Press Releases

    4 February 2004

    Transcript of Joint Press Conference by Secretary-General and Presidents of France, Brazil and Chile at Palais des Nations, Geneva, 30 January

    NEW YORK, 3 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the English version of the joint press conference by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan with President Jacques Chirac of France, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, and President Ricardo Lagos of Chile held 30 January at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in support of the global alliance against hunger and poverty.

    President Lula (Translated from Portuguese): Your Excellency President Lagos of Chile, Your Excellency President Chirac of the French Republic, Your Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ministers who are present, ladies and gentlemen, diplomats who are accredited in the United Nations, representatives of non-governmental organizations, my friends, ladies and gentlemen.  Please don’t worry, I will not go beyond my seven minutes.  I have not come to Geneva just to recall that hunger is a weapon of mass destruction which kills 24,000 persons each day and 11 children per minute or that it affects a quarter of the world’s population, spreading disease and reducing the work capacity of adults and the learning capacity of children.  Nor have I come to criticize economic policies that have been preached in recent decades. Such policies have privileged economic over social development and have intensified inequities among societies, they have disseminated unemployment and extreme poverty and placed much of the world population in a situation of total vulnerability.  I have come to Geneva in search for solutions and with the firm determination of putting forward, together with Presidents Chirac and Lagos, and with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, concrete actions in order to meet the challenge of eradicating hunger and reducing poverty.

    To fight hunger and poverty is no utopian ideal; it consists of fighting against exclusion and inequality and in favour of social justice and sustainable growth.  I am proposing a change in attitude, I am making an ethical and political appeal to the international community to work for a new concept of development, where income distribution is not a consequence but rather a lever for growth.

    The challenge today is to combine economic stability and social inclusion.  This will not be an easy task.  It requires great transformation in the structure of societies and profound changes in the organization of the productive system.  Political will is an indispensable element of this equation.  I am here to affirm my political will and my personal determination to work with Presidents Chirac and Lagos and with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as with other world leaders interested in joining our efforts to promote development and the overcoming of poverty.

    In our talks we expressed our concern about the excessive focus placed in the international agenda on issues related only to security, such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.  If we want a safer world, we must fight for a more just and equitable world.  Peace, economic development and social justice are intimately related.  There can be no peace without economic development and there can be no peace nor economic development without social justice.  We agreed that the Millennium Development Goals play an important role in our fight to eradicate hunger and poverty.  The implementation of those goals must be revitalized, one must respect the commitments and deadlines that both rich and poor countries took up at the Conferences of Monterrey and Johannesburg.  The establishment of a balanced international system of free trade that is capable of offering opportunities to generate and distribute wealth to all who participate in it is essential if we hope to overcome poverty and ensure respect for the human rights to life, food and health.

    We agreed that a robust political and economic multilateral system is indispensable in a new international order geared towards economic development with social justice.  The emergence of the G-20 and the holding of an Extended Dialogue between the G-8 and developing countries are important initiatives that bring solutions to the economic and social challenges of fighting hunger and poverty.

    We have agreed to make a joint appeal for the establishment of a truly global partnership that mobilizes political will and financial support.  Funding can come from civil society and the private sector.  It should engage governments, United Nations agencies and financial institutions as well.

    Such a global alliance against hunger and poverty should make it possible for developing countries to receive continuous support through freer international trade, foreign debt relief, foreign investment, greater international aid, and alternative financing mechanisms.

    We have invited world leaders to join this effort of political mobilization.  We call on donor countries and the private sector to contribute in a significant way to all funds and initiatives aimed at eradicating poverty including to the mechanism established by Brazil, India and South Africa with the support of the UNDP.

    We have decided to set up a working group to study all proposals on alternative financing mechanisms such as taxing arms trade and certain financial operations.  The resources raised by such mechanisms would finance the establishment of a fund to fight hunger and poverty.  We have instructed the group to draft a report to be discussed, possibly in September 2004, at an event during the next United Nations General Assembly.

