18 September 2009

Briefing Press, Deputy Secretary-General Says Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System Promises to Be 21st Century Tool to Help Analyse Modern Global Problems

18 September 2009
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Briefing Press, Deputy Secretary-General Says Global Impact Vulnerability Alert


System Promises to Be 21st Century Tool to Help Analyse Modern Global Problems


Following is the text of opening remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro at a press conference on “Voices of the Vulnerable:  the Economic Crisis from the Ground Up” and the Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System, delivered today, 18 September:

It is my pleasure to brief you on the initial findings of a report that the Secretary-General will present to the General Assembly next week on the impact of the economic crisis on the poor and vulnerable.  The report is a product of a new initiative to increase the availability of real-time data on the impact of the crisis, namely, the Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System, or GIVAS.

The report —- “Voices of the Vulnerable:  The Economic Crisis from the Ground Up” -— presents a sobering picture of how the crisis is affecting people and households around the world.

While we may be seeing the first “green shoots” of recovery in some places, the crisis is far from over in the developing world, as the Secretary-General said in his interaction with the media recently.

I would like to review with you now some of the report’s key findings.

Our projections suggest that 100 million more people are expected to fall below the poverty line this year, due to the crisis.  Many of them saw their fortunes improve over the past decade.  Now, they risk falling back.  The near poor are becoming the new poor.

Workers in both the formal and the informal sectors are being badly hit, particularly in manufacturing, commerce and construction.

One construction worker says it all:  “I am truly frightened of the monster called the financial crisis.  It has devoured poor people like us.  Is anyone listening to our silent cries?”

Many migrants are finding their situation increasingly precarious.  They are being forced to reduce the money they send back home to their families.  Current forecasts imply that remittance flows to developing countries will be reduced by about 7.3 per cent in 2009.

Youth unemployment is dramatically increasing.  The number of unemployed youth has increased by as many as 18.2 million over the last year.

Many of the poor and vulnerable are running out of coping strategies.  They are being exhausted by crisis after crisis —- first food and fuel, and now the economic downturn.  Some also have to deal with the extra burden of local crises, such as drought, floods, and conflicts.

There are warning signs that these crises may have severe long-term consequences.  It is estimated that that tens of millions of children will suffer cognitive and physical injury caused by malnutrition arising from the cumulative impact of the food and economic crisis.  This will have important implications on their future livelihoods and translate into reductions in economic growth rates.

The report also warns us that we need to be on the watch for new red flags that may signal further trouble.  We need to monitor the further spread and evolution of the H1N1 influenza pandemic.  We also need to watch for the onset of new natural disasters that could break the back of overstretched populations and Governments.

One thing that we have learned over this past year is that we have an information gap problem.  There is a deadly lag between the moment when a crisis occurs and the time when we get an accurate picture of the impact that it has on the poor and vulnerable.

Up-to-date information is crucial for policymakers if they are to craft the right policy responses to crises.

This report is a first step in a larger effort by the Secretary-General to work with national governments to fill this information gap.  The United Nations is trying to address this problem by developing a system -- which I mentioned before -- the Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System, or “GIVAS”, that will build on existing UN capacities.

Through the GIVAS initiative, the United Nations will collect real-time data using new technologies.  It will also take advantage of new ways of bringing different data streams together to build a more comprehensive picture of what is happening on the ground.  We will provide this as a public good for all.  It promises to be a twenty-first century tool designed to help analyse twenty-first century global problems.

Knowledge is power, as you all know, and we must leverage the knowledge we have -- and the knowledge we must secure -- to safeguard the welfare of our peoples.

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