4 July 2005

Speakers in High-Level Meeting of Economic and Social Council Cite Insufficient Progress towards Achieving Millennium Goals

Discussion Focuses on Rural Poverty, Need for Agricultural Development, Attention to Education

NEW YORK, 1 July (UN Headquarters) -- As the Economic and Social Council today began its examination of efforts to achieve internationally agreed development goals, it was generally agreed that progress up to date had been insufficient, that major disparities remained between developed and developing countries, and that peace without development was unsustainable.

The Council’s 2005 session is focused on the Millennium Development Goals, a set of internationally agreed targets set by world leaders five years ago, and seeks to provide concrete recommendations on how to achieve them.  The Goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by 2015. 

In a keynote address this afternoon, Haitian Interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue said that if it was true that there could be no development without security, then it was equally true that security without development was wishful thinking.  Poverty posed a permanent threat to peace and security.  In that connection, he put forward a number of recommendations, including continuing to seek new sources of finance to achieve development goals, a final solution to debt, and an open and equitable international trade system.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen, in this morning’s keynote address, noted that a lot of progress had been made in attaining the goals and objectives that had been jointly agreed at United Nations conferences and summits.  However, there was still much work to be done concerning many issues that were important to development.  Demographic threats, infectious diseases and epidemics called for a much more decisive approach.  In that regard, she stressed that women’s rights, prevention of violence against women, and promoting gender equality were of vital importance in promoting human rights and development.  “Poverty so often wears the face of a woman.”  If the status of women was not improved, progress could not be made in eradicating poverty.

As delegations took the floor, Jamaica’s Minister of State, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, regretted that implementation had been slow and uneven across and within regions, resulting in increased disparities and an ever-widening gap between developing and developed countries, especially in Africa.  The main challenge facing the international community had not been a lack of strategies, but rather the means and will for implementation.

Saying the assessment of the situation today was a mixed one, France’s Minister for Cooperation, Development and Francophonie noted that, while results were positive in certain regions where growth and development had helped to truly alleviate poverty, they remained too modest in many others where the very survival of part of humanity was not assured.  The central issue today was that of responsibility and resources.  In that regard, responsibility lay first with the countries of the South.  The corollary of such responsibility was the imperative of solidarity.  The developed countries must engage fully in the international partnership for development.

Continuing, she expressed agreement with the Secretary-General’s view that there was a lack of coherence with regard to the global environment and development, and was convinced that a more integrated structure in the field of environment, resting on existing institutions, was necessary.  In that connection, she mentioned the establishment of a United Nations Organization for Environment, which should be created by transforming the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an idea that was supported by a growing number of Member States.  The September summit, she noted, was a crucial opportunity to consider that idea.

The Council also held a morning panel discussion on employment for growth, as the issue of employment was a key issue for all countries regardless of their state of economic development.  The pivotal role of employment in economic and social development, particularly poverty eradication, had been acknowledged and recognized by the international community.  Among the issues addressed were how to ensure pro-poor employment growth in developing countries; and how to maximize the growth and employment-creating effect of globalization, while minimizing its negative impacts on the same.

The panel was chaired by Rafael Correa, Minister for Economy and Finance of Ecuador, and moderated by Ezra Suruma, Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda.  The panellists were Odile Quintin, Director General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, European Commission; José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; and Jane Stewart, Deputy Executive Director, Employment Sector, International Labour Organization (ILO).

In addition, the Council held a ministerial review of the progress of implementation of its 2003 Ministerial Declaration, which was based on the recognition that the majority of the world’s poor people lived and worked in rural areas.  During the discussion, there was a clear emphasis on agriculture and rural development for growth, poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Goals.  Among other things, the importance of political will to tackle the problem of rural poverty was stressed, as was the need for countries to take ownership of the development process and for donors to respect country ownership.

The participants were Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Lennart Båge, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme; as well as the representatives of Madagascar, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the European Commission, Senegal, Dominican Republic, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Land Coalition.

Statements in the general debate were also made today by ministers and representatives of Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Indonesia, Ecuador, Mauritania, Belgium, Australia, Benin, Kenya, Malaysia, United Republic of Tanzania, Guinea, Uganda, Namibia, Poland, Thailand, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Switzerland, South Africa, Nicaragua and Tonga.

A representative of the Conference on Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO), Droit a l’energie, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the Istanbul International Brotherhood and Solidarity Association also delivered statements.

The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 1 July, to continue its high-level segment.

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