12 July 2006
Economic and Social Council Discusses Sustained Economic Growth for Social Development
(Reissued as received)
GENEVA, 6 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this afternoon discussed the issue of sustained economic growth for social development, including eradication of poverty and hunger, in light of the report of the Secretary-General on the same theme.
Introducing the report of the Secretary-General entitled "Sustained Economic Growth for Social Development, including the Eradication of Poverty and Hunger", Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said it was widely acknowledged that economic growth alone would not lead to social equity and social development unless social goals were pursued as key objectives of macroeconomic policies.
Mr. Civili said that the rate of economic growth was important, but even more so was the quality of economic growth, measured in terms of its capacity to generate social development and to help eradicate poverty and hunger. Yet, the relationship between economic growth and social development was not a one-way street. It was also widely recognized that social development was essential for the sustainability of economic growth, he said.
The report of the Secretary-General highlighted the growing recognition of the two-way relationship between economic growth and social development, focusing on various approaches that had been pursued to follow that vision.
Hjalmar W. Hannesson, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the themes of the high-level and coordination segments this year dealt with the emerging challenges in the areas of employment and poverty eradication. While there was still much to be learned about translating economic growth into social development, the pursuit of the internationally agreed development goals was certainly one way of ensuring that strides in the economic sector had a salutary impact on the social side. The Council was perfectly positioned to facilitate the sharing of experiences and lessons learned in the economic, social and related fields among international and national stakeholders.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Finland said that social development and equity were central to sustaining economic growth over the long term; social policies could not be conceived only as an afterthought or an add-on to macroeconomic reforms and growth policies. Economic growth was not an end by itself but a means to reach social goals, such as poverty eradication, that were the basis for its sustainability.
Several other speakers highlighted the need for national policies that would be linked to international efforts in the promotion of social development. Many believed that economic growth should be accompanied by national policies and poverty eradication strategies.
Addressing the Council on this theme were national delegates from South Africa (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Finland (on behalf of the European Union), United States, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Switzerland, China, Brazil, India, Norway and Guinea-Bissau.
A representative of the non-governmental organization Women's World Summit Foundation also delivered a statement.
When the Council reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Friday, 7 July, it will devote its morning meeting to a panel discussion on the theme of the coordination segment: Sustained economic growth for social development, including the eradication of poverty and hunger.
Report of the Secretary-General on Sustained Economic Growth for Social Development, including Poverty Eradication and Hunger
The report of the Secretary-General entitled sustained economic growth for social development, including poverty eradication and hunger (E/2006/56) highlights the growing recognition of the two-way relationship between economic growth and social development. The report focuses on various approaches that have been pursued to follow that vision. It provides an overview of the current trends and the lessons learned so far. On the basis of those trends, the report draws a number of conclusions. Some of the conclusions are: (a) countries need to adopt comprehensive, coherent and participatory policy approaches to the achievement of sustained economic growth and social development; (b) policy approaches should be designed to respond to the needs of each country; (c) there is a need to create an enabling international environment through greater policy coherence; (d) there is a need to ensure greater United Nations system-wide programme coherence and integration; and (e) there is a need to bridge the intellectual gap on the dynamic effects of specific economic and social policies through the pursuit of a comprehensive research agenda. The report also makes a number of recommendations, which emphasize the principle of national ownership and policy space in the formulation of effective implementation strategies; the need for building countries' capacity to be able to develop such strategies; the importance of participatory approaches; the need for the international community to harmonize and align their efforts with national development strategies; the need for the United Nations system to build further on its efforts to shift from a sectoral to a more comprehensive approach; and a call for a major research initiative to better understand the complex linkages between sustained economic growth and social development.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said this year's substantive session focused on some of the fundamental issues relating to development. The themes of the high-level and coordination segments this year dealt with the emerging challenges in the areas of employment and poverty eradication. Deliberations during this segment would focus on the theme of sustained economic growth for social development, including poverty eradication and hunger. There were three central issues related to this theme. The development agenda that had emerged from the recent United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields indicated a broad international consensus on the ultimate objective of economic pursuits. The next challenge was how to manage the complex and, at times, elusive relationship between economic growth, social policy and development.
