14 February 2001



NEW YORK, 14 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s opening remarks at the first meeting of the High-level Panel on Financing for Development in New York today:

Let me first of all welcome you to United Nations Headquarters. Thank you for coming -- some of you very long distances. Thank you for finding time, in the very busy schedules which I know you all have.

Thank you for agreeing to join this Panel, which I think is very important. I especially wish to thank you, Ernesto [Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico], for agreeing to take the lead.

As you know, last year's Millennium Summit produced a clear set of targets for reducing extreme poverty, ignorance and disease by 2015. But none of those targets can be achieved unless there is real development throughout the world, especially in the poorest countries. And development cannot happen without resources, especially financial resources.

The Summit has thus given new urgency to the issue of financing for development, on which the United Nations plans to hold a "High-level Event" early next year.

The Preparatory Committee for that Event is now in session, and I understand you will be meeting the members of its bureau over dinner tonight. I am very pleased about that, because I am anxious that your work should be seen as complementing and contributing to the intergovernmental process, not in any sense competing with it or undermining it.

Essentially, I see your role as a dual one.

First, among the many ideas -- old and new -- on how to finance development, I hope you will pick out those that are clearly "do-able", and also make clear how they should be done.

Especially, I hope you will say clearly whose responsibility it is to do them, in each case. Between you, you have an unparalleled experience in this field. You are better placed than anyone to say what can be reasonably expected from each actor in the international system: from national governments in North and South; from the private sector -- both lenders and direct investors; and from the international financial institutions.

And that brings me to the second role I hope you will perform, which is to help us secure the attention this issue needs from political leaders and financial authorities throughout the world.

As I told the Preparatory Committee on Monday, development is far too important to be left to specialized ministries or agencies. It must mobilize the energies of governments and societies as a whole.

We have to help developing countries organize themselves in a way that encourages investors, both domestic and foreign.

And we have to motivate the people and governments of industrialized countries, so that they are willing to devote more resources to debt relief and economic assistance, and to open their markets more fully to developing-country products.

As you are people with a track record of responsibility for major financial and economic decisions, and with deservedly high reputations in your own countries and beyond, I believe you can make a big difference in that respect.

What you say on this subject cannot be dismissed as utopian, or as purely theoretical. It will command attention, and respect, from people who matter.

In short, my friends, a great deal is expected of you. But you must decide for yourselves how your work should be organized.

I will not take up any more of your time, but yield the floor without more ado to your very distinguished Chairman, Ernesto Zedillo.

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