    World leaders are hereby invited to participate in such an event and to make a firm commitment to join in the major challenge of our days; to fight hunger, poverty and social exclusion.

    We have also invited the G-8 to once again hold an Extended Dialogue in order to promote discussions on innovative financing mechanisms with developing countries.

    We have no illusions, there will be no peace or security without economic development and social justice.  There is no more room in today’s world for the existence of societies made up of illiterate, unemployed, hungry and extremely poor people.

    I would like to say to you that this meeting with President Chirac, Secretary Kofi Annan and President Lagos no doubt will give great strength to all those who want to fight against hunger and against poverty in the world.  I have already thanked them for having come to this meeting and before you, the press, I would like to say I am very grateful for the sensitivity that Secretary Kofi Annan, President Chirac and President Lagos have displayed by accepting the invitation to this meeting.

    Thank you very much.  (Applause)

    President Chirac (Translated from French):  Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to President Lula for his initiative.  He already has experience on the ground of combating hunger and poverty, with his Zero Hunger Programme, which is already under way in Brazil.  I would like to also thank President Lagos and our Secretary-General of the United Nations for being here too.  There is in our fast-developing world a scandalous situation, made all the more visible by modern communications technology, and that is the scandal of poverty and hunger.  Some 850 or 900 million people, who live off less than one dollar a day, suffer from hunger, while around half of humanity lives on less than two dollars a day.  This is increasingly unacceptable in a world that, at the same time, is getting richer as trade develops.  The World Bank believes that if we are to meet the commitments we undertook at the Millennium Summit, to reduce by half the number of men, women and children who are suffering from hunger by the year 2015, it will be necessary for official development assistance to increase by 50 billion dollars a year, that is to say to rise from 60 to 110 billion dollars a year.

    Now this leads us to an initial observation, namely that overall world trade and exports each year are worth some 8,000 billion dollars and the world GDP or gross domestic product is 33,000 billion dollars.  The reason I mention those two figures is basically to indicate that 50 billion dollars in fact is just a mere drop in the ocean, provided of course that we have the desire and the ability to get it.  This poverty, this hunger that President Lula has exposed, has another effect, one that is not much spoken about except by United Nations experts, to whom I pay tribute, but one that affects all countries, rich, poor and emerging countries too, and all continents and this is slavery -- and not just the enslavement of women.  The two problems are, of course, linked, poverty, marginalization and the development of cycles that are actually produced by unpaid forced labour and of course the purchase and sale of human beings, which still exists in our time, even though we don’t speak much about it.  This is the true magnitude of the subjects that are being brought up and thrust under the spotlight by President Lula.

    How to set about it? I think, as I mentioned just now in the meeting, that there are three areas where we could undertake efforts.  Firstly, with 80 per cent of people suffering from malnutrition and hunger in the world living in rural areas, including Africa and South Asia, but also of course in certain other places, particularly Latin America, other parts of Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, there is a need to speed up policies in support of agricultural production, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

    The second point is that international action is too diffused.  There are all sorts of bodies, some reporting to the United Nations, others not, some which report to international financial institutions or which are sponsored by States or non-governmental organizations and none of this is very coherent.  So there needs to be more coherence in their action and this is what the Secretary-General will be trying to put forward.  I mentioned a figure of $50 billion -- it is certainly very little compared with the other figure I mentioned. But, if we wait for budgetary aid for development to double, we won’t get it.  Official Development Assistance has gone down. It is now moving up again somewhat but in conditions that -- make no mistake -- will not allow us to attain the Millennium Goals, namely the objectives set for 2015. We can always say we will but it won’t actually happen. So we have to find something else, that is to say new resources, and place them in a fund, which President Lula is proposing -- what he calls a fund to fight hunger.  It’s not really important what it is called, but it needs to be new resources.