While there was still much to be learned about translating economic growth into social development, the pursuit of the internationally agreed development goals was certainly one way of ensuring that strides in the economic sector had a salutary impact on the social side. The Council was perfectly positioned to facilitate the sharing of experiences and lessons learned in the economic, social and related fields among international and national stakeholders. There was perhaps no better venue to actively promote and develop a better understanding of approaches that led to sustained economic growth and social development for poverty eradication and hunger. In doing so, it could facilitate greater policy coherence and integration in the economic and social fields at various levels and among various actors. It had an opportunity to provide substantive policy guidance on this theme and to contribute significantly to the implementation of the United Nations development agenda.
PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, introducing the report of the Secretary-General, said the report concentrated on some of the fundamental questions surrounding this year's theme. It was widely acknowledged that economic growth alone would not lead to social equity and social development unless social goals were pursued as key objectives of macroeconomic policies. The rate of economic growth was important, but even more so was the quality of economic growth, measured in terms of its capacity to generate social development and to help eradicate poverty and hunger. Yet, the relationship between economic growth and social development was not a one-way street. It was also widely recognized that social development was essential for the sustainability of economic growth.
The UN system, with its cumulative analytical knowledge, experience and expertise in all the relevant areas of development, had a significant role to play, particularly in promoting better understanding of the linkages and factors of influence. That would require joining forces and enhancing collaboration among entities and with all development partners.
HENRI RAUBENHEIMER (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the attainment of the internationally agreed development goals to be achieved by 2015 in relation to poverty and hunger was of primary importance to developing countries. It was therefore necessary to consistently highlight the challenges which could impede the attainment thereof as well as seek ways and means to overcome them in a manner that was comprehensive and practical. The relationship between sustained economic growth and social development for eradication of poverty and hunger was a mutually reinforcing relationship. It required a comprehensive, integrated, coordinated and balanced approach. An enabling environment was also a pre-condition for the achievement of social goals in areas related to poverty, hunger, education, literacy, health, infant mortality, gender and others.
The eradication of poverty and hunger could not be entirely delinked from efforts to reform the international financial and trade architecture: the need to have a comprehensive solution to the external debt problem; the need to increase market access for developing countries and the need to have an equitable multilateral trading system. The synergies and linkages that existed between economic and social policies and their combined impact on the goals of poverty eradication needed to be addressed holistically and equitably. This would go a long way towards fostering both economic growth and social development, to ensure the realisation of all social goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger.
ANNELI VUORINEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said poverty eradication was the primary and overarching objective of the European Union's development cooperation and the members supported the implementation of poverty reduction strategies at the country level. A priority was given to supporting the efforts of the least developed countries. The European Union Consensus on Development Policy emphasized that combating poverty would be successful only if equal importance was given to investing in people, protecting natural resources, securing rural livelihoods and investing in wealth creation. The Union had adopted a comprehensive strategy to meet the challenges of sustainable development to improve the quality of life and well being for present and future generations.
The European Union believed that social development and equity were central to sustaining economic growth over the long term. Social policies could not be conceived only as an afterthought or an add-on to macroeconomic reforms and growth policies. Economic growth was not an end by itself but a means to reach social goals, such as poverty eradication, that were the basis for its sustainability. Without explicit policies promoting economic and social inclusion, empowerment and social investment, growth and stability would not necessarily result in poverty reduction. Reducing poverty sustainability meant ensuring that economic growth today would not come with the cost of environmental failure tomorrow.
MIRIAM K. HUGHES (United States) said the report served as a useful point of departure for this discussion. It did so by reiterating the widely accepted link between economic growth and social development objectives. The report's conclusions and recommendations however were unclear as to the actions that countries should take to achieve growth and eradication of poverty and hunger and the actions the United Nations could take to assist countries in their endeavours. Policy choices mattered. Throughout history, countries that had adopted policies to promote and protect private property and entrepreneurship had achieved greater success in growth and poverty reduction. The creation of wealth through private property ownership and free enterprise had become the tried and true path to development.
