UNITED NATIONS CANNOT SIMPLY CHAMPION DEVELOPMENT; IT MUST DELIVER DAILY ON ITS PROMISES, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS UN CONFERENCE ON TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the executive session of the Trade and Development Board of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in Geneva today:
It is a great honour for me to be here today, and to have this opportunity to share my vision of a United Nations system that truly delivers on our development agenda. I am especially glad that our discussion is taking place in the crucial period leading up to this April’s UNCTAD-XII Conference in Accra.
As you know, I recently completed my first year as Secretary-General of the United Nations. It proved a remarkable, and remarkably challenging, period. We made progress on the situation in Darfur and beat the drum on climate change. We worked hard to strengthen confidence in the work of the Organization and successfully implemented much needed reforms in several key areas.
But, for me, personally, the lasting impressions from these first 12 months remain in many trips to the field. These visits, across Africa, in Latin America and around Asia and the Middle East, brought me into contact with some of the most vulnerable people we are all sworn to serve.
I met refugees in Sudan and heard from slum dwellers in Kenya. I saw the courage of people living with HIV/AIDS, and the resilience of survivors of war and genocide. I heard from women who trek miles every day to fetch water and of children who are too hungry to even think about school.
Everywhere I travelled, I was deeply touched by the resolve and fortitude of these men, women and children whom the world seems to have forgotten. They are the poorest of the poor, the nearly 1 billion left behind by global growth. Most live in Africa or in parts of Asia, eking out lives of hardship on less than $1 a day.
I firmly believe that the international community owes a special duty to these people. That is why I began this year with a call to rededicate ourselves to the needs of these individuals. I have asked for 2008 to be the year of the “bottom billion”.
For this reason, in the coming weeks and months, I will dedicate myself to strengthening the United Nations role in development. We have to reenergize our efforts towards the Millennium Development Goals. Half-way to our 2015 target, many nations have fallen behind. In fact, not a single country in sub-Saharan Africa is on track to achieve the Goals on time. Now is the time for new ideas and fresh approaches.
To address this alarming situation, I have already established the MDG Africa Steering Group. Since last September, the Group has been working intensively to mobilize the full resources of the United Nations system and its partners to advance the Goals in Africa.
The Steering Group is tasked with identifying strategic ways in which the international community can better support national Governments implement existing Millennium Development Goal programmes. It is also charged with proposing new mechanisms where necessary. And it seeks to realize aid that has been long promised but never delivered.
This effort must involve all our partners, from international financial and development institutions, to non-governmental organizations and the private sector. In particular, all United Nations Member States -- developed and developing, North and South -- must work together towards these Goals.
I expect this process will receive a crucial boost in April, when world leaders gather in Accra for UNCTAD’s conference on trade and development. Later this year, together with the President of the General Assembly, I will also convene a high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals, in September. Before that, on 10 March, next week, I am going to convene again the MDG Africa Steering Group, where I have invited all international financial organizations’ heads -- the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the African Development Bank, the European Union and major donors. I see these meetings as a valuable opportunity to reinforce the partnership between developed and developing countries and to focus attention, at the very highest level, on the needs of the poorest of the poor.
Last year, we used a similar gathering to building momentum on climate change. This year, we will do the same for the bottom billion, who have been bypassed by global growth.
We must work to raise the living standards of the desperately poor by working to raise incomes. This is why improved and equitable economic growth and the creation of decent jobs are so important.
In a globalizing world, we also require an international economic environment that fosters development. The Accra conference can advance this aim by galvanizing support for a more development-friendly global economic, trading and financial system. Accra must also articulate an effective strategy to leverage globalization, trade and investment for poverty reduction and economic growth.
It must help build consensus on how the current impasse in the Doha Round negotiations can be broken so that we can fulfil the promised development agenda. And it must promote trade and financial policies that help scaling up Millennium Development Goals in sub-Saharan Africa, which is the epicentre of a development emergency.
Even as I work with you to rally international support, I am striving to increase the United Nations own effectiveness in advancing its development priorities. I have repeatedly said that we should be measured by our results, not just our rhetoric. Today’s United Nations cannot simply champion development, it must deliver every day on its promises.
In December, the General Assembly asked me to suggest measures to improve the development-related activities of the United Nations Secretariat. This resolution gave me the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive review of our development machinery and programming.
I am pleased to inform you that, before flying to Geneva, I transmitted my report to our membership. I am grateful to Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi for his help in preparing the document. Let me also use this opportunity to urge all Member States to carefully consider the report’s recommendations.
My proposals aim to address critical capacity gaps faced by the Secretariat, including UNCTAD. They cover several key areas such as the scaling up of activities in support of the Millennium Development Goals, or bolstering economic development, trade and finance.
While comprehensive in its coverage, my report should not be viewed as an isolated exercise. Instead, it should be seen as part of my broader effort to improve the capacity and functioning of the United Nations system.
These efforts are based on the premise that development cannot be a privilege for the few. It is a right for all. And I strongly believe that it is up to each and every one of us at the United Nations to help advance this universal right.
I cannot overemphasize the urgency of this moment. Midway to the Millennium Development Goals target date, we have reached a tipping point. Urgent and concerted action now can help make up for wasted time and effort. But, should we delay or dither, we risk squandering even existing gains to the negative effects of climate change, or to emerging challenges like slowing global growth.
That is why your deliberations in the run up to the Accra conference are crucial. You can help set the stage for a successful UNCTAD-XII conference in Accra this April. You can help build momentum for the high-level event in September. And you, I think, can help push us over the tipping point in 2008.
In that spirit, I wish you productive discussions and I look forward to meeting you again in Accra.