Press Releases

                                                                                                                            27 April 2004

    Reforms, External Support Needed Soon to Reach Millennium Goals, Secretary-General Tells High-Level Meeting

    NEW YORK, 26 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of opening remarks, as delivered today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to the special high-level meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council, with the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization:

    It is a great pleasure to see you all here for this important annual meeting.  I would like to thank the President of Finland and the distinguished ministers and other guests for taking time from your busy schedules to join us here today.  I very much look forward to this discussion and trust it will further our efforts to improve cooperation and coordination between our respective organizations.

    I think you all would agree that when the world agreed on the Millennium Development Goals, the year 2015 -- our target date for achieving them -- seemed far off.  The Goals were certainly ambitious, but almost every expert agreed that they were achievable.

    Today, four of the 15 years have already passed and the results so far are, at best, mixed.

    Even if the current recovery in the world economy speeds up or spreads more widely, that would not be enough to ensure that the world meets the Millennium Development Goals.  Only by building on the spirit and promise of the Monterrey Consensus -- the focus of today’s meeting –- will we have a fair chance.  As things stand, two years after Monterrey Conference, the decisions taken there are not being implemented fast enough; and lack of coherence, so central to the Consensus, is as much a problem now as it was then.

    At the heart of the Consensus was a pact -- a recognition that, if we are to build an open and equitable global economy, both developed and developing countries have specific responsibilities.

    Developing countries agreed to improve governance, economic management, and their investment climates, and to build up their human resources.  Even if not every developing country has made sufficient progress, there is strong evidence that, on the whole, the developing world has taken many positive steps in these directions.

    Developed countries, for their part, have increased official development assistance and are paying greater attention to the issue of external debt.  But in the area where progress is needed most -- trade -- the record is mostly disappointing.  Indeed, with the failure in Cancún and a growing resort to bilateral trade agreements, we have backtracked significantly.

    It is not too late to regain the path on which we set out with such hope.

    We can make a start today, by continuing your efforts to ensure that your policies and ministries do not work at cross purposes.  We must demonstrate early and clearly, by next year’s review of the Millennium Declaration, that we are truly serious about reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

    For all the problems we are facing, it remains true today that almost every country can reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, as long as reforms are implemented and adequate external support is provided.  But by next year it might already by too late.

    My note, which is now before you and which was prepared in close consultation with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and the United Nations Development Programme, attempts to set out some of the main things needed to put the world securely on track.

    First, we need to make sure that national policies, resources, and strategies are focused on reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  Domestic resources are the largest source of financing for development, and can be especially effective if focused on education, health, infrastructure, capacity- and institution-building, and efforts to improve regulatory frameworks and public administration.

    Second, we need to see greater foreign investment in developing countries, especially those that have taken steps to improve the investment climate.

    Third, we need the Doha negotiations to produce real gains for developing countries, such as unhindered market access and the elimination of subsidies. 

    Fourth, we need more and better aid, with action on some of the promising ideas that have been proposed, such as the Global Finance Facility.

    And fifth, we need to address the high debt burdens of low- and middle-income countries not covered by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative.

    I hope you will use this meeting to determine how we can do better in all of these vital areas, and to strengthen the coordination and cooperation that are so crucial for achieving any progress.  We must also do more to strengthen the voice and participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making.  The Monterrey Consensus set in motion a process that has taken the first steps in this direction, recognizing rightly that democratizing global economic governance is as essential as any development project, and is vital for building confidence in the system.

    We have had these meetings for several years now.  They are a very important complement to the work of the Economic and Social Council.  But as happens with many endeavours, there comes a time to take stock and see how to improve their effectiveness.  How can we make them better focused?  How can we sustain the momentum and make the most of these joint discussions of common challenges?  I invite you to reflect on this question too, in the course of this meeting, so that we can all have the benefit of your views.

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