Jobs were a priority for every country, and especially the poorest countries. Doing more to improve regulation and help entrepreneurs was key to creating more jobs - and more growth. It was also a key to fighting poverty. The United Nations system should make private sector development a central part of its work. There were no United Nations development activities that could produce more meaningful impact on people's livelihoods than helping countries to reform their policies and regulations towards entrepreneurship and the private sector. The normative and operational bodies of the United Nations should work together to find durable, practical solutions to improve the business environment for developing countries' private sector.
MIKOLAV CHULKOV (Russian Federation) said the delegation of the Russian Federation was looking forward for the Council to take an active part in poverty eradication and social development. It was extremely important to stress national responsibility in the formulation of strategies for social development and poverty eradiation. Assistance should be given to those national efforts attempting to link and harmonize national strategy and the international effort. In order to reduce the level of poverty, employment played an important role. However, employment alone could not bring the poor out of their situation.
The possibility of taking dignified employment should be encouraged. In order to guarantee dignified employment, States should work toward the establishment of states of equality and equality among all citizens. Governments should harmonize their macroeconomic and microeconomic policies in order to promote social development.
ASAD M. KHAN (Pakistan) said as the central United Nations organ in the economic and social fields, the Economic and Social Council was uniquely positioned to discuss and debate global trends and efforts aimed at achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. There was no greater challenge to humanity, nor greater threat to world peace than the failure to realise the United Nations' Charter's Vision of promoting better standards of life in larger freedoms.
Over the past seven years, policy approaches had been adopted in Pakistan aimed at achieving sustained economic growth and social development. The strategy and actions had stemmed from the firm belief that the primary responsibility and central action in the struggle against fighting poverty was vested in the nation. Although national efforts to alleviate poverty were absolutely essential, the external economic environment had a significant impact on the success or failure of national development strategies. It was no secret that the existing rules of international trade were weighted against the developing countries. Official development assistance was also essential to reduce poverty rapidly and jump start growth. The United Nations had a pivotal role to play in advancing the global development agenda.
JOERG DE BERNARDI (Switzerland) said the report of the Secretary-General was a good one and showed in a concrete manner how an analysis of a particular issue could help in better defining the challenges of coordination of the policies and activities of the specialized institutions, the organs and other entities of the UN. The report covered the main functions that made up the specific mandate of the coordination segment: it summarized the policy debates about the theme of this year's segment; it focused attention on the specific challenges faced by the political actors; it analysed the context in which the UN system was called to operate, and proposed practical recommendations.
Switzerland asked that, should the General Assembly decide to retain the coordination segment as part of a reformed ECOSOC, next year's coordination segment should serve as a platform for the subsidiary organs of ECOSOC and the relevant parts of the UN system to inform Member States on the implementation of the Ministerial Declaration that had been adopted yesterday.
LA YIFAN (China) said the report on sustainable economic growth was very interesting. Economic growth was a prior requisite for social development, of which it was the objective. Economic growth could not replace social development on the spiritual level. If it was not achieved, there was a risk of social problems and instabilities in society. Member States should work to eradicate poverty and create more jobs. This concept could also be seen in the concept launched by the Chinese Government which was scientific coordinated development, with greater employment and increased social action in order to promote integrated development of the human being. Social justice would ensure everybody could profit from development.
In order to further eradicate poverty and bridge the gap between the rich and poor, a series of policy measures, including increasing macro economic control and increasing income in rural and agricultural areas should be implemented. Over 20 years of efforts, the proportion of poverty in absolute poverty had been significantly reduced in China, and the Millennium Development Goal to reduce the poor by half had been achieved. However, poverty alleviation was facing great challenges. The World Summit of 2005 was welcomed, as developing countries had made new commitments to providing aid and reducing debt.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said the report drew attention to one of the most delicate aspects of development in the wider sense: that growth alone would not automatically translate into benefits for the poor and the most vulnerable groups. Economic growth had often led to more inequality. An enabling international economic environment was absolutely essential if one was to improve the lives of the billions who cried for help. Targeted policies both on the national and international levels were clearly required, and should involve governments, the UN system, development partners, and international financial institutions, among others. There was a need for a comprehensive and coherent approach to promote sustained economic growth and social development.
