Press Releases

    2 July 2002

    Globalizing World Offers Unparalleled Opportunities to Achieve Greater Equity through Sustained, Balanced Growth, Says Secretary-General

    Address to ECOSOC Focuses on Importance of Needs of Africa, Girls' Education, Sustainable Development, Health Issues

    NEW YORK, 1 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the High-level segment of the Economic and Social Council today:

    The past year has put the United Nations to new tests. In 2001 -- less than five years after the Asian crisis, and only one year after the adoption of the Millennium Declaration -- the world economy suffered its biggest setback in a decade.

    On 11 September 2001, terrorism struck our wonderful host city. The entire international community became New Yorkers that day.

    The immediate effects of those attacks are well-known, but their long-term effects are more difficult to evaluate. We may never be able to say exactly how the 11 September attacks worsened the global economic situation.

    But we do know that poor economies are paying the highest price for the downturn. The statistics do not adequately capture the human suffering and misery generated at the level of the individual and the family.

    Only limited improvement is foreseen in the developing world for the current year. And the world economic outlook as a whole is plagued by an unusual degree of uncertainty, with some potentially serious threats to the recovery, despite improving fundamentals.

    Yet our globalizing world offers unparalleled opportunities to achieve greater equity through more sustained and balanced growth. We must seize these opportunities.

    In doing so, we must maintain a particular focus on the needs of Africa. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) reflects at once the determination of Africans to tackle their own problems and their acute need for international support. We must provide that support. I am heartened that at the Group of Eight Summit last week, NEPAD was at the center of their discussion and they came up with their own plan of action for Africa.

    The overall agenda of the United Nations, and the plan of action for this Council, remains the Millennium Declaration -- a blueprint for improving the lives of people everywhere in the twenty-first century.

    Three months ago, during the Monterrey conference on financing for development, the international community showed its determination to pursue that agenda aggressively. The Monterrey Consensus was a new expression of political will to mobilize and deploy financial resources for development and poverty eradication.

    The challenge now, as ever, is implementation -- we heard the Chairman of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) use that word -- implementation. The United Nations family is fully committed to producing tangible results. I trust the rest of the international community will do its utmost to fulfil the pledges made at Monterrey, and, through the strong partnership embodied in the Consensus, work for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in every country.

    Our challenge is to achieve not only economic and social development today, but to make it sustainable for our children and our grandchildren tomorrow. The World Summit on Sustainable Development, which opens in Johannesburg next month, will test our ability to respond to both sides of that challenge.

    Regrettably, at the recent meeting of the prepcom in Bali, progress did not match the ambitious targets for completion set by the negotiators themselves. We must try harder. I am fully dedicated to over- coming any political blockages that have arisen, in order to ensure a successful outcome of the Johannesburg Summit.

    Johannesburg will mark the culmination of a cycle of major intergovernmental meetings aimed at helping us translate the Millennium Declaration into action. We must ensure that we maintain the momentum this cycle has created.

    The challenge before this Council is to ensure an integrated follow-up process to the conferences. The process must be results-oriented and systematic, and it must avoid duplication or fragmentation. Let me stress again: the focus from now on must be implementing the commitments that have been made.

    ECOSOC must give life to the guiding motto of the United Nations in the twenty-first century: putting people at the centre of everything we do.

    The theme of this high-level segment -- the contribution of human resources development to the process of development in general -- is about putting that motto into practice.

    Health and education are the twin pillars on which we must build the well-being of individuals, and thus a more healthy, equitable and peaceful tomorrow. They are mutually reinforcing: a healthy individual has a better chance of achieving his or her potential; educated individuals have a better chance of remaining healthy, and contributing to the health and development of their family, their community, and ultimately, their country.

    For the past year or two, the importance of health has drawn increasingly high-level attention in the international community. The fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases was given new prominence with the General Assembly's special session on AIDS in June last year, and with the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

    Education, a prerequisite for health and development, deserves the same attention. Yet -- despite some shining examples, such as the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF -- the international community has not given it the priority it needs.

    For decade after decade, we have known that education is the key to social and economic development, to peace and stability, and to democracy.

    We know that in the course of the past century, countries committed to universal education have been far more successful in escaping poverty. They have enabled their people to lead more fulfilled, productive lives. They have given their people the chance to make better use of democratic opportunities.

    And we know from study after study that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls. No other single intervention has the same wide-ranging impact on the economic and social progress of a country.

    No other policy is likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition, promote health -- including the prevention of HIV/AIDS -- and increase the chances of education for the next generation.

    Indeed, we have seen that it can also have a positive impact on good governance, and on conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

    In other words, educating girls is a social development policy that works. It is a long-term investment that yields an exceptionally high return. Girls' education is the gift that keeps on giving.

    And yet, out of more than 120 million children who should be in school, but are not, the majority are girls.

    That is why, two years ago in Dakar, I launched the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative -- a partnership bringing together 13 entities of the UN family. Since its launch, the initiative has been able to generate a range of broad-based, coalition-forming efforts bringing together governments and non-governmental organizations, building on the wonderful work long undertaken by civil society in this field.

    If we are to meet the Millennium Development Goal of eliminating gender disparity in education by 2015, these initiatives must be taken further worldwide. I hope that the outcome of our deliberations at this segment will put girls' education where it belongs -- at the top of the agenda of human resources development, and indeed, of development in general.

    The year ahead will again put our United Nations to new tests. This Council faces several challenges to which it must respond. Its impact must be felt in the war on poverty. It must build on its strengths and contribute to peaceful and peacebuilding efforts. It must make the implementation of the Millennium Declaration its first priority.

    There is no time to lose if we are to achieve what we have promised to by 2015. A child who starts school this year will be in her late teens by then, and has a right to expect to live in a different world by that time.

    Let us ensure that we pass that test. Let us ensure we develop the resources of every individual to build a healthier, better educated and more equitable world. Thank you very much.

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