UN development summit opens amid calls for more international aid to poor countries
As world leaders assembled in Mexico today for the start of a United Nations forum on mobilizing resources for development, the heads of the UN economic commissions highlighted factors that blocked the flow of aid and development efforts in their regions, such as heavy debt and armed conflict.
Some 60 heads of State and government are expected to attend the weeklong International Conference on Financing for Development, which was declared open this morning by Nitin Desai, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Conference Secretary-General. Among its first actions, the forum elected Vincente Fox, President of Mexico, as President of the Conference.
At its conclusion, the forum will adopt the “Monterrey Consensus,” the outcome document finalized during the preparatory process, which seeks to increase private international investment and strengthen official development assistance (ODA), among other measures.
Addressing the Conference this morning, Brigita Schmognerova, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said that the advanced economies of the region had been a major source of finance and other resources for developing countries. That included the provision of ODA, although the actual support had remained significantly below the target of 0.7 per cent.
The head of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Kim Hak-Su, said the Commission was facing enormous challenges emanating from the 1997 financial crisis, which showed that economies at different levels of development faced widely varying macroeconomic challenges. They should therefore assess their capabilities and avoid taking on unrealistic tasks.
For his part, Jose Antonio Ocampo of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said that sharp swings between abundance and scarcity in private external financing for the developing world had been one of the most “disturbing” features of the global economic system over the past three decades. Those ebbs and flows had translated into sharp business cycles, with economic and social costs “very high indeed.” That situation must be addressed, he said, through a comprehensive approach to international cooperation that provided for macroeconomic policies with a more clearly preventive orientation during economic booms.
Meanwhile, K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that most African leaders were looking to the conference for a more holistic response to the challenges faced by their countries. Noting that the decline in international aid had come at a time when many of the continent's countries had improved their capacities, he advocated enhanced partnerships to assist those countries, which could serve as models for their neighbours.
In her address, the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Mervat Tallawy, highlighted some of the factors that adversely affect the financing of development in her region, including armed conflicts, the imposition of international sanctions and external debt. If financing for development was to be increased, the role of regional financing institutions in every part of the world must be strengthened to make them the principal sources of financing for development, she said.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to address the opening of the summit segment on Thursday.