Brazil strongly supported the strengthening of the focus on country ownership and priorities, as it was recommended in the report. At a time when the reform of the Council was at the top of the agenda, Brazil believed there was room for more ambitious and creative approaches in proposing a stronger role for ECOSOC in the coordination of development efforts in the UN system well as in the promotion of a more effective partnership with national governments, development institutions and relevant stakeholders in the promotion of economic growth, social development and hunger and poverty eradication.
AJAI MALHOTRA (India) said for developing countries like India, the eradication of poverty had to take a high importance. The reforms initiated in India since 1991 had attached very high importance to the creation of employment, the removal of poverty as well as the reduction of inequality across States and between rural and urban areas. This had been achieved through a multi-pronged approach, involving both economic and social dimensions. The report of the Secretary-General recognised human development as a primary goal and a prerequisite for sustained economic growth, as well as the factors that could weaken the impact of human development on the achievement of the overall objective of sustained economic growth.
National ownership and leadership was crucial in the context of sustained economic growth for social development. However, it was also important to give consideration to global policies and developments that could impact adversely on national efforts. It was important that multilateral institutions should be seen as being balanced and symmetrical in their analysis of national economies and their relative positions in the global economy. There was a justifiable role for the United Nations to provide direction to the reform of international financial and trading institutions.
THORALF STENVOLD (Norway) said policies should be created with the view to promote social development. Only economic growth might not bring social development. Norway had build its social development through policies designed to promote social development and to eradicate poverty. The income obtained from oil alone might not necessary lead to social development if a national policy was not put to implement development programmes, which would sustain social development.
ALFREDO CABRAL (Guinea-Bissau) said very enriching statements had been heard. The last statement made by Norway reminded the speaker of the fundamental issue of the distribution of wealth in countries. The analysis in the report could be improved, as suggested by India. The problem posed to poor countries was first to ensure it could have economic growth, and that this would be sustained. It should also be remembered that growth did not mean development. For development to exist there needed to be equitable growth. Populations and Governments should benefit from the wealth generated, which should be generated by generating employment. International aid should not be expected and used to generate employment.
The system should be transparent and democratic, and those responsible for investment should be accountable before the population. There were several ways of ensuring that growth could contribute to sustained development and the elimination of poverty and the eradication of hunger. There could be no development where hunger persisted. Populations should have access to food and to work. Often poverty had a feminine face, and this was very true in Africa, where there was more intellectual and material poverty, which could give rise to frustration, which could give rise to disasters, in particular when the young were unemployed and fertile territory for extremist groups.
LISINKA LLATOWSKA, of Women's World Summit Foundation and the Committee on Spirituality, said if every child, woman and man would receive, every year, goods and services for the equivalent of $250, which could only be spent on personal and community development, the effect would be spectacular in each country. The effect on the lives of people who earned between $200 to $400 a year would be enormous. Babies would be fed, children could go to school, women would be empowered and so would those working in the informal sector. Within a few years, the extremely poor could become productive citizens, new markets would open up and developing economies would begin to flourish.
PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, thanked all delegations for their interventions, and for the rich debate, and for the constructive remarks and criticism made with regards to the report, including that some of the recommendations should have been sharper and more precise. One should not be prescriptive, and there was space for different policies and different national situations which required different responses. Policy choices did however matter a great deal. The statements showed a great deal of convergence on the theme and on the approaches for addressing this challenge, as well as on the roles of the United Nations and the Council. There had been significant balance in the statements as to how the theme should be approached, and a sharing of national experiences, and this was a crucial element of the contribution that the Council could make to progress and development.
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