    Where are we going to find new resources? Currently there are two proposals that should be developed further. One is the proposal from our friends in the United Kingdom, the International Finance Facility, the IFF, which is a system for pre-financing development assistance on the basis of loans raised on the market by the rich countries against growth in years to come.  This is a very good idea, France supports it fully and in April in Paris we shall be having a meeting at the ministerial level with our British friends and, of course, I would be very pleased to see Brazil and Chile there too, the United Nations -- that of course goes without saying -- and possibly certain other countries in order to try to set up a mechanism for bringing in major new resources which could be assigned to the Lula fund.  (Applause)

    Secondly, I am convinced that we shall not be able to avoid setting up an international taxation system.  As you know, or some of you know, I have set up a working group to look into this proposal, a working group with representatives of the World Bank and the IMF and I have invited Brazil and Chile to join them at the expert level.  The working group is to make proposals to me, which I shall of course submit to the international community, for establishing a system of taxation which won’t be the Tobin tax of course, because that didn’t succeed -- and was not intended for that purpose anyway, which was why it did not work -- but it will be similar.  A tax on what?  Well, I can tell you right from the start that I have no intention of prejudging or answering that question because there are several techniques which could be considered used and those techniques need to be looked at carefully, examined by the competent individuals who will make proposals.

    So those are the proposals which I brought up, the subjects I raised, in the course of the meeting and, as President Lula has already mentioned this, I’d like to conclude by saying that, in the context of preparations for and the holding of the G-8 in the United States this year at Sea Island, France very much wishes for two things:  firstly, that a number of representatives of important countries in the South, particularly, will be invited, as we did in Evian, and we have asked President Bush to do that, although it will be his decision, as the host of the next G-8; and secondly we have also asked that the problem of NEPAD -- which was the subject of discussions in Genoa, in Kananaskis and in Evian, and which the British have already announced will be on the agenda for the G-8 Summit in 2005 -- should also be placed on the agenda in 2004.  But we do very much hope that at the next G-8, the Enlarged Dialogue which we started in Evian, will continue at Sea Island.  We haven’t yet had a response from our American friends.

    Thank you.  (Applause)

    President Lagos (Translated from Spanish):  I’d also like to begin by expressing my thanks to President Lula for this initiative. The analysis has been done and I think what’s clear is that globalization has a social deficit for which no answers, no credible answers, have been found.  I have to wonder why the great management capacity of the world bodies cannot at the same time seek a solution to problems as specific as this.

    The world is witnessing a flow of financial transfers and a surge in the growth of world trade such as has not been seen in the last 50 years.  We know that this increase in trade, which is the engine for growth, is essential, but how then can we ensure that this process also gives the impression that it includes everybody.

    I wish to make it very clear.  There are two well-defined strategies.  The first is internal effort -- what we don’t do, nobody’s going to do for us, whether it is obtaining domestic resources or using them efficiently and in a transparent manner.  Of course, if we speak of hunger, how are we going to increase agricultural production as has already been said?  But we also know that improving agricultural production is a problem for the medium term and hunger is a problem today.  So this is where international action to generate extra resources is essential and I fully agree with what President Chirac said, that Official Development Assistance at its current level has reached a ceiling and it’s very difficult to imagine that countries are going to increase it further.

    So what is being suggested is setting up a specific working group with objectives, instruments and precise mechanisms, for this tremendous wealth generated by the process of globalization is a fact and it’s here to stay, and my country is actively involved in it.  That is why we have such an open economy and have free trade agreements with the main world blocs.  But this is not the issue.  The issue is how, within this process, we can obtain resources now that we can put to use immediately to deal with hunger.

    If this initiative is successful, then to a great extent it will be because of one country that has already embarked on the task -- Brazil, in its fight against hunger.  In our country we’ve reduced poverty and indigence, but I think it’s not possible to maintain current levels without calling into question a much broader process.

