30 June 2008


30 June 2008
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council, delivered today in New York by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang:

We are at a critical juncture in our implementation of the United Nations development agenda.  Despite demonstrable progress, we confront delays in reaching the goals, coupled with new challenges, many of which require our urgent attention and collective action.  Today is an occasion to focus on four of the most pressing challenges we face.

First, the fragile state of the major developed market economies, persistent global imbalances and soaring oil and non-oil commodity prices are slowing growth of the global economy.  The financial turmoil of the past year is not incidental, but a reflection of systemic weaknesses in global financial markets.  These conditions threaten to undermine efforts towards the development goals.

Second, rising food and energy prices are hitting hard on the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people.  Progress so far towards our developmental goals could easily be reversed if we do not find workable solutions to the twin crises in the food and energy markets. 

Third, we are facing the profound threat of climate change and the deterioration of our natural environment.  I believe that, if not addressed timely and adequately, this threat can bring all our development efforts to naught.  It will bear down on the lives of our children and grandchildren.  The pernicious impacts will be deep and pervasive.

Finally, scepticism about globalization continues.  There has been concern for some time that globalization is leaving behind the vulnerable and poorest communities, and the added worry now is that the middle classes are beginning to feel the effects of a much more insecure world.  No social or economic order is secure if it fails to benefit the majority of those who live under it.  From this perspective, we all should have serious concerns about a system whose wealthiest 400 citizens command, as a group, more resources than its bottom billion.  Yet we also need to beware of the risks of a severe backlash against globalization, which could significantly curtail the opportunities and benefits of a more closely integrated world.

At the same time, challenges also offer opportunities.  Leaders, economists and bankers have come together to find short-term remedies to avert financial meltdown.  They are also deliberating on long-term solutions to address the systemic inadequacies.  The need to engage all key actors in this process is widely recognized.  We must persist in pursuing truly concerted action to redress the woes of the global economy.  Only then may we hope that a more robust global financial system will emerge from this credit crisis.

I am also heartened by the collective efforts to deal with the food crisis.  The Commission on Sustainable Development addressed agriculture and related issues at its annual session in May.  The Economic and Social Council itself launched a swift response by convening a special meeting to deal with the food crisis, which identified some key messages and actions that the international community needs to take.  I have made efforts to mobilize the United Nations system and established the United Nations Task Force on the Global Food Crisis.  Also, the high-level Conference on the World Food Security, held earlier this month in Rome, played a critical role in establishing a Comprehensive Framework for Action.

The food crisis has laid bare the need for longer-term planning to improve world food security.  Food production needs to rise by 50 per cent by the year 2030 to meet the rising demand.  We have a historic opportunity to revitalize agriculture, especially in developing countries where productivity gains have been slow in recent decades.  By using small farm holders as a key vehicle to achieve global food security, we also have a historic opportunity to make marked progress towards eliminating rural poverty.

Efforts are already under way to bring together producers and consumers at the highest level to find a solution to the challenge of rising fuel prices.  Yet, we also need to focus on long-term solutions, encouraging the sustainable production and use of efficient and clean sources of energy, more fuel efficient modern technologies, and changes in overall production and consumption patterns.

Unprecedented awareness of the scale and scope of the challenges of climate change has put the need for urgent collective action in sharp relief.  In fact, public support for the whole sustainable development agenda is greater than ever before.  This session of ECOSOC should give new impetus to the realization of our long-standing goal of achieving economic growth, social development and environmental protection in an integrated and balanced manner, which is the key to the prosperity of humankind.

While globalization may be an ineluctable fact of life, all Governments have agreed, since the Millennium Declaration, to seek to manage globalization for the benefit of all.  All countries certainly need policies and institutions that are flexible and tailored to their changing domestic and external circumstances and their individual challenges.  We also need to ensure greater coherence in global policies in the areas of finance, trade, aid and investment.  Fortunately, we have some critical opportunities this year to accelerate progress in strengthening the global partnership for development, including the Development Cooperation Forum, which will open its first ever session this afternoon.

The Development Cooperation Forum should become the principal venue for global dialogue and policy review on the effectiveness and coherence of international development cooperation.  The inclusion of all relevant development actors in the Forum process provides a unique opportunity to garner a wide range of inputs for a deepened dialogue and understanding of the international development cooperation agenda.  These issues are vital to the achievement of all the internationally agreed development goals.

In my report on “Trends and progress in international development cooperation”, which will be introduced this afternoon, I have echoed the concern that the current aid effectiveness framework is not sufficiently responsive to development issues that cut across multiple sectors such as human rights, gender equality and environmental sustainability.  The Development Cooperation Forum should give due attention to these cross-cutting imperatives.

On all of these fronts, we have to act together and urgently.  ECOSOC has proved that it can spearhead such a concerted effort to find pragmatic solutions to complex challenges.

Last year, I witnessed the transformation of ECOSOC into an interactive forum where collective solutions to common as well as individual challenges were discussed and debated.  This year, we will have even more of such dialogues and, of course, the inaugural session of the Development Cooperation Forum.  I welcome the broad participation of parliamentarians, local Governments and civil society.  They are key partners in helping implement the development agenda and making aid effective at the country level.  I congratulate all those countries that have volunteered for national presentations during the Annual Ministerial Review. 

The strong legislative basis, the enthusiastic involvement of the United Nations system and the other development actors will enable the Council to move forward with firm commitment and strong political will to implement.

I am sure that this high-level segment of ECOSOC will make significant contributions to the Accra High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, the Millennium Development Goals high-level event to be held on 25 September and the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development.  In that spirit, I wish you a most successful session.

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