25 April 2006

In Remarks to High-Level ECOSOC Meeting, Secretary-General Calls for Bold Liberalization Measures by Developed Countries

NEW YORK, 24 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the President of the Trade and Development Board of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), held today in New York:

Let me start by congratulating you on what has been achieved since we last met in this forum.

Last September's World Summit marked a significant advance for the cause of development.  It triggered positive steps on aid, debt relief and other matters that we had been seeking for many years.  World leaders reaffirmed support for the Global Partnership for Development, as embodied in the Monterrey Consensus.  And, in a key practical step, Member States pledged to adopt, no later than the end of this year, comprehensive national development strategies for achieving the internationally agreed development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

These strategies will help place the Goals and other international commitments at the centre of national policy-making.  They should build on national strategies and development plans that already exist, including MDG-focused strategies and poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs).  It is clear, however, that some of those plans, including the PRSPs, need to evolve substantially to give greater weight to the MDGs.  The strategies should focus on measurable results.  They should explore policy options that are best suited to local circumstances.  Crucially, the strategies need to be based on actual investment needs, and include details on how both domestic and external resources can be mobilized and then allocated for maximum effect.  And, of course, the strategies should not endanger macroeconomic stability.

The UN system will help Governments to improve the capacities needed to formulate their own strategies.  I urge the Bretton Woods institutions to work with us and with other partners as a team.

I am encouraged by the progress we have made over the last few years in mobilizing resources for development.  Not so long ago, official development assistance (ODA) as a share of gross national income (GNI) was declining.  Since 2001, the amount of ODA has almost doubled.  And, as a share of GNI, it has reached a level not seen since 1992.  Meanwhile, over roughly the same period, debt servicing by the highly indebted poor countries has declined, and further progress is expected, now that the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, proposed by the G-8 (Group of Eight), is being implemented by the Fund and the Bank.

We have also made important strides in the field of innovative financing for development.  A few years ago, this topic was almost taboo.  Today, various proposals are being implemented by different Member States, including a levy on air tickets and a mechanism to frontload funds for immunizing children.

Still, more needs to be done.  A large part of the increase in ODA has concentrated on debt relief and emergency relief, meaning that flexible funding for financing MDG strategies has not increased enough.

And, alongside our gains in other areas, the lack of significant progress on trade is conspicuous, and even perilous.  At the World Summit, leaders pledged to work quickly, and at last December's WTO ministerial meeting, ambitious deadlines were set.  The challenge now is to deliver.

I urge developed countries to adopt bold liberalization measures that will lead to a successful conclusion of the Doha Round.  Developing countries need genuine market-access opportunities for their goods and services, and the least developed countries should enjoy duty-free and quota-free access for theirs.  It is also time for trade-distorting subsidies for agriculture to be eliminated; and to do so rapidly for sensitive products, such as cotton.  We must deal effectively with the costs that arise from adjustment and the erosion of current preferences.  And, many countries will need assistance, in order to benefit from current and newly created opportunities.  That is why I welcome the Aid for Trade Initiative, which should be promptly and fully funded, and implemented.

These are just some of the many sensible steps, which, while fostering prosperity and opportunity for people everywhere, would allow poor and marginalized people, especially in the least developed countries, to lift themselves out of poverty.  Yet, I fear that the difficulties the negotiations have encountered have led some participants to contemplate settling for something less than a true development round.  That must not be allowed to happen.  We must maintain our ambition, sustain the drive and demonstrate the political courage needed to conclude the talks by the end of this year.

Finally, I welcome the steps taken at the International Monetary Fund this weekend to address the question of greater participation by developing countries in the Fund's decision-making.  I urge the Fund to use its meeting in Singapore in September to give a real voice to the developing world.  This is a matter of both principle and effectiveness.  I also hope other intergovernmental bodies -- not least our own Security Council -- will follow this lead and render their membership, and their procedures, more representative of today's realities.

The target year of 2015 is closer than we think.  Our agenda for at least the next decade is clear.  Let us not disappoint the many millions of people who look to us, and to our organizations, for help in bettering their lives and those of future generations.

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