    Having said all this, I think that there are two essential elements which need to be borne in mind.  Firstly, if this is approved, it will mean that with the fund we accept the idea of a global public good -- a public good that means the world society in the twenty-first century will not accept the existence of hunger because it is possible to eradicate it.  Human beings have the means to do that on this planet.

    Secondly, this is not a job only for governments or for State policy.  There is plenty of room also for the private sector.

    And a final comment I would like to make is that, if we are able to make progress in this direction, there is a whole set of emerging countries that will not contribute to this fund, but want to continue growing and this means looking at how we can have more trade but with fairer rules, discussing what the international financial institutions we inherited from the Second World War are, and how we can adapt them to today’s world.  These are much weightier, more complex issues, but I think that what we’re trying to do here is to provide a specific response to a specific question, and my country is prepared to take part both in the meeting in Paris that was mentioned by President Chirac to discuss the UK proposal, and in this working group that is now being set up by France and Brazil and which we hope will have a response next September.

    So, to sum up, I believe that the presence of the Secretary-General is a reason for optimism as to whether, after so much rhetoric, we can actually come up with a concrete response, a credible one which will make it possible for us to take a small step, but the first one in the twenty-first century towards a world which will be more global.

    The gap between a world that is globalizing very rapidly and multilateral institutions that are unable to cope, it is that, I think, that is our greatest problem and to that extent, we should be able to make progress. I hope that we have a better response by September than what we are in a position to say today.

    Thank you.  (Applause)

    The Secretary-General (Translated from French):  I am very pleased to be here today and to be able to join forces with three such outstanding national leaders in the global fight against hunger and poverty.

    Last year, many world leaders allowed themselves to be distracted by matters of war and peace, and the tragic events that occurred diverted their attention from other pressing issues which, to most people, are equally immediate and real, if not more so.

    (Continues in English)  These issues do not grab headlines, but hundreds of thousands suffer every day from extreme poverty and hunger, unsafe drinking water, and environmental degradation.  Endemic or infectious diseases claim millions of lives.

    We must refocus our energies on these threats.  We must translate the Millennium Development Goals into reality -- and we have only 11 years left in which to do so.

    As you know, there are eight Goals.  They range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS; from reducing child and maternal mortality to ensuring all children a basic education -- and all this has to be done by 2015 as we have heard from the other speakers.  These are simple but powerful objectives that every man and woman in the street, from New York to Nairobi, from Geneva to Jakarta, can easily understand and support.

    And now is the time when we must implement them.  Each of us has a role to play.  We all need to make a special effort to accelerate progress during this year and next.  If we are not on track by the end of 2005, we shall already know that many of these Goals will not be reached by 2015, even if we make heroic efforts to catch up in the 10 remaining years.

    We also know that, in many countries, there is no hope for reaching the first seven Goals unless we start by achieving the eighth Goal -- the global partnership for development.

    That’s why it’s so heartening to see the partnership taking shape today, between President Chirac, President Lula and President Lagos.

    The essence of that partnership is the deal agreed by all countries two years ago at the Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey. If developing countries reform their economies, ensure good governance and demonstrate their commitment to eradicate poverty -- as Brazil and Chile are doing -- developed countries must support these efforts, as President Chirac is promising to do, with additional and more effective aid, more sustainable debt relief and increased trade opportunities.

    As examples, this means that Europe and other developed countries must do the following:

    Ø       Open their markets fully to all products from developing countries;

    Ø       Eliminate all subsidies that subject developing-country producers to unfair competition;

    Ø       Increase official development assistance, and we have heard some ideas on that, devote more of it to agriculture, and help developing countries build strong agricultural sectors of their own; and

    Ø       Support the WHO plan to get 3 million people with HIV/AIDS onto anti-retroviral treatment by 2005.

    Meanwhile, Brazil, Chile and other developing countries must do more to empower women, fight corruption, while increasing public and private investment in education, health, water, sanitation, and agricultural productivity.

