economic policies need to prioritize employment creation as the critical link between growth and poverty reduction.  Higher economic growth, while important, must not be viewed as an end in itself.  For instance, last year’s robust worldwide expansion did not lead to a corresponding reduction in unemployment or poverty.  Instead, the number of people living on less than 2 dollars a day actually grew last year to reach 1.37 billion.

At the same time, we must recognize that unemployment exacts a disproportionate toll on the young.  Youth represent a quarter of the world’s working population, but constitute nearly half of its unemployed.  Increased job opportunities for them can have outsize effects on poverty alleviation.

Second, the review must consider the links between agricultural productivity and both hunger and poverty.  Three out of every four of the world’s poor live in rural communities.  For them, agriculture is not only a vital source of nutrition, it is also a leading driver of employment and income.

Increased agricultural productivity is crucial to the betterment of these rural poor.  But productivity gains must arise from a broader effort designed to empower village populations.  These communities need better and more secure rights to land and water resources; they require innovative credit solutions like microfinance; and they seek improved access to markets.

Given the fundamental role of women in agricultural societies, any rural initiative must specifically address their needs as well.  Women produce most of the food consumed in rural societies.  Increasing their access to essential resources and services, such as land, credit and training, will empower not only women, but entire communities.

Third, initiatives have to be placed within the framework of a global partnership for development.  Employment creation and rural support packages in the developing world have to be backed up by better aid, greater debt relief and stronger follow-through on the financing for development commitments.

Progress towards a fairer international trading system is perhaps the single most important step towards a meaningful global partnership for development.  That is why we need to redouble our efforts to see a successful and timely conclusion to the Doha Development Round.  Existing trade barriers, agricultural subsidies, and restrictive rules on investment and intellectual property rights serve to reinforce global inequities.  Lowering these barriers can go a long way towards alleviating poverty and hunger in the developing world.

Of course, a truly global partnership cannot be limited to Governments alone.  It also requires the active engagement of both the private sector and civil society.  That is why the annual ministerial review envisions broad-based input and participation.  It is also why all of us have gathered here for this preparatory meeting.

If we all join hands, we can still meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals deadline, we can advance against poverty and hunger, and we can build a true partnership for development.

So let me conclude by wishing you all a most productive meeting.  I, for one, eagerly await the outcome of your discussions.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.