‘Global Economic Governance Need Not Be a Zero-Sum Game’, If Best Use Made of Each Actor’s Comparative Advantages, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

28 June 2011

‘Global Economic Governance Need Not Be a Zero-Sum Game’, If Best Use Made of Each Actor’s Comparative Advantages, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

28 June 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘Global Economic Governance Need Not Be a Zero-Sum Game’, If Best Use Made of Each

Actor’s Comparative Advantages, Secretary-General Tells General Assembly


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly debate on global economic governance, today, 28 June, in New York:

I thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this important thematic debate.  Over the past two decades, the world economy has undergone a major transformation.  We are more and more interconnected.  Manufacturing and trade know no boundaries.

Economic growth has lifted many boats.  Capital has flowed in great abundance to emerging markets and developing countries, helping to generate double-digit growth rates over extended lengths of time.  Developing countries, in turn, have started playing a much bigger role in the global economy.

But even as globalization has worked certain wonders, let us recognize that there is also a downside.  Not all countries have shared in the benefits.  And while we are all in the same boat, not all have a say in how to steer it.  Existing structures of global economic governance do not adequately reflect our changing world.  Most global economic governance structures were shaped more than 60 years ago, in a dramatically different world.

There have been many steps in the right direction.  The Bretton Woods institutions have improved their governance through reforms that have increased the voice and representation of the developing world.  However, the growing weight of developing economies and emerging markets in the global economy is still not sufficiently reflected in these and other key decision-making bodies.  This is not just a matter of democracy and legitimacy; it is a crucially important factor in being able to address the many pressing issues that demand our attention, including climate change, food and energy security, migration, tax cooperation and much else.

We must do more to improve the coherence and efficiency of the multilateral system so that it is equipped to address these challenges.  The General Assembly, in its recent resolution on global economic governance, recognized the need for an inclusive, transparent and effective multilateral system, with an effective United Nations at its centre.  The United Nations is the world’s leading universal forum, with unique legitimacy.

But legitimacy alone is not enough.  Coherence in policymaking and standard-setting, efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out our work, accountability for impact and results — these are all indispensable if the United Nations is to earn the confidence of its Member States and the world’s people.

That is what reforming the Economic and Social Council aims to achieve — a more dynamic, inclusive, relevant and operational body both in development and in global economic governance.  The Commission on Sustainable Development, for its part, has a role to play in pressing for global economic governance that strikes the right balance among the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.  Given that the institutional framework for sustainable development is one of two themes of next year’s Rio+20 Conference, that event is a timely opportunity to get the world on track in this regard.

Looking beyond the United Nations, the emergence of the G-20 is a significant and welcome development.  This brings emerging markets and developing countries to the table.  Relations between the United Nations and the G-20 have come a long way since the G-20 started meeting at the leaders’ level.  I have worked hard to ensure complementarity between our respective activities, and I have always argued that we can work in a mutually supportive way.

To its credit, the G-20 has regularly invited non-member countries to participate in its deliberations, and it has interacted informally with the General Assembly both before and after its summits.  This interaction has enabled the United Nations to enhance the visibility of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.  The Seoul Development Consensus and its Multi-year Action Plan, adopted at the most recent G 20 Summit, will contribute to the achievement of our shared development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals.

But the United Nations has a central role to play in ensuring that all decision-making at the international and national levels can and will take into account the needs of the poorest.  To play that role, we need the tools to keep pace with fast-changing economic realities, especially their implications for the most vulnerable.  That is why the United Nations system is working together to develop cutting-edge capacity to ensure rapid and well-targeted action to reach the most vulnerable.

Global economic governance need not be a zero-sum game.  Every multilateral institution and grouping has something important to contribute.  It is in our power to make it a positive-sum game based on a division of labour that makes the best use of each organization’s comparative advantages.  The constructive spirit which brought together some of our Member States under the informal umbrella of the 3G — the Global Governance Group — is a case in point.  Regional organizations and institutions can also contribute.

We all have a stake in improving global economic governance.  The test for any group, of any size, is what it does to address the serious challenges the world faces at this time.  That is our over-arching challenge.

Right now, gaps in our multilateral frameworks continue to hinder our ability to meet the tests of our times comprehensively and equitably.  Yet, I am confident that, with the right amount of soul-searching, partnership and determination, we can build a United Nations that plays its rightful and necessary role in global economic governance.  I look forward to your insights and ideas, which will feed into my formal report to the next session of the General Assembly.  I wish you well for a productive discussion.

Thank you very much.

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