    If all of us -- heads of State, politicians, business executives, civil society leaders, national and international officials, and indeed you ladies and gentlemen of the press, if you journalists –- become active in fostering this partnership, we will be able to reach the Millennium Development Goals in all the countries by 2015.  And in another 15 years after that, if all of us deliver on our end of the bargain, if we live up to our promises, we should be able to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty altogether.

    Surely my friends, we can be satisfied with nothing less.  Let’s make 2004 a year of kept promises, and renewed hope.

    Thank you very much.  (Applause)

    Question (translated from French):  In Senegal we say that an empty rice sack doesn’t stand up.  That gives you an idea of the relationship between development and tackling the sad duo of hunger and poverty.  Presidents, Secretary-General Mr. Annan, you have said yourself that a world that is prisoner of hunger, poverty and sickness cannot be a world of peace.  Your organization has made promises for years, promises that you now want to see kept.  We know we have the WFP, FAO, etc.  I would like to know what will be the value of this “Lula Fund” as President Chirac calls it, what use will it be?  So today, often in Africa we call President Chirac “Chirac, the African”, but now perhaps he will become the champion of all throughout the world.  Thank you.  So, specifically, WFP, FAO, they have their work and now the new “Lula Fund”, will this add something new, is this an innovative approach to the problem?

    President Chirac (translated from French):  In an authoritarian gesture, President Lula has told me to reply to this question.  Well, I will be very happy to do that, although this is an idea that is President Lula’s idea.  I would remind you that he has tried this out in Brazil and now wishes to apply it internationally, so he would really be best placed to answer the question.  But since he has entrusted the task to me, I would answer our Senegalese friend by saying that we have in fact two problems.  The first is that of better coordination of the organizations that provide development assistance.  These are generally of high quality and devoted, but there are too many of them and so there is a lack of coherence.  You mentioned some of them yourself and from your words, I can see that you are pointing out that perhaps there is already too little coherence, and now they want to add another body.  So the first need is to improve coherence.  And that can only be done on the initiative of the Secretary-General, in the context of the reform of the United Nations that he is now preparing and that France, for its part, supports unreservedly.

    Now the second problem, which was clearly expressed by those who have just addressed you, is that we will not get any swift doubling of Official Development Assistance.  So, we have to find new resources, whence the idea of the international financial facility suggested by the UK or the taxation at the international level suggested by France.  Once you can conceive of having revenue to match the needs, i.e., some $50 billion per year, thanks to these new methods, which don’t weigh only on developed countries’ budgets, then, of course, there will have to be a system for using them, and for using them in a way that effectively combats poverty, which means including health, education and necessary infrastructure, jobs, training.  And that is where President Lula’s idea comes of setting up a fund to use these new resources.  I'm fully in favour of that.  Of course, it will have to be well-coordinated with the reform, which I think is necessary to ensure greater consistency between the various actors in the field of ODA.

    Question (translated from French):  I have a question first for the French President.  You are expressing your desire to help the poor countries, but France remains very cautious in its action to reduce agricultural subsidies.  A real move forward in that direction might be enough to put an end to hunger for millions of people.  Do you not see a paradox here?  Would France also be ready to tax its arms trade?

    President Chirac (translated from French):  Concerning the second question, in the working group that I have established, no solution has been ruled out, including that of taxing weapons or the arms trade.  We talked just now about the $60 billion per year of ODA. The world's combined military budget amounts to $900 billion per year, half of it accounted for by the United States. So there may be something here to wonder about.  Now I don’t want to give an opinion before the working group that I have set up makes its proposals, but I'm not ruling anything out.

