Global perspective Human stories

Poverty and debt top agenda of UN-Bretton Woods meeting in New York

Poverty and debt top agenda of UN-Bretton Woods meeting in New York

Young girl in Ethiopia
Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told a gathering of key financial decision-makers that they must focus their efforts on helping the world's poor, who suffer disproportionately from shocks to the world's economy.

"I urge you to keep the needs and aspirations of the poor at the top of your agenda," Mr. Annan told the Fourth Meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and the Bretton Woods Institutions in New York. "This is especially true for the developing countries; we must ensure that they are not victimized, left behind, or left without help."

Held each year after the annual Spring meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the meeting brings together officials from both of those institutions as well as finance ministers and central bank governors chairing Bretton Woods committees. Mr. Annan lauded the event for fostering a more cohesive approach to development. "This deepening partnership and mutual understanding is very good news for the multilateral system; let us now make it good news for our constituents -- the world's people," he said.

With the world economy experiencing a slowdown -- from 4 per cent last year to some 2.5 per cent this year -- the Secretary-General urged participants to focus on the goals for reducing poverty and achieving development set by the UN's Millennium Summit. "I know you share my sense of the urgency of meeting those targets and delivering on those promises," he said.

At the same time, Mr. Annan warned that those targets would remain elusive without adequate funds: "My concern is that unless we succeed in mobilizing far greater amounts of resources -- both public and market-led investment -- our plans to eradicate poverty and to accelerate development will be thwarted."

The Secretary-General outlined a series of steps to promote financing for development, which will be the subject of a UN conference in Mexico City next year. In particular, he stressed the need to strengthen financial institutions, legal frameworks and governance mechanisms. He also urged tough measures against corruption as well as the adoption of debt relief initiatives.

In all of those endeavours, Mr. Annan pledged the support of the UN, and expressed hope that the Economic and Social Council and Bretton Woods institutions would "do their rightful part and take their cooperation to a new level."

The agenda for today's meeting included items on development financing, particularly poverty eradication, official development assistance and debt, and public and private responsibility in the prevention of financial crises.

Briefing reporters following the morning session, the President of the Economic and Social Council, Martin Belinga-Eboutou of Cameroon, said today's meeting had particular importance because it followed the Millennium Summit and came in advance of key global gatherings where collaboration between the UN and the international financial institutions would be crucial.

The ECOSOC chairman said many participants had focused on the need to foster economic growth. "There is no fight against poverty without sustainable growth," he said, adding that in order to win that fight, the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions must cooperate closely.