    Now secondly, there is the great debate on agricultural subsidies.  I don’t want to go into detail, but I don’t share your feeling at all.  And on this point we have a difference of opinion with President Lula.  I really think it's the only one.  I would like to remind you that the European Union, that is, France and its 14 partners in the European Union of today, which will soon be a union of 25, the European Union is the world’s leading importer of agricultural produce from developing countries, the leading one.  Secondly, the European Union accepts agricultural produce from developing countries entirely free of customs duties -- and, indeed, their other products too, except arms.  And that is an initiative that was taken by the European Union and that so far no one has followed.  We have done away with protection on all products from developing countries except arms.  Furthermore, as you know, France has proposed -- I proposed it -- a special situation for Africa.

    You say you’re from Brazil, but it is an international problem. I mean the moratorium on agricultural subsidies that cause instability, because there are some, that is true, the harmonization of the preference regimes and a special regime for commodities.  Now that’s the proposal that we made and that was adopted by the African French Summit a year ago and is unfortunately -- we have to be truthful here -- encountering hostility from some quarters, particularly our American friends.  And we hope that the United States will also embark on this course.  I would also like to point out that the eradication of hunger in the world also requires, and to a large degree, the development of food farming in the poorest countries and in particular in the arid areas because as things stand it’s not rich countries’ agricultural subsidies that are jeopardizing this development, but rather the agricultural exports from a certain number of emerging countries which need them.  I'm not disputing their need to develop those sectors of their economies, but everybody tends to look to their own interest and needs to remember other people’s interest too.

    Question (Translated from Spanish):  I have a question for President Lagos.  How is Chile going to participate in the technical groups because it is stated here it’s only going to be French and Brazilian experts on this expert working group?

    President Lagos (Translated from Spanish):  No, the Declaration invites other countries to participate in these groups and that is why I’ve stated, that both for the working group that is to meet in Paris in April to discuss the British proposal, and other types of alternatives for which a group was to be set up consisting of Brazilian and French experts and other countries who may wish to participate, and we’ve expressed our interest in doing so.

    What I do think is very important, and pardon me for saying so, is that this is the first attempt to seek funding outside the context of individual countries.  That’s the great difference with what we are doing here.  We are taking the globalization process as our starting point and looking for financing that is linked to that process, and that’s what’s new here, and so all the other instruments within the UN system as President Chirac said, of course they will continue to operate, but the important thing now is to link funding to a phenomenon that is global in order to resolve a problem that we want to solve globally, too.  Now that’s a major step forward in the way we’ve worked over the last 50 years, insofar as it is countries that make a contribution and offer their support and look at what kind of resources they have at the domestic level.

    Now if this new step is successful, it’ll be a major springboard for defining not only funding but also what other kinds of good work we want to tackle besides hunger.

    And a final comment in reply to the question, this doesn’t mean that any of our countries is saying that other subjects aren’t important, such as trade, agricultural subsidies, anti-dumping, for instance, please, of course, there are many important international issues, but what we are saying is what we must do is concentrate on this issue now.  Of course we will continue discussing the other problems in other fora, but if we try and discuss everything we’ll actually not discuss anything.  That's all I wanted to say.

    Question (translated from French): This is a question for President Chirac. I know that the question is perhaps a little out of place here, but then we’re not far from France either.  So I would like to know what your reaction is to the Nanterre court’s verdict concerning Mr. Juppé.

    President Chirac (translated from French):  Well you know that it is not here in the United Nations that I am going to discuss this matter. So we can consider that this question does not count and another one can be asked.

    Question (translated from French): On the subject of combating hunger in the world there is a matter that I haven’t heard mentioned.  I would like to know whether it’s taboo, because there has been no mention of overpopulation or birth control.

    The Secretary-General (translated from French):  No, of course it’s not a taboo, but, as President Lagos said a while ago, we can’t talk about all the issues.  But, yes, it is important and in demographic terms it will have an impact.  That is why the United Nations is trying to work with countries on the matter of population control.  So, you have raised a very important issue.  We didn't discuss it here, but I think everyone here agrees that it is important and that it does have an impact on the questions we are dealing at the moment.  